Welcome to the inaugural edition of Fourth and Goal, my attempt at cogent fantasy football commentary. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what I am going to write about each week. Obviously, I play fantasy football and have actually been doing so for longer than I have played fantasy baseball. That said, I am admittedly not as intimate with the player pool in football as I am with baseball. I watch the games and formulate my own opinions during the season, but I do not expend a whole lot pre-season research on football anymore, not with my baseball responsibilities. As you may imagine, the part of the game I like the most is not the player analysis but rather the game theory. I suspect that will be my focus in this space.
With that as a backdrop, what I thought I would do is share a few of my philosophies when it comes to fantasy football. Some of this may even be applicable to those of you yet to draft. I don’t expect that you rip up and throw away your present strategy, but maybe I will spark a thought or two.
First and foremost, to use a Maddenism, good players play good. I think some of the analysts that are trying so hard to be right thus are forgetting that simple fact. It is as is they are looking for ways to justify starting a lesser player over a better player. While it is a good thing that all of these attempts are backed by reasoning, be it intuitive or data-based, often it is at the expense of good players play good.
Here is an example of some intuitive analysis. With Lance Moore out of last night’s Saints-Packers tilt, many opined that Jimmy Graham would be the primary beneficiary. One interesting piece of advice doled out was to use Graham over Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark, with the intuitive reasoning being Clark should be downgraded without Peyton Manner pulling the trigger. To me, as much as I like Graham this season, Clark is still a proven performer. I will not even go down the road of contending that Clark’s stock may actually go up as he could be a comfortable safety valve for Kerry Collins, I will simply say good players do good things and Clark is a good player. As an aside, I have a draft Saturday and I was really hoping Graham turned in a dud performance so I could snag him. While he did not light it up, he had a decent game buoyed by a late touchdown. Some of you may realize the above is really nothing more than the cliché “always play your studs.” My point is in order to get an edge, especially with the proliferation of information sources trying to be right, the latest trend is to justify being able to say “I told you so.” All I want to tell you is good players play good.
Here is my philosophy with respect to overall team building strategy. My objective is to have a team that is good enough to make the playoffs but is the best team come playoff time. Back when I played high stakes fantasy football, I felt this approach hurt me, though I had been quite successful in my private leagues. Obviously, the team you start this week is not going to be the team you start if you are fortunate enough to be in your league’s playoffs, there are going to be changes. I ignore defense and kicker and focus on quarterback, tight end, running back and wide receiver. I try to determine which positions I am most likely to upgrade during the season and in effect draft backwards. If I feel I can find a quarterback to emerge in season, I will wait on the position. If I feel that there will be so much competition for the running backs that emerge and I am afraid of missing out, I will draft solid running backs. As such, I prefer safer choices early while swinging for the fences later. Others are more willing to go high risk, high reward early, figuring they can make up for misses in season. And maybe they are right. But like I said, this has worked for me in local leagues and is the way I continue to approach my team construction. For what it is worth, perhaps it is because I am not as familiar with the inventory as I have been in past seasons or maybe it is due to so many running back committees in vogue, I had a really hard time discerning which positions I wanted to fortify in the draft and which I would target to upgrade over the course of the season. Therefore, I used the old fashioned best player available mantra and will go with the flow in season.
This segues into my final point for today. In order to succeed in today’s landscape, you do not have to be smarter than everyone else, what is more important is that you work harder by reading and listening to as much information as you can. There are websites, podcasts, radio shows, TV shows and a huge Twitter community that are trying to be the one to tell you something you do not know. This is the information age – take advantage. Do not get stuck with an injured guy in your lineup when there are outlets dedicated to updating a player’s status up until game time. You do not have to be smart, but you do have to be diligent. This goes for the waiver wire as well. Especially if your league allows trading, but even if not, if there is a player available better than one of your reserves, try to add him to your roster even if he remains a reserve. You never know what will happen, these things always seem to work themselves out.
And, remember, good players play good.