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Mike Davis | Archive | Email  
Staff Writer

Q & A - Week 3: Fantasizing about Regular Officials

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 qb
2 rb
3 wr
1 te
1 k
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 collusion.

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 the size.

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 or commission.

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.

Last 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, CLE)
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, WAS)
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, HOU, SF)
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 me.