Readers sometimes ask me for recommended fantasy football reading, and I consistently advanced them to a book that has annihilation to do with fantasy football: Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile. In my opinion, the bigger leaps you can accomplish as a fantasy buyer aren’t in the breadth of football analysis, but rather accident analysis.
We consistently apprehend that we’re declared to abbreviate accident and aerate upside, but few anytime acquaint us how to do that. I appetite to use Taleb’s “barbell” advance action as a arrangement for how I anticipate that’s best accomplished. First, an extract from Antifragile:
What do we beggarly by barbell? The barbell (a bar with weights on both ends that weight lifters use) is meant to allegorize the abstraction of a aggregate of extremes kept separate, with abstention of the middle. In our ambience it is not necessarily symmetric: it is aloof composed of two extremes, with annihilation in the center.
I initially acclimated the angel of the barbell to call a bifold attitude of arena it safe in some areas and demography a lot of baby risks in others, appropriately accomplishing antifragility. That is acute accident abhorrence on one ancillary and acute accident admiring on the other, rather than aloof the “medium” or the abominable “moderate” accident attitude that in actuality is a accoutrement bold (because boilerplate risks can be subjected to huge altitude errors). But the barbell additionally results, because of its construction, in the abridgement of downside risk—the abolishment of the accident of ruin.
So basically what we’re attractive at is an acute access to fantasy football drafting that involves patching up potentially adverse leaks in our action (extreme accident aversion) while aggravating to hit home runs (extreme accident seeking), as against to a added abstinent action that emphasizes both accident abhorrence and risk-seeking behavior with anniversary pick.
This is how I’m planning to apparatus a barbell fantasy football access this year.
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A Barbell Access to Positions
When I aboriginal began my fantasy football analysis, one of the strategies I proposed was drafting a quarterback semi-early for the sole acumen of it actuality safe. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees—unless those players get injured, we apperceive what we’re getting, and we’re activity to be adequate with it. There’s amount in that.
Are quarterbacks the acute early-round comedy accustomed their scarcity? No, they’re not, but I anticipate a authentic value-based abstract action assumes that amateur performances are absolute by a deterministic set of laws and all we charge to affliction about is boilerplate projections.
The absolute aesthetics abaft the barbell access is compassionate area we ability be brittle to admiration errors. On the position level, every position is added error-prone than quarterback. The key is cerebration of players in agreement of probabilities with a ambit of abeyant outcomes; best aristocratic quarterbacks accept a attenuated ambit of accessible outcomes and don’t accreditation aboriginal alternative in the austere value-based sense. But we’re not attractive to nab a few added accepted credibility of VBD with a barbell drafting action (while accompanying aperture ourselves up to altitude errors).
In effect, the alert end of the barbell action works as an allowance action for your team. When you pay for insurance, there’s no amount in the austere sense; allowance companies accomplish money by charging you added than you’ll put in over the continued run. But there’s still a ton of amount in allowance because it banned your acknowledgment to massive downside. That’s absolutely what an aristocratic quarterback does to your fantasy agenda (at atomic at his position).
The added acumen that the early-quarterback access is underrated, in my book, is that the amount of accepting these aristocratic passers is now abundantly low. We’re seeing Brees & Co. abatement into the fourth and alike fifth annular in able drafts, which is absurd. Now, these quarterbacks are at atomic abutting to alms amount in the austere projected point/scarcity sense, in accession to the barbell-based acumen we appetite to abstract them: they aren’t that affected to bump errors and appropriately absolute our acknowledgment to huge downside.
So which quarterback should you draft? The acknowledgment is ‘I don’t know,’ which affectionate of illustrates the accomplished point. You don’t charge to be acutely authentic in your alone amateur assessments because there’s not an acutely aerial apprehension amount amid aristocratic passers; the amount comes in the actuality that you can aces an aristocratic quarterback, any quarterback, and he’s acceptable to act as your team’s allowance policy.
When you abstract added positions, alike in the aboriginal round, you necessarily crave a college akin of accurateness in your amateur evaluations—a accomplished lot of accident to accept for a few projected points, right?
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I appetite to bound blow on advanced receivers. Unlike active backs, whose assembly is absolute binary—they’re either bearing or not based on their workload—wide receiver assembly is added skill-based; while maybe 80 percent of active aback assembly comes via factors alfresco of their ascendancy (I fabricated up that cardinal but I wouldn’t be afraid if it’s abreast that), a abundant beyond amount of advanced receiver assembly is due the absolute talent.
We apperceive that because we can adumbrate which advanced receivers will be acceptable with a college amount of accuracy. Note that I’m not adage we can adumbrate which ones aftermath added calmly than at active back—running aback isn’t awfully adamantine to adumbrate because it’s mainly aloof a quick glance at advancing workload—but aloof that we see the aforementioned advanced receiver types do the aforementioned things over and over.
There’s an acutely able alternation amid advanced receiver weight and red area production, for example. There’s additionally a absolute able alternation amid bolt amount and yards-per-target; advanced receivers who see beneath targets (usually from the slot) are the safest types of players on a account basis.
This relates to the barbell advance access because it seems acute to assemble your aggregation with the two altered advanced receiver extremes—big receivers who can account generally and short-target players (typically aperture men) who accord you a absolutely aerial attic of assembly in a accustomed week—but annihilation amid those two extremes.
What’s amid those extremes? Players like Mike Wallace. I generally apprehend added fantasy owners agree acceleration to upside, arguing that Wallace and agnate players are high-ceiling options because they can account from deep. I disagree absolutely because the way they advance is based off of low-frequency contest (long touchdowns) that are awful absurd to be again assorted times in a distinct game.
Want affirmation of that? Up to this point, Wallace has played 79 amateur during his NFL career, but he has a career-high of aloof 144 yards. One-hundred forty-four yards! For one of the game’s best atomic players? Can’t be. Wallace has additionally never bent added than two touchdowns in a bold in his absolute career, and he’s done that alone bristles times.
Wallace doesn’t accept a aerial ceiling, alike admitting that’s fun to believe, but he additionally doesn’t accept a absolute aerial floor. Because he’s abased on big plays for production, he’ll about-face in some bastard performances. He’s additionally acutely accessible to booty out of games. Appetite to stop Wallace? Aloof comedy press-bail; don’t let him bolt quick screens, but bond afterwards the breeze so he can’t get deep. That’s what defenses accept done in the playoffs—when Wallace has aggregate an boilerplate of four catches for 35 yards and 0.25 touchdowns per gave over four contests.
Now let’s analyze Wallace to a receiver like Vincent Jackson, whose ADP has been agnate to Wallace’s over the years. Since Wallace came into the league, V-Jax has topped Wallace’s career-high single-game accepting absolute on bristles occasions (with three added that accept appear aural three yards), while additionally scoring three touchdowns a brace times. Or how about Josh Gordon, who exhausted Wallace’s career-high for accepting yards four times in 2013 alone!
The point actuality is that we can allocate advanced receivers adequately calmly and accomplish authentic assessments apropos their upside and safety. If we’re activity to actualize a accepted barbell-based rule-of-thumb for receiver drafting, it’s this: abstract advanced receivers who can consistently boss in the red zone, giving them aerial week-to-week ceilings, but if you ancillary with a advanced receiver who doesn’t account a lot, he bigger see a agglomeration of abbreviate targets (giving him aerial week-to-week consistency), a la Percy Harvin, Kendall Wright, and so on.
If a advanced receiver isn’t activity to account a lot of touchdowns but additionally isn’t acceptable to absolute our downside on a account basis, he’s apparently not activity to fit the barbell-based advanced receiver ancestor that we’re seeking.
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