Last Week's Question: Have you drafted
with the season underway?
In my column for Week 2,
I reported that my brother spent his 8th-round draft pick on Alex
Smith. He wasn't predicting great things for Smith; he knew
exactly how many fantasy points he could expect in Week 1 from
Smith (50) because the QB had already played.
My brother's draft took place, as usual, on the morning of the
first Sunday of the NFL season. He and his fellow owners always
draft with the first Thursday night game in their rearview mirror.
This year, the impact was a bit higher than usual thanks to
stellar performances from Smith, Kareem
Hunt, and Mike
Gillislee. (Hunt went fourth overall in that draft.)
They don't have any special rules governing the drafting of
players who have already played, and maybe they don't need any
such rules. After all, anyone who valued Smith's Week 1 performance
more highly than my brother could have taken him in the 7th
round. Figuring out how heavily to factor in a single known
performance in the context of the rest of an unknown season
presents a challenge, but it's a challenge that most people
in similar circumstances seem to handle without additional rules.
I heard from a couple of readers in leagues that still have
their draft parties on the Saturday night before Sunday kickoff
in Week 1. Their fantasy traditions are older than Thursday
Night Football, and they aren't willing to change. As Carter
put it, "We have jobs, so we can't realistically move our draft
party to Wednesday night. And we have families, so we can't
draft on Labor Day weekend. Our draft has always been the Saturday
before Sunday kickoff, and we'll continue to do it that way
no matter how many early games the NFL decides to schedule."
He didn't mention any special rules about drafting players who
have already played, so I assume his league handles them the
same way my brother's does—i.e. with no special provisions at
In fact, I only heard from one reader whose league has instituted
rules governing the drafting and starting of players that have
already played when the draft occurs. Since that reader was
Mike Krueger (founder of FFToday), I have assessed this response
as "highly credible":
One of my local leagues routinely conducts our draft the night
before all the Sunday games of Week 1. As you might expect,
values for some Chiefs and Patriots changed significantly. Kareem
Hunt was drafted No.1 overall. Tyreek
Hill went at 2.06. Tom
Brady lasted until 8.04 in a 12-team league.
Our rules for the draft specify that any players drafted from
the Thursday night game must start unless the player is drafted
as a backup, outside the starting lineup requirements. For example,
I drafted Chris
Hogan as my 4th WR, but didn't have to start him because
we only start 3 WRs in our league, with no flex position.
The rule seems to work well, and as a league, we haven't had
any issues with drafting after the first Thursday night game.
Every owner can weigh the risk/reward of drafting a player who
blew up or had a dud in the Thursday night game, and I think
it actually adds a bit more intrigue and strategy to the draft.
My thanks go out to Mike for sharing that one simple rule and
to the other readers who don't seem to think any special rules
are necessary. The main point here is that having a draft after
the Thursday night game and before Sunday kickoff doesn't have
to ruin anything about a league. I was actually envious of my
brother and of Krueger as I learned about their drafts because
I think it only makes sense to choose players as close to the
beginning of the season as possible—even if that means drafting
a day or two after the season has begun.
The advantages of this approach include 1) having as much information
as possible (as opposed to drafting half-blind in mid-August);
2) taking the pressure off Labor Day weekend; 3) minimizing
the delay between the draft and the beginning of the season;
and 4) adding a bit of "intrigue and strategy" as Krueger suggests.
With all those benefits, it seems like drafting after the Thursday
night game should be a bit more commonplace than it is. Maybe
it will become more popular with time.
Weekly lineup decisions in small leagues
can be just as intriguing as whether or not to start Ted Ginn
This Week's Question: What do you
like most about smaller leagues?
For more than a decade now, I've been an elitist when it comes to
small fantasy leagues. I don't know where the contempt comes from,
but it's always been there. I can't even type "8-team league" without
How about you? Have you ever looked at somebody's roster, seen an
alarming amount of top-flight talent, and thought, "That jackass
must be in an 8-team league to have all those studs"?
I get questions emailed to me every Sunday morning from people in
tiny leagues who are considering benching the likes of LeSean
McCoy or Keenan
Allen. I have rolled my eyes and shaken my head at such questions
in the past. Sometimes I've even been tempted to reply, "Stop deciding
between Julio and Odell—and start looking for a bigger league."
But this year I have an old friend who has just started playing
fantasy football. He's in an 8-team league. When he first told me
about it, I groaned and did a facepalm. But now that I've gotten
questions from him about his particular team in that particular
league, I must admit I'm becoming fascinated by the Cadillac problems
For example, at running back this week, he can only start 3 of the
following: LeSean McCoy, Kareem
Anderson, and Christian
McCaffrey. If you own McCoy in a 12-team league, you might be
reluctant to start him against the Bronco defense that just handed
Elliott the worst game of his career, but what kind of RB are
you likely to roll out in Shady's place? Maybe Hunt or Anderson
or McCaffrey—but not all three. And unless you went RB heavy, you're
more likely to be looking at an Isaiah
Crowell or even a Jacquizz
I can't remember how long it's been since I played in a league with
fewer than 10 owners, but helping my friend manage his team is making
me think about the wildly different perspective appropriate for
I have always thought of fantasy as a game of scarcity. Workhorse
RBs are far more valuable than QBs not because they score more points
than QBs (they don't), but because they separate themselves by a
wide margin from the RBs who only play on first and second down
or exclusively on third down. My notion of scarcity drives almost
all the decisions I make in larger leagues (including the decision
to stream quarterbacks instead of burning a lot of draft or auction
capital on them).
But my friend's 8-team league operates from the principle of abundance.
The question isn't "How can I get another stud WR on my roster?",
but "Which of my stud WRs should I bench this week?"
I finally figured out (just this week!) that wondering which of
your stud WRs to bench is just as interesting a question to ponder
as any of the lineup decisions I customarily make. Questions based
on abundance can be every bit as complex as questions based on scarcity;
it's just that having an embarrassment of riches makes such questions
alienating for those of us who have always operated from the scarcity
So I want to apologize to everyone whom I've mocked or belittled
over the years for playing in smaller leagues. It's not what I'm
used to, but I see how it can be interesting. I figure there are
other benefits of participating in smaller leagues as well—benefits
that I've simply been too contemptuous to notice over the years.
If you enjoy playing in smaller leagues, please set me straight
by posting a comment below or emailing
me. I hope to have some interesting responses to feature in
I thought about singling out one of four tricky divisional matchups
this week (Rams at 49ers, Saints at Panthers, Giants at Eagles,
and Dolphins at Jets), but I couldn't. The more I thought about
it, the less difference I could see between these contests, since
all four games have the same “fleas”: 1) These teams
know each other too well; 2) It’s too early in the season
to know who is going to show up; 3) the lines for all 4 contests
are either small or suspect; & 4) Never ever ever ever risk
your survival on a divisional game in the first half of the season
(GOLDEN RULE). In most survival pools, only about 20% of the population
is out. Don’t be part of the 5-10% that will be eliminated
this week with a divisional opponent screw up. Choose wisely.
#3: Cleveland over Indianapolis (2-0:
To my faithful readers, I offer you a fantasy “jewel.” Why is
this a jewel? Because how many times in 2017 will the Cleveland
Browns be FAVORED by Vegas bookies to win a game? Don't mistake
the Browns for a great NFL team, but they are definitely going
in the right direction. With Andrew
Luck out again this week, the Colts are likely to continue
looking terrible. Poor Jacoby Brisset will make his second start
after his recent trade from New England—this time against a Cleveland
defense that has been surprisingly effective in its first two
weeks. Everyone seems to agree that the Jets are the worst team
in the league, but are they really worse than Indianapolis without
Luck? Maybe not—so maybe some readers will dare to gamble on Cleveland
this week and save the two picks below for later in the season.
If you are a long-term planner trying to navigate the perfect
path to your survival pool win, then this pick may be your best
option. But don't go this route without understanding that you
had easier and better choices available – if only for this week.
#2: Pittsburgh over Chicago (1-1: NE, SEA)
To call Mike
Glennon a “serviceable” quarterback is to damn him with faint
praise. It's also fair, which is more than can be said of the
injuries to Chicago's receivers. With former Titan Kendall
Wright as the #1, the Bears aren't likely to stretch the field
for their inconsistent running game. And while Chicago struggles
in both the passing and rushing departments, the Steelers will
probably continue firing on all cylinders in this inter-conference
contest. It's true that Big Ben struggles on the road, but for
the Bears to outscore him (and Bell) (and Brown) (and Bryant),
they'll need to win with something—and it's hard to imagine what
that something might be.
#1: New England over Houston (2-0, ATL,
The only pick I've gotten wrong so far this year was New England
over Kansas City in Week 1, so you might expect me to steer clear
of the Pats. But this isn't Week 1, when New England is notoriously
unreliable (as I pointed out when I picked them back in Week 1;
so yes, the irony is obviously there, but no, it's not relevant
anymore). This time, you can take my faith in Belichick and Brady
to the bank. Why? Mainly because you have a rookie quarterback
Watson, who, despite his talents, is about to discover that
inexperienced QBs are GUARANTEED to lose the first time they ever
play in Foxboro. Watson's odds of winning might improve slightly
if he travelled back in time to play against the Packers at home
under Vince Lombardi. Combine that with that fact that New England
is truly a much more talented team on both sides of the ball,
and this is the ONLY game you should be thinking about.
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.