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100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 34: Talent Evaluation Matters in FF

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At rotoViz, I posted an article detailing my thoughts on player evaluation in fantasy football and when it’s most useful. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve come up with seven situations in which player evaluation helps fantasy football owners.

TIEBREAKERS

Production = Workload x Efficiency

That’s the general formula we need to decipher to win in fantasy football. It follows that if two players have nearly comparable projected workloads, we want the one who is going to be the most efficient. Things like a player’s teammates and scheme factor into that equation, but so does his own talent.

It might seem like siding with the more talented player in “tiebreakers” will lead to a small advantage, but don’t forget that pretty much every pick is a tiebreaker; there are multiple considerations with each selection, so we need to use something to differentiate those players.

There are a lot worse methods of drafting than sorting players into tiers based on their workload, then organizing those tiers based on their projected efficiency/talent. So basically opportunities dictate draft range and talent determines which players you actually select (such that you’re always optimizing some combination of workload and talent).

TIMESHARE SITUATIONS/AMBIGUOUS ROLES

This is sort of related to “tiebreakers,” but any time two players are either in a timeshare situation or they have otherwise ambiguous roles, that’s a situation in which we should be emphasizing talent. Remember, all other things equal, we want really good football players.

The most obvious timeshare situations are at running back, but it doesn’t have to stop there. I ended up with Jimmy Graham in a lot of dynasty leagues years ago before he broke out because I emphasized his raw athleticism among other late-round tight ends with unclear roles. So we’re not just comparing teammates, either.

This sort of approach really helps hit on late-round players because 1) everyone either has an ambiguous role or simply isn’t slated to get much playing time and 2) we want upside anyway, which leads to the next point.

IDENTIFYING UPSIDE

One of the reasons that I think a value-based drafting system can fail is because it assigns a singular number to a player and that’s supposed to represent what he can do in a given year. But things aren’t that black and white.

When we start thinking more probabilistically, players start to differentiate themselves. Yeah, maybe this ultra-athletic tight end has a very low median projection just because he probably won’t get playing time, but what if he does? What can he do when he gets the looks? How much upside does he have?

I’m a proponent of comparing floor projections to cost early in drafts and then pretty quickly transitioning to an emphasis on ceiling projections. When you look at the players who post not just good seasons—not just seasons that return “value”—but great seasons, you see that they’re typically highly athletic (outside of the running back position at times, which is basically 90 percent workload-dependent).

Value isn’t binary. There’s a range of it, and accurate player evaluation can help identify the players with 1) high ceilings and 2) a high probability of realizing that potential.

Read the rest right here.

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