Last Week's Question: Roster Dynamics
In my column for Week
2, I posted a question from Brian, who is annoyed that owners
in leagues without transaction fees can make waiver wire adjustments
to their teams "whimsically." At the end of his note (which
can be read in full in my previous column), Brian indicates that
he wants to know how leagues that do not charge transaction fees
can give owners a sense of "risk" for modifying their
rosters: "Shrinking the roster is the easiest solution that
I can think of, but do you know of any other tricks commissioners
can use to make owners take roster changes seriously?"
I received a range of responses to Brian's question, and I'll start
with the three most direct answers concerning alternative approaches
(from Bill, Rick, and Joanna). According to Bill:
You don't have to charge owners or shrink your
rosters. Just limit the number of waiver wire moves that owners
can make each season. In our league, owners get six moves per season.
If I trade another owner 3 players for 2 players, that counts as
one 'roster move' for each of us. If I drop a backup RB for an extra
tight end on the waiver wire, that's another 'roster move.' We have
fun with this because some owners don't use up all their [moves,
and] others burn through them fast, so we see owners trading Player
X for Player Y + 2 roster moves. Everybody seems to like it.
Rick's league uses a different method to discourage owners from
being too cavalier about changes to their rosters:
Our league doesn't have to 'shrink' rosters
to make owners take waiver wire acquisitions seriously. For us,
the only players that owners can cut right away are the ones they
draft. After that, every player picked up on waivers has to be held
for three weeks before he can be cut. The only way to get rid of
him before that is to trade him to someone else, but the owner who
picks him up either has to keep him until three weeks from the time
he was initially acquired or find someone else to take him. To use
the example in your column, if one of our owners picked up Kevin
Ogletree just after Week 1, he would be tying up a roster spot on
somebody's team through Week 4 at the earliest.
Joanna's league does something a little more complicated:
I am part of a sixteen-team league with fifteen
players on each roster. [We have to start ten players each week]:
1 def/sp teams
1 offensive rookie
The drafting order is determined a week before the serpentine draft.
The first waiver position is given to the owner with the 16th pick.
We have two waiver periods:
1) Wednesday at 6pm an owner will have preselected any number of
options for their weekly waiver selection. If you receive a player
you fall to #16 for the following Wednesday.
2) Wednesday 9pm through kickoff (players cannot be picked up once
a game has started) is a free-for-all as an owner may pick up whomever
they desire. Only 5 pickups per week though.
By having "a waiver wire order" for the prime players,
each owner is forced to weigh the importance of picking up a player
and the odds that the same player may go unclaimed (if you pick
him up at 9 pm, you maintain your waiver position for next week).
Once a player is dropped they are locked for 72 hours to prevent
As these three responses demonstrate, there are plenty of ways to
encourage owners to take roster dynamics seriously apart from charging
transaction fees and/or shrinking roster sizes. I hope that Brian
finds one (or more) of the above suggestions helpful.
However, I heard from a number of readers who took exception to
the premise of Brian's argument. The gist of most of these responses
was: "What's so bad about changing my roster every week even
if it only costs me a mouse-click?" The most detailed critical
response came from Michael:
The economic game theory side of me finds it
fascinating that [Brian] does not oppose the same behavior when
someone is putting a small amount of money behind their actions,
but does oppose the behavior when it is done without a monetary
penalty. The $5 transaction fee he refers to is likely a different
deterrent for different members of that league. Some players have
more money than others due to economic conditions. Some players
just decide to devote more money towards their passion of fantasy
football. So, putting a monetary value is tilting the playing field
from the start (unless you put a transaction cap on the league in
a range attainable by all).
In the league that allows free transactions, there are no such outside
factor restrictions, and it is a more level playing field. Proper
decisions still need to be made in order to continually improve
your team (though there is an argument that it does hurt those who
drafted well - as it allows poor drafters to make up for their mistakes.
(This adds parity to the league, but it is up to the league to determine
how much emphasis should be placed on the draft).
The league itself is an important distinction. Every league is different,
and it is up to the league members how it should work. If they want
to have deep rosters so that they may horde players and limit the
FA/Waiver pool, then that is their prerogative.
Personally, I like the idea of having a short bench with more players
in the FA/Waiver pool because it does add to the continual intrigue
of the league (making it difficult to just sit on your team unless
you drafted extremely well and got lucky with injuries). I would
say that the easiest way to do this is to add IDP (individual defensive
players). Instead of 1 defensive team starting slot, you have 3-5
defensive player positions (most common I think is: 2xDB, 2xLB,
1xDL). This shifts the field quite a bit as it puts a multitude
of more players into the player pool and makes bye week issues multiply.
It also adds a lot of fun into fantasy football as you get to know
the specific defensive players much better than on a traditional
team-D setting. But, for this question, the main point is that it
helps eat up some of the bench thus limiting it without changing
Finally, players like the one Steve mentions (moving from Ogletree
to player-of-the-week) are generally following the principle of
the bottom-5%. That rule is that you should always be looking to
upgrade the bottom 5% of your roster (or 10% if you are aggressive).
The key is determining who is the player in that percentile and
who you should replace them with. Those values change constantly,
and the best managers are the one that can do that no matter the
name or draft-round associated with the player.
Evan speaks from the position of a commissioner who wants to keep
all of his owners active and engaged as far into the season as possible.
The way he sees things, it is far less important to discourage owners
from making whimsical adjustments to their rosters than it is to
keep them committed to improving their team all the way to the playoffs:
I strongly disagree with the reader who says
transactions should carry a fee. We just dropped our fees because
they are a bad idea for one main reason: it penalizes teams that
are trying to improve their team and remain competitive. In a perfect
world everyone would be equally rich and spend money the same. In
reality, fees make some teams wary about making moves and their
team becomes weak and non-competitive. Meanwhile other teams get
better and the parity of the league gets thrown off quickly.
We also have loose roster requirements at each position (1-4 QB,
2-7 RBs, etc) to allow for more strategic avenues. If a team wants
to risk having only 1 QB in order to stack up on WRs, that's their
prerogative. If they want to load up on RBs to prevent other teams
from having them or use as trade bait, it's their strategy. Again,
it goes back to encouraging free agent pickups and trades, which
makes for a more active, engaged, and fun league. Blind bidding
also lets everyone have a fair shot at every free agent. Restricting
rosters in most ways makes leagues static and owners lose interest.
My thanks to everyone who wrote in.
This Week's Question: Is There Really Any
Point in Fantasizing about Better Officiating?
I will be stunned if anyone out there actually has a productive
answer to Chad's angry question, but I cannot help sharing it:
What can fantasy leagues do about the fact that
the replacement refs are destroying our offensive production? According
to the Wall Street Journal, these inexperienced scabs are calling
interference 28% more frequently than the guys we used to have.
Think about what that does to receivers in performance leagues.
On interference calls, the ball gets moved to the spot of the foul
even though no one caught it, so huge chunks of yardage are being
covered by teams without any receivers getting credit. What do you
think about adjusting scores for receivers in performance leagues
until the regular refs get back? My league gives receivers 1 point
for every ten yards. Maybe we should give them 1 point for every
eight yards or something like that.
I am not sure if Chad is being serious. The same article
he links says that holding penalties are also on the rise, and every
time an offense gets penalized for holding, it gets pushed away
from the goal line (which presumably gives the receivers on the
penalized team more ground to cover on the next play). In that twisted
sense, the replacement refs are "creating" yardage opportunities
for offenses. I am obviously joking, but I guess my point is that
I cannot imagine how any two people would ever agree on a mathematical
formula for adjusting whatever "statistical damage" the
replacement refs may be doing to offensive players.
It's easy to join the chorus of voices complaining about the replacement
refs this week, but we all know that the regular refs always made
mistakes, and I don't remember serious FFers writing me with questions
about how fantasy leagues should respond to blown calls on the field
in years past. Every fantasy league I have ever studied has been
bound by the stats that come from the games as they played out even
though some of the plays resulted from officiating mistakes of omission
I would be extremely surprised to learn that any fantasy leagues
have actually instituted rule changes as a formal response to the
replacement refs, but if your league has implemented, discussed,
or even considered doing any such thing until the regular refs return
to the field, I would love
to hear about the particulars.
Man Standing - Week 3 (Courtesy of Matthew
Schiff, who steered clear of the Patriots in Week 2)
The first time I heard of a Survival Pool was maybe 10 or so years
ago. I asked what it was and could hardly believe the answer. Pick
one winning team each week without repeating? How hard can that
be? It's harder than most people think, as a lot of folks discovered
in Week 2.
Let me ask you something. Are you still in your pool after two weeks?
According to one online survey, 44% of those playing in a Survival
pool last week were eliminated by the New England “shank”
against the Cardinals. As a member of a few LMS pools, I witnessed
two examples that were even more dramatic: 55% of the players in
a pool of 1300 were knocked out, and 9 out 10 were eliminated in
my regular fantasy pool. Clearly those who lost have not paid close
enough attention to this
column, as the Patriots game wasn’t even listed as one
of my top three choices. That said, if you are still alive in your
pool, you may find that you are going to have to “gamble”
a little bit on some unproven teams this week to continue.
Trap Game: Tampa Bay at Dallas (1-1, WAS,
The Bucs almost pulled off the upset win against the New York Football
Giants and their stopgap secondary. While you wouldn’t think
that they could go on the road in consecutive weeks and be competitive
, let alone against the Cowboys and Giants, this Bucs team can hang
tough with the best of them. A balanced attack that has deep threat
capabilities in Vincent Jackson and solid between-the-tackle running
in Doug Martin has made Josh Freeman a better pocket passer in 2012.
And while Eli Manning passed for over 500 yards against Tampa Bay,
Tony Romo has proven that he is inconsistent at best. My gut tells
me to avoid this game (maybe it’s just jetlag).
#3: Chicago over St. Louis: (1-1, PHI, TB)
Last week’s #3 pick wasn’t much of a stretch, but in
this pick each week I will be offering up a game that is the “intriguing”
pick of the week. This week you have the Bears licking their wounds
from the debacle in Lambeau after mouthing off and just asking for
the Packers to prove that Chicago was not yet ready for prime time.
Meanwhile, Danny Amendola was setting records for the number of
first half passes he caught (12) in a tight game that was barely
won by Sam Bradford and company over the Redskins. The Bears will
be back at home, and while the Rams play well in a dome, they aren’t
quite as fast on natural turf. Normally it would be easy for me
to pick the Bears with confidence, but the Rams may just be in the
right place at the right time to squeak out a win. The only reason
this one is even considered is because the odds makers think that
it might be a blowout (and we all saw how that worked out last week).
#2: New Orleans over Kansas City (1-1, CHI,
Okay, so who are these Saints? They have opened the season with
two mediocre games against teams that they “should have”
beaten. But clearly Bounty Gate is having its effect on this locker
room and the performance of the team. Unlike the last two years
during which the secondary was the Achilles heel for the Saints,
this year it is the linemen and linebackers who have allowed a league
high 186 yards per game in rushing that has contributed to a 32nd
overall ranked defense. Fortunately for New Orleans fans, the Saints
play another 0-2 team in the Chiefs, a team that has given up 75
points in just two games. These Saints are not what they used to
be, but if there is ever going to be a time to use a pick on New
Orleans, this may be your best bet.
#1: Indianapolis over Jacksonville (2-0,
Wait, take a deep breath. Yes, this is a divisional game. Yes, I
am picking the Colts, a team that is “rebuilding.” And
yes, the team in question is led by a rookie quarterback (Andrew
Luck). But the Jaguar defense gives up the second most rushing yards
per contest (169 yards/game), so Donald Brown should be able to
help take pressure off the passing game. As for Jacksonville, the
Jaguar offense is just that, offensive. The Jags are dead last in
total offense (with only 236 yards per game) and should not pose
much of a threat against a Colt defense that bottled up a powerful
Vikings offense (ranked 13th in passing) and had been beaten in
Week one by Jay Cutler for over 300 yards. Unless this game gets
totally out of hand with divisional “trickery,” look
for Mr. Luck to win his second game in a row at home. Peyton who?
For responses to this month's fantasy question please email