Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fantasy College Football Year In Review

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Just like my beloved Tigers, the season came to an end on Saturday. But, unlike the Tigers, I managed to come away with a win. I know I haven't posted some updates in awhile. I just figured yall didn't care. But, I won. So I feel like gloating a little bit. 

Naturally I have received a lot of ribbing about winning while being the league commissioner. But, most of it is light hearted and several members of my 20-man league (whoops...that doesn't include my wife) 19 man and 1 woman league that is...have asked about how I won. I don't think they are surprised that I won as much as managing to go 9-1 going into the playoffs in this league, and 10-2 in my SEC-only league.  

The SEC-only league is fairly easy to explain. I drafted Auburn's Marshall and Artis-Payne while being anchored at WR by Missouri's Bud Sasser. 

But, in our Victorious Sekrit leagues, there were definitely some tricks to winning. 

Let's take a look at the statistics:

Fantasy Points
  • I scored 1541, which was good for 1st place. 
  • I had only 925 points again, which was the least scored on in the league, which certainly helped

  • I had the overall best offensive unit
  • I led the league is passing yards with almost 4,500. 
  • I was 9th in the league in passing TDs with 31
  • I was tied for the 7th fewest INTs with 10 (of those 10,  I believe Bo Wallace had 6 in his first two games)
  • I was 19th out of 20th in receiving yards. That's right. Next to dead last. 
  • I was 10th in receiving TDs. 
  • I was 1st in the league in rushing yards with almost 6,000 yards. Only 3 other teams eclipsed 5,000 yards.
  • I was 1st in rushing TDs with 76,which was 17 more than the nearest team. 
  • I was tied for 11th with 10 fumbles lost. 
  • I was tired for last in kick returns for TDs with a fat zero. That would be players, not my DST. 
  • I was tied for 3rd overall
  • I had 23 field goals, which was tied for 2nd place. 
  • I had 54 extra points, which was 9th. 
  • I scored 4th overall in DST
  • My defense allowed 281 points, which was 12th 
  • I had 3 defensive TDs, tied for 6th
  • I had 26 takeaways, good for 4th place
The trick to winning was a combination of things which included critical trades, understanding the scoring system, monitoring the stats weekly, and taking advantage of matchups.  I won't go into the weekly decisions, but will instead give you some broad strokes. 

The Draft
Though there are 120 teams with 85 players that we could draft, so there are some things to understand. There are only so many dead-lock players. In each position group, there are about 5 guys across the country that are can't miss guys. Even then, some get hurt. Look no further than Braxton Miller. So, the chances of you actually drafting one of these guys is slim. If you are the middle of the draft, you either have to settle on mid-grade guys, burn draft picks early for positions, or come up with some other strategy. 

My game plan was to make sure that I drafted players with double-up potential. That is, a near top tier QB with a favorite target. Neither has to be top shelf, but if both are in the top 3rd of the league, you  get a 2:1 advantage in yards and TDs. For example, if your QB throws a 20 yard TD to your WR, you get 1 point for the reception, 2 points for WR yards, 1 point for QB yards, and 12 points for the TD each way. That's an 18 point swing.  I drafted Shane Carden in the first round because I knew he was a lock as a top tier guy, but took Wallace in the 2nd to make sure I had two good QBs. The other reason I took both of these guys was that both have their favorite receiver. Treadwell is (was?) an NFL prospect and Hardy will end the year as ECU's and the Nations leading receiver in catches. Surprisingly, a competitor took Hardy in the 4th round, which is early for WRs. I immediatly snatched Treadwell. To surprise everyone, I then took Evan Engram, the Ole Miss TE. Of all the TEs that I had on my draft board, he was the only one I was POSITIVE would be a true weapon. And, again, I had a 2:1 point swing with him as long as Wallace was in.

The rest of my draft was spent on long shots, many of which didn't pan out. But, that wasn't unexpected. Last years stats don't mean anything and sometimes the next hot recruit on campus isn't as hot as everyone thought in August. Speedy Noil was a solid draft pick, which I traded away, as as Storm Woods form Oregon State, McKay from Washington State and Pharoh Cooper.  I had plenty of busts that I was rid of quickly, however, such as Troy's Chunn and Auburn's Uzomah. 

I didn't draft a kicker or a defense. Why? With the chances of actually locking down stars in the draft, I decided not to spend any draft picks on low value positions. Let's be real. There is always a defensive matchup to be found every single week, just as there is always a mid-range team playing an FCS-team and headed to a blow out. Drafting players who will, at best, get you 7-10 points a week is a waste. I knew that if I drafted all 17 skill players, chances were that only 5 or so would pan out. 

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned up until this year was not assigning emotional attachment to players, specifically those I drafted. Of the  17 players I drafted, I ended the year with only 2. In regards to the paragraph above, it was important to watch the stats, read the news, and know whether you had a commodity that wasn't going to produce or was on limited time. Woods shared carries all year, as did Kelvin Taylor from Florida. Sharing is not something you want in fantasy land. That's especially important when drafting receivers. Teams like Washington State may lead the nation in passing yards, leading you to believe that  drafting a receiver from that team will lead to success. The problem is that spread teams throw it to 8-10 players per game. You are just as likely to have zero points as 25. 

Trades, Acquisitions, and Drops

Speaking of defenses and kickers, my thought process was to find a week to week matchup where I could get points. in regards to kickers, I didn't just look for extra point bonanzas, as you might think. I wanted close games. Baylor vs North Texas may be a 7 extra point outing, but Baylor vs Oklahoma may feature 5 extra points and 2 fieldgoals. These match-ups are what I looked for and you can see that by my kicking stats. I was midrange in extra points but 3rd in FGs. It's just simple math. FGs are worth 3 times as much as extra points. Additionally, I frequently picked up kickers on spread teams who lacked a running game. Why? Because they sputter in the redzone. Case in point, Baylor. Without a run game or a redzone TE, failures to score in the redzone are a gold mine. 

Additionally, with a defense, it is important to understand the scoring system. Sure, you get 30 points for a shutout, but the amount of shutouts pitched these days is minuscule. And, after the first points are scored on your defense, the point value plummets. It's not important to have a statistically good defense. It IS important to have one that puts a value on turnovers. This year, Houston, Temple, Utah State and Memphis were insanely good on takeaways. Amazingly, at least one of all of these teams were available every single week. It is perfectly fine to lose all of the per-point scores in exchange for the takeaway points. Not only did having these teams available help, but as I said earlier, there is always an available matchup to look for and exploit. I didn't use a draft pick on a DST for this matter, as well as the fact that DSTs don't carry the weight value of the skill positions. 

Over the last few years, few offenses have been more potent than the Ole Miss Rebels. So, when Bo Wallace was still available in the 2nd round, I picked him up. I was delighted when Treadwell was on the board in the 4th and I opened a lot of eyes by taking Evan Engram, the Rebel TE in the 5th. Making half of you starting lineup from one team is a very ballsy thing to do. If they struggle, you will loose. But, Hugh Freeze has been unstoppable in the first third of the season before collapsing each of his 3 years. Treadwell is Wallace's go to guy and Engram was a redzone TD magnet. So, for every passing yard and TD Wallace threw to these guys, I reaped double awards. But, all along, I looked at that first critical SEC matchup (Bama) and knew I would trade them, which I did. Though they did win that first big matchup against Bama, it was better to trade them while they were hot. 

With about 5 weeks left in the season, I noticed a free agent WR who had been blowing up. Yet no one had picked him up. His per game average wasn't very good. But, I had been filtering stats based on 3 week increments, which put him on top. I noticed that he, like Johnson, had been moved positions. In this case, to RB from WR. Farrow, the Houston converted RB scored over 20 points in 3 of his last 4 games. Why is that important? Because points from WRs are hard to rely upon. A WR is just as likely to have 150 yards and 2 TDs as to be held without a catch, just because of what goes into the passing game.  I now had another  consistent RB that was starting in spot that usually has inconsistent results. 

Obviously Ameer Abdullah, my 3rd round pick, worked out well. He has been an absolute beast at Nebraska for several years, though Pelini's decision not to ride him late hurt hurt him worse as he was fired this last week. And he should be. Abdullah is an NFL-caliber back, and Pelini limited carries in the back to back losses. 

What put me other the top happened about 3 weeks ago as my wife and I were watching Toledo play. Toledo was starting their 2nd string QB, who went down with an injury. The next play, the 3rd stringer was hurt. The 4th string QB was actually a starting WR. Macon wasn't a terrific QB, but as a fantasy point producer, having a WR who accumulates QB stats is gold. I picked him up immediately. I held him out the first week to make sure they would stick with him. They didn't start him, but he was used as a wildcat QB, putting up 2 TDs in each of the last few games. Again, consistent points from a inconsistent position. 

Perhaps the league-winning trade came around week 6. I noticed a TE on one of the opposing teams that was scoring ridiculous points for about 2 weeks in a row. Upon further review, he had been moved from TE to RB and was getting a ton of carries. It was Devon Johnson from Marshall, who was pounding it up the middle while Rakeem Cato was throwing the ball around. I went into the trade knowing I would give away essentially anything the other guy would want. It cost me 3 or 4 good players including Bo Wallace and Evan Engram, but I know had a TE who was accumulating RB stats. Let's think about that. Good TEs average around 7 points a game. This kid was running the ball 20-30 times a game, especially late in the games in garbage time. He averaged 25 points over the season. 

Game Strategy
If you read the stats and the paragraphs, you will see that I spent significant effort in emphasizing a few things. With the escalating point system that we use in this league, I scrapped conventional wisdom on QBs, which says that you should use a dual-threat guy because of the advantage of rushing yards over passing yards. Instead, I went with Carden, who is a true pocket passer. But, Carden went over 300 yards in all but 3 games all season while surpassing 400 yards 5 times.  That escalator means all the world of different when a QB goes over 300. So, I went after a guy I KNEW would frequent that stat. Truth be told, I had all my eggs in Carden's basket, because I didn't carry a backup QB on my roster for most of the season. I was able to do that because of the moves I made in my rushing attack. It did cost me a perfect season against Temple, who managed to hold him to his season low in fantasy points. 

Of the other skill players, I featured 5 RBs at times. That's 2 in the RB slot, 1 in the flex slot, and my TE and one WR were actually RBs as well. Obviously, that would explain the 6,000 rushing yards. And, again, the points system favors rushing yards over receiving yards by a 2:1 ratio. Additionally, I carried several other RBs on the roster and watched the matchups. Sometimes it is not advantageous to play players against certain teams. For example, Utah State had one of the best run defenses in the country and Houston caused multiple fumbles a game. So, I avoided those matchups. 

I put nearly zero emphasis on WRs for their receiving points, especially after trading Wallace. The only time I did spend effort on WRs was when I was matched up against a player who had a QB with an available target. For example, I played against Notre Dame's Golson. His favorite target, Fuller, was available. And, that offset any TDs that Golson threw against me. 

I also avoided starting RBs in games against FCS opponents. Coaches are just as likely to sit a guy to save them then to rack up stats. 

One of the trickier plays I made this year was in watching injury and suspension reports. When Gurley was suspended, I immediately picked up Chubb. I had no intentions of playing him, but used him as trade bait. When Wick, Wyoming's leading rusher went down, I snapped up his backup. Wyoming is a run heavy offense, and that was good for 2 huge weeks for me before trading him up. 

Well, that's enough secrets for this year. I ended the year 32-7. Not bad. 

Till next year!