Draft Strategy: Good-Byes - Footballguys

Using bye weeks to your advantage

I'll share a little something about myself today. I'm not exactly a conventional thinker. That's sometimes good, often times bad, but there are enough aha moments where you have a revelation that might be just enough to say that all the oddball ideas that pop in your head are worth it if you can have one of those thoughts that pays off. Whether this is one of those moments is yet to be decided, but I think there is some hope.

First off, I'll set the stage for the discussion. When the NFL announced their 2018 season, we all poured over it and looked for fantasy implications. The first thing that jumped off the page was the bye weeks, as usual. Most Keeper League and Dynasty League players love to check that first so as to see if they have bye week issues in store for the coming season. That's when it dawned on myself and several others that the NFL hates us at times - no really, they do. Trust me. Otherwise, how could they not understand that these weeks where six teams have a bye week just wreak havoc with our fantasy teams?

The six teams off in one week started the first year of NBC's flex scheduling (2006), as the NFL wanted to adjust the bye weeks so that they would be done and gone by Week 11 and also so as to not have a team with a week off before Week 4. The net result of that simple math was that instead of eight weeks with four teams on a bye, the NFL would have two weeks where six teams took time off. In 2009 it got even worse as in Weeks 7, 8 and 9 six teams had a bye week (and as a result only two were off in Week 10). I guess you can consider it to be good news that “only” Weeks 8 and 9 in 2010 had six teams on a bye. As for 2012, only Week 7 had six teams off, but byes ran from Week 4 to Week 11 (with just two teams on a bye in Week 4). For 2013, it only got more complicated as the byes extended to Week 12, with four weeks of just two teams on a bye (Weeks 4, 6, 7 and 11), three weeks with four teams on a bye (Weeks 5, 10 and 12) and still two other weeks with six teams off (Weeks 8 and 9). Four seasons ago the bye weeks extend once again to Week 12, leading to some weeks where just two teams are on a bye week (Weeks 5, 6, 7, 8 and 12), another with four teams off (Week 11), and three treacherous weeks (Weeks 4, 9 and 10) with six teams taking a rest. In 2014 the bye weeks spanned Weeks 4 through 11, with all of those weeks having four teams off except for Week 4 (two teams, Tennessee and New England) and Week 9 (six teams - Houston, Seattle, Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit and Kansas City). Two seasons ago the byes extended from Week 4 to Week 13, the first time bye weeks have gone past Week 12 since there were only 31 teams in 1999-2001. Finally, in 2017 the bye weeks are back in the smaller range, spanning Week 4 to Week 11. With only seven weeks to give teams a rest, that means at least two weeks would have more than four teams not on the schedule. As it turned out, the NFL gave only two teams Week 7 off (Houston and Detroit), but six teams are on a bye in Weeks 8, 9 and 11.

Enough history - what about this season? This year's bye weeks expanded once again, spanning Weeks 4 to 12. Two teams each are off four times this year, the first three weeks of byes (Weeks 4-6) and the last in Week 12. Most of the byes are compressed between Weeks 7 and 11, with at least four teams off each of those weeks and two bigger sets of byes in Weeks 9 and 11 having six teams off.

All those byes made me think about the common question we have every year about bye weeks. Does it make good sense to collect players with the same bye weeks so as to have your team at full strength all the other games rather than patching your team for seven weeks during the year?

At first, I didn't like the idea, since you are basically writing off a week on your schedule. Walking into a 13-game schedule at 0-1 already is not a great idea in my book. It gets even worse if you are in a league with fewer games or that punishes exceptionally bad performance weeks (such as the all-play format where you play everyone every week). All that aside, I thought I would at least see if I could come up with a recipe to do just the thing that people asked for - draft a team with all the same bye weeks.

I decided I would use three rules:

  1. Focus on a complete starting lineup (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR and a TE)
  2. The lineup had to be complete by Round 10 (Pick 120)
  3. No reach picks

By Rule No. 3, I mean that if you wanted to accomplish No. 1 and No. 2 but you had to draft a player in Round 5 who normally is still available in Rounds 6 or 7, that's off the table. We're not going to blow up our entire draft board just to get this together.

Next, I decided to list all of the Top 120 picks based on recent ADP and sort them by bye weeks. Rather than listing them all (ADPs can always be found here), here is a table that breaks down each week by the total number of players and by position:

Week
Teams
Players
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defenses
4
2
9
1
3
3
2
0
5
2
6
0
3
2
1
0
6
2
8
2
3
3
0
0
7
4
18
3
7
7
1
0
8
4
13
2
6
4
1
0
9
6
19
2
6
7
3
1
10
4
15
2
5
7
1
0
11
6
21
2
9
9
1
0
12
2
11
2
2
5
1
1

Table 1: Bye Weeks vs. Positions

After reviewing Table 2, I decided to eliminate Weeks 5 and 6 for the reasons I mentioned earlier - just two teams are on a bye in each week, and each of them lack enough options to fill out a starting lineup. Week 5 lacks any quarterbacks to select, while Week 6 has zero tight ends. After those weeks were eliminated I noticed that it does seem possible to pull this off in many of the other weeks if everything goes correctly, but much will depend on what draft pick you have to start and also how things start to shake out in the draft. Weeks 4 and 12 are still pretty thin, but I will go over both just in case you like this idea and see your draft heading towards selecting five to six of these players.

First, let’s start with Week 4. There are just nine players to select from, so that is not much to chose from. The focus here all revolves around the Packers and Washington, so if you start off your draft with Christian McCaffrey in Round 2 and you have a later first round pick, things could line up favorably to take plenty of Panthers (Greg Olsen, Cam Newton, Devin Funchess) or Redskins (Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson) in Rounds 5-8). Taking Greg Olsen, Cam Newton, Chris Thompson, and Devin Funchess offers one of each major position and two running backs after the first eight rounds. Adding D.J. Moore in Round 10 would result in six players across four positions (1-2-2-1) all with Week 4 off. Here is the chart of these players in a round-by-round breakdown by position:

Round
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Table 2: Players with Week 4 Byes

Now let’s look at Week 7 players. Round six looks barren, but there is an approach to collect Week 7 bye week players that does make sense. If you have a middle of Round 1 pick, starting with Antonio Brown and then following it up in Round 2 with Davante Adams heads you in the Week 4 bye plan direction. Both Doug Baldwin and Amari Cooper offer the third starting wide receiver with a Week 7 bye. Of course, diverting to a running back in Round 1, 2 or 3 is acceptable considering that more wide receivers are available and line up well in Round 4 (JuJu Smith-Schuster) and Round 9 (Jordy Nelson). Several Week 7 bye week running backs are also available (Rashad Penny, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Williams, and three others in Round 1). The quarterback can be addressed by taking Ben Roethlisberger in Round 9, while the full lineup can be completed by adding Jimmy Graham in Round 5. Be sure to keep Table 3 ready if you have a draft going like this:

Round
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Table 3: Players with Week 7 Byes

Now let's take a look at the next group of four teams that all share a bye in Week 8:

Round
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Table 4: Players with Week 8 Byes

Despite having four teams to choose from (Dallas, Atlanta, Tennessee, and the Chargers), only 13 players are available to select here, so this is not an easy plan to put together. Things would have to fall exceptionally well to align, as there is just one tight end (Delanie Walker) and two quarterbacks (Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan). All three of these players are in Rounds 6-9, so this plan would only make sense if two running backs and a wide receiver from Rounds 1-4 fall just right during your draft. Overall this is likely not a great plan, so do not target Week 8 players for a Good-Bye draft.

Now let's take a look at Week 9, the first week where six teams are taking a hiatus. Here is the breakdown in Table 5:

Round
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defenses
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Jacksonville Jaguars
10

Table 5: Players with Week 9 Byes

There are several viable plans here, but once again we have to look at how the early part of a draft would need to go, what area of the draft your Round 1 pick would need to be, and the scarcity of certain positions. In this case, a later pick in Round 1 and the availability of either Leonard Fournette or Odell Beckham Jr Jr., or both at the Round 1/2 turn would lead an astute drafter to think about enacting this very plan. Tight end would have to be addressed with either a pick of Zach Ertz in Round 3 or Evan Engram in Round 5 (unless you are hoping Jack Doyle is available later), while quarterback comes down to Carson Wentz or Andrew Luck. The ideal draft would have Fournette, Beckham Jr., Zach Ertz, Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Wentz all rostered before the end of Round 6. Round 5 would be for the start of an upside down running back approach and/or an RBBC strategy for the RB2 option for the roster. Both Nelson Agholor and Sterling Shepard offer two more wideouts to close out the plan, which could ideally result in seven to eight players with a Week 9 bye (Wentz at quarterback, Ertz at tight end, Fournette at running back and four wide receivers - Odell Beckham Jr Jr., Fitzgerald, Agholor, and Sterling Shepard). Mix that with an RBBC in Rounds 5 and 7 and that makes Week 9 arguably the best Good-Bye Plan for 2018.

Moving on to Week 10:

Round
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Table 6: Players with Week 10 Byes

With four teams on a bye in Week 10 (Houston, Minnesota, Baltimore and Denver), Week 10 looks a little thin for a Good-Bye Plan with only two quarterbacks, one tight end and only 15 players overall in Table 6. The mix of the players and the ADP makes it nearly impossible to collect more than four to five players and certainly not address all four key positions. So throw out Week 10 for 2018. Time to take a look at our penultimate week, NFL Week 11:

Round
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Table 7: Players with Week 11 Byes

It is clear on the Table 7 chart for Week 11 that an early first-round pick serves best for this plan. Week 11 offers up the most player options of any bye week with 21 options available through Round 10. Round 1 is wide open for a stud running back, while Round 2 has to be for Rob Gronkowski to maximize the Good-Bye Plan. Rounds 5-10 offer a plethora of running backs and wide receivers (four backs and seven receivers) with Week 11 off. Keying on quarterback focuses the attention on either Tom Brady in Round 4-5 or Jimmy Garoppolo in Round 8. This plan works best if you are drafting for best player available at running back and wide receiver for the first four rounds and happen to land Gronkowski at tight end. If that happens and you can snap up Tom Brady, then several running back and wide receiver options exist in Rounds 5-10 to complete the plan. This makes Week 11 my second favorite option of the bunch for a viable Good-Bye Plan this season.

Lastly, we take one last look at a possibility for players from Week 12:

Round
Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defenses
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Los Angeles Rams

Table 8 - Players with Week 12 Byes

We go out with a bit of a whimper here with our final week in Week 12. Only two teams (Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams) are represented by 11 options, one of which is the Rams defense. The only option for a Week 12 plan would be to take Travis Kelce early in Round 2 after securing Todd Gurley with the first pick and then snapping up wide receivers with a Week 12 bye in Rounds 3-8. Jared Goff or Patrick Mahomes II in Round 10 would complete this Good-Bye Plan, but odds are that this is far too difficult to pull off and also extremely risky to focus on players from just two teams.

So there you have it - the Good-Bye view for 2018. If your draft goes a certain way and you start to collect players with the same bye week, do not freak out. Just remember this article and think about compounding the problem by building a team that will be 100% full when other teams have bye weeks affecting their lineups. There are a number of ways to try this out and make it a successful draft, but remember my earlier warnings about planning for a loss in your fantasy season. Good luck.

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.