StrategyAugust 28, 2009

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Build your Roster from the Back End

By Rick Jacoby

Not too many years ago I got to thinking about trying to slot potential roster together on the back end to help me figure my front-end strategy. I think this is one of the pitfalls of novice fantasy footballers (not thinking things the whole way through or all the way around). We have visions of building sparkling starting lineups or RB depth, a handful of sleepers at different positions in our mind, but often we fail to put all the pieces together to see what it looks like. Sometimes certain strategies at the beginning don’t work the same with certain strategies at the end.

For example, maybe you love Tom Brady to blow it up this year, and you like Carson Palmer to have a strong comeback; but wait, they both have the same bye week! Now you either have to factor in drafting a third QB, not drafting Brady or Palmer, or being prepared to pick up a third QB in Week 8. It seems like small details, but it’s things like these people really don’t think about until they actually go to select Palmer as their backup in the middle rounds and either forget to check their sheets and pick him or are startled to find he has the same bye week and panic as the clock is running on that pick.

Or maybe you like LT and Westbrook this year but also feel it’s necessary to have Sproles and McCoy on your team “just in case”. Congratulations, you just ate up two roster spots with RBs who might not play much all year, which is OK, but have you thought about probably needing to roster at least six backs and how that affects your WR depth?

Here are just a couple examples of things to think about when it comes to putting together a strategy for your entire roster. I’ve found I draft more confidently when I have a good idea of where and when I can fit late-round guys I like on my team. How many times have you seen a guy in your league tear it up on paper the first seven or eight rounds and then have no clue what to do after Round 10? You see them flipping between their draft mag pages or cheat sheets uncertain what to do and finally as time runs down on their pick they blurt out a name they regret five seconds later. This happens over and over again, but why? Because draft goals were short sighted.

To help better prepare against these shortcomings during a draft, I suggest something like this:

1. Total the number of roster spots you have (I have 16 for example).
2. Wipe out mandatory starting positions (I have 9 (QB, 2RB, 2WR, RB/WR flex, TE, K, Def))
3. May vary depending on your league (I wipe out 2 more 1 for back up QB and for 1 backup spot between a TE, K, or Def because it always seems between these 3 I draft one that has an early season bye)
4. Now how many spots do you have left? (I have 5 to use on either WRs or RBs)
5. Start looking at your roster from the bottom up and see who you like in those rounds. Your methods do not have to be entirely the same. The important thing is that when you identify possibilities for what your back end might look like, it makes your front end strategy formulations easier.

Based on 10 teams
8. Santana Moss, Devin Hester, Chris Cooley
9. Backup QB, Handcuff RB
10. Backup QB, Handcuff RB, Chris Henry
11. Backup QB, Handcuff RB, Chris Henry, Leon Washington, Def
12. Backup QB, Handcuff RB, Chris Henry, Leon Washington, Def
13. Handcuff RB, Fred Taylor, Willis McGahee, Josh Morgan, Def
14. Handcuff RB, Troy Williamson, Earl Bennett, Def
15. K
16. Backup TE/K/Def

Now these are just players I like. Fill in with your own preferred targets. The important thing is that you will not be dazed in the 10th or 11th rounds, maybe needing a third receiver and a slew of options like Holt, Driver, Breaston, Cotchery, Mason (none of which I like by the way) sitting in front of you, and you say, “These guys really suck for a third option.” Meanwhile there are a number of great picks elsewhere but you are almost cornered into taking a guy you don’t want because you have nearly exhausted your roster space in other areas with value. Maybe your back-end strategy bears out that you like a lot of late round RBs; this tells you that you can burn maybe four of your first seven picks on better WRs.

Rick Jacoby is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Rick in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Azrael.
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