Fantasy Moneyball

by Ryan

So someone was looking at my phone earlier today and asked me, “What’s ‘Fudge Nuts Draft’?”

“Oh, that’s Fig Nuts, one of my fantasy football leagues,” I said referring to the event listed in my calender. Now I know what you are thinking, and yes, I used my phone’s calender. But that’s the only thing listed in my calender, and yes, it’s that important.

Last year Jon posted about the Fig Nuts draft, but he left out my side of the story. You see, I took over a team from someone else, and because it was a keeper league, I inherited his player list. That… is probably the worst financial decision I have made in my life, and that includes Sabres playoff tickets.

The problem with inheriting a keeper league team is this: it’s not your team. Sure, you get to pick three keepers out of his roster, but those aren’t your players. Those three picks are nothing more than a greatest hits of some other guy’s team, and no matter what you do it will never be anything more.

Another problem is that I did absolutely zero research, and while that works for just an ordinary draft, a keeper league is a whole different story. To put it simply, you need to know your s#$t.

An 18 round draft with 30 players off the board before it even begins. To go into that cold turkey is probably the stupidest thing you could possibly do, and of course I did it. This led to being the worst team in the league, and finishing in last place. I… I’m not proud of this, but that’s the truth. My lack of preparation for that league was downright embarrassing.

This year it was going to be different. There was no way I was going to be ill-prepared for this keeper league anymore, and I was going to do whatever it took to make sure last place never happens again.

That’s where Rich comes in.

I asked him if he wanted to give me a hand, and once the phrase co-owner came into the conversation he was on board. That conversation took an interesting tone, however. We each had other leagues, but we’ve never been co-owners before, let alone in a keeper league. We wanted to do things a bit… different.

Over the next few weeks, we studied. A lot. We looked at keeper options and guessed who everyone else would take. From those guesses we decided who was worth keeping, and what kind of philosophy we wanted our draft board to take. Depth charts, Top 200 lists, offensive line studies. We tried for days to imagine who would be out there, and what route to go. I won’t get into details, but the AP sports wire came into play.

The past month I’ve studied fantasy football more than anything I’ve ever studied in my academic career. Ever. I’m sure my teachers will be proud.

In fact, we may have over prepared. The draft went down tonight, and this was the first time in my life I’ve ever felt prepared for anything. Tests, jobs, anything. The people we picked certainly made some people scratch their heads, but there was hours of research behind them, I promise.

Now that’s not to say that things will go well this year. In fact, we may do awful again. However, we went at things a bit unusually, and I think that is going to pay off.

It’s hard to explain, but we had a list of people we “liked”, and if we could get those guys over the course of the draft, we would be happy. In a way it was like what Billy Beane did in Moneyball. We were looking for guys that could yield some decent return for us, and if a few of them failed, well, that usually happens anyway.

What we thought was this: why not take a guy you think will be better over a guy who other people like? Why should peer pressure matter when in the end you need to be satisfied with your own team? Take what you know, take what you think, and apply it to your draft. Once you get a solid group together, start going after the players you want to mess with.

It sounds logical, but it doesn’t always play out that way. Think about what Jon said last year:

3) I will put too much thought into who will be available at my next pick. I can’t tell you how many times I have waited one round too long for a player I want, only to have him snatched up three picks before me.

Screw that. If you like a guy, take him, even if that means a few odd glances. Who cares if Steve Smith is suspended for two games? It’s Steve Smith! He’s going to come back Week Three and rip a DB’s face off! Doesn’t anyone remember what happens when Steve Smith gets upset?

Again, this could turn out badly, but that’s why we are talking about it here. The fact of the matter is that I finally walked away from a fantasy draft satisfied with who I picked, and my concerns with players were outweighed by the upside I feel they have. I guess we will come back to this in a few weeks to see how things are turning out, but at the very least we have a novel experiment going.

Hey, it’s only a $20 league…


  1. Ryan

    /Waiting for Jon and Chris to tell you how it really happened…

  2. Chris

    Not gonna lie, I have you pegged to finish in last again.

    Two of your starting receivers are both out the first two weeks of the year (Steve Smith for two weeks and Brandon Marshall for three). Shockey would’ve fallen to the round you kept him. You’re gambling on one of those rookie runningbacks to replace Thomas Jones as a starter.

    Your Week One Roster (against me no less):
    WR-A. Johnson
    WR-Reggie Brown
    WR-Randle El or Roydell Williams
    RB-T. Jones