Thursday - Oct 22, 2020

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KEEPING AHEAD: Hail a Cab it’s Taxi Squad Time!

Every year, keeper and dynasty league owners happen upon something new. Perhaps it is a promising rookie who wasn’t drafted high but catches your eye during training camp or preseason. Maybe it’s the third-year breakout receiver who hasn’t quite had his chance yet. Or sometimes, just sometimes, it’s a rule change in your league that you had no idea even existed.

Enter the Taxi Squad.

Now for those of you who have used this for years, forgive me if I go through this a little slowly. See, before this year, having played in a competitive keeper league for a decade, I thought I had heard of everything there was to utilize in dynasty/keeper football, and turns out, I was way wrong. The Taxi Squad is a whole new dynamic that adds a bit of strategy, gamesmanship and frankly, opportunity that your roster can absolutely use throughout this wacky 2020 season. I’m going to get into what it is and how to use it but first …

… what the heck is with the name?

Turns out, there is an interesting backstory. See, in the 1940’s, Paul Brown, then head coach of the Cleveland Browns, would routinely come across players who were talented, but perhaps not yet ready to perform at the NFL level. Not wanting to let these players leave Cleveland and become a player on another squad, Brown convinced Arthur McBride, the owner of the Browns at the time, to employ these players as taxi drivers around the city of Cleveland for McBride’s taxi company. How great is that?? Now keep in mind, this was back when rosters were only 33-men deep, so keeping “fringe” players, or rookies who were not yet physically and mentally ready to perform on Sunday’s was a huge deal. This is how the idea of a Taxi League squad was born.

An even deeper dive into the history of this term (thank you to Michael MacCambridge’s excellent America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation), reveals that not only did Brown and McBride successfully keep these players employed until they became useful to the team, but they also had a few tricks up their collective sleeves (suit coats? Times were different then). McBride would literally schedule the players to drive taxis around Cleveland throughout the week, with the exception of during Browns practice hours. During those hours, the “drivers” would report to League Park in Cleveland where the Browns just so happened to be practicing at the time. Nice little coincidence, huh?

So, let’s bring it back to today. In 2020, nearly every dynasty and keeper league have an option that can be used called the Taxi Squad which, in essence, does the same thing that Brown and McBride did back in the day. You can use it to “park” a rookie, prospect or not-quite-ready player on your Taxi Squad, thus preventing other owners from sniping them off of waivers or seeking them in a trade. Essentially, they are “employed” by your team, but not accessible on Sundays. Wouldn’t want to violate league rules now, would we?

In COVID times, this Taxi Squad has risen to an all-time prominence as a way to “store” players who have either tested positive for COVID themselves (Cam Newton) or had their games postponed as a result of COVID protocols (Derrick Henry). This is an important step that not only saves you from having to drop one of these important players, but also to allow you to pick up an additional player to place in your starting lineup if needed.

Now, let’s be realistic. You aren’t finding Derrick Henry replacement-level players on the waiver wire the week-of a postponement. This isn’t a season-saving move or even a week-saving one for some owners. But what it does do, and this is particularly important to those that read this column, is often give you the opportunity to snipe someone that may be of value.

Let’s look at an example from my team last week.

I own JuJu Smith-Schuster. My league is a 16-team, full point per reception (PPR) league with only 12 player rosters so as you can imagine, there is often gems to be found on the waiver but you cannot be too overzealous given that you have such small wiggle room with which to play. Last week, as you all know, the Pittsburgh/Tennessee game was postponed. Now I had intentions of starting Smith-Schuster against Tennessee’s miserable slot defenders, but, now that the game had been postponed, I had an opportunity to do something that was both legal, ethical and pretty strategically minded.

So I placed Smith-Schuster on the taxi squad and picked up Nyheim Hines.

OK, so the move didn’t really work out well. Hines underperformed, per usual, and offered little-to-no help last week.

BUT

Had I used that exact same claim on, say, Damien Harris? Or Justin Jackson? We would have had a much different conversation today.

Now this was with Smith-Schuster, who is undoubtedly a starter more weeks than not. But what if, say, you had Corey Davis sitting on your bench? Taxi Squad him for the week, pick up a random player who may serve you well, and run with it. Worst case scenario? The player pulls a “Hines” and you drop him two days later. Best case? You now have another piece to maneuver and plan with before waivers run, ahead of the game.

Let the great Paul Brown be your guide.

Read on for this weeks Hits, Holds and Folds..

About MJ Brown

MJ Brown has been an avid fantasy football keeper league enthusiast and player for over a decade. A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, MJ delivers weekly content on multiple platforms, bringing a combination of advice, humor, and tips to keep your team at the top of your league.