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Week 3

Last Week's Question

Back in Week 1, I asked readers how they varied from the profile of the average fantasy player as described by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. I thought there must be plenty of fantasy folks who weren’t anything like the 37-year-old white male with a bachelor’s degree in a white collar job making roughly $70,000 per year.

I heard from a number of people who didn’t fit that bill and shared some of their responses in last week’s column. But I heard from a far greater number of people who (for the most part) match the profile outlined by the FSTA. These folks generally wrote in to tell me how amused they were that they seemed to be so similar to other fantasy enthusiasts out there, but they invariably went on to explain that regardless of their skin color, job description, household income, or age, they were different—very different—from other fantasy enthusiasts. What makes them different is the way they keep score, and they were only to happy to explain the advantages of the systems they use.

Since most leagues are open to the revision of rules (from scorekeeping methods to tiebreaking procedures) from one year to the next, I’ll share what these folks had to say about the rules that make their leagues unique. The only problem is that if your “unique” system is listed here and catches on, you can kiss your uniqueness goodbye.

A couple of readers (Dan and Laurie) wrote in to explain the emphasis that their leagues place on having a rock solid draft. Dan (a 34-year-old white male with a master’s degree in a white collar job who earns by himself about what the FSTA attributes to the “average” FFer) says:

The biggest thing that sets our league apart is that there are 12 teams and 18 roster spots per team, which means 216 picks on draft night. After that, each team is only allowed 3 free agent pickups, so there is a ton of strategy on when to pick a player up. I would imagine in most other leagues, someone has Willie Parker by now, but in our league, people have to really think if they want to use 1 of their 3 moves to take him now and risk Bettis and Staley coming back and being the starter. Also, we have had a home field advantage of 5 points ever since our league was invented. This was original back then, although I think other leagues have installed the rule since.
Laurie says she fits the FSTA profile except for the fact that she is female. Her league appears to emphasize the draft even more than Dan’s:
We start with a 21-round, serpentine draft—with no waiver claims during the first 8 weeks of the season and a supplemental draft between weeks 8 and 9 to pick up to 6 players and drop 3. [The result is that] for the second half of the season you have 24 players on your roster. This means you have to back up your players carefully and the draft really counts for a lot.

Our line up? 2 QB, 4 RB, 4 WR/TE and 1 K. Obviously with 4 RB's and 10 teams you have to grab who you think will start, might start, might emerge, share carries, eventually take over, etc. at RB. There is much studying to compile draft lists and no web site anywhere will tell you how to get your team drafted correctly since no other league starts this configuration of players.

In Laurie’s league, you make 21 decisions on draft day that determine your fate for the next 8 weeks. But Josh’s league is perhaps even more draconian, since you have to stand or fall by your decision—before the season begins—to stick with one of three offensive formats for the entire year:

We allow a selection of offensive formations: Pro-Set (QB, 2RB, 2WR and 1 TE), West Coast (QB, 1RB, 3 WR AND 1 TE) or Run and Shoot (QB, RB, 4 WR no TE). Your decision is definitely driven by who will be available from year to year via the draft. This selection is made in the preseason and remains your formation for the whole year. Points are based on yards and TD's are heavily impacted by distance. An example would be a rushing TD is worth only 3 points from 1-10 yards out, 4 points from 11-20 yards, and so on up to 7 points. We also start an offensive line that gains points either for sacks allowed (West Coast or Run-and-Shoot formations) or rushing yards gained (Pro-Set) for the formation selected by each team. O-lines can also earn negative points for poor performance.

Josh goes on to talk about the IDP (individual defensive player) arrangements in his league, but that phenomenon seems already to be growing in popularity. I heard from another reader (Scott) about an idea that might have as much appeal as the move towards IDP leagues—though his arrangement concerns league structure rather than the use of defenders:

Our league is set up in two, six-team divisions: the "cut-throat" division and the "cream-puff" division. The six playoff teams from the prior year (division champs and two wild cards from each division) are the cut-throats, and the other six teams are the cream-puffs. This way, three new teams make the playoffs every year - a fantasy version of parity. There is also the pride of going through the season as a cut-throat versus the stigma of being a cream-puff. Miss the playoffs two years in a row and you risk being labeled a "perennial puff". Nothing like a little peer pressure to get those competitive juices flowing!
I hope a few readers out there find Scott’s idea as appealing as I do. I know that my tastes for fantasy scoring correspond to many readers taste because so many people like to adjust their scoring systems to make the various position in fantasy roughly equal. A reader named Michael wrote in to share an interesting wrinkle that his league has introduced concerning quarterbacks:
Our league's scoring system is very different from anyone else's—it is based on “100 points,” and downgrades QB's versus other position players since their maximum score is capped by the QB rating system.

Brian’s league has a similar objective, but sets about achieving it in a very different way:

We have yet to find another league like ours; our standings and eventual champion are based on cumulative pts; our scoring is different than most as well; we have QBs and Defenses that can score 60, 70, and in rare cases 100 pts in a week; consequently, poor defensive performances can result in a zero; we believe our scoring matrix separates great defenses from mediocre Ds; this makes QBs and Defs valuable in our league, rather than the proverbial RB; RBs are important, but we can't overlook D's and QBs....FYI, our first round went as follows 1. LT, 2. Manning, 3. Holmes, 4. Alexander, 5. Baltimore Defense, 6. Culpepper, 7. E. James, 8. NE Defense.

I’ll conclude with Donovan’s response for two reasons. In the first place, it contains a pretty good idea about how to spend the money generated by transactions in the course of the season. Secondly, it beautifully adequately conveys how close most of the readers of this column appear to come to the FSTA profile:

I just burst into laughter at my office desk while reading about the typical fantasy football participant. It made it more difficult to pretend to work. I am a 37-year-old white guy with a BS in Civil Engineering, making $65,000 per year, who has been playing fantasy football since 1987. Our 12-man league consists of 11 white guys with a college degree between the ages of 36 and 38, plus one guy's older brother. A few of them haul in the cash, while a few do not; I wouldn't be surprised if our league fits the bill as a "typical league" in every single way.

What sets our league apart is the method we use to pick up free agents. We have a "sealed bid, silent auction" every Wednesday night, where owners tell the transaction commissioner how much they are willing to pay for a player. Owners do not know if anyone else is even bidding. There is a minimum bid; however, there is no maximum. On Thursday morning, the highest bidder for each player gets him. The key to this system is that all of the free agent money goes into our “party fund,” NOT into the prize money. We have a huge annual bash with the free agent cash each year. This system is the envy of nearly every fantasy football participant that hears about it; it certainly is a lot better than the "fastest guy with a mouse" system. I think it could easily be modified for the big money leagues; you'd just add the free agent fund to the prize money instead.

This Week's Question:

In Laurie’s response to the column, she remarks that “no website” can tell the people in her league how to handle their drafts. I suspect that the evolving complexity of drafts makes it harder and harder for websites that “sell” fantasy football expertise to their customers to tailor their products to the consumers’ needs, but I also think that most fantasy football participants are paying subscribers to at least one website. I could easily be wrong about this. There may be tons of FFers out there who insist on doing their own research and compiling their own rankings without outside influence. So I’m curious. If you have a moment, please drop me a line to let me know the extent to which you rely on hired experts in the management of your team. There’s no reason to name the particular magazine or website to which you subscribe, but I would like to know if you subscribe to any service at all; if the number of services to which you subscribe has increased or decreased over the years; if you stick strictly to fee-free sites (such as FFToday); or if you consult a publication on draft day and handle the rest of the season on your own.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt)

Matt redeemed himself from the disappointments of Week 1 by going 3-0 in Week 2.

Trap Game: San Diego Chargers over the New York Giants:
The media is billing this as the game that will give fans a chance to express their displeasure with Eli Manning, but he won’t be thinking about what the fans are doing in the stands. He will be focused on the field against a defense that may be the least challenging he has faced so far this season. Combine that with a Giant defense that is causing problems on the field and a special teams unit that seems to be very dangerous, and the Chargers may find themselves looking up from the bottom of the AFC West at the end of the week.

#3: Indianapolis over Cleveland (1-1 in 2005):
Indy has played some very tight games and their defense seems to finally be taking shape. While Trent Dilfer aired it out last week for the Browns, he will find it a lot harder to do the same in the RCA Dome where the Colts will try and get to 3-0. The Browns may be coming off the high of winning their first game for Romeo Crennel, but unfortunately those good feelings should subside in a game where Peyton Manning, even if Manning continues his struggles against a coach who always seemed to have his number when he was in New England.

#2: Carolina at Miami (1-1 in 2005):

The Panthers beat the reigning Super Bowl champs in what was billed as the “prelude” to this year’s Super Bowl. With that game behind them, they now face a defense that is playing very good football. But the Dolphins are still short some offensive weapons–and against a team with the likes of Julius Peppers on it, the Panthers should be balanced enough to pull out a tight game on the road. Isn’t that what Super Bowl contenders are supposed to do?

#1: New Orleans at Minnesota (1-1 in 2005):
The Saints have played two very good defenses early this season in the Giants and the Panthers. The good news is that they get a break against the Vikings this week and all key position players should have good days in a game that will feel very close to home for the Saints inside the dome. The Vikings injury report will list Culpepper, Burleson, and Moore, which will definitely affect their ability to take advantage of the cover two defense that the Saints like to employ. There may not be many games this season where the Saints will be favored on the road, and this may be the best time to use them in your last man standing pools.

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.