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 2016 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).  Two 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. Last season byes 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).  

Enough history - what about this season?  Byes extend from Week 4 to Week 13 this year, the first time bye weeks have gone past Week 12 since there were only 31 teams in 1999-2001 (sorry, said I would move on from history).  This year two teams are off in four of those weeks (Weeks 4, 6, 7 and 13) while six are off in Weeks 8 and 9.  interestingly enough, Week 12 has all the teams in play while Week 13 does not (Tennessee and Cleveland get Week 13 byes).   

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 #3 I mean that if you wanted to accomplish #1 and #2 but you had to draft a player in Round 5 that 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 get all of the Top 120 picks based on recent ADP and sort them by Bye Weeks. Here is what I found:

Position Bye Player Team ADP
WR 4 Jordy Nelson  GB/4 15
RB 4 Eddie Lacy GB/4 26
WR 4 Randall Cobb GB/4 33
QB 4 Aaron Rodgers GB/4 34
WR 4 Jordan Matthews  PHI/4 56
RB 4 Ryan Mathews PHI/4 64
TE 4 Zach Ertz PHI/4 97
WR 4 Dorial Green-Beckham PHI/4 109
WR 5 Allen Robinson JAX/5 12
RB 5 Jamaal Charles  KC/5 17
WR 5 Brandin Cooks NO/5 23
RB 5 Mark Ingram NO/5 24
RB 5 Thomas Rawls  SEA/5 40
WR 5 Jeremy Maclin KC/5 43
WR 5 Doug Baldwin SEA/5 47
QB 5 Russell Wilson SEA/5 48
QB 5 Drew Brees NO/5 58
TE 5 Travis Kelce KC/5 65
WR 5 Allen Hurns JAX/5 67
TE 5 Coby Fleener NO/5 69
WR 5 Tyler Lockett SEA/5 78
QB 5 Blake Bortles JAX/5 79
RB 5 T.J. Yeldon JAX/5 86
RB 5 Chris Ivory JAX/5 90
TE 5 Julius Thomas JAX/5 98
WR 5 Willie Snead NO/5 108
TE 5 Jimmy Graham  SEA/5 119
RB 6 Adrian Peterson MIN/6 8
WR 6 Mike Evans TB/6 22
RB 6 Doug Martin TB/6 25
RB 6 Charles Sims TB/6 87
WR 6 Laquon Treadwell MIN/6 103
WR 6 Stefon Diggs MIN/6 107
QB 6 Jameis Winston TB/6 111
RB 7 Ezekiel Elliott  DAL/7 10
WR 7 Dez Bryant  DAL/7 11
QB 7 Cam Newton CAR/7 31
WR 7 Kelvin Benjamin CAR/7 32
TE 7 Greg Olsen CAR/7 49
RB 7 Jonathan Stewart CAR/7 70
QB 7 Tony Romo DAL/7 117
WR 8 Antonio Brown PIT/8 1
WR 8 Odell Beckham Jr NYG/8 2
RB 8 Todd Gurley LA/8 4
RB 8 LeVeon Bell  PIT/8 13
WR 8 Jarvis Landry MIA/8 35
RB 8 Carlos Hyde SF/8 41
WR 8 DeVante Parker MIA/8 66
QB 8 Ben Roethlisberger PIT/8 68
RB 8 Jay Ajayi MIA/8 80
RB 8 DeAngelo Williams  PIT/8 84
RB 8 Arian Foster MIA/8 91
WR 8 Sterling Shepard NYG/8 92
RB 8 Justin Forsett BAL/8 93
QB 8 Eli Manning NYG/8 95
RB 8 Rashad Jennings NYG/8 96
TE 8 Ladarius Green  PIT/8 102
WR 8 Markus Wheaton PIT/8 110
WR 8 Torrey Smith SF/8 113
WR 8 Tavon Austin LA/8 114
WR 8 Steve Smith BAL/8 116
WR 9 DeAndre Hopkins HOU/9 5
RB 9 David Johnson ARI/9 6
WR 9 A.J. Green CIN/9 7
TE 9 Rob Gronkowski NE/9 9
RB 9 Lamar Miller HOU/9 14
WR 9 Alshon Jeffery CHI/9 18
TE 9 Jordan Reed WAS/9 37
WR 9 Julian Edelman  NE/9 39
RB 9 Dion Lewis NE/9 46
WR 9 Larry Fitzgerald ARI/9 50
WR 9 Michael Floyd ARI/9 54
RB 9 Matt Jones WAS/9 55
RB 9 Jeremy Langford CHI/9 61
RB 9 Jeremy Hill CIN/9 62
RB 9 Giovani Bernard CIN/9 63
WR 9 John Brown  ARI/9 71
TE 9 Tyler Eifert  CIN/9 73
WR 9 Kevin White CHI/9 77
WR 9 Carson Palmer ARI/9 82
QB 9 Tom Brady NE/9 83
WR 9 DeSean Jackson WAS/9 85
WR 10 Amari Cooper OAK/10 21
WR 10 T.Y. Hilton IND/10 27
WR 10 Sammy Watkins  BUF/10 28
RB 10 LeSean McCoy BUF/10 30
RB 10 Latavius Murray OAK/10 42
QB 10 Andrew Luck IND/10 44
WR 10 Golden Tate DET/10 45
WR 10 Donte Moncrief IND/10 59
RB 10 Ameer Abdullah DET/10 74
RB 10 Frank Gore IND/10 76
WR 10 Michael Crabtree OAK/10 81
WR 10 Marvin Jones DET/10 88
QB 10 Derek Carr OAK/10 104
RB 10 Theo Riddick DET/10 106
WR 11 Julio Jones ATL/11 3
RB 11 Devonta Freeman ATL/11 16
WR 11 Brandon Marshall NYJ/11 19
WR 11 Keenan Allen SD/11 20
WR 11 Demaryius Thomas DEN/11 29
RB 11 Matt Forte NYJ/11 36
RB 11 C.J. Anderson DEN/11 38
WR 11 Eric Decker NYJ/11 53
RB 11 Danny Woodhead SD/11 57
WR 11 Emmanuel Sanders DEN/11 60
RB 11 Melvin Gordon SD/11 75
QB 11 Philip Rivers SD/11 101
WR 11 Travis Benjamin SD/11 105
DEF 11 Denver Broncos DEN/11 115
RB 11 Tevin Coleman ATL/11 118
TE 11 Antonio Gates SD/11 120
RB 13 DeMarco Murray TEN/13 51
RB 13 Duke Johnson CLE/13 52
TE 13 Delanie Walker TEN/13 72
WR 13 Corey Coleman CLE/13 89
TE 13 Gary Barnidge CLE/13 94
WR 13 Josh Gordon  CLE/13 99
RB 13 Derrick Henry TEN/13 100
RB 13 Isaiah Crowell CLE/13 112

Table 1: Top 120 Players By ADP, Sorted By Bye Weeks

Next I took a look at the positional breakdown for each Week's players:

Week Players QBs RBs WRs TEs DEF
4 8 1 2 4 1 0
5 19 3 5 7 4 0
6 7 1 3 3 0 0
7 7 2 2 2 1 0
8 20 2 8 9 1 0
9 21 2 7 9 3 0
10 14 2 5 7 0 0
11 16 1 6 7 1 1
13 8 0 4 2 2 0

Table 2: Bye Weeks vs. Positions

After reviewing Table 2 I decided to eliminate Weeks 4, 6, 7 and 13 right away due to limited choices8, 10 and 11 (no quarterback in Week 13, no tight end in Week 10, and under eight playres in Weeks 4 and 6).  Remember, I'm not reaching for a TE2 or QB2 or a committee to make this happen. After those weeks were eliminated I noticed that it does seem possible to pull this off 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. Week 11 is still pretty thin, but I will go over it just in case you like this idea and see your draft heading towards selecting 5-6 of these players.  

First, let’s start with Week 5.   There are 19 players to select from, so that's a reasonable pool of players (about 15% of the Top 120).  Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans and Seattle can have some solid offensive players, so this is one of the better options for this possible plan.  The players are spread across several rounds (Stee Table 3), and it looks like having a middle of the round pick is the best option to get a well-rounded lineup.  Round 1 may not have much to target, but if you get a stud running back you can grab wide receivers in four of the first seven rounds plus have a shot at either Jamaal Charles, Mark Ingram or Thomas Rawls for your second back.  Even tight end and quarterback options exist for the first seven picks, so a Brees-Cooks or Wilson-Lockett duo is possible.  If you get three players in the first five rounds you like with a Week 5 bye, strongly consider Lockett and a QB, TE or both later and using this plan.  Here is the chart of these players in a round-by-round breakdown by position (RB in red, WR in green, QB in blue, TE in purple):

Rnd Player Player Player Player
1       Allen Robinson
2 Mark Ingram Brandin Cooks Jamaal Charles   
4 Doug Baldwin Jeremy Maclin Thomas Rawls   
5 Russell Wilson   Drew Brees  
6 Coby Fleener Allen Hurns Travis Kelce  
7   Tyler Lockett Blake Bortles  
8     Chris Ivory T.J. Yeldon
9 Julius Thomas     Willie Snead
10 Jimmy Graham       

Table 3: Players with Week 5 Byes

Now let’s look at Week 8 players.  Here we have even more options (20 players), and you better have a pick in the middle of a round to really go after this plan, which may not fully develop until Rounds 8-10.  If you get 2-3 players with a Week 8 bye before Round 7 is done, give this plan a brief thought, especially if you like Eli Manning and Sterling Shepard this coming season.  Be sure to keep Table 4 ready if you have a draft going like this: 

Rnd Player Player Player Player
1 Antonio Brown Odell Beckham Jr Todd Gurley  
2       LeVeon Bell 
3       Jarvis Landry
4     Carlos Hyde  
6   Ben Roethlisberger DeVante Parker  
7       DeAngelo Williams 
8 Justin Forsett Sterling Shepard Arian Foster  
9 Eli Manning Rashad Jennings Ladarius Green   
10 Steve Smith Tavon Austin Torrey Smith Markus Wheaton

Table 4: Players with Week 8 Byes

Now let's look quickly at Week 9, listed out in Table 5:

Rnd Player Player Player Player
1 DeAndre Hopkins David Johnson A.J. Green Rob Gronkowski
2     Alshon Jeffery Lamar Miller
4 Dion Lewis   Julian Edelman  Jordan Reed
5 Larry Fitzgerald Michael Floyd Matt Jones  
6 John Brown  Giovani Bernard Jeremy Hill Jeremy Langford
7 Tyler Eifert  Kevin White Carson Palmer Tom Brady
8       DeSean Jackson

Table 5: Players with Week 9 Byes

This one is probably my favorite this year if you want to punt your bye week.  Week 9 has players from six teams, just like Week 8, but the caliber of the offenses is much higher.  WIth New England, Houston, Arizona, Cincinnati, Chicago and Washington all represented, these 21 players have a ton of diversity from a team and positional perspective.  An early draft pick could land DeAndre Hopkins, Dion Lewis, Larry Fitzgerald and Tyler Eifert, while a middle pick could land three strong WR1s (A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery and Julian Edelman) leaving value for a RBBC approach with several options in Rounds 5 and 6.  Tom Brady or Carson Palmer could really round out a squad like this, making it a real contender - and you know you already will have a solid QB2 plan with Brady in the mix.   

Lastly we take a look at Week 11, with only four teams represented:

Rnd Player Player Player Player
1 Julio Jones      
2   Keenan Allen Brandon Marshall Devonta Freeman
3   Demaryius Thomas   Matt Forte
4       C.J. Anderson
5   Eric Decker Danny Woodhead Emmanuel Sanders
7 Melvin Gordon      
9   Philip Rivers Travis Benjamin  
10 Antonio Gates Tevin Coleman Denver Broncos  

Table 6: Players with Week 11 Byes

Here we move from my favorite plan (Week 9) to arguably the weakest.  As Table 6 shows, you need to have either a 3/4 turn pick or a middle pick to execute this strategy, and I stated earlier I like other options with a middle of the round selection.  While I like a Devonta Freeman / C.J. Anderson running back duo for a starting team, I do not see much else I like at the end of Round 1 to try this plan - and only one tight end (Antonio Gates) and one quarterback (Philip Rivers) is in the mix.  I will pass on this plan for Week 11. 

So there you have it - the "Good-Bye" view for 2016.  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.

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