The bye week challenge

Season-long fantasy football is a challenge for any manager. As a manager, you must navigate through the injuries to your key players and the emotional ups and downs each week. Unlike DFS, you’re not out to win just one week. Of course, you want to win each matchup, but your goal is to make the fantasy playoffs. You want to be one of the four, or six teams that qualify.

In addition to injuries, there is another challenge to overcome – bye weeks. Two weeks ago, we moved into the part of the season where bye weeks occur. Navigating bye weeks can be a cause for anxiety. 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. 

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 good players, you have an advantage. For example, you might have drafted Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, believing that the Chiefs’ passing game is golden.

I disagree with the school advocating the stacking approach. 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. In my opinion, it’s too risky to have too many starters on one team.

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. Amazon is now trading well above $3,000 per share, so my $49,500 investment would now be worth more than $3 million. But Amazon could have been Enron.

I also wished I had drafted Mahomes in the 10th round in 2018. 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 if you’re have a bye week problem now. You probably had one last week because it was the most difficult of the nine bye weeks because six teams have byes. No other week has more than four teams off. In week 7, Buffalo, Dallas, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Chargers had byes, and many stars won’t be shinning.

Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, James Robinson, Trevor Lawrence, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen were just some of the players who were not available. They were home watching the games – just like you. If you didn’t plan for this, you probably had some holes in your starting lineup.

The best way to plan for bye weeks is to have at least five running backs and five wide receivers rostered. Five of your nine starting positions must be filled with an RB, or WR. If you carry two quarterbacks and two tight ends, be sure they don’t have the same bye week. Bye weeks are a problem for me because I normally carry only one quarterback and one tight end. 

For example, Dalton Schultz, my starting tight end on my home league team, was on bye last week. Since I don’t want to drop him, I needed to add a tight end off the waiver wire. Fortunately, Dallas Goedert had been dropped the previous week when he was put on the reserve COVID-19 list. During that time, to the surprise of many, Zach Ertz was traded to Arizona.

Goedert is finally the unquestioned No. 1 tight end for the Eagles. He has huge upside, and I bid $24 of my remaining FAB budget to secure him on my roster. The second-round pick in the 2018 draft has something to prove since he is in his walk year. If I am only looking for a bye-week replacement, why spend so much FAB money? The answer is that I view him as a top 10 TE.

I can’t start both Schultz and Goedert, but I might trade one of them for a starting running back or wide receiver. In week 7, Goedert put up a respectable 12 fantasy points. This week, I left him in my starting lineup and benched Schultz because Dark Prescott was questionable for the SNF game. With that much uncertainty, I went with Goedert. He rewarded me with 13.2 fantasy points.

It all comes down to planning. You can’t plan unexpected events like injuries, but you can plan for bye weeks. My advice would be to look at your lineup now if you haven’t already done so. Look at the next few weeks and see which key players are going to be off. Then check the waiver wire and see if any who’s available as replacements. Add them ahead of time and beat the rush.

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

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