Trust Your Gut · 3 October 2020

When it comes to fantasy football, you have a couple choices. You can trust your gut or you can trust the pundits.

I have been participating in fantasy football for a long time. I even won our championship a few times. Twice before we got our official trophy. (Even though our commissioner does not recognize those wins that were not immortalized with etchings on said trophy.) I am sure those wins were mostly luck. After all, fantasy football is all about statistics. And statistics was my worst subject in school. (Which is why my first job after college was doing probability and statistics. Which is a completely different story.)

The thing about statistics is that past performance does not guarantee or in any way predict future performance. It might give us an idea. It might help us predict trends. At least in many areas where we have statistical tools to analyze the data. But when it comes to performance data in a football game as those statistics count toward fantasy points, all bets are off. So to speak.

When it comes to statistics and sports, there are surely algorithms that can help a person predict how many points a player will score. Indeed, most online sites that host fantasy football do just that. They put up likely numbers for the week and season. Or at least what they think are likely numbers based on past performance and upcoming opponents. But with all the variables in a single football play, it is difficult to predict what will happen in a game. Even with best prediction algorithms using the best input data. Which just means that even in fantasy football, football players play football games. Which just means that the points will be made or not made during the games by the football players playing the game, regardless of what the statistics or pundits say ought to happen.

Which brings me to my premise and my lament.

Arguably the most important part of fantasy football is the draft. I pick my team and you pick your team and even though adds and drops and trades will happen, that first team you get will often determine your place in the final league standings. I know that I have often gotten rid of my drafted players too soon in the season. And I also know that I have kept players that others would have gotten rid of long ago. Regardless of how a person determines who to add and drop and trade, that draft can loom large. As it did for me this year.

I am usually one to trust my gut above the statistics or the pundits. Those numbers are nice to look at and the experts weave a likely tale, but there is something about the gut, that raw instinct, that ought to be taken into account. At least in the fantasy football draft. This year, I trusted the pundits over my heart and my gut.

As for the heart, I am a sucker for hometown heroes. I love the players who came from our area or who play on the home team. Which for me means that I love those players who played at the University of Washington (or even Washington State) or who play for the Seahawks. So when it comes to the fantasy football draft, I try to remind myself not to get too caught up in the hometown rah rah. I try not to listen to my heart too much. But maybe a little is okay. Especially when mixed in with the gut.

My gut said not to trust the numbers when it came to who to draft first. I like to get a quarterback on my first or second pick. And I usually forget about our live draft so I set my preferences for who I want drafted when. Back in the day, I stuck with Big Ben Roethlisberger as my quarterback. I had him for many years and he earned many fantasy points. I think he was even my quarterback in one of the years I won the championship. At any rate, I tend to go with people I know. This year, I wanted either Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson as my quarterback and first pick. The numbers pointed to Jackson, but my gut and my heart said to pick the hometown hero. Pick Wilson. Like I said, I listened to the numbers and not my gut. I picked Jackson. A good pick, but not the best pick this year.

Well, if you follow the NFL at all, you know that I picked incorrectly. At least if the first three games are any indication. Jackson has been pedestrian while Wilson has been monstrous. The whole season must be played before any lasting impressions can really be made, but at this point, it seems like I made the wrong choice.

Which brings me back to my original point. When thinking about fantasy football, you can either trust the numbers and the pundits or you can trust your heart and your gut. I need to remember to trust my gut more often. Especially in fantasy football.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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