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Week 5

Last Week's Question

In my last column, I posed a series of questions relating to the importance of the draft as compared to the match-up decisions that most FFers face each week. Essentially, I wanted to know whether most FFers think it’s more important to draft a pair of reasonably productive QBs such as Aaron Brooks and Jake DelHomme or to pick the right QB between those two for your weekly lineups. I received a number of lengthy responses to that question, but before we get to those responses, I want to take a moment to share Scott’s response to the newspaper link I provided.

As I indicated, my own preference for tracking down information on individual NFL players is to consult local papers, many of which are available for free online. I invited readers to submit links to more comprehensive lists of papers than the one I included in the column, and Scott came through with a much more comprehensive link, though it will only be useful to those who already know the names of the papers they want to consult. Scott also seems to be aware of the annoying practice that many of the papers follow, which is to require that readers provide an email address and a password in order to read the contents of the papers. It’s not much trouble to provide this information if you just want to consult one or two papers, but it can become tiresome if you are trying to get access to a dozen or so publications. You may also run into the problem of having to wait for an automated response from the papers that can sometimes take a long while for their cyber-gatekeepers to send out. If you find yourself in this kind of a bind, Scott recommends the use of a website that “provides user IDs and passwords for sites that require registration before viewing the articles.” My thanks to Scott for the information.

We’ll start with Stewart’s response to my main question because I don’t want it to be said that there are no perqs that come with supplying LMS picks for FFToday’s readers:

You might think that the start vs. sit decision is the most important one given how many posts every week on FFToday are about these very questions. But there are two problems with this way of thinking:

1. Your choices are limited to the players you've either drafted, or picked up on waivers or through trades. If you have a crappy collection of players, spending eons of time on the start/sit decision can be sort of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

2. I've seen too many instances where a bold decision to bench a regular starter backfires (e.g., benching a stud RB against a tough defense, in favor of a lesserRB against a weaker defense). We owners out-think ourselves. Maybe the stud RB puts up 25-130-2 while the lesser guy turns in a 15-47-0. And there is no worse feeling in fantasy football than knowing that you screwed yourself out of a win this week because you tinkered with your normal starting lineup. If I have to lose, I'd rather tell myself afterwards that I started my best players and it just didn't work out.

I think the relative importance of draft picks and WW/FA pickups depends on the structure of your league. If your league allows a roster of 24 players, and charges $5.00 for every WW or FA pick, then draft day is far more important than if you only have a roster of 15 players and unlimited free WW/FA picks.

I have to agree with the last point Stewart makes. Part of the reason that I posed the question is that I am finding one of my tried-and-true strategies (making multiple waiver wire moves to play marginal starters on weeks that provide them with break-out strategies) simply isn’t working for me in a league that I just joined this year. With rosters of more than 20 players, that marginal waiver wire talent simply isn’t available, so fretting over match-ups is, as Stewart says, “like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Eric wrote in to underscore that point by stressing the exceptionalism of keeper leagues:

It may be different depending on if you have a 'hold-over' or 'dyansty' league such as the one I am in. We hold 7 players and draft 7 in a 12-team league. There is a limit of 2 years that you can hold a player. Over a four-year stretch a friend and I looked at a season’s draft at the end of each season and came to the conclusion that while there are steals and gems in any given draft, only about a quarter of the players drafted really panned out. Admittedly we did consider in what round a player was drafted and if the player was worth an early pick or if a player taken late turned out to shine throughout the season. Again perhaps it is because of the fact that I am in a 'hold-over' league but somewhere just under a half of the players drafted would still be on rosters towards the end of the season. The teams that have won our league more often than not are the teams that pay attention during the season and make trades and scour the waiver wire. Some owners are looking for the next big thing and others are playing to the matchups in the NFL, but the winners are almost always the teams with more transactions rather than less.

This is the only league that I have been in, so I cannot compare it to drafting a new team from scratch every year. I have no problem believing that the draft would take on a higher level of significance (but not an alarming amount). Still though, managing your team throughout the season would have more impact on your win/loss record than the draft would in my opinion.

Dan appears to be in complete agreement with Eric about the importance of remaining active on the waiver wire:

Last year was a perfect example of my original drafted team being very different at the end of the year, and my championship was a direct result of waiver wire activity. We draft 17 players and start 8—with an extra backup for any position.

I ended up with only 7 of those players at the end of the year. Besides winning the most money as League Champ, I also spent the most money in transactions (George Steinbrenner's influence). Going after pickups like N.Goings, L.Johnson, J.Jones, and M.Moore at the perfect times was the key. Mind you, I wasn't just taking flyers right and left, but I was forced to make lots of moves because of early-season injuries.

I heard similar stories from plenty of other readers, but the moral of the story was adequately summed up by Nelson:

I am of the opinion that leagues cannot be won on draft day though they can easily be lost. Winning takes waiver moves, good start calls, and a LOT of luck.

One question that grew out of my larger question last week was whether FFers who trade players are not also trading “remaining schedules.” This is most clearly evident when an owner who has already swallowed a stud’s bye week trades for another stud whose bye week is yet to come. Imagine trading Priest Holmes for Edgerrin James in Week 6. The person who started with Holmes and ended with James has two weeks (Week 5 and Week 8) with an elite RB on a bye, whereas the one who traded James for Holmes never had to face a week without a premier RB in his lineup. These things are clear with byes, but less clear when a player who has already racked up yardage vs. San Francisco and St. Louis is traded for a player whose has those match-ups ahead. Opinions on the importance of match-ups varied widely. We’ll start with Derrin, who hardly even considers such things:

Maybe I am a big dummy, but I very rarely look at the future schedule of someone I am possibly trading. If I do look at future schedule, it is one of the last things I do. There are other larger factors.

One of the main things I look at when trading is what my opponent is getting in the trade (I’m in a point league with no head-to-head matchups) and whether it is going to make him tougher to beat. If it is not going to make that much difference on their team and will make me tougher to beat, then I like the trade. This is possible when people are in love with the player and not looking at his recent production.

Sean acknowledges the importance of match-ups, but doesn’t seem to think that breakout performances against weak teams are predictable enough to make much difference:

Victories week to week do seem to rest highly with who you decide to start. Even so, I feel that regardless of match-ups, you simply stick with your guns. I wonder how many people benched Ronnie Brown in week three due to his lack of production through two weeks and going against a solid Carolina Defense. If he was a starter for you in weeks one and two, he should have been again in week three. The one thing about the NFL is that whatever is true this week, is unlikely to be true later on.
I’ll conclude with Andrew’s response because it engaged my question in all its forms:
When you draft a team you set yourself up to be a competitive team. Occasionally the top teams in a league will wind up going wire to wire with basically the lineup that they draft. However, at least one (and frequently 3 or 4) teams emerge from the depths by making a couple of savvy wire pickups. Willie Parker won some fantasy games this year, but consider what players like Reuben Droughns, Mike Clayton, Nick Goings, Mike Anderson, TJ Houshmandzadeh did for their owners in recent years. That’s the kind of production that takes a good team and makes it a championship team.

In short, you can’t draft a bunch of jackasses and rely on waivers to be competitive. Conversely it’s possible but highly unlikely that you can draft a championship team and take that to the bank without making any moves. Over a period of years, success is going to come if you prepare for the draft fairly rigorously AND pay extremely close attention to the waiver wire. Any sustained success using only one approach is bound to be a product of good luck or incompetent opposition.

Finally, on the question of making the right choice week to week, I don’t find this all that difficult. I have occasionally left points on the bench (like Trent Dilfer in my 2 QB pool) but for the most part my sample of players to choose from is small enough that my starters are obvious. Much like in multiple choice exams, you don’t want to out think yourself and become convinced that Trent Dilfer is a ‘must start’ over Peyton Manning for the rest of the year. When I’m in these situations I think of it like Poker or Roto Baseball: The odds are what matters. Rather than convince myself of a specific outcome, I analyze what the range of outcomes are and what the likelihood of each is. I don’t actually attribute any values or do an calculating, but the end result is that I usually pick the right guy.

This Week's Question:

The question for Week 5 comes not from your humble scribe, but from a reader named Mike in Pennsylvania who wants to hear feedback on the way that other leagues handle vetoes of suspicious trades. Mike says:

About five years ago, my league established a committee of one commissioner and two vice-commissioners to vote on trades. We also have recently voted that 3 owners MUST
file a complaint to get a league vote on a trade, which cuts down on the BS.

I posed a question similar to this one last year and got great feedback, but new readers may want to share their thoughts or explain their predicaments.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Stewart)

Matt let me know that he couldn’t get his picks to me last week because he was too busy being in Hawaii (poor baby!), but he’s back on board now. The good news is that Stewart, who stepped up to the plate in Matt’s absence, has agreed to stay with us. You have to love options!

Matt’s Picks

Trap Game: Miami at Buffalo:
If this game was played in December, you could place your money on the Bills, but Miami has a defense that is playing up to par and the weather is far from wintry in Buffalo. While Losman will be watching the game from the bench and Kelly Holcomb should jumpstart the offense, the Bills still may struggle if their defense can’t contain the Dolphins’ offense. The Eagles vs. Cowboys game is my honorable mention trap game because it is a divisional game.

#3. Denver over Washington (2-1):
This will be the week that the Redskins wake up from their dream season. Champ Bailey has had this game circled since the schedule came out, and the defense will look to stuff Clinton Portis at the line. While Mark Brunell has breathed some life into that passing game, it will be the passing game of the Broncos that will shine since the Redskin defense will be focused on making them one dimensional.

#2. Baltimore over Detroit (2-1):
Until Jeff Garcia comes back from his injury, this offense will continue to struggle—and against the Ravens’ defense Joey Harrington will have a very long day. Look for Jamal Lewis to finally have a decent day out of the backfield and Mark Clayton to show management a glimpse of the future.

#1. Cincinnati over Jacksonville (1-2):
This is not a misprint. The Bengals have an all-around solid team and should go into Florida and win this game. Jacksonville has been slow to get started and has played some tough games, but Marvin Lewis has his players thinking playoffs, and this is a game that they must win to prove that they belong in the post season. A loss here could set the Bengals back not one, but a few games. Look for them to win in a squeaker.

Stewart’s Picks

#3. St. Louis over Seattle
In week 4, the Seahawks repeatedly allowed Mark Brunell plenty of time in the pocket, yielding big 3rd-down conversions all game long. Give that much time to Marc Bulger and the Rams offense, and you are looking for trouble.

#2. Detroit over Baltimore
The Lions put up a stronger effort than I had expected against Tampa, completely shut down Cadillac Williams, and made Brian Griese beat them (and even then, it took a highly controversial call from the officials to do it). I have a hard time imagining any Baltimore QB doing something similar on the road.

#1. Indianapolis over San Francisco
Just on the off chance that you haven't used Indy yet this year, here's a no-brainer. San Fran didn't put up a single offensive score against the Cardinals, and now they face one of
the best defenses in the game. Yikes.

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.

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.