Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jeremy’s Spoken: Mid-Season Strategy: Redraft Leagues

It’s week 8 in the NFL which means it’s the midpoint of the season. For fantasy footballers in redraft leagues that means it’s time to take stock of your team and either gear up for the stretch run or begin to focus on your fantasy basketball league. In this edition of Jeremy’s Spoken we’ll provide some tips for evaluating your team for the rest of the season and tactics to help you prepare for the playoffs. We’re going to focus on redraft leagues. Next week we’ll look at keeper leagues which is a more complex task.

Where do you stand?

Obviously the standings play a major role here in determining your strategy for the rest of the season. If you’re 7-0 you can probably write your ticket to the playoffs. If you’re 0-7, you probably have little chance to do much except for the occasional fluke week.

But records can be deceiving. You need to thoroughly examine your roster with the next 9 weeks in mind. Are you off to a bad start but have Andre Johnson and Selvin Young on your roster? You’re in better shape than you think. Or perhaps you’re off to a great start but that was driven by Travis Henry and Ronnie Brown. You’ll be in a lot of trouble come playoff time.

When assessing your team, try to forget about the past 7 weeks. Sure, you can use performance to get a good idea of how well your players will do during the rest of the season. But schedule differences, injuries, and just plain luck also play a huge role in determining how much success you’ll have.

After considering all of these factors, you’ll want to come up with a rough estimate of how much risk you’re going to need to take on to have a chance of winning the championship.

Lowering Your Risk

If you’re 7-0 or 6-1 and relatively healthy, you’ll want to lower your risk. This may mean that no trades are needed but not necessarily. It could mean making small deals to protect yourself or scanning the waiver wire for backups to your studs. For example, suppose you have LaDanian Tomlinson but someone else has Michael Turner. In a redraft league, Turner’s value is nonexistent unless LT2 gets injured. However, if that were to occur, you’d surely be in big trouble. If you’re strong at WR, offer a backup from your team for Turner.

Increasing Your Risk

If you’ve had a poor season to date or had to deal with major injuries, your prospects may not look so good for the remainder of the year. You have nothing to lose by taking on risk and trying to gamble a bit more than your competitors.

A good example would be to trade for Travis Henry. In all likelihood he will not play during the fantasy playoffs which probably has his owner very worried. You should be able to swing a reasonable trade for him. If he ends up being suspended, well, you likely weren’t going to do well anyway. If not, you’ve made out like a bandit. You can follow a similar strategy with injured players (i.e. trade for Ben Watson, David Garrard, Andre Johnson).

Deal from a Strength

Think about what your starting lineup will look like during the playoff weeks. You might have your 2 or 3 starting RB set but might be planning on playing both of your QBs based on matchups. Anyone that is not in your plans for the playoffs should be trade bait unless you have a specific reason to keep them (i.e. keeping a backup RB as a handcuff). Try to offer these players along with your weakest starters for upgrades at those weak positions. Focus your trading efforts with teams that have a need at a position where you are strong.

My friend Adam is in a league where you have to roster 2 QB, 4 RB, 4 WR, 2 TE, 2 K, and 2 DST. He has Kellen Winslow and Heath Miller, both starting-caliber tight ends. With both having passed their bye weeks and only needing to start 1 each week, he is in position to deal one of them for RB help, where has only Kenny Watson and Michael Bennett.

Examine the Schedule

The NFL schedule during the fantasy playoffs can play a huge role in the outcome of your season. The guys at Football Outsiders just did a similar exercise. Their Buy Low, Sell High column from October 24th outlines a few players to buy or sell based on their matchups the rest of the way. Trade for players with favorable schedules and deal those with unfavorable matchups. Strength of schedule is usually a very underutilized piece of information in evaluating future performance.

Jeremy Mittler, M.B.A., is a Strategy and Statistical Expert at His column, Jeremy's Spoken, appears on Thursdays at SportsJudge Blog.

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