Fantasy Football 2020: Late Night Fantasy Thoughts

By Oz Jones


Strange things happen when you lie awake in bed at night, praying to whatever god made you that sleep comes quickly and easily.


Alas, apparently god hates me. There was no sleep; there were no visions of sugar plums or fluffy white sheep prancing through meadows of green. Instead…I was thinking about fantasy football – which, under normal circumstances, I’d never complain about. Except I’m tired, it’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a long week, and I just want that cousin to death to pay me a most welcome visit.


No such luck. So, the degenerate I am, I checked my latest fantasy football league. It’s a Devy 12-team dynasty league with a superflex option. No contract years, no salary cap. It’s also a 24-round snake draft. Because god, as mentioned earlier, hates me, I was slotted into the 1.11/2.02 spot (3.11/4.02, 5.11/6.02, etc.) 


Then again, practically back-to-back picks? Yeah, okay, I’m down with that.


Anyway, pick 11.04 is on the clock so I begin thinking about my 11.11 selection. I have a couple options pretty solidly in mind; and while I’m currently trying to trade for 11.04 (because I trade at my own expense), I’m more than okay waiting another seven picks. Except I began looking at rankings, the rabbit hole opened up, and now here I am, trying to suss the difference between “value,” “worth,” and just what exactly we mean when we use the term “value pick.”


Think back to when you collected sports cards. (For whatever reason, I had an obsession with Errict Rhett rookie cards; please don’t ask me to explain this as I can remember no earthly reason for liking him as much as I did.) In those halcyon days, Beckett Football Monthly was my guide to sports card values, and it wasn’t difficult to determine the difference between the terms “value” and “worth.” How much is this rookie card worth? Let’s call it $1.20. How was that price determined? Simply, because +/- $1.20 was what that particular rookie card was able to be sold for, on average, at an average sports card shop in Average Town, USA. Thus, the “value” of the card was $1.20 or thereabouts – and when I wanted to trade cards with my friends, that was the number we’d start from.


In other words, the terms were essentially synonymous. And, even now, a quick Google search of the definition of the terms reveals something similar: something’s value is its “monetary worth”; something’s worth is the value equivalent to that of someone or something under consideration; the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.” Similar, right? 


And yet…there’s a subtle difference.


Consider the term “value pick.” It implies that the player being chosen in a particular spot is, for whatever reason, more valuable than the specific spot would seem to indicate. Take a look at the graphic below, the one that started this train of obsessive thinking:


Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 10.36.31 PM


Aside from a number of players that (I guess) might help strengthen your bench, there’s something fascinating going on here. First, take a look at the top. Draft pick 11.04 is on the clock; that’s pick number 124. At this point, do we fully expect all 123 better-ranked players to be gone? Of course not. Manager preference and the fact this is a dynasty league are obvious factors. And yet…


Raheem Mostert is ranked 27th (basically pick 3.03) and is still on the board a full 8+ rounds after his ranking would seem to indicate he should be off the board. To phrase it in the terms of this article: he’s valued as the 27th-best player by the experts paid by MFL.


(Before we get too deep into this, I want to note: I’m agnostic on Mostert. I have nothing against him; and though he’s a former Boilermaker I’ve targeted him in literally none of my leagues.) 


But…eight full rounds of still sitting there, waiting for a manager to pull the trigger? What am I missing here?


To address the gargantuan elephant in the room: he plays for San Francisco, and even god himself doesn’t truly know which back Kyle Shanahan is going to ride with. Thus, Mostert’s value has been debated ad nauseum across multiple social media platforms. I’ve seen him as high as the 14th-best RB (and I definitely raised an eyebrow at that); I’ve also seen him poo-pooed as a 4th-rd player. None of that particularly interests me, really. Like I said, I’m agnostic on him. There’s certainly talent; he certainly showed off over the last few games of 2019. But I already have four RBs I like on my team. Why do I need a 5th?


As is obvious from the above graphic, drafters rank him lower than does MFL; in other words, they value him less than does MFL: from pick 3.03 to pick 5.09. The volatility certainly, I think explains that. While his talent is real, the opportunity is there (Breida traded, Jeff Wilson relegated to bench-warming, Jerick McKinnon coming back after two years of injuries, and a UDFA in JaMycal Hasty), and Shanahan’s offensive scheme would seem to suit him, it was Tevin Coleman who started in the Super Bowl last year.


So, okay, drafters value him a little lower. 


But again: look at the topic of the graphic. We’re at pick 11.04 and Mostert is still on the board.


And it’s at this point, I think, that “value” and “worth” start to diverge – at least slightly. Because by any metric, drafting a player ranked either 27th (at best) or 69th (at worst) with the 124th pick would seem to be a textbook example of a “value pick”: even assuming volatility, he’s a quality player. And assuming he’s actually as good as advertised, and that Shanahan both recognizes it and uses it (decent-sized assumptions, admittedly) the value of this pick would certainly be too good to pass up.


And because of the (IMO) extreme nature of this value pick, the potential “worth” of taking Mostert here becomes even more of a factor. Because if he is tabbed as the RB1, everyone who passed and passed and passed on him will, and should, feel like a fool.


So let’s go back to the beginning. A player’s “value” is essentially his ranking; and as is obvious, his value can fluctuate. MFL “experts” value him in one spot; drafters (according to ADP) value him lower. 


So what’s he worth, then? Remember Google: Worth is “…the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.” We all differ in our determination of where Mostert (or any other player, really) “deserves” to be rated. A whole host of factors – competition, coaching capriciousness, scheme, game flow – and the importance we individuals place on each of those factors, contribute to the “deserving” we allot a specific player.


But the beauty of football – the beauty of sport in general – is that, like mama always said, the proof is in the pudding. We can value Mostert 27th or 69th or (currently) 124th. What’s he worth? We’ll find out in the fall.


By the way: I just traded for the 11.04. Who am I taking? Hmmm…


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