Hello Fake Footballers! Asher Molk here- usually, I author the “Buy Low/Sell High” column and act as the arbiter of trading in this daunting world of fantasy football wheelin’ and dealin’. However, with most trade deadlines past, I’ve decided to write a reflective piece about some fantasy football lessons we can learn from the 2012 regular season. Please take these considerations to heart, young (and old) fake football grasshoppers:
– Fake Footballers who follow the ridiculous and arbitrary rule of “I’ll never draft a rookie running back/wide receiver” are simply wrong and are putting shackles on their teams’ ceilings. Obviously, rookie seasons that are smashing successes do not constitute the majority of rookie campaigns, but that doesn’t mean they should be avoided all together. For example: people who participate in that dogma missed out on Julio Jones and AJ Green last year, and missed out on Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and Alfred Morris this year. People seem to be so baffled by the fluctuation of rookie success at a certain position when the answer is actually quite simple: last year’s wide receivers were simply more talented than guys like Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright, and this year’s rookie running backs are more talented and a better fit to their team than Mark Ingram. It changes from year to year, so here’s the rule- evaluate rookies like any other player. How talented are they? Do they have an opportunity to succeed right away? Is their team situation (offensive line, quarterback, scheme) ideal for that position’s fantasy success? If so, don’t worry about whether or not a player is a rookie. If you do, you’re just severely limiting your ceiling as a fake footballer.
– Another point proven this year: drafting a quarterback in the first or second round is not a guarantee to fantasy success. For example, the top QB off the board- Aaron Rodgers (ADP of 2.8) is outscoring the 16th QB off the board- Andrew Luck (ADP of 107.9)- by 1.14 fantasy points per game. Compare that to running backs: the top RB off the board- Arian Foster (ADP of 1.5) is outscoring the 16th RB off the board- Michael Turner (ADP of 34.7)- by 7.34 fantasy points per game (non-PPR). Think about that: you may only sacrifice 1.14 points per game by waiting 8 or 9 rounds for a QB, but you sacrifice 7.34 by waiting just 2 rounds for your RB! The top scoring RB so far this year, Foster, had an ADP of 1.5. The top scoring WR so far this year, Calvin Johnson, had an ADP of 7. The top scoring QB so far this year, Robert Griffin III had an ADP of 80.7. Again, waiting to take a quarterback in lieu of RB and WR value is a likely recipe for fantasy success. Your biggest advantages come from elite RBs and WRs, not QBs.
– Speaking of rookies, here is an interesting thought on rookie running backs: being an able pass-protector and receiver can make or break a rookie season. Many will tell you (and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong) that David Wilson is a more talented, dynamic runner than Doug Martin. But partially because of pass protection and a lack of receiving abilities (and also fumbles), Wilson got stuck behind the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown. On the flip side of the coin, backs like Doug Martin and Trent Richardson came into the season as polished pass protectors and receivers. This gives the coach another opportunity to put these rookies on the field and show their abilities outside of simply running the ball. Not only does it allow for an excuse to give these guys more carries, it raises their floors as fantasy football assets. Because they can catch the ball and effectively pass protect AKA third-down duties, they will almost always be involved no matter the game flow. Not all coaches will simply hand the job to a rookie running back blindly (possibly out of his own dogma or out of respect for the veterans), and being involved in the pass game is a great way for rookies to get their foot on the gridiron in a crowded backfield. Keep that in the back of your mind for next year.
– Something that most people with a brain figured out long ago, but its so common I feel compelled to talk about it: THE MADDEN CURSE IS NOT REAL. Obviously, players who have been on the cover of the Madden video game series have not had the best luck when it comes to performance and especially injury. But I beg you to ask yourself this question: as a human being with a brain, do you REALLY believe that having your picture on the cover of a video game leads to getting injured on a football field? That would be the equivalent of saying “Everyone who works in a supermarket is named Jimmy. Thus, if you name your son Jimmy, he is guaranteed to work in a supermarket.” See the ridiculous failure in logic? It’s the exact same with the “Madden Curse”. Why do people believe in it then? It is simple: humans are creatures of pattern. We actively look for whatever patterns we can find in order to help explain the world around us. It is one reason that makes us so brilliant and further advanced than any other species on Earth. It’s the reason people have lucky shirts or lucky seats- they found a pattern in which them wearing a certain jersey has a direct relation with their team winning. It’s the reason people have “lucky” and “unlucky” hands when they play poker, even if their lucky hand is an unsuited 6/8 and their unlucky hand is two kings. The problem with unfiltered pattern seeking is that it will lead people to believe that 6/8 offsuit is a better hand than pocket kings, and it will lead people to believe that being on the cover of Madden leads to a greater risk of injury. Many of these beliefs likely stem out of being previously bitten by drafting Marshall Faulk or Peyton Hillis- the pattern seeking becomes a protective mechanism. However, you need to ask yourself the following question: how can this particular behavior possibly affect the outcome of a situation? In the case of the Madden curse, you cannot. Fantasy football is not about the past- it is about predictive value, and how a player will do in the future. In my fantasy football leagues, you don’t get points for last year’s stats. Look toward the future and use logical information and patterns to make informed decisions. My explanation for the “Madden Curse”: these are athletes who are as fast as track stars, as strong as body-builders, and as fearless as warriors. That generates a TON of physical force per collision. This is NFL football. They are ALL injury risks.