Trust, but verify -- getting ready for Week 1 in the Collinsworth Invitational
(Pro Football Focus gave subscribers the opportunity to win a team in the Cris Collinsworth Fantasy Football Invitational, playing alongside celebrities such as Warren Sapp, Jenny McCarthy and of course Cris himself. As the lucky winner of that contest, I had the opportunity to participate in the draft live on SiriusXM (you can read the writeup here). I will be writing a weekly piece that provides a view into what it’s like playing in a celebrity league and how I will use the PFF tools to give me an edge.)
During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan often used the phrase “trust, but verify” when discussing relationships with the Russians. The meaning of the saying is that while a source of information might be considered reliable, one should perform additional research to verify that such information is accurate, or trustworthy.
When it comes to the start of the fantasy football season, I have my own version of “trust, but verify.” Leading up to my drafts, I do a pretty decent amount of research ranging from mock drafts and MFL10s to tracking all the news coming out of the offseason and training camp. As a result, there is rarely a draft where I feel unprepared for what is in store. However, as I get ready for the first week of the season, I follow the words of Reagan and deploy the strategy of “trust, but verify.” Trust my pre-draft research, but verify that the situation hasn’t changed since that draft took place.
Consider just a few of the situations that are in flux for players that were going off the board in the first few rounds of most drafts.
- Jamaal Charles was a consensus second-round pick, particularly when the Chiefs took him off the PUP in mid-August. But starting around August 30, rumors starting swirling that Charles would be “eased” back into the lineup and Andy Reid went as far as to say it would be a “stretch” for him to play Week 1. Suddenly Spencer Ware is a legit RB1 for Week 1, a situation that my #CollinsworthFF Invitational opponent Ric Bucher is taking advantage of.
- Thomas Rawls was going in the fourth-fifth round because of injury concerns, but he also looked like a potential true workhorse RB as the heir apparent to Marshawn Lynch. As most drafts started in mid-August, ESPN’s Seahawks reporter stated that Rawls is “on track to start the opener,” positioning him as a great value pick. Fast forward a week later and Pete Carroll is confirming that Rawls will be on a snap count Week 1 and Christine Michael will be the lead back. Nearly every fantasy owner has been burned by the “promise” of Michael, but at least for now, it’s a murky backfield.
Those are just a few of the situations where it is important to go back and consider the new news. This doesn’t mean to throw out all of your research or to start benching the players you had penciled in as starters for your team. But it does mean that the research is not done between your draft and the start of the season. For me, the verify part includes a few different tactics as I lead up to Week 1:
- Monitor the depth charts and final 53 man rosters: As the preseason ends and teams trim to their final roster, verify how things are shaping up. Sammie Coates was a trendy sleeper pick for the Steelers but as depth charts were released, Markus Wheaton retained the WR2 spot and Eli Rogers was lining up as the slot receiver.
- Listen to the beat reporters and coaches: Invaluable news about the usage of players in the early weeks can come out of the side bites in the days leading up to the regular season. In the #CollinsworthFF Invitational, I was excited about the potential of my Coby Fleener pick at TE. But the talk of him not being on the same page with Drew Brees going in the season has me monitoring the situation closely.
- Make PFF Fantasy a daily read: I might be a bit biased as a PFF All-Access subscriber, but it is my best tool when it comes to trust, but verify. Every day, the team at PFF puts out a ton of content that includes true analysis instead of just opinions. Consider the article on “Initial Reaction to the Week 1 Fantasy Rankings,” which discusses differences between the various rankers on the site.
Week 1 is upon us. Get a head start versus your league mates by trusting your research, but verifying it all still holds true.