By Jeff Melbostad (@Jeff_DFW)
Rosters in fantasy football are a very difficult thing to juggle. Everyone has their own idea of how to build a roster and a strategy to maintain that roster going forward. The difference in these strategies and ideas is what makes the game of fantasy football (especially dynasty) so great. For every person that believes in one strategy there is another that believes the exact opposite. This simple fact is what drives player movement via trades and other means in fantasy leagues. It’s what makes the game so fun. Without trades, varying player values, and differing roster strategies where would we be?
In this article I’m going to focus on just one aspect of managing your roster. That aspect is depth. I know to many this is a bit of a four-letter word. I see trades going down every day where people are unloading their depth. Using it to buy better, more elite players. This is a viable strategy. It allows you to compile a roster of elites and while there will be fewer of them they will be that much better than what the competition can put out there.
Owners that adhere to this strategy believe that starters are all that matters. Fantasy football is all about points. If you can score more points than your opponent then you win. The better players score more points and thus win you games. After all, in most leagues you can only start 9-10 of your guys. And that includes kickers and defenses. Positions where almost everyone can agree depth is pretty unimportant. In most leagues you start 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2-3 wide receivers and possibly a flex player. So what’s the need for much more than that?
Well that’s where things get interesting. I could sit back and tell you about bye weeks and the need to have coverage when your players take their proverbial week off each year. But I won’t. Bye weeks are something that everyone can plan for. They are announced well before the season and owners can generally find someone to fill in for just a week for a fairly cheap price (be it via trade or waivers).
The real risk to your fantasy football season if you ignore the importance of depth is injury. The NFL is a violent league and football is a violent sport. Injuries aren’t just common they are inevitable. According to a 144-page report released by the Congressional Research Service in 2008 the NFL’s injury rate is nearly 8 times higher than any other pro sports league. Not only that but according to an NFLPA report published in January of 2011 about 60% of NFL players sustain at least one injury every year. Of those players around 1/3 of them miss at least a game due to injury. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of players injured end up missing the entire season by being placed on IR. To me these numbers speak for themselves. Not only are injuries something that are inevitable in fantasy football but they are something we need to plan for.
Now most will tell you that it’s impossible to predict injury and they are 100% correct. We don’t know who’s going to suffer the injuries laid out in the stats provided above. But that’s the crux of the issue. We don’t know if it will be our players or not. So to ignore the issue altogether is a big mistake. Recent owners of Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson (myself included) would argue that to avoid depth on your roster is a bit of a doomsday approach.
When you lose a player of that significance your season can easily be over. If you had Manning rostered with no QB2 you likely limped through the 2011 season and finished far lower in the standings than planned. Unless you had the firepower to make a trade it just wasn’t happening for you. Remember too that without depth you oftentimes lack that very firepower. Not only will depth help you if a player gets injured at the position where you have the depth but it can also let you acquire depth at another position if needed.
For these reasons I would argue that not only is depth in fantasy football important it is, in fact, a necessity. Many underrate the importance of depth and suggest going after quality not quantity. While that is partially true you must not trade away or disregard ALL of your depth. You need backups. In a sport where situations and player values turn on a dime it’s just good business. So while I’m not telling you to trade all of your elites for 2-3 mediocre players I am telling you that you need to have backup plans at each of your positions. Unless, of course, you are a gambler and willing to give up the season if one of your guys goes down. As I stated in the beginning of the article there are always a variety of strategies in this game. Gambling on just your starters is one of them. It just isn’t the route I would advise taking based on my experience and research. You can take my advice or leave it but either way I hope I made you think a little bit about how important depth is to you and your approach. Maybe, just maybe a couple of you will be better off for it.