Last Week’s Question: Should weekly high score payouts
be weighted towards the end of the season?
Many fantasy leagues use weekly high score payouts to keep owners
engaged even after they have been eliminated from playoff contention.
In last week’s column, I mentioned that the commissioner
in my oldest league has decided to do away with these payouts
in Weeks 1-4 (when everyone is competitive) so as to double the
payouts in Weeks 9-12 (when struggling owners tend to check out).
I got some great feedback concerning this change via email, including
this message from Jack:
Philosophically, I like the idea associated with your question.
I am for (almost) anything that encourages all players to “care”
every week, even after they are eliminated. From a practical perspective,
however, most teams that have been eliminated will probably have
a relatively low chance of achieving the high score, so bumping
up the reward might not materially impact engagement of the eliminated
teams. The “carrot” may simply not be enough. My thought
is to use a “stick” in addition. What if you ask the
lowest scoring team to fund the high scoring payout each week?
Avoiding being the low score becomes the incentive (and there
remains some chance they could get the carrot of high score while
avoiding the stick of low score). It requires trust (or a loss
deposit) to be confident that players will make good on their
payments toward the end of the season, but it should keep teams
Jack is right to be skeptical about how effective an incentive
the high score payout is for teams already eliminated from playoff
contention, especially in leagues with transaction fees. Most
leagues award waiver wire priority to cellar-dwelling teams, so
it is often possible for teams at the bottom of the standings
to upgrade their talent as the season progresses. Since transaction
fees can add up quickly, however, such owners often decide not
to throw “good money after bad” and allow their rosters
to be as bad at the end of the season as they were in the beginning.
That may be why Jack isn’t alone in recommending a stick
approach, such as the BLOW policy I learned about from Steve:
In our league it costs $5 for every add/drop – we call
it our TNT (Trades and Transactions)
This money goes into a pot and usually totals about $1000 for
The high scorers for weeks 1-4, 5-8, 9-12 & 13-16 split
this money evenly.
Not bad for one good week – it almost covers our entry
fee ($300), and sometimes does!
We also charge a weekly “BLOW” (Biggest Loser Of
the Week) fine of $10.
Last place does not get first pick [in our league], so tanking
Works for us!
Sounds like a very effective set of policies, Steve.
David’s league doesn’t punish the lowest scoring
team every week, but it does have a policy for which the acronym
would be BLOTS (Biggest Losers of the Season) along with some
other interesting wrinkles:
In addition to having a weekly high score, we also have a smaller
prize ($10) to the highest scoring "active" player (so
nobody with Sammy Watkins or DeSean Jackson benched gets credit
for Week 1) and the two teams with the worst record have to "sponsor"
the food for the draft the following year. I've also played in
a league where each week was dedicated to a different position
(i.e., Week 1 the team with the highest scoring QB got a cash
prize, RB for Week 2, etc.).
I especially like the point David makes at the end about awarding
the high score payout by position, since that could realistically
incentivize owners with dud teams to think carefully about their
lineups. In a week with a payout for the highest scoring active
receiver, it’s hard to imagine anyone leaving an injured
Tyreek Hill in their starting lineup with Demarcus Robinson on
their bench (which is exactly the sort of thing that happens when
owners check out).
David also remarked: “If you have owners checking out -
no matter what their record is, you need new owners, no?”
There are lots of fantasy leagues in which that attitude makes
sense, but I’ve also participated in my share of workplace
leagues in which most owners are interested, but a handful are
simply going along for the ride. If you’re the commissioner
of such a league, you’ll need to figure out which incentives
are likely to produce the best results (with the least headaches
for you), so take all of the recommendations discussed above with
a grain of context-dependent salt.
My thanks to everyone who wrote in (whether I had space for your
feedback or not).
This Week’s Question: Is anyone still afraid to stream
While listening to a fantasy football podcast last week, I heard
one of the hosts say something along these lines:
In expert leagues, almost nobody carries 2 QBs on their roster
because everybody hordes backup RBs and WRs who are just an injury
away from relevance. This gives experts the impression that there
are always a ton of QBs available on waivers, so they think everyone
should be comfortable streaming QBs. But in regular leagues, lots
of owners stash 2 or even 3 QBs, which makes streaming a real
nightmare because the pickings are so slim.
I will also concede that the streamability of these backups is
a matter of subjective evaluation, though it’s worth noting
that Case Keenum, Matthew Stafford, and Andy Dalton (who went
undrafted in many single-QB leagues) have all outperformed Kyler Murray (who went in the 5th round of the FFToday Staff draft).
Perhaps even more surprisingly, Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett,
and Gardner Minshew have generated more fantasy points than Baker Mayfield through Week 2, which is not to suggest that I rank any
of them ahead of Mayfield for the rest of the season, though it
does illustrate why streaming works so well for so many owners.
I don’t pretend to know what will unfold in Weeks 3-17,
but streaming isn’t about picking the best QBs on the season;
it’s about picking the ones poised to succeed this week
against the defenses whose vulnerabilities were exposed last week.
In my oldest league (not an expert league by any stretch), I
could have any of these 9 starting QBs in Week 3: Case
Falk, or Teddy
Bridgewater. If you assume streaming is about plugging in
Keenum because he has the highest fantasy score (so far) of those
options, you don’t understand that opportunism is the key to streaming.
It’s probably not a good idea to play Keenum (or even Aaron
Rodgers, as we saw in Week 1) against the Bear defense. But
if Keenum is facing the Bears, that means Trubisky is facing the
Redskins, who gave up 436 yards (and 32 points) to Philadelphia
in Week One and 474 yards (and 31 points) to Dallas in Week 2.
I’m no great fan of Trubisky, but I’m perfectly comfortable streaming
him against a defense that porous in Week 3. Although I won’t
be using him in that league (since I snagged Tom
Brady in the 11th round), I would happily replace my 9th-round
bust of a QB in the FFToday Staff league (Cam
Newton) with Trubisky for Week 3.
How about you? If streaming QBs still makes you nervous in 2019,
please explain why in the comment section below or by emailing
me. (If your answer is “Because I prefer to pay up for
Patrick Mahomes,” that’s perfectly legit.)
Survivor Pool Picks (Courtesy
of Matthew Schiff)
Trap Game: New York Giants at Tamp Bay
Winston’s rough start to the season, the Buccaneers are
a better team than the Giants right now and would be a lock to win
at home if Eli Manning
were starting at QB. Coach Shurmer’s decision to start Daniel
Jones, however, introduces too much uncertainty for me to come
anywhere near this one. It’s less about Jones being better than
Manning (in some departments, rookie QBs are always worse than veterans)
than it is about the Bucs not having any film on Jones as a Giant.
Even if he isn’t better than Manning, he will likely be different
in ways the Tampa defense will fail to have accounted for. You have
many “better” choices below.
#3: San Francisco over Pittsburgh (2-0; PHI, BAL)
Don’t look now, but the 49ers and Jimmy
Garoppolo are atop the NFC West with a 2-0 record, and they
are doing it with solid defense and a sneaky play-action passing
game. With Big Ben out for the season, and James
Conner nursing a sprained knee, the Steelers find themselves
in an unusual spot trying to figure out how to generate offense.JuJu
Smith-Schuster hasn’t put up Antonio
Brown numbers as the new #1 receiver, and now he’ll have to
find chemistry with the inexperienced Mason
Rudolph to win this one on the road. As such, take San Francisco
to win this in a battle that may come down to last-minute heroics
#2: New England over NY Jets (2-0; HOU, BAL)
First the Jets lost Sam Darnold to mono. Then they lost Trevor Siemian
to an ankle injury. Now they’re asking third string QB Luke Falk, in his first NFL start, to beat the undefeated world champion
Patriots. I wish the young Mr. Falk the very best of luck. He’s
going to need it.
#1: Dallas over Miami (2-0; NE, SEA)
Okay folks, are we all on board with the fact that you should pick
against the Dolphins every week this season? Yes, eventually they
will surprise a team and knock some of us out of our pools, but
not this week--not against the Cowboys with Dak and Zeke. In fact,
I think Dak could repeat his perfect passer rating from Week 1 when
he torched the Giants. Perhaps more importantly, one can’t help
wondering how many points the Cowboys defense will put up in your
fantasy league or DFS. The Pats posted 40 last week and helped yours
truly win one of his DraftKings tickets. Take the Cowboys and sit
back as you slide into Week 4.
Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and
playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning
a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms)
can be found here.