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Why the Flex Position Will Again Win Championships in 2014


Perhaps my most actionable piece in the 2013 preseason talked about the flex position and why it’s the key to winning your fantasy league. In a RotoViz Comment Contest from February, Paul Sellers explained why the Flex position validated a wide receiver-heavy start even if you follow value-based drafting instead of my approach. The thesis: Many fantasy players do not adequately incorporate the Flex position when creating their replacement baselines. As a result, WR are undervalued in many types of PPR leagues. A fantasy draft is essentially a Race to Fill the Flex.1

With all of the incredible apps being developed by the Fantasy Douche, we haven’t been discussing the Sim Scores as frequently, but they remain the most indispensable tool RotoViz has to offer. The previous Flex Wins Championships article used the Sim Scores to help compare position versus position and lay down the argument for a Flex-based approach. This year I’m going to once again use the Sim Scores to explore various options for addressing this crucial and oft-overlooked part of your starting lineup.

It’s also worth noting that the Sim Scores are very flexible and can help make decisions regardless of your format. They include standard, half, and full PPR projections. Rich Hribar recently looked at the differences between standard and PPR scoring, and found that the biggest impact is seen at the running back position. Format has very obvious repercussions for whether you should go Zero RBZero WR, or mixed/balanced. It also helps define your Flex approach. Filling the Flex in a 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-Flex standard league is going to be different than filling it in a 2-RB, 3-WR, 2-Flex PPR league.

In this exercise, I’m going to compare established RBs and WRs who are being selected in a similar area of drafts. Even if you want to target breakout players instead, you can still develop a sense of what player profiles might be considered “high vol” by looking at the projected outcomes for these players.

Round 5

Ryan Mathews vs. Torrey Smith

Ryan Mathews Torrey Smith
Standard Half PPR PPR Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 7.4 7.5 7.6 Low 6.4 7.8 9.5
Median 10.5 11.2 11.9 Median 8.1 10.4 12.6
High 12.2 13.1 14 High 10.2 12.6 15.2

Our first pairing helps to further illustrate the differences in format. Mathews is the preferred play in standard formats, while Smith is the clear choice in reception bonus scoring. The reception effect is especially apparent at the low level. Smith has a much higher PPR floor.

It’s again helpful to think in terms of player types. Mathews may see his situation deteriorate slightly in San Diego with the arrival of Donald Brown. The theory behind a Smith selection is perhaps bolstered by Gary Kubiak’s arrival. Regardless, the Sim Scores help us get a sense of the potential risks and rewards in targeting either of these players for our Flex position. It provides some calibration for the range of outcomes we should expect.

Round 6

Joique Bell vs. Kendall Wright

Joique Bell Kendall Wright
Standard Half PPR PPR Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 2.6 3.2 4.5 Low 6.6 8.9 10.8
Median 6.3 7.7 9.1 Median 8 10.7 13.3
High 10.6 12.5 13.9 High 10.6 12.8 15.6

Bell is a very trendy late career breakout candidate here at RotoViz–the Intersect is especially enthusiastic about his prospects–but his path to serious fantasy scoring won’t come easily. Meanwhile, Kendall Wright isn’t a RotoViz favorite, but these results help to demonstrate the differences between RBs and WRs. Even a possession guy like Wright should hold his own against Bell in standard formats. In PPR leagues, Wright runs away with it.

Round 7

Frank Gore vs. Marques Colston

Frank Gore Marques Colston
Standard Half PPR PPR Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 5.1 5.4 6.1 Low 6.6 8.5 10.4
Median 8.3 8.8 9.3 Median 7.7 9.9 12.1
High 9.8 10.3 11.4 High 10.1 12.8 15.5

This is an interesting pairing due to the conflicting narratives offered by such affordable ADPs. Momentum and hype drafters see nothing of interest. Ageists have them on their Do Not Draft list. Apologists see an established starting RB with elite credentials and the nominal No. 1 WR in an elite passing game. They see crazy value.

Here again, the Sim Scores help us cut through a little bit of the narrative. Gore’s upside really does appear to be limited. In fact, the median standard projection is the only category where he bests Colston. On the other hand, the Saints’ top receiver might be undervalued even by his enthusiasts. He owns a very similar projection to our two receivers from rounds five and six.

Round 8

Steven Jackson vs. Reggie Wayne

Steven Jackson Reggie Wayne
Standard Half PPR PPR Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 2.1 2.6 3.1 Low 6.6 8.7 10.7
Median 6.6 6.9 7.2 Median 7.7 9.8 11.8
High 10.1 10.8 11.4 High 9 11.1 13.7

Similar to the Gore/Colston matchup, Wayne and Jackson appeal to those who emphasize proven production at a theoretical discount. Does such a discount really exist? The Sim Scores can give us historical perspective.

Jackson looks like a poor investment, especially when you consider he’s already suffered the dreaded hamstring injury in camp. Wayne’s numbers don’t thrill, but he could be a solid source of value for Zero WR drafters. In both cases, you should be shooting higher for your Flex position. Jackson and Wayne make decent bye week fill-ins . . . if they make it that far.


Shawn Siegele is the creator of Money in the Banana Stand and a lead writer for PFF Fantasy. He credits the RotoViz Sim Scores and a Flex-based approach for delivering the 2013 NFFC Primetime Championship. On his top Zero RB squad, he frequently had Josh Gordon in the Flex and Alshon Jeffery on the bench. Here are his 8 Breakout WRs for 2014

  1. This was the realization that prompted me to begin playing high stakes in 2008. Even though I’ve moved away from VBD entirely, I still heartily agree with the sentiment.  (back)

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