Draft Strategy: Good-Byes

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 2019 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 there were three weeks with six teams off, but it went back to two weeks in 2010. Various schedules have been used over the past decade, but every year there are one or more weeks in the schedule that create nightmares for fantasy team owners. This is again the case in 2019, where Week 10 has six teams taking the week off, and five other weeks (Weeks 6, 7, 9, 11 and 12) where four teams are not playing. That also brings up another point of late, as the NFL has expanded in Week 12 over the past five years, making these headaches last even longer.

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 (prior to fantasy playoffs) 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

Rule No. 3 means 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, came the process of listing 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
# of Team
Teams on Bye
Players
QBs
RBs
WRs
TEs
PKs
Defs
4
2
NYJ, SF
5
0
2
2
1
0
0
5
2
Det, Mia
5
0
3
2
0
0
0
6
4
Buf, Chi, Ind, Oak
11
1
5
3
1
0
1
7
4
Car, Cle, Pit, TB
20
4
6
7
3
0
0
8
2
Bal, Dal
4
1
2
1
0
0
0
9
4
Atl, Cin, LAR, NO
21
3
6
8
2
1
1
10
6
Den, Hou, Jac, NE, Phi, Was
22
3
9
9
1
0
0
11
4
GB, NYG, Sea, Ten
15
2
5
6
2
0
0
12
4
Ari, KC, LAC, Min
17
2
5
8
2
0
0

Table 1: Bye Weeks vs. Positions

After reviewing Table 1, a few weeks can immediately be removed from consideration. NFL Week 4 has just two teams on a bye (Jets and 49ers), while Week 5 (Detroit and Miami) and Week 8 (Baltimore and Dallas) are also minimal bye weeks. Cross off all three of these options, which reduces the task of just looking at six one-week slates of games. Week 6 is very borderline with only four teams off, and not many of those teams have Top 120 players (only 11 from Table 1, including a defense). For thoroughness, we can consider it, but odds are that week is not going to work well either.

Starting with that questionable week (Week 6), there are only 11 players to select from, and that is if you include the Chicago defense. To even consider this an option, you would have to buy into Andrew Luck and Eric Ebron as the only quarterback and tight end on the list. Both Oakland (Antonio Brown, Josh Jacobs) and Buffalo (LeSean McCoy) are barely represented. Way too many reasons to completely avoid this option. Just for the record, here is the chart of these players in a round-by-round breakdown by position:

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

Table 2: Players with Week 6 Byes

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