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Q&A - At What Point Does Emotion Start To Eclipse Talent When It Comes To Setting Your Lineup?
Week 8

When Actual Value Is Staring You in the Face, It’s Time to Let Go of Projected Value

Please forgive this interruption of your regularly scheduled Q&A column for an unpremeditated meditation on projected vs. actual value.

Less than half of the FF emails that I receive each week have anything to do with the Q&A or LMS sections of this column. Like any other analyst with a posted email address at a website having anything to do with fantasy football, I receive countless messages from people who want advice about trade proposals or have questions about their starting lineups.

There is nothing wrong with the way most people present their trade proposals to me. They tell me that another owner is offering them players A & B for players C & D. They may or may not include details concerning the scoring system used by their league, but they usually want to focus on whether I think the trade will be beneficial to their team or to ask me for advice on what sort of counteroffer they should make. Here is a typical example of a no-nonsense request for trade advice:

Hey Mike,

A buddy in my league is offering me Michael Vick for Vernon Davis. I use Dustin Keller as my starting tight end most weeks, so I won’t miss Davis. But I’m not sure Vick offers me anything that I can’t get from Matt Schaub (my current QB). My buddy lost his main tight end (Dallas Clark), so I would really be helping him out, but I worry that I would be helping him to eliminate me from the playoffs. What do you think?

These straightforward requests for advice do not annoy me even when I am too pressed for time to respond to those who send them in. The emails that annoy me are the ones from FFers who have decided to agonize endlessly over projected values. The agonizing is particularly painful when it comes from people who cannot let go of the prices players were auctioned for or the rounds in which they were drafted. Here is an example of the kind of request for advice that gets under my skin:

Hey Mike,

An owner in my league is offering me Michael Vick (who was drafted in the 14th round because everyone expected Kolb to be the starter for the season) for Vernon Davis (who was drafted in the 5th round because tight ends are very valuable in our league). I am obviously not going to make that deal because that is like trading a 5th-round pick for a 14th-round pick, and I am not stupid. But maybe I can make him a counteroffer. Schaub went in the 4th round of our draft, so maybe I can get him to give me Michael Vick for Schaub plus a 5th-round pick. Unfortunately, his 5th-round pick was Dallas Clark. I don’t need another tight end—much less an injured one. But another owner in our league took Miles Austin in the 5th round, so maybe I can get him to trade something to that owner for Austin so that he can trade me Austin and Vick for Schaub and Davis. Do you think that would be fair?

I have exaggerated the silliness of this kind of note partly for comic effect—but mainly to dramatize the point that some owners cannot embrace actual value because they cling too stubbornly to projected value.

The first five receivers drafted in my primary league were: 1) Andre Johnson, 2) Reggie Wayne, 3) Randy Moss, 4) Larry Fitzgerald, and 5) Roddy White. The top five receivers in our league as we approach the midway point of the season are: 1) Roddy White, 2) Brandon Lloyd, 3) Hakeem Nicks, 4) Austin Collie, and 5) Terrell Owens. The point is that my primary league is like most leagues in that the projections we use to make our draft picks invariably turn out to be flawed.

I want to ask a favor of everyone in the fantasy football community who receives a trade offer this week. Please think hard about the productivity of the players named in the trade, and do not think at all—not even for a second—about where those players were taken in your draft. Stop thinking about how much more ground Mojo was projected to cover than LeSean McCoy. Stop rubbing your eyes and asking yourself whether Kyle Orton can really be more productive than Brett Favre.

I know that this interruption isn’t necessary for most FFers. I only hear from a few who continue to agonize about draft choices this late in the season—but those few need to be shaken by the shoulders and made to confront the game that is unfolding before us in the here and now of late October rather than slumbering in the lotus land of a keg party with a list of some expert’s projections at the end of August. I now return you to your regularly scheduled column.

Last Week’s Question:

What is the best city/venue in which to hold a fantasy draft?

Brian was the reader who sent in the question about what city is the best choice for hosting a fantasy draft, but he wasn’t alone. Many readers apparently wonder the same thing—and they all wrote to ask me to forward the column to them once I got some useful answers. Everyone wanted to know where to go, but no one wrote in with serious advice about cities or venues. The only specific city to receive any attention was Las Vegas, but no one bothered to explain why—perhaps because the reasons for the choice seemed obvious to the writers.

The most unexpected answer I received to the question came from Matthew Schiff (our former LMS consultant):

For those people who are now in leagues that have evolved from the bar scene/Vegas-style getaway, we have transformed the draft into a family event where the kids now are involved in making the party, running the draft board and being part of their father’s teams. We have been running our league for over 20 years, and the kids (both boys and girls) look forward to the event held at the commissioner’s house (mine) on the deck or in the basement (in case of rain). In recent years, some of the kids have been picking for their dads who are running late or just can’t make the draft party, but still want to be part of the league for the bragging rights. Our menu has gone from Pizza and Beer to Hoagies, Wings, Chips, a lot less beer, lots of soft drinks and even more desserts. The body just doesn’t recover like it used to. Overall, it’s not as much a wild party for everyone as it used to be, but we get together, talk some trash about last season and the upcoming season, and most importantly see the other team owners. That’s what everyone looks forward to—not to mention as commissioner it gives me a chance to ask for their league payment before they draft.

Perhaps the real question I should have asked would have been about what leagues have done to make their drafts more family friendly. I honestly don’t know how many people would find such a column useful, but I may have the opportunity to delve into that question in the future. For now, those of you who want to stay in town can continue to draft in your commissioner’s rec room. And those of you who want to go to Las Vegas can do that without any help from me.

This Week’s Question:

At what point does emotion start to eclipse talent when it comes to setting your lineup?

This week’s question comes from Bryce, who writes:

You talk about owner apathy in fantasy leagues a lot, but what about player apathy in the NFL? Some teams start phoning it in once they fall too far behind in the standings, and this has to diminish the value of their skill players. I am thinking specifically about the Cowboys right now, but more teams will start to look like they are just going through the motions as the playoff picture comes into focus. If I only had room to start Miles Austin or Kenny Britt at the beginning of the season, I would have gone with Austin. But even if I imagine a healthy Romo back with the Cowboys in Weeks 11-16, I think I would rather go with a guy like Britt on a team that will be [jockeying for playoff position] to the end. Austin might be a great competitor who will fight to the finish, but if the people around him have all given up and are just punching the clock for a paycheck, then it seems like a lot of unproven receivers on lesser teams will make more sense in the lineup.

It’s a tricky question. I know a lot of players have such incentive-laden contracts that it would be unthinkable for them to “phone it in” regardless of how poorly their team might be doing. Nevertheless, when I am convinced a game is genuinely important to a particular team, I do expect the players on that team to perform at a higher level than usual. I look forward to hearing from any readers who have given this question serious enough thought to have a sense of when to start looking at the emotional value of a game more than the stat sheets of the players involved.

Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Mark Den Adel)

Last week was a tough week at 1-2. I thought the Cowboys would pull it out, but Romo went down with an injury, and the Dallas defense was disappointing.

1) Kansas City over Buffalo
Those of us who keep picking against the Bills almost got burned last week. Buffalo is too talented to finish the season without a win, but that win won’t come in a stadium as hostile and boisterous as the one in Kansas City. I have been to that stadium, but even fans who haven’t been there could hear how loud it was on the opening night Monday football game vs. San Diego. Buffalo’s offense will continue to improve, but their defense is dead last against the run. Expect the Chiefs to win thanks to double doses of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.

2) NY Jets over Green Bay
The Jets (coming off a bye) will take advantage of being fresh and rested against a Green Bay team that is due for a letdown. The Packers just won a huge division game and showed Brett Favre that a team other than the Vikings is best suited to represent the NFC North in the playoffs, but now they are going to exhale. The Jets’ 2nd-ranked rushing attack should have its way with the Packers’ defense (23rd against the rush). A week off is just what the veteran LaDainian Tomlinson needed to get his second wind.

3) Dallas over Jacksonville
I have missed both times I have picked Dallas. Part of me wants to stay away from the Cowboys, but part of me wants to pick them in my third slot so that I can’t have anything to do with them for the rest of the season. I honestly like them this week because the game vs. Jacksonville seems like a gimme. The Cowboys are going to have to snap their losing streak at some point, and why not do it at home vs. a team that is 30th in total defense and 27th against the pass. The Cowboys needs a break, and the NFL scheduling gods appear to have given them one.

Upset - Washington over Detroit
I was very close with my upset pick last week as Tampa won with 10 seconds left in the game. I have a hard time believing that Detroit is favored in this game considering that Washington has already beaten other division foes in the NFC North in Chicago and Green Bay. I guess the odds-makers think that Detroit’s bad defense (26th) is significantly better than Washington’s horrible defense (31st overall). Expect a high scoring game with Matthew Stafford back, but I think he’ll be a little rusty—will we see a repeat performance from DeAngelo Hall?

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me.