Fantasy Football Notes (8/29/12)

By Paul Bessire

Wednesday, August 29 at 12:00 PM ET

When I was in high school (that may or may not have also been attended by a recently selected Vice Presidential candidate), I decided that my goal in life was to become a "Renaissance Man," someone with widely varying interests and skills and with depth and personality (think more along the lines of Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man" than Danny DeVito's character). I think I successfully made it down the path of that goal through college and still believe that sentiment was at least somewhat appealing to my wife at the time that I met her (which was while playing poker with a 43" flat screen playing the 2004 ALCS in the background when poker and flat screens were not quite yet all the rage, so there may have been some hints of things to come)...

Cut to today... Now, when I want to take a quick break to regenerate during long days of research, number crunching, new product development, writing and/or meetings (about sports), I check out and work on my fantasy baseball, basketball or football teams. Mark Twain famously advised to make one's vocation his vacation, but this may be too extreme. Seriously, while I like to think that I still have some semblance of depth and various interests and skills, the hobby that I turn to most in times when people turn to their hobbies is essentially my job. 

And I am totally cool with that.

I have been playing fantasy sports since the old Sandbox game in 1997 when I had the steal of the draft when I picked up Warrick Dunn in his rookie season (he totaled 1440 yards and 7 TDs that season for Tampa Bay) and it took over a minute to load every page when I set my roster for the week over a dial-up connection. The next year, I started a fantasy football league with my dad, two brothers and several good friends. I went 14-1 in the regular season, yet lost in the championship game to a guy who I don't think has finished with a winning record in any fantasy league since. That league still exists today. It's one of the key ways that my family and friends still connect. My retired father spends about a third of his time on fantasy sports - mostly trash talking, a third of his time working out and a third of his time trying to come up with the next great horse racing handicapping system [insert something about apples falling from trees]. That's one of the best ways he stays in touch with a family that is spread across the country. The competition and the camaraderie are worth at least as much as any prize that is given away. And it's a game that anyone can win. I like to think that I have an advantage and that my record illustrates that, but fantasy sports mirror real-life in that just about every team that tries to win throughout the season has a chance to win it all.

Five years later, in my first month officially in the "real-world" after grad school, I was participating in experts' drafts and publishing fantasy football projections for one of the major sports portals and fantasy providers online. And tonight, within the scope of the last four hours that I have been working (it's exactly 1:12 AM ET when I write this), I have been texting back-and-forth with three different friends who are participating in their drafts and asking me to help them make decisions. Just this week (both days of it so far), I have received eight different rosters from friends for evaluation and been asked for our rankings (customized for leagues - which we will do for most straight-forward leagues if you Contact Us) for five others.

And I am totally cool with that. 

That may not add much depth to me, but it is part of my identity and does qualify as "interesting" to most. It may not be a paid product on the site because the edge over the market and the ability to wager significantly on full season fantasy sports is not as great, profitable or as exploitable as with the sports betting market, but getting fantasy "right" has been my job at least as long as getting prediction information "right" and it is certainly of importance to me/us to give fantasy players as much of an edge as we can. 

With that typical, much-longer-than-it-needed-to-be introduction out of the way, I advise you to check out our most recently updated fantasy projections (with rankings and cheat sheets - we will update again before the season and then with free access to all each week along with daily fantasy salary cap information as well), review my players that I love and those I don't below and to follow these few, simple draft tips with your fantasy football drafts.

Fantasy Football Draft Tips:

  1. Know your draft rules and configuration. We clearly state the rules and assumptions that we make for our Standard scoring and PPR leagues. The size and scoring of your league means quite a bit. For instance, in Standard Scoring leagues, the geniuses (AKA my thesis advisors in grad school) at found that the most valuable spots to draft in a fantasy football snake draft of 12 people this year are (in order from best to worst): #5, #4, #2, #3, #7, #6, #1, #8, #9, #10, #12, #11, with the difference from the expected win total of the best to the worst being about one full win. However, in a ten team league, the difference between the best and worst spot was negligible to the point that running several simulations at drafts provided greatly varying results on the value of the draft spots in those leagues.  
  2. Consistency Early, Risk Late. With my early round picks (the starters), I am targeting players that have great value in terms of expected (average) projections and in terms of likely consistency from them. In other words, I avoid players that are injured, holding out, do not have a guaranteed role in the offense or are very injury prone until I have someone at that position. At the end of the draft, I basically do the opposite by targeting players that have high ceilings - especially if they are currently behind someone on the depth chart who is injured, holding out or very injury prone. 
  3. Draft by Value/Stick to a Plan. Too many people overreact to what others are doing during a draft. A run on every position will happen naturally. Don't fall for it. For the most part this season, I focus on the best player available according to my projections for the league until I fill my starting QB, RB, WR and TE. Once I do that, I work backwards from the last position I filled to give me options. If a run on QBs leaves me with my 10-14 ranked QBs, I will pick up 3-4 of those QBs to improve my chances of getting a strong one. (This is even more true in auction leagues, where patience is a virtue - UNLESS the market is soft early, which often happens as people gauge the room, then pounce.)
  4. Completely Ignore Bye Weeks. If you Google "Fantasy Football Strategy," this article pops up on the first page. It's a pretty brilliant take on the topic of bye weeks in fantasy football.
  5. Don't Draft a Kicker or Defense. When all of the tight ends were bunched together in aggregate projections, this used to apply to them as well. Since the weekly value of kickers and defenses is largely reliant on matchups, I choose to rotate through them each week. I am trying to win the week and can almost always find a kicker of defense on the waiver wire each week who will help me do that. On draft day then, I don't worry about those positions and instead focus on taking more high reward fliers. 
  6. Week 17 Does Not Matter. Or at least it shouldn't. Most playoffs end before Week 17 so expectations for those games are irrelevant. We don't have Aaron Rodgers playing in Week 17 in most simulations (due to the expectation that the Packers will rest starters for the playoffs after locking up a bye in the Wild Card round). We have no problem ranking him first. If Week 17 does matter in your league, I do believe that gives a small boost to players on teams that will more likely be fighting for playoff spots than be out of the picture of a lock for homefield advantage. 

2012 Fantasy Football Players I Like (more than most - in other words, guys that keep ending up on my teams or teams that I advise):

  • Matt Ryan, QB
  • Josh Freeman, QB
  • Rashad Jennings, RB
  • DeMarco Murray, RB
  • Steven Jackson, RB
  • Fred Jackson, RB
  • Jonathan Dwyer, RB
  • Robert Turbin, RB
  • Evan Royster, RB
  • Brandon Marshall, WR
  • Jordy Nelson, WR
  • Vincent Jackson, WR
  • Robert Meachem, WR
  • Brandon LaFell, WR
  • Greg Olsen, TE
  • Kyle Rudolph, TE
  • Jared Cook, TE

2012 Fantasy Football Players I Don't Like (as much as most - in other words, players that keep getting draft well above where I see their value):

  • Peyton Manning, QB
  • Michael Vick, QB
  • Jay Cutler, QB
  • Sam Bradford, QB
  • Maurice Jones-Drew, RB
  • Adrian Peterson, RB
  • Michael Turner, RB (though I did end up with him when he plummeted in one league)
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB
  • Peyton Hillis, RB
  • Roy Helu, RB
  • Andre Johnson, WR
  • Larry Fitzgerald, WR
  • Hakeem Nicks, WR
  • Greg Jennings, WR
  • Santonio Holmes, WR
  • Vernon Davis, TE
  • Jason Witten, TE

And... writing this fantasy football blog was a fantastic way to wind down from a day spent mired in college football picks. 

I'm totally cool with that. 

As usual, if you have any of your own comments about this article or suggestions about how to improve the site, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. We respond to every support contact as quickly as we can (usually within a few hours) and are very amenable to suggestions. I firmly believe that open communication with our customers and user feedback is the best way for us to grow and provide the types of products that will maximize the experience for all. Thank you in advance for your suggestions, comments and questions.