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