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Last Man Standing - Q&A
Week 2

Last Week's Question:

In last week's column, I asked readers when they advocated having their drafts and why. As expected, I received some pretty coherent feedback concerning "early" drafts. A reader named Andrew speaks for a number of folks who will continue to hold their drafts well before the season gets underway:

I'm typically in 3-4 leagues. My big money league draft is closer to the beginning of the season simply because guys don't want their season ended before it starts when money is on the line. However, I usually have the draft bug pretty early, so I try to get into a small money league some time in late July/early August. I find the best way to minimize the effect of preseason activity is to have pretty big rosters for these drafts. If you draft a team of 20-25 players, you can assure yourself of having all the bases covered when it comes to injury and training camp competition.
A thoroughly defensible position. Nevertheless, one reader (Mike) belongs to a league that waits even longer than mine does to conduct its draft:
A few years ago we started drafting on the first Sunday morning of the season, around 9:00 a.m. or so. We have the draft at the house of an owner who has the NFL Ticket and then watch all the games together afterwards. It's great because everyone knows who they are playing, and we can talk trash to each other while we watch our teams.
Fair enough. Jeff is in a league that ran into pretty much the same problems as mine, but opted for a slightly different solution:
Our league is just like yours with one exception: we exclude the results of the Pats/Colts game from the Week 1 scores. So, in effect, all Pats/Colts players have 2 bye weeks. Not everyone agreed with this solution, but a majority of the owners did, which is why we went with that approach.

Our concern wasn't with the marquee players. We were thinking more along the lines of a 3rd-stringer having a huge night and being drafted in the 10th round instead of going undrafted (as he would have if we had conducted the draft prior to the game). As you pointed out, everyone would have a chance to draft the 3rd-stringer, but we just felt it was easier to exclude the game altogether.
Another reader (whose last name appears to be Rieck) wrote in concerning the same scenario that troubles Jeff:
Drafting the Saturday after the first game has been played is something my league has considered, but we haven't tried it yet. My biggest concern wouldn't be a stud having a big game; it would be a marginal player having a great game and an owner being able to start that player when they otherwise probably wouldn't have-someone like a Stokley or a Patten having a 2-TD performance for example. That might not be a huge deal, but it would alter things a bit.

Like you, I prefer to remove as many question marks from the equation as possible before our draft. In the end, the benefits of having the draft that close to opening Sunday might outweigh the off-chance that a mediocre player gives an owner a slight advantage in Week 1, so it's something we'll probably try in the next few years.
I can't speak for Jeff and Mr. Rieck, but I think another reader named Greg may have a solution that will allay their concerns:
We have held our draft the Saturday before the season starts for the last 6 years even though [the NFL has since changed its season format by kicking things off with a] Thursday game. Our rule has been that if you choose to start a player from Thursday night for Week 1, you must also start that player on week 2. [And if you choose not to start a player from the Thursday night game in Week 1, you cannot start that player in Week 2.] The obvious stars (Manning, Harrison, etc.) would have played both weeks anyway. But if a star has a poor outing in Week 1, choosing not to retroactively start him could cost you big when he explodes in week 2.
Although Greg doesn't say so specifically, the same logic would appear to apply to marginal players as well. You might want to designate a marginal player with a good Thursday night game as a starter for Week 1, but do you want to commit to starting that player ahead of a stud in Week 2?

This Week's Question:

Plenty of the people involved in fantasy football belong to more than one league, so you can guess how I respond to those who write in to ask me how they can get their stubborn league-mates to change from a serpentine redrafter format to an auction format.

"If the guys you play with don't want to use the format that appeals to you," I write, "then join another league that does."

It's the way I always answer that question; and it's the way I answered Keith when he posed that question to me last season.

But Keith has since written me back to the following effect:

I understand your point, but at the same time I don't want to join another league. I have played with these guys for almost a decade now, and I don't want to participate in an auction league with other FFers. I want it to be with THEM. What's more, I know that they would all enjoy an auction format if they would just give it a chance. It seems to me like some of your readers must have used strategies that allowed them to ease the transition from a redrafter format to an auction format. Couldn't you just ask?

Okay Keith, I'm asking. I hope to have something for you in next week's column.

Readers' Picks:

The first set of picks come from Matt, who is off to a perfect start in 2004:

Trap Game(s): So many games
Last week Philly looked like a possible trap game. Well, we all know now that they showed up and didn't take the Giants lightly. That is exactly what a Super Bowl contender is supposed to do, go out and get it done. This week there are a lot of division rivalries that could be trap games, so let's get right to my picks.

#3: New Orleans Over San Francisco (1-0 This Season):
I don't like picking divisional games for the Last Man Standing Pools. Reason #1, the teams know each other too well. Reason #2, one trick play can change the whole outcome in a close game, and Reason #3, because these teams know each other so well, coaches use more trick plays in these types of games than they normally would against non-divisional opponents. With that said, New Orleans should bounce back against a team that has an average defense and two quarterbacks that are now banged up, Rattay and Dorsey. Deuce McAllister will remember how to run the ball and Aaron Brooks should start to find his rhythm against a team looking for an identity. If this game were in San Francisco the Saints might have something to worry about, but in the Superdome, take the home team.

#2: Cincinnati over Miami (1-0 This Season):
The Bengals are a good team and almost beat the Jets despite some miscues. Unlike the Titans, who went to Miami and beat the Dolphins by pounding it out, the Bengals should be able to go to the air with relative ease as well as run the ball. This balanced attack should put up more than enough points to beat the Dolphins. Until Miami figures out who is going to be their quarterback and running back this season, the Dolphins should be easy pickings for their opponents.

#1: New England over Arizona (1-0 This Season):
On paper this game is a blowout. But can the Patriots stay focused after last week with a bye week coming up? I believe so. While Arizona gave St. Louis some trouble, the Rams did not execute, and New England seems to be playing smarter than most teams. This should be one more game in the streak for the Pats. The only concern here is that a huge number of participants in Last Man Standing Pools will be gone should the Pats lose, which always makes going with a less popular option attractive.

The next 3 picks come from a reader who identifies himself only as "Natchyrboy" and seems to believe in "minimalist" analysis; we'll have to see how he does:

3. Dallas over Cleveland
Dallas is at home after a loss, while Cleveland is coming off a surprising win over Baltimore. I see the Cowboys bouncing back while the Browns fall back to earth.

2. Green Bay over Chicago
Sometimes it may be best to stay away from teams that have the short week, and Green Bay did just play on Monday night. But the Packers are at home, and more importantly, they face Chicago. Da Bears suck. No detailed analysis needed here.

1. New England over Arizona
This contest pits the world champs against a banged-up crappy team. The Patriots have had since opening Thursday to make plans...plans of how to enjoy their time in Arizona while notching up an easy victory during working hours.

Mike's Picks

Houston, we have a problem. You have frustrated me at every turn. I picked against you 2 opening days in a row, and you won. Thinking I had learned my lesson, I selected you to defeat the lowly Chargers in 2004, and you found a way to lose. I include the picks of a reader named Matt (who gets practically everything right), but I apparently lack the sense to heed his wisdom. Thanks to my own self-destructive fixation on the Texans, I'm apparently never to be allowed to reach Week 2 in a Last Man Standing Pool again.

Well you won't have me to kick around any more Dom Capers. I hereby retire from the Last Man Standing game. I'm changing the name of this column to Q&A and focusing henceforth on the fantasy football questions and answers that readers submit. Those who still want to read the column for their LMS picks will not be disappointed as long as they continue to be supplied by readers who are better at such contests than I am.

Remember Barry Switzer? He was smart enough to realize when he replaced Jimmy Johnson that the way to get the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl was not to tinker with what Johnson had built. Well I'm finally getting to be smart enough to realize that I need to play Switzer to Matt's Johnson.

My number one LMS pick this week is the Pats over the Cardinals. Why? Because two people who aren't me say so.

For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your LMS picks, please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.