Luck Favors the Prepared
Author: Edward Feliz (Sleeperbot: @platano)
Edward Feliz (Sleeperbot: @Platano) has a passion for research and people. He is a trained historian from the University of Florida and an avid football fan. He has won numerous championships since he first started playing fantasy football in 2001, and credits his many championships to the internet, being born ugly, and the lack of good entertainment outside of football. Needless to say, he plays competitive fantasy football in high stakes cash leagues. Edward claims that football is his religion and he is quick to shut down the notion of fantasy football being his hobby. A hobby, to him, is fishing. Fantasy football, in the other hand, is “an incurable sickness” that he has contracted. When he is not doing fantasy football research, he spends his time sleeping, watching Stranger Things, giving advice on the SleeperBot App, and occasionally he bartends somewhere in Miami, FL.
I recently looked back through my previous fantasy football seasons and one thing stood out to me… I am one lucky SOB, or it would appear as such. I seem to always find a way to hit on a deep sleeper or draft a player in the mid to lower rounds that significantly outplays their draft selection. These types of hits have given me much success in the past. Here are a few players I have hit in the past:
- 2015: RB David Johnson, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Allen Hurns, WR Stefon Diggs, TE Jordan Reed, and DB Corey Graham.
- 2014: QB Andrew Luck, RB Jeremy Hill, LB Chris Borland
- 2013: TE Julius Thomas, LB Lavonte David, LB Kiko Alonso, and RB Zac Stacy.
- 2012: QB Robert Griffin III, QB Russell Wilson, RB CJ Spiller, RB Doug Martin, WR Julio Jones.
- 2011: RB DeMarco Murray, RB Darren Sproles, TE Jimmy Graham, LB Navorro Bowman, and LB Von Miller
- 2010: RB Peyton Hillis, RB Jahvid Best, WR Stevie Johnson
- 2009: RB Chris Johnson, WR Miles Austin
In those last seven seasons, I managed to win four championships out of six total championship appearances. Is it pure luck or is there something else to it? I can see how one can attribute a game, such as fantasy football, to luck. I, however, cannot subscribe to that notion. I find it rather silly, to be honest. There is a considerable amount of skill that goes into a winning season of fantasy football. But if you want to call it luck, then who am I to tell you otherwise?
So what did I do to get “lucky”? Simple. I played to win the game. Hello!
I play to win the game. Period. And what does that mean? Well, to me, it means going for the upside player that can win me the league as opposed to keeping me with the status quo. It means, that instead of rostering up “safe” players like a Marques Colston in the 9th round, you instead opt to reach for a young player, like RB David Johnson, who is in a situation where there is opportunity for massive production. These types of moves require a lot of research, intuition, and risk-taking.
Let’s take the case of 2013 TE Julius Thomas, and how I got “lucky” with him:
During the 2013 pre-season I made sure to study each team’s pass offense. When I came across Denver, I saw a glaring opportunity at the TE position. I noticed that there was a 3rd year TE named Julius Thomas, who was an ex-basketball player (similar to Antonio Gates with ample size, ball skills, and speed), playing in a high scoring offense, with a good QB, and who was climbing the depth chart quickly. Julius Thomas outplayed both Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen that pre-season, and I took notice of it. I also factored in the fact that TEs historically break-out during their 3rd and 4th year due to the complexity of the position as a blocker and receiver, and Julius Thomas seemed to be coming into his own by outplaying his peers in the pre-season.
You know who didn’t take notice of it though? My competitors, who were risk-averse and afraid to take a chance on the young TE. Since most people just follow the good ol’ “Tier Based Drafting” and “ADP Based Drafting,” without thinking outside of the box, this led to Julius Thomas being considerably undervalued and falling to my lap.
While everybody was drafting their overvalued TEs and low ceiling TEs, I took a calculated risk and swung for the fences by selecting my first TE, Julius Thomas, with one of my very last picks. I was called a fool and made fun of. Had Julius Thomas not panned out, I would have been forced to play Heath Miller. Luckily for me, it didn’t take long for me to know I had a hit. Julius Thomas exploded onto the fantasy scene in week 1 of the 2013 NFL season. Thomas had 5 receptions for 110 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The rest is NFL history.
You play to win the game. And the name of the game is finding the value before everyone else does. And value originates from opportunity.
With that being said, here is a situation I am closely monitoring in the NFL 2016 season:
New Orleans Saints Passing Offense:
Drew Brees is an animal. Plain and simple. He will throw for nearly 5,000 yards and 30+ TDs again this season. However, Marques Colston is gone. Jimmy Graham has been long gone. Ben Watson is also gone.
So who will catch all those passes and touchdowns?
Brandin Cooks is excellent and will get his 1,000 yards but he is too small to play the X receiver in Sean Payton’s offense. Willie Snead is unfortunate to have Cooks in the same team because I believe they are both essentially the same role players. Even though I like Willie Snead, I think it will be hard for him to outplay his draft position and he doesn’t have a special role. Coby Fleener will eat up a decent chunk of targets because he gets open often but we know he couldn’t catch a cold even if he wanted to. Then there are reports of him struggling with the playbook and just not being on the same page as Brees.
What about rookie WR Michael Thomas out of Ohio State? Well, he has the looks of a WR1 at 6’3 212lbs, but I think we will have to wait a year or two before Michael Thomas breaks out. Why? Because in Sean Payton’s offense, the WR1 plays out of the slot, more often than not. That’s where Colston and Jimmy Graham did their damage from. Unfortunately, Michael Thomas played exclusively on the outside, where Cooks and Snead already line-up and has limited, if any, slot experience. You also must take int account that Thomas is just a rookie. WRs typically tend to break out during their second and third seasons but struggle their rookie seasons. Not to mention Michael Thomas has already suffered an ankle injury surrendering practice reps to the other 6-footer, Brandon Coleman.
Brandon Coleman is 6’6 225lbs and runs a 4.56 40-yard dash. He is a 3rd year WR and, at the ripe age of 24, is ready for his coming out party.
Coleman went undrafted out of Rutgers in 2014. He was quickly signed on to the practice squad and started to develop his game at the pro level. In 2015 he made the active roster and caught 30 passes out 49 targets for 454 yards and two touchdowns. As of today, while he hasn’t exactly lit the training camp and pre-season on fire, he did manage to make a little noise and will open up the season as one of the four top receivers that Drew Brees will be targeting on Sundays.
It is my belief that Brandon Coleman has all the opportunity to have a breakout season for the New Orleans Saints. I think that Coby Fleener will disappoint Drew Brees throughout the season and the targets will start heading more towards Coleman than anyone else. All Coleman has to do is make the catches when they come his way. Easier said than done, I know. But this kid has one of the best opportunities in the NFL today to become a star.
Just like Julius Thomas did in 2013, Brandon Coleman is going under the radar in a very similar fashion this 2016 season. Heavy passing offense, high scoring team, no truly established player ahead of him, and he’s the right age and where his position tends to breakout.
Sounds to me like I am about to get lucky again. Are you?