Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Mike

Mike's Articles

Week 10

Last Week's Question
Last week's question came from Bradley, who plays in a league that makes the vetoing of trades extremely easy—perhaps too easy. Since trading is probably more fun and rewarding than any other aspect of fantasy football, I can see why FFers in leagues such as Bradley's would want to see trading made as easy as possible. However, a specter is haunting fantasy football, the specter of collusion.

In leagues with any kind of cash prize at stake, there is always the possibility that one owner who is out of contention will deliberately strip the best players from his team and give them to another owner who, with the added muscle, will waltz into the playoffs with a decided advantage and take home the purse. If what I have heard is true, the two colluders then split the winnings and apparently live out their days on a private island with fancy mixed drinks being brought to them by trained seals. So despite the fact that many owners would like trading to be made as easy as possible, many others want it to be highly regulated. They argue that if a deal smells at all fishy, it should not be allowed to go through.

A dilemma.

Different leagues institute different policies in order to facilitate trading as much as possible without allowing for any more of a possibility of collusion than there absolutely has to be. The most common solution to this problem is to set a very early trading deadline. In my league, for instance, all trading must stop at the end of Week 7. To those outside of the fantasy football community, that deadline sounds absurdly early, since it occurs less than halfway through the regular season. However, it is so early that all teams are still in contention, which takes away the primary motive for collusion.

But there are other ways of handling this problem. A reader named Robby is in a league that is experiencing the same problem as Bradley's league. He wrote in with the following proposal for next year:
We are having the same "trading" problems in our league, so we decided that next year, if an owner wants to trade a first- or second-rounder, he must receive a first- or second-rounder in return. Other players may also be involved in the trade. This way, at least the losing owner will be prevented from "helping" a winning owner to make that owner's team top heavy. This isn't set in stone, so I'd like to hear your views on this idea.
I'm all for new ideas, Robby, and if you decide to go through with this, please let me know how it works out in actual practice. In theory, however, it looks to me like a recipe for disaster. I don't know how accurately your draft predicted actual player performance, but I do know that on the website (which I like to refer to as a fairly reliable composite indicator of how players were ranked by owners before the season), we can already see a number of players who were over- or under-valued in many drafts. Check the average draft position (ADP) rankings for 12-team leagues on players such as Clinton Portis (1.04), Kevan Barlow (1.11), and Travis Henry (2.10). Terrell Owens' ADP, according to their data, was 2.08. If you instituted the rule you are considering, then it would be "legal" for an owner to trade Terrell Owens (a second-rounder) for Keven Barlow (a first-rounder). But it would not be legal to trade T. O. for Tiki Barber or Curtis Martin (both with an ADP of 4.03).

Are you kidding me?

If a person said to me, "Which smells more of collusion—Owens for Barlow or Owens for Barber?", I wouldn't have to give that question any thought at all before saying that the more suspicious trade was the one involving Barlow. But I want to pause here to add that I am not suggesting that a trade of Owens for Barlow necessarily qualifies as collusion—just that it seems more lopsided than a trade of Owen for Barber.

The fact of the matter is that nobody knows how a player's season will go. I don't know; you don't know; even the know-it-all in my league (every league has one, but ours is named Greg Petty) doesn't know. We only know how the season has gone so far. I may have studied tape of the Eagles and decided that what the Steelers did to contain T. O. on Sunday is something that every other defense left on the Eagles' schedule is capable of doing. I might also have seen something in the 49ers' play to persuade me that Barlow is in for a monster of a second half of the regular season. I might honestly believe that swapping Owens for Barlow is in my interest; and that is my prerogative. In case you haven't noticed, the reason that so many people watch the NFL so obsessively is that there is absolutely no predicting what will happen from one week to the next. We take educated guesses, and we are usually right to rank players like Randy Moss ahead of players like Keyshawn Johnson. But educated guesses only go so far. In my league's scoring system, Javon Walker and Reggie Wayne are both ahead of Torry Holt and Hines Ward in point production so far this season. I can also assure you that Walker and Wayne were both available when Holt and Ward got snapped up. On draft day, would I have thought it was collusion if two teams had swapped Clinton Portis for Javon Walker? Maybe, but I would have thought that the team acquiring Portis was the one getting stacked. If the same trade happened today, the people who are most apt to cry collusion would contend that the team acquiring Walker was gaining an unfair advantage.

It's crazy, and perhaps the best assessment of how prone we are to overreact to the specter of collusion comes from a reader named Don, who taunts,
All of y'all just need to step back and take a deep breath when it comes to accusing owners of collusion. Maybe they are making those deals because they understand the NFL better than you do. Maybe they only think they understand it better, but the deals are theirs to make!
I wish more people would begin their notes to me with the phrase, "All of y'all." It just makes me happy. I, however, digress. Don is not alone. Jennifer, for instance, wrote in to explain that her league uses an early deadline policy (like my league), but she adds sentiments that are similar to Don's:
We do not have a rule against any trades except that they end in week 8 so that every team is pretty much still in the playoff hunt. That way, no one is ready to give up on their team to help another. The way we see it, you pay for your team, so it is your team. If you make a bad trade it is on you.
I received numerous responses along similar lines, but the most impassioned and articulate came from John, who writes:
I'm puzzled by the numerous posts on this and other fantasy sites from commissioners asking if a trade is "fair" or whether it should be vetoed. The whole idea of fantasy sports is the opportunity to act as coach/general manager of your own team. If two owners come to an agreement on an exchange of players, why in the world should other owners have any say in the matter? It amazes me that owners who have drafted a fair number of stiffs themselves—and let's face it, we all have at one time or another—are suddenly experts on the comparative value of someone else's players! From what I've seen, it's not uncommon for owners to vote against a trade that they consider unfair or lopsided involving players that they themselves opted not to draft. If the player(s) in question are so valuable, and you passed them up, doesn't that indicate that you weren't that great a judge of talent on draft night? What has transpired since then to make you such an expert? It's awfully difficult to prove that a trade was made specifically to benefit one team at the expense of another. If you think that this is happening in your league, GET OUT FAST! Join a league with friends or others you respect as solid, fair-minded competitors who play the game the right way: to win, honorably and fairly, but always to win!
I applaud John for having stepped back from the collusion monster to take a deep breath, but readers will probably be more interested in the policy his league has instituted concerning trades:
The 12-team league I'm in is very competitive, but also among friends. We don't have many trades, but when we do, the proposed trade is posted and each of the other ten owners has the option to offer either of the trading parties a better deal. If none come up or are accepted, the trade goes through [as originally proposed].
I have no personal experience with this method, but I can see how it would work in a lot of fantasy settings. At least it gives the people accused of collusion a chance to answer their accusers snidely, "Oh yeah, and if this trade is so lopsided, why don't you make me an offer that is more balanced?" However, some leagues might have problems with policies such as the one proposed by John. Billy wrote in to address this very point:
Many trades were rejected in our early years because some owners felt like they could have made a better deal to one of the owners. For that reason, we instituted a "counter offer window" - whereby all trades were made public for 24 hours before being officially approved. This allowed other owners the opportunity to make counter offers to one or both of the owners involved in the trade. At the end of the 24-hour window, either the original trade was approved, or counter offers were approved and the original deal was dead. This seemed like a good idea on paper, but in practice, it wasn't at all. Owners that did the legwork to get a deal accepted by another owner could suddenly get undercut by a "lazy owner" who could now see what it would take to get a certain player and swoop in with a better deal. This rule lasted only 1 year.
So John's success story is Billy's failure. Similarly, whereas many readers who wrote in over the past two weeks advocated taking money out of the trading equation, Mike supports his league's policy of charging owners for trades.
I am the co-commissioner of a league that has a few rules regarding trades. The first rule is that a trade costs each owner $5. We feel that because of the fee, only serious trades will be proposed and completed. No one wants to get lumped up with charges. The commissioners hold veto power to deny any collusion that may have taken place during the negotiating. We also restrict teams from making trades if they are eliminated from playoff contention. We do this to prevent the "I will trade you such and such and you give me $20" scenario. Owners can make a trade look fair on paper, but it is really being done solely for the owner heading into the playoffs, while the team that is out is just trying to cut its financial losses. Those are pretty much the rules. So far we have never had to use veto power. These rules seem to be working very well. In our league there is usually 2-4 trades a year. The only tough part about having the veto power is that when you can see your main threat to the title improve his weak spot, you want to veto it for your benefit. But we would never do that because fair play makes for fun play, and we are all friends and family in the league.
I'm glad to hear that Mike's rules are working well, but I continue to be confused by rules that prohibit collusion without providing any sort of a test by which to know whether collusion has actually occurred. Consider, for instance, the following response from Paul:
As for trades, the fairest solution to trade protests I've seen comes from a league I belong to in which other owners may indeed protest a trade, yet they must do so ONLY on the following 3 grounds:
  1. Was collusion involved in this deal?
  2. Was the trade obviously in favor of one team? If so, explain.
  3. Was the trade made with the intent of a "fire sale" in mind?
Pretty simple, huh?
Well try to imagine me doing my best impersonation of Forest Gump (which isn't very good, I confess) as I respond, "There's simple and then there's simple." Those rules are certainly easy enough to grasp. But they don't seem at all easy to implement. As John says above, "It's awfully difficult to prove that a trade was made specifically to benefit one team at the expense of another." What do you do to find out whether a trade really is collusion? Do you attempt to build a bridge out of it or try to find out whether it weighs the same as a duck? This is why so many leagues turn the duty of vetoing trades over to a commissioner who is supposed to be informed and impartial. He makes his assessment according to his best judgment, and the league either accepts his decision or finds another commissioner. This is where commissioners earn their keep, but they are usually at their best when they do nothing at all to prevent trades from occurring..

This Week's Question

Pardon the profanity, but I have to introduce this week's question by informing you that my bullshit detector has officially been turned to 'high.' I have been inundated by notes from readers who think that this forum would be the ideal space in which to assess the various league-hosting services on the Internet (such as the ones at CBS.Sportsline or Yahoo!, etc.). I like the idea of informing readers about the relative strengths and weaknesses of these services. What I don't like, however, is the idea of this column become a propaganda tool for some Internet entrepreneur who wants to send me a glowing write-up of his own service because he is too cheap to buy advertising on a site that Mike Krueger puts a great deal of effort into in order to provide readers with extensive FF commentary free of charge.

Also, the last thing I want is to print a bunch of letters from people who still blame a glitch in the CBS.Sportsline software for costing them a fantasy championship in 1998. You may have had a legitimate beef with your league hosting service at some point in the past, but the rest of us have moved on with our lives. So should you.

With that said, here are the rules, folks:

First off, I won't consider printing anything that doesn't make a conscientious effort to be balanced. If you can't find one good thing to say about the web-hosting service you are commenting on, but have time to nitpick 25 details, you will come across to me as someone who is trying to steer me to another web-hosting service, probably because you have a financial stake in it.

Second, be warned that I have used (and continue to use) a number of different web-hosting services, so if you have a tendency to exaggerate things, there is a good chance I will see through your misrepresentation.

Third, although I ordinarily print notes from readers using first names only, I must insist that if you choose to write in concerning this topic, you include a first and last name with your note.

Fourth, I will definitely privilege notes from readers whose comments I have included in the past, since these readers have earned my trust.

Fifth, I will offer an opportunity for rebuttal. If representatives of the various league-hosting services want to respond to anything my readers have to say, I will provide space for their responses in a follow-up column.

Sixth, as mentioned above, the bullshit detector is on high. If it smells like a sales pitch, it ain't getting printed.

Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Matt) - FF Today's LMS Contest

Trap Game: Buffalo at New England:
In looking at Fantasy Football Champs Survival Pool this week, I can see that 84 people out of the remaining 103 thought that my upset pick of the Bears over the Giants was crazy. Well, unfortunately for those people and all those Giants fans out there, myself included, I was correct with this pick. The Giants, like many NFL teams in this era of the salary cap, are extremely hard to figure out, and it could take hours explaining what is going on there. The easiest way to explain them, as one fan at the stadium said, "They play up or down to their competition depending who it is."

This week watch out for New England. If you haven't used New England, this is not the week that is a lock. The Bills are playing some of their best football all season and Willis McGahee is taking advantage of the confidence that the offensive line has with him running behind them. With the Patriots' secondary still banged up a little, Bledsoe might look to play action pass off the run against this team and could steal one up in Foxboro.

#3: Seattle over St. Louis (5-3 This Season):
Everyone remembers the last game between the Seahawks and the Rams, especially the Seahawk players. They don't believe that they will win the division without beating the Rams, and this is their chance to prove they are for real. Look for Holmgren to run the ball with Alexander all day long and take as much time as possible off the clock.

#2: Baltimore over the NY. Jets (6-2 This Season):
Baltimore has Jamal Lewis back, and the Jets will be without Chad Pennington. Unfortunately for the Jets, Pennington's injury could not come at a worse time and his replacement, Quincy Carter, was so highly rated by Bill Parcells that he let him go in favor of Vinny Testaverde. With the team one game behind the Patriots and November "moving month" in the playoff runs, this Jets teams will be hard-pressed to win two of their next three games this month. This may be the beginning of a long losing streak.

#1: NY Giants over Arizona (6-2 This Season):
I must be off my rocker. Arizona has beaten New Orleans, Seattle, and Miami and has a very good defense. Anquan Bolden is back from a knee injury and provides a complimentary receiving threat to Larry Fitzgerald, their first round phenom. New York was just embarrassed by the Chicago Bears, lost their starting defensive ends and is playing with a rookie at safety. On top of that, the media is on alert for when Eli Manning will replace Kurt Warner. All of this has the makings for a runaway victory for the Cardinals, right? Wrong. Tom Coughlin knows what is at stake this week at 5-3 with Atlanta and Philly coming into the Meadowlands over the next two weeks. Those games will be meaningless if they cannot beat the teams that they are supposed to beat, even injured. Look for the G-Men to win this in a nail-biter.
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.