Roster Mangement: Safety vs. Upside
September 19, 2013 | Justin Bonnema
Is it better to be lucky, or better to be good? Is it better to play it safe, or is it better to take risks and play for upside?
If you play fantasy football long enough you will find yourself in this rhetorical debate, and at some point, develop a case of decidophobia, that is, the fear of making decisions.
Specifically, it’s the fear of making the wrong decisions that drives our disease. It’s comparable to the good vs. evil debate suggesting that you can’t have one without the other. Obviously, if there is no wrong decision to be made, there can be no fear. Such indecisiveness is the very foundation of our year long start/sit conundrums.
The variables that translate into our final rosters can almost be overwhelming. Is he healthy? Is he injury prone? Who does he play? Is he a better play than the hypothetical sleeper on our bench? Were the numbers he put up last week a fluke? How likely are they to be repeated? Should I trade him now that he’s hot?
If you’re like me you will try to go through almost every feasible scenario and ultimately tinker your roster to death. There’s a saying in the music industry that you’re never really done with an album—that it’s never finished—you just give up. If not for time, we would forever be stuck in an endless loop of variations. If not for time, bands would keep adding songs to records, keep adding parts to songs, and keep tweaking the arrangements of those parts. At the end of the day, you have a completely different song far removed from the original idea, good or bad.
In fantasy football it all boils down to a simple analysis of safety vs. upside. No better example is Michael Vick vs. Tony Romo, which seems to be, for reasons not investigated, a very common question as we enter Week 3.
Vick is the ultimate risk and reward scenario. He offers a wild card of potential that has certainly bailed my team out a time or two. I still laugh about that Monday night game in 2010 when the Eagles played the Redskins. You know exactly which one I’m talking about; the one where he threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for another 80 yards and two touchdowns. I had no business winning that game. But Vick’s 49 points saved me.
Fast forward to today and he’s back to being the fantasy super star that gives us hope no matter the score. But is he a better play than Romo?
This is a matchup based competition and Vick’s matchup Thursday night isn’t one that makes me feel comfortable. There’s reason to believe that the Chiefs’ defense is not one to be taken lightly. Furthermore, it goes without saying that Andy Reid would love to stomp into Philadelphia, for the first time in the visitor’s locker room, and shutdown his old team. If anyone knows how to do it, it’s him. He has three stud pass rushers at his disposal that could easily remove Vick from this game with one clean, or not so clean hit. Plus, Thursday night games have a history of being disappointing.
So yeah, at first it sounds like an easy decision, but we don’t have enough evidence to determine if Reid’s crew poses a real threat. On the contrary, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Vick will eventually miss time with injury. It’s just a matter of when.
On the other hand, Romo hasn’t had a good season. The Cowboys’ offense doesn’t look elite. And the Rams defense suggests, on paper, that they will compete in every contest. But he is without question the safer start. My guess is that he throws two touchdowns and nearly 300 yards, which is nowhere close to Vick’s upside, but a fair Sunday outing and at least he will finish the game.
So do you go with safety or upside?
The answer can’t be neatly packaged into a rankings list where you start the highest player. It’s not that simple. But at this point in the season, there is an element of simplicity we can apply to our decisions: never bench talent in favor of matchups.
You start Vick because he gives you the best chance of winning. It’s only Week 3. That means you can still afford to take risks. Even if you end up 0-3, there is time to turn that dumpster fire into a winning streak.
Never bench a talented player with a less-than-ideal matchup for less-than-ideal talent in a better matchup. It’s basically the long and fancy way of saying “don’t bench your studs”.
This is the last week before byes get to dictate your lineup. Take advantage of it. Take risks and put your best players on the field, regardless of the situation. Yeah, that means starting David Wilson over someone like DeAngelo Williams. Even though Williams, as pointed out by Ryan Boser, has trailed only Adrian Peterson in rushing yards in the last three games (counting Week 17). Wilson has far too much talent to warm the bench. You know it, I know it, Tom Coughlin knows it.
It’s only Week 3. Be courageous and stick to the players that give you the highest upside. That’s the first step to overcoming decidophobia. Save the safe decisions for the playoffs.