, Port Arthur, Texas


August 15, 2013

Coleman Fantasy Football: Don't reach early on wide receivers

PORT ARTHUR —  Have you read Moneyball?

  I’m switching sports with that question, but Michael Lewis’ book on the Oakland A’s is great. It’s worth your time.

  It’s also sort of misinterpreted. Ever since it came out, the book has come to be defined by a view of “stats vs. scouts,” where numbers trump personal observations on a player.

  Reducing the book to that misses Lewis’ point, though. What he attempted to show is how the Oakland A’s succeed with some of the more limiting financial considerations in the game. He showed they do that by exploiting market inefficiencies, just like any good stock trader.

  That’s applicable right now, because to understand this year’s market at receiver, you have to understand how to exploit market inefficiencies in your draft.

  If you’re reading this column, you’re already a pretty savvy fantasy football player. You know how to rank players and you have a draft strategy. There are players you’re targeting and those you want to stay away from.

  But, have you thought about how to react during the draft? Formulating a strategy before the draft is dangerous for many reasons, but the main one is there are so many factors to consider. The solution is to rank players by value and try to exploit areas where they’ve been ignored. If there is a run on running backs, snap up the receiver who fell too far. If there has already been seven QBs taken, wait a bit before you tab that eighth.

  Being reactive in the draft is just as important as knowing who the top players are going to be. Very few pre-draft player plans end up working out post-draft, unless you are in a very shallow league.

  Right, why are we talking about this when I’m supposed to be discussing receivers?

  The WR class this year is ripe to exploit. Let’s figure out why through a simple exercise.

  Name the top five receivers in the league right now.

  How many names did you come up with? I bet there were more than five. Out of the ten receivers I listed below this column, at least eight could be legitimate No. 1 WRs on a fantasy team. Figuring out which one will hit is the real problem.

  That’s why it’s smart this year not to reach too early on a receiver. Let the draft come to you. Sure, Calvin Johnson makes a ton of sense in the first round, but make sure there aren’t any running backs still on the board. Make sure Aaron Rodgers is gone first.

  With this class, your No. 1 wideout isn’t as important as your Nos. 1-3 wideouts are together. You don’t need one of the top five receivers in the league to win a title, but if you can grab three of the top 18, you should do some damage.

  So, study the draft. Find the weaknesses. If everyone starts taking wide receivers, don’t panic. Make sure there aren’t players slipping through the cracks. Because, for every Megatron-type lock there is right now, there will be a Demaryius Thomas lurking in the weeds. Maybe it’s Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. Maybe it’s T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis, as someone smarter than me suggested this week.

  The difference between winning and losing in a fantasy league can often come down to a draft. By using a little Moneyball magic, having a good draft is also pretty simple.

Top 8 wideouts

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit - He beat the Madden Curse. Would you bet against him now?

2) A.J. Green, Cincinnati - It all depends on his knee, but that offense just keeps getting better and better.

3) Dez Bryant, Dallas - He's had a quiet offseason. Could that lead to a noisy season?

4) Julio Jones, Atlanta – He’s big, he’s fast, he has a QB who can get him the ball and a running game again. Should put up big numbers.

5) Demaryius Thomas, Denver – He’s got everything you want in a No. 1 receiver: size, explosive ability and a great passing offense.

6) Andre Johnson, Houston - The ageless one gets it done every year.

7) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona - After years and years dealing with the pu pu platter at QB, Fitzy has a decent one in Carson Palmer.

8) Victor Cruz, New York Giants - Salsaed his way into the top of this list last season.

9) Brandon Marshall, Chicago - Marshall may be slightly crazy, but he's Jay Cutler's favorite target in Smokin' Jay's contract year.

10) Wes Welker, Denver - The ultimate slot receiver joins one of the smartest QBs in the league. Welker could see 150 targets this season.


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