MFL Tending: Diversity Adversity
Last year I did a lot of MFL10s in a short time, and I got vaporized. Out of 30 drafts that wrapped up between June 3rd and August 25th, I won a grand total of zero. My average placing was 7th, and most common finish was 11th (five times). I came in every possible place but first. Good times.
I did do a few things right, grabbed some free entries for this year, and if Week 17 heroes Michael Floyd, Eric Decker, and Rueben Randle’s stats had counted, it would’ve made a difference in several leagues. Not that I’m bitter.
But, especially as a relatively high-volume player, I did many more things incorrectly – not the least of which was being overconfident and disorganized. The “Gronk on Spring Break” mentality didn’t produce nearly as much scoring as you’d think, so I plan on taking a more measured approach this time around.
With that as the goal, this space will be focusing on general MFL10 strategies, followed by a few position-specific observations. Why would anyone read a column written by someone who got blown out of the water last year? A fair question.
The answer is MFL10s are still relatively new and nobody has all the answers. Excellent resources that focus on the best-ball format exist, and we’ll lean on them often. But even commonly accepted guidelines are essentially fresh ideas that are precisely that – guidelines instead of hard-and-fast rules.
From going running back heavy early, to rostering three defenses and kickers, to running away from RGIII screaming – it’s all worth examining. Plus, the fact that I bombed last year makes it easier to challenge my opinions, and healthy debate is the best way to spark new ideas. Please make use of the comments section or throw tomatoes my way on Twitter.
Onward and Upward
We can also benefit from analyzing missteps that I made, the most glaring of which was a failure to properly diversify my rosters. High-volume MFL10 players are often compared to mutual fund managers, and I’d have gotten canned for being too levered-up to Lance Dunbar. Never mind that I also had Travis Kelce on half of my rosters, a 50-percent ownership rate is roughly twice as high as any one player should carry.
I spoke with MFL10 sharps Matt Rittle, James Todd, and Kevin Cole about this very topic and, not surprisingly, they recommend a much more conservative upper ownership limit. Cole and Todd stick to no more than 25-percent of rosters for a single player, and Rittle is in the same range – with a caveat.
He made a distinction between high-volume MFL10 players (who enter more than 20 leagues), and casual types. His thinking is if someone is not entering a ton of leagues, or is more comfortable with a boom-or-bust strategy, high ownership rates are more palatable. Whereas if a greater degree of safety is sought, and a somewhat lower return on investment is acceptable, it’s smarter to diligently diversify.
This makes a lot of sense, and I’d add that up until a significant number of leagues are entered, rosters will organically diversify as a function of draft position – at least during the first handful of rounds. ADPs are more rigid and predictive at the start of drafts, and even if you have a “get my guys” mentality, it will be tough to execute it before the middle rounds.
If you view yourself as a casual MFL10’er, it still seems prudent – and not very labor intensive – to enter your rosters into a spreadsheet. If you do catch the fever and wind up drafting uncontrollably for the next two months, it’ll be easy to avoid finding yourself waist-deep in Marquess Wilson shares if he breaks his collarbone. That happened to me in August and it wasn’t very fun (37-percent owned).
One pitfall I ran into was I had the same pair of players at certain positions on a number of different rosters. Quarterback and tight end are spots where many owners only draft two players. It seems obvious in hindsight, but I was unpleasantly surprised to find several teams with Nick Foles and Carson Palmer (30% ownership rate), or Palmer and Jay Cutler (30%) as the only two quarterbacks. If I had more closely detailed my teams on a spreadsheet, there’s a good chance I would have avoided that blunder.
Another point worth mentioning is that all diversification is not created equally. The risk of owning Player X on 25-percent of your rosters is significantly higher if his ADP is in the sixth round versus the 16th. You’re burning more draft capital and opportunity cost the earlier you select a player. For this reason, it’s probably smarter to use a sliding scale that allows for a higher ownership percentage the deeper you go into your drafts.
If you’re already entering MFL10s and reading related content, chances are you’ll be doing an appreciable amount of them. That alone should make diversification a priority, even if you’re taking a higher-risk stance and are uber-confident in your player projections.
ADPs will fluctuate, sometimes wildly, as the offseason progresses and new information surfaces. That will help to naturally diversify rosters. But if you’re not being mindful of the collective composition of your teams, you leave yourself exposed to severe downside. Trust me on that.
MFL Tendencies: Positional ADP
At this early stage, MFL10 ADPs aren’t overly actionable. Don’t assume that because a player should be available in a certain round according to this list, that another drafter won’t go way off-script and snipe you. Valuations are fluid right now and there is little in the way of consensus once a few rounds go by. If you want a player, don’t be shy because ADP says to wait.
That said, let’s examine some ADPs that appear out-of-whack anyway.
QB – Teddy Bridgewater (QB15; early 11th round)
Over the last six weeks, he led the NFL in Accuracy Percentage and Accuracy Percentage while under pressure – despite the eighth-highest pressured-dropback rate. Bridgewater was the 10th-highest scoring fantasy quarterback, threw the sixth-most touchdowns on the 21st-most attempts, and earned PFF’s second-highest passing game grade during that span (+9.1).
It may be striking to see a second-year passer, who finished as the 23rd-highest scorer at his position last year, being selected this early – but the buzz is warranted. The hard-working Bridgewater, who stood out in Mike Clay’s Depth-adjusted Completion Percentage study, will be in his second year in Norv Turner’s system, with improved and healthier weapons at his disposal.
RB – Khiry Robinson (RB37; mid-ninth round)
Where do you think Robinson would be selected if Mark Ingram had already signed elsewhere? Before you answer, keep in mind that Bishop Sankey’s ADP is currently in the sixth round (RB27). Now, realize that Ingram is overwhelmingly likely to leave New Orleans, their salary cap catastrophe, and their general disregard for feature backs. It doesn’t take a genius to see which direction Khiry’s ADP will be headed.
Luckily, Robinson also can ball. He’s young. He’s big. His game is well-rounded and he flashed in a limited window last season. He ranked fourth in Elusive Rating, fourth in missed tackles per touch (0.30), and seventh in fantasy points-per-opportunity (PPO) among running backs with a minimum of 75 combined targets and rushing attempts. He forced a missed tackle on 28-percent of his carries. That’s pretty sexy.
WR – Michael Crabtree (WR44; mid-ninth round)
Victor Cruz before Crab? Really? It’s only been two seasons since Crabtree was a borderline WR1, and he’s still just 27 years old. Leaving the 49ers is good news for the prolific route-runner’s prospects of reemerging – despite a narrative that attributes Crabtree’s drop-off to injuries, instead of a quarterback who isn’t good at aiming footballs.
Colin Kaepernick earned PFF’s 28th-“best” passing game grade last season (-10.4) and was 23rd out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks in Accuracy Percentage – below two different Rams. Crabtree, whose still-viable game was the subject of Matt Harmon’s excellent Reception Perception, would be well-served by a quarterback who is more “passer” than “thrower.” MFL10’ers would be well-served to buy the ADP dip.
TE – Charles Clay (TE19; late 13th round)
He battled injuries all season and finished as the TE14 in PPR leagues, but at times showed the form that earned him mid-range TE1 status in 2013. Healthier down the stretch in 2014, Clay scored the second-most PPR points among tight ends during the last three weeks. He saw the third-most targets at his position during that time (23) and seemingly settled into a role in Bill Lazor’s offense.
Despite some buzz heading into the 2014 season and a solid finish to the campaign, so far it seems as if Clay is a forgotten man in fantasy circles. It sounds like he’ll be back in Miami, and that’s actually a positive. For all of their dysfunction, the Dolphins’ offense and quarterback appear to be on the rise – and an unsettled wideout situation may result in a heavier workload for their top tight end.
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman