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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Does Following College Football Make You Better at Fantasy?

Last Week's Question: Do you prefer deep benches, the IR tag, or neither?

In my column for week 12, I explained how the IR tag in one of my leagues made it painless for me to grab Sammy Watkins hours after news of his injury prompted his owner to cut him.

The league in question has a modest roster (just 14 players), but since players with the IR tag don't count against the roster cap, carrying Watkins from Weeks 3-11 didn't force me to compromise my depth elsewhere.

This arrangement certainly worked out for me, but most readers who responded to my question were opposed to expanding rosters with the IR tag. I'll cover some of the best arguments made against IR & deep benches in fantasy a bit later, but I want to begin be featuring the remarks of two readers who believe the IR category makes sense in dynasty/keeper formats. According to kingdiamond: "We do not use the IR in my redraft league, but we do use it in one of my dynasty leagues I run. It makes it a little more flexible when one of your players goes out for the year." Bandoogiemanz expanded on this point:

Don't really see the point of IR spots in redraft leagues. I prefer a longer bench [of say] 8 spots as opposed to the standard six. For keeper and dynasty, IR spots should be required, dynasty more so than keeper. I think one or two IR spots in a standard-sized league (10 to 12 teams) with a standard bench (6 spots) and at least two IR spots in larger leagues (14+). Dynasty should have at least two IR spots if not more. Well, that's my take anyway.
Even these defenders of IR spots in non-redrafter formats seem to think that there should be a cap on the number of IR-taggable players. In the league where I have Watkins, there is no such limitation. At one point this season, I had 4 players on IR, since there was nothing to keep me from putting one injured player on IR, using his roster spot to pick up another injured player on waivers, immediately putting the IR tag on that player, and then repeating the process with as many other "out" players as I wanted. I was able to hold all of these players until they became healthy enough to return to action. Only then did I have to decide whether to cut them or make room for them by cutting someone else.

But leagues with an infinitely expanding pocket of IR players are exceptional. Most leagues with the IR designation do have a numerical limit on the category. Numerous readers of this column, however, dislike the IR designation in redrafter leagues no matter how limited it is. For Steve, using the IR tag in fantasy leagues creates the same problems as having too deep a bench:
I prefer the shorter bench. I play in leagues with larger benches, and it can be slim pickings when multiple injuries occur. I run my league with 6 bench spots. It adds an element of tough decision making. Dropping a guy versus benching a guy with a questionable matchup. How injured is he? Out only one week or multiple? Which leads to the IR. I'm not a fan. I eliminated it a few years back for similar reasons. Step up and make a tough decision. It's even more difficult to decipher this season with the elimination of the PROBABLE [tag from the NFL injury report]. Coaches can be a little shady with injuries and their players. Moreover, some websites change OUT players to questionable at the start of the week when we all know full well that they won't play Sunday. Illegal roster, can't use the waiver wire or trade now, drop him or another player? Too many headaches. Again, step up and make a tough decision.
Donovan, who champions "the shallowest bench possible," takes Steve's logic even further:
I have seen lots of roster size variations in 30 years of playing fantasy football. I am a HUGE believer in the shallowest bench possible. Larger benches place more importance on the draft and make mid-season decision-making significantly easier. Because fantasy football is part skill and part luck, I think the rules should create as many situations where owners have to make as many tough decisions as possible throughout the year. Having to make more decisions means that the owner’s management skills become a more important part of navigating through the season successfully. In addition, large benches make the free agent pool so skimpy that it is too difficult to survive a couple of hard-luck serious injuries to key players.

We use a bench of 5 for a league that starts 10 players – this continually forces owners to make hard choices about how they will deal with bye weeks and inevitable injuries. The best proof that shallow benches help increase the skill to luck ratio: in a 27-year league, our weakest owners with the least championships always want to increase the bench size, while the majority of league loves it the way it is. This isn’t a coincidence.
The emails I received from Steve and Donovan were representative of the general attitude of those who wrote in, but I want to feature John's note as well because his phraseology presents a striking echo of their key points about decision making:
I am not a fan of a large bench or an IR position, simply because a short bench compels all teams to make difficult add/cut decisions that keeps the pool of available free agents (who are actually decent) as big as possible. For those leagues with a large number of bench positions and/or the IR spot, often the players who are left to choose from, especially after midseason are usually one-week wonders.
If I had received any responses from readers advocating the IR tag in redrafter leagues (or deep benches), I would have included them for the sake of balance. The fact that I received no such feedback speaks volumes. It seems that most fantasy aficionados do in fact believe that the more challenging we make the decision-making process for owners, the more competitive and satisfying their experience is likely to be.

As usual, my thanks go out to everyone who wrote in.

This Week's Question: Does following college football make you better at fantasy?

I spent Thanksgiving with my wife's family. Her brother (a huge fan of UT going back to the Ricky Williams days) can't understand why I'm so interested in the NFL and yet so apathetic about college football.

He tried to argue me into liking college football—and had about as much success as those who have tried to argue me into liking baseball. At least his arguments were more interesting than college football or pro baseball. I know that much because I didn't fall asleep while he was making them.

His last pitch was this: "Don't you write about fantasy football?"

"Yeah," I conceded.

"Then don't you owe it to your readers to follow college football?"

I don't know how convincing my response was, but I contended that the talent level and the schemes in college ball are such that it's really difficult to tell how collegiate talent will translate to the professional level.

I had to say something—because otherwise he was going to make me go to the UTEP-UNT game with him.

But maybe he had a point. Maybe I would have better fantasy football insights if I paid more attention to the game at the college level.

Do you think that's true?

More specifically, if your league has one dominant owner (someone who has significantly more championships to her/his credit than anyone else in the league), is that owner an avid follower of college football?

Please respond to these questions in the comment section below or by emailing me.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 13 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

#3: Seattle over Carolina: (9-3, JAX, OAK, DAL, MIN, PIT, NE, CIN, TN, GB, AZ, DET, NYG)

The Seahawks were stunned by Tampa Bay when they traveled to Florida last week. This week, they find themselves hosting a Panther team on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention after representing the NFC last year in the Super Bowl. While Seattle isn’t playing well, it's very difficult to fly out to the Pacific Northwest and steal a game from them. Thomas Rawls is back without a true backup behind him with Christine Michael released and Prosise lost to injury, but don’t worry. Rawls should be fresh after his stint on Injured Reserve and remind the Seattle faithful why they loved him as mini-Beastmode last year. Yes, Cam Newton and his boys have some firepower. But the Josh Norman-less Panther D isn't firing on all cylinders this year. The score should be close, but the Panthers will come up short.

#2: Denver over Jacksonville: (10-2, HOU, AZ, CAR, WAS, GB, TN, NE, MN, SEA, NYG, PIT, BUF)

With the Cleveland Browns off this week, the next best chance for our lock of the week comes in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars and Malik Jackson will host Jackson’s former team, the Denver Broncos. (After a season in Jacksonville, it must seem to Jackson as if it's been ages—and not just 10 months—since he returned a Cam Newton fumble for a TD in Super Bowl 50.) The Broncos aren't quite the team they were last year in that their defense is less terrifying and their offense is even more pedestrian. But Jacksonville is simply unrecognizable. QB Blake Bortles had enough lucky throws and garbage time productivity to make stars of both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in 2015; this year, every wild flailing of his throwing arm seems only to fan the flames of an ongoing dumpster fire. Trevor Siemian has been underwhelming as the Denver QB, but if he can't guide the Broncos to a win over Jacksonville, then John Elway should either suit up himself or purchase Tony Romo's contract from the Cowboys before the flight back to Denver.

#1: San Diego over Tampa Bay: (11-1, SEA, CAR, MIA, CIN, NE, PIT, GB, DEN, DAL, BAL, NYG, NO)

The Chargers host the Buccaneers this week—the same Buccaneers who just upended Seattle. The Buccs didn't just beat the Seahawks; they terrorized them. Jameis Winston scored all the points his team needed on two masterful drives culminating in TD catches by Mike Evans, and Tampa yielded just 5 points (one safety and one field goal) to the Seahawks, whose Russell Wilson was harried and hounded all day by a swarming defense. There's no getting around how stout the Buccs looked in Week 12, but I believe they will find traveling across the country to play against the Chargers to be more than they can handle. Why? Because the San Diego defense was able to capitalize on Brock Osweiler’s turnovers last week, and while Winston has gotten better, turnovers are his Achilles heel. Add in the return of a healthy Melvin Gordon, and the formula for a Tampa loss is set.

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.