Fantasy Football: The Next Level, by David Dorey, is a compendium of strategies, tools, & tips gathered from years of experience and interaction on the website he co-founded, The Huddle.com. The book is intended for fantasy football owners who are looking to consistently achieve success year after year rather than “luck” into drafting the breakout players. The premise of the book is that the underlying trends in the NFL and fantasy football don’t change greatly from year to year, and understanding the general dynamics of the game while recognizing what is new will allow one to achieve the next level of success, as the title suggests. It’s a book that is beneficial for both newer players as well as seasoned veterans with decades of experience in fantasy football.
The first core concept discussed is the League Analysis and Graphing (or LAG) tool, which is basically a visual way of examining the existence of tiers in fantasy football. This is something many savvy fantasy football owners are typically aware of, but may never do formally. If an owner is also involved in several different leagues with various scoring settings, they may not be aware of how even these slight differences may greatly affect the tiers. By using a spreadsheet to graph the top scorers in all positions in a particular league using the individual league settings, two critical aspects are revealed: how quickly player values diminish within each position and how positions compare to each other. By using statistics from previous years along with player projections for the upcoming year, owners can quickly identify how player value declines both within a position and between positions. This LAG analysis will then allow one to know when to draft different positions in a particular league. As an aside, the author indicates his great personal preference for points-per-reception leagues which result in a more balanced value amongst the positions. In PPR leagues, wide receivers and tight ends can be just as valuable as second-tier running backs, and the drafts and strategy become that much more interesting to the author.
The Preseason portion of the book goes into specific detail about how to create player projections and breaks down the different positions (quarterbacks, running backs, backup running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, placekickers, & defenses). The importance of evaluating three years worth of statistics instead of just the previous year is discussed, as well as per-game statistics to observe whether players finished the year strongly or poorly. When breaking down individual positions, coaching changes, offensive line strength, health issues, & the team’s defense affecting the position are detailed, and stud repeatability, breakout years, sleepers, rookies, etc. for each position are examined. Although simplistic formulas for each position are derived:
QB Value = (Talent) x (Situation x 2) x (Opportunity)
RB Value = (Talent) x (Situation) x (Opportunity x 2)
WR Value = (Talent x 2) x (Situation) x (Opportunity)
TE Value = (Talent x 2) x (Situation x 2) x (Opportunity)
PK Value = Opportunity
DEF Value = 80% Talent + 20% Matchups
There is no intention to actually use the formulas to quantify values. There are simply used to show how situation, talent, & opportunity can vary in importance for each position.
The Fantasy Draft portion of the book discusses in detail the importance of when to throw your projections away, tiering, and the lack of usefulness of mock drafts. Some of the concepts expounded upon in this section are avoiding overreaching for an “upside” player, creating positional tiers, how average draft position from mock drafts maximizes the bad, and tracking positional selections by other managers during your draft.
The Regular Season and Beyond is the final portion of the book where mining the waiver wire and preparing for the playoffs are discussed. The author uses statistical data to show the history of undrafted or released players from the waiver wire bolstering your team. Historical data shows that really only running backs and wide receivers from the waiver wire have the most chance to be productive, and the reality is that you are not likely to find a big-time quarterback, tight end, or kicker. When preparing for the playoffs, playoff matchups are critical and the author advises to back up your starters due to injury or the dreaded “resting-for-the-playoffs.”
The book then concludes with a humorous chapter about fantasy football in the workplace, and how as a former manager at a large corporation, the author would prefer employees who have participated in fantasy football because they likely have skills in teamwork, multitasking, adaptability, sound judgment, ethics, competition, security, recognition, analytical aptitude, communication, decision making and problem solving, forecasting, and computer skills. It’s tough to argue with that point.
All in all, Fantasy Football: The Next Level, is an excellent discussion about many of the strategies that seasoned fantasy footballers may already practice, while also demonstrating from a mathematical and statistical standpoint why these theories apply and are successful. No matter the experience level, there’s bound to be some nuggets of wisdom that anyone who is truly interested in achieving the next level of consistency will want to pick up.
Jeff LaGrassa is a Steelers fan and Cafe regular. Besides fantasy football, he enjoys disc golf, skiing, winemaking, and playing the electric bass. You can catch him posting in the Cafe's forums as The Lung.
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