Wednesday, October 30, 2013
FANTASY GRIND: Pesky luck; Sigmund Bloom
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By OSKAR GARCIA
Among the many offerings fantasy sports has given the world: A never-ending supply of things to complain about.
And at the top of the list? Luck.
In fantasy sports, bad luck seems to happen to you more than the other guy, while he or she surely has better fortune than you. Your wins? Smart calls, impeccable decision-making. Their wins? Luck, of course.
Just don't forget about what co-owner Sigmund Bloom of FootballGuys.com affectionately calls "the oblong ball factor."
Examples are all over, Bloom says. Those five or so plays that mean the difference between a winning and losing record. Or the playoff team that squeaks in as one of the lowest seeds, but gets hot in the playoffs and wins a title.
Are we talking fantasy or the NFL? Both.
"It's essentially unknowable, even for the players and coaches," Bloom says. "A lot of the same things that drive us crazy in fantasy are played out in the NFL."
So when you complain on Twitter, know there's a steady stream of people who also have scored the most points in their league and have had the most points scored against them at some point during the year. On Reddit, note that "Start (Insert player here) they said" is a common refrain late Sunday and early Monday -- and little more than a lame excuse.
It doesn't take away from any skill, but there's simply a lot of luck in fantasy football -- likely a lot more than you think.
Under ESPN standard fantasy scoring, 34 different quarterbacks have finished at least one week in the top 12 at the position so far this season. That means for that week, they should have started in a 12-team fantasy league, or some owner missed out on points.
Among running backs, 72 have spent at least one week in the top 24 at the position, as have 95 wide receivers. A total of 45 tight ends have finished as a top 12 tight end at some point this year.
That's through eight weeks. Many of those players aren't started, of course (Levine Toilolo or Khiry Robinson, anyone?), but understanding the gamble can go a long way toward helping you evaluate why your fantasy season is going so well or poorly.
Here's what takes real skill: Navigating all that luck, both good and bad.
A 20-point performance from Brandon Jacobs is great when you call it, but part of what helps fantasy teams thrive is consistency. Here are some players beyond the very top names who have been delivering value by providing top-12 (quarterbacks, tight ends) or top-24 (running backs, wide receivers) performances on a regular basis so far this year.
QB: Matthew Stafford, Detroit. Speaking of plays that swing seasons, did you see that winning fake spike against Dallas? (Sorry, Cowboys fans: http://on.nfl.com/1gZoncb ). Stafford, the ninth quarterback taken on average in Yahoo drafts this season, is one of only five quarterbacks to finish with a top-12 performance at least five times this season. Not Tony Romo, Russell Wilson or Cam Newton.
RB: Frank Gore, San Francisco. Gore has put up top-20 running back performances in seven games of eight games, including five performances in the top 10. It seems so very long ago when many fantasy owners were saying he's on the decline, dropping his value in drafts.
WR: Marvin Jones, Cincinnati. Think that four-touchdown game is all fluke? Fine, but he's been a top-24 receiver four times so far this year, more often than Steve Smith, Eric Decker or Andre Johnson. That includes two top-10 performances in the last three weeks.
TE: Martellus Bennett, Chicago. It's truly Jimmy Graham and the rest of the guys at the tight end position this year, but Bennett has quietly put up five top-12 tight end performances in his first seven games.
RINGER TIME: SIGMUND BLOOM
From quarterbacks making a case for two-quarterback leagues and running backs redefining what a good game looks like for touches and carries, the first half of the NFL year is challenging fantasy owners and NFL coaches to be bold, forward thinkers.
"You have to be open to things that have never happened before happening (now)," Bloom says.
Trade Adrian Peterson? Bloom thinks it's time. Disappointed at running back with C.J. Spiller, Doug Martin or others? Think about their circumstances.
Bloom says the successful NFL players the first half this year are taking advantage of prime situations, making their opportunity more important at times than their talent.
Several of the top running backs for example, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Reggie Bush and LeSean McCoy, all have new coaches who are using them the right way, he said.
"Coaching and how these guys are deployed ... and trying to project how coaching and players fit is going to be really important going forward," Bloom said.
It all fits a broader skill set for winning fantasy players, Bloom says: being open-minded and able to admit when you're wrong.
"Don't be too rigid in your thinking," he said.
After eight weeks, my fantasy fortunes are clear. Two teams will likely go to the playoffs. Two will probably finish close to last place. And I'm back to even at 4-4 and fourth place in a two-quarterback league where I spent a remarkable amount of agony and free agent acquisition money on a replacement for the injured Sam Bradford. After strategizing on trades and spending big on Kellen Clemens, I ended up dropping Christian Ponder, picking him back up when Josh Freeman was announced as out and starting him.
I beat a buddy who had started Calvin Johnson in a points-per-reception league -- getting really lucky he only was able to start one quarterback.
Oskar Garcia is a news editor in Honolulu who spends way too much time on fantasy sports with too little to show for it. He can be reached at ogarcia(at)ap.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/oskargarcia