Sunday, June 21, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue XXV

Welcome to our 41st edition of the FDH Fantasy Newsletter, as we continue to bring you weekly fantasy sports updates in addition to our usual content on Our archive of past editions is available right here on The Blog and specific links to past editions are available on the front page of

In this week's edition:

^ Examining counterintuitive fantasy advice from The Hardball Times
^ Fantasy football 2009 early-round overview

Examining Counterintuitive Fantasy Advice from The Hardball Times

In our constant pursuit of value at FDH, we are constantly preaching for fantasy owners to buy into the credo of "Buy Low, Sell High." It is no accident that fantasy games have sprung up in recent years that have explicit Wall Street overtones, for fantasy sports operate on the exact same principles: acquire your assets as cheaply as possible and take your profits when they are ripe.

Occasionally, our peers in the industry will come at this reality from different angles and when they do, it's always worth examining their thoughts.

In this instance, specifically, the excellent hardcore baseball website The Hardball Times took on the question of whether the commonly-used equasion should be inverted to "Buy High, Sell Low." Most participants in the roundtable agreed, shockingly enough. We found some key points of disagreement with their interesting consensus.

^ Patrick Cane of The Albany Times-Union suggests that "Selling High" is flawed because, for example, a David Ortiz owner would still want way too much in return for him. Actually, his advice is flawed, because our advice is never "One Size Fits All" -- and in fact, our major criticism of Mr. Roto's advice is that it too frequently is exactly that. We never urge owners to make a bad deal when buying low, and if you run into such an unrealistic owner, just break off the trade talks. It's as simple as that.

^ Brett Greenfield of Fantasy Phenoms advocates "Buying High" on players such as Adam Jones. Now, it would perhaps be rubbing it in to mention Jones' cold streak ever since Brett's advice was printed, but it is also instructive. Very few players over the course of a season end up either far above or far below the median range of their expected value. To "Buy High" on Adam Jones would be to bet that he, at his still-young age of 23, is ready to play at his future-anticipated full-on franchise-player level the rest of the way through the season. For the overwhelming majority of hot players, there comes a point in time where you have missed the opportunity to buy them at a worthwhile level and that is the inherent flaw in Mr. Greenfield's advice.

^ Mike Podhorzer of would advocate "Selling Low" on fallen stars such as Francisco Liriano. We would respectfully ask what the point in that bit of advice would be. "Name value" is not going to trump raw production in terms of what an owner is going to offer for a player with the awful stats of Liriano. We would be very surprised if players in big slumps would fetch big enough returns to merit failing to wait out the depths of their downside.

Fantasy Football 2009 Early-Round Overview

We at really love fantasy football, so it's not a put-down for us to truthfully state that fantasy football is to fantasy baseball as basic algebra is to trigonometry. The level of commitment required to have a good fantasy football squad pales in comparison to what it takes to win in fantasy baseball.

While this reality will never change, the gap in difficulty is narrowing somewhat, largely due to a trend that we have been following since 2005. That year, we commented on The Sporting News noticing the same trend that we were seeing: the tendency of NFL teams to move away from complete reliance on their lead RBs. Platoons in the commonly-understood sense were not making a comeback, but teams were rapidly adopting what we have described roughly as the "2/3 - 1/3" model. For teams with a speed back as the lead back, a power back would come off the bench as a fairly regular change-of-pace; for teams with a power back as the lead back, the converse would be true.

Glancing at the list of top RBs (and top overall fantasy players) in 2009, we see that the old reality in fantasy football of being able to count on one or two stud players carrying your squad to a title is dead and buried (or at least until the next time the game reinvents itself!). For example, Adrian Peterson is almost a consensus #1 on many boards this year. Now, we've been big on AP since way back, but given his injury history, he has to be the most fragile likely #1 overall pick in the recent history of the game. Others jockeying for that spot aren't any better in that regard:

^ Michael Turner is only in his second year as a lead RB after years of being regarded as merely an excellent backup to LT.

^ Matt Forte is coming off his rookie campaign and was relatively lightly-touted coming out of college.

^ Steven Jackson has been very banged-up in recent seasons.

^ DeAngelo Williams was a big fantasy disappointment until his breakthrough last season.

^ Maurice Jones-Drew may well be too small for the increased workload that he's going to receive with Fred Taylor having left town.

And on it goes. This is not meant as a criticism of these players or a sense that they are unworthy of where they will be selected in '09. They are very worthy of where they will be selected -- and therein lies the problem with the overall crop of players this year. You needn't even go back to the Emmitt Smith/Brett Favre/Jerry Rice days of fantasy football to remember a time when you could count on your top overall picks to almost singlehandedly keep you afloat.

Essentially, this dynamic plays in favor of all serious fantasy owners (who by definition include FDH readers!), as ideally in these games luck will be minimized and repetition of good picks would be necessary for victory.

In this climate, there is also a consensus moving towards the position we have been staking out for years: that a RB is not necessary in the first round and surely not necessary with the first two picks in the draft. It's hard to argue against the worthiness as a first-round pick of a Drew Brees, given his gaudy numbers of the past few years (especially in light of the fact that those numbers were posted without WR Colston for part of last season). After witnessing his historic production when the lights were brightest last year, who would dare argue against Larry Fitzgerald as a first-round pick? We are happy to see the industry catching up with our position: that explosiveness trumps position when it comes to early-round fantasy football drafting. Explosiveness wins titles.

With 2009 representing the culmination of the years-long trend towards "the extinction of the gimmes," fantasy owners will likely need to make at least four or five outstanding picks in the draft this year in order to win their leagues, instead of the previous two or three. Again, this words towards the benefit of the prepared -- and you are by definition one of those by following the FDH advice.


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