Not a single human being listed Alfred Morris as a top-5 running back at the beginning of the 2012 season. And I’m sure few thought Robert Griffin III would post the numbers he did, too. Surprises, some pleasant and some not so satisfying, happen each season in fantasy football, and the biggest sufferers of this inevitable fate are the ones who live and die by pre-season rankings.
The unfortunate truth with fantasy football is that our leagues don’t differ nearly as much as you want them to. While you can proclaim, “but my league is different!”, I know the truth: It’s not. It’s not any different than mine, Maurice Jones-Drew’s or Steven’s from down the street. And it’s because our species don’t allow it to be.
I suppose it all depends how we define “different”. If David Wilson, a running back with a third round ADP, is drafted in the first round with all other choices remaining usual, do we consider that different? To me, not really. When you take a birds-eye view of all the serpentine selections post-draft, Wilson will just be a small jolt in what is an overall very stereotypical draft.
Drafts only dramatically change when rules are significantly altered. Supply and demand usually dictates this, but sometimes it’s a simple point change within the rules that causes inflated rates of particular positions.
But let’s not worry about those rare leagues. I say “rare” because they are. The giant league hosters – ESPN.com, Yahoo.com, NFL.com, etc. – have forced the uninformed, average fantasy players to play a certain format. I say “forced” because they are. If Todd isn’t much of a fantasy dude, but he wants to set up a league with his buddies, do you think he’s going to go into an NFL.com setup page and drastically change the default settings? Sure, he has a choice, but his choice is incredibly swayed by the accepted norm of the masses; a norm created by one of the powerhouses in the fantasy football industry.
In psychological terms, the term conformity refers to “an individual’s tendency to follow the unspoken rules or behaviors of the social group to which he or she belongs.” Back in the day, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted experiments to test the idea of conformity, and found staggering results. Students performed a vision test in one of them, where a group of youngsters would answer questions based on what they saw. The main test subject, we’ll call her Kathy, didn’t know that the other students involved with the test were actually test accomplices. They’d answer some of the early, obvious questions correctly, building trust, but then they’d all begin to answer questions incorrectly. Asch found that the majority of test subjects – 75 percent of the Kathys – ended up answering the obvious vision questions incorrectly simply because everyone else was.
Now, when Asch would use fewer accomplices, the results weren’t as significant. But anytime there were a reasonable amount of people influencing the test subject, said test subject would conform to the accomplices’ answers.
This idea isn’t new, and we actually see it every day. Why do you wear a suit and tie to an important event? Because you feel pressure to conform. Ties are stupid if you ask me, though. They’re uncomfortable, dumb looking and get in the way when you wash your hands.
We wear them, however, because we fear rejection. Nobody wants to show up to a wedding in a Mark Chmura Packers jersey and gym shorts. I mean, my generally casual attitude towards life would love if that were acceptable, but the bride-to-be probably wouldn’t appreciate me wearing the jersey of a tight end once accused of sexual assault to her wedding. And she’s certainly not wrong; having an unkempt outfit is not something to be proud about. Instead, I put on a suit and tie and show up with a smile on my face, no matter how uncomfortable the ridiculous outfit is.
Just like the accomplices in Asch’s experiment, the fantasy community has thought leaders. If the guys at ESPN.com, CBSSports.com and NFL.com colluded and told us all that we needed to draft Brandon Myers before the end of Round 7, plenty of people would follow suit. The knowledgeable fantasy owners who grasp the foundation of fake football may not, but they’d certainly question their own rankings. And when that happens, Myers average draft position would undoubtedly rise.
We slowly conform to an accepted fantasy football rankings list based on multiple viewpoints. Not everyone will do it, just as the test subjects in Asch’s experiments didn’t always accept the normal answers as right, but enough – the majority – will. Even if it’s just a little bit, too. Even if Brandon Myers – a player you don’t even list in your top 200 – jumps into the top 200 based on what you’ve read, then you’re conforming. And you’re doing it all the time.
Your standard league draft isn’t different from mine because all twelve drafters aren’t going against the grain. You show me a draft where Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin fall to Round 2, and I’ll tell you my late-round quarterback philosophy and literature is irrelevant to your idiotic league.
It’s because being different and refusing to conform – at least a bit – to the norm in fantasy football is ignorant. It’d be the equivalent to wearing a Mark Chmura jersey to a wedding. But almost everyone conforms. And if you’re the one who recognizes it, you can reap the benefits.
Seriously, why not wear a bow tie? Or, at the very least, why not wear some fancy, RGIII-like socks?
You see, the norm in fantasy football is average draft position. And as I’ve said, if you were to completely ignore this entering a draft, you’re going to be the one wearing a Mark Chmura jersey. But if you recognize player average draft positions – the norm – and take some chances by selecting players just a little before their ADP is recognized, you can be the one creating jolts in your fantasy football draft. You’ll be wearing the nice pinstriped suit that everyone wants.
Don’t be unreasonable and draft a team based on your own perceived value. Fantasy football doesn’t work well that way. You have to understand how people view players in order to maximize the return on a player investment.