I sometimes wonder how it was possible for Neville Longbottom to be so bad at Potions (for those of you who skipped childhood, that’s a Harry Potter reference; and yes, these are the sorts of things I ponder in the offseason). Potions is just following directions, right? It’s literally just doing exactly what you are being instructed to do, one step at a time.
If Neville struggled there, he would hate DFS. In DFS, they don’t even give us that.
One of the most challenging aspects of each week of the NFL season is NOT that it’s difficult to find great research and information; instead, it’s that there can be so much research and information — so many data points to sift through — it can be difficult to know where to go from there.
This is one reason I came up with the idea for the Game Notes function on the site. The NFL Edge is a big article. It can be a lot of information to sort through. But by making it easy for readers to take in one game at a time (collecting and organizing their thoughts at the bottom of that game, and even breaking up the article across smaller chunks of reading), the article as a whole will provide a lot more utility. Leading up to Week 1, I have found myself reading two or three games in a sitting, then jumping back in later to read two or three more.
But even with this, there is more that can be done to provide ourselves with some “Directions” each week — to give ourselves something that (as long as we are not as hopeless as Neville Longbottom…) we can apply each week to our play.
Every Saturday evening, I create a Player Grid for subscribers that I post on the site. This Player Grid is not a list of “all the good plays on the slate,” but is instead a look at the pool of players I will be pulling from myself. This is a great way for readers to weigh and balance their thoughts against mine, and to settle in their final pieces for the slate.
But one question I am surprised that no one ever asks me is, “How do you narrow things down to those players?”
The Player Grid consists of three tiers.
Tier 1 contains guys I would love to have on any roster I build. I feel that all of these guys have a low likelihood of price-considered failure and a solid shot at a spiked week.*
*on lower-priced guys, a “spiked week” would be anything that yields a standard starting score; basically 15 to 20 points, depending on the situation, the site, and the amount of value available that week; on higher-priced guys, a “spiked week” would be the sort of score that could truly help you take down the weekend
Tier 2 contains players I feel have a low likelihood of price-considered failure, but whose chances of a spiked week are a bit more thin. These are safer guys who can provide floor for a roster but are unlikely to win you the week on their own.
Tier 3 contains players who could post a spiked week, but whose floor is a little more iffy. I tend to build my cash game and single-entry/small-field tourney rosters from the first two tiers, while mixing in the third tier in large-field tourneys.
Without these tiers, I would enter Saturday and Sunday with just as much information as I had on Thursday. Which might sound great; but when you are looking to narrow down the pool of hundreds of available players to the handful you feel have the best shot at helping you take down the weekend, it sucks. You need to have a system that puts you in position to condense all the information you received on Thursday into a small pile of concrete “Directions” that provide actionable value.
Along that line of thought, this is how I have been using the Game Notes myself:
Firstly, after diving into a game, I assign one of three symbols to the players I am considering:
• Tier 1
+ Tier 2
^ Tier 3
Secondly, I have created shorthand that I can add to a player’s name in order to condense my thoughts even further. For example, if I use one of these “~” after a player’s name, I know I feel that player carries some uncertainty for the tier in which I placed him. If I use a forward slash (“/”), I am notating that I have developed a mental block about that particular player, for one reason or another, and I need to be aware of that and/or dig in more deeply before making a decision.
Here is the full list of symbols I use as extra notation after a player’s name:
So, for example, my “Notes” on a game between the Panthers and the Titans might look like this:
• Cam ~
• CMC /
+ Olsen (4)
^ Funchess \ = 15?
• Davis *
^ Henry ~
^ Lewis ~
Some games, I have only one guy marked in my notes. Some games I have eight or nine guys. Obviously, I’m always trying to narrow down my player pool to what I feel are the “best plays,” so there is still work to do from there. But it is awesome to be able to open the notes on each game in my profile and immediately see what I think about each player I am considering that week. And it is incredibly useful — when Saturday rolls around, and I am hammering in my official rosters for the weekend — to know exactly who I like, and to know exactly how I feel about each guy.
As you use the Game Notes function this season, I encourage you to treat it as a way to narrow down your thoughts. Come up with a system — a language you can use with yourself and can come to understand at a glance — and watch how much easier Saturdays become. Once you get in the habit of doing this, each week of the NFL season will become a lot less overwhelming, a lot more profitable, and a lot more fun.