Jonathan Bales

Fantasy Football U.

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Intro to Fantasy Football U

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


The following is the intro from the new Rotoworld fantasy football draft strategy book "Fantasy Football U: Expert Tips on How to Dominate Your Draft".

 

Intro from Jonathan Bales

 

I used to be the commissioner of my home season-long fantasy football league. Some of my career highlights:

 

- Kicked my best friend out of the league and didn’t speak to him for a year because he started a quarterback on his bye week

 

- Created dynasty rules so complex and unconventional only I could understand them (massive edge, highly recommend)

 

- Quit the league twice (for maybe a week total) after losing in the playoffs (despite being total-points championship like seven straight years nbd)

 

- Traded my eight-year old brother two scrubs for T.O. in his prime by showing him that if you just add up their points per game, the scrubs were far superior

 

- Broke two chairs and a computer in a period of three hours—three hours that happened to coincide with Kevin Curtis going for 11/221/3; I mean, what on Earth?

 

The point is this: season-long fantasy football has long been one of the great joys in my life that I’ve leveraged to inflict great pain on others. If you haven’t used a game to wreak serious emotional damage on those closest to you, then you haven’t lived my friend.

 

Editor's Note: You can now buy the e-book or paperback on Amazon.


My Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series — now focused primarily on daily fantasy sports — began as a simple guide to winning in traditional fantasy football. I love the game, applied “Moneyball” to gain an edge, and thought I had some interesting things to say. Turns out that first book was awful, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, was it? That makes no sense.

 

Moving on.

My books have been read by people all over the globe, a crowd so diverse it ranges from middle-aged white guys with high disposable income in Pennsylvania to middle-aged white guys with high disposable income in California. It’s really a special feeling to be able to have such a profound and not-at-all inconsequential impact on so many different types of people. Given that I’ve been focusing on DFS the past few years, it’s an amazing opportunity for me to come full circle back to season-long fantasy football, gaining exposure to even more types of old white men.

So that’s why I set up a deal with Rotoworld to publish this book. And also because I think it’s going to rock. Like so many others, I grew up reading Rotoworld and relying on their news and analysis to help win fantasy football leagues. The fact that I’m able to publish this book in conjunction with them is a huge honor for me.


It also means I knew I needed to do something big. To accomplish that, I had to get out of the way and let the big dogs of fantasy football do big dog things, so I assembled the greatest cast of writers known to man. If I could have gotten Jesus Christ himself to use his infinite knowledge to write a chapter for this book, I would have, but he would have been unlucky writer number 13 behind the 12 original fantasy football apostles I’ve rounded up to lead you to the promised land. And also because I heard Jesus is an early-round QB guy and, idk, I’m not doubting J.C. or anything, but just saying ... there probably would have been a lot of editing. And not just because his chapter would be written on scrolls.

My real goal in creating this book was to assemble a true Dream Team that consists of the people who’ve influenced me the most over the years. I’m a complete donkey compared to these guys—and truly appreciative of their help in creating a book many have claimed is spectacular. No one has actually said that yet since the book hasn’t been published at the time of me writing this intro, but given the target demographic of readers, I don’t think it’s an enormous stretch.

Check out this list:

Evan Silva (@EvanSilva)

Adam Levitan (@AdamLevitan)

Shawn Siegele (@FF_Contrarian)

JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB)

Chris Raybon (@ChrisRaybon)

TJ Hernandez (@TJHernandez)

Rich Hribar (@LordReebs)

Matt Kelley (@Fantasy_Mansion)

Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield)

Josh Hermsmeyer (@FriscoJosh)

Matthew Freedman (@MattFTheOracle)


Me (@BalesFootball)

 

Andddddd I’m excited. Each of these legends has contributed a chapter to this book that falls in line with their particular expertise in fantasy football. Or, at least, the subject/position about which they’re the most well-known. I really couldn’t think of a better group of minds, and I’m really thankful to have these guys contribute.


Additional Resources

 

I imagine by the time you finish reading this book, you’ll be so prepared to dominate your draft you might never read another piece of fantasy football analysis ever again, instead leveraging your infinite wisdom to make millions upon millions and, even more important, crush your family members in a fake game. But just in case, check out the Rotoworld Draft Guide.

 

And if you play DFS, of course take a look at my premium tools/content/analytics platform FantasyLabs.

With that said, I’m going to kick things off with what I’ve learned from my current expertise—daily fantasy sports—and how the intricacies of DFS significantly helped me in season-long fantasy football.

 

What I’ve Learned from DFS

 

When I first heard about DFS in 2011, I saw dollar bills. I knew I’d pretty much instantly get rich without putting in much work because, you know, I could beat some dopes in my season-long league. Big shout-out to Uncle Bruce, by the way. See you at the Thanksgiving football game.

 

Shockingly, I lost money as a DFS player. I got crushed. I stank.

But I wasn’t going to let this opportunity get away. I went all-in on DFS almost immediately, researching literally all day every day until…well…I still kind of do that now. I’m just obsessed, and now I stink a little less.

In a lot of ways, DFS and season-long fantasy football are quite different, but there are also lots of similarities and lessons learned from one that can be applied to the other. The largest strides I made as a season-long player came as a result of trying to win at daily fantasy sports.

Here’s what I learned during my journey.

Season-Long Is a Game of Weekly Matchups


Every year, fantasy football owners project players’ seasons, calculating how many points they’ll score that year given their potential opportunities, offensive coordinator, schedule, and a variety of other factors. But, unless you’re in a league that rewards for cumulative points at the end of the season, you shouldn’t be as concerned with total points as you should with a player’s weekly projections.

Season-long football is a game of weekly matchups, and thus the volatility a player naturally possesses on a weekly basis should matter to you. Jarvis Landry, as someone who sees a ton of short targets, is naturally more stable - with perhaps less upside - on a weekly basis than someone like DeSean Jackson, who sees fewer targets, but farther down the field. You might rank Jackson and Landry the same in terms of projected points at the end of the season, but they’re fundamentally different players who’ll affect the fortunes of your lineup in different ways.

When you think about season-long fantasy football in this way, it can change how you perceive players or your team. One example is with suspended or injured guys who we know will miss some games to start the year. Your views on injury-proneness aside, these types of players almost always offer value in fantasy drafts because owners overestimate how much of their production they’ll “lose” during the player’s absence and underestimate the potential upside (relative to the cost) when they’re back.
In the above example, I’m not claiming that injured or suspended players are inherently valuable. Rather, I’m saying they tend to fall too far in drafts. Just as in DFS, season-long fantasy draft value is a function of production minus cost, and when the cost creeps too high, the value disappears.

Projecting Players


When I first began playing fantasy football, I sort of wrote off the importance of weekly projections. “Just start the best players,” I thought.

While “just start the best players” isn’t the worst strategy in the world for some owners, there’s a lot more that goes into weekly projections than I realized before playing DFS. The three most important things I learned: utilize the Vegas lines, weigh opportunity much more than skill, and project players with probabilities, not average point totals.

There are a lot of opinions on the accuracy of Vegas lines to both season-long and DFS owners, but the real value to me comes in efficiency; the spreads and point totals are going to be pretty close overall—especially in NFL—and thus can provide insights that you can plug into your analysis immediately. For the record, I tend to use spreads more than game or team totals as a proxy for possible game flow, which has a tendency to affect certain players in a major way; a non-pass-catching running back on a seven-point underdog, for example, probably has an extremely volatile range of outcomes.

Second, opportunity matters more than anything. As someone who’s been on a mission for the past decade to prove I can analyze player talent better than those inside the NFL, I was slow to react to this concept; the truth is, however, that touches—especially near the goal line—are much more important than talent on a game-to-game basis. Talent matters most for players in new situations, such as a rookie running back stepping in when the starter goes down.

And finally, I learned through DFS to project players probabilistically, which I then applied to season-long projections as well. Heading into a season, we can say that Player X has a median projection of 320 points, but the truth is that on both a weekly and seasonal level, he has a certain probability of finishing in a wide range of areas.

That’s not to say you need to predict the exact probability Drew Brees has to score exactly 348 points this year, but rather that it’s extremely valuable to think in a probabilistic way and the manner in which you balance certain types of players - those with a small window of outcomes, those who are more volatile, and so on - will go a long way in dictating your success.


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Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Football for Smart People book series and founder of RotoAcademy -- a fantasy football training school. He can be found on Twitter @BalesFootball.
Email :Jonathan Bales


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