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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Leagues with Multi-Year Pots?

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

Before I plunge into answers concerning my college football query, I want to review a couple of belated responses that came in concerning my question from two weeks ago on bench depth and IR spots.

Todd was unable to submit his response over the Thanksgiving holidays, but his detailed answer (posted as a comment to last week's column) deserves the attention of commissioners who are trying to strike the right balance on the IR question:

I ran my re-draft league for years with 6 bench spots. After a particularly difficult year of injuries league-wide, we added an IR spot for a year. After that year though, we realized that adding an IR spot with that many bench spots made the FA market very shallow.

My fix was to eliminate a bench spot but keep the IR. So we have 5 bench spots, and one IR. I have found this to provide a good balance. It keeps FA turnover somewhat high [and forces] managers to make tough decisions, but gives them the option to bench that stud they lost for "X" amount of weeks. This works well for my league where a couple managers tended to try to hoard players.

I think that the decision [concerning whether to have 1 or more IR spots] ultimately depends on the make-up and personality of the league. The commissioner must be in tune with that and make adjustments (season-to-season) accordingly.
The idea of limiting the IR category to exactly one player and incorporating it as part of a shallow bench should appeal to most of the readers who indicated that they consider shallow benches essential to good competition in fantasy. But since we heard overwhelmingly from such readers last week, I'm happy to feature the commentary of Bill, who let me know via email that he thinks it's a mistake to assume that deep benches appeal primarily to owners who are too lazy to make tough decisions:
I was traveling last week, and after seeing such a one-sided discussion I felt compelled to weigh in. Short benches do provide a different type of game and definitely have merits, but to suggest a short bench us a truer test of skill is not true.

Last season I astutely drafted Le'Veon Bell in the mid rounds and DeAngelo Williams in the late rounds. A short bench forced me to drop Williams the week before Bell went down. I lost Williams to an underperforming team with waiver priorities. A tough choice, yes—but hard to call this anything but bad luck.

More to the point, a deep bench allows the skilled owner to build depth by picking up on breakout players early rather than lose them to the league bottom feeders. This owner can now withstand bad luck injuries because of their skill and ultimately use this extra talent to make trades.

Short benches also limit trade activity.

Since their comments add new perspectives to the conversation, I'm happy to feature the comments of Todd and Bill on bench depth and the IR tag.

As for my question about college football, there doesn't seem to be a consensus about whether those who pay close attention to it do better in fantasy than those who don't. Ralph wrote in to attest that the best owner in his league is a fan of college ball:
We have an owner who is fanatical about college fb in our 12-team dynasty that has won the league 4 times in 7 years. Each spring he's the best prepared for the rookie draft because he's so familiar with the players coming out, and his rookie picks nearly always pan out. I started buying Waldmans rsp in an attempt to keep up, but it doesn't replace the time he has invested in cfb. Personally I can't stand the college games and don't watch them. He does and it gives him an edge in dynasty.

Note that Ralph plays in a dynasty league, where knowledge of incoming rookies would presumably pay the highest dividends. From Nate's perspective, however, a focus on college football can be a distraction in redrafter leagues:

I guess I qualify as the dominant owner in my league since I've won more championships than anybody else, but this isn't about me. It's about the owner in my league who talks nonstop about college players and how he expects them to do in the NFL. He's one of just three owners [never to have won a title in our league], but that doesn't stop him from telling us which college players have the best prospects in the NFL, which is mostly just him repeating the hype of college commentators. Even when his predictions come true, it's usually a year or two after he has given up on the players himself. If anything, I would say his focus on college makes him over-value rookies. That might work in keeper leagues. It doesn't work in our [redrafter] league.

I wish I had collected enough data to reach even a tentative conclusion on this question, but the answers were split. Sorry, folks. Maybe I'll get some belated feedback to tip the scale one way or another.

As usual, my thanks go out to everyone who wrote in (even if they were answering questions from a previous column).

This Week's Question: Do any readers allow pots to accumulate over multiple years?

I can't vouch for the story I'm about to tell you. It comes from a man named Eddie who is engaged to one of my wife's cousins. He assures me that his brother-in-law, who works for the Drug Enforcement Agency, participates with his co-workers in one of the most elaborate fantasy football pools I've ever heard about.

Eddie claims that everyone in the pool pays over $1000 per year to participate in the league.

So far, so good. I hear from lots of people in high-stakes leagues.

But he further claims that the yearly payouts are miniscule because the pot is saved from one year to the next—with the plan of awarding a $100,000 purse to the fantasy owner whose team performs the best over a ten-year period.

I asked Eddie to put me in touch with his brother-in-law so that I could find out how the league intended to determine which team was in fact the best over this ten year period, but I haven't yet been able to confirm anything about this league. It sounds a bit urban legendy to me.

Even so, it reminded me of a league that one reader mentioned to me years ago: the Empire League. The structure of the Empire League is fascinating in that half of each year's pot rolls over into the next year until one champion wins the league two years in a row.

The idea of a progressive/rollover pot in fantasy football is intriguing, but I've never participated in such a league. Have you? If so, please comment below or email me with as many particulars as you care to share.

Survivor Pool Picks - Week 14 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

#3: Colts over Texans: (10-3, JAX, OAK, DAL, MIN, PIT, NE, CIN, TN, GB, AZ, DET, NYG, SEA)

Andrew Luck and company have to win out to make the playoffs, and it starts with beating a divisional rival this week. Like all teams that aspire to go deep into the playoffs, the Colts have figured out how to remain competitive despite injuries to key players. Donte Moncrief, their 3rd year receiver, is a perfect example. He started the season with a bang before missing six weeks and then picking up right where he had left off. Thanks to Montcrief’s return, solid play from TY Hilton, Frank Gore providing a steady rushing attack, and the magic of Andrew Luck, the Colts could realistically win their next four games. As for the Texans, their Brock Osweiler is everything Luck isn't. Last year, seven different starting QBs in Houston made effective use of DeAndre Hopkins' talents, but Osweiler has failed to ignite the Houston offense all season. The good news for Houston fans is that Osweiler's second-best game of the season came against the porous defense of the Colts, but the bad news is that even his second-best game featured just 269 yards passing, 2TDs and a pick. That won't be enough against a Colts team with Luck at the helm and its postseason ambitions on the line.

#2: Falcons over Rams: (11-2, HOU, AZ, CAR, WAS, GB, TN, NE, MN, SEA, NYG, PIT, BUF, DEN)

There was a time when this game was a twice-a-season occurrence between these former NFC West rivals—a time when Eric Dickerson's Rams would challenge Chris Miller's Falcons. That time is behind us—along with the idea that Todd Gurley's mediocre team from L.A. can challenge Matt Ryan's high-flying squad from Atlanta. While Jared Goff is busy showing Jeff Fisher all the tools that he can contribute to future 8-8 seasons for the Rams, Atlanta is focused on capturing a seat at the table for the NFL’s second season—and Kyle Shanahan's third-ranked offense will get one step closer to that goal by keeping the score out of reach for the offensively stagnant Rams. Although I would rather have the home favorite in a survival pool game this late in the season, this is one of the most attractive options. Be bold and take the Falcons.

#1: Lions over Bears: (12-1, SEA, CAR, MIA, CIN, NE, PIT, GB, DEN, DAL, BAL, NYG, NO, SD)

I find myself very fortunate to have Detroit as an eligible pick this week. The Lions are playing against a divisional rival that will be feature Matt Barkley under center in his third career start. With Jay Cutler on Injured Reserve with a separated shoulder, many believe that the Lions will feast on Barkley’s mistakes and be a viable defense in weekly fantasy pools. That's probably how things will turn out, but even if Barkley plays well, there's good reason to think that Matthew Stafford (who has thrived in Jim Bob Cooter's offense) will outperform him—as he outperformed Andrew Luck in a 39-35 shootout in Week 1, Kirk Cousins in Week 7, and Drew Brees just last week. Because this game features divisional rivals, anything can happen. But considering how limited your options are this late in the season, take the Lions if they're available to you—and hold on for a squeaker.

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.