The bye week conundrum

We’ve now moved into that part of the football season where bye weeks occur. Navigating bye weeks can be a serious cause of stress for fantasy owners. During the draft, it’s enough to make sure you’re drafting the best possible players without worrying about whether or not your two stud running backs have the same bye week. But now, you’ve got to look at this reality.  

Some would argue that having multiple starters on bye in the same week increases your odds of winning your league. It’s worth taking the loss that week if you have all of your best players playing all of the other weeks. But what if your bye week comes in Week 10 when you need the win to make the playoffs? Even if I can afford to take the loss, I don’t want to lose any week.

One of the ways to mitigate the risk of having your best players on bye the same week is to not stack players. Again, there are two schools of thought on this. Some analysts argue that if you are able to stack a team’s passing attack, you have an advantage. For example, you might have drafted Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Matt Ryan, believing strongly that the Atlanta passing game is golden. 

I disagree with the school advocating the stacking approach because it’s too risky. Before I continue with this, let me delineate and differentiate between redraft leagues and DFS. I don’t play DFS, but I know enough about the subject to understand that stacking is an effective strategy – especially in a tournament – because you’re swinging for the fences and need massive upside to win.

Stacking players creates volatility, but you don’t mind that in DFS because it’s always one and done. If you finish last in a tournament because you guessed wrong on your player stack, you don’t care. You move on. But if you’re in a season-long league, you can’t afford to guess wrong and move on. And even if your players are an offensive juggernaut some weeks, they won’t be every week.

Let us the above-mentioned Jones, Ridley and Ryan example. In Week 1, you’re a genius because they all put up big numbers – 24.7, 33.9 and 23.9 respectively. Week 2 was still good because Ridley had 29.9 points and Ryan had 28.52, offsetting Jones’ paltry 4.4. But then comes Week 3. Jones is out, and Ridley gets 16.7, but Ryan has only 11.42. Last week is even worse, with 7.1, 0 and 12.4.  

My philosophy in building a fantasy team is similar to a stock portfolio. If I had a crystal ball, I would have bought 1,000 shares of Amazon stock on October 27, 2008. On that date, Amazon closed at $49.58 per share. The stock was trading today at $3195.68 per share, so my $49,500 investment would now be worth $3,195,568. But I can’t predict the future. Amazon could have been Enron. 

I also wished I had drafted Patrick Mahomes in the 10th round in 2018. I repeat, I can’t predict the future, and that’s why I diversify my stock portfolio and my fantasy team draft and waiver wire picks. Hopefully, you can understand by now that there are more benefits to diversification in your roster across many NFL teams than just avoiding the stress of dealing with bye weeks.   

But this kind of sage device doesn’t help you if you’re have a bye week conundrum right now. If you do have a problem, it’s likely to be at the running back position. This week you may be forced to bench Aaron Jones. Next week, it could be Alvin Kamara, Josh Jacobs, or Chris Carson. My advice would be to check the waiver wire today and see if any of these backs are available:  

LATAVIUS MURRAY, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (60% OWNERSHIP)

Murray was owned by more than half of fantasy owners in the Yahoo and ESPN leagues heading into week 4 action, but I found him on the waiver wire in one of my leagues. I wish I had started him instead of benching him because he had 21.3 fantasy points. Murray is the backup for Alvin Kamara. He has standalone value, and he’s a winning lottery ticket if Kamara misses games.  

CHASE EDMONDS, ARIZONA CARDINALS (38% OWNERSHIP)

Edmonds is in a similar spot as Murray but more likely to be available on your waiver wire. Last week, with Kenyan Drake active, Edmonds had 15.0 PPR fantasy points. Like Murray, he filled in last year when Drake was injured and put up big numbers. Drake has already had some injury scares this season, and his performance has been bad enough to wonder if he will be benched.

DAMIEN HARRIS, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (33% OWNERSHIP)

While it’s usually a good thing to avoid owning running backs from New England, Harris is alluring after he exploded onto the scene Monday night serving in the early-down role vacated by Sony Michel. He had 17 carries for 100 yards, including a 41-yard run, but didn’t get into the end zone and had only 10.0 PPR points. He’s more of an asset in standard leagues than PPR.  

D’ERNEST JOHNSON, CLEVELAND BROWNS (19% OWNERSHIP)

Johnson stepped in for an injured Nick Chubb on Sunday and produced a Chubb-like stat line, carrying 13 times for 95 yards. Kareem Hunt handled most of the scoring for the Browns, but Johnson’s contributions weren’t minor. Chubb is expected to miss multiple weeks with the MCL injury, so Johnson is going to have a role behind Hunt. But what if Hunt is injured?

JUSTIN JACKSON LA CHARGERS (10% OWNERSHIP)

With Ekeler out, Kelley is likely going to operate as the 1A in this Chargers offense, but we know they want to use multiple backs, which means Jackson is going to have a role – especially with Joshua Kelley now having fumbled in consecutive games. Sunday was Jackson’s first game back since suffering an injury in Week 1 and now he’s in line for 10-12 touches per week until Ekeler returns.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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