Creating an Antifragile Fantasy Team
In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book “Antifragile,” he argues that in the extremely uncertain world we live in, individuals need to make their professional and personal lives not only less vulnerable to randomness and chaos, but intentionally positioned to take advantage of and benefit from it. This in Taleb’s view is the definition of antifragile.
Through the use of Mike Clay’s Tamme Index, a fantasy player is provided with the opportunity to create an antifragile fantasy football team that rather than falling apart in chaos actually strives. In this article I will outline the strategy one can use to create an antifragile team and will also assemble an example of an antifragile team through the use of the Tamme Index and the player’s current average draft position (ADP).
First, it is important to define chaos for the fantasy football owner. I define chaos as a starter on one’s fantasy team no longer playing. This will most likely be the result of injury, but on some occasions could be caused by poor play. Similar to most PFF content, I am assuming a 12-team, non-PPR league with 16-man rosters. Thus a starting lineup would consist of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex, 1 K, 1 DEF. It is the loss of these starters that is catastrophic for fantasy owners and often leads to the demise of their fantasy season.
Logically this provides us with two options to combat chaos. Option one is to predict who is going to get injured. Option two is to project how a back up is likely to produce if they were to become the starter. While certain players have demonstrated a proclivity to miss time with injury, trying to predict when or if they will get injured is often a frugal exercise. Knowing the risk associated with drafting a player that has an injury history is important, but football is a very dangerous sport. Any player no matter how pristine their health record can get injured at any moment.
Because of the difficulty predicting injury, I think it is wiser to focus on how a player would likely perform if someone ahead of them on the depth chart missed time. This is where the Tamme Index comes in. For those unfamiliar, the Tamme Index was created in 2011 by Mike Clay to help fantasy owners know who to target when their key fantasy players go down with injury. The index lists the handcuff and their projected fantasy value if they were given the chance to play. To get a better feel for the Tamme Index, take a look at the 2014 Tamme Index.
As you can see, the fantasy value includes headings such as QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1 (a player is now a top-12 fantasy contributor at their position) and QB2, RB2, WR2 and TE2 (this player is now top-24 fantasy contributor at his position). Due to Mike Clay’s impressive track record of accurately predicting player performance, it is best to first see what handcuffs Mike has listed with QB1, RB1, WR1, WR2 and TE1 fantasy value. WR2 is included due to the previously mentioned roster requiring three wide receivers.
Because it is very possible that you may have different projections for some players, go through and adjust the fantasy value for the players you think will produce a higher or lower fantasy value than what is currently stated in the Tamme Index. It’s important to note that any changes must be backed by logic and research. I recommend using PFF’s player grades and signature stats to build out your case. Making a change just based on your “gut” is foolish and unacceptable.
Now that you have a complete list of both Mike’s and your own player values, highlight those with a fantasy value of QB1, RB1, WR1, WR2, and TE1. Because these players are most likely to provide you with the greatest production if a key player goes down with an injury, you want to target them on draft day to make up your bench. Finally, you need to find these player’s current ADP using a resource such as My Fantasy League, which is what I used for the ADP’s in this article.
By having their current ADP, you can make an educated guess on when the player will be drafted. In either a spreadsheet or on a sheet of paper, write down the ADP the previously highlighted players will be drafted. This will be a cheat sheet for you to use on draft day.
Putting it into Practice
While all of this sounds great in theory, let’s put it to practice. This year Mike has five handcuff players slated for QB1, RB1, WR1, WR2, or TE1 production. Those players along with their current ADP are listed below.
Also, through my own research I found a few extra players to add to my list. They are listed below followed by an explanation of why I think they will produce to that level. As I previously mentioned, going off your gut is not enough, which is why I provide the work I did to come to the conclusions I made.
|Davante Adams||WR 2||92|
|Nelson Agholor||WR 2||116|
|Justin Hardy||WR 2||214|
|Carson Palmer||QB 1||161|
Duke Johnson – I recently broke down the Browns backfield giving the nod to Duke Johnson, as the best value play to gain exposure to the highly touted Browns offensive line. Johnson proved at Miami his ability to catch the football made evident by his yard per route run (YPRR) of 1.69, which was the second best in the country for draft eligible running backs.
While not in the top 10, Johnson’s pass blocking efficiency (PBE) of 95.1 shows he is a very capable blocker. His overall CFF grade of third, relative to the other 224 draft eligible players, showcases his ability to be an every down back, not just a third-down player. This ability combined with the talent of the Brown’s offensive line, means RB1 potential for Johnson if he were to become the starter in Cleveland.
David Johnson – Andre Ellington’s PFF grades in 2014, combined with Arizona selecting a RB in the third round, paint the picture of a vulnerable player. Ellington’s run grade of -8.6 was the worst of the 23 running backs who registered 50 percent of their team’s 2014 snaps. He also broke only 12 tackles on 201 rushing attempts leading to an abysmal elusive rating of 14.4, placing him 40 out of 43 running backs participating in at least 25 percent of their team’s rushing attempts.
Even with his poor play, he ended 2014 in low end RB2 territory, leading me to wonder what kind of production a capable back could produce in Arizona. Is Johnson capable? That is a full blown incomplete due to CFF having only two games graded on him, because he played in the Missouri Valley Conference. If Johnson is even mediocre from a skill standpoint, RB1 potential may exist if he were to become the starter.
Branden Oliver – While it’s clear that San Diego using a first round pick on Melvin Gordon proves he will be their starting back, Oliver’s production last season when Ryan Mathews missed time, shouldn’t be overlooked. In the games when Oliver played on at least 40 percent of the Chargers’ snaps, which occurred six times, he was the seventh most productive running back in standard scoring formats.
To put his performance in perspective, his cumulative point total in those six weeks was only one-tenth of a point less than Marshawn Lynch. His production in those games is accompanied by a PFF grade of 6.2, which is the 10th best of the 57 running backs who participated in at least 25 percent of their team’s offensive snaps last season. Oliver’s production in 2014 along with his high PFF grade put him in low end RB1 territory if Melvin Gordon were to miss any time.
Davante Adams – Adams’ 2014 rookie season was riddled with inconsistency, which is represented by his negative PFF grade of -7.1. In the three games though where Adams registered a grade over 1, his cumulative stat line read 19 receptions for 315 yards and one touchdown. This proves Adams has the potential, but needs to become a more consistent player.
What Adams has going for him even more than his personal abilities, is the fact he plays with Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers boasted the top quarterback PFF grade in 2014, along with the second most fantasy points at the quarterback position. Rodgers impressive play led to both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb finishing in the top eight at wide receiver in standard scoring formats.
Outside of the value Adams presents as being the third wide receiver in Green Bay, if Cobb or Nelson were to miss time the combination of playing with Rodgers and the flashes of talent he showed in the 2014 season, lead me to believe he would produce WR2 numbers.
Nelson Agholor – Even though Agholor has never played a down in the NFL, he comes to a great situation in Philadelphia, currently slated as a starting wide receiver on a team looking to fill the 140 targets that Jeremy Maclin left behind when he signed with Kansas City. While it has yet to be determined if he will play on the outside or in the slot, the potential for WR2 production is there in either role. Even with Mark Sanchez starting half of their games last season, Chip Kelly’s high-powered, ultra efficient offense produced two wide receivers in the top 24 at the wide receiver position.
My optimism on Agholor is validated by CFF providing him with a “Top of the Crop” rating, praising his great speed and smooth route running. Agholor also caught 76.3 percent of balls thrown his way, better than Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Devante Parker. Jordan Matthews’ 2014 rookie year production placed him as the 24th best fantasy wide receiver in standard scoring leagues, one spot ahead of fellow rookie Sammy Watkins. Agholor is in the pole position to lead this year’s talented wide receiver class in 2015 production.
Justin Hardy – In 2013 when Julio Jones missed weeks six through 17, Harry Douglas ranked 22nd in scoring for standard leagues. Also, in the three combined games missed by Jones and White in 2014, Douglas ranked 14th in standard scoring formats, firmly placing him in WR2 territory. While Jones’ talent is undeniable he has missed over 23 percent of the Falcons’ games since entering the league in 2011.
Douglas is no longer in Atlanta, as rookie wide receiver Justin Hardy was drafted in the fourth round to take over number three wide receiver duties. While one could question his success due to the weak competition, Hardy was an extremely productive college player, leaving East Carolina as the FBS all-time leader in receptions.
Douglas’ negative PFF grades in each of the last two seasons prove his production was more of a byproduct of the situation he was placed in rather than his actual skill, leaving the door open for a young Hardy to capitalize on any injuries that occur this season at the wide receiver position in Atlanta.
Carson Palmer – While Palmer is a current starter not a handcuff, his selection as your backup quarterback on your fantasy team provides you with QB1 potential. Palmer only started six games last season, but was the eighth best fantasy quarterback in that span, producing like a low end QB1. What’s also assuring is his PFF grade of 3.4 over that six game span, placing him ninth of the 30 quarterbacks who played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps.
Assuming your first six picks are used on starters (two RB’s, three WR’s and one flex) and your last two picks consist of a kicker and defense, you are left with eight picks between rounds seven and 14. You would also need to take a QB and starting TE somewhere between these picks. It’s possible you may have already selected one, but with one third of the projected QB1 and TE1’s having ADPs above pick 72 (end of the sixth round) it is very likely you haven’t addressed either position in the first six rounds.
This leaves you with six selections between picks 73 and 168 to be used to create an antifragile fantasy football team. For our example, let’s assume you have the eighth overall pick in the draft. Considering a starting TE and QB needs to be taken in these picks, try to draft those players in slots where you are not as likely to find a handcuff with upside for significant fantasy production. Based on current ADP’s your draft could look something like the following:
While the focus of this article is on drafting a bench that helps you create an antifragile fantasy team, there are also two things to be conscious of when choosing players in the first six rounds that can help your team take advantage of chaos and uncertainty. First, be cautious of using one of your first few picks on a running back who does not have a firm hold on the starting job. Second, when taking the second wide receiver on a team, pursue players that have a high likelihood of WR1 production, if the team’s top wide receiver misses time.
Zack Stacy and Golden Tate are great case studies from 2014. Stacy’s ADP in 2014 was 28, but preseason commentary from Les Snead, saying the Rams would ride the hot hand, clearly displayed the weak hold Stacy had on the job. Also, the drafting of Tre Mason in the third round, showed the team was more than open to other options at the running back position. Those fantasy owners, who drafted Stacy with their third pick, wasted a valuable selection when Stacy was benched after week five. Stacy received only 15 carries the rest of the season.
Unlike Stacy, Golden Tate was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners in 2014. Clearly the Lions number two option to Calvin Johnson, he produced WR1 numbers in Johnson’s absence (weeks five through nine) ranking eighth at the wide receiver position in total points over that stretch. What’s even more impressive is Tate did it in only four games, considering the Lions’ week nine bye.
Tate’s WR Rating (the quarterback rating when a receiver is thrown at) of 104.1, was 12th in the NFL on the season among those wide receivers who received at least 50 targets. Also, Tate’s PFF receiving grade of 7.4, ranked him 16th out of the 78 wide receivers who played on 50 percent of their team’s offensive snaps. This verifies Tate’s production was not a fluke and WR1 production can be expected if Johnson were to miss time in 2015.
Chaos derived from injury is a certainty for fantasy football owners. One way to combat this is to create an antifragile team by drafting players poised to benefit significantly in the absence of players ahead of them on the depth chart. Thankfully for fantasy football owners, the Tamme Index provides you with the perfect tool to create your own antifragile fantasy football team.