My apologies in advance to those of you that do not play fantasy football, but as the title of today’s submission implies, I dabble in fantasy football and decided to spend some bandwidth on fantasy baseball’s cousin. That said, my offerings are going to come from a more analytical perspective than mainstream fantasy football discussions.
Something that has always bothered me about fantasy football advice is there is a ton of “small sample size” analysis by the respected experts in the hobby. I am not kidding about this, but I heard two different radio hosts allude to a single play in the first pre-season game as the reason they are adjusting the player’s rank. Really? REALLY??? One play? In the first exhibition game? I am not trying to say I know anything about evaluating football talent. All I am saying is I know that one play in a game where teams are trying not to get hurt means diddly squat. As an aside, I listen to a podcast (The Bob and Tom Show) where the “sports guy”, Chick McGee, has coined the best line about preseason football, “the games don’t count but the injuries do.”
Speaking of small sample analysis, especially when watching quarterback play, keep in mind teams are not using their standard blitz packages so their performance may be enhanced a bit. Yes Colt McCoy, I am looking at you.
Here is something else that has always bothered me about fantasy football advice, specifically projections. To me, they need to at minimum pass the sniff test when it comes to being logically correct. Specifically, I am talking about the disconnect between QB and WR rankings. Too often, I see a QB ranked really high but the WR low or a pair of WR very high but the QB low. Of course, there are more pass-catchers than the two WR, but show me a top QB that does not have at least one top WR. I am not implying that the projections need to be a sum-zero entity. We struggle with this all the time in baseball, with the balance between global accuracy and team accuracy. But my point is, I have often seen sets of rankings with QB and WR that just do not make sense.
Here is something coming from the valuation side of things. Keep in mind that while things like 6 points per passing TD and PPR (points per reception) give more raw points to the respective players, all QB get 6 points and all WR get PPR, etc. The baseline level of expected production is also raised. What counts is the number of points a player produced over the last drafted player at each position. In a twelve team, 1 QB league, the 12th QB contributes no useful points. In a twelve team, 2 RB league, the 24th RB contributes no useful points. So while I am not saying that rankings are not altered if passing TD are worth 6 points or the league is PPR, I have heard some analysts over emphasize the impact, especially with respect to quarterbacks in 6 point per TD leagues.
We’ll end on a note to those bridging into auction play in fantasy football, especially if you are a veteran if baseball auctions. Take your sheet with dollar values, crumple it up and toss it out the window. Well, maybe put it into your recycling bin. Here’s the deal. Values are even less useful than they are in baseball. I would study the player pool and determine the position(s) you feel most comfortable with the back-end talent. Then, identify the most reliable players at the top end of the other pools and go get a couple. Do not worry about “paying too much”, there is no such thing in football. Trust me, assuming you really know the inventory, you will be able to secure a bunch of cheap players. As an example, personally, I see some serious value at the back end of the RB and TE pool. So in an auction, I would pay for one of the top QB and top WR. I would not target just one and go get him, I would set up a group and try to get one as cheaply as possible within that group, but I would not use a price list as a boundary. I would then get a back end RB as my RB1 and use the spaghetti method for my RB2 – throw a bunch of names against the wall and see what sticks. With so many teams employing running back by committee, there should be some tasty options to emerge as the season progresses.