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 from that week’s slate :: sharing their thoughts on how they plan to approach these critical elements from a roster-construction, game theory, and leverage perspective.
Training camps are in full swing and along with that comes big news and sweeping reactions. Among all the “noise” from this first week of NFL teams being back at practice, what is the one piece of information you have found the most actionable? Also, what is the one thing you think people are overreacting the most about?
Treylon Burks camp highlights. I kid, but seriously, this dude is the truth. In all seriousness, the most actionable pieces of early camp news has to be player health and level of participation. The pieces that come to the front of my mind are Hollywood Brown and a soft tissue hamstring injury that has prevented him from seeing any reps in a new scheme, the Baltimore running backs, Travis Etienne looking fully recovered and explosive, and Michael Thomas running routes at full speed (albeit with a slight change in gait).
To immediately make light of the fact I was completely joking about Treylon Burks camp highlight videos, my answer to this part of the question is exactly that – camp highlight videos. The level that the industry and field overreacts to mundane player camp videos is hilarious to me every single year. Most teams have only progressed through individual drills and 7-on-7s. No teams can even practice with full pads yet. Chill on the hype until we at least get to pads, OK? Cool.
The Allen Robinson steam seems very real to me. He is a player I have already taken very often in drafts and someone whose talent I have been high on since he entered the league. Now playing with the best QB of his career, Robinson could really take off. The impact this has on the rest of the team will be interesting to see – will his ascendence cut into the insane usage Cooper Kupp saw last year? Will having two of the top receivers in the league raise Matthew Stafford’s efficiency even higher than we saw in his first season with the Rams?
Miles Sanders “running with the second team” is not something I am concerned about. According to reports, he took four snaps with the second team last week in practice and now people are running with that “story” as a knock against Sanders. Until/unless we see Sanders taking snaps in a preseason game with backups, there’s nothing to see here.
Damnit I wanted to write about Allen Robinson but Mike beat me to it, so I’m just going to +1 that.
I’ll be totally honest here: not much. Camps have barely started and as Hilow notes we haven’t even seen teams practicing in pads yet. The single biggest takeaway from this question, to me, is “don’t overreact to super early camp news because most of it is likely totally irrelevant.”
That said…..I do like that Rhamondre Stevenson appears to be playing a lot with the first team in the early going. That’s one I’m going to keep an eye on. He showed plenty of talent last year when given the opportunity.
And, broadly, I like to watch the rookies in the early going. Guys like Treylon Burks, Drake London, and (especially) Skyy Moore are guys where, if they step into full-time roles early on in the season, they have the talent to smash their current ADPs, and I want to be in front of that if we start seeing signs in camp that they’re both A) ready for the NFL and B) going to be heavily utilized by their teams.
Most of my Best Ball contributions are going to start coming in the second week of August (as things get a little less crazy with the “work” side of OWS), but I wanted to drop into The Oracle (without reading anyone else’s responses) to explore some of these questions.
When I first started playing Best Ball in 2019 (which was the first year I got as deep into training camp as I now do), I was part of the overreacting crowd, and I would find myself chasing the rises and dips along with everyone else. I can’t tell you how much Darwin Thompson hype I chased…after I was already on track to be double-the-field from scooping him in the 18th round when no one else knew who he was. And realistically, that’s one side of things: news generally requires some sort of saturation point before it hits Rotoworld (and similar outlets) and starts sticking to the draft board. Sometimes, I’ll read positive reports on a player for weeks before a Rotoworld blurb is worded in just the right way that it turns up the public heat on that player. Other times, it’ll be a couple days. This is (frankly) the value of having some sort of Best Ball subscription, of course, if you’re not able to follow the news at the training camp level: you can stay ahead of the field on some of these player rumblings. But more broadly, it’s a reminder that you can’t get too caught up in the hype. If you think like an investor, you buy on players who are sliding due to uncertainty, and you sell on players who are moving up because of a report that was maybe worded a particular way by summary-sites, but that was really more of a passing observation made by a beat writer. You have to be discerning (you can’t just blindly move opposite the crowd), but more than anything, the key is to think deeply on the “why” for the movement.
Some recent examples ::
Diontae Johnson has started sliding because he isn’t practicing as he holds in. Now that we’ve defined why he’s sliding, you can ask yourself if you think he’s at risk of falling so far behind that he fails to perform if/when he returns. There’s no right or wrong answer, either, because you’ll have to make so many of these decisions, and you’ll be right sometimes, and you’ll be wrong sometimes. (So okay, there are wrong answers, when it all plays out. But on this side of the NFL season, a lot of these are close to 50/50 no matter how convinced one person might be on their stance. The deeper point is: know what question to ask. Know why the player is rising or sliding. Then you can make a more well-rounded decision on which direction you want to move.)
Others are less nebulous than the Diontae example. For instance: Miles Sanders slid for a few days because “summary sites” reported he was running with the twos at camp. That was the headline. It was less black-and-white than this in the actual reports (the Eagles always rotate backs at practice, especially in training camp; the reporter had just felt it was noteworthy that Sanders had seemed to spend significant time there, while clarifying that it could be nothing), and this alone allowed me to feel comfortable buying the slide on a player I’d spent very little draft capital on to that point. Further reports from the team shrugged it off as nothing, while Nick Sirianni later clarified that Sanders is their lead back. Within another day or two, these reports hit their public saturation point, and the slide became less persistent.
While I could go on and on, I think the bigger picture is that these things happen day in and day out. Some last a long time, and some last very little time. Even if you’re not able to pay attention beyond reading Rotoworld and OWS, get in the habit of asking why about player movement. What is the public perception of the player, more broadly? What was the headline, and what did the actual report say? Or like the Diontae example above, what is your opinion? Or think about Ja’Marr Chase last year. He was dropping passes in camp. That was the headline. But what was your opinion? Everyone had touted Chase as the best wide receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson. He hadn’t had a problem with drops in college. Was that going to persist as an issue deep into the season? Apply your own critical thinking, and assess the potential risk/reward of buying or selling a slide or a rise. What is the headline? What is the actual news?
A lot can change in a hurry in the NFL, and training camp is no exception. Give us two or three RBs or WRs who are currently going undrafted or taken in the last round that you think could jump several rounds by Labor Day: