Roto Arcade This Week : August 20
There's exactly one bolded item among the bullet-points on your league's home page:
"Managers, make sure to check your league settings before you draft."
The reason it's bolded is because it's the most important piece of draft advice you're going to get. It's much more useful than "Watch those bye weeks!" And with all due respect to the running back fetishists among you, it's better advice than "Draft RB-RB in the first two rounds!"
It's almost like a waiver of responsibility and liability, too. If you're in a league with custom settings, there's a very good chance that the standard Yahoo! player rankings don't apply. We can't be blamed if auto-picking gets you Rudi Johnson instead of Brian Westbrook in a points-per-reception (PPR) league, for example. When the settings change, your draft priorities should change, too.
In approximately one hour and 53 minutes from now, I'll be drafting in a private league that uses a bunch of fairly common custom options. I won't bore you with the full menu of settings, but these are the things that make the league very different from a standard public configuration:
• One point per completion
• Six points per passing touchdown
• One point per 15 yards passing
• One point per reception
• One point per 20 return yards
When you also consider the fact that it's an individual defensive player (IDP) league, you get a very tricky draft. (You can find the IDP Primer here).
Aside from the five peculiar scoring traits above, the league isn't so odd. We use a flex position instead of the third WR, but the league employs most of the other usual point rewards and deductions. The five traits above are enough to radically change standard player rankings, though.
Check that first bullet-point. "One point per completion." That's insane, isn't it? On the strength of his completions alone, Jon Kitna outscored every running back in this league last season except LaDainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson. Factoring in the point-per-15-yards thing and the six points per passing TD, then deducting for Kitna's many turnovers, we find that the Lions' quarterback outscored Tomlinson by 217 fantasy points. And Kitna was only the fifth-highest scoring QB.
Peyton Manning scored 826 fantasy points in this format in 2006, and it was a pretty typical year by his standards. LaDainian Tomlinson scored 454 points, and he had arguably the greatest season that any running back has ever produced. In this league, Manning was 237 points better than the average of the top 20 players at his position, and he outscored the second best quarterback, Drew Brees, by 67 fantasy points. This sort of league-specific differentiation is worth a first round pick, regardless of your general draft philosophy or your opinion of Peyton Manning's place in the fantasy hierarchy.
The elite rushing quarterbacks aren't necessarily so valuable in this league. In Yahoo! public scoring, Vince Young was the number nine fantasy quarterback in 2006, thanks largely to his 552 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. But in the league I'm about to draft in, Vince didn't crack the top 20. In fact, he was outscored by Chad Pennington, Steve McNair, Ben Roethlisberger, Rex Grossman, David Carr, Alex Smith, Brad Johnson and many, many others. Those quarterbacks all had overwhelming advantages in completions and passing yardage.
Thus, "Make sure to check your league settings."
In PPR leagues, basically all wide receivers benefit. You might nudge a reliable 90-plus reception guy like Torry Holt or Laveranues Coles up the rankings a bit. Or if you project a Devery Henderson-type season for someone (745 yards yet only 32 receptions in 2006), that might be a reason to downgrade them, particularly if your league doesn't award big-play bonuses. In my league, Marty Booker was 25 fantasy points better than Henderson last season, even though they scored the same number of total touchdowns and Booker had 747 receiving yards, just two more than Devery.
Still, in general, all wide receivers benefit in PPR leagues. In that format, the average ownable receiver isn't so different from the average ownable running back. The relative importance of positions can change. Receivers can be excellent flex options, too.
All running backs do not benefit equally in PPR leagues. This is the real trick. The top-tier backs remain substantially better than the mean, though, and they're clearly preferable to elite receivers as early draft picks. But the running back tiers get rearranged. Tomlinson and Jackson (90 receptions in 2006) still top the list, but I've got Frank Gore (61), Brian Westbrook (77), Reggie Bush (88), and Joseph Addai (40, but Rhodes had 36) right alongside Larry Johnson (41). In this league, Maurice Jones-Drew's 46 receptions and 873 return yards in 2006 made him a monster, too. And Kevin Jones (61 receptions) was a top-15 running back.
Return yardage also made Wes Welker (1,442 yards), Bobby Wade (1,221), and – much more obviously – Devin Hester (1,128, 5 return TD) ownable players last year. Hester now qualifies at WR, but last year he was a very useful fantasy DB, despite an almost non-role in Chicago's defense.
A few owners will disregard our league's settings at this draft (which now starts in approximately 36 minutes). It never fails to happen in any custom league. I'm expecting Rudi Johnson, Shaun Alexander and Travis Henry to go late in Round 1, maybe eight or 10 picks ahead of where I've pre-ranked them. It's a league filled with unabashed rushing yardage lovers, so this is what happens.
If Manning falls to me in the first, I'm taking him. Then I'm looking at Westbrook, Jones-Drew or Bush in the second, followed by a pair of elite receivers. That's not an approach I'd take in standard public formats, but it seems right for this league. Because I've checked the settings before drafting, just like our Yahoo! overlords demand.