Fantasy Corner: Hoping vs Knowing

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Draft Sense Series, part two:

…Continuing my quest to inject common sense into draft prep

 

Every year before our fantasy drafts we partake in and read endless debates about what kind of seasons we think players will have.  Essentially, we try to determine one of these three things:

1)  Will they score more (or less) fantasy points this year than last?
2)  Will they repeat last year’s fantasy output?
3)  Will they rebound from / improve on last year’s fantasy output?

COUNTLESS articles are written every year on these very topics.  I’m sure you’ll read several of them yourself, if you haven’t already.  While you read these articles and prepare you own draft boards…I encourage you remember the key distinction between:

a)  What you KNOW
b)  What you HOPE

To illustrate this distinction we’re going to take a closer look at the average draft positions for QB’s in fantasy drafts in 2011.  Maybe your board was different, but this the average of most people’s drafts.

QB ADP’s for Fantasy Drafts in 2011

1.    Michael Vick     2.  Aaron Rodgers
12. Josh Freeman   13. Eli Manning
15. Kevin Kolb         16.  Jay Cutler

Let’s compare what we KNEW vs what we HOPED about these players leading into the ’11 season.

 

ADP’s 1 & 2 ==>   Vick vs Rodgers
Vick was the fantasy MVP in 2010 outscoring the second ranked QB that year by ~5 points a game, depending on your scoring system.  As a result of all this, Vick was the first QB selected in most fantasy drafts in 2011…and owners everywhere waited with baited breath – while they hoped vick would repeat his ’09 performance…or heck – even come close.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers sat available.  For the three years prior to ’11, Rodgers averaged a stat line of over 4100 yards and 28 TD’s while adding another 300 yards and 4 TD’s on the ground.  Again, that’s a three year average.

In draft after draft people opted to draft Vick with high hopes…while passing on the already proven/known fantasy stud, Rodgers.

 

ADP’s 12 & 13  ==>   Freeman vs Manning
In 2010 Josh Freeman threw for around 3,500 yards and 25 TD’s while rushing for another 364 yards.  Decent numbers from a guy who seemed to be taking the next step forward.

Meanwhile Eli Manning had a similar stat line in 2010 throwing for 3,600 yards and 25 TD’s.

I guess people were looking at Freeman’s productivity on the ground…and hoping that he’d continue his productivity on the ground  when they drafted him ahead of Eli.   Interception totals in 2010 justified these thoughts too…Manning had 25 while Freeman threw for only 6.

Something crucial to know, though, was that Eli didn’t throw for 3,600 yards and 25 TD’s in 2010.  Yeah I lied about that.  Sorry.  Those numbers are actually an average of his last SIX YEARS.  During that time he never threw for less than 3,200 yards or 21 TD’s.  The last two years he averaged over 4,000 yards and 29 TD’s.

While we hoped Freeman would continue his development and build upon his ’10 season, we already knew about Eli Manning’s incredibly high floor and upside.  Would Freeman take enough of a step forward to match what Eli had already been doing?  Maybe…People hoped so.  But Eli’s stat lines were already proven/known.

 

Kevin Kolb vs Jay Cutler
Coming into ’11 Kolb had 7 career starts – and zero with the Arizona Cardinals, his new team.

Meanwhile, Jay Cutler had 78 starts including 31 with the Chicago Bears – his team of two years.

Even if we take the time to break down each player’s stat lines into per game averages – Kolb doesn’t really come out ahead of Cutler.  They actually had very similar TD and intecerption rates at that point.  I guess Kolb averaged for more yards per game…but did so with significantly better receivers.  Most importantly, though, you have to realize that seven starts is in an incredibly low sample size.

So basically, to draft Kolb ahead of Cutler – you had to believe that Kolb would improve his fantasy output (and NFL stat lines) while playing for a new team.  (New teams have new coaches, new offenses, new offensive lines and perhaps most importantly:  new receivers.)

 

Summary
To an extent, we are always hoping in certain things and knowing other things.  Every player in the league comes with “hopes” and “knows.”  It’s just important, though, when you draft to keep in mind what you reasonably expect to (“know will”) happen vs what you hope will happen – with no evidence that it will.

Example for this year:
I can HOPE that Matt Ryan takes another step forward and finally becomes an every-week-start-worthy fantasy QB.  However, I KNOW that there are several QB’s who already consistently produce at the level I’m hoping Ryan ascends to.

That’s just one example.  I don’t want to get bogged down by others in this article.  We’ll revisit that later on…For now,  I just want to encourage all of you to hold fast onto what you know, while tapering off what you hope.

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