Titles in fantasy football are nonsense.
That’s right. They’re stupid. There’s no position depth number that will help you win your league. What’s needed are both a clear expectation for the high, low and median expected point total of your opponent, and a means to trump those numbers.
Make sure projections are customized
Example: My opponent in one PPR league for week 2 has Odell Beckham Jr. against the Saints and Doug Martin at Arizona. Our league host has Martin projected for 12.5 points, while Beckham is expected to bounce back from last week and score 19.8 points.
I don’t believe Beckham will get those almost-20 points; the Giants have too many weapons for now, and facing a brutally tough New Orleans offense, they should be running the ball for final 30 minutes. It’s also unlikely Martin scores 12 points, though I think he’ll do better — something like 5 receptions for 30 yards, and then 70 rushing yards with a touchdown.
That’s 21 points, to, lets say 12 points for Beckham in a reprise of his underwhelming week 1 performance that includes way too many playmakers.
Still, though, we have a number that does vibe with the general projection — something that should be personalized a little due to the incredible variance and fact that computers generally output the figures you will see.
Game theory, player study and other factors like a run heavy approach in the second half, to nurse a lead, should be considered.
Figure out how to beat that number
It’s so easy to over-estimate what your own roster will do. Most owners love the players they drafted, so much so that they often turn down trades that are clear cut wins, or that they hold onto players that are not living up to their expectations.
Don’t be that guy.
Be the guy who looks objectively at their roster — even if it’s a legend like Adrian Peterson — and considers the reality that things just don’t look great.
More specifically, take the whole body of work into account, but also a recent sample. That could be the last eight games for a running back, or 12 games for a quarterback.
Staying with Peterson, his last eight games include only two with over 100 rushing yards, three with 60-70 yards, one with 45 yards and two more with under 40 yards. The fewest opportunities he’s had in that stretch are eight, for 18 yards.
That kind of sample helps support the theory that Peterson’s days as a horse could be done, and his lack of history as a receiver, coupled with the presence of Jerick McKinnon, lowers both his floor and ceiling to a bench player.
Don’t be the guy who expects big things out of a player despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary.
Take your realistic projections into the lineup. Remember: the high, the low, and the median.
If your team is ahead on all three, then great. But that’s rarely going to be the case. If your low and median still put you ahead of your weekly opponent, you’re still on solid footing. But if not, move onto the next and vastly underutilized option.
Adding the players with the highest ceiling
Let’s flash back to 2012. Darrelle Revis was not going to be thrown at, by anyone. It didn’t matter if Drew Brees or Tom Brady was under center, throwing into Revis’ coverage was stupid. The way to beat the Jets’ defense was to run the football and throw to the tight end number two receiver.
It’s not helpful to pull the exact numbers since there is a newer crop of players, but if memory serves, a decent second receiver on a team facing Revis could usually get 80 yards on five to eight receptions, and often a touchdown.
That could be good for 22 points in a PPR league, and a very respectable 14 points in standard scoring.
That’s just one example of a matchup but it carries over. If one team is likely to blow the other out, the victor will probably be running. A lot. These days, where no bell cow runners exist outside of David Johnson, one of these running backs are generally available.
The same could be said for receivers on the losing side. Teams with bad defenses can hold exceptionally valuable pieces in PPR specifically, since they’ll be throwing the ball quite a bit.
Like real football, the results of a week in fantasy are heavily influenced by the matchups. There’s value to be had everywhere, and for the uninformed or otherwise ignorant users, there’s only misery. With only the exception of being the least ignorant in a league.
Some of that starts with labels such as WR1, Flex, and that sort of thing. It was a method of simplifying fantasy sports to attract new users, but not something that will help you win.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.