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Week 13

Concerning Last Week's Column

Although I didn't solicit responses to last week's column concerning what leagues can do to facilitate trading, I received a few nevertheless. Readers may recall that I made four suggestions about what FFers can do to make trades occur more frequently in their leagues:

  • Get over the fear of embarrassment;
  • Let go of draft position or auction price after the season gets underway;
  • Don't try to "win" a trade; and
  • Don't be afraid to get the slightly shorter end of the stick on a trade.

I'll stand by those recommendations based on my own experience and the overwhelmingly positive feedback that I received from readers. Nevertheless, I did not mean to give the impression that those four suggestions constitute the only approach (or even the best approach) for creating an atmosphere in which trading is the norm rather than the exception. A number of readers wrote in to add their two cents concerning what they perceived as omissions in my list of pointers, but I received an extremely thorough response from Steve, who covered all of their points and a few of his own in a response that I can't help sharing with everyone:

Your four points are all right on the money, but you don't mention a big reason trades can be rare: league structure. It's the job of the commissioner to organize the league such that people have an incentive to trade. This includes:

1. A big enough league. In an eight-team league, you can often pick up strong players off waivers and never really have to trade. We've got a 10-team league, which I think is just about perfect: small enough that everyone has a shot at decent starters, large enough that the good players don't hang around on waivers.

2. Careful thought given to roster depth vis-a-vis starting lineups. If you start eight players but have 20 players on your roster, you can stockpile enough depth that you never have to make a tough roster decision. True, 20-player rosters mean most of the available talent has been taken, so the waiver wire isn't a realistic option. In theory, that means that if you want to make a change, you have to trade. But I've found that big rosters make teams self-sufficient. In our league, we have 8 starting positions, and each team has 14 roster spots. We've found that this is a pretty tight number, requiring teams to make some tough choices about who to hold and who to drop, especially when you have byes, injuries, suspensions and people holding on to handcuffs.

3. Starting lineup. We used to have a flex position and combined WR/TE slots, but found that they reduced the need for trades. So I scrapped them and went with a straight 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF setup. I'm considering adding a third WR slot because there seems to be a lot of WR depth these days. The general idea is to roughly balance the number of starters with the number of acceptable players at each position, so that there will be depth imbalances that encourage trades.

4. Positional considerations. I try to balance the benefits at each position so that, for example, TEs and Ks are more than just after-thoughts and nuisances. With TEs it's easy; they score just like WRs, but the good TEs are so rare that they're worth more than a similar WR. With the kickers we add bonus points for distance and don't subtract for missed kicks. So unless they do something freaky like fumble or throw an interception, they're always good for positive points and a good kicker can often reach double digits. In the end QBs and DEFs routinely score the most points, but they're also the easiest to replace with a waiver-wire pick, which lowers their trade value. RBs are more likely to have monster games and also more likely to stink. But they're scarcer, which raises their trade value. WRs, TEs and Ks are streaky; a reliable player at any of those positions is worth quite a lot; the rest usually factor in as trade balancers. The final goal is achieved: that a good player at any position can be a reasonable trade for a good player at any other position.

5. Control the waiver wire. Our waiver process allows owners to add/drop up to three players, with the worst teams picking first. After that, it's a free-for-all up until game time. Standard stuff, but what it means is that good teams are unlikely to get a good player out of the waiver process. Our league tends to see a flurry of trade offers before the waiver deadline - as teams try to get value from players they're thinking of cutting - and another flurry after, when everyone sees who actually got cut and picked up.

6. Set the example. I actively encourage trading, starting with allowing the trading of draft picks. I make many trade offers, publicize trades when they occur, and mention trades in my weekly results write-up. I warn people about the looming trade deadline well in advance. Basically, I try to make it clear that trading is part of the warp and woof of the league. This year, our league started out slowly: the first trade didn't occur until Week 4. But by the time our trade deadline passed in Week 11, our 10-team league had seen 14 trades involving 50 players and 7 teams. That doesn't count the many, many offers that were turned down. I consider that a success.
Thanks a lot for writing in, Steve. I obviously couldn't have said it better myself.

Last Week's Question
Last week I asked about methods for scoring punts and kick-offs in fantasy football (not the returns, but the punts and kick-offs themselves). Although I received a number of responses to the question, over half of the people who wrote in did so not to tell me what their scoring systems were, but simply to point out that they had long wondered themselves about how such facets of special teams play might be incorporated into special teams play.

I hoped to hear from someone who had figured out how to incorporate hangtime into the scoring equation, but I had no such luck. As far as the scoring of kick-offs is concerned, I received just one response (from Aaron), who wrote:
In our league, we separate special teams from defenses and kickers. Kickers get points for field goals and PATs, but special teams units get points both for their returns and for pinning their opponents inside the 20. If a kick-off ends up short of the 20 or goes into the end zone, we award zero points. But if the receiving team is pinned between the 15 or the 20, then the kicking team gets 1 point. If the receiving team is pinned between the 10 and the 15, then the kicking team gets 2 points. If the receiving team is pinned between the 5 and the 10, then the kicking team gets 4 points. And if the receiving team is pinned between the 1 and the 5, then the kicking team gets 8 points.
I received no other responses concerning kick-offs, and although I received numerous replies on the question of punting, they were all variations on the same theme: a function of distance modified by whether or not the punt landed inside the 20. The most exhaustive response came from Randy, who writes:
We have punters in our league for one simple reason: fantasy football is a game of statistics, and punters put up statistics. Almost nobody pays attention to a punter, but you would be surprised how much you pay attention when your game is on the line. You either yell at the TV, "kick the hell out of it!" or (if it is your opponent's punter) "Shank it!", and you can really appreciate a good kick. We only score average punt yardage per game, and number of punts inside the 20. Here is how we score the punters. It may look like a lot, but we decided to add a zero to our scoring rather than go to decimals. It is directly proportional to a league if you take away the zero (i.e. 30 = 3, 50 = 5). I've found this to be a pretty good scoring. The top punter, Lechler of OAK (What a leg!) is about 57th in total points for the league, but most others aren't even in the top 100.

Punters Can Score Too!
 Game Avg/Yds Per Punt  FF Pts
<0-14.9 -30
15-23.9 -20
24-28.9 -10
29-29.9 0
30-31.9 10
32-34.9 30
35-38.9 50
39-41.9 70
42-44.9 90
45-46.9 110
47-49.9 130
50-54.9 150
55- 58.9 170
59-60.9 190
61+ 200
Punts inside 20 10

This Week's Question

Gordon wrote in this week to ask:
I read your article for Q&A Wk #12, and you mentioned that you were in a 48-team league. I was wondering if you can give me a little more detail about that league. I understand that you have 4 conferences with 12 teams in each conference. How do your playoffs work, and how do you distribute your payouts? Do you only play teams in your own conference?

Currently I run a 12-team league and have been trying to figure out an easy way to run a bigger league. We have been using CBS Sportsline for our league hosting service. Currently they are not able to run anything bigger then 16 teams I believe. I guess I am looking for a way to easily run a bigger league like yours. So if you have any tips and any suggestions of sites to use for hosting a bigger league it would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.
I honestly have no idea how many other multiple-conference leagues are out there, so I fear that I may be the only one who bothers to write an answer to Gordon's question for next week's column, but I welcome the responses of other readers who have participated in such leagues and will be happy to include them along with my own.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt)

Trap Game: Minnesota at Chicago:
The Vikings have Moss back and everything should be perfect for them, right? Wrong. The Vikings come into the Windy City fighting to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers and are going to be playing in the elements at Soldier Field, a stadium that can be less than friendly in the winter. Chicago's defense is ranked 8th overall in the league despite its pre-Thanksgiving thumping by Indianapolis. The Bears may not have a stable quarterback situation, and if they had, this would definitely be an upset pick. But, Minnesota is vulnerable to a good running game and Anthony Thomas and Thomas Jones (944 combined rushing yards) will both be called on to control the clock against the Vikings' explosive offense.

#3: Buffalo over Miami (6-5 This Season):
Buffalo is showing that this team has what it takes to win. In back-to-back weeks they have beaten Seattle and St. Louis, one of which will win the NFC West. Miami is coming off a win in San Francisco, but will be hard-pressed to stop the homecoming of Willis McGahee for his return to south Florida. In addition, the Bills defense is ranked 3rd overall, giving up only 279 yards per game. It will be a long day for whoever starts at quarterback in Miami, and without a legitimate running attack, the Bills should be able to control the clock and the game.

#2: Detroit over Arizona (9-2 This Season):
It's late in the season and time to find that gem of a game that can carry you into next week. You've used Indy, New England, Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore and are afraid to take San Diego, Denver, Carolina, New Orleans, NY Giants or Washington. So what's left? The Buffalo versus Miami game and this game. Detroit has a young, up-and-coming offense that might struggle against a defense that was solid early in the season. But Detroit has been extremely opportunistic with turnovers (ranked 4th in the NFC with a +5) and the Cardinals will have an inexperienced quarterback in John Navarre and be without Emmitt Smith to relieve the defensive pressure. Look for the Lions to win this one at home and keep their slim Wild Card hopes alive.

#1: St. Louis over San Francisco (7-4 This Season):
Last week's lock of Denver over Oakland knocked two of the last five people out of The Champs Survival Pool and this pick might be just as volatile. On paper the Rams should blow out the 49ers, but the Rams defense ranks 28th overall and should allow the Niners to stay in the game. Maurice Hicks may provide a spark running the ball against a team that has allowed the second most yards (145) per game. In spite of all of this, look for the Rams to focus against their longtime divisional rival to keep pace with the Seahawks.
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.