Articles by Dave McKay

A listing of all the articles written by Dave McKay for the RotoWire Blog.

Stretching Your Bench

Welcome back to the BrainBlog… an exclusive here on RotoWire.  Here we de-emphasize player rankings and statistical comparisons and instead look at strategies, tactics, and tips that can help you think through potential roster moves and start/sit decisions.

Today’s topic is pretty straightforward but it’s something that many fantasy football managers fail to think through this time of year.  We tend to be focused on our starting rotation and how to maximize our point totals, which is obviously most important.  However, are you still thinking critically about how you are using your bench.

Maybe you’ve never thought about strategically using your bench before and you may not even know what I’m talking about, so please allow me to explain.

First, the typical or default mentality with a fantasy football bench.  Most people try to stockpile as much talent as possible at these positions.  It’s almost as if there is a secondary competition in fantasy where we compare points scored by the bench and that factor can make you feel better about your team in a loss or even feel like you crushed your opponent that much more in a win.  Hey, I get it, you want to fill out that roster with as much quality as you can.  And, I will say that this tends to give you more matchup flexibility and more firepower to get through the bye weeks.  Those are great things, and important, especially earlier in the season.

At this point we have a pretty good idea of who these guys are for 2012.  There is enough game film to watch that we have a pretty solid history on which to judge their likely future outputs for the rest of the season.  That goes for defenses, too. 

Also, the bye weeks are done next week folks.  You probably don’t have too many more to account for, especially since this week has started and the Week 10 waiver wire process is over.  You may have something to look at here for Week 11, but for the most part the consideration of bye weeks is behind you.

Furthermore, you are starting to figure out where you stand with regard to the fantasy playoffs.  It’s either looking like you are pretty much assured of a spot, you are definitely out, or you are battling for one of the final positions.  Each of these three situations will dictate how you need to think about your bench.

1.  You’re Probably Out – If this is a keeper league or a dynasty league you need to be thinking about next year.  Simple as that.  Grab upside guys and clear-cut backups who may have a starting role next year.  Also, you probably have a little bit of time before your trade deadline so it isn’t too late to trade a high-priced stud for a couple of low-cost keeper candidates.  Win-win situation.  And, if the league is a total re-draft league with no carryover to next year (not even draft position) then it is your job to play for pride and do your best to beat your remaining opponents just like you were trying early in the year.  It’s not fair to the rest of the league to not even set your lineup.

2.  You’re Probably In – Congratulations!  Let’s go win a championship.  Examine who you have on your bench.  What can they do for you going forward?  Go ahead and plan out what your lineup will look like for every week through your championship.  What are the weaknesses?  Are there any players that you just don’t foresee cracking the lineup?  You may have (for example) a 2nd string RB on your roster that had upside and promise in their current situation but now, if you think critically about it, just isn’t going to do anything for you other than to take up a roster spot.  A great example of this is Daryl Richardson.  He had some moments this year and emerged as the clear handcuff to Steven Jackson.  Plus, with the rumors of Jackson possibly getting traded, he had a ton of upside as a possible fantasy starter  All of that is done now.  All we have left is a guy who is getting a moderate amount of work and has a really tough schedule (SF, NYJ, ARI, SF, BUF, MIN, TB, SEA).  He’s still a good handcuff if you own Jackson and he’s also a good keeper candidate, but if you are trying to win a championship that roster spot may be used better elsewhere.  Maybe on a handcuff for a RB you do have?  (Bernard Pierce for the Ray Rice owners, for example.)  Think about how you are going to use the players on your bench each week going forward.  Examine their matchups.  And, when possible, handcuff your studs.  (If Rice goes down, I would much prefer to start Pierce than Daryle Richardson.)

3.  You’re Fighting for a Spot – Let’s do this.  Once the playoffs start, everyone goes back to a 0-0 record.  Just get in and you can win this thing, but you may need help from your bench.  Just like if you already had a spot in the playoffs, I want you to map out what your lineup will look like every week going forward.  Eliminate the players that will have no role for you.  You may even want to do the unthinkable and plan a week in advance for an optimal DST.  The Bengals have Kansas City in week 11…  Now would be a good time to grab them if you have a spot on your roster and you don’t have a stud defense like Chicago.  Normally you wouldn’t want to carry two defenses, but at this point you need every potential edge you can get.  And, on a related subject, never carry two kickers.  Please.  Unless you have some really weird rules in your league, one kicker at a time.  Use any available roster spots to grab some upside guys.  There are some receivers out there (Cecil Shorts was a great example up until he proved it last night) who have shown something and they could give you an edge in week 11, 12, or 13.  With Shorts locked for the week, maybe you are looking at a Josh Gordon (if available) or a Danny Amendola.  Nevertheless, the point here is to give yourself a chance to bust out in the next few weeks.  If you have an Anquan Boldin type on your bench and he is not projected to get any starts for you, why not roll the dice on an Amendola who might?  You know what you have in Boldin and you know if it is better than what you are putting in your lineup.  You don’t know what Amendola has to offer the rest of the year, but he could bust out.  Right?  Give yourself a chance to have an edge…  Every bit matters when you are battling for a spot.

Best of luck in the drive to the playoffs, folks. 

The Art of the Deal

Hello again, Brainiacs….  Welcome back to the BrainBlog only on RotoWire.  In this space we talk about strategies and tactics for winning fantasy football without delving too deeply into specific player rankings.  Have you ever heard the expression, "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime"?  That is exactly what we aim to do here.

he NFL trading deadline passed yesterday and most fantasy leagues have a similar trade deadline that is coming up very soon.  You are running out of time for making a move in the trade market and once the deadline hits the only changes you’ll be able to make to your roster will be from waiver wire moves and free agents.  That has me thinking a lot about how to craft a deal in fantasy football.

And, yes, I did say "craft" a deal.  This is way more art than science, my friends.  Why?  Well, let’s look at a few reasons and some ways that this works:

1. The Endowment Effect:  This phenomena is where a person is more willing to pay to retain something they own than to pay to obtain something new.  In other words, people tend to over-value what they possess and under-value what you have.  To give an illustration, it is as if you wanted to trad with a a person who has a British one-pound note (which is worth $1.60 US).  You offer a $1 bill and three quarters but the other person turns you down for either no stated reason or something that doesn’t make sense.  ("I can’t do that deal.  The one-pound note is British!")  They forego an immediate profit of almost 10|PERCENT| because they over value what they already have.  How much more does this happen with subjective quantities like Willis McGahee and Dwayne Bowe?  A lot more.  You’d think that McGahee and Bowe were the best in the league if you try to deal for them.  Why?  The Endowment Effect.  How can we overcome this?  I’m glad you asked, because that is a nice segue to #2…

2. Dialogue before Deal:  You’ve got to talk this through with your potential trading partner.  Almost every time someone wants to do a deal they start by shooting over an unsolicited trade offer.  The immediate reaction is one of fear and uncertainty, compounded by the Endowment Effect.  You have got to break down those issues by starting things off with an inquisitive email.  Ask them what players on your roster they are interested in.  Ask them where they think they need help.  See what they are trying to accomplish.  Being truly inquisitive will go a long way toward breaking down barriers and building up the value of your players.  Paint a picture for them of a future roster with some of your players on it.

3.  Kleptophobia:  Fear of being robbed.  Yep, as crazy as it sounds there is a real phobia at work here.  I mentioned that the first reaction to a trade offer is one that includes fear.  People hate getting ripped off and they will immediately think you are trying to do that to them.  Even if it is your best buddy since first grade, the first thought will be about what you are trying to take from them.  This is why it is so crucial that you lay the groundwork first with a great dialogue around the win-win scenario.  Unless you are thinking win-win they are going to be scared.  You’ve got to convince them not to be afraid of your trade offer, unless of course, you really are trying to rip them off.  And, dude, all I can say is that if you are trying to steal from them you’ll end up doing yourself more harm than good.  Even if you are able to pull off a heist, the kleptophobia will increase ten-fold and not just with your trading partner, but across the whole league.  Steal from your friends at your own risk.

Listen, the fact is that people have real emotions tied to their possessions and the fantasy players on their roster are no exception.  It’s crazy but true.  I’ve seen real friendships damaged over trade offers because the person getting the offer thought the first person was trying to take advantage of them.  It happens all the time.  You’ve got to break down these barriers in order to get anything done in the trade market.

Start the dialogue.  Think win-win.  Work out an offer where you give value to get value.

The best trade scenarios are where you are trading value now for value later.  Some leagues have prizes for regular season wins or most points in a week, so you could get some traction there… but the best way to use this tactic is in a keeper league.  Target the teams in your league that look like they are out of it and offer a great keeper value to them.  They may have a $30 player (or 1st or 2nd rounder)  that can really help you this year but is too expensive for them to keep next year.  In exchange you can trade that strong $1 (or late round) bargain.  In this scenario it is obvious that both sides win. 

The other major thing to think about is to deal from your bench strength to improve your starters where you can.  Having a great bench doesn’t help you much at this point in the year because many of the byes have already happened and many of the injuries that were going to happen have already happened.  There may be a situation where you have Drew Brees and Robert Griffin III.  Brees has had his bye, RGIII hasn’t, plus it will be rare to start Griffin over Brees going forward anyway.  Griffin has a ton of trade value – deal him now!  You should get back a stud starter at another position.  You might also try to work in a 2-for-2 deal where the player that you both replace gets added in.  In other words instead of just trading Griffin for someone like Trent Richardson, you would deal Griffin plus BenJarvus Green-Ellis for Richardson plus Tony Romo.  Well, something like that anyway.  Both side swap studs and get a serviceable replacement for their bench.

There is obviously a whole lot to talk about on this topic, but hopefully in this entry I’ve been able to give you some food for thought… Good luck in hammering out those trades before the deadline. 

Strategy for the Playoff Drive

Welcome to the first installment of the BrainBlog, an exclusive to RotoWire.  I’ll talk about players in this space, but my primary goal is to help you think strategically about the game of fantasy football.  We won’t just look at the here-and-now but how all of the pieces work together to make you more competitive over the long haul.

This time of year I’m looking at where I can pick up value, specifically with an eye toward the playoffs.  Just about any team at this point will fall into one of two categories:  (1) Gearing up for the playoffs; or, (2) Trying to make a desperate push to get into the playoffs.  I hope you are in the former group, but either way I think I can help.

If you are gearing up for the playoffs you should be looking to buy low on guys that might be injured or who have been off their game for some reason.  If you are trying to make a push to get into the post-season you are going to be looking to grab those high draft picks that just having been playing up to their potential.  You’d be hoping that you can add under-performing assets cheaply so that they start playing up to their normal standards thereby lifting your team into contention.

Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford spring to mind as players who has underperformed their draft day value.  If you are in need of a QB you might be able to pick one of these guys up for a song.  Look to see if the current owner has someone like Robert Griffin III or Ben Roethlisberger as a starter.  They may be just frustrated enough with their projected starter that they will deal them to you for pennies on the dollar.  Look, Newton and Stafford might not turn it around but this sort of hail mary is the only thing that can catapult you into the playoffs,

On the other side, maybe you are looking good for the playoffs.  I’m in enough leagues that I’ve got a bunch in this category and I own Greg Jennings in a few of those leagues.  I’ve got to tell you that it hasn’t been too much fun this year.  When healthy he is definitely an "A" player who is worthy of a start on your fantasy squad regardless of the matchup, but as we all know he hasn’t been healthy.  They say that his surgery next week will put him on the shelf for three weeks, plus rehab.  So, could he be back in week 12?  Yeah, maybe.  Week 13?  Could be.  Fantasy playoffs?  Well, yes, I think so.

Let’s look at the positives:  Jennings is in the prime of his career, he’ll be a free agent after this year (for those of you who attach meaning to that sort of thing), he’s got an amazing quarterback throwing the ball to him, and he is the #1 receiving option on one of the best offenses in the NFL.  He’s an "A" player.

Even with the injury, Jennings is so good that if you drop him he’d certainly be picked up right away.  Someone is going to be willing to stash him on their roster.  It might as well be you since you have already made the investment.

We’re all about strategy here on this blog, so I don’t want us to limit ourselves to just Jennigns or just this point in the season.  There have been other obvious players in this situation like DeMarco Murray right now and Hakeem Nicks a couple weeks ago.  Ahmad Bradshaw was banged up earlier this year, came roaring back, and might be injured again.  CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson were out and are now working  themselves back into shape.  Antonio Gates is also an "A" player, and up until recently his picture was on a milk carton.

So, what do you do with these guys?  You really only have two options:

  1. Trade them for a "B" player
  2. Stash them and hope for the best

That’s pretty much it.

In general I’m an advocate of stashing the player, and I’ll explain why.

Back to Jennings.  You probably took him in the late second round or more likely somewhere in the third, which is a sizable investment.  You probably drafted something like two "B" player receivers a little later and maybe a fourth option who is a "C" player with upside.  Something like that: A stud WR1, two guys to rotate at WR2, and a bench guy who could blow up.

In any given week, let’s say you start two WR’s and possibly three if you put a WR in your flex spot.  Additionally, for the sake of argument, let’s say that Jennings won’t play until week 14.  You might be able to deal him for a "B" player right now and get the production of that guy for the next six weeks (big bonus) and beyond.

But, let’s think about what that does for you.  Sure, you have the option of playing the matchups with your (now) three "B" receivers.  You can mix and match and use that flexibility to help you win each week.  This is an undeniable benefit.

But, to me, there are greater advantages to stashing the "A" player.  Look, you’ve already got your two "B" guys plus another guy with upside.  You might also be able to grab someone off of the waiver wire who is a good one-week fill-in.  You can still play the matchups almost as effectively as if you had that third "B" level player. 

The big thing, though, is that you’ll have Jennings for weeks 14, 15, and 16.  He can be a difference-maker for you in the post-season, and winning the championship is all that matters.  Flags fly forever.

That is huge.  I don’t care if you go 13-0 in the regular season or if you limp in with a 7-6 record, when those playoffs hit everyone is 0-0 again.  Give yourself every advantage you can in those weeks, assuming you can get in fact get there.

So, if you have a guy like that do your best to stash him.  If you don’t have Jennings, or Nicks, or Murray, or someone like them, start testing the waters to see if you can acquire one on the cheap.

You saw what Nicks did for the Giants in the real-life playoffs last year.  Give him a chance to lead you to victory this year.