The Evolution of — and why I hate — Fantasy Football

Somewhere between having the first pick in my fantasy football league draft back in 2002, finishing in the bottom 25%, being on the receiving end of smug grins from other team managers as I was just ‘easy money’, to now– ten years later–  things have changed.

What exactly has changed is not easily defined, but I had some hunches and it seems that some of the data backs me up.

My current fantasy football team, in my big money/main league, is 0-8 (and soon to be 0-9). Now, you can call me bitter and you can tell me that I’m fishing for excuses to not feel completely defeated and embarrassed, but do me a favor and hear me out.  Hear me out and then leave a comment telling me that I’m wrong so that I can enjoy my Sundays again and retire from fantasy games all together.

Let’s start at the beginning: Draft day. We all prepare for the draft in various ways, devising some sort of strategy to build a winning team. Between looking on the internet or in magazines at projected rankings for the year, learning from past years’ experience, and keeping an eye on personal favorite players, we get an idea of who we want on our teams; specifically, who we choose first.  While we all have our preferences as to where we want our position to be in the draft, logic shows that the closer you are to pick #1, the better chance you have at getting the statistically better players.  There are plenty of variables that help determine projections such as: the team they play for, how good the QB is if the player is a WR, how good the offensive line is if the player is a RB, but the main driver is the production from the previous year.  Assuming that it wasn’t an absolute fluke year and that the player is still close to his prime, you can extrapolate and project his hopeful production this year from the previous year.

Here is a quick chart starting back from the season ending in 2003.  Using standard scoring (6 points per rushing/receiving TD, 1 point per 10 rushing/receiving yards, 1 point per 25 passing yards and 4 points per passing TD) it shows the position of the top five players overall for the year in points. For example, in the season ending in 2003, of the top five point scorers on the year, 3 of them were RB’s and 2 were QB’s.

The chart clearly shows the decline in the RB being boss to the point where in last season, the top 5 point scorers were all QB’s. This is not breaking news to most people, I get it, but it needs to be asked…

Why?

Some conclusions are obvious.  One being that the average RB, nowadays, tends to get fewer carries per game.  The obvious reason is that if you’re paying millions of dollars for a RB, you want to get your money’s worth and not pay him for the remainder of his contract if he ends up in a body cast.  The game is so physically demanding and taxing on the human body, it just makes sense that if you spread the workload and limit players individually, they will have a longer career. You would think that, while this method is generally accepted by most teams, the exception would be if you have a big sturdy stud RB who can take 25-30 carries per game.

Statistics say that you would be wrong.

Last chart, I promise!

What we’re looking at is a line chart that contains the data for the top 10 RB’s in rushing yards per year, by rushing attempts/carries. For example in 2004, the top 10 RB’s in rushing yards were: C. Martin, S. Alexander, C.

Dillon, E. James, T. Barber, R. Johnson, L. Tomlinson, C. Portis, R Droughns, F. Taylor and their combined average for rushing attempts on the year is 330.

You see a trend that implies that slowly but surely, all RB’s, even the studs, are getting fewer carries per game on average.

So, what’s the point?

The point is that besides QB’s, I have less and less of an idea of what to expect from players that I’m drafting.  I’ll save you from another chart so you’ll have to trust me on this one, but QB’s have been consistent over the last 10 years in regards to average amount of TD’s per year and Passing yards per year.  The QB has become the position that you can get the most points from over the past few years.  That is no secret.  But in any league I’ve ever been in, you only start one QB.  There is plenty of supply with a below average demand. You still need to stock up on RB’s and WR’s to be successful.

Fantasy Football has become more of gambling and luck to me than a strategy-based game where you laugh at the ‘new guy’ joining your league because he is easy money, with barely a chance against the seasoned veterans that know the ropes.  There will always be and have always been those key free agent and waiver wire pickups that can change the league.  There will always be the game where Ahman Green scores 35 for you on a Monday night when you’re down 30. Those are things of chance and luck that you pray and hope for because you can only control so much.  I just feel that even the small amount of control that I felt comfortable with in my league, is dwindling as well.

To save face: I won my main/big money league in 2004 and 2005 back to back and finished last year’s regular season as the #2 seed at 9-4.  Two years ago I started 0-6 and didn’t make the playoffs.  That year, I had the honor—thanks to my leagues keeper rules—to have Ray Rice (a first round pick) on my team for the expense of only an 8th round pick, giving me, essentially, two first round picks.

To further prove my point… it didn’t matter.

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2 Responses

  1. All I read was wah wah wah I am 0-9. (Losing to me twice)

    • Was that your plan all along? “hey rob, you should blog about fantasy so that I can COMMENT AND MAKE FUN OF YOU!”.
      Ass.

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