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Week 1

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I explained the scheduling problem that will force me to miss the draft in my favorite league.

This week, I want to begin by offering my thanks to the FFToday community. I was positively astonished at the number of strangers who were willing to spend a Saturday afternoon drafting my team on my behalf. You guys are extremely generous with your time . . . or addicted to fantasy football . . . or both. Some of you were willing to participate over the phone from remote locations, but those of you in the D/FW area who volunteered to step in for me were probably just after the free beer.

Whatever your motives, I appreciate the offers. If there was one overwhelming response that I received from readers, it was “Get a proxy.”

I should have mentioned the problem that a proxy presents for me and my league-mates last week: 1) Pretty much everyone I know in the D/FW area who would be willing to stand in for me at the draft is already in my league; and 2) The fact that I write for FFToday has led me to establish relationships with some extremely knowledgeable folks whom I would be happy to have as my proxy (even if they had to phone in my picks for me), but even if Mike Krueger were willing to give up his Saturday afternoon to serve as my proxy, my “regular guy” league would cry foul if I sent in the guy responsible for (I couldn’t blame them for crying foul, by the way. Krueger would do a heck of a lot better job picking my team than I would. I know because I’ve played in a league against him. He crushed me.)

The only proxy I could send to the draft that wouldn’t raise a red flag with the other owners would be my wife. Anyone else—even a kind stranger who read my column on FFToday and volunteered to step in—would be suspected of being Mike MacGregor or Matt Waldman in disguise.

My wife may in fact get stuck with this task, but she isn’t too happy about the prospect. I’ll have to prep her concerning desirability by position, the relative value of various tiers, some generalizations concerning strategy, and a rundown of the tendencies of other owners. She’ll pretend to listen, but she’ll be thinking to herself, “Isn’t it enough that I’m already wasting a Saturday on this nonsense? Do I have to waste a weeknight just getting prepared to waste my Saturday?”

A proxy is very often the best option in situations such as mine, but several readers let me know that I am perhaps not quite as up to date (technologically speaking) as I ought to be. I mentioned that my cell phone probably wouldn’t get a solid signal all the way across the state of Oklahoma. Jason and other readers suggest that even if my signal isn’t consistent, text messaging could be the answer for me. I don’t understand enough about how text messaging works to explain why it would be more reliable than a cell phone, but Jason writes:
If you can agree to get someone present at the draft to text you each pick as it's made, you should be fully able to participate. You'll get a steady stream of picks as they are made even if coverage is spotty. Likewise, if you can't get good enough reception to phone in your next picks, you should see a cell tower frequently enough to send them in via SMS without much delay. I sometimes have the privilege of working a full-time corporate job while on the road with a touring rock band. In the 3 years since I started doing this there has been a vast improvement in the reliability of the wireless network along the nation's interstates.

We’ll be traveling along I-40 for most of our trip, so Jason’s suggestion could very well work out—provided I can get my sluggish, 40-year-old, non-hip self to learn the fundamentals of text messaging by Saturday. I think I remember being told that the phone I currently use supports text messaging. I didn’t pay much attention to that part of the pitch because I thought text messaging was just for kids. Fantasy football has me rethinking my position on that one.
Doug commented on a couple of technological solutions, but primarily wrote in to share his experience with the many approaches his league has taken to accommodate remote owners:

The problem of non-present Owners has plagued our Canadian-based League for some time.

We used various solutions:

Cell phone - costs a fortune, doesn't provide any measure of Owner presence if the calls are periodic - actually an annoying solution requiring lots and lots of breaks in the flow. I have vowed never to use this solution again.

Draft by proxy - our most effective solution to date. Find a guy who can best represent the interests of the missing Owner, and let them draft the team. A living breathing person, subject to the ever-changing permutations of a live-draft, a guy who's there to drink the beer and laugh at the jokes. The non-present Owner has no one to blame but this guy. If he hates the team so much that he refuses to participate, get the proxy to take over the team.

MSN Messenger, WebCam or Cellphone texting - various virtual solutions, but MSN requires Internet access inside the room where you're drafting and one poor schlub to enter every draft pick (if it's MSN). Webcams are notorious for bad feeds and cutting in and out - tried this once: highly unreliable. Stick with MSN. The non-present Owner must still have the entire night free, but can operate very smoothly at a distance. Cell texting works good only if you have someone not participating in the draft to constantly enter the various picks. Otherwise you get sick from hearing the words "hold on" all night long. The upside in these cases is that the non-present Owner gets entirely the team he wants.

Top 200 list, non-respective of position - picking the top guy remaining. This invariably requires the good judgement of the Commish (me) to correct for Roster limits. I hate working this way. Half the time I have to disregard the list, making me feel like I'm merely drafting a taxi squad.

Tier list, respective of position - works a lot better, but it's easier for the Commish to make a mistake, especially around round 4/5, where a #2 WR, a #1 TE, a #1 or #2 QB, or a low end #2 RB could all be viable picks. You make the decision for the absentee Owner, and it generally leads to a series of picks. If I take the #2 WR at this juncture, the next pick(s) seems more rigid. That 4th Round pick always makes me wonder if the other guy would have gone in a different direction.

Long distance call with speaker phone, constant - We've done this twice. This can be an expensive solution, but it works fantastic. Half the time, you forget the guy or guys are on the phone. When you do remember, you mock them to no end - after all, what are they gonna do?

Be flexible above all. I've discovered the best solution is schedule the draft in the mid-afternoon. Then, it has the greatest leeway for moving forward or back. Lots of unorganized schlubs can miss the draft by two hours if you don't.
Flexibility is certainly the most important part for me. If I can concentrate on the draft thoroughly enough to keep up with everyone else’s picks and make my own, then that’s what I want to do. However, we’ll need mechanisms in place the handle glitches that no one can predict with that approach. Although Eric shares the belief that a proxy is the best option, he has decided to allow only one other option to the people in his league who must miss the draft and cannot send a proxy:
I am the commissioner of my local league, and every year there are one or two players who cannot attend the draft. This upsets me, since I usually give a good two-month notice, but that is an argument for another time. I have tried to pick teams for missing players based a personal lists, but I simply don't have the time to do this. People are prepared for our draft, so it always moves very fast. I need to constantly keep track of players, and I don't have time to pick someone else's team. (NOTE: The last two years I have used Draft Buddy, with my own player projections, and I love it.)

I started giving players only two options for missing a draft. Option 1 is that a computer picks for you. In this case, I have players pick the positions they want in what round, and then go by the computer rankings. This way, at the beginning of the draft, everyone knows what positions the missing player is taking each round, ex: RB, RB, WR, WR, ... Option 2 is to send a proxy. This person is responsible for your entire draft. They have entire control of your team, including trades.

I hate the idea of letting the computer anywhere near my team, but I can certainly understand the reasoning behind Eric’s approach. I have served as a proxy drafter in the past, and the thing that strikes me most forcefully is that the real owner is always inclined to second guess the proxy—sometimes quite illogically.

“Why didn’t you take _____ in the 5th?”

“He was gone.”

“Right, but if you had taken him, you wouldn’t have needed this scrub in the 9th to round out your depth at RB, and you could have had _____.”

“True, but I couldn’t take ____ in the 5th because he was gone.”

“Then why didn’t you take him in the 4th?”

“You told me you would be thrilled if I could get ____ in the 4th, so I got him for you.”

“Right, but you trapped yourself into a bad pick in the 9th as a consequence.”

When commissioners have to use very much judgment at all on behalf of absentee owners, the owners are likely to moan and second-guess all season long, so it does make a sort of sense to say, “Look, you weren’t there, and that’s the team the computer selected. If you don’t like it, show up for the draft next year!”

I’m grateful to Gary for pointing out that even if I did have to rely on the computer, I wouldn’t have to do so as extensively as I feared. I wrote in my column that since I have the bookend picks in a 14-round draft, I only need my cell phone to work 7 times in the draft. In fact, Gary points out that I only need to make 6 phone calls if I just list my first 13 picks in the order in which I want them. Just as the person with the first pick doesn’t actually have to be on hand to select LaDainian Tomlinson, I can have a list specify that I want Willis McGahee and Reggie Bush or Steve Smith and Laurence Maroney.

Just six phone calls—that seems doable. Even in Oklahoma!

I received lots of other great ideas from scads of other readers who have faced and overcome this problem in various ways. I’ll be sharing more of those ideas in next week’s column (along with any others that readers want to send in this week), but I know that most of you are really here for Matthew Schiff’s LMS picks.

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Some readers may recall that when this column was in its infancy, I included my own Last Man Standing Picks. However, after two years in a row of picking against the Houston Texans in Week 1 (and seeing them inexplicably defeat the Cowboys and Dolphins), I have yielded the prognosticative floor to Matthew Schiff, who is infinitely better at this sort of thing than I ever was. I’m delighted that Matthew will be back with us this year. And so, without further ado, here are Matt’s picks for Week 1:

Upset Special: Saints at Indianapolis (0-0):
In week #1 every NFL team has hopes of reaching the Super Bowl, and lots of upsets can happen (just look at Appalachian State this past weekend). This year the Las Vegas odds makers don’t have a single team that is favored by a touchdown or more, and the perennial favorites for week #1 match-up wins are playing some very tough games. Indianapolis draws a Super Bowl favorite in New Orleans at home, and according to Vegas that is the best bet with Indy favored -6.5 pts. I think there is a very real chance that the Saints could win this game and knock about a third of your survival pool contestants out of the game in week one. Drew Brees is a pro bowl caliber quarterback and Indy doesn’t have a single person who will match up against Reggie Bush. While the New Orleans defense is not the Chicago Bears, if the Saints had beaten the Bears in the NFC Championship game this would have been last year’s Super Bowl game. This game will be close, and anything can happen. I would avoid this game.

#3: Denver at Buffalo (0-0):
Home teams always seem to have the edge on opening weekend with all that hometown energy. But J.P. Losman still hasn’t proved that he can win consistently and Marshawn Lynch is playing in his first NFL game. While Mike Shanahan always seems to have a pretty good team year in and year out, his teams seem to stumble in one of the first two weeks so this pick is a little risky. Travis Henry, however, is looking forward to returning to where he started his career and have a banner day. Look for Jay Cutler and company to erase recent history and come away with the victory.

#2: Philadelphia at Green Bay (0-0):
Donovan McNabb is returning from knee surgery and seems to be hitting on all cylinders. This year his wide receivers should be better than what he has had in the past, and with the addition of Kevin Curtis he actually has a possession go-to receiver ala Wayne Chrebet on 3rd down. Brett Favre may still be in Green Bay and the Lambeau mystique may give the Packers an extra 3 points, but the Eagle defense should be more than enough to cause this game to be over by the middle of the 3rd quarter.

#1: Seattle over Tampa Bay (0-0):
Joey Galloway returns to the Pacific Northwest, and unfortunately for him it will not be a happy homecoming. Unlike last year, Jeff Garcia will not provide any miracles and his defense (though once great) won’t give him as many opportunities as last year’s team did. Shaun Alexander returns and will immediately provide a spark to an offense that desperately needed him in the backfield to balance out Matt Hasselback’s passing game. And don’t forget how loud this stadium can get on a regular day let alone opening day.

(Note: There might not be many opportunities to take Minnesota or Oakland and matchups against the Falcons and Lions won’t come around many times this season. You may wish that you took a flyer this week when you are looking at having to use either of them in week #15 to stay in the pool.)

P.S. Readers who just can’t get enough LMS/Survivor Pool action should check out FFToday’s own 3-And-Out! Survivor Pool with a fantasy twist: If any readers want to make regular contributions to this column along the lines of what Matthew Schiff does for traditional LMS pools, I’ll be happy to consider including the thoughts of the one or two readers who do the best job of explaining the logic behind their picks.

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.