03 Apr The Fantasy Contrarian – 2018 QB Draft Class Part 1:
By: Michael Roban – @FFContrarian
Introducing the Fantasy Contrarian!!
Michael will be joining the Dynasty Football 101 Podcast this Friday night, live at 9pm ET. You can listen to it live or on demand right here.
Part 2 of this article can be found here.
- 1. a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion.
A Contrarian Look at This Year’s QB Class
Welcome to the first edition of the Fantasy Contrarian! I am hoping to provide analysis for the players who are skeptical of popular opinion and like to do their own analysis. One of my favorite quotes is from early self help guru Napolean Hill. He said that “the number one reason why people fail in life is because they listen to their friends, family and neighbors”. Think about that for a minute. I doubt Hill believed that everyone’s immediate social circle and family are full of losers incapable of rendering useful advice. It just means that if you are relying on your Uncle Phil for fantasy advise you likely aren’t winning too many leagues. There is an abundance of fantasy information out there. Much of it is very good and much of it is not. How often do you make a bad free agent move or lineup decision that was based on the last thing you read on Twitter? And quite possibly from someone with zero credentials. You know, Uncle Phil! And after it went all wrong your thought was “I should have just stuck with my original plan.” That happens quite often. On the other hand you probably can’t think of too many times that you pivoted based on the last thing you read and got a great result.
If you are the type that makes choices in life – be it food, music, movies whatever – solely on the opinions of others perhaps this article isn’t for you. Being a contarian is difficult – you are the guy who bets the “Don’t Pass” during a bachelor party at the craps table? While your buddy is rolling. Sure, everyone is having fun and you want to be part of the group. But you know your buddy is about as lucky as Bad Luck Shleprock. Its tough to do. There is always the FOMO – what if your buddy goes on an epic run and you are the big loser? Don’t worry about it – the reason why contrarians make money on wall street is that the masses are usually wrong. And they are wrong because they aren’t making decisions based on their own methodology or really any methodology. They are just moving with the herd. But applying contrarian theory is not about the need to be different. That is called being a hipster. Wearing a wool cap in 95 degree weather is just dumb.
Successful contrarians are all about recognizing when public opinion distorts the value of the proposition you are considering. Contrarian stock market investors use analytical data to exploit inefficiencies in the stock market caused by the herd continuing to drive prices up of stocks perhaps without sound fundamental principles. They use data and methodology to find true value and exploit the tendency of public opinion to drive prices up while taking an opposite tack. A famous contrarian was portrayed in the great book (and movie) by Michael Lewis called “The Big Short”. The mortgage market was booming and everyone was making money – except that the guys who recognized that none of it made sense went the other way. They made billions when the market fell apart. Was it easy? No, but they stuck to their methodology and believed what it told them, even if it meant going against popular opinion.
So what the hell does that have to do with this year’s QB class? Lets start the discussion with the current ADP of each of the rookie QBs. ADP is extremely useful as a tool for contrarians and the general public alike. It lets you know the exact delta of where the general public is on a player. ADP therefore is not necessarily where YOU rank this player. But it is the first thing we can use to figure out where others are rating a particular player relative to others. It is the Rotten Tomatoes of fantasy analysis. You know Rotten Tomatoes right? When you are interested in seeing a movie many people will form an opinion based solely on its Rotten Tomatoes score. Most do not even read the reviews – they just look at the total score. But even the worst rated movies usually have at least a few positive reviews. A 6% fresh movie is avoided by most. It is assumed to be terrible. And yet 6% of reviewers liked it. Maybe you would like it too? Perhaps if you instead found 2-3 movie reviewers that reflected your taste consistently you would make a better and more informed decision.
Here is the current ADP of the rookie QBs: Baker Mayfield 24.1, Josh Rosen 25.2, Lamar Jackson 25.5, Sam Darnold 28.8, Josh Allen 37.5 and Mason Rudolph 45.0. That means Baker Mayfield is going on average at pick 2.01 during rookie drafts, Josh Rosen around 2.02-2.03, Lamar Jackson 2.03, Darnold 2.04 but Josh Allen can be had in the 3rd round around 3.02 and Mason Rudolph is available late third round and even early 4th round. This data is probably combined from both single QB leagues and SuperFlex and 2 QB leagues so that isn’t necessarily indicative of exactly where those guys would go in your league. But it does indicate that Mayfield is generally the first QB off the board with Rosen and Jackson close behind. Darnold is the fourth and Allen is the distant 5th. What is this based on right now? Well…everyone is in love with Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen is the guy generally fingered as “Most Likely to Bust”. Sure Allen has accuracy issues. Personally I do not like what I have seen of him on tape. He has serious accuracy issues and I can only think of Bret Favre as an example of a college QB that improved his accuracy in the NFL. But there are plenty of questions about Mayfield as well. Lots of them. Its just that the public has already decided that Baker Mayfield is awesome and Josh Allen is not.
If you are not a contrarian and just want to rely solely on ADP to make your decisions with, say, the wisdom of your Uncle Phil then Baker Mayfield might very well be your first choice when looking at QBs. For the purposes of this exercise we aren’t going to take into consideration roster construction – that is, whether or not you need to draft a rookie QB. Lets just assume that at some point in the draft – whatever your league rules are – the QBs will start going and you are in the market for one. Perhaps you read an article (or two) that validates your decision and sure enough Baker is available to you right at the spot where his ADP says he should be. You grab him and feel great about yourself. After all, both his ADP and the articles you read said that was the right thing to do. Job done! Right? Josh Rosen goes right after and Lamar Jackson goes a few picks after that with Sam Darnold not too far behind. Did you make the right decision? Did the owner drafting Rosen right after you? According to ADP everyone should feel great about their respective decisions right? Well…not really. Sure it might work out. You might get a good result. Personally I am a Baker Mayfield fan myself. He seems like a fun guy. You would love to be in that huddle right? If he gets drafted for your team, you will go out and buy a Mayfield jersey. If Josh Allen is drafted by your team you will threaten to burn your season tickets. Emotionally it feels great. Sure Mayfield might pan out. Allen might very well be a bust. But you didn’t make a great decision. Why? Because your evaluation process was flawed.
We have already established that whatever your league rules, at this point in the draft a QB would represent good value. So here we are only comparing which QB would be the best to take (as opposed to other RBs, WRs or TEs also available here). First and foremost, in dynasty leagues you should always draft the best player. Positional decisions should be tie breakers. So lets assume at this point in the draft these QBs are indeed the best players available. Which one?
What are the criteria used for best decisions? Are you watching tape? Is there an analyst you like such as Matt Waldman? Both great ideas. You should do that as much as your busy life allows.
But contrarians use statistics and math as the bedrock of evaluation. So consider this – of the 16 QBs drafted at 1.01 between 1990 and 2017 13 of the 16 became long term starters in the NFL. The only complete busts were David Carr, Tim Couch and Jamarcus Russell. The remaining 13 all were at least reliable NFL starters for at least a period of time (including Sam Bradford) with obviously varying degrees of success. Perhaps Bradford is borderline here. But in most dynasty leagues he is rostered and he provided at least a few years of fantasy relevance. And here is where things get a bit interesting. How about QBs drafted from 1.01-1.15? Well they hit as NFL starters on a 70% basis. What about QBs drafted in the first round from 1.16-1.32? Well…lets get to that in a bit. QBs drafted in the top 5 hit at about a 75% rate – slightly better than the grouping represented by top 15. But if you remove Sam Bradford from the guys at 1.01 you have roughly the same success rate for all top 5 QBs at 75%.
… TO BE CONTINUED… HERE IS PART 2..