A few months ago, Brian Burke – of Advanced NFL Stats – wrote a guest column for the Wages of Wins Journal. The following was not written for The Wages of Wins Journal. And it isn’t even a complete column (you can read the complete column at Brian’s website). Nevertheless, I imagine many people who come here are also involved in fantasy football. Brian Burke – who admits to participating in this activity – has some very important thoughts regarding this activity that I think everybody who plays fantasy football should think about.
It’s that time of year when morons all over the country (like me) start to put their cheat sheets together for another season of fantasy football. I’ve resisted doing a lot of fantasy stuff on this site despite the obvious overlap between real stats and fantasy stats. I did some stuff last year on drafting strategies, but this year I’m going to break down and produce my own player rankings, but with a twist.
I’m going to make dumb rankings, in fact, as dumb as I could possibly make them. My fantasy projections are going to represent what someone would do without any knowledge of football at all. And you know what? I think there’s a good chance they’re going to end up no worse than any other ranking by the ‘experts’ or sophisticated ranking systems out there. I have a hunch that fantasy football is about 99% luck.
In a 10-team league, you’d ordinarily expect a 10% chance of winning. But what if you optimized your draft perfectly, read every fantasy site out there, and hawked the waiver wire every week. How high could you get your chances of winning your league? 13%? 15%? You’d need to play in literally dozens of seasons of fantasy football to really know if you’re any good or just lucky.
After last season I was struck by an analysis of the accuracy of some of the more prominent expert projections. Accuracy scores were listed for each system by position. I noticed how none of the systems were consistently near the top. One system could be #1 for QBs, but near the bottom for RBs and WRs. And no system was consistent from year to year either. If a system were any good, wouldn’t it work well in more than just one year or for more than one position? What this tells me is that no one really knows what they’re doing. They’re guessing like everyone else.
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