Narrative Street: How true are fantasy football's 'truths'?
Don’t swim for an hour after eating. You swallow eight spiders a year in your sleep. Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis. A duck’s quack doesn’t echo. As people, we have things that we’ve accepted as “true” through hearsay and folklore, and oftentimes these things just aren’t accurate at all. Sometimes they are, of course, but accepting common wisdom as true without testing it is not the best way to be an informed citizen.
(For the record, all four above examples range from somewhat false to totally false. Crack your knuckles all you want. That noise probably echoes, too.)
This offseason, our Tyler Loechner is investigating some of the common “wisdom” in fantasy football to see how true some of the things we always hear actually are. Do rookie quarterbacks really use their tight ends as a security blanket? Do backup quarterbacks have a better rapport with backup receivers because of their practice time? Things like that.
Keep up with all the results below, and more will be added throughout the offseason.
It makes some sense that players would offer bigger performances on their birthdays — you’d expect players to be better when they’re happy, and people tend to be happy on their birthdays. But is there anything to that, or is it just a story?
May 24 and 31: Wide receivers and running backs in their contract years
The stories would have you believe that players heading into free agency up their game in a big way so as to cash in for a big payday. Is there anything to that? Do players with a shot at a big contract really have bigger seasons?
Two quarterbacks went in the top 10 of this year’s draft, and three in the top 12. Can fantasy players count on those guys? Between those quarterbacks and the ones drafted much later, is there a noticeable gap in predictability of performance?
The two star quarterbacks have developed a reputation as ranging from below-average to unusable on the road, compared to their high-end home performances. The question, though, is whether they are especially bad on the road, or whether it’s a problem all quarterbacks face.
Three receivers and two running backs went in the top 10 of this year’s draft for the first time since 2005, a class that included Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Cadillac Williams. That class was a disappointment. Do the high picks get overrated?
Tom Brady, Jimmy Graham, and others pop from late draft picks, but in general how reliable is the draft? Can we expect early draft picks to be good fantasy performers?
They tell you to steer clear of rookie tight ends, that it takes time to develop at the position before players realize their full potential. But with production down across the position, are rookies more relevant than people say?
April 12: Is it right to avoid rookie QBs?
The narrative says that rookie QBs aren’t yet good enough to be fantasy-relevant, but then recent seasons from Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, and others challenge that.
Receivers and quarterbacks get more play when a team is trailing by a lot, while running backs have the opposite role. Do those up-by-a-lot carries help?
Some players, like Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles, have a reputation of performing the best when they’re way behind late. Is there anything to that?
If it’s true that the Patriots shut down No. 1 options, does that mean the next level of guys thrive more?
You’ll hear this one just about every week in the season. “The Patriots take away what you do best.” Do the numbers back it up?
You’ll hear about DFS advice that says to lean heavily on home players and shy away from guys on the road, even stars. Is there really a noticeable difference in performance?
This one makes logical sense: A rookie quarterback needs the security blanket of a short target, a tight end who isn’t running deep and requiring tougher throws. But is it real?
Can you trust a 30-year-old running back? Or do they really slow down earlier than that? Later? When should you start to get really nervous about a running back’s age?
Long-term NFL wisdom says that receivers come into their own in their third seasons, but with so many impressive rookies and such in recent seasons, is that still true?
Players change teams all the time, and inevitably, when they play their old squad, you hear about them exceeding their average performance in a “revenge game.” Is this confirmation bias, or does evidence exist?
Feb. 1: Is Angry Tom Brady a thing?
It’s not uncommon to hear that a certain player is more successful when he “plays angry.” Perhaps no player gets this designation more often than New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. Is there any statistical evidence that that is actually the case?