If in panic mode, make sure to push the right buttons

ON FANTASY SPORTS

The Kickoff

September 28, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER

With only 14 or 15 weeks to prove that your fantasy football team is any good, it's hard not to freak out when you start the season 0-3.

There's simply nothing else in the fantasy realm like the disastrous football start. Three bad weeks disappear in a blink in baseball or basketball, where there are so many games and many leagues play a point system rather than head-to-head. But in football, there's no way to drop those three losses from the ledger.

So, to panic or not to panic?

In general, I'd advise that you panic a little but only after a brutally honest assessment of your team.

First, let's deal with the most aggrieved class of owners - those who picked Shaun Alexander. The Seattle Seahawks running back was fantasy football's most productive player last season and has been one of the game's most reliable players for longer than that. No one deemed you crazy for taking him first, second or third overall a month ago. But now, he might be out with a broken foot and might amount to the worst blown pick of the season in many leagues.

But beyond cursing the fates, there's not much to do about it. I hope for their sakes that Alexander owners already had Maurice Morris or were able to snag him off waivers. There's no evidence Morris will be a star, but he should at least be serviceable as Alexander's replacement. Also, those who have Alexander in keeper leagues and think they have strong teams around him might want to trade him. Look for a hopeless team that wants a star building block for the future and offer Alexander in exchange for a few lesser players who can help now.

Anyway, back to that brutally honest assessment. Basically, you have to go through your roster player by player. It sounds simple but it really helps you develop a snapshot of where your team stands. If your team is 0-3 but a rational analysis says that your two running backs, your top receiver and your quarterback are all likely to perform better, well, turn off the panic alarm and wait a few weeks for better times.

Don't be upset if, for example, Larry Johnson hasn't carried you to any victories so far this season. He will.

But if you have real problems at one or more of the major offensive spots, you might have to alter your course. Let me give you an example of a real problem on one of my teams. This is in a 14-team league I'm playing with readers of The Sun's fantasy content.

Normally, I would draft my second running back in either the second or third round. But in this league, I didn't like the values on the board at those stages and instead loaded up at receiver (I thought) with Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. I ended up taking Houston's Wali Lundy as my second runner behind Rudi Johnson. I didn't love Lundy, but it sounded like he'd start and that was enough for me.

So Lundy now seems fairly worthless and my only other option is the uninspiring Derrick Blaylock of the New York Jets.

That is a problem, especially if Oakland's offense can't get Moss the ball enough to make him the star he should be. Now, I'm 2-1 in the league so I'm definitely not in panic mode. But the honest assessment of my team tells me I should look to do something. I might try to package my backup quarterback, Philip Rivers, to a team with quarterback uncertainty that has a third back who at least plays. Or, if Owens and Moss pick it up, I might trade from my relatively deep reserve of wide receivers. Those are the sorts of formulas you need to look for.

On the same team, I have Chris Cooley at tight end. Now, Cooley has been tremendously disappointing so far because the Washington Redskins simply haven't thrown him the ball (I had him ranked as my sixth or seventh tight end heading in). But tight end isn't a major scoring position, and there's not enough depth there that teams have worthy backups to peddle. So I've decided to ride it out with Cooley.

I throw that out there as an example of what not to panic about as opposed to my running back situation, which demands attention. So the moral of this story is: get upset with your team selectively.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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