My thanks to the People’s Pigskin for suggesting my first post-introduction post.
I should note up front I am not going to tout free agents that you should pick up. The quality and depth of your free agent pool is going to depend on your league settings, number of teams and quality of managers in your league. Instead I am going to focus a bit on thinking and thought process related to fixing your embarrassment of a team.
Fortunately this post isn’t relevant to my fantasy team, the Roughriders, who currently sit at 2-0 through two weeks. I’m going to use another team from my league, ‘The Hip Replacements’ as my example for this post. They now sit at 0-2 and are going nowhere fast. Here’s who he drafted in a league that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 DEF, 1 K.
QB- P. Rivers, B. Favre; WR- D. Bowe, Roy Williams, D. Avery, K. Curtis, D. Hixon; RB- B. Westbrook, B. Jacobs, J. Lewis, W. Parker; TE- Z. Miller; K- K. Brown; Def- Pittsburgh
It’s not a horrible team, but is one that is going to be inconsistent week to week. For the rest of this post, I’ll focus on righting the ship through the following steps:
• Fully understand your league scoring rules
• Understanding why your team sucks
• Understanding what positions translate to consistency week to week
• Coming up with a game plan for improvement
Fully understand your league scoring rules
If I look back at my fantasy history, there was one year when I joined a buddy’s league and finished 5th out of 6 teams. This was a clear case of me joining a league with funky scoring settings that I didn’t understand (defenses could score anywhere from 50 to -30 points a game!). As a result I got smoked. If you don’t fully understand the scoring you are apt to draft incorrectly and donate your league entry fee with no chance of seeing that money ever again.
The Cayman Football League is fairly conventional and is the basis of my example. RBs, TEs and WRs get 1 point per 10 yards of receiving/ running, 6 points for a TD and 1 point per reception with no bonuses. Return yards are 1 point per 25 yards. QBs get 1 point per 20 yards and 6 points per TD with negative 2 points for ints and fumbles. I’ll ignore kickers and defense as they typically aren’t all that critical to winning, though the right defense against a bad offense can make a big difference in any one given week.
The theme of this post is that you can’t win your league if you don’t fully understand how points are awarded. In my league, point per reception is the key stat in my mind. If I fill my team with guys who catch the ball, I’m going to be consistent from week to week. Time for you to look at your league’s settings. Bonuses for 100 yards rushing/ receiving? Bonuses for 300 yards passing? I’ll wait….
Understanding why your team sucks
Sticking with The Hip Replacements, here is what went wrong in my opinion:
1. WR- He has 5 WRs in a league that starts 2. In my opinion, you need 2 guys to live and die by week to week with a third quality guy the buy weeks and in case of injury. WRs tend to avoid injury thus he has two more receivers than is really needed. Bowe is a great #2 receiver as he catches a lot of balls, puts up decent yards and scores once in awhile. Beyond that, he’s got a bunch of guys who might light it up one week and do nothing the next two. The ship has sailed for a true elite WR, so he’ll need to live with Bowe as his #1 and try to get a more consistent second receiver.
2. RB- The biggest issue here is that he drafted injury risks in Westbrook and Parker and didn’t get their backups. He could have easily drafted two more backs instead of the 4 and 5 WR and handcuffed the position. His other two backs (Jacobs and Lewis) don’t catch enough balls to be consistent, though Jacobs can put up big points if he gets into the endzone. So an upgrade is in order at the RB position. To make life even worse for The Hip, Westbrook is dinged up and Parker has no trade value right now.
I’ll speak to Zach Miller though I don’t think there is a problem here. The reason I like Zach is that an inexperienced QB tends to check down to his RB or TE due to the speed of the game and inability to keep his eyes downfield.
If you are looking at your team and can’t tell why you aren’t winning, check out the teams that are 2-0. Check their scoring each week and see how they are accumulating points. Better yet, ask them to look at your team. Some managers are jerks who will just make fun of you, but odds are someone will give you some advice.
Sticking with my league and looking at my team, let’s see what we can learn. QB- Warner and Orton; RB- Lynch, F. Jackson, Sproles, Moreno, McCoy, Coffee; WR- Fitzgerald, A Johnson, Breaston; TE- D Clark.
I drafted with a focus on points per receptions. Fitz and Johnson both catch a tonne of balls and have potential for huge weeks. Breaston is a nice bit of safety if Fitz were to get hurt. Clark was a great pick as he almost functions as a WR in Indy, even more so now that Gonzalez is hurt. I expect each guy to score at least 15 points a week for me, which is 7 catches for 80 yards, or 4 for 50 and a TD.
A quick glance at my RBs and you might think I missed the boat, but really I took a calculated risk. I knew I’d get a starter from Buffalo and at a minimum Sproles catching a bunch of balls and returning kicks. I also took Moreno in hopes he becomes the guy in Denver, McCoy in case Westbrook got hurt and Coffee in case Gore got hurt. The key is all of my guys catch passes which means I should be able to get a solid 15 points per week out of each starter. That is 50 yards rushing and 5 catches for 50 yards, or 40 yards running, 3 catches for 20 yards and I TD
Understanding what positions lead to consistency from week to week
I purposely use the term consistency instead of wins in this post. For the most part, we can’t control whether or not we win as it is very much dependent on the team you play. Some weeks you’ll score 80 points and win, while others you’ll put up 130 and lose. Them the breaks in fantasy football.
The question I suggest you ask yourself, ‘What will my score be if almost everyone on my team has a bad week?’ and try to maximize that number. In a point-per-reception league, Look for WRs and TEs that catch a lot of balls, be wary of RBs that don’t catch passes. If you are relying on TDs to win, you are going to be hot and cold.
Using my team analysis above and I figure a base score of 75 out my RBs, WRs and TE. Add 15 for Warner, 5 for my kicker and 5 for defense and I’m looking at around 100 points on a bad week. In my league, 100 points will probably get a win about 35-40% of the time. In weeks when 3 or 4 guys are rolling, I’m looking at 130-140 points which translates to a win 90% of the time. If your league is more focused on yardage, look for backs that catch passes and run the ball. Find a WR that returns kicks too. Get as many of those guys as you can and cross your fingers that a couple of them pan out.
A game plan for improvement
There are two ways to improve your team: 1) make some trades, or 2) pick up free agents.
If I look at The Hip Replacements, they should cut back to 3 WRs and add two RBs. Unless there is a sucker of suckers in our league, he isn’t going to be able to trade any of his mediocre WRs. Bowe is the only guy of interest, but definitely not someone that can be traded. So the start of the plan is going to be the dropping of the deadweight WRs and pick up a couple of backs. Maybe look for backups of his starters, or perhaps look at a couple of backups/ rookies elsewhere.
From there, time to make some trades. The key to making trades is tenacity and hard work. There shouldn’t be anyone in your league that isn’t sick and tired of you emailing them, calling them, and stopping by their house late at night. Look at every single team and put together your wish list and try to identify their weaknesses. If I’m the Hip Replacements, I’m floating Jacobs and Parker and hoping one of my remaining WRs has a solid week 3. Then I hit the phones on Monday and try to make a deal.
Remember, understand the type of players you want and identify all those types of players on the other teams. If you can identify 15 such guys, you only need to be successful 1 out of 15 times to get the guy you want. I like those odds!
I hope I’ve got your creative juices flowing a bit with this post. If your aim is to win your league, you need to think strategically about the type of players you need on your roster to put up a consistent base line point total each week that gives you a chance to win. If you went and drafted your favourite players from your team and running backs that were awesome in 2005, it’s time to have some fun, blow up your team and see how good you can be.