Be a Maverick, not a LeBron: Incentives, strategies to keeping dismissal teams alive

Last week, I gave out tips on how to turn around a dismal start in fantasy football.

Hopefully you used that to your advantage and are in the process of digging out of that early season divot. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.

This week, I’m here to ask, — no, beg you — not to mail in the rest of the season if you can’t turn it around. Don’t ignore your team, forget to set your lineup and start three players with a bye week.

Nobody likes a quitter. Just look at LeBron James. First he quit on his teammates in Cleveland, then ditched them and quit on his teammates in Miami during the NBA Finals last season. (Let’s pause and have a brief moment of silence for the 2011-12 NBA season. R.I.P.) How is LeBron perceived by the public today? Not good.

Now, let’s take a look at one of my favorite examples from the other side of the spectrum, Top Gun. Tom Cruise, aka Pete Mitchell, aka Maverick, was a high-risk fighter pilot who lost his co-pilot and best friend, Goose, in a freak accident during a practice flight routine. Maverick took responsibility for Goose’s death, but did he give up? Of course not! Albeit he had the help of a foxy Kelly McGillis to jolt him out of his rut, which you may not have access to, but the point is: Don’t let failure get to you.

Now, I don’t expect you to start gunning Migs out of the sky like Maverick, but the least you can do is maintain the respect and appreciation of your fellow owners by putting up a good fight. It’s not always easy, though, so if you’re having trouble keeping some owners in your league interested here are a couple tips.

Try giving out a bonus or incentive for weekly high score. It doesn’t have to be much. Maybe it’s $5 a week from the league money cache or a couple drinks at Brothers next Thursday (Seriously, come on out. I’ll be there.), but it can help give a team with a 1-7 record a reason to stay interested.

Play in a keeper league. You probably can’t start one in the middle of the season, but keeper leagues are a great way to keep every team involved. Just like professional sports, teams that are clearly out of the playoff running can focus on rebuilding for next year. That might mean trading one of your stars for high-upside prospects. If you’re not making a run this season, what’s the harm in that?

Don’t reward losing. A couple leagues I have been a part of for multiple years always set the draft order from the reverse order of the previous year’s standings. While this might work in the NFL, in fantasy it’s counterproductive, as it can encourage teams to cut their losses and gun for the No. 1 pick. One easy way to fix this is to switch from a draft to an auction, which is a better system anyway.

If you or your friends have any other ideas, send them in or tweet them to me at my contact info as listed below.

Don’t be LeBron. Be Maverick (Hey get it? The Heat lost to the Mavericks!). And one last thing before we get on to the pickups, if you haven’t seen Top Gun, go watch it now. The unintentional comedy is off the charts. It’s worth it for the volleyball scene alone.

*Quarterbacks*

Colt McCoy, Browns (26 percent): McCoy has been flying under the radar (See, I can keep this Top Gun thing going.) this season as a result of playing in the great city of Cleveland. Surprisingly, however, the former Texas star has put together solid starts in every outing. He’s never going to be a starting fantasy quarterback every week, at least until the Browns surround him with more offensive weapons (Seriously. Cleveland’s receiving corps is about as dangerous as Canada). But if you’re a Tom Brady or Michael Vick owner, and you don’t have a backup option already in place for their bye weeks, McCoy has proven to be a consistent choice.

*Running backs*

Montario Hardesty, Browns (15 percent): If Peyton Hillis owners didn’t grab Hardesty earlier this season when Hillis missed a game due to illness, they’re likely regretting it. The Madden Curse appears to be in full effect, as Hillis injured his hamstring in Sunday’s game. And while he returned later in the game, he did not receive a carry, as the Browns went with Hardesty for much of the afternoon.

DeMarco Murray (3 percent), Tashard Choice (1 percent), Cowboys: I mentioned Murray back in Week Two when Felix Jones suffered a dislocated shoulder. The injury-prone Jones went down with a high ankle sprain Sunday against the Patriots, and Murray took over the majority of the workload in his absence. The rookie’s 32 yards and 3.2 yards per carry were unimpressive, but it’s rare to find starting running backs during the season and high ankle sprains usually require multiple weeks of recovery. Choice will also receive a portion of carries, but given the way Dallas has handled the timeshare in the past, he will likely be used more in the role of a third-down back.

Marion Barber, Bears (4 percent): Barber appears to be filling his old role as goal line back for Chicago, vulturing a touchdown from Matt Forte against the Vikings Sunday night. He won’t receive enough touches week in and week out to start safely, but he’s a nice insurance policy in deeper leagues for Forte owners.

*Wide receivers*

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders (51 percent): The much mocked and maligned Raiders No. 1 pick from the 2009 draft has put up consistently good numbers the last three weeks, and it might be time to actually pay him some attention. Then again, starting quarterback Jason Campbell’s season-ending shoulder injury and the subsequent acquisition of pick-prone Carson Palmer from the Bengals will hinder Heyward-Bey’s production.

Jacoby Jones, Texans (10 percent): Jones made up for his disappearing act a week ago, catching four balls for 72 yards and a score Sunday. His value rests on the health of Andre Johnson, who could be healthy enough to make a return against Tennessee this weekend.

Jabar Gaffney, Redskins (7 percent): Gaffney doesn’t do anything special, but he won’t throw up a goose egg, either. Gaffney has caught between 54 and 62 yards every game this season. That sounds like the perfect bye week substitute in a 12- or 14-team league.

*Tight end*

Fred Davis, Redskins (47 percent): Davis hauled in six catches for 95 yards Sunday, and with Chris Cooley’s finger injury (return unknown), Davis will continue to see increased looks in the coming weeks.

*Kicker*

Dan Bailey, Cowboys (21 percent): It’s not often that I pay attention to free agent kickers, but Bailey is owned in only one-fifth of leagues, despite ranking in the top five in points this year. He plays on an explosive offense that plays in a dome, and the defenses coming up on Dallas’s schedule won’t strike the fear of God into you.

_Daniel is a junior in Media. Contact him for fantasy/relationship advice at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @danielmillermc._