Welcome to The Oracle! :: The Greatest “Cheat Sheet” In Best Ball!
Each week in The Oracle, OWS team members will take on the key strategy questions surrounding Best Ball tourneys :: sharing their thoughts on how they plan to approach these critical elements from a roster-construction, game theory, and leverage perspective.
As the first full weekend of preseason games is upon us, what are the things you are looking to learn from these games about teams and players? Are there any specific situations you have your eye on at this point and will be watching closely?
I think the thing we need to keep in mind the most is that every situation is different and must be combined with other contextual clues surrounding each individual situation. As in, each NFL team has their own unique combination of NFL experience, coaches, front office personnel, and ownership. With that comes different viewpoints on preseason usage. All of that to say – we are bound to see some players gain steam based on borderline meaningless preseason usage and we are bound to see some players fall based on these same borderline meaningless notions.
The bigger underlying theories associated with these movements have to do with recency bias, human psychology, and the human desire and comfortability within the realms of the known, which then provide us (as sharp-thinking players) potential opportunities to generate some leverage during a time when the field is highly likely to be overreacting to what they see over the next few weeks. So I guess my answer is “Nothing and everything all at once, but with the very important caveat of looking at preseason through the lens of leverage instead of thinking it will translate to the regular season.”
The challenge with adapting to preseason is that we need to consider the overall draft board that people have been working with all offseason and the context of the tournament you’re entering.
For example, last year Cam Akers was a first round pick and got hurt, which led to Darrell Henderson shooting way up draft boards (I think he ended up with an ADP in the late 3rd/early 4th rounds). But, the problem is that Henderson was already being drafted before the Akers news, and so if you’re entering a large tournament that’s been posted for months and months, you would be competing with rosters that drafted Henderson very, very late. In that situation, my perspective was that I was just going to avoid Henderson entirely. Yes, he could bury me, but if he had an absolutely massive season, there would be a lot of rosters I’d be competing with in the later rounds who had Henderson in very late rounds vs. my rosters with him in the 3rd/4th round – I would be at a massive disadvantage compared to those rosters.
So what do I look for? I look for areas in which a player who is going undrafted all of a sudden seems to seize on opportunity and rise up, or, I look to tournaments that started drafting later (i.e. there aren’t a whole bunch of rosters in that tournament with the New Hotness that they got at a massive late-round discount). The latter obviously just depends on your tournament selection, but some examples of guys who are going (largely) undrafted currently are guys like D’Ernest Johnson, Eno Benjamin, Noah Brown, Devin Duvernay…those are the kind of guys I look for opportunity on in preseason.
Honorable mention here as well to Ty Montgomery and Taysom Hill. TyMont has WR eligibility but seems likely to play a fair bit of RB for the Patriots, which makes him a really interesting last round dart throw. Taysom still, inexplicably, has TE eligibility on Underdog (unsure about elsewhere), which just gives enormous upside – if he plays even a couple of full games at QB, he can put up some massive spike weeks for the TE position.
While I definitely believe preseason matters (i.e., there are players who will win “early-season roles that could grow bigger throughout the year”), my nine years in the DFS content space have seen my Augusts populated with either heavy MLB content loads (during the RG days) or heavy admin/season-prep loads for OWS. As such, I’ve watched a grand total of zero preseason games over the last nine seasons — and honestly, I haven’t once felt like my preparation by NFL kickoff has suffered as a result. I also aim to finish my Best Ball drafts before preseason games kick off — which means that when we put it all together, my answer to the actual question would not be helpful at all.
But this does open a pair of discussions that I think are important.
1) I typically aim to finish my Best Ball drafts before preseason games kick off because — generally speaking — you catch training camp whispers about a lot of the players who are going to eventually win roles in the preseason. By drafting early (and paying close attention to all 32 training camps), I can catch some of these risers before they rise (e.g., Rhamondre Stevenson last season; I had a good 20% exposure in the 17th/18th rounds before he’d seen a preseason snap and began rising up draft boards).
2) With that said, preseason games are about to be in full swing; and if you’re reading this, you still have drafts ahead of you. So here’s my note of caution:
Every year, there are players who gain steam because of their preseason performances (or even their training camp performances), but a deeper look at those players reveals that their “ascendent play” is essentially “positioning them to win a roster spot,” or “positioning them to compete for some early-season snaps.” Context matters when it comes to training camp and preseason reports and performances, and when a player is performing “above expectations,” we still need to know what those “expectations” were. While I don’t watch preseason games, I follow the news closely (just as I do with everything else in July/August), and the only time I adjust my thinking on a player is if that player is in a situation where a role is genuinely up for grabs. If Equanimeous St. Brown were to flash throughout the preseason for a Bears team that legitimately has no idea, at this point, who their number two wide receiver will be, that would be noteworthy to me. If Raheem Mostert were to ball out for a Dolphins backfield in which Chase Edmonds is the presumed starter but nothing is set in stone, I would consider this noteworthy. With that in mind, here is a list of “not yet fully settled” roster situations:
If I didn’t list a situation, I either feel it’s more settled than the public generally thinks, or I feel it’s not particularly relevant to what it would take to build a Best Ball champion lineup.
Average draft positions (ADP’s) of players will obviously be changing as training camps get rolling, preseason games start, and injuries happen. Over the first couple weeks of practices we have already seen some big risers and fallers. Are there any players that you were “in” on previously but are now going at a point in drafts that they no longer interest you? On the flip side, are there any players you’ve been low on but are now warming up to as their stock continues to drop?