Ian Allan's Mailbag
Posted Aug. 28 at 06:17 AM
Publisher Ian Allan fields your questions on strategy, how to run your league, player ratings -- and whatever else you think of. Updated every Friday during the season; Tuesdays and Fridays during the last two months of the preseason. You must be registered and signed-in to submit a mailbag question. After you sign in at the top of the page, the link to submit a mailbag question will become visible.
In regards to fantasy football, why is the 'Strength of Schedule' so important? The SOS is based on a team's Offense and Defense. Since a fantasy football roster is 99 percent offensive players, the SOS is misleading. How about a defense-only SOS ?
Mark Glaspie [San Angelo, TX]
I’ve spent more time analyzing strength of schedule, I think, than anybody. I’ve got a big database with all of the teams since the early ‘90s. Expected strength of schedule. Actual strength of schedule. Strength of schedule based on rushing, passing, points allowed. And how all of those teams did in the seasons before and the seasons after. I’ve spent substantial time looking into this issue. And my findings, in short, are that strength of schedule is far more meaningful when you look at wins and losses, rather than quality of defenses. I can not fully explain why this is the case, but I have looked at over 500 teams, and that’s what the numbers show. And what we tend to look at is a change of about 10 percent. If a team has a hard schedule, that tends to result in about 10 percent fewer touchdowns and fewer points. If you play one of the really easy schedules, then up things by about 10 percent. Is this the case for every team? No. Absolutely not. But that’s what tends to happen. And with that in mind, I’m intrigued by this year’s Steelers. They had a really hard schedule last year, perhaps holding down their offensive production by about 10 percent. Now they’ve got a really easy one. So in this case, they could get a scheduling boost of about 20 percent. That’s one of the reasons I think Pittsburgh might score about 10 more touchdowns this year.
I see you advising people to draft premium wideouts and quarterbacks after the top 4 running backs are gone. I can't argue with that, but I'm in a league where that strategy could backfire. The draft is insanely RB heavy early – wait too long and you need to draft another Matt Forte and Steve Slaton to go with the one decent back you were able to grab in the 4th round. I don't see many flex position format questions. Do you think the flex format should influence your draft strategy in a PPR scoring system? Typically, with mid-to-lower echelon players the RBs are more reliable.
Donald DeKeyser [GREEN BAY, WI]
If everyone else in your league is wrong, does it make sense to get in line and also be wrong? That’s ridiculous. If you had choice 1.12 and the first 11 guys drafted tight ends, would you then choose a tight end? This is no different. I’ve run the numbers. I’ve also field-tested this strategy. The idea that you must take a running back in the first round is simply wrong – more so in a PPR format than any other. Go luck at the standings for the 2008 Fanex Experts League.In that league, all of the other owners selected running backs in the first round; I concentrated on wide receivers – Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson – and flat-out crushed all of those teams (there’s more separation between my team and No. 2 than between the next nine team). I used a similar approach to win the same league the year before – again, not really even close. And the Fanex head-to-head league last season. And a similar strategy to field a very good team in the 2007 Fanex head-to-head league (that team went 11-3 but lost in the playoffs). The strength of all four of those teams were their deep and productive receiving corps. In a PPR format, where you get a point every time a player gets the ball in his hands, it’s crucial to get a bunch of those receivers who are going to catch 85-plus passes and 9-plus TDs. There just aren’t that many of those guys to go around. And I disagree with your theory that mid-to-lower tier running backs are more reliable than wide receivers. I’d rather have a pass-catcher in that flex spot. Run the numbers – they’re a lot better. They’re also much safer bets to stay healthy and in the lineup. As for who’ll play running back if you don’t take a running back in the first, second or third rounds, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. In the Fanex head-to-head league this year, my running backs are Ray Rice (4.11), Cedric Benson (5.02), LenDale White (6.03) and Leon Washington (9.02) – I’ll be fine with those guys. And I imagine I’ll bolster that position with a waiver pickup during the season. In the Fanex traditional league, I drafted Reggie Bush (3.11), LenDale White (5.11), Cedric Benson (6.02), Ray Rice (8.02), Leon Washington (9.11) and Ahmad Bradshaw (12.10) – my only regret there was selecting Bush in the late third round rather than another wide receiver. No reason to reach for running backs – I don’t care what the other guys in the league are doing.
I'm in a 12-team league that does an auction format. Last year I used the custom auction values chart based on draft info from our leagues ’07 draft. The bidding for the top-tiered QBs, RBs and WRs went well above what the CAV suggested based on my leagues history and scoring. After doing again today I believe the same thing will happen again this Saturday at our draft. Tom Brady is the No. 1 overall and the CAV has him going for $44. If he goes for under $60 I will be shocked. I'm thinking a good strategy might be to sacrifice $50 of my $200 cap on a stud QB or RB. Then sit back and wait for the bargains later on. Would you agree?
Scott DENHAM [MILLBROOK, AL]
Not at all. I don’t overpay for guys. Spending $50 on a player who’s worth only $44 is the auction-league equivalent of saying, “Everyone else is drafting running backs in the first round – I better draft a running back in the first round.” Set your prices for all of the players. You can use your auction info from the last few years to help. I’m guessing that you’ll probably define the No. 15ish QB as being worth $1, and go about 35 deep at both running back and wide receiver (a few more at wide receiver if you start three). Maybe eight tight ends, four-five defenses and one-two kickers. At that point, through the magic of the website, you are presented with exact values for every player. That’s what the players are worth. I don’t particularly care what the yahoos in your league are bidding – I’m guessing the vast majority of those guys aren’t adequately prepared. If they want to vastly overpay for the top 20 players on the board, that’s their problem – you will then assemble a deep team that’s solid at every position. If they hold back too much in the early bidding, then you’ll get more than your fair share of stars. Remember, with the prices you see on your website. Those are not suggested bid prices. They are VALUES. We’re saying (assuming you’ve got the thing set up right) that Brady is worth $44. That’s his fair retail price. So you don't want to buy him for that amount. You should be very hesitant, in fact, to buy anybody for more than 80 percent of their retail price (so for Brady, $35 would be the highest price to pay). If you buy Brady for $44, you’ve merely taken a big step towards having an average team – a team that’s worth $200. Your job is to assemble a team that’s worth more like $300.
OK ... it looks like I won't be able to engineer a trade before the draft, so I need to drop one of the following players: DeAngelo Williams, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Reggie Wayne. Each team starts 2RBs 2WRs, no flex. Standard scoring, no PPR. Is it crazy to hang onto all three RBs even though one of them will sit every week? Or do I keep Wayne and two RBs? I've done very well following your advice over the years, so I'll trust you when you tell me which one to drop.
Geoff Maleman [LOS ANGELES, CA]
Those are three good running backs, but I think you need to find a spot for Reggie Wayne. I read an article this week that illustrates how the Colts to intend to move him around more this season to make it harder for opponents to defend him. Wayne traditionally has lined up only on the left side of formations. Two years ago, when Marvin Harrison was hurt, the Colts moved Wayne around a lot and he had his career-best numbers. With Harrison now gone, the plan is to again move him around. He’s got a good chance to be a top-5 receiver.
I have noticed you refer to the NYG o-line as the first or second best line in the NFL. Have you considered that the presence of Burress helped them out significantly? I remember the media harping on the lack of Jacobs' production after Burress was gone, and that they couldn't seem to open any holes once teams didn't have to gameplan for Burress anymore. After that, the line seemed very average. Contrast that to Minnesota: They produce at a high level even with Chester Taylor in there, and they see a constant 8-man front. Or Jacksonville (minus last year - massive injuries), who see a lot of the same because of a below-average passing game. Maybe the Giants line is overrated? Your thoughts would be appreciated because I am a huge believer in the strength of the o-line.
JEFF FOSTER [CHICO, CA]
I’m familiar with the theory. When Plaxico Burress wasn’t in there, opponents didn’t feel like the needed to double-cover Domenik Hixon; they instead would bring that safety up to help against the run. New York averaged a league-high 30 points per game in its first 11 games last year, averaging a league-high 165 rushing yards. In its next six games, New York averaged only 18 points per game (down 12), and averaged 25 fewer rushing yards per game. But I am not, however, going to give all of the credit to Burress. Look at the schedule. Post-Burress, the Giants had to play Washington, Dallas, Minnesota and Philadelphia twice. All of those teams had real good run defenses. I don’t see the Giants as having an overpowering, historic offensive line – they’re not up there with the Cowboys of the early ‘90s. But it’s a smart, well-coached veteran group. And there’s no worries about New York perhaps bailing on the run. Look at Tom Coughlin’s coaching record. His last five teams have all ranked in the top 11 in rushing. In Jacksonville, four of his last five teams ranked in the top 10 in rushing. Rushing TDs by Coughlin’s last 12 teams – 20, 19, 20, 18, 11, 19, 9, 18, 23, 18, 17. That’s over 16 rushing touchdowns in all but two of those years. I will gladly, therefore, take Brandon Jacobs on my team. Would love to have Ahmad Bradshaw as well.
In the Magazine you have Andre Johnson 5th in your WR rankings. The reason you give is that Houston averaged 245 yards/game in 2007 and that seems like a more realistic number for them this year. On top of that, you pencil Johnson in for 85 yards a game even though he average 97 two years ago when the team only hit 245 yards/game. This seems like pretty sketchy logic to me. Don't you think the increase in yards per game last year can be attributed to the arrival of Steve Slaton? He provided receiving yards out of the backfield and a legitimate ground game. Is there any reason to think he won't do that again? I'm assuming you have a more detailed reason why you think Houston will drop to 245/yards a game than you put in the magazine, if so, could you elaborate?
David Grace [TARZANA, CA]
280 is a big number. Over the last 10 years, only 17 teams have averaged 280 or more passing yards per game. That’s out of 317 possible teams. Let’s look at the last 20 years. In that time span, 46 teams have averaged between 270 and 290 passing yards per game. The following year, only seven of those teams averaged 280-plus yards. On average, those teams fell by 23 passing yards the following game. Nothing against the Texans. They’ve got some good players. But I just don’t think you assume they’re going to crank out those kind of numbers again. The same logic holds for teams like the Saints and Cardinals.
What impact do you think Vick will have on the value of Kevin Kolb? Will he become the backup or will he just be a novelty/Wildcat type player?
Eric Schmit [KEIZER, OR]
I’m not a big fan of Michael Vick’s. As I’ve pointed out a couple of times, if you compare him with all of the other quarterbacks who’ve started at least half of the time over the last five years, he ranks last in completion percentage and last in passing yards per game. I’m not sure that he has the requisite accuracy and decision-making ability – plus there’s the considerable rust. If you’d asked me this question a week ago, I’d probably have guessed that Kolb would move into Philadelphia’s lineup if Donovan McNabb got hurt. And maybe that’s the way it will go down. But Vick played briefly last night against Jacksonville, and on his only true passing attempt, he threw an absolute laser to Hank Baskett. It was accurate, and it was a real bullet. Maybe he’s getting better coaching, maybe he’s just working harder as he tries to get his career back on track, but it left me wondering if Vick is going to be a whole bunch better a year from now than he ever was with Atlanta. If McNabb gets hurt in November or December, I believe it will be Vick, not Kolb, who becomes the team’s starting quarterback.
I know that you are hesitant to offer much keeper list advice due to the many different rules for each individual league. However, I was wondering if you could give me a top 35. You can keep any number of players forever.
Joe Cartan [SAN FRANCISCO, CA]
I’ll go with Knowshon Moreno as the top rookie. Not a lot of difference between the other rookie running backs. Donald Brown is my No. 2 (he’ll catch a lot more passes than the other contenders), followed by Beanie Wells, Shonn Greene and LeSean McCoy. Bernard Scott (Cincinnati) has looked very good. He’d be my No. 6 running back, though my hunch is he’ll outproduce some of those more-heralded guys. Mike Goodson (Carolina) is the only other rookie running back who comes to mind. … At wide receiver, I still don’t see much difference between the guys selected in the first round. They’re almost interchangeable. For now, I’d go with Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin as almost co-No. 1s, followed by (in order) Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt and Michael Crabtree. … At quarterback, I see little difference between Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford. And Josh Freeman, actually, might be right with those guys. Maybe not as polished as a thrower, but he looks like he’s going to make a big impact as a runner. Could be another Daunte Culpepper – and they’ve got some decent talent around him down there. … At tight end, I’m not a big fan of Brandon Pettigrew. Nice enough talent, I just don’t see him putting up big numbers. Jared Cook of the Titans definitely has skills as a receiver; I’ll move him up to No. 2 at the position.
In the magazine you mentioned that you thought RBs 2-6 were about interchangeable. Well I landed pick 6 in a standard scoring system (no PPR, 4-pt pass TD). I am 99.9% certain that AP, Turner, MJD, and Forte will be gone. Do you still feel that way about the first six RBs? I've had Steven Jackson two years in a row and am very gun shy about selecting him again due to injury history and what looks to be a lesser passing game to support him. If DeAngelo is also gone, should I focus on Randy Moss?
NICK FRITZ [MINNEAPOLIS, MN]
DeAngelo Williams, I think, is right in there with those running backs. He’s definitely a possibility (he’s No. 1, in fact, on the board we sent out yesterday). And I think Moss is also part of that group of players. This is not a year where there’s a clear-cut player to take at No. 1 overall. In an auction-type format, there should be little difference between those seven players.
I'm in a new 12-team league and was looking at last year’s top-10 most points scored. 6 of the 10 were QBs. I just missed out on Matt Schaub and ended up with Flacco and Favre. I have a fellow player who needs WRs, and I think I can get McNabb for Ochocinco. We start 3 WRs and mine are Randy Moss, Anthony Gonzalez, Ochocinco, Josh Morgan, Chris Henry, Earl Bennett, and James Jones. I'm not sure I feel comfortable trading Ochocinco, even though I'm not sure how good of a year he'll have, because we start 3.
JOHN RUPPE [FORT MYERS, FL]
You don’t want to look at OVERALL points. Heck, if you look at overall points, you might wind up drafting a kicker in the first or second round. You want to look at separation. How much value does a player add to your team – by outproducing what you might otherwise have at that position. You’re in a league requiring three starting wide receivers. You’ve got three really good ones – Moss, Gonzalez and Ochocinco. You’ve got two other sleeper-types who might help you out – Morgan and Bennett – and then the two flyers who maybe might turn into something (Henry and Jones). You do not, in my opinion, have enough talent to move Ochocinco. You’d be helping yourself at quarterback, but you’d just be creating a problem at wide receiver.
I am in a keeper, PPR, 10 man league with QB RB RB WR WR WR/TE WR/RB K DEF. I was debating between A. Johnson, Steve Slaton and Matt Forte, but had pretty much decided on Johnson. The keepers were just released and they are almost all RB except for Larry Fitzgerald (MJD, LT, S.Jackson, M.Turner, A.Peterson, Chris Johnson and C.Portis). Do you think this strengthens the argument for A.Johnson or does this make my RBs even more valuable because they are going to be more scarce.
Brian Thune [COSTA MESA, CA]
I’ll go with Johnson. Since Gary Kubiak became the coach there, Johnson has caught 278 passes in 41 games. That works out to about 108 catches per 16 games. You’re in a PPR format. You’re also in a league where you start more receivers than running backs. Now do you change your wind because some dummy in your league is protecting Clinton Portis? I don’t think so.
How about a page or two in next years magazine discussing team coaching philosophies? Or in the event of new coaches, what the style of play will likely be.
alex snow [cleve, OH]
A solid suggestion. It’s one that gets kicked around every year or so. My only worry is that it might cause too much repetition of the same info. In the case of Greg Knapp taking over Seattle’s offense, for example, we outline in the team intro how he’s going to run the ball more than Mike Holmgren ever did. How all eight of Knapp’s offenses have ranked in the top 10 in rushing, while Holmgren’s offenses over the last three years have scored a league-high 73 percent of their touchdowns on pass plays. Then, this same information is repeated or alluded to every time we discuss Matt Hasselbeck, Julius Jones, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson. And all of those players are analyzed not only in the Seattle team story, but also individually in the positional features in the front half of the book. It might become too repetitive to then dip back into those same kinds of trends and observations in a coaching profile.
As of August 24, 2009, you have projected J. Stewart to play 14 games. Given that Stewart has not practiced for at least 2 weeks, do you see any reason to downgrade him and upgrade Mike Goodson?
Farhan Hassan [SAINT PAUL, MN]
I have downgraded Stewart. A month ago, I had him up at 16 games. That’s why he’s moved down on my board. One of the reasons Stewart isn't lower is that he's slotted strictly for a change-of-pace role -- as a guy who'll get about a third of the rushing production there. If DeAngelo Williams were to get hurt, Stewart could become a primary back there, putting up big, big numbers.
Am joining a new league this year. 12 teams and I am the only new player. It's a keeper league that keeps one player. What is the fairest way for me to get a team? They are voting on whether I keep a player like them and get 12th pick or I get first pick but don’t keep a player. I obviously want to keep someone and pick last that way I don’t start off the year down a top player. Any suggestions or other ways we could do it fairly?
Daniel Barnes [Milton, DE]
You are assuming ownership of an existing franchise, right? I would treat your franchise just like the other 11 in the league. You take over the roster that’s in place, take last year’s win-loss record and go from there.
I love Ray Rice this year as do the F.I. cheat sheet updates. In two drafts so far, I have had the tough choice of choosing between Kevin Smith and Ray Rice for my #2 RB (in late 5th or early 6th rounds). Which way would you go in non-PPR leagues and PPR leagues?
RYAN RENSHAW [WILLIAMSTOWN, NJ]
In the PPR format, I like Rice. In the other, they’re pretty much interchangeable. I suppose one could argue that it would then make more sense to select Smith, since Rice would have a better chance of being available in the next round.
I would like to ask your opinion on this potential trade. I would send M Barber & T Choice for Andre Johnson. My RBs on my roster currently are as follows: MJD, M Barber, T Choice, R Rice, and Addai & Brown. My WRs are Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Lee Evans, and D Mason. This is a point per reception league.
JOHN SHELBROCK [FRANKENMUTH, MI]
Point per reception league? Sold. Johnson.
Long-time subscriber and reader of FFI. We are having our draft auction this Saturday. I never bid more than a $1 on any kicker. I also hate to waste cap space on TEs and Defenses. I'm looking for a bargain at these positions. Which TEs and Ds do you think might surprise everyone this fall?
Scott DENHAM [MILLBROOK, AL]
At tight end, I like Brent Celek. At defense, you might be able to get the Jets, Patriots or Chargers for a buck, depending on the spending habits of your colleagues. I’m just completing an auction and failed on all three of those defenses for $1 – had to take Miami instead.
I'm always looking for advantages later on in the season that will help me win in the playoffs, so I was wondering who are the must have players for weeks 14-16. thanks, Jason from Minnesota
I fielded a very similar question in the mailbag that was posted Monday. See Question #2 of that mailbag.
Question 1: In regards to fantasy football,...
Posted by ERIC FEINGOLD | Aug. 31 at 01:34 AM
have pick 6 in a 12 team snake draft. Would rather pick later (10-12), but seems i have to give up a pick to move down...rather than get something back (was shooting for a 5th). Does this make any sense.
Question 1: In regards to fantasy football,...
Posted by BEN HOGEVOLL | Aug. 31 at 02:52 AM
Ian Im a little confused on your Aug 31 yardage TD draft list.The wr rankings are different on the regular print vs the large print.Am i missing something?At my age,I need the large print and reading glasses just to servive.Thanks Ben
Question 3: I'm in a 12-team league...
Posted by JAMES FARES | Aug. 29 at 12:29 AM
This is exactly why I subscribe to this service. Ian is a straight shooter. No fluff or cuddling. Great job and thanks for the insight. I will be utilizing this information in an attempt to repeat as champion in my league. I love advice like this...second to none!
Question 3: I'm in a 12-team league...
Posted by DAVE AMSBAUGH | Aug. 29 at 11:47 PM
I tried the "no more than 80%" rule one year. I missed out on all to 10 RBs, the top 6 QBs, and top 8 WRs. True, I had a pretty solid team from top to bottom, but you have to remember that half of your team sits on your bench every week. So while most teams had a mix of studs and cheap flyers, the studs were starting and outscoring my middle of the road guys. Since then I've adjusted my strategy to not OVERPAY, but am willing to pay my top price for top 5 guys. I still find bargains and have done very well using this strategy (AND Ian's cheat sheet, of course!).
Question 7: What impact do you think...
Posted by ROBERT HARRIS | Aug. 29 at 12:49 AM
the play of Matt Leinart last night will have on his chances of supplanting Kurt Warner as the starter in Arizona? With the play of Warner this preseason being what is has been, 0 TDs, is that making the decision for Coach Whisenhunt that much easier to replace Kurt Warner?
Question 16: I would like to ask...
Posted by PHIL SCARCELLA | Aug. 31 at 02:22 AM
I am in a 12 team - non keeper - PPR league - its deep and we start too many but...all tds worth 6 pts - including QBs - we start QB - 3 rbs and 4 wrs/tes. I am suppose to pick 4th ( I am pretty sure I can get Forte there ) or switch back to the 9th spot - which would you choose ? and why ?
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