100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 9: Be Wrong, But in the Right Way
The following is a passage from my new book “Fantasy Football for Smart People: Lessons from RotoAcademy (Volume 2.0).” It initially appeared as a lesson in my fantasy football training school RotoAcademy.
In 2013, I penned (typed) an article called “Everything You Need to Know Before Drafting Marshawn Lynch” in which I gave multiple reasons I wouldn’t own Lynch that season—his age, dependence on Seattle’s offense for production, his inability to catch passes. Lynch promptly went on to rush for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns, even adding 36 catches and two scores via the air, finishing fourth among running backs in standard fantasy leagues.
As much as I missed on Lynch’s projection, the price I paid was basically nothing; I ranked Lynch low enough that he wasn’t on any of my fantasy teams, so the cost to me wasn’t nearly as great as if I had boosted someone way up my rankings and missed on him.
That highlights the idea that if we’re going to be wrong—which we will, a lot—it’s best to be wrong in the “right” way. Namely, ranking a player well ahead of his average draft position requires a much higher level of confidence that your projection is correct than dropping someone on your board. When you go a direction opposite the way I went with Lynch, raising a player well ahead of his ADP, you’re going to end up drafting him in a whole lot of leagues. That’s fine, but the downside to missing can be huge.
That’s why I think the most appropriate way to begin your fantasy rankings isn’t to identify players you like and shoot them up your board, but rather to find those guys with serious concerns, dropping them such that by the time you’d feel comfortable drafting them, they’ll be off of the board. If you’re wrong, the cost is hardly incapable of being overcome.
I still think I was correct in my assessment of Lynch; player fortunes are governed by probabilities, so if Lynch had a 30 percent chance of rushing for 1,000 yards and just so happened to do it, that doesn’t change the quality of the decision I made on him. Or, maybe I was just wrong. Either way, the cost wasn’t prohibitive. I could have drafted Jamaal Charles or LeSean McCoy or a host of other backs who excelled in 2013 and saw no negative ramifications from downgrading Lynch.