Fantasy Football Update, Fantasy Basketball, and an Experiment in Free-Range Learning

We’ve hit the midway point of the fantasy football season: Time for an update.[[MORE]]

I got off to an ugly 0-4 start, marred by poor performance by high draft picks and injury woes. I’ve gone 3-1 since then and stand at 3-5.

Let’s look at some changes to my roster:

Week 1 Roster:

QB: Matt Stafford (DET)
WR: Marshall (CHI), Garcon (WASH), Tate (SEA), Blackmon (JAX), Sanders (PIT)
RB: Spiller (BUF), Miller (MIA), Moreno (DEN), Lacy (GB), Mendenhall (ARI)
TE: Jermichael Finley (GB)
DEF: Indianapolis
K: Vinatieri (IND)

Current Roster (Week 9):

QB: Matt Stafford (DET), Geno Smith (NYJ)
WR: Marshall (CHI), Garcon (WASH), Kerley (NYJ), Blackmon (JAX), Sanders (PIT)
RB: Spiller (BUF), Miller (MIA), Moreno (DEN), Lacy (GB),
TE: J. Thomas (DEN
DEF: San Francisco, Tennessee
K: Kai Forbath (WASH)

Notable Adds:

Julius Thomas (DEN) – Acquired Via Trade
San Francisco Defense – For some reason, someone dropped them

Notable Drops:

Jermichael Finley (GB) – Injured
Golden Tate (SEA)
Mendenhall (ARI)

The emergence of Knowshon Moreno, Justin Blackmon, and Eddie Lacy have been big. The gamble on Moreno to seize the starting gig in Denver paid off big-time. He’s getting 20 touches a game in the most explosive offense in the league—I’ll take that any day.

Biggest Disappointments: CJ Spiller and Lamar Miller

Through some combination of injury and offensive strategy, Spiller has failed to meet expectations. It’s not entirely unexpected, with a new coaching regime and rookie QB at the helm, but it stings just the same. Now that he’s finally sitting out to rest an ankle injury, he may provide a late-season boost to salvage the 2013 season.

That’s the variance inherent in fantasy sports; The freedom to fly high or fall through the floor are hallmarks of free(ish) markets.

Lamar Miller has played well when given the ball; he just has not gotten the ball enough. One could point to the difference in yards-per-carry average between Miller and Daniel Thomas to champion Miller as the guy who deserves feature status. Thomas, Miami’s nominal ‘short-yardage’ specialist, brought a 3.6 YPC average into 2013 compared to Miller’s 4.9.

We’ve got to be careful with this sort of analysis, though.

While YPC is one of the best measures of running ability, we should look deeper. Numbers tell incomplete stories and projecting small sample sizes over extended trials is always dicey. Sometimes you stick a guy with fantastic per-minute numbers into a bigger role and he flounders.

You’d expect a short-yardage back to have a lower yards-per-carry average than an every-down back or third-down specialist; he’s often in goal-to-go situations where the defense is keying on the run and there are fewer yards to be had on runs that break the 2nd level (i.e. racing past the 2nd wave of defenders nets 10 or so yards instead of 70 or 80). He misses out on the big boost to YPC average provided by long touchdown runs.

To be clear, Miller is the superior ball-carrier. I’m just exploring the logic and numbers behind the decisions that impact the careers of so many pro athletes. Sometimes, a coaching staff might want to limit a player’s touches to keep him healthy and productive over the duration of a season and extend his career (see: Jamaal Charles).

The Dolphins coaching staff has a plan for their backs and, unfortunately, it’s not friendly to Lamar Miller’s fantasy value.

Oh well.

The final week of October also marks the beginning of the fantasy basketball season.

I play in a 12-team, standard 9-category league with a decent-sized entry fee. All the other rules from last year’s competition are in play.

My Squad:

1. (9) Anthony Davis (NO – PF,C)
2. (16) John Wall (Was – PG)
3. (33) Ty Lawson (Den – PG)
4. (40) Jrue Holiday (NO – PG)
5. (57) Jonas Valanciunas (Tor – C)
6. (64) Chandler Parsons (Hou – SF,PF)
7. (81) Marcin Gortat (Was – C)
8. (88) Spencer Hawes (Phi – C)
9. (105) Reggie Jackson (OKC – PG)
10. (112) Ben McLemore (Sac – SG)
11. (129) Kelly Olynyk (Bos – C) **
12. (136) Alec Burks (Uta – SG)
13. (153) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Cha – SF) **
14. (160) John Henson (Mil – PF,C)

** (Olynyk and Gilchrist were dropped for James Anderson (PHI) and Miles Plumlee (PHX) before the start of the season)

More fantasy basketball and football updates throughout the season.

Bonus linkhttp://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers/

A fascinating article on autodidactic learning in the classroom.

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