Best Player Available is a Sham and You Should Beware Those Who Peddle It
“I mean say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” – Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski
Perhaps in response to the rising popularity of Zero RB as a strategy there’s been something of a recent backlash where some fantasy analysts have emerged to say that you shouldn’t get locked into Zero RB or any trendy strategy, and instead you should employ the revolutionary and groundbreaking strategy of just picking the best players. Thank Christ we have these people because I really am not sure what we would do without them.
Let’s think for a second about their admonition to not get locked into a strategy, and instead we should take best player available. How would we do that? Should we take kickers in the third round if that kicker is better at his position than the wide receivers who we could draft there? If not, why not? Is it possible that there are positional value considerations at play? And how do we know who the best players are? Should we follow the rankings of the people who are there to save us from getting locked into a strategy? And then if we do that, are we using their rankings in the same way if our league is a PPR league with three wide receiver spots and two flexes, as we would if it’s a standard league? Also if we’re going to follow these people, would it be too much to ask that they’ve previously identified that WRs were structurally undervalued, you know just so that we can be sure that we know that their current year ranks are based on an understanding of fantasy football grounded in reality? Basically, is it fair to ask that fantasy analysts don’t take the same analytical approach to RBs, that the National Association of Realtors takes on the question of whether it’s a good time to buy a home?
If we have to use those analyst rankings in the same order for a standard league and also a PPR/two flex league then GUESS FUCKING WHAT? You’re doing the exact thing that these supposed nimble thinkers are telling you that you shouldn’t do. You’re needlessly locking yourself into something that isn’t going to help you.
Say what you want about Zero RB, at least it’s a strategy for one format. And if these best player available savants offer you advice for a PPR league where you can start four to five wide receivers, and their advice doesn’t look pretty close to Zero RB, then all they’re probably doing is telling you to use a standard league strategy in your PPR draft. I wouldn’t draft a standard league team the same way I draft a PPR team, but if you put a gun to my head and told me I could either roll with Zero RB in a standard league, or Early-RB in a PPR, I’ll take my chances with Zero RB.
So we have a few choices in terms of trying to figure out what the best player available crowd is up to:
- They’re being overly pedantic about WR-heavy starts in PPR leagues and saying they don’t advise Zero RB when they’re fully on board with drafting just one RB in the first five or six rounds.
- They’re giving you standard league advice in a PPR league, which is just the reverse of the thing they’re criticizing.
- They are making a good faith prediction that RBs are likely to rebound from their recent down seasons, or that WRs have become too expensive. This is a reasonable prediction on its face and it’s also not best player available. It’s a strategy informed by the idea of positional value – just like Zero RB.
I have filled this post with faux outrage and anger that I really don’t mean. The fantasy industry is full of smart and nice people who work hard to give advice to strangers. But inherent to my understanding of Zero RB is the idea that it’s possible to exploit competitors who overvalue running backs. It’s a positional value thing. If people want to say that RBs are due for a rebound, that’s totally fine. It might happen and I won’t argue it couldn’t happen. But it’s also not really best player available either. In fact best player available has to have some sense of positional value underlying it in order to not make it totally worthless (we have to have some reason not to start the draft by going DST/K/QB).
So all an analyst is saying when they say draft best player available is that their understanding of positional value is more correct than Zero RB’s understanding of positional value. Maybe they’re right, we really won’t know until after the season is played. But best player available isn’t an antidote to the alleged shortcomings of Zero RB that it purports to be. In fact, when you look at it that way, what these analysts are really doing is engaging in a bait and switch where they can avoid talking about positional value in order to advance a proposition people would have a tough time disagreeing with. It’s the fantasy football equivalent of screaming “Knibb High Football Rules.”
And no, I haven’t seen any movies since about 2001.