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A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

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100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 15: Think in a probabilistic way.

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This “100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days” series is going to end up as “100 Fantasy Football Tips in, Like, 106 Days or Something” because I keep missing posts. I actually remembered yesterday and then decided to watch “Orange Is the New Black” instead. But here I am, ready for Day 18 masquerading as Day 15.

Today’s tip is to think in a probabilistic way, as I alluded to in my rotoViz article “Aaron Rodgers, Value-Based Drafting, and Why I’m High on the Top QBs…or Maybe Just High.”

When I was writing the content for my new fantasy football books this year, I really started moving away from thinking about a player’s value in terms of a comparison of his projected points to his draft slot. One reason for that is because player projections are inherently fragile—very susceptible to small alterations. If you need to project a running back within 10 yards of his actual output to have him accurately ranked, for example, you’re going to be in trouble. For the record, I’m not against creating projections because I think there are other uses, but I don’t think you should blindly use them to rank players.

Another reason I’ve moved away from value-based drafting is because I’m thinking about a player’s value more in terms of what he can offer me in regards to his range of potential outcomes. Frank mentioned a couple weeks ago that Aaron Rodgers is probably the safest quarterback in the league because he’s not dependent on any of his receivers for production; he could legitimately lose any one of them and probably be in a spot not much worse than before.

The way I’m thinking about player value is more probabilistic than ever before, and I’m implementing a Taleb-inspired barbell approach to drafting in which I’m generally seeking extremes in players. One extreme is that I’m looking to target either rookies (or second-year players who underperformed) or aging players at any spot other than running back. The reason is that I think the middle area—players in their prime—see their draft stock artificially inflated. Everyone wants those guys, and while they’re optimal in a vacuum, they probably aren’t in real life because there’s a price to pay. I think I can find value on certain young players who are underpriced due to an inefficient draft market and some older players—guys like Andre Johnson—who still have enough meat left on the bone to give me a nice return.

Another barbell-themed approach is to pursue pure safety or pure upside in picks, as opposed to a more risk-balanced approach. It’s like putting some of your money into an ultra-conservative investment and then going super-risky with a smaller portion, as opposed to dumping all of your cash into a moderately risky investment with only moderate upside to accompany it.

Head to rotoViz for the full article.

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