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Loser League 2006

by Al Bogdan

Welcome back to the Third Annual Football Outsiders Loser League Contest, the contest so good The Onion ripped us off.. For those of you just joining us, the Loser League is a fantasy league, but not like one you've played before. Instead of trying to put together a team of the best performers every week, you are trying to compile a roster of the worst. It's one of the few leagues in America where San Francisco 49ers are regularly drafted in the first round.

A group of us started doing the Loser League amongst ourselves before Football Outsiders ever started. We'd draft a new team of players weekly, since the players you've drafted in Week 1 would hopefully be so bad that they'd be out of a job by mid-season. After writing about our weekly league during the website's first year, our readers wrote us in droves trying to get in on the action.

By popular demand, we developed a contest to allow our readers to share in the joy of owning Ike Hilliard and Jose Cortez. Based loosely on the annual HACKING MASS contest run by our partners at Baseball Prospectus, the object is to pick a roster of players who will put up the fewest fantasy points. Unfortunately, we can't have a snake draft each week with all the Football Outsiders readers, so we split the season into two contests so that you aren't penalized later in the year by guessing correctly that a player will be terrible in the first half of the year. One contest will run from Weeks 1 to 9, while the second half contest will run over Weeks 10 to 17. The team that you select at the beginning of each contest is yours to keep throughout the eight or nine weeks the contest runs.

(Of course, you can still run a Loser League over e-mail with your friends, re-drafting every week like we do. You'll find a few more rules to help you do that here.)

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Self, this sounds easy. I'll just draft fourth-string running backs and emergency quarterbacks and I'll be a lock to win. They won't put up any points!" And you'd be right to think that. Except we've designed the league so that people lame enough to employ such a tactic aren't guaranteed to win.

You have to draft players that are expected to play in a game, or you'll incur a hefty penalty for that week. For each quarterback that attempts fewer than ten passes, running back that rushes fewer than eight times, or wide receiver that catches fewer than two passes, you're penalized 15 points. A team made up of Jared Lorenzen, Naufahu Tahi, Lorenzo Neal, Sean Morey, Jerricho Cotchery, and your favorite Gramatica brother may be a lock for 0 fantasy points every week, but in this contest they'll likely score 90 points because of their complete lack of passes, carries, receptions, or kicks.

Here are the full scoring rules:

  • 1 point for each 20 yards passing
  • 1 point for each 10 yards rushing
  • 1 point for each 10 yards receiving
  • 4 points for each passing TD
  • 6 points for each rushing or receiving TD
  • 2 points for each 2 pt. conversion, passing, rushing, or receiving
  • -2 points for each fumble or interception
  • 3 points for each field goal made
  • 1 point for each extra point made
  • -2 points for each missed field goal
  • -5 points for each missed extra point

Penalties:

  • 15 points for any QB who has fewer than 10 passing attempts in a game
  • 15 points for any RB who has fewer than 8 rushing attempts in a game
  • 15 points for any WR who catches fewer than 2 receptions in a game
  • 15 points for any K who makes no attempts because he's been benched for another K

(Note: You only incur a kicker penalty if another kicker on that team makes an attempt and the selected kicker does not. If a kicker's team makes no attempts in a game, there is no penalty. Kicker penalties are one of the world's greatest evils.)

Each team will select their roster for Weeks 1-9 by Saturday, September 9, 2006. Your roster will consist of 2 QB, 3 RB, 3 WR, and 2 K. The highest scorer at each position gets thrown out each week (remember, we're aiming for the lowest score here). You'll end up getting credit for 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR and 1 K every week. This also won't keep one injury at a position, or a bye week, from destroying an otherwise perfectly crappy loser team since you can't make changes to your roster once it's submitted. Only one team per person, please.

The winner of each half of the contest will get a free copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2007, once it's fresh off the printing press next year. The person with the best score in both halves combined wins a very special Loser League grand prize. We don't know what it is yet, but it will be super duper special. We'll update the full standings every week on the website and highlight some of the best performers each week in Scramble for the Ball.

Need help drafting your team? Here are some folks that I like for the first half of the year:

QB: Brett Favre needs to be on every Loser League roster. Barring injury, he is virtually guaranteed to have a starting job through Week 9. Green Bay's running game is non-existent and their pass protection should be awful with two rookies starting on the line. What does that mean? Favre will be throwing the ball with abandon all over the field. Last year, Brett had a career high 29 interceptions and threw only 20 touchdowns, the third lowest number of his career. Favre will give you the consistent poor fantasy performance that you need from the quarterback position.

With the steady Favre at one quarterback spot, I can afford to be a bit more risky at my other spot. One of the biggest risks in picking a Loser League roster is that your players will be so bad that they won't be able to keep their jobs. Since it's a virtual certainty that Favre will be out there every week, I can pick someone who might be out of a job by Week 5, in hopes of racking up some spectacularly low point games while the player is still in the starting lineup.

J.P. Losman is my pick here. He starts the season with games on the road at New England and Miami, followed by home games against the Jets and Vikings, and then on the road to Chicago. Kelly Holcomb will likely be in the starting lineup in Week 6 against Detroit, but until then, Losman is a great bet to put up some very low numbers, with a negative point week a strong possibility.

RB: Your ideal RB candidate will get 8-12 carries a game, every game. That usually means the slightly lesser half of a running back by committee. Unfortunately, going into the season it's awfully tough to guess at who that will be. There's no way right now to say who is going to end up with the majority of the carries in Tennessee or Houston.

For at least your first two running backs in this contest, I'd recommend staying away from these risky situations and instead look for starting running backs in poor offenses that will most likely get at least eight carries a game. No one fits this description better than first ballot Loser League Hall of Famer Kevan Barlow. Barlow was the best Loser League performer in 2004, and kept up his strong performance for most of 2005. As the starter for the New York Jets, Barlow should continue to average under 3.5 yards per carry while failing to find the end zone.

For the second year in a row, I'm going to pair Barlow up with Fred Taylor. Taylor is ideal for this format because he is regularly pulled at the goal line. There is very little risk that Taylor will have a big scoring week when Derrick Wimbush or LaBrandon Toefield are on the field when Jacksonville is inside the five-yard line. Taylor should be good for 6-7 points a week, a perfectly acceptable total from one of your running backs.

I'll go back to Green Bay for my final running back and select Ahman Green. Green is listed as the starting tailback for the Packers, but likely will share carries with Samkon Gado and Najeh Davenport as the season wears on, especially inside the goal line. Green was ineffective in the few games he played last year, never finding the end zone or rushing for more than 58 yards in a game. Behind an offensive line that doesn't look to be improved from last year, Green is not a good bet to have success this season, making him the perfect Loser League player.

WR: The key to a championship caliber Loser League franchise is your wide receivers. It is also the toughest position to pick. This is the position where you stand the best chance of putting up consistently low numbers every week. You want your two wide receivers to combine for under ten points a week. What you want to look for are #2 or #3 wide receivers on bad offenses, or receivers that are in decent offenses, but don't get looks in the red zone.

Peerless Price was a great Loser League performer in Atlanta and should return to his previous level of performance now that he is a starter in Buffalo. In his two years in Atlanta, Price had 13 games in which he scored three or fewer points while only scoring six touchdowns. After signing a ridiculous free agent contract this off-season, Price will see enough playing time to get his two catches per game.

With all of the weapons the Giants have on offense, it is unlikely 32-year-old Amani Toomer will match his seven touchdowns from last season. It is likely, however, that Toomer will get a few balls thrown in his direction every game, avoiding the dreaded penalty. The latest KUBIAK projections say Toomer will pick up a hair over 620 yards and three touchdowns this season. That's an average of five points a game, making Toomer a reliable low scoring Loser League player.

For my third receiver, I'll be a bit more risky and take Arnaz Battle from San Francisco. I'm a big fan of grabbing guys like Battle, number two receivers on bad offenses. When he gets his two receptions a game, it's highly unlikely that one of them will be in the end zone. There's a high penalty risk here, but with Toomer and Price, I can manage that risk in hopes of the occasional two-reception, 11-yard day from Battle.

K: Neil Rackers used to be a guaranteed first round pick in our weekly Loser League draft back when he was a Bengal. Oh, how times have changed.

When you look for a Loser League kicker, you are looking for two things: low field goal accuracy and/or a low scoring offense. Kris Brown of Houston meets both criteria. Brown is regularly one of the least accurate field goal kickers in the NFL. He plays on an offense that is regularly in the bottom half of the league in scoring. With Domanick Davis out for the foreseeable future, there isn't much reason to expect that to change.

The Jets should have an offense that is even worse than Houston's, and a kicker not much more accurate than Brown. Mike Nugent was successful on only 78.6 percent of his field goals as a rookie. I won't need to worry about him racking up extra points and sabotaging a great Loser League week because his offense found the end zone one too many times.

Click here to begin!

Comments

1
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:04pm

I have a freakishly long team name. I hope it doesn't break the system (unless I lose point for every character above 40).

ContentLink decided, when I was looking at kickers, that I really, truly needed Sebastian Janikowski merchandise.

2
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:32pm

Anyone else with the marbles to pick Edge?

3
by PackMan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:55pm

Why is there no defense. I would love to try to pick the D that will allow the most yds and points while failing to make any turnovers.

Though, I guess it wouldn't make a difference, since we would all have KC.

4
by JKL (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:08pm

What we need is a loser league auction. It's fine, but too easy, to simply say that Barlow must be on your team.

But how much are you willing to pay to lock up the steady, guaranteed non-production of Barlow?

And would it be good auction loser league kicker strategy to ALWAYS pay more than 1$ for your kicker?

5
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:14pm

#3 - I'd take the 49ers every time. How can you look past that black hole of talent?

6
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:17pm

Why can't I pick Jeff George?!?

7
by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:21pm

#2 - Damn you, he was going to be my secret weapon as a 3rd RB.

8
by Mark (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:24pm

Is it cheating to take both Chicago QBs? You figure one or the other will start and both will likely blow.

9
by Mark (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:27pm

Or, for that matter, Smith and the #2 QB in SF (not bothering to look it up).

10
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:34pm

Mark - no, but you'll have a guaranteed penalty during their bye week.

11
by El Angelo (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:47pm

What's the over/under on number of team names that will be some derivation on You're With Me, Leather?

12
by bryan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:00pm

Speaking of Favre:

http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_4264048

Javon Walker said he needed no reassurance, but after watching his
former team get waxed Monday night, the Broncos' new offensive playmaker
has total clarity. He said he is much happier in Denver than he ever
could be in Green Bay.

"Obviously, we have a chance to be a Super Bowl team," Walker said
Wednesday. "Obviously, they have a chance to win four games."

13
by Mark (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:06pm

Mark - no, but you’ll have a guaranteed penalty during their bye week.

Good point, but I wonder if it's still worth the risk. Takes a bit of the fun out of it, though it drives the point home.

14
by Yaxley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:17pm

But if you take two QBs from the same team, even if they're both lousy, you're almost guaranteeing that at least one of them will take the penalty every week, and so you have to hope the other will underperform to expectations. Whereas if you have lousy QBs from different teams, there's the possibility that they will both be terrible on a given week, giving you a better chance for fewer points.

15
by Mark (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:19pm

My understanding is that only one starts. Both start?

16
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:30pm

Yes, both start but the higher score is dropped. So taking both Chicago QBs may not be a bad idea if you think that Griese will replace Grossman sometime in the first 9 weeks and that he’ll be equally bad. But using the same strategy with the SF QBs doesn’t seem as smart because I have a had time seeing Alex Smith getting replaced at some time this year regardless of how bad he plays.

17
by Mark (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:32pm

Ohhhh, then it makes no sense because the best you can hope for is the penalty. I didn't understand (or read) how the scoring will be done.

18
by Eric (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:49pm

My brothers and some of their friends did a league like this for baseball. We called it McBaseball. I think we also included stuff like drafting the team that will leave the most men left on base and managerial losses (with bonus points for someone getting fired)...

Good times.

19
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:54pm

Right, so if you took both Grossman and Griese, it's basically an "all-in" kinda move. You'd be guaranteed that one of them will not start and he'll recieve the penalty. But the other one will be guaranteed to start and if you believe that they'll both be equally craptastic, you're probably alright with that. The biggest down-side to this kind of gamble is that, whoever it is that is starting, if they go out and throw for anything more than 220 yrd and a TD you're pretty much screwed because then you're guaranteed 15 points from your QB that week (the penalty for the Chi QB that didn't start that week).

20
by Nilblog (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 7:19pm

Loser Leagues are fun, but still, I think we need even more ways of playing FF. How about a preseason league? I think a world in which J.T. Sullivan is relevant must exist, no?

21
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 7:36pm

I'm convinced that a "Loser Sports Network" would be a successful venture. Think of it like ESPN, except you focus on the teams on the bottom... instead of standings you have the "Race for Top Pick"... you can focus on which players leave the most men on base, and which QBs perform the worst, and break down why they shouldn't be on the field.

It would be fun... plus fills a hole that ESPN ignores.

22
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 10:17pm

To be fair, in the second half I am 100% taking "Bears QB."

23
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 11:53pm

San Francisco's backup is professional veteran mentor Trent Dilfer -- if Alex Smith stinks like he did last year, they'll have to put Dilfer on the field.

But he's not available, alas, so you can't go all-in SF QB.

24
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 10:02am

#22: You mean QB Bears.

I gotta say, QB Bills looks awfully tasty too...

25
by Josh (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 10:16am

Where's Jeff George?

26
by geoff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 11:06am

What's the deadline for entry?

27
by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 11:08am

Eh, unless they start dropping points for sacks and tantrums, Jeff George would be a bad pick anyhow. He might lose, but he can put up the stats, when he isn't benched and picking up a penalty.

Personally, I'm just disappointed that I no longer have a sure thing going by picking Kyle Boller.

My only potential regret with my team as of now is deciding to pass on Jano for one of my two kickers. There's a field of "great" choices this year. Which makes me wonder - is kicking starting to go downhill, or have there always been this many bad kickers and I just didn't pay attention before because I lacked Loser League?

28
by geoff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 11:34am

Duh, can't read graphic

29
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:48pm

#2,
I definitely picked Edge. It's the Arizona O-line...yeesh. I also picked Roy Williams...because I don't trust whatever Lions QB is throwing. And he's the only receiver, so he's guaranteed to get a few catches, at least.

30
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 1:01pm

That's why you go with the old reliable -- Rob "My" Bironas of Tennessee. No the most accurate kicker, on a crappy offense to boot. Since Collins is playing catch-up, Volek wants out and Young isn't ready, there shouldn't be a whole lot of scoring down in Nashville for quite a while.

31
by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 1:10pm

I'd like to know how many people picked Jamal Lewis.

The hardest part of LL is figuring out who won't or can't be pulled. If they're bad enough to be a good LL option then obviously the coach should be under pressure to bench them.

32
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 1:29pm

#31,

I picked Jamal too...my team...

QB) Michael Vick and David Carr
RB) Edge, Deuce and Jamal
WR) Roy Williams, Lee Evans, and Marty Booker
K) Nedney and Rackers

Last year I got hit with penalties, so this year I'm going with a few players who are alright (Roy Williams, Deuce) but I expect to either share or be hamstrung by the rest of their crappy team.

33
by Diane (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 5:58pm

I think there should be a prize for best team name ... :-)

34
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 9:30am

Yeah, the Edge is on my books too.

I think FO ought to show an awful lot more love for Peerless Price, however. It's possible that he will be a good loser league pick this year, as he is the no.2 receiver for a team with a horrible quarterback, but I think the urge to write him off as an actually bad player and a rotten pick-up for the Bills is misplaced - certainly DVOA suggests it is.

Last year, Price had a DVOA of 48.3 in his limited playing time, trailing only Jerome Urban and recently cut perennial DVOA favourite Derrick Armstrong. But while Armstrong is a sure-handed but slow possession receiver who can't get open, Price is a genuine deep threat.

"Aha!" I hear you cry, "But Price was only targeted for 10 passes last year, and in 2003 and 2004 he stunk the place out." And indeed he did, with DPARs of -8.3, good for 83rd in the league, and -2.9, 75th. DVOAs of -26.9% and -18% don't look too clever either.

But in Buffalo, Price showed a clear pattern of improvement to being a very good player in 2002. Advanced stats for his rookie season in 1999 aren't available on the site (have those breakdowns been done?), but his conventional numbers suggest to me that he was an adequate no.3 that year. In 2000, he posted a DPAR of 4.4 (61st) and a DVOA of -8.4% (62nd). In other words, he was a marginal but not truly horrible number two receiver. In 2001, he was noticeably better, with a DPAR of 9.8 (41st) and DVOA of -1.9% (46th). In other words, an average or slightly better number two. In 2002, he exploded, posting a DPAR of 24.1 (15th) and a DVOA of 8.8% (27th). He was the best no.2 receiver in football, his career arc to date was all upward, and Atlanta sent Buffalo a first round pick for a guy they thought was ready to be, if not truly elite, then at least a mid-ranking no.1.

Oops.

Asked to be the number one receiver for a team with a quarterback who couldn't pass, Price's numbers, conventional and advanced, fell off a cliff. However, my contention is that Price's time in Atlanta is a case not of decline (clearly neither age nor injuries were the issue, so why would it have happened?) but of the Peter Principle. Price did what he was good at so well in 2002 that in 2003 and 2004 he was asked to do something he wasn't good at. Now, it's possible that his confidence was irreparably destroyed by the trauma of all this, but if his head is right (and the fact that he's currently listed as a starter in Buffalo suggests he must be looking ok in practice) I see no reason why he can't return to being a good second option (though his numbers this season may look bad thanks to J. Crailly Nasmacomb).

This brings up a more general point, which is that DVOA and DPAR don't recognise how much more difficult it is to be a no.1 receiver than a 2 or a 3, and persistently under-rate teams' primary threats and over-rate the rest. Moreover, I believe that receivers and receiving are in general the things that DPAR/DVOA is worst at evaluating (teams and units - fantastic, quarterbacks - very good, running backs - useful, receivers and tight ends - hmm). I do not think there is a way of doing good evaluation of receivers' play from box scores, and I hope that as well as allowing you to do individual ratings for defensive players, the game charting will also enable you to re-assess your rankings of receivers, above all to make them less quarterback dependent.

Wow, that was a pretty lengthy tangent from the topic.

35
by birk (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 8:27pm

So the deadline is 9/9? Does this mean that I can pick a "loser" after the Miami/Pittsburgh game?

36
by Harris (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 4:45pm

Re: # 33 My personal favorite from last year was the Christ Punchers.

I really wanted to take Farve but I chickened out and took Alex Smith and Charlie Frye. LnGrrR, you have huevos the size of boulders. Kudos to you, sir (or madam as the case may be).

37
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 09/10/2006 - 1:17pm

I picked last night, went with a few interesting guys. Losman and Alex Smith at QB, Wali Lundy, Deuce, and Ahman Green at RB.

38
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 09/10/2006 - 3:28pm

Nugent has -4 in the first half...