Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fantasy Football Playoffs: Smack My Bench Up

I generally keep my titles pretty lame because search engines hate puns, but this popped in my head and I went with it. Anways… the point of this article is again a playoff primer about trading.

In the majority of leagues, we have less than one week to complete trades before the deadline. In every league that I am a part of there has been an unusual scramble to pick up some new talent and I just wanted to throw out a little strategy for making your team as solid as possible.

It is important to keep in mind my How to Pick a Smart Trade article as you read through these tips. This strategy, like a surprisingly large amount of my strategies, comes down to simple mathematics.

Step 1: Picking Your Final Lineup

Once byes are finished, it is smooth sailing when it comes to picking your lineup. Deciding on one solid lineup for the rest of the year is the first and most basic step to this strategy.

You are going to need to check out the players averages so far this year, and keep in mind their playoff strength of schedule, which is conveniently laid out for you here.

Deciding on your strongest set of players is pivotal in making the best team you can possibly end the season with. Once you have made your rest-of-season roster, we move on to the next part of the game…

Step 2: Clearing the Bench

Setting your starting lineup in advance will make one question pop into your mind… What on earth is the point of having a bench now? You might have some decent players on there still, but you’ve already decided that you won’t really be needing them. Now they are just being wasted, right? Of course not silly, there are a bunch more steps.

If you have set your starting lineup for the season, but still have a top performer hanging out on your bench, why not use him to improve your weakest position. Even if you are trading for someone with less fantasy points, you are still improving your team.

Let’s say that your team looks like this:

QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew
RB: Brandon Jacobs
WR: Mike Wallace
WR: Brandon Marshall
TE: Benjamin Watson

Bench: Jay Cutler, Kendall Hunter, Mike Tolbert, Greg Little, Anquan Boldin

Not a bad lineup, but you have a problem here. The player dragging this team down a bit is your tight end. He is inconsistent, and has a pretty low points per game average. To make a run in the playoffs, you need improvement at the TE position.

Rather than grabbing another low tight end off free agency and keeping your tight end PPG low, make a trade to improve you team. This trade does not have to be complicated, there is no need to bring in multiple players here. The strategy is simple. Trade Anquan Boldin for a tight end upgrade.

Watson is averaging 4.4 fantasy points per game. Anquan Boldin is averaging 8.1.

Because Boldin is on your bench, giving him up loses you no fantasy points per game, since he was not making your final starting lineup anyway. Even if you trade Boldin for a tight end with a lower points per game average than him, you are still ending up with more points per game in the long run by replacing Watson.
So, you propose a trade. Anquan Boldin for Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez is averaging 6.9 points per game (1.2 PPG less than Boldin), so it seems like a pretty simple “Yes” from your trade partner. And what is happening to your team? Your tight end spot just got upgraded by over three points per game.


By cutting ties with the players on your bench who you know will not make your starting lineup for the rest of the year, you can increase the production of your weakest fantasy position.

Step 3: Filling the Bench

So, you have made the changes and traded your best bench players to get your starting lineup as high as you can possibly make it. What are you going to do with the scrubs that remain on your bench?

Again, we have already verified that you will not be using them for the season, so what is the point of having them, they are just eating up space. Instead of just saying “Oh well” and never looking at your bench again, you should save yourself a lot of stress and headaches with your next move.

Clean out your remaining bench players and fill the spots with the top handcuffs.

Keeping one solid backup WR and a backup QB are good ideas, but with the rest of the spots, you should go out and invest in the backups for your starting running backs and tight ends. Since you already have the lineup set, (and you’ve traded your best bench replacements to make the lineup better), you are likely going to experience some heartburn on Sundays praying that your starters do not go down with injury.

Every hit will make you cringe. It’s borderline torture.

You can avoid this torment by putting Deji Karim on your bench as a Maurice Jones-Drew owner. You still won’t want your star to go down, but you can rest assured that you already have his backup waiting in the wings if he does go down, meaning that you get to avoid the Waiver Wire frenzy that would have ensued.

Step 4: Win Your Playoffs

By making some smart moves leading up to the trade deadline you can greatly improve your starting lineup and your chances to advance to the next round. Instead of worrying about losing PPG in your trade (Boldin’s 8.1 vs. Hernandez’s 6.9), you need to look at the position PPG (Hernandez’s 6.9 vs. Watson’s 4.4).

And avoid some of the frustration and worry about the injuries of the season by taking premeditated steps in acquiring your starters’ backup. Just in case.

With a bit of luck, some forward-thinking tactics and basic arithmetic, you will be well on your way to bragging rights for a full year.


  1. 10 Team Standard

    QB - Sanchez
    WR - VJax
    WR - Nicks
    WR - D.Nelson
    RB - McCoy
    RB - D.Williams (put in claim for BJGE)
    TE - Hernandez
    K - Baily
    DE - Jets

    Mendy (bye)
    Sproles (bye)
    Sidney Rice
    Antonio Brown

  2. If you want to try the Sproles/VJax one more time, I'd go with Jenning over the rest of them. I would say that options 1 and 2 you are on the losing end of.

    Really, the upgrade you need is at WR3. So just find a receiver with a higher ppg total than david nelson and get rid of Sproles for him.

    Andre Johnson is risky with the backup QB coming in and his injury. He has had no time to gel with Leinart at all. But he is Andre Johnson. Its a big risk, but could end up worth it. The safer play would be to trade Sproles for someone that isn't exactly an elite WR, but still close to the top. You are looking for someone with very similar or less fantasy points per game than Sproles, but (significantly) more PPG than Nelson

  3. Got a deadline approaching tomorrow in my 10 team league. I'm 8-2 and second in points. The third overall team is trying to shed some RB depth in return for a WR stud. We match up fairly well.

    QB: Stafford
    WR: Wallace, Nicks, Dez
    RB: Rice, Tolbert
    TE: Graham

    Bench: Tebow, Maclin, L. Robinson, Tate, Helu, JStew, Celek

    His WRs: Andre, Marshall, Boldin, Denarius Moore
    His RBs: Foster, DeMarco, Greene, Blount

    I'd been trying to pry Foster from him since before his ~40 pt game but he hasn't budged. So I've bounced Nicks/Dez + Tate for Murray + Moore. Obviously I'm high on Moore's upside since I just traded for him in that other thread. He's intrigued by the offer. Do you think Moore is the right WR to go after? I can't imagine he'd be willing to part with Andre or Marshall but Boldin might provide a little more consistency w/o the high ceiling of Moore.

  4. Hey GHL great post!

    I was wondering what you suggest I do with my line-up heading into the final weeks. Which position do you think I could improve at the most?

    My line-up:
    QB (start 1)
    Matthew Stafford
    Matt Ryan

    RB (2)
    Darren McFadden
    Michael Turner
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    Piere Thomas

    WR+TE (3)
    Wes Welker
    DeSean Jackson
    Anquan Boldin
    Julio Jones
    Eric Decker
    Earl Bennett

    Kicker (1)
    Dan Bailey

    DEF (1)
    St. Louis Rams

    I have been using the SDS strategy all year, and I will stick with it throughout the playoffs also. I put the players in order of how I would play them if/when they are all healthy. Not sure about the DeSean Jackson situation. Which three starters would you suggest at WR? Also, can I rely on Matthew Stafford in the coming weeks? And what about Darren McFadden? Not going to lie, I miss him. I am thinking that if he comes back full time I can trade away Turner or Jones-Drew although it is going to be a tough choice on who goes and who stays.

    Thanks for the great blog and all the advice!

  5. You said it all as good as I could have. I agree that to make a playoff surge, you are going to need a higher RB than you have right now.

    You are a lot higher on Moore than I am. But I am more of a consistency guy. His ceiling is definitely high, but Boldin is a lot easier to count on. The problem for me in this trade is not on your end. Your team would be improved by this... I'm just wondering if you are improving him too much. He will take a slight hit at running back, but Nicks and Dez both have big game potential. So that worries me a little.

    Perhaps it could be good to try a different approach first. Find a team hurting at TE QB or WR. You have Celek, Robinson and Tebow on your bench and they are all sell high candidates. Perhaps you can get a better RB than Tolbert with one or a combo of those players.

    Worth thinking about. In the end, if you do take the Nicks+Tate for Murray+Moore trade, I think your team gets the boost.

  6. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

    You look pretty set to me. Which is great, because you have some good players on your bench that you can afford to sell.

    A little hard picking which RB to go with since the McFadden injury still worries me and he is not back yet. Hard to be confident with when he will return and how much playing time he will get in his first few weeks back with Bush playing so well. Turner and MJD is a great pair of starters with him out though. Also, looking at playoff schedule. Turner and MJD have great matchups from Week 14-17. Honestly, despite the injury, I would probably try to get rid of McFadden from this.

    He might sell a little lower than normal because of the injury. But just sell the fact that he should be coming back after this week. Because of his name and his stats early in the season, you could get someone good for him.

    At WR, you could possibly pair up Jackson and Jones and get a top 10 receiver out of the deal and then start Welker, Boldin and whoever you are able to pick up. That would cure your Jackson problem and leave you stronger.

    You have a lot of great bench players, which means a lot of options of where to go from here. Key is not to get overzealous. Stay focused, do a little convincing, propose some good trades where they seem like the other player is getting a steal. (Jackson+Jones for a top 10 should really work for you) is a great trade in my opinion. Aim high and Good luck!

  7. GHL this post is a great insight for 1st time players heading into the playoffs. my question is, a early FA pickup to prepare for playoffs.

    Is Santana Moss worth a early pickup for a Lumpkin (RB) or Earl Bennett, Vincent Brown, Early Doucet, Joseph Addai,? I do have Bradshaw and McFadden stuck on my bench for now and Hunter and D. Murry playing this week. just trying to see if you think it is worth dropping one of these for Moss in the long run.

    Thanks for the advice.

  8. I would think its worth the pickup. Lumpkin is a pretty easy guy to lose now that Blount is back, so I'd toss him. Even if you don't ever play Moss, it will be good to keep him away from other owners in case he does come back and play well.

  9. I'm having a hell of a time trying to balance playoff strategy with my game this week, which has almost my entire starting lineup on bye. My team at the moment/for this week:

    QB: Rivers, Roethlisberger (bye)
    WR: Welker, Wallace (bye), DeSean Jackson, Andre Johnson (bye), Earl Bennett (flex)
    RB: Steven Jackson, Kendall Hunter, Sproles (bye), Foster (bye)
    TE: Gates
    K: Hanson
    Def: Chicago

    Before you go off about the absurdity of this team, know our league only has 8 people in it. It's like all-star league. The girl I'm playing this week has both Brees and Romo. It's ridiculous.

    My dilemma is this: Philip Rivers. He's playing my defense this week, and I feel like it's a lose-lose. They can't both do well. Plus Rivers has been pissing me off for weeks teasing me with good scores and then throwing interceptions or fumbling in the last 3 seconds of the game.

    So should I drop him and run with Big Ben for the rest of the season? Currently I'm in second place, we only take 4 to playoffs, and not sure anyone will trade me for a superstar QB, however Fitzpatrick is languishing on waivers. I can't decide if I should drop Rivers now, or take the hit this week and ride it out with him for the rest of the season.

    You rock!

  10. I have the same dilemma with rivers. I've already traded and gotten a better player, now I'm trying to sell him off to someone for some WR talent.

    The 8 player league seems to really be getting you down, as every team has so many great players. Based on my playoff strength of schedule, neither Rivers or Roethlisberger have a very easy road. Roeth is facing the 2nd ranked defense against QBs twice in the last four games. Rivers is facing the 3rd and 5th ranked defenses in that stretch as well.

    Good new here is that Fitzpatrick has the easiest closing schedule of any quarterback in the NFL, going against the 14th ranked defense in week 14, followed by the 32nd, 29th and 31st ranked teams.

    As you are in second place, my advice would be not to tweak too much of a good thing. But because of headaches and past performances, I think it would be justifiable to make the slight gamble and dump him for Fitz. Start Rivers this week. Then go for Fitzpatrick.