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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Business Sense, Fantasy Football Style
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What can one’s business sense and fantasy football have in common? Well, as I found out on Sunday during one of my leagues’ live drafts, quite a lot. As we all sat down in my friend’s kitchen, the big draft board taking up an entire wall for our viewing pleasure, we went over player lists and draft strategies and by the end of the draft something became abundantly clear, there were three types of players in the room, and these are the same three types of players you’ll find in the business world; the players who went by the book for no other reason than it’s the book, the players who went by the book because they truly felt it was the right way to go, and the players (well, technically just player) who threw the book out the window and did something completely different. I was, and always will be, that latter type of player.

I’m guessing the first question on everybody’s mind is “why did you throw the book out the window? Wasn’t the book written for a reason?” Yes, the book was written for a reason, but it wasn’t so that everyone would go by it. If everyone goes by the book everyone ends up the same, this is true in anything. If you looked at our draft board after two rounds you had nine teams with two running backs and then my team, which had two quarterbacks. Why did the entire league go for only an alright running back in the second round when one of the best QB’s in the league was still on the table? Because the book said so. Personally, I couldn’t see any benefit in doing the same thing every other team was doing. If every team took a running back in the first two rounds how would the teams be any different? What would the point of those first two rounds have been? There wouldn’t have been a point, and that’s exactly my point. Just like in business today, we have a lot of higher ups insisting on doing everything by the book, the same way it’s always been done, completely afraid of trying something new. I’m not saying my strategy is going to work and I am in no way guaranteeing victory, I took a risk, but without risk there is very little reward and I am much more interested in testing out a new idea than simply standing pat with what we’re told works.

I ended up not drafting a running back until the fifth round at this particular draft and while a few teams snickered at my strategy, at the end of the draft quite a few owners noted how I still ended up with two quality running backs despite waiting so long to draft them. I knew what was out there, and I knew that once every team had two backs they’d go after other players, so once I saw that some good backs would still be available late I focused on other positions, grabbing the two best QB’s in the league, a top WR and the best TE. The drop off from the best QB’s and the best TE to the second tier is significantly greater than the drop off from the top RB’s to the second tier. In other words, I saw where there was an excess and didn’t spend heavily when I didn’t have to.

In the latter third of the draft I did something else nobody expected, I drafted two of the best kickers in the game even though we only start one. When you get to the end of the draft things pretty much end up a crapshoot, you’re either drafting number three wideouts or backup players. So-called conventional wisdom tells owners to draft their kickers and team defenses last, but why? Are all those backup players going to help you more than a starter? No. I saw Adam Vinatieri and I drafted him, a few rounds later I drafted Mike Vanderjagt. Two of the best kickers in the game and they’re both on my roster. You may ask why on earth I’d take a backup kicker when I still needed backup WR’s and RB’s, but the answer is actually quite simple, so no other team would have him.

While drafting to fill out my own roster I was also paying attention to everyone else’s. For the latter third of the draft every other team was looking to fill the backup slots for the big point positions, completely neglecting their kickers. I knew that any backup player taken in the latter rounds was either going to be a bye week replacement, an injury replacement, or a huge surprise. There are no late round guarantees, except for the top kickers, that is. We all know the production a top kicker can give a team. He’s not QB, or RB, of course, but he’s going to be a contributor every week while the backup WR’s that were drafted in lieu of a kicker will only perform once or twice for the team that drafted them. Realizing this I asked myself what would be a better strategy for my team, to load up on guys who will only play one week for me, or to make sure that no other team gets Mike Vanderjagt? To me the choice was clear. In fantasy football, just like in business, it’s not just about what you have, it’s also about what you can prevent your competition from having. Every team out there lost out on a top flight kicker that I won’t even play. He’ll accumulate more points than every other team’s kicker and he’ll be sitting on my bench the entire time.

The moral of this story is that in both fantasy football and big business you can win playing by the book, but for a chance at greatness, for a chance to beat everybody, sometimes you have to pen a book of your own.
posted by Adam Bernard @ 9:52 AM  
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