Last Week's Question
week’s column, I asked readers about what I perceive
as a dramatic increase in the savvy of FFers. I observed that
in 2005, it seems as if FFers are making their roster decisions
“more quickly, more judiciously, and more frequently”
than they have in the past—and asked readers why that might
be the case. A lot of people have apparently been thinking the
same thing, as the response was overwhelming. I appreciate all
of those who wrote in to assure me that I am not imagining things.
There’s no way that I can include all the responses, but
even if I don’t use the words of everyone who wrote in,
I will try to cover all the perspectives in what follows. I’ll
start with Charles, whose response was as unambiguous as I could
have hoped for:
My answer would be an unequivocal yes. My current
league is in its 14th season. It's always been an 8-team league,
with 23-player rosters (plus defenses & special teams). No
trades, no drop/replace except for a mid-season drop draft (just
completed this week). The major prize (league championship) is
judged on starter's total points, with a second category of head-to-head
champion. We also have a separate pool for the postseason, where
all players/teams in the NFL playoffs are active. The team finishing
the postseason with the most points wins the playoff pool.
It would be counterproductive for me to quote everybody who agreed
with me and pointed to the Internet as the chief cause of this increased
savvy, but I want to give readers more than a taste of this perspective,
since it was the predominant response. Consider how similar John’s
response was to Charles’:
When the league first started, it was very obvious at the
draft which owners had done their prep work and which had simply
bought a newspaper/magazine the day beforehand. [These days]
I'm seeing owners doing their homework. The surprise picks now
typically involve when a player
is taken as opposed to who
is taken. A great example is Ernest Wilford. In this week's
drop draft, I thought I would be able to snag him in the third
or fourth round. Guess what? He was the No. 2 overall pick behind
As to the "why" for this increased savvy, I think
it is because there is so much more information available. Printed
materials and broadcast programs have multiplied, but nothing
close to what can be found on the Web. FFToday is a terrific
site, and I know I am not the only owner in my league that checks
it regularly. And there are many, many more avenues of access,
including improved efforts by the NFL and its teams to cater
to the fantasy players.
However, I believe there is a huge downside to this increased
owner savvy. I see luck (good and, especially, bad) playing
a much larger role than skill in the final results. If all teams
remained healthy (a miracle, I know), we'd see much tighter
scores and tougher start-to-finish competition. Instead, now
injuries -- even to second and third string players -- and unexpected
real-world decisions (Tim Rattay from starter in SF to third
string in TB; Jose Cortez from game-winning kicker to out of
a job) determine so much of the final outcome.
The answer to your question is you are absolutely correct. The
Internet has changed FF, as it has everything else on the planet.
Forget TV shows and other kinds of media. When it comes to leveling
the playing field, the abundance of information over the past
couple of years has completely taken away the advantage of the
owners who did their homework vs. those who did not. IT has made
it easier to learn more quickly how to become a good owner, and
the landscape of FF has changed as a result.
When I first started FF in ‘98 or ‘99, I used
to relish the Tuesday morning paper, with all the box scores
on 2 pages, easy to read. I remember having to scour through
them to find a hint of a promising RB to pickup, watching for
trends in who was getting the ball more, and hoping upon hope
for players to come available. If you did your homework, it
generally paid off. Now, not only is that information available
24/7, but the names of 3rd- and 4th-stringers are known commonly
among owners who do not have to spend more than 15 minutes a
day reading through reports.
The fact that in my league (14 team redraft), this week
Greg Jones and Alvin Pearman were both picked up—with
LeBrandon Toefield getting some consideration as well—shows
exactly what I am saying. Everybody has the same information,
and as a result, it has become more difficult than ever to navigate
successfully all the way to a championship.
Rookie owners quickly become savvy 2nd-year owners, and
with more time spent playing, it only gets harder and harder
for the rest of us.
You could even say, with the leveling of the playing field
information-wise, some of the fun has gone out of the game.
The pride of discovering that gem of a player before anyone
else is long gone. Oh well.
Jeff also thinks the Internet is important, but he stresses that
there is a little more to the increased savvy of FFers than that:
I think the reason is two-fold, and you hit the
nail right on the head for one of them. Improved technology and
increase in information sources has helped greatly. I’ve
been playing fantasy football for about 8 years now, and every
year there are more sources of information: more magazines, more
shows, more websites, and more people playing (which is a cause
for more discussion/idea exchange). More information = more knowledge
= better players.
There’s no doubt that the Internet has simplified things for
FFers interested in finding out about statistical trends and the
personnel decisions of coaches around the NFL, but I’ve been
using the Internet to do the research on the NFL since the late
‘90s, and I’m sure others were doing so even earlier.
I have begun to suspect this year that the real simplifier in the
equation isn’t the Internet itself, but the way that hosting
services such as MyFantasyLeague.com and RTSports.com are set up.
I happen to play in one league on each of these hosting sites, and
they’re both set up so that I can simply click on the names
of players to access fantasy updates. I’m not ready to say
that this feature has “revolutionized” fantasy football,
but I think one could argue that it’s the single most important
technological development in the history of the game. While it’s
true that four years ago, I could have done a Google search on each
player on my team to check for late breaking news that might effect
my lineup decisions, that’s not quite the same as logging
onto a website, seeing that 5 of my 16 players have little icons
by their names to indicate that there’s something for me to
read about them, clicking on the links, and finding out everything
I need to know about my team without ever leaving my hosting service.
Since I have to log in to submit my lineup anyway, it only makes
sense for me to click on those links. It’s always been easy
to find out about players by using the Internet, but there are hosting
services that now make the process virtually effortless.
It’s my opinion that such a development has to change the
face of the game, and Frank appears to agree:
But I think there is a reason that precedes the one I mention
above. To become savvier through the use of all these resources,
you have to want to know more
and learn more. It still takes time and energy and effort to research
and study all these sources of information. The casual fantasy
football fan is usually not willing to do this. I think what is
happening is the “fad” of fantasy football has evolved
past the fad stage and is now a bona fide staple in the category
of hobby/entertainment. A larger percentage of the people who
play care more about what they are doing than past years because,
even though not every league is hardcore/fantasy expert level,
more leagues, even the casual ones, have members who have more
than just a passing interest (you know, the type that traditionally
will fill out a bracket for the NCAA office pool, or maybe do
a pick 6 NFL weekly office game).
For example, in random online leagues (NFL.com, etc) it used to
be common to see dead teams several games into the season (not
making changes for bye weeks, no trades, no waiver wire transactions,
etc). I don’t run in to that very often anymore.
Also, in my “live” league I’ve been in for 7
years, I know the first few years we had a lot of turnover, 3
to 5 new owners in a 12-man league the first few years, down to
1 or 2 the next couple, and now the same owners for the second
consecutive year. Also trading and waiver wire transactions have
Sorry this ran so long – basically, I just think more people
are truly “into it” than before, as the fad followers/trendy
folk (no insult intended) have moved on to the next big thing,
leaving a higher percentage of true fans who want to put in the
work to study and learn more to make their team better.
I have definitely noticed an increase in knowledge
in my fantasy football league among other owners. While it used
to be I could wait a couple of weeks to see how a free agent player
panned out, I now have to take a lot more chances and snap a player
up right after a break-out game (or even before he has done anything).
For my league, I believe the change came when I moved our
league to an online format. While I (and a few others in the
league) have been using websites such as FFToday for years,
the rest of the owners have just figured out the online advantage.
Our site includes up-to-the-minute news on players, a feature
that has taken my "inside" knowledge and made it available
to everyone in the league. Once owners saw the information they
can get online, they began to subscribe to other sites for things
such as injury updates and "sit/start" help.
Even though it was nice to have that advantage, the use
of online information has made our league more competitive.
This is the first year where I couldn't automatically count
a few teams out of the race before the season started. It has
made us a well-balanced league which has made it more fun for
all of us.
Andrew, however, isn’t ready to embrace the technological
explanation. He points out, quite justifiably, that the people
who have flocked to fantasy football in recent years just needed
a little time to mature as participants:
I would say that owners are absolutely more informed
and quicker to act. There are a few reasons for this:
I’ll close with Marc’s opinion because he was the only
one who wrote in to contradict my assertion that FFers are any different
these days from what they used to be:
1. The owners that got into FF for the first time when it ‘exploded’
about 2 years ago have had a couple of years to learn.
2. The articles published every year that tout the importance
of timely waiver claims as well as the draft have finally become
so prevalent that every FFer is now privy to this information.
3. The volume of information from various sources has increased
the accuracy of daily injury updates by corroborating truths and
exposing rumors. You can now be surer that what you act on is
legit if it comes out of a few places (and I mean primary sources,
not the site that reports it).
4. Multi-league participants are much more common now. As a result,
a player might observe a claim in one pool and copy it in another.
The bottom line is that FF experienced a lag between its increase
in popularity and an increase in competence of the new owners.
This is a very simple, predictable concept. All of the new owners
that started playing in the last 2 years or so have had a chance
to learn the game and get good. The underlying truth (and this
might be a bitter pill to swallow) is that FF is not really that
hard. You don’t have to be a genius to interpret an injury
report’s impact to a depth chart or analyze a match up.
Once everyone is on a level playing field it becomes a question
of who can predict ‘unlikely’ events, and who gets
First of all, FFers aren’t more savvy; they just have access
to more information, in a much shorter time frame. I don't know
if you’ve been over to the ESPN FF message boards. If you
go, you’ll see a lot of posts that are far from savvy (should
I drop K. Jones for Marion Barber ?), but they do have instant
info on what’s happening with the FF world—in particular,
injuries. You'll see guys immediately snagging up Tony Fisher
or Samkon Gado if Ahman Green has a head cold. Leagues are MUCH
deeper these days, where 20-team leagues can be commonplace (can
you imagine, back in the good ole days, having to be a commish,
reading the newspaper for stats, and manually inputting that data
into an Excel spreadsheet for a 20-team league?). You HAVE to
react quickly in order to be competitive. Unfortunately, what
makes matters worse are free leagues, or leagues with no limits
on roster moves. In my league, like a lot of 'em I'm sure, you
have to pay for WW pickups. When you’re shelling out 5 bones
(a lot more in some leagues) for a WW pickup, you have to think
about it. In a free league, you don’t. It's easy to take
a chance. IMO, in every free league, there should be a transaction
limit. You won’t see the Alvin Pearmans of the world being
picked up too frequently. Right now, I can guarantee you that
Richardson has been picked up in thousands of leagues due to the
Holmes injury. No one has even probably heard of the dude. 20
years ago, before the Internet, I wouldn’t have even known
where to find who the heck the 3rd RB for Kansas City was.
My thanks to all who wrote in—and apologies to those whose
remarks were too similar to other responses for me to be able
to include them.
This Week's Question:
You folks know that I’m a sucker for league mechanics,
and I expect to get back to asking questions that pertain to the
ways in which leagues are structured next week, but I can’t
help pondering an implicit tension between what Charles and Jeff
had to say in their responses to last week’s question. Jeff
contends that fantasy football has gone from fad status to being
“a bona fide staple in the category of hobby/entertainment.”
I suspect he’s right—and that fantasy football will
turn out to be more like rock-and-roll (which, as they say, is
“here to stay”) than the hula hoop. But it’s
obviously too early to tell for sure. And in light of what Charles
has to say about how technology has already taken at least one
aspect of fun out of the game, I have to wonder whether we fantasy
aficionados might in fact go the way of the hula hoop. I don’t
think of fantasy football as being less fun than it used to be,
but then again I’m an addict—so it’s hardly
as if I’m in any position to judge. So what do you folks
think about the possibility that the youth of today will look
at fantasy football a few years from now and see it as an uninteresting,
unchallenging exercise in technological futility? Luck already
plays a significant role, and if the most important information
is available to absolutely everyone, then it seems as if luck
will only be more and more important down the line. Once fantasy
football becomes more clearly a game of chance than a game of
skill, why should anyone bother playing it instead of, say, the
lottery? Set me straight on this one, please.
Sometimes it’s not fun being right. Matt pointed out in
a note to me this week, “As you know, I am a BIG New York
Giants fan and just had that feeling that they would fall flat.
However, with Bob Tisch dying this week, the team should get up
for a big game at home against the Birds who will be without McNabb.”
Trap Game: Indianapolis @ Cincinnati:
Indianapolis is on a roll and on paper should handle the Bengals
rather easily. But Cincinnati has not had such a big game so late
in the season in years, and they are home against a team that
is undefeated. The last time the Colts were undefeated this late
in the season, they lost their 10th game to the Bengals. Will
history repeat itself? The '72 Miami Dolphins hope so, but each
week that they are undefeated the pressure will build on the Colts
and with the high-powered, balanced attack of the Bengals, this
is just the first of many games where their streak may end.
#3: Green Bay over Minnesota (8-1
If anyone thinks that Green Bay has packed it in, think again.
The Pack went out and played an inspired game against the Dirty
Birds last week and barring another miracle three touchdowns by
the special teams and the Viking defense, the Packers should win
this one with a steady diet of Sam Gado, "the Nigerian Intern",
in a classic frozen tundra game. Winter has made an early arrival
in Wisconsin, and the Vikings are a dome team. Combine the cold
weather, the conservative play of the Vikings, and a team that
realizes that because of their schedule they are not out of the
NFC North divisional race, and it all adds up to a win for the
Pack at home.
#2: San Diego over Buffalo (5-4):
Last week's upset special was Buffalo over Kansas City because
the Bills were going to take advantage of the corners with their
wide receivers and they had two weeks to prepare. This week the
Bills travel to the left coast against a team that has a running
back that knows how to score as well as put up the big yards against
the second-worst rushing defense. Combine that with timely passing
from Brees to Gates, and the Bolts should win this at home. However,
if there is a formula for the Bills to win on the road this week,
it is with controlled mid-range passes between the linebackers
and the secondary of the Chargers. Now that J. P. Losman seems
to have finally learned some valuable lessons from watching Holcomb
run the offense, the Bills may have the chance to steal one in
#1: Seattle @ San Francisco (7-2):
The Seahawks have all but clinched the division title, and this
is one of those games that you are supposed to win. While most
fantasy owners will be looking for a big day from Hasselback,
Engram and Jurevicius against the 49er secondary, it may be another
grind-it-out day of Alexander on the ground with little need for
aerial fireworks. Ken Dorsey should complete more passes than
Cody Pickett did last week, but he could do that just by showing
up. Even so, Dorsey and the 49ers have little chance of winning
this game at home.
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
Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live,
on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio
on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived
programs are also available.