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 2020 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.

The complexity due to bye weeks continues in 2020, as both Week 8 and Week 11 have six teams taking the week off - but that is not the only story. Week 13 has two teams - Carolina and Tampa Bay - scheduled to be off, and that is the latest bye week since the NFL had just 31 teams (before Cleveland returned to the league). Four other weeks (Weeks 6, 7, 9, and 10) have four teams not playing, while Week 5 and Week 13 have just two on rest. No teams have a bye until Week 5, and Week 12 (Thanksgiving Week) also lacks for a team taking a game 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 (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 employ this potential strategy.

The next step in analyzing this approach began with listing all of the Top 120 picks based on recent ADP and to 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 Teams
Teams on Bye
Top 120 Players
QBs
RBs
WRs
TEs
PKs
Defs
5
2
Det, GB
8
2
3
3
0
0
0
6
4
LV, NE, NO, Sea
17
3
6
6
2
0
0
7
4
Ind, Jac, Min, Ten
10
0
6
4
0
0
0
8
6
Ari, Bal, Den, Hou, Pit, Was
23
4
7
10
2
0
0
9
4
Cin, Cle, LAR, Phi
16
2
6
6
2
0
0
10
4
Atl, Dal, KC, LAC
17
3
4
7
3
0
0
11
6
Buf, Chi, Mia, NYG, NYJ, SF
21
2
10
6
2
0
1
13
2
Car, TB
8
1
3
3
1
0
0

Table 1: Bye Weeks vs. Positions

After reviewing Table 1, a few weeks can immediately be removed from consideration. Normally every week that has just two teams off are immediately off the table, but one of them is very interesting for this coming season. With no bye weeks until NFL Week 5 and all but two teams wrapping up their byes by Week 11, the bye weeks are packed into October and November. Looking at NFL Week 5 where just two teams (Detroit and Green Bay) are off, both teams have only eight combined players in the Top 120 and no tight ends. This week was an easy one to eliminate. Week 7 has four teams (Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Minnesota, and Tennessee), but only 10 players are in the Top 120 from these four squads and none of them are quarterbacks or tight ends. Scratch Week 7 off the list as well. That leaves six NFL Weeks to dig into, so let’s get started.

Starting in chronological order, Table 2 lists the players with a Week 6 bye week in a round-by-round format, separated 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 6 Byes

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