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Pine Points
Joe Levit
October 18, 2006

Because the goal of head-to-head formats in fantasy football is to beat your opponent in a given week by outscoring him, it is a game not only of talent, but also of choice. You must select the appropriate players to start each week. If you don’t choose the correct guys, you are leaving points on the bench, and that practice is bound to trip you up sooner or later, usually often.

What then is a productive way to deal with this issue? The best answer is to get rid of the bench points. Obviously, I don’t mean dropping the talent behind your starters. What I am implying is that you should tap that resource, rather than have it just sit there as unrealized promise. 

With the exception of one decent backup QB and RB for bye-week and injury duty, you don’t need other men languishing on your sidelines. It is always possible to find some receiver that is peaking and insert him into a lineup for a week. And, you can usually do the same thing with kickers and tight ends. For defenses, it is entirely possible to find an average one playing a poor offense in a given week.

Here is where your trading skills come into play. Try to deal multiple bench players for someone who could actually start for your team. It is better to have even marginally better production on your starting roster than potential riding the pine.

Take for example this roster, where the owner must start 2-3 running backs, 3-4 wide receivers and 1-2 tight ends, with seven slots between those three positions:

Normal Starters:
QB - Tom Brady
RB - Tiki Barber
RB - Frank Gore
RB - Corey Dillon
WR - Keenan McCardell
WR - Antonio Bryant
WR - Greg Jennings
TE - Heath Miller
PK - John Carney
DF - Denver Broncos

QB - Joey Harrington
RB - Ahman Green
RB - Michael Turner
RB - Correll Buckhalter
WR - Larry Fitzgerald
WR - Troy Williamson
WR - Ronald Curry
TE - Eric Johnson

Because Ahman Green and Larry Fitzgerald have been out with injuries there are others in the starting lineup. Even so, there is the opportunity to trade away bench players for guys who could start now. It isn’t going to help this owner to keep injured players on the bench if their absences cost him or her a chance at the playoffs.

So, keeping with the idea that the owner really only needs one decent backup quarterback and running back, we can eliminate Joey Harrington (though a better backup could probably be had through free agency) and Ahman Green. That still leaves some serious trade bait on the bench. Larry Fitzgerald, Troy Williamson, Eric Johnson and even Michael Turner could be used in the right situation to land a good starter. If the owner decided to start four wideouts instead, perhaps keeping Fitzgerald, then Ahman Green, Corey Dillon – or both of them if Turner is deemed good enough backup material – could be dangled in potential transactions.

The new target could be a strong receiver, a more consistent fantasy quarterback (surprisingly not Brady this year) or a top defense. Remember that the points you can gain by grabbing a top player at kicker and especially defense are not to be dismissed. If you find an owner willing to deal the Bears defense, for instance, it can be worth giving up a good running back or wide receiver, alone or as part of a multi-player deal. After all, if you don’t currently own Chicago’s defense imagine how great it would have been to enjoy the two fumble recoveries and punt return for a touchdown against the Cardinals last week. That fantasy production was as good as or better than a top running back.

One of the benefits of ridding yourself of quality bench players is that you promulgate a cycle of constant upgrade. Remember that you can also combine starters on your team with good bench players to trade for a better starter. If you can upgrade your starting lineup at any time, take that opportunity. This housecleaning allows you to clear up more space to add prospects at any position. If you grab guys off the waiver wire at the right time, you can keep turning them into something worthwhile.

Owners can enjoy two psychological benefits from this practice as well, which are often more important to your overall performance as a manager than you might at first imagine. When you don’t have as much talent on your bench, it becomes very obvious who you should be starting each week. You won’t feel as much stress, avoiding having to agonize over which of three quarterbacks to play, or which three of your five average wide receivers should get the nod that week. 

Lastly, you will save yourself a great deal of second-guessing and agony after a defeat. Gone will be the days of having to kick yourself in the ass after failing to start the player who goes off for 100+ yards and two scores. You will know for a fact that you put forth the best effort that you could. It is much easier to accept – not enjoy – a defeat when you have this awareness.

Joe Levit provides fantasy football presentations for corporate outings or client appreciation events. Go to and find out what this service is all about. Joe can be reached at