Last week I mentioned that I've become more attracted to taking risks with team building because it allows me to test ideas for the benefit of the work that I do here. .
What if I don't draft running backs until the fifth round or later?
What if I blow my entire waiver wire budget on one player?
How long will it take for me to rebuild a dynasty team if I blow it up?
Can I remain competitive in a dynasty league without a couple of years of draft picks?
Can I contend in an IDP-heavy, equal-scoring-across-positions, expert league without drafting stud defensive ends?
What if I move up and down the rookie draft board by giving up future picks? Can I find a way to acquire picks next year and do the same thing again?
Can I manage a re-draft roster to a winning record while streaming RBs, WRs, and/or TEs each week?
These are some of the questions that I've been exploring in recent years. While I'm learning a lot and it gives me ideas for this column, I have a feeling that I only have, at best, a few more years of interest in playing Mr. Wizard with my fantasy teams and it will be time for me to participate in only 3-4 leagues moving forward.
My work as an analyst sometimes feels more like its own form of fantasy competition than the actual hobby. I'm not sure what I think about this development, but there's where I'm at.
Reflection is the pervasive theme of this week's column and it's time to look at the eight teams I fielded in 2014. These leagues offer a mix of traditional and less common facets that you can find with the hobby:
- Game Breakers - A large roster, full IDP, 14-team dynasty league with 8 of the teams owned by Footballguys staff.
- IOP - A large roster, full IDP, 12-team dynasty league with scoring that gives the best players at every position the potential for similar value.
- RSO Writers League - This 14-team league has a salary cap/contract format built by a former cap expert with the Eagles, an annual free agent auction draft, a traditional rookie draft, and a keeper format. I'm the comissioner with writers from sites that you're familliar with.
- Footballguys Staff IDP Dynasty League - A large roster full IDP 12-team dynasty league with IOP scoring.
- Hot Route - 16-team dynasty with large rosters and full IDP, featuring 6 Footballguys staffers.
- HyperActive 2 - 12-team (or 24-team if you count both divisions) dynasty league with multiple flex options that include the potential to start 1-5 RBs, WRs, or TEs. Lots of creativity available to build rosters here.
- Phenomz Dynasty - 14-team dynasty league with a college player keeper that's filed with Footballguys Shark Pool regulars and the owner of Fantasy Throwdown.
- FESL OMEGA - 14-team re-draft of Footballguys staffers with a lot of flex, flexibility.
Sadly only one of my leagues offers an auction element, which is by far my favorite (and in my opinion, one of the styles where I excel). I'll share the roster of each team, my record, points standing, playoff standing, and based on that last point whether the lessons we've gained come from the exploration of living anatomy or the post-mortem of an autopsy. This week, I'm sharing those squads that died a painful death this season.
Footballguys Staff IDP DYnasty League
- Format: Dynasty Full IDP
- Scoring Highlights: IOP scoring.
- Lineups: 1 QB, 1-2 RB, 3-4 WR, 1-2 TE, 1-2 DT, 2 DE, 3-4 LB, 2 CB, 2-3 S
- 2014 Record: 5-8, second place in three-team division (yeah, nothing to brag about)
- 2014 Points: 5th out of 12 teams. .
- 2013 Record: 5-8.
Injuries lf Key Players: This is the second consecutive season I've gone 5-8 and injury has been a major factor. Last year, I essentially lost Tyvon Branch, Roddy White, Travis Kelce, and Rob Gronkowski to injury. This year, I lost Branch and Derrick Johnson to injury and Josh Gordon and Greg Hardy to suspension. I also missed significant contributions from Karlos Dansby and Mathias Kiwanuka due to injury.
For some context, Dansby was the No.3 overall fantasy performer at any position in this league last year. Gordon was No.17 overall and Johnson was No.21. Branch was also the No. 23 overall player during the first three weeks of the 2014 season. That's some serious firepower missing from a roster that had two high-scoring weeks in the league.
Lineup Management: Where I could have made a significant difference with my season was lineup management:
- Week 8's 14-point loss to John Norton where I stubbornly continued starting Russell Wilson over a red-hot tom Brady, which cost me 20 points, and I was too late to bench Reggie Wayne, who was out that week and my other choies were Allen Hurns (7.9 points), Steven Jackson (14 points), or Jonathan Stewart (12.4 points).
- Week 9's 3-point loss to James Brimacombe where I started 8 of 19 players who didn't perform as well as my bench options, including two pretty obvious decisions: Wilson over Brady (18-point differential) and Brandon Lloyd over Allen Hurns (28-point differential).
If I went 7-6 instead of 5-8, I would have won the points tiebreakers and qualified for the playoffs. For a team that is weak a running back and missing four potential top-25 performers from it's lineup, 7-6 wasn't bad for a dynasty team that might have been 9-4 or 10-3 with a healthy core. Of course, there are 3-5 other teams in this league that can also make this claim.
2014 Rookie Draft/Free Agent Acquisitions
Overall, my rookie draft has only yielded one strong return. This is mostly a stash-and-wait crew that I selected, which likely means I won't have 70 percent of these players by the end of 2015. What can I say? My competition reads my work, too. But to be fair to myself, there were only a few players I would have considered over Richardson in hindsight--Tre Mason, Martavis Bryant, and Khalil Mack headline this short list.
- 1.03 - LB C.J. Mosely: The Ravens LB has been the No.9 fantasy LB and No.37 overall player in this league. He's generating early returns for me and I targeted Mosely in multiple dynasty league drafts. A scout I know said Moseley had the highest grade he gave a LB prospect since Patrick Willis.
- 2.03 - WR Paul Richardson Jr: I still like Richardson, but until the Seahawks offensive line can afford Russell Wilson time to throw the ball down field on structure plays, the rookie won't showcase his greatest assets.
- 4.03 - TE Richard Rodgers: I already cut the Packers tight end because I have Gronkowski, Kelce, and Delanie Walker, the No.1, No.6, and No.7 tight ends in this league and I needed room for injury replacements. He might still be available to me during the offseason.
- 5.03 - RB Marion Grice: A quality receiver from the backfield, but might be destined for a role as a career backup in the NFL. He's still on my "monitor/deep add list."
- 6.03 - WR Bruce Ellington: The 49ers coaching staff, an offense, could see significant upheaval in 2015. Ellington has talent, but we'll have to wait and see how the changes shake out.
- 7.03 - WR Albert Wilson: Flashes of ability as a rookie. If he can make a second-year leap in 2015, he could fight for a greater role as a contributor. Unfortunately, Alex Smith is not a prolific fantasy quarterback, so Wilson is really nothing more than a "monitor."
- 8.03 - WR Jeremy Gallon: I'm still optimistic that he finds an opportunity for a camp tryout next year so I'm saving him for deep rosters.
- 9.03 - WR Allen Hurns: I was onto this Cane's potential in September 2013, but I never trusted him in my lineups. He could have carried my team a few times this year, but predicting when was too spotty for me to chance, but once.
My strategy was to take a shot on skill position depth with the hope of finding some players who will develop into starters behind a strong receiving corps and a poor running back depth chart. Fortunately, I'll have the 1.03 and 2.03 for the second consecutive year with a strong RB class in 2015's draft.
Greatest Lesson from 2014: Stick to your dynasy philosophy and stay patient. I'm a believer in having depth at QB, WR, TE, and LB in IDP dynasty leagues and then building off these pieces. Rankings below are based on position, not overall.
- QBs: Wilson (No.4), Brady (No.7), and Cutler (No.8). I will likely shop one of these players in the offseason to address a potential need.
- LBs: Justin Houston (No.1), D'Qwell Jackson (No.7), C.J. Mosely (No.9), Karlos Dansby (No.53 due to inj.), Derrick Johnson (inj.). I feel pretty good about this crew, but Dansby is getting old and Johnson's injury hurts. I might target an LB by trading a one of my QBs.
- TEs: Gronkowski, Walker, and Kelce are three top-10 performers at the position this year and I added Virgil Green as a deep "monitor" option for free agency, because he was known as a pass catcher with Colin Kaepernick at Nevada before he became better known as a blocker with the Broncos in the NFL.
- WRs: Dez Bryant (No.7), Roddy White (No.30), Josh Gordon (suspended), Allen Hurns (No.47) Reggie Wayne (No.48), and Michael Floyd (No.54). Gordon and Floyd hurt this corps a lot in 2014. I need to address this group.
These anchor options aren't as strong as I hoped they would be after this league's second year, but I have a sufficient stockpile at QB and TE to wheel and deal and if you're feeling good at 2-3 of these four positions you have something to build on. If Gordon can keep his head on straight and Floyd puts it all together in 2015 I could also be sound at receiver. My 2014 record, my injuries/suspensions, and my two true weeks of lineup mistakes have me optimistic that I just have to keep building with an emphasis on getting strong at all four positions. LB and WR aren't that far away and one excellent RB or DE could also shore up any small weaknesses in my starting lineup.
- Format: Dynasty Full IDP
- Scoring Highlights: PPR/1.5 PPR for TE.
- Lineups: 1 QB, 1-2 RB, 3 WR, 1-2 TE, 1 PK, 1-2 DT, 2 DE, 3-4 LB, 2 CB, 2 S
- 2014 Record: 6-7 last place in four-team division of 16-team league.
- 2014 Points: 10th out of 16 teams.
- 2013 Record: 3-10.
This is probably the worst job I have ever done as a dynasty team manager. I grew impatient with a team that was on the verge of not only the playoffs, but huge things, and blew it up. I traded away Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch, Steve Smith, Antonio Gates, and Von Miller a few years ago and bottomed out at 3-10 last year.
However, I think my nuclear winter is on the verge of ending. There's a lot of promise on this roster and if Prince Amukamara, Marvin Jones Jr, and Patrick Willis can return to form in 2015, I should contend after a few years of rough sledding, but it's an optimistic outlook. A more realistic outlook is that I have young talent, but I need a lot more quality depth to compete in this league. It means I'm probably another 3-4 years away from building a solid contender and I still have a lot of work to do.
2014 Rookie Draft: I executed a good drat plan that has a chance to become a pretty masterful one if not for Jene Bramel and not trusting my analysis, With the third overall pick in a league where my league mates go nuts for tight ends, I parlayed Eric Ebron--a player I think can be a decent option, but an overrated commodity based on sound logic about the Lions' personnel and scheme, but not Ebron as a worker--into extra picks that netted me C.J. Mosely and Paul Richardson Jr.
I gave up my 2015 1st round pick for 2.03 (Johnny Manziel) and 2.10 (Martavis Bryant), which if one of them works out as I anticipate, it's no worse than an even deal. My original plan was to take Teddy Bridgewater at 2.03, but Jene Bramel took him one spot ahead of me. I'm sure Jene would have done me a solid and worked a deal with me, but I opted to take my chances on Manziel and let it be.
I then turned around and gave up my 2014 3.03 and 4.12 to Aaron Rudnicki for 2.14. Rudnicki took Lache Seastrunk and Brandon Coleman with those picks, while seriously contemplated Isaiah Crowell, but opted for the seemingly safer route of Ka'Deem Carey. I'm still hopeful about Carey, but Crowell was worth the risk and whenever I comment, "I'll play it safe," which I did at my draft, I'm rarely happy with the end result.
Core Pieces Checkup
- QB: Russell Wilson (No.7 QB/No.7 overall) puts me in good shape with my starter. I traded away Carson Palmer and Joique Bell for what will be a low second-round pick, Brian Hoyer, and Tahir Whitehead. I still need a backup, but Manziel offers me fantasy upside similar to Wilson right now. I may invest in another quarterback soon so I can stockpile depth.
- WR: T.Y. Hilton (No.5 WR/No.17 overall) is my only starter-caliber WR from wire-to-wire this year. Marvin Jones Jr had a good shot to become a fine WR2 before the foot injury. Martavis Bryant (No.19 since Week 7) has been consistent for a rookie big-play option. I still need help at this position despte nabbing Allen Hurns late. If Jones rebounds, Hurns (and the Jags offensive line and QB) can take another step forward, and the Seattle offensive line helps the vertical passing game (Richardson), I could be a lot stronger in 2015. It's too many "ifs" for me to sit tight, but I might not be able to acquire a quality rookie in this year's draft. I may have to stockpile depth at another position to solidify this core.
- TE: Travis Kelce (No.10) and Dwayne Allen (No.16 despite missing 3 weeks this year) have the potential to be top-5 options at their position, but the current scheme and personnel holds them back. Dion Sims could become a top-15 option at tight end if the Dolphins part with Charles Clay next year, which I think they will. This unit should only mature into one of the better cores in our league.
- LB: C.J. Mosely (No.5) is my only wire-to-wire starter this year at the position. However, Patrick Willis (No.25 through Week 5) and Vontaze Burfict (various head and neck injuries) put a huge dent in this depth chart's performance. Unfortunately, I've made the mistake of taking defensive ends who have been converted to outside linebackers in recent years, including Derrick Morgan, Brandon Graham, and Melvin Ingram III. I need to address this position and pray for at least two of these three to get a shot with a 4-3 scheme sooner than later.
Greatest Lessons With This Team: Know your strengths and play to them, or be patient and persistent about changing your style until you master it. My strengths are acquiring talent and staying patient and in this league I tried to time the market and play fantasy football like Sigmund Bloom. That's not my strength. I'm confident that I could learn to time the market better with more experience, but I think trades of premium--even aging premium players--is rarely a winning proposition.
This team contends the past two years if it has Manning (No.2), Gates (No.5), Lynch (No.4), Miller (No.29), and Smith (No.16)--all players that I drafted when we started this league. Lesson learned.
I've also suffered from taking defensive backs (Ingram, Graham, and Morgan) who morphed into mediocre fantasy LBs. I still have hope for Ingram because the Chargers are moving him around the formation and allowing him to be a destructive hybrid. Ingram had 5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, an assist, a pass defense, and a sack against New England Sunday night and looked like the player I saw at South Carolina (he did similar in Week 2 before getting hurt). However, I need to do better research on defensive ends as they enter the league or place a high priority on early picks at the position who are safer bets.
- Format: Dynasty
- Scoring Highlights: PPR
- Lineups: 1 QB, 1-5 RB, 1-5 WR, 1-5 TE, 1 DEF
- 2014 Record: 3-9
- 2014 Points: 10th out of 12 teams.
- 2013 Record: 3-9.
I was 10-5 in 2012, but I had mortgaged my future draft picks and invested in players that got hurt and never fulfilled their promise (Vincent Brown, David Wilson, and possibly Marvin Jones Jr), went to jail (Aaron Hernandez), and got suspended (Ray Rice). This will be the first season in four years where I actually have draft picks. The only time I've drafted during those years is acquiring late-round picks when I saw a player slip through that I considered promising.
This is a team in transition. Brady, Rivers, and Tannehill are a fine trio of starters, but the option with the best trade value might be the youngest of the three and dealing away Tannehill won't likely get me anywhere long-term. Anderson and Ivory are top-25 talents, this year, but unless Anderson has earned the starting gig as a feature back with his performance over that past five weeks (possible, but not a slam dunk) I lack an RB1 unless Ryan Mathews earns a plum gig as a free agent, and even if that happens I feel safer counting on him as a RB2.
Overall Anderson, Mathews, Brown, Ivory, and possibly one from Stewart, Williams, and Rice might give me a five-RB depth chart that I could field while I address a weak receiver corps that is Steve Smith and a bunch of bench performers lacking a clear path to starter upside. I'm debating whether to go heavy at a specific position in this draft and hope that I hit on 1-2 options. If I do, I'm more likely to go RB in 2015 and hope I build enough depth to trade for other needs. Since these rosters allow really lopsided lineups, it seems like building on a potential strength at RB, WR, or TE trumps shoring up weaknesses.
If my veteran tight ends Gates and Dnaiels can supply me another year of decent starter production and Reed can stay healthy, I could build on one position through the draft and manage a roster with a potential stockpile of talent.
Lesson Learned: I tried to shore up specific problem spots with a 10-5 team two years ago to make a run at the title and the future foreclosed on my roster quick. I'm essentially starting over this year and I will have to take the approach that this is a first-year rebuild.
- Format: Dynasty
- Scoring Highlights: Non-PPR
- Lineups: 1 QB, 1-2 RB, 2-3 WR, 1-2 TE, 1 DEF, 1 College Player on Taxi Squad
- 2014 Record: 5-8
- 2014 Points: 9th out of 12 teams.
- 2013 Record: 7-6.
My greatest mistake this year was not to pick up C.J. Anderson and to hold onto the likes of Jeremy Gallon over keping Stedman Bailey, a player I drafted last year a 2.08. Anderson would have given me more hope for next year and a player worth dealing away, but neither player would have helped me win games that I lost. Injuries to my RBs and A.J. Green cost me a couple of games, at least. Percy Harvin was also a tease all year and a major investment that has not paid off. Still, I feel pretty good about my WR depth. It's the RB depth chart that has turned into a bunch of committee backs that needs revitalization.
I went for WR talent last year If one of Cody Latimer or Paul Richardson Jr work out, I'll have a strong compliement to A.J. Green for the next 3-5 years. My college keeper is Miami RB Duke Johnson, who should at least develop into a competent committee option with bye-week potential. I see him as future RB2. After that, I gambled on players like Maron Grice, Colt Lyerla, and Jeremy Gallon--cheap options with upside in a shallow rookie draft thanks to the college player keeper format that dilutes the draft by 8-12 players every year.
I don't have one yet. Bernard, Bush, and Green all got hurt. They were the players I relied on to lead the way.
- Format: Re-draft
- Scoring Highlights: PPR/1.5 PPR for TE and distance bonuses.
- Lineups: 1 QB, 2-4 RB, 3-5 WR, 1-3 TE, 1 PK, 1 DEF
- 2014 Record: 7-5 (started 2-3, and went 5-2 the final seven weeks)
- 2014 Points: 10th out of 14 teams.
- 2013 Record: 8-6, lost to championship game to John Norton.
This was the most fun league of the year for me of the autopsies. The reason is that I talked trash to Chase Stuart on the air about him waiting on a quarterback and I also took Ladarius Green ahead of Antonio Gates and talked more trash when Chase took Gates and pointed out to me that I picked the backup over the starter. I then tested my limits by blowing my entire waiver wire budget on Josh Gordon at the top of Week 2 and had to piece together a competitive team with free agent funding.
Chase we right about Gates (I should have known, I was the voice of reason last year with Gates when everyone was predicting his demise.) and his 8-5 record was enough to make the playoffs when I missed on a tiebreaker. Chase is also in the second round of the playoffs.
Lesson learned? Even Chase gets his day.
When you see my roster, you'll see why this was an exercise of lineup management with waiver wire dregs supplementing a few studs (and I emphasize a few).
The offensive line in Atlanta blew any chance for Steven Jackson to prove he's not as old as many say. As the recapper for the Falcons' games at Footballguys, I've seen enough to maintain that Jackson has been the best runner in Atlanta this year, but the offensive line hasn't been healthy enough to sustain a ground game. Yes, Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith offered more burst, but neither ran with the maturity or power of Jackson. Those who say that they were confounded by Atlanta's decision to keep Jackson as the lead back were reacting more than analyzing the happenings of the offense.
This team was essentially Manning, Lynch, and Emmanuel Sanders with a bunch of reasonably selected starters week to week. It was a fun challenge, but if I had to do it over again I would have taken my sixth-ranked preseason RB Le'Veon Bell over Peyton Manning and waited on either Cutler or Russell Wilson as I often recommended to re-draft owners this summer.
Lesson Learned: 1) Pay attention to offensive line health. It's vital to both aspects an offense. 2). Good lineup decisions can help you compensate for draft day errors or getting locked out of free agency, but it's a difficult road without having all options available to you. 3) Trash talking is always fun.
Point No.2 is really important. There's nothing wrong with taking a chance, but you're sacrificing a full round of ammunition for a single bullet when you do what I did with Gordon.
RSO Writers League: I'm ahead 144-71 over Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus in the opening round. Clay has Roddy White and Green Bay's defense. I have Matt Bryant. Barring a completely unexpected and fantastic game from White, I should be in the semi finals against my friend Mike MacGregor of Fantasy Throwdown/FF Today who is the postseason's top seeded team.
Game Breakers: I'm ahead 200.8-145.7 against my friend Steve Volk, who took over a bottom-dwellar and earned a playoff berth in his first year of this IDP dynasty league. Volk has Randall Cobb and Mason Crosby left, but will likely need the type of game that I got from A.J. Green (11-224-1 and bonus for an 81-yard score) to win this contest. I'll either face a 13-0 team and top seed or my 9-4 division rival who beat me during the season.
IOP: I'm up 268.77-266.43 against PFF's Ross Miles in a win-and-get-in tiebreaker for a playoff spot because Jene Bramel has the tiebreaker on me for the division despite the fact I beat him during the season. I'll need Julius Peppers to out-point Eddie Lacy and Morgan Burnett on Monday night. It's possible, but my benching of Elvis Dumervil (nearly 50 points) and Fletcher Cox (15 points) will likely cost me a playoff berth.