As virtual GMs it is our job to compile a roster both in the draft and from week to week in a strategic fashion. We must think through things like roster balance, floor vs. ceiling, and opponent matchups when making key decisions. However, there is only so much strategy that can go into making your decisions… at a certain point, its best not to over think it.
At the end of the day, its simple. Good players (in good matchups) play good. Again, the strategist in us wants to bring out our inner Ken Hitchcock and match lines with the opposing team, employing counter balances and trying to mitigate the scoring of your opponent. Often times as an analyst I’ll field the question: “should I start Keenan Allen or Dez Bryant, my opponent has Philip Rivers.” The tendency to reverse stack against your opponent (load up on skill position players that will benefit each time a Quarterback makes a play, for example) can blind you to important matchup and context factors elsewhere on your roster. While the logic behind mitigating the impact of Rivers makes a degree of sense, this roster management strategy doesn’t work. You can’t play fantasy football defense.
Sure, Keenan Allen’s receiving yards can mitigate the impact of Philip Rivers’ passing yards but that doesn’t necessarily make him the best play against an opponent with Rivers (Photo: Icon SMI/Orlando Ramirez).
The example here may be a bit extreme, but at least nine times out of ten the player to start is Bryant over Allen, unless in the most extreme of matchup situations or if Bryant is dealing with a significant injury. That Rivers starts is irrelevant. Sure, you want to start Allen so that you’re benefiting from the yards/scores that Rivers compiles but if the talent, context and matchup information suggests that Bryant is going to score more points in a given week then he is the player to start, regardless of anything your opponent is doing.
As a fantasy GM, your job is to maximize the output of your own roster, without considering anything your opponent is rolling out there. In the example above, if Rivers goes 275-3-1 and produces 20.5 standard fantasy points, that is great news for your opponent. If Allen was responsible for 100 yards and one of the scores, he has had a good day as well (16 points). However, if Bryant posts even 110-1, he was the better play. Your 17 points out of Bryant look better against Rivers and as part of your team’s totals in a given week, even though Allen’s 16 points technically ‘come out of’ Rivers’ total impact.
Of course, in situations where the players are deemed equal, or when you are looking at the Chargers because they are facing a league worst pass defense then rolling out Allen makes sense – but not because your opponent is starting Rivers, but because the contextual factors suggest he has a matchup to exploit this week.
We naturally want to outsmart our opponents, to counter balance their plays, and to defend against a loss… but in the fake game that can’t happen. Focus on your own lineup, avoid playing fantasy football defense, and remember that simply: good players play good (regardless of how they fit against your opponent’s lineup).
For more on the subject, I wrote an article in an e-book published by David Gonos this offseason “101 Fantasy Football Tips” from 50 writers throughout the industry. The read will cost you 5 bucks, but its full of insight from some of the best in the business… and me.
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