John T. Georgopoulos
Fantasy Forecast(R): The Risks of Drafting

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Long-time (and perhaps long-suffering) readers of my column know that I love digging through gigabytes of data in order to unearth fantasy football gold. In this edition of Fantasy Forecast(R), however, I will address a “fuzzier” side of drafting.

My impetus for this approach came out of a request by one of our subscribers a few seasons ago to evaluate his most recent mock draft. This subscriber had dutifully read all our strategy columns and studied the cheat sheets.

After carefully reviewing his roster, I replied to his request for feedback: The team did not look all that strong. But what went wrong? He had followed all of the guides and recommendations. Could it be that our strategy articles were wrong? Were our cheat sheets out of whack? No.

The reason the team looked weaker than it should have was that the subscriber was a relative newbie and did not appreciate the subtleties of putting a team together. It would be similar to someone writing a song where the notes, rhythm and tempo were technically correct but lacked any sort of soul. You know, like when Ke belts out a “tune.”

So in this article I’ll try to identify the risks involved in drafting and how to address those risks — something to keep in mind as you sort through all the technical information about players and draft theories.

Identify the Various Risks

Always identify the risk associated with any player you’re considering drafting. Always be able to answer the question “What is the most cynical thing I can say about this player?” For example, Arian Foster enjoyed an amazing season in 2012 and most experts expect him to be a top-3 runner this season. But if you’re drafting Foster as your RB1 this season, you need to identify the risk associated with him: He’s already complaining about his back and he has the Real Curse of 370 to contend with … so while Foster rates in the top-5 running backs for 2013, he does come with some baggage.

What are some other risks to be aware of? Glad you asked:

  • Age given the player and the position he plays, is he starting to approach the age where he statistically begins to see erosion in production (see: How Old is Old?)?
  • Injury players like Jonathan Stewart and Sidney Rice have upside for their owners … but also have histories of being brittle. Know which players are true injury risks, and which are only perceived injury risks (see Paul Posluszny).
  • New Team/Coach most experts would have you believe that a player on a new team or in an expanded role is automatically in line for a big season. Maybe, maybe not. Just be aware of the risk of a player being successful in a limited role that suddenly will be getting all the touches in a new system or switching systems all together. Think Steven Jackson, Chris Ivory or Carson Palmer.
  • Off-field Status players are, believe it or not, people. Off-field issues like contract status, legal status or personal problems can all effect performance and are not tracked by any computer prediction systems. Think Jairus Byrd.
  • Bye Week Conflict this one is a hotly debated issue; there is a school of thought that says that you draft according to the best talent available during the draft, then deal with bye week conflicts later. I disagree. If I draft two or three runners with the same bye week, there is a risk that I will then not be able to execute my draft strategy later in the draft because I have to draft one more runner than I had planned. Either that or I am likely conceding the conflicted week during the season.
  • Tunnel Vision all the models and draft theories are great, but even that great work cannot be taken in isolation; it needs to be taken in the context of your draft. Thus, if for some reason 10 picks in the first two rounds are quarterbacks instead of running backs or wide receivers, you need to be aware of that quirk and adjust on the fly.

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