At the highest-stakes Texas hold ’em poker table in Iowa, you put your career on the line. Every Friday, a group of graduate students gathered at a professor’s house. This professor, he was short, balding, and a British footballer. If it was your first time at his table, you’d drink wine for free and he’d chip $10 into the pot for you. He’d grab an LP, something you never heard before but was charming, like The Doves or Interpol. A 500-page book sat at the edge of the poker table, and the professor talked about the awards it won and his Cambridge education. He’d invite you back for another game, but next time, you bring the wine and chip in $20 to the pot. By the fifth game, you’re bringing snacks and booze and maybe some of his groceries. The book was always on the table, as were the stories of Cambridge. One night, the soundtrack would be Tom Waits for three hours straight. Who listens to Tom Waits for that long? Of course, he asked you to get the $60 bottle of wine because you’re enjoying your time so much. Seems like the professor is winning more than usual tonight. Around 11PM, you notice there’s some cards missing from the discard pile nearby the professor. You mention it. The professor stands, his hand on his award-winning book, his mood affected by the Pinot Noir you paid for. He looks you in the eye and says, “You’re accusing an award-winning, full professor in your department, from Cambridge, of cheating?” And you realize: it’s the cost of the wine and the buy-in, or your career. You went swimming with the sharks, and you got eaten. You back down. Tom Waits keeps growling in the background. 

There are sharks in the fantasy sports world, and a lot of people are afraid to try the big fantasy sports competitions because they fear losing. There are excellent fantasy footballers who eat data for breakfast, will travel across the world for their friends and family draft (maybe not this year, tho), and make award ceremonies for the winners (and punishments for 12th place…). But there are so many of these people who love fantasy sports but aren’t “in” the fantasy community. The reasons are too numerous: maybe it’s a fear of losing, or maybe it’s a fear of ridicule for a dumb decision. Maybe their life situation isn’t the best. Maybe fantasy sports was your thing a while ago, and life got in the way, and suddenly the metrics got too complicated. 

Friends, I hear you. And on behalf of Razzball, I want you to come give a shot at the RazzBowl. The RazzBowl is our competition where fans play alongside other experts in the fantasy community. The scoring and the playoff system? Yeah, it’s complicated. But here’s the deal: you don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. Donkey Teeth and the good people at the National Fantasy Championships have the schedule sorted out, and I gave you a template about how to win the RazzBowl

And you know those experts I talked about? [whispers] Some of them didn’t do very well last year. Like, *ahem* Grey. 

Now, I’m not naming names (other than Grey). In the spirit of widening the fantasy community and bringing more people on board, I want to do a brief breakdown of how some really (and I mean REALLY) famous fantasy footballers completely messed up their 2019 RazzBowl teams. 

A Tale of Two RazzBowls

At the top of the RazzBowl field, Mike Beers scored 1678 points from Week 1-9, enabling him access to the playoff round where he continued to dominate opponents due to a strong roster and the unique RazzBowl scoring system that carries over the score from Weeks 1-9 into the playoff rounds. I said I won’t identify the teams at the bottom, but I did some napkin math, and they combine to represent over 100,000 Twitter followers. We’re talking big names. The bottom 16 teams averaged 1149 points; they scored 70% as much as Mike Beers did. 

The bottom teams made one universal mistake: they gambled on players who didn’t have guaranteed playing time or were facing injuries. 

40% of the experts on the lowest scoring teams took Antonio Brown in the first or second round, despite rumors of dissatisfaction with his helmet and a potential holdout. The first rounds of the RazzBowl had passed by the time he began his descent that resulted in his departure from the Raiders and the unearthing of several sexual assault allegations. 

Another 40% of experts on the lowest scoring teams took either Andrew Luck or Cam Newton as their quarterback. At the time of the draft, Luck hadn’t set foot on the field in training camp, and Newton was recovering from shoulder surgery. Luck later retired from football before the start of the season, and Newton suffered a Lisfranc injury that sidelined him from the 2019 season. Now, making an unlucky choice at quarterback wasn’t the worst decision; it was the lack of backup QBs that became problematic. Some managers believed they should get one good quarterback and then draft a super-deep backup. Those backups were Marcus Mariota, Nick Foles, Matthew Stafford, and Joe Flacco. For those out of the know, Stafford got injured and the other three lost their starting jobs after lackluster performances.

These two categories–QB and WR–are significant: the one QB slot accounted for 17% of the total points scored by top RazzBowl teams, and receptions accounted for 60-66% of the overall team score. 

This point about receptions cannot be stressed enough: the bottom scoring teams nearly abandoned the best WR, with 16 teams rostering a combined 7 top-20 WR. Meanwhile, the 20 highest scoring teams rostered 22 of the top-20 WR. And these weren’t surprising WR; they were Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin, Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, and Kenny Golladay

There were teams that tried their best to grab 3RBs early, which was a practice seen among many of the top teams. This strategy was played to perfection by Mike Beers’ Christian McCaffrey-Dalvin Cook-Derrick Henry combo in rounds 1, 2, and 4, respectively. However, many teams went for a  common 3rd round RB favorite, Kerryon Johnson, who underwhelmed with 3.6 YPC and then got injured. Todd Gurley, who was seen as a value pick in the second round due to the known arthritis in his knees, finished as RB14 in RazzBowl scoring, behind comparably drafted RBs Leonard Fournette and Chris Carson

The moral of the story: the teams that performed the worst in the RazzBowl 2019 took too much risk, and they took that risk too early. Like Icarus, they aimed for the sun but got burned by the risky picks. When managers were grabbing risk early, the top teams snagged the value–I mean, how did Mike Beers get Dalvin Cook at pick 24? Cook went 10-15 in almost every RazzBowl league. Here’s how: in Mike Beers’ league, Philip Lindsay went #14, Kerryon Johnson at #21, and Todd Gurley at #22. Beers was handed Cook at pick #24, and he snagged Kittle with the next pick as well. Beers’ league-mates were drafting for upside, rather than taking the value right in front of their faces. As a result, Beers was rewarded with a team that outscored the field. 

Sometimes the best sharks lie in wait, letting others make mistakes. 

The Takeaway: 

The RazzBowl is a great community, and we get the privilege of running through all these data and learning from them. Ultimately, we all want to become better fantasy sport players, and we learn that through the successes and the failures. But we do it as a community, too. And if we’re going to improve our learning, improve our models, and improve our methods, we need more voices to join that community. If you’ve never done an “industry” league before, come and join the fantasy football community of the RazzBowl and try it out. Whether you’re a fan or just getting started in the “industry” (points at self), you’ll be in good company–100k Twitter followers worth of good company–when you mess up your draft by picking Kerryon Johnson in the 3rd round…for the second year in a row…

You can find me on Twitter @EverywhereBlair and I hope to see you in the RazzBowl 2020!

  1. Jolt In Flow says:

    Hey EWB, your intro took some time to read, but well worth it. Funny you mention Doves. They had a couple of great songs (Black And White Town, Sky Starts Falling, Sea Song). Took me down memory lane. Thought they should have been bigger on the NA side of the pond. But I digress.

    One thing that was super shocking to me was your comment on AB. I cannot believe experts took him in rounds 1-2. I get it if you take a shot on him in rounds much later than that. But Rounds 1-2? There’s zero value in that. None. It defies logic. You need a studs in the first 3 rounds, not reaches.

    I agree big time on one of your other points as well. How in the world did Cook slip to Beers on the 24-25 turn? He was a late round 1 choice, not early round 3. Just doesn’t make much sense.

    Thanks for the write-up.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Doves–“Lost Souls”–one of my absolute favorite albums. And I owe it to getting fleeced. Worth the price of admission. Still hate Tom Waits, tho.

      While I am a historian, I’m too lazy to scour newspapers to compare *exact* dates of when ABs descent began and when RazzBowl was drafting. 100% AB had been complaining about his helmet and mentioning he might sit out, but most fantasy players weren’t interested in that bit of info. Many fantasy managers who draft at the bottom of the first round loose their mind when they think about “upside,” especially in best ball. No upside in holdouts or sitting. Melvin Gordon owners learned that last year just like LeVeon Bell owners did the year before. When it comes down to final numbers, there’s not a *ton* of difference between draft tiers. If a manager doesn’t like what’s on the board at their ADP, they can make a reach and recover later. As long as it’s a sensible reach, there’s no harm done.

      Philip Lindsay at pick 14 is, just, gifting people players. RazzBowl has non-traditional scoring, but it’s nothing to radically change draft strategy. I’m always for “getting” the player you want, but Lindsay in RD2 last year is pretty tough to defend.

      Cheers for the read!

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