Fantasy Football Intelligence: Hello, I Must Be Going

The headline refers to the title of Phil Collins’ second solo album. Trust me, the other options I had were even more obscure to anyone under 50. The album had a number of hits, including a cover of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love”. Another thing you can’t hurry but must be on top of is regular maintenance of your fantasy roster. As we head into the bye weeks and the meat of the season, managing your roster is as important to your success as the draft was a month ago.

If you read this blog and valued assets like Kerryon Johnson, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, Austin Hooper and the Patriots’ defense higher than your competitors and you faded Joe Mixon, Cam Newton, the Minnesota receivers and Antonio Brown you might be off to a good start, but nobody bats 1.000. We appear to have been much too low on Lamar Jackson and Nick Chubb and too high on Matt Ryan for instance.

The bye weeks started slowly with only George Kittle and Le’Veon Bell owners significantly effected last week. This week is soft too, with Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay owners shorthanded. Also missing out are defense streamers who are getting fat using Miami’s opponents. (Miami and Detroit are the only teams not playing in week 5.) But beginning with week 6 and through week 12, the bye weeks will be much more impactful on our rosters.

 

What? We can’t live on rock alone. Just like with our fantasy rosters, there is value in being eclectic.

At some point in the next few weeks, whether due to bye weeks, injury or poor performance, you will need to be making roster changes. You can make trades, but they are not always easy. Setting aside the practice of preying on bad owners with stupid trades, I’m talking about leagues where everyone knows what they are doing, at least to some extent. Good owners can find a trade partner by looking at everyone’s areas of strength and weakness and finding options that match up with your own. For example, if your roster is big enough for two TEs and you drafted Mark Andrews or Darren Waller as a backup to a Kelce, Ertz, Kittle or Engram, you have a pretty good player warming your bench. It is a luxury that is great to have for byes and injuries, but if you are not getting the production you hoped for from your RB2 or WR3, you should trade that luxury to an O.J. Howard or Hunter Henry owner for someone you can plug in every week. Points on the bench don’t win fantasy games, points in the lineup do. By the way, if you can get the right player in return, I am not against trading the name brand you originally drafted as a starter and going with the deeper pick, particularly Andrews. Taking a walk down memory lane, in 2004 I drafted All-Pro Tony Gonzalez as my starter at TE and a second year former basketball player who was getting some buzz in San Diego named Antonio Gates as his backup. I ended up trading Gonzalez and wound up just fine. I’m not saying that Andrews or Waller is Gates, but both look like reliable starters so if you can get a significant upgrade at WR or RB for Kittle or Ertz, i would be comfortable starting Andrews the rest of the way.

Trades are hard though, because all but the most disciplined fantasy owners tend to overvalue their own players. Logically speaking, if you drafted someone before anyone else, it stands to reason most of the time that you think more of him than the other owners do. This makes the objective analysis above harder for many owners to do.

As a result, a lot of guys propose the ol’ 2 for 1 where an owner offers two usable starters for a superstar. Unless your lineup is devastated by injury or your league is so deep that there is no usable talent on the waiver wire, you never want to trade a superstar unless you are getting one back. It isn’t really a 2 for 1 anyway; you will need to cut somebody before accepting the deal, so know who you are going to cut and look at it like a 2 for 2. Still considering it? Your opponent will need to pick someone up, and in all but the deepest leagues, there is still value on the waiver wire, particularly at QB and WR, so look at what he is getting. He gets your superstar and the best available free agent at the time the trade goes through and you get the two guys he offered you in exchange for the superstar and the bottom guy on your roster. Most of the time that is a losing equation.

So trading is tough. Good on you if you can do it, but you need to master the waiver wire. In most leagues, you make your waiver claims on Tuesday, they process overnight and are on your roster Wednesday morning. The waiver order rules are different in different leagues, but if you are holding a high priority (one of the top few picks), it is valuable. Depending on where you are in the standings, you need to consider different strategies.

If you are a high scoring team at or near the top of the league and you feel secure among the best teams, you want to horde that pick. If you are streaming defenses you may not be able to do this, but if you are riding the Patriots or the Bears and you don’t have pressing roster needs, don’t claim someone that isn’t going to start or be a multi-week fill-in. Hold the priority because there will come a week where due to injury or other change of circumstance someone will suddenly gain significant fantasy relevance. Dalvin Cook gets hurt again…Alexander Mattison becomes no less than a RB2. He is currently owned in 24% of leagues. Zach Ertz suffers a season ending injury…Dallas Goedert is a top 7 TE. He is currently 10% owned in Yahoo leagues.

So how do you keep the priority and make the best of it? It just requires some initiative. Don’t make a claim. Instead of getting up at 6:30 for work on Wednesday, get up at 6. Go online and get your pick of free agents before everyone else gets up and looks to see who they got off waivers.

If you are streaming defenses and living week to week, don’t mess with that strategy, get the best players/defenses you can each week – every win is crucial. Also, when ordering your claims (if you are making more than one in a given week), consider what the other teams are looking for. If you are the only one with a QB on a bye while you and two other owners are looking for TEs (a realistic scenario in week 10 when New England, Denver, Philadelphia, Washington, Jacksonville and Houston are all on byes), claim the TE first and come back for the QB.

An even better strategy, if you have the roster flexibility to do it, is to plan your pickups two weeks ahead so you can pick up the players/defenses as free agents before demand peaks the next week and you need to use waivers to claim them.

When looking for bye week fill-ins, look at opportunities (pass attempts/touches/targets in the prior week and season to date) and matchups. This is Tinder, not eharmony. You will probably be cutting this player before long. Look for RBs playing against Miami, Cincinnati, Washington and Arizona. Avoid Chicago, New England, Minnesota and Philly. Look for QBs and receivers going against weak pass defenses. This is a good site to look at. Remember too that these numbers are a function of who the teams have played, so be careful about looking at just a few weeks of data. It becomes more reliable as the season goes on and can be considered when making start/sit decisions as well.

One last piece of advice, and this one has an element of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Sometimes Fantasy Football delivers results that are completely unpredictable.

Yesterday Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett, Joe Flacco and Marcus Mariota combined for 13 TD passes. Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson combined for a whopping 1 TD pass.

This week Leonard Fpurnette went over 200 yards in Denver and Frank Gore rushed for over 100 yards against New England. Against the previously stout Green Bay defense, Jordan Howard had three TDs and KC’s #3 RB Darrell Williams had two in Detroit. Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, Mark Ingram, Marlon Mack and Sony Michel all did not score, nor did any exceed 100 yards or five receptions.

Nursing a leg injury, Chris Godwin was a game time decision this week after a sub 50 yard effort against the Giants last week. He was 62% started in Yahoo leagues; nearly 4/10 Godwin owners left him on the bench. He was the high scoring fantasy wide receiver with 12 catches, 172 yards and 2 TDs. DeAndre Hopkins, the consensus WR1 in fantasy heading into the season, had five catches for 41 yards. He threw an interception for good measure.

All of the above contributed to some freakish fantasy results and heartbreaking losses. Sometimes you make the right decisions and you still lose. Occasionally you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and you play against the only team in the league that generated more points than you. We’ve all been there. Remote tossing and couch pillow punching are completely acceptable. Cursing your team, their NFL coaches or even your own existence are all understandable reactions to an unjust fantasy football screw job.

But at the end of the day, we play this game for money, no, I mean bragging rights, well, kind of, but fun, yes that’s it, fun. The depth of our lows makes the height of the highs that much sweeter. Ride out the bumps in the road, don’t be miserable to those around you and don’t do anything in real life or fantasy out of anger or frustration with your fantasy team.

Let’s close with some Steve Winwood.