To help you with your draft, or to set your lineup once the season starts, I recommend using this simple, yet very effective, method of decision making.
Comparisons, metaphors, analogies. It doesn’t matter what you call them, they help. As someone who has worked in Corporate Training for almost 15 years, I have found that when a student is not grasping a lesson, if I can make a comparison to something that they know very well, the answer becomes readily apparent to them. For example, if I say, “Coke is to Pepsi as Ford is to X” and then ask you, “What X is?” I know that 99.9 percent of you will say Chevy. That was simple, right? What if I told you making that decision between players during the draft or while setting your lineup during the season, was that easy? Well, it is.
If you are like me, you have a fair amount of NFL knowledge floating around that giant abyss above your shoulders. And if you are like me, sometimes you tend to use that knowledge to overthink a draft pick or lineup move. Sound familiar? Last year, I caught myself in the middle of a mental debate about who to start, DeAndre Hopkins or Antonio Brown or Alshon Jeffery. That’s right, I wasn’t even thinking about whether or not I should, I was wondering who was sitting on the bench, because Hopkins had a nice matchup against a team he had scorched twice before. Classic overthinking.
So this year, I have been wrestling with different ideas on how to avoid overthinking in situations like that, and it hit me earlier this week. Alternative Tiering. Now, I am not suggesting that you replace your normal tiered draft list with this idea but instead you make this alternative list to help you decide between two players when push comes to shove and you can’t decide.
Let me explain what Alternative Tiering is and what made me think of it. First, I am fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest and because of this I spent all of Monday and Tuesday at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., watching the first two practice rounds of the U.S. Open. I decided to follow one of my current favorite golfers, Dustin Johnson, around for a few holes. It was nice. I’d follow him from the tee box to the green. I’d get as close to the green as the ropes would allow me, I’d sit there and watch him putt and chip and listen in on his conversations with his caddie and fellow golfers. When he’d finish the hole I’d walk to the next tee box and do it over again.
I was marveling at how cool this was while I left the green side stands at the 15th hole where I had just watched a pod of Orca Whales swimming through the bay directly behind Johnson and company. Washington is truly a beautiful state, but I digress. I left the 15th and was making my way to the 16th when I encountered a hoard of oncoming fans. This gallery must have been in the hundreds and this was a Monday practice round. I no sooner start to ponder what is going on when I look up at the player sign, being carried by some exhausted kid that read amongst three other players the name “R. Fowler.” I then understood what was going on and proceeded to swim upstream past them all to the 16th where I stood in a quaint little group and watched Johnson hit one straight down the middle of the fairway, toss the club to his caddie and I could hear the shaft slide down the bag as the caddie put it back in. I was that close.
It was at that moment that it hit me. I am drafting 9th out of 10th in one of my main leagues this year and if this was a PGA golf fantasy draft, I would let everybody scramble at the top of the draft for players like Fowler and I would steal Johnson at the nine spot. It was so easy to see when looking at golfers, so why was it so hard sometimes with football players? Simple, golf is an individual sport, so the attributes of a player are much easier to see than that of a player in the ultimate of team sports, football.
In the NFL, there are many factors that can lead you to overrate or underrate a player, but in golf the player stands alone. I often have difficulty making my own tiers in football and because of this often just start with a tier from a trusted site like FantasySharks.com and then adjust the players anywhere that I think they might be off for my leagues. This works fairly well, but I still get blindsided by the occasional overestimation or miss the occasional sleeper. But as I was walking around Chambers Bay, watching different players who I know are going to do well and then hearing the crowds buzzing about different players who haven’t been good for a while now, I found myself comparing them to NFL players and I achieved what the NFL Zen gods would call a moment of clarity.
Instead of saying Tier 1, Tier 2, etc. I would call them Tier Dustin, Tier Rickie, etc. I like using golfers but you can use anything that you know well. Do you know top chefs from the cooking network, or cars, beer or video games? As long as you know something well you can put that which you know into tiers based on factors such as overrated, over the hill, on top of their game, flashy but underachieving, dull but productive, up-and-coming, etc. You get the point.
I found that by grouping the golfers like that I was easily drawing comparisons to their NFL counterparts and thus giving myself better expectations for this fall. The equation is easy, it’s X is to NFL as Y is to golf. If you have a question about an NFL player put them in the equation and watch the magic happen. Let me give you an example. Peyton Manning is to NFL as X is to golf? If I had to solve for X it would be apparent to me that X equals Tiger Woods. Both are past their prime, both were the best in the game in their day, both are capable of owning the competition on any given Sunday but both have absolutely huge fan bases that will keep an owner from being able to draft them at a reasonable price. If there was a golf draft, Woods would go in the top 5 in most drafts because his name is so big and his legend is bigger. This is what you are going to get with Manning this season. I am not saying he is not good but if you want Manning this year, you will have to take him way above his value in order to get him, much like you would have to with Woods in a golf draft. So by putting Manning in the Woods Tier, you now know to avoid him in this year’s draft.
With all this in mind the only thing left to do is figure out what your alternative tiers will be and then match NFL players up with their PGA equivalent tiers, or whatever alternative method you choose. Here is what I have come up with.