Rick Olson
Think About It (Your draft list, that is)

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Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.

~ Edward de Bono

And so goes fantasy football draft lists.

Most fantasy experts suggest you make a personalized draft list to work from. I agree. Draft lists are very important in establishing where you feel a player should be picked. It can help keep you on task even when the drafting starts to get a little panicked and it would be all too easy for you to jump in the deep end of the crazy pool with both feet.

Most draft lists are made by looking at the statistics logically. For example, Player A had B stats last year therefore he should have C stats this year. I agree. (I obviously simplified this, but for the most part A+B=C).

Most owners will put the time in to do this and then stop making their draft lists there. I disagree.

Though crunching numbers and using statistics works well for creating a good starting draft list this is where I would suggest you take a page out of Edward de Bono’s playbook and look at your logically made draft list and apply some lateral thinking.

de Bono is a noted author and physician who coined the term “Lateral Thinking” in the late 1960s. Quite simply, lateral thinking is solving problems creatively. Where logic is very step by step, lateral thinking asks that you use reasoning that is not immediately obvious.

If it’s not obvious then how would I use it? Good question.

This is where you have to put in effort and study. It’s the only way to move beyond the numbers. Because everybody has access to players statistics right at their fingertips, you and the owner next to you are typically starting on even ground. You need to dig deeper than your opponent.

Instead of just looking at final stats, look at the game-by-game breakdowns, watch the games and study the history and movement of the players and teams.

Doug Martin had a higher average draft position than Jamaal Charles last year. This is because people logically saw a younger player that had more overall yards the previous year. What most people did not look at was the fact that Charles is also young, and had good production before Martin was even in the league. In other words, he was more consistent.

In 2012, Martin had 486 yards and six touchdowns in back-to-back games in the middle of the season against weak opponents. Take those games out and he has less than 1,000 yards and only has six touchdowns. He had five games of more than 100 yards as opposed to Charles’ seven.

Both players were being drafted so close to each other, why wouldn’t you go with proven consistency over rookie success? Most people didn’t look beyond the numbers like that.

In 2004, I was in the second round of the playoffs in one of my fantasy leagues. My opponent’s WR1 was Chad Johnson (he wasn’t Ochocinco yet). He also had a good young wide receiver Andre Johnson as his WR3. Chad Johnson was playing against the New York Giants in cold, cloudy, wet conditions. Andre Johnson was playing against Jacksonville in nice Florida weather.

My opponent thought he was being smart and logical by going with the good receiver in better conditions. If he had just looked beyond the obvious he would have seen that Chad Johnson played his college years at Oregon State University. It’s safe to say that he’s comfortable in cold, cloudy and wet weather (I’m from Oregon, trust me on this one).

Chad Johnson went for 46 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns that day. In that points per reception league he scored 24.6 points. Andre Johnson also got 46 yards but on four catches and only one touchdown. That totaled 14.6 points. I won that day and knocked my opponent out of the playoffs, with the difference in our score being four points. Had he known his player’s history and that a little wet weather wouldn’t have bothered him, he would have played his stud and beat me by six points. His first mistake was not playing his stud obviously, but that is a totally different article.

Study, study, study and then use that information to adjust your draft list. Even with all the knowledge in the world, most your players won’t move at all on your list and the ones that do will not move very far. But the difference in just one single spot on a list is the difference between all the owners that took Martin over Charles last year. Owners who studied had Charles at No. 2 and Martin at No. 3 last year and most likely had a way better season.

So let’s look at a few of the players that I have moved on my board, using a little lateral thinking and the reasoning behind it.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay – Mentioning his name in an article like this seems a little Captain Obvious, but remember we are talking about a player just moving one or two spots ahead of the accepted norm. What I want to point out is in most drafts Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are going before Rodgers. This is where I want you to look at it a little differently. Rodgers should be the first quarterback off the board in your draft this year.

We all know that Manning’s numbers will come down this year. They have to, a historical precedent has been set that athletes do not repeat record setting performances in back-to-back years. So the conclusion has to be that his numbers will come down. Add in the fact that two of Manning’s best receivers from last year are lost to him at this point and I can’t help but think I am absolutely right on this one. Eric Decker is now in New York and Wes Welker just suffered his third concussion in one year, which leads most to believe he will either be done for good or shut down for a while at least.

Drew Brees is already battling injury, he lost Darren Sproles to Philadelphia, and besides playing the very tough defenses of Carolina and Tampa Bay twice each year, he also plays the AFC North and the San Francisco 49ers this season, all teams with tough defenses.

Brees will still put up great numbers, he is Brees after all, but he will leave room at the top for someone to squeeze in. So the next question is, who will be the one that squeezes in. It has got to be Rodgers, right?

He was on pace last year to pass for 5,008 yards and throw for 34 touchdowns before he broke his left collarbone and I think he gets real close to those numbers this year. Draft him first and you will be very happy, draft him third amongst quarterbacks (his current average draft position) and laugh all the way to the playoffs.

Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore – This one is easy simply because Smith is being drafted so low this year. He is literally going undrafted in many leagues, with an average draft position around 130.

Yes, he is 35 and yes his numbers were down last year, but Smith has never had a quarterback who can pass like Joe Flacco . I am not saying that he will bounce back to 2005 triple crown Smith but I am willing to bet that the scrappy receiver does get back to respectable numbers near the 1,000 yard receiving mark while flirting with double-digit touchdowns.

At his current draft position this is a no-brainer. He should be higher up the board.

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