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Sunday 17th Dec 2017

I have written often, and for as long as I have been playing fantasy games, that I think playing a lot of variations of the game(s) that tickle your fancy is a smart move.

For example, I play in a couple of AL-only leagues, in a 15-team mixed dynasty contest, as well as Scoresheet and Strat-O-Matic, and then DFS games. Strat-O-Matic, being a sim, and Scoresheet are wildly different in structure from the traditional rotoball, and DFS is a subset of that classic game that started all this lunacy. 

Though it is a bit tricky at first, navigating around and between different formats of the same basic game, I liken Fantasy Ball to Poker in that the cards/game is the same, but how the players/cards are exploited differs from parameters to parameters.

Supporting this, I have long written that though I started my Roto Ball journey playing Strat-O-Matic in 1978, it is through that game that I learned to appreciate both WHIP--which was not even a recognized statistic in those days--and OBP, and both those numbers govern a lot of my play today.

But, as with changes in our games, like moving from 4x4 to 5x5, or dropping AVG in favor of OBP, playing one variation over another expands our vision. Ideally, it allows us to see things in all formats we might not have ordinarily spotted.

Over the last couple of weeks, I participated in both a 2017 Mock (which I wrote about last Saturday) and now I am in the midst of a 2016 Dynasty Football Draft that includes two leagues, with 15 teams each, and will boast a roster of 30 players per team. Both of these draft formats are new to me.

Drafting from scratch is always a dicey prospect, whether you are in a year-to-year throw back league, or speculating for Opening Day next year when we are barely halfway through the 2016 season.

Does that mean J.A. Happ is a pick worthy of the third round or better, or that Aaron Rodgers slips to the later rounds because as good as he is, the Packers signal caller has a shorter shelf life than does Teddy Bridgewater?

The answer is I am not sure, but in contrast, who among us felt that Happ was worth more than a look in all but the deepest of formats?

 As with most of these speculative and also often rhetorical questions, we don't ever really know the truth until the respective season is over, but participating in these two new set-ups has made me really think about who has value now, who will have value in six months and who will in six seasons.

Of course, one of the things I try to balance is knowing that Tyrod Taylor might indeed be a killer QB in two or three years, but in the meantime, Rodgers will probably be better. So, if I want to compete, do I draft Rodgers now and stash a Jared Goff hoping that by the time Rodgers is nearing the end, Goff will be moving into his peak years?

Similarly, does A.J. Pollock, as a ninth rounder for 2017, become a steal? Or was he already a quasi one-year wonder, and rounds nine through 11 is the logical home for a guy who might hit .280-11-70 with 15 swipes?

Once again, if any of us actually knew these answers, things like the lottery would be a cakewalk. But, in drafting now for next year, I do have an idea of not just how my fellow drafters view Happ and Pollock at this moment in time and space, but the exercise gives us all a chance to see where players we favor might fall, or be sniped out from under our respective noses.

It is well documented that I am not a huge fan of ADP, save it gives me a skeletel idea of how ideally my fellow drafters rate a Pollock. But, when I draft, I try to ignore such external noise, as it feels to me like I am building a team to produce a set of stats according to those parameters noted.

That means it is the stats I am drafting, rather than the player, and any exercise that I can embrace that helps me assemble a roster of those best possible stats should theoretically make me a better player.

It is difficult for many of us to move out of our comfort zone, but that is what playing in many leagues with many formats can bring to us.

So, if the opportunity arises to play a game that seems out of the box for you, try to let go of preconceived notions and run to the differences, not from them. 

Your stats will thank you. So will your teams.

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