Fantasy Poker: Draft Position & Implied Odds

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I’m putting together a series looking at poker concepts and how we can adapt them to shape fantasy football strategy. I was one of those kids who turned $50 into enough to buy a couple Segways (are they still a thing? I didn’t actually buy a Segway), and I have also played high stakes fantasy football the past few years. To me, they are similar as far as having a zero sum game where you’re managing assets (chips/cards vs. players/draft positions/roster spots), and trying to outplay your opponents amidst a sea of variance. For those of you saying, “Hey! You’re Dane Cooking C.D. Carter right now! Who the hell let you in here?” No, I’m under the impression he’s looking more at how poker players approach their game, where this is more direct fantasy football concepts, so hopefully this doesn’t piss him off.

Anyway, today’s poker concept is implied odds. Basically, in Texas Hold’ Em, good players prefer a hand like the 6 and 7 of clubs to an unsuited Ace and a 9. Even though Ace – 9 is more likely to win a given hand, it’s much less likely to make a very strong hand (think straights and flushes) that could win a big pot. Generally, with Ace – 9, when you play a big pot you’ll likely – at best – be against a stronger Ace – Number combo, and you stand to lose a lot of money. However, a straight made with 6 – 7 can beat all the one-pair and two-pair hands, as well as the 3-of-a-kinds that would be willing to play a big pot.

Alright, now let’s try to tie this in to fantasy football. Basically, anyone you pick in rounds 10+ is a pretty low investment player, and they probably aren’t someone you’re counting on for a contribution most of the time. What you really want out of a guy in the 13th round isn’t to have the 42nd best running back in fantasy: you would never start that guy anyway. What you want is someone with the potential to be a top 24 back who you can plug into your lineup on a weekly basis.

Ok, enough studying, let’s play cards:

Player to fold: Mikel Leshoure (current FFCalc positional ADP=38)

He’s a backup right now looking at 8-10 touches a week and a handful of touchdowns. If that’s something startable in your league, go for it, but otherwise it’s just not that valuable. He is Reggie Bush’s handcuff, but we saw what he could do with a full-time starting job last year, and it was under a 1000-yards pace. That’s his Reggie-Bush-gets-hurt upside, meh…

Flop with: Bryce Brown (current FFCalc  positional ADP=40)

This is mind-blowing. We know Brown pretty much instantly becomes a top 15 option if McCoy goes down, and with the projected pace of Chip Kelly’s offense, Brown could end up being a flex option even with a healthy McCoy.  Regardless, we saw both Leshoure and Brown as starters last year; do I really need to tell you which one has more upside?

Player to fold: Anquan Boldin (current FFCalc positional ADP=43)

He’s a 32 year old receiver who’s the 2nd or 3rd option in a run heavy offense, and he hasn’t had a 1,000 yard season in 3 years. Boldin will probably go for about 800 yards and 5 or 6 TD’s this year. I don’t think we’re terribly likely to see a renaissance where he goes for 1200 and 8 in his 12th year.

Flop with: Justin Blackmon (current FFCalc positional ADP=45)

I know, he’s suspended for 4 games. He’s also a big receiver entering his 2nd year that was the 5th overall pick in last year’s draft, and paced for over 1300 all-purpose yards and 8 touchdowns from week 10 on. We are talking serious WR #1 upside for a guy going as a bad Wide Receiver #4. Sick value.

Player to fold: Tim Tebow (current FFCalc Positional ADP=18)

I just wanted you to be aware that Tim Tebow is actually being picked in mock drafts right now. Kinda casts a shadow on the legitimacy of using average draft positions in May…

Ignoring the above… flop with Geno Smith (current FFCalc Positional ADP=26)

I’m not a huge Smith fan, and the Jet’s offense is more of a dumpster fire than Lindsay Lohan. However, I can envision a scenario where Smith gets run a lot and Tim-Tebow’s (see how I tied that in there?) his way to borderline QB #1 numbers, which is more than can be said for other signal callers drafted outside the top 20.

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