Look, it’s ok. Everyone does it from time to time. Maybe you got distracted, or missed the injury news, or simply outsmarted yourself – and at the end of the draft you look at your team. A string of expletives and hopeless thoughts come to your mind.
Really, we’ve all been there. You have the team that everyone in your league is hoping to play. Your team is simply bad, maybe even awful.
So what do you do now?
That’s why this article exists. We’re going to talk about the different steps to take for owners who before the season starts realize they have a lackluster team. And in order to give a real-life example, I will be using as an example a 2-QB team I took over this year, whose starting QBs are Christian Ponder and Matt Flynn. We’ll be posting updates for teams who become terrible due to unforeseen circumstances throughout the season (e.g. your star running back and QB1 both go on IR), but for now this article will focus on the preseason and the 1st two weeks of the regular season.
So keep your chin up, don’t let the competition see you cry, and follow these steps to save your fantasy football season.
For questions specific to your team, you can message me @BergerTwoQBs or another 2-QB fantasy guru @LakeTwoQBs
Bad, Lopsided, and Ugly
Real quick, let’s define terms, because the recommendations will vary greatly depending on what your team actually looks like. So a “bad team” is a mediocre team that just overall looks beatable. Often these teams have 1 or 2 star players, but the rest of the team is scaring no one going into the season. “Lopsided teams” are the most common, especially in auction drafts, and are when a team has a gaping hole at either QB-RB or WR. The rest of the team looks good, but one position is terrible. And last, my person favorite, the “ugly” team. This is where your entire team is abysmal. Every position looks barely better than waiver wire talent. My sympathies on this team, but yes I do believe that you can still have a decent season.
So the team that I was given was an auto-draft by ESPN, but it is a 2-QB league. This means that quarterbacks sky-rocket in value, and the computerized auto-draft landed me with Matt Flynn and Christian Ponder as my starters. And no backup. Here is how my team looked at the end of the auto-draft:
QB1: Christian Ponder
QB2: Matt Flynn
RB1: Ray Rice
RB2: Alfred Morris
WR1: Demaryius Thomas
WR2: Roddy White
WR3: Mike Wallace
TE: Rob Gronkowski
K: Stephen Gostkowski
Be: Ahmad Bradshaw
Be: James Jones
Be: Montee Ball
Be: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Be: Vick Ballard
Evaluating Your Team
The rest of this article is going to be based on this assumption: you have to win one of your first 3 games in order to still be able to compete for the playoffs. The numbers clearly show unless you win one of those first 3 games, your playoff chances drop below 10%. And if your team was already questionable, it will be even lower than that.
So if you have Justin Blackmon or another early-season suspension he may be someone that you trade away, because he isn’t going to be able to help you with the hardest part of a poor team’s season. The first 3 weeks are make-or-break for you, so before the season even starts I suggest you take a long look at your team.
Where are the strengths and weaknesses? Who grimaced in the snake draft when you took one of your players, or who bid on the players you now have? These are potential trading partners, and there is a very good chance that you will need a trade. Finding out how others feel about their team is another part of this step. Also try to get a feel for how players are valued for trades. Do quarterbacks seem expendable and running backs go for top dollar? Things like this can help you determine what to do next.
As you can see, my team has its share of talent, but is quite lopsided. Matt Flynn isn’t even starting anymore, and without a backup I have to move fast before I have to take 0 points Week 1 at QB2. I have crazy amounts of depth and talent at RB and a lot of talent at WR with little depth. So here I would give my team grades of A and A- respectively. From there I go to the waiver wire to look for some desperate help.
Waiver Wire Life Support
At the waiver wire is where the different types of team become important. A lopsided team may not even need to use it, especially with a WR-weak team because players are going to rise to the surface in the first couple weeks. Judge whether moving down the waiver-wire list is worth so-and-so flyer. I love players like Brian Hartline especially in PPR because he so often seems to be overlooked. Flyers are great, but be willing to part with them quickly if need be. Dexter McCluster and Kniles Davis are also noteworthy, but they fit more into the flyer category.
For bad and ugly teams, the waiver wire may be your best friend. 2-for-1 trades can sometimes happen if a team is stacked at the position you need, but don’t count on it. Regularly check back to see if anyone has been dropped. If you want to recover your team, it is going to take significant time so be vigilant.
Because my team is desperate for a QB, I start looking for anyone who might start. I see EJ Manuel slipped through the draft due to injury, and I quickly pick him up and get rid of Vick Ballard. I hate to do this because I think that Ballard will have a nice year, but in a league where you can only start 2 RBs those outside the top 25 are worth very little. I also drop Matt Flynn for Jared Cook, simply because of the possibility that Gronk misses significant time.
Waivers are pretty self-explanatory, but I do recommend searching by team in case a talented rookie slipped through the cracks for others in the draft. Also, if at all possible do not upset your waiver order! It will be extremely helpful after Week 1 to have first dibs on breakout candidates.
My team is starting to look better, but with my worthless depth at running back I decide it is better to bite the bullet and make a trade.
The Not Terrible Trade
Before you judge this trade here was my thinking: I have to get a better QB. EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder spell a 4-9 season even if my other picks are solid. Having 5 viable running backs is also a bench killer, so it’s best if I trade a running back and clear some space. With this in mind, I took a trade I normally would hate in order to try to get that win in the first couple weeks:
Ray Rice and Roddy White for Aaron Rodgers and Dwayne Bowe
I know, I know. This would be an even worse trade in standard leagues, but in 2-QB formats Rodgers is actually going earlier than Rice. The White for Bowe is the terrible part, but I have them only 7 spots apart in my personal rankings (White at 9, Bowe at 16). I’m still getting the worse part of the deal, but now starting Aaron Rodgers every week streaming Manuel or Ponder gives me a chance to make the playoffs. And I can stream my RB2 based on matchup, so the loss is less terrible at that position.
Do I love this trade? Absolutely not, but I have to win in the first 3 weeks to have a chance of turning this team around. Aaron Rodgers can do that for me, especially with a matchup Week 2 against the Redskins. And he did score 23 points against the 49ers last year in the season opener. Maybe this year won’t be any different?
Prepping for Week 1 Pickups
There will be another post soon with more details on specific players to target for a bad team, but for now look around and get a feel for which actual NFL teams have room for players to jump to the top. Patriots, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Eagles and 49ers all have room for a fantasy-relevant player to jump out from nowhere, and there are several other teams like this as well.