Collinsworth Invitational: Adjusting on the fly

Injuries and bad performance hurt reader Dave Knox's early-season roster in our celebrity league, but sometimes you just have to adjust on the fly.

| 8 months ago
Fantasy football RB rankings

Collinsworth Invitational: Adjusting on the fly

(Pro Football Focus gave subscribers the opportunity to win a team in the Cris Collinsworth Fantasy Football Invitational, playing alongside celebrities such as Warren Sapp, Jenny McCarthy and of course Cris himself. As the lucky winner of that contest, I will be writing a weekly piece that provides a view into what it’s like playing in a celebrity league and how I will use the PFF tools to give me an edge.)

Every seasoned fantasy football player knows that the draft is just the beginning of building a winning team. Throughout the season, things that are outside of your control will change your team dramatically. Your early round draft pick will tear their ACL and be out for the season. Your sleeper that you just knew would have a breakout year ends up stuck far down the depth chart. These things happen.

Fortunately, most leagues give you the opportunity to improve your team through the waiver wire or trades. To borrow the words of Randy Pausch, “it’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” Playing the hand in fantasy football means getting active in making moves that improve your team. It also means approaching the season not just by looking at your next opponent, but thinking about how the season might play out.

The cards I was dealt

In the Collinsworth Invitational, my “cards” have been a mixed bag. Coming out of the draft, the Twittersphere had called me out as having one of the three best teams. I was pretty happy myself with a team that had three solid WRs, a stud RB1, and some good depth. But it did not take long for a few bad cards to emerge:

  • Two of my WRs are injured: Keenan Allen was the steal of the draft for me in the fourth round – at least until he was lost for the year with an injury. And while Dez Bryant is not out for the season, I have lost almost a quarter of the season from my first-round pick.
  • My sleeper WRs were big misses: Injuries would not be a big deal if my bench at the position had been solid. Torrey Smith has been a lost cause, and the same goes for Rishard Matthews. Phillip Dorsett had potential with Donte Moncrief injured, but he’s been boom-or-bust (more often bust). I thought a wide receiver would fill my flex position but this lack of depth really hurt when combined with injuries.
  • My sole QB underperformed: I thought Eli Manning was in for his biggest season of his career but that has not happened. Since he was the only QB I drafted, it was a big miss at this important position.

Playing the hand

Luckily most of these situations happened early in the season, giving me time to make moves that would improve my “hand.” Last week, I talked about how I made a trade for Brandon Marshall and DeAndre Washington in exchange for Mike Wallace and Jerick McKinnon. Adding Marshall gave me another WR1 that filled the void from losing Keenan Allen. But improving your team for the season requires more than just a single move.

The waiver wire was the second place that I went to “play the hand.” My strategy was to find value that my league mates might have too quickly discarded. With the QB situation, I was able to hit the waiver wire, grabbing Phillip Rivers when Jenny McCarthy surprisingly dropped him after the injuries to Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead. Next up was John Brown, who started the season incredibly slow thanks to lingering health issues from the pre-season. In Rivers, I picked up a QB that was drafted in the ninth round and was in fact the QB drafted right after I selected Eli Manning. Brown was even better value as a sixth-round draft pick, but one that was dropped after putting up just two receptions over the first two games of the season. I was able to grab both of these players by studying the transaction log after waivers cleared each week.

I made the final move in improving my hand this week. LeGarrette Blount had been the best value during Tom Brady’s absence and the injury to Dion Lewis. With Brady back, I did not want to do the weekly guess on what would be a “Blount game.” Ryan Mathews was drafted as my RB2 but his share of snaps in the backfield has been concerning and health is always a watch-out. So my goal was to make a 2:1 trade, finding a top tier RB that might be on a team that needed more depth. I found that in Jason Cole, who went RB/RB/QB/TE in his draft. Cole needed depth so he was not forced to play a second tight end in his flex position. I offered up Blount and Ryan Mathews in exchange for either Todd Gurley or LeSean McCoy. In his words, he liked Gurley better as a player but liked McCoy’s situation better. Ultimately he decided to deal me McCoy for Blount and Mathews. I love dealing for McCoy. In Week 6, McCoy gets his revenge game against Chip Kelly and the soft defense of San Francisco. Even better, he has a playoff schedule in Weeks 14-16 that includes Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Miami.

I like my cards

After all of these moves, here is what my roster looks like as we go into Week 6.

Position Team Drafted Team in Week 6
QB Eli Manning Eli Manning or Phillip Rivers
RB Lamar Miller Lamar Miller
RB Ryan Mathews LeSean McCoy
WR Dez Bryant Dez Bryant
WR Jarvis Landry Jarvis Landry
WR Keenan Allen Brandon Marshall
TE Coby Fleener Coby Fleener
Flex Jordan Matthews Jordan Matthews or John Brown
K Mason Crosby Mason Crosby
DEF Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati Bengals

If Bryant sits this week (and for his bye in week 7), I will be playing Jordan Matthews in my WR spot and Brown as my flex. Overall, I am really happy with how I was able to improve my hand through deal making and working the waiver wire. With my current roster, I have four players that were selected in the first two rounds of the August draft, allowing me to upgrade at both RB and WR in big ways. Now it is time to see if this rebuilt team can improve my 2-3 record as we march toward the playoffs.

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