PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

September 4, 2013

Coleman Fantasy Football: Don't be afraid of calculated risks

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     Now, before games actually begin, take a moment to reflect on your draft.

    How’d you do? Didn’t go exactly according to plan, did it? You had to reach on a few guys, a few more dropped unexpectedly to you, didn’t they?

    And, I’m sure everyone left your draft thinking they had a great team, the next great champion. Everyone does that. It’s always a shock when your perfect team doesn’t turn out that way.

    I’m sure many of you play fantasy football through Yahoo!, so you’ve seen their new advancements through the site, including a draft analyzer. It’s a very nifty tool that breaks down your entire draft, grades it out, tells you which picks were great and which were suspect.

    It’s a lot of fun to read, but can be confounding when the program doesn’t see players just like you do. The problem is with projections and trying to predict who the best players will be a year early. It’s also about calculated risks.

    Take last season. The best fantasy player, by far, was Adrian Peterson. He must have won thousands of leagues for players across the country because he was a risky pick. He wasn’t the consensus No. 1 pick  during draft time and there were significant concerns about how he’d perform.

    You know the rest. He regenerated his ACL like he’s Wolverine or something and proceeded to destroy the league, slicing through defenses like adamantium-covered claws. Most players probably drafted him after the first round, or at least after the first five picks. He provided a ton more value than that.

    But, if that draft analyzer had looked at a potential champion at this time last year, I’m sure it would have graded it out poorly. Peterson is a bad risk, and probably wasn’t projected to score many points.

    Why is that important? Well, it plays a part not just in fantasy draft analysis, but also in running your team throughout the season. This weekend, there will be the next Alfred Morris emerge from the pack. Some unheralded player will seize control of a situation and make a name for himself this year that no one counted on.

    Maybe that player was already drafted, but more likely, he’s a free agent right now. Identifying that player and being able to take a risky move by picking him up can be the difference between a trip to the playoffs and a championship.

    Expert opinions can only take you so far. Heck, even what I’ve been proscribing here for the past few weeks only helps you so much. I’m no better at predicting the future than you. I just spend more time thinking about fantasy football than is healthy.

    Understanding why the experts are high on a player allows you to make a decision for yourself. If you know that Russell Wilson will be throwing more this year, or ran better than any of the other Gang of Four QBs, then he’s more valuable than his position as the No. 11 QB. You’ve found hidden value there.

    Understand why a player is projected a certain way and then make your own decision. Is Steven Jackson ranked too low for your tastes? Well, then it may be because no one really knows how he’ll react in the Atlanta offense.

    Is Matt Schaub being ignored? Maybe everyone is reacting badly to his play down the stretch last season and not looking at his numbers as a whole.

    Start with those questions and develop your own answers. Rely on the experts, but don’t take their advice blindly. Develop your own opinions and then you won’t be beholden to Sports Illustrated’s fantasy guide each season.

    Getting to that point will mean you’re happy and realistic about your draft, but it will serve you well for the rest of the season. As the weeks roll on, always be asking yourself if your team is good enough to win or if it could be improved. Where do you need to strengthen things? What can you do to that end?

    It’s not an easy leap to take, going from relying on projections and draft analysis to making your own calls on players. But, if you can take that risk, fantasy football can get a whole lot more rewarding.

    David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. He can be emailed at dcoleman@panews.com and found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.