Friday, May 28, 2010

Fantasy: Should you load up players from one great offensive team?

For years I've tried to write about fantasy football on this blog without actually revealing what I think to my fellow competitors who read this blog. I've finally found the way around this conundrum: an Argument/ Counterargument gimmick, where I write both arguments. I'll do my best with both arguments, and you probably won't know which argument I actually favor. Since I'm writing both arguments, I'll go ahead and ask the question myself.

Question: Should you try to draft a lot of players from the same elite offense, or should you diversify your roster?

Argument: Absolutely.

Let's call it a Juggernaut strategy, and it's probably only feasible in an auction draft.

Here are the top scorers in the Hazelweird scoring (50 pass yards = 1, pass TD = 3, 20 rush/receive yards = 20, rush/receive TD = 6) at QB, RB, TE, three WRs, and K. I'm going to leave out the #2 scoring RB because of the nature of the comparison: unless your juggernaut offense has a two-back system, you're probably only going to start the feature back, and you'll be able to start a different running back in your lineup.

#1 Fantasy Lineup (1,090.21)
QB: Drew Brees (1) (189.76) (2)
RB: Chris Johnson (221.45)
WR: Randy Moss (141.2)
WR: Andre Johnson (3) (132.95)
WR: Larry Fitzgerald (4) (132.6)
TE: Vernon Davis (126.25)
K: Nate Kaeding (146)

Let's just compare this #1 Fantasy Lineup to the team nearest to our hearts, the 2009 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikes were the #2 scoring team in the league in 2009. I don't think they're actually the top choice for 2010 Juggernauts (the Colts and Packers are probably better), but the title of this blog is "Pacifist Viking."

QB: Brett Favre (183.04)
RB: Adrian Peterson (198.95)
WR: Sidney Rice (113.6)
WR: Percy Harvin (82.25) (5)
WR: Bernard Berrian (54.9)
K: Ryan Longwell (132)

That's over 200 points fewer than the #1 Fantasy Lineup (at seven positions). OK, 200 points is significant, but then again, you're probably not going to compete against anybody who has the the all the top scorers at all of these positions. Still, the place you'd struggle at most is at WR; even a great team's WR2 and WR3 probably aren't going to get as many consistent points as if you picked up WRs elsewhere. Certainly you could just eliminate the WR3 and still go with a Juggernaut's WR1 and WR2, but I'd actually recommend going Juggernaut with QB, RB, WR1, TE, and K, then fill out your WR2 and WR3 with other WRs. If you do that, here's how the #1 Fantasy Lineup compares to some other Juggernaut options

#1 Fantasy Lineup (QB, RB, WR, TE, K): 824.66

2009 Vikings Lineup: (Favre, Peterson, Rice, Shiancoe, Longwell): 721.89

At the top five fantasy positions, the Minnesota Vikings' Juggernaut would be around points fewer than the optimum fantasy lineup. That's aided by having Favre (very close to #1 QB) and Peterson (#2 RB), but strip away those underproducing WR2 and WR3 positions, and you've got a pretty good lineup. It's also a much easier lineup to obtain (in an auction) than the #1 Fantasy Lineup.

Hey now: a 2009 Viking Juggernaut lineup of QB, RB, WR1, TE, and K is 102.77 points short of the highest possible 2009 score at those positions. Spread that out over 16 weeks, and you're just 6.4 points short of an optimum score. 6.4 points per week is a lot--but not when you're comparing a plausible fantasy lineup to a fantasy lineup consisting of the #1 scorer at each of these positions.

The key to making this strategy is to get a good RB2, WR2, and WR3. You're not just getting the Juggernaut's points: if you're smart and lucky, you can supplement your Juggernaut with legitimate fantasy starter production at the other positions. Considering the cost of a Juggernaut lineup, I think you could still fill these positions with quality fantasy starters. If your Juggernaut is pricey, I still wouldn't worry: there are always good fantasy producers that emerge that were cheap in the auction draft (think Ray Rice), or that you can find on the waiver wire (think NYG Steve Smith).

But why would you want to go with the Juggernaut strategy? Aside from the obvious desire to draft high-scoring players, why load up on one team?

Consistency. Sometimes a team's QB throws multiple TDs and the RB gets zero; sometimes the RB scores multiple TDs and the QB gets zero. Get a good Juggernaut, and you won't have to worry about getting skunked too often.

Hoarding. If you have, say, Philip Rivers, but your opponent has Vincent Jackson, Rivers throwing a TD to Jackson actually hurts you.

Affordability. I think you could get the QB, RB, WR1, TE, and K from a Juggernaut for cheaper than you could get the #1, QB, #1 RB, #1 WR, #1 TE, and #1 K.(6) Indeed, in most auction drafts you would be unable to get the #1 player at each position.

(1)This was remarkably close: three other QBs also scored over 180: Peyton Manning (189), Brett Favre (183.04), and Matt Schaub (182.4).
(2)For the sake of fantasy football planning, I exclude a QB's rushing stats (for a couple reasons); if I did include them, Aaron Rodgers' 316 yards, 5 touchdowns rushing would propel him to #1.
(3) With two straight 1,500 yard seasons, he's rightly regarded as the top WR in yardage-heavy leagues. But take note: his next 10 TD season will be his first.
(4) Right behind these three? Miles Austin (131.9).
(5) I excluded Harvin's return TDs, only because I excluded QB rush numbers. Normally I wouldn't: the special teams threat of Percy Harvin, or DeSean Jackson, counts for me slightly more than a QB's rushing potential.
(6) Granted, in 2009 Chris Johnson would have been affordable and Vernon Davis dirt cheap.

Counterargument: Too much goes wrong

Last season in the Hazelweird League, I had Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Austin Collie. After week 15, I was 70-50 in the cross-country standings, one game out of first place, and I led the league in points scored. Then the Colts, having clinched the AFC's #1 seed, rested their starters. I went 6-10 in the last two weeks, and ended up in second place, eight games out of first place of the Hazelweird Trophy standings (I also missed out on scoring the most points in the league--AP recognition--by just three points).

After 2007, it might have looked wise to stock up on Patriots, who had just finished the highest scoring season ever. As you know, Tom Brady was injured in week one: the 2008 Patriots were still a good offense, but was any Patriot drafted that season worth the price paid? Brady got nothing, Wes Welker scored three touchdowns, Randy Moss followed up 1,493-23 with 1,008-11, and no RB had more than 727 yards rushing. If you spent the massive amount it would take to stock up on Patriots, you probably had a lousy fantasy season.

It doesn't even take an injury or an early-clinching-thus-rest situation to doom your fantasy team if it is reliant on one offense. Even elite offenses have a bad week, and one bad week can really ruin your season. In head-to-head standings (as stupid as head-to-head standings are), that one bad week could come in the playoffs. If you were loaded up on 2007 Patriots, you were probably dominating your league. And if you played with a playoff system, you probably didn't win your league: the Pats played week 15 in cold and windy conditions, and managed one offensive touchdown (from Laurence Maroney!).

Furthermore, we have the problem of prediction: the 2010 Vikings are not the 2009 Vikings. Sure, that's the nature of fantasy football: we're all guessing at who will be good in year n+1 based on year n numbers. But few drafters hit on every pick: you have some hits and misses. That's fine: if your hits are really good and you are smart in trades and free agency, you can cover your misses. But if you draft a Juggernaut team strategy, you've only got one chance for a hit: if your Juggernaut misses, you've got nothing to cover it. It's an all-or-nothing fantasy strategy.

And even if that Juggernaut is a hit, there's still the problem of breadth: say the QB, TE, K, and WR1 produce elite numbers. A Juggernaut offense could still have a RB that scores few TDs. So you're getting elite production from some positions, but getting duds at other positions. If you had diversified your lineup, those weak positions on your roster might not be weak positions.

You want one more big problem with a Juggernaut philosophy? Bye week. Prepare to suck. If you think you can withstand that awful bye week score, go for it.

A plausible alternative is a QB-RB Juggernaut Combo--get the QB and feature RB from the same dominant offense. If the #1 plausible combo is Drew Brees/Chris Johnson (411.21)*, how about Favre/Peterson (381.99)? There's your consistency: basically, if the #2 scoring offense scores a touchdown, you're probably getting points. If you want to add Ryan Longwell, you're getting points when the Vikings score points, and they score a lot of points. While that's nice, I still wouldn't go out of my way to secure a QB-RB Juggernaut Combo: the goal is to get the most points, and it doesn't really matter what team those players are on.

Look, it's fun to get kinky and think of clever ways to draft a unique team: during summer. When draft time comes, just draft the best players you can. Don't worry about bulking up with one Juggernaut team.

*Though I wouldn't exclude a QB's rushing numbers as the Argument did: Aaron Rodgers can probably be relied upon for a couple hundred rushing yards and a few rushing TDs: why exclude that? But in the Counterargument, I'll keep the terms of the Argument.


  1. I use something of a modified Juggernaut system by picking multiple members from two top offenses. That gets me past the bye week problem. And it lets me play a bit of matchup chess from week to week. Not foolproof but it's given me some success.

  2. I hope the problem last season, I hope to many Viking offensive players on my team last season(Favre,Rice, and Shanks). Sure it was nice to have them but it sure did hurt with the bye and the game(s) the offense did not perform very well. That sure did tech me a lesson.