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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Are Fantasy Leagues Better with a Deep Bench, an IR Tag, or Neither?

Last Week's Question: Does your league have post-season action for non-playoff teams?

The question above has come up repeatedly in this column, and it usually produces answers like the ones that came in this week. Noah summarized the main reason for keeping non-playoff teams engaged as well as a standard method of incentivizing engagement:

Every league I've ever done has a consolation bracket. In the league I commish I started paying out the winner of it with half their money back. There were a few unhappy about it but didn't hear much past the draft. I've found that it keeps the teams that are out of it involved. Just last week the guy tied for last traded for Melvin Gordon with the express purpose of wining it. I've also found that once teams are out of it this becomes their goal and they appear to be taking it seriously. I did it because while I have only been in a consolation bracket twice and I always take every week seriously, not all [fantasy owners do]. I feel when there is no reward, people give up at the end of the year and don't [bother setting] their lineups. This can affect the playoff picture if they play teams that are in it. I hated this with a passion, so I decided to try and get rid of the problem. In my other league I don't commish we've already run into the issue with about three teams that have thrown in the towel. They've tried to trade their best player for nothing to friends or of course not set their lineup. There are only two games separating 6th to first and one game separating 5th to 10th with 14 teams involved. A few weeks ago it was a 7 way tie for second, so as you can see it's a tight race and every week matters. All these reasons and more are why you should keep the teams out of it involved and motivated.
Mr. Squeeze's league takes a slightly different approach that might appeal to those who might find a total-points formula more appealing:
I commish a 14 team league,and 8 of them make it to the playoffs. The other 6
teams all play in our Toilet Bowl, which is three weeks long. The 6 teams submit a starting lineup as usual, but they don't play a match, instead their teams total points for the entire three weeks earns the highest scoring team half off the next years entry fee into the league. This has kept the teams owners more interested, and everybody puts their best foot forward. The Toilet Bowl teams are allowed to add/drop players, but their priority falls to below the teams in the regular fantasy playoffs. The only drawback is that going into the third and final week there is a team in front, and a couple of teams way out back, so it becomes a two or three horse race.

Returning the yearly entry fee (or a portion of it) to the winner of the consolation bracket is, as both readers suggest, an easy way to keep owners interested beyond the point when they might otherwise check out. SonOfaBolt recommends using this strategy in addition to a weekly payout to the highest scoring team to keep all owners active.

But there are other incentives that don't have to impact the purse awarded to the league champion. In GMHoya's league, for example, the order of finish in the consolation. Craig finds this approach especially effective in keeper leagues:

It encourages people to keep trying to win because you want to get that #1 pick in the draft. Especially because we are a keeper league and the top 20 guys are usually gone anyway. For example, I barely missed the winners bracket last year and won the [consolation tourney]. I picked first and was able to get Zeke with the first pick. That means I essentially got Zeke in the 3rd round. Thatís good value and provided excellent incentive for me to keep trying to win.
I'm grateful to all the readers who took the trouble to write in with their suggestions, including those whose comments I was unable to include because they overlapped too much with the ones I've excerpted. But I'm especially grateful to Jeremy for being honest enough to admit that payouts for "weekly winners [don't always] keep interest alive from the bottom teams." Commissioners who aren't getting the results they seek from conventional incentives (whether they take the form of money or draft picks) may want to adapt Jeremy's approach to their own circumstances:
This year I finally stripped out [payouts for high scores] and can use all that savings to enhance the winning prize pots with "the Cinderella rule," [which puts] the hot team from the bottom into the playoffs. How it works is all the teams that donít make the playoffs and the team in the last playoff spot as of week 13 (the last week of our regular season), compete to score the most points from week 11-13. The team with the most points out of that group gets the final playoff spot. Right now, everyone in the league is still alive and itís week 11, I donít think Iíve ever been able to say that before. I'm still receiving mixed reviews from the league members about it, but I'm loving it.
Thanks for the idea, Jeremy. Since this is your first year to try it, I hope to hear from you again if anything unexpected happens as a consequence of implementing this new rule.

Next Week's Question: Do you prefer deep rosters, IR tags, or neither?

I'm in a league with a fairly shallow bench (14 roster spots for 8 starters) but unlimited IR spots for players listed as "out" on the NFL injury report. Apart from a nominal $2 transaction fee, there was zero downside to carrying Watkins all this time because of the way IR works in that league. But I suppose there are plenty of leagues with deep enough benches that dedicating a roster spot to Watkins all season would have been painless as well.

So my specific question is this: In a league with 8 starters, how deep would your bench have to be for you to have justified carrying Watkins all this time. (Your answer will carry more weight if you really have kept him on your squad all season in a league without IR spots.)

My more general question is this: Do you prefer deep benches, IR tags, or neither—and why? Please email your preferences to me or respond in the comments section below.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 12 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Happy Thanksgiving to all those readers who check out this column to help make your survival pool picks each week. While I so desperately wanted to put one of the Turkey Day games in my picks this week, these games are just too close to choose any of them for something so important.

#3: N.Y. Giants at Cleveland: (8-3, JAX, OAK, DAL, MIN, PIT, NE, CIN, TN, GB, AZ, DET)

Until Cleveland wins, you just play the odds. In fact, if you play weekly fantasy games, this may be the week to put the three-headed monster in of Manning, Jennings and Beckham in your lineup. It has worked two of the last three weeks. The Browns are 31st in total points allowed, 31st in total yards allowed, and in the last three weeks they have given up an average of 28 points per game while scoring only 9. Look for this trend to continue against a much improved Giants defense.

#2: Buffalo over Jacksonville: (9-2, HOU, AZ, CAR, WAS, GB, TN, NE, MN, SEA, NYG, PIT)

Late season, winter weather games make for very interesting survival pool choices. Any player who normally likes playing at home in 60 degree weather is not going to enjoy a trip to Buffalo in late November where the forecast is a balmy 42. More importantly, the Jaguars defense has given up the more rushing yards than 80 percent of the league. This statistic should fall right into Buffalo’s rush first philosophy. Once that Bills get a lead, Rex Ryan and his defense will then blitz Bortles into turnovers that will only make this game more lopsided. There’s a trend here people.

#1: New Orleans over the Lams (I Mean Rams): (10-1, SEA, CAR, MIA, CIN, NE, PIT, GB, DEN, DAL, BAL, NYG)

Los Angeles is a team that is trying to find its identity both geographically as well as on the field. Last year’s rookie sensation, Todd Gurley, is having a sophomore headache and the coaching staff made a change at quarterback to first round draft pick Jared Goff. Last week, Goff was playing with training wheels on. He hardly made any mistakes, but his performance reeked of a “not to lose”, instead of I know how to win attitude. Make no mistake, both of these future stars should have a terrific 2017 season. In the meantime, we should see flashes in this game, but not enough to keep pace with Drew Brees who has finally got his offense going in the Bayou.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can be found here.