Let me tell you a story about how I may have prevented Count Chocula from going on a feeding frenzy.
Last week I ran through a litany of mistakes that cost me from potentially starting 2-0. Even more soul-crushingly, I can point to three small decisions leading up to and during Week 3 that kept the Vampire from eating again and claiming Odell Beckham as his second victim.
Let’s start from the top:
1. I explained last week how I chose the wrong player to stash prior to Week 2. Well, not stashing any of the correct guys had a snowball effect that led to my losing Week 3. Using my Vampire privilege of the top waiver position, I chose to claim Keelan Cole over Giovani Bernard and Ryan Fitzpatrick. I view Cole as a very gifted player with the kind of high weekly upside needed to steal victories. I opted for him over Bernard because I saw season-long potential and didn’t necessarily think Gio was a better option in Week 3 anyways. With FitzMagic, I simply didn’t want to claim a quarterback when I felt comfortable playing Matthew Stafford against the Patriots in a game I expected to feature a lot more aerial fireworks. Bernard or Fitz in my lineup would have won me Week 3.
2. I didn’t take a trade I should have. I made a 2-for-1 offer of Tyler Lockett and Alfred Morris for Sammy Watkins to a team with a lack of RB depth. That owner rejected but countered me Watkins and O.J. Howard for Austin Ekeler and George Kittle. My initial reaction was that I still had high expectations for Kittle and really didn’t want to part with Ekeler. When I quickly decided though that the Howard for Kittle swap was at least even, if not even favoring me, I then sent him one more counter. Thinking he added the tight ends in because he particularly wanted Kittle, I countered with Morris in place of Ekeler. I truly believed – and still do – that Ekeler has a high weekly floor and will comfortably clear 1,000 scrimmage yards with a handful of TD’s. After all, he’s a souped-up version of Danny Woodhead and it’s half-point PPR. Not only did this owner turn me down but he also immediately took cancelled the trade offer I actually intended to accept if he wasn’t interested in Morris. Sure, I love Ekeler, but that Chiefs offense is just what I need as a Vampire. I played Ekeler in my last flex spot – where Watkins would have been – and the difference cost me the week.
3. With about 30 minutes before the late afternoon kickoffs, Count Chocula was flirting with a close victory. My opponent had all but Kenny Golladay going and was laying an egg, while I still had Stafford, Ezekiel Elliott, James Conner, Ekeler and the Cowboys Defense left. I also had Lockett staring at me on my bench. I thought, “do I swing big with Lockett to pad my chances of squeaking out a win?” Or do I play it slightly safer? My thinking was that Ekeler offered equally as much upside but without the floor of a Lockett, who could be a three-catch, 40-yard guy any given week. I feel Ekeler is safe for 8-10 quality touches most weeks, and particularly liked his chances of being used as an underneath receiver against a Rams secondary with elite boundary corners. I thought a realistic line for Ekeler would have been 6-8 catches and 100+ scrimmage yards. He still had 71 scrimmage yards but did it with only three grabs and lost a fumble fighting for a critical fourth down. Ekeler scored 6.6 to Lockett’s 16.2 on my bench. I lost by 6.55 when Conner couldn’t come through with a big Monday night performance.
Obviously the most painful decision is the one that I was very close to making in the moment with as much information at hand as I could hope for. I literally was one starting decision away from adding Odell Beckham.
But just imagine if I had gotten all three decisions correct. If I claim Bernard he’s in for Cole. If I trade for Watkins he’s in for Ekeler. Sure, Kittle scored a couple points more than Howard, but I still get about a 20-point swing with those other starters and enter this week with a lineup featuring Zeke, Conner, Gio, Beckham, Watkins and now Calvin Ridley – the latest guy I nearly stashed and then had to claim. As a bonus, the trade would have resulted in the second-place team losing to the now-last-place team.
And of course if Zeke didn’t barely step out on what would have been a long touchdown catch last week, I’d still at least have Beckham.
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But the challenge with the Vampire format is making the tough calls and continuously adjusting and optimizing given the knowledge at hand. It’s why I started this story by saying I prevented Count Chocula from going on a feeding frenzy.
I’ve already started making better decisions. Last week I stashed Tyler Boyd. And I claimed way more than just Ridley. I corrected an earlier drop mistake by claiming back my original QB – Jared Goff. I’m now 53.95 points closer to a second meal for Count Chocula.
Versus the owner of Alvin Kamara.
So, here’s what we’re looking at after Goff got Count Chocula off to a sensational Week 4 start:
Count Chocula – 53.95
QB – Jared Goff
RB – Ezekiel Elliott
RB – James Conner
WR – Tyler Boyd
WR – Calvin Ridley
TE – George Kittle
Flex – Geronimo Allison
Flex – Austin Ekeler
DEF – Seattle
K – Matt Prater
Anthony Miller (IR)
Van Helsing – 0.0
QB – Ben Roethlisberger
RB – Alvin Kamara
RB – Carlos Hyde
WR – Tyreek Hill
WR – John Brown
TE – Rob Gronkowski
Flex – Chris Hogan
Flex – Matt Breida
DEF – Green Bay
K – Matt Bryant
This is a random side note about this week’s matchup, but I love that it’s against “Van Helsing” and more than that, I love that in the other two Vampire leagues I’ve formed I named both of my teams Van Helsing before seeing this guy’s team name. I’ve decided every Vampire league should have a Van Helsing. And who knows, maybe it’s good luck. All three are undefeated and in first place.
But all three are in significant danger of losing after Thursday night (my Van Helsing’s played Robert Woods in one with Cooper Kupp on my bench, and Brandin Cooks outscoring Stefon Diggs in the other).
For Count Chocula, I still have to decide on the flex spots. Ekeler owes me and I really like the matchup, but it’s hard to not play Kenny Stills. And with Randall Cobb dealing with a hamstring issue and Geronimo Allison offering Aaron Rodgers more big-play ability, he’s going to be really tough to sit most weeks.
Looking ahead, if this huge lead survives Tyreek Hill on Monday night and allows Count Chocula to gobble up Kamara, the next few weeks get very interesting. In Week 5, I’d have Goff, Zeke, Kamara and Conner to go to battle with against Deshaun Watson, Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey and Keenan Allen. And the following week I’d play the owner of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas while the Saints are on bye. Sure, I’d also be missing Kamara in this scenario, but if I can get a win streak going I’d replace him in the lineup with Gurley and have a very good chance to win and snatch my first big WR victim – either Thomas or Antonio Brown.
If those events take place, dinner will be served for Count Chocula. He’ll be eating every week en route to a title.
If you want to learn more about a Vampire league or just want thoughts on roster management, follow me and Tweet at me @Hoover_L_A.