If I had to guess the two most frequent criticisms from skeptics of RotoViz, I’d probably be right. The third is probably that we’re arrogant know-it-alls.
The first is probably that we don’t watch, or at least don’t watch enough, film. The second would probably be that we’re so used to being contrarian, we’re sometimes contrarian simply for the sake of being contrarian, which is an actual claim I’ve seen on multiple occasions. By extension, people probably think we’re also inflexible in our opinions.
Today, I humbly hope to permanently cast these doubts aside, leading to an increase in peace, understanding, knowledge, and love, for everyone everywhere for all of eternity.1
Back before the draft, I was watching film on many of the top WRs prospects, something many, if not most or even all, of the RotoViz writers do. While watching some highlights of Kelvin Benjamin, I had the thought that inspired the title of this article. “There’s no one like Kelvin Benjamin in the NFL.”2 I was just as excited by his tape as all the scouts and film guys, and was already starting to imagine the possibilities of him pulling down touchdown after touchdown when it matters most. Despite that, I had Benjamin as my 18th ranked prospect in our recent post draft composite rookie rankings, five worse than the composite average of 13th.
That’s because I had another thought: “There’s no one like Kelvin Benjamin in the NFL. Is that a good thing?”
It’s important to realize Kelvin Benjamin isn’t the only player I could ask that question about. Some others include Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Lightning Rod of the Year 2014 award3 winner Odell Beckham. You may recognize that the four aforementioned players are not exactly RotoViz favorites.
A huge part of what we do here at RotoViz is based around comparing players and examining the traits that have made past players succeed or fail at the NFL level. For “unique” players, that may seem unfair. After all, we wouldn’t consider them to be unique if they were like other players. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of the aforementioned players has significant success at the NFL level. That being said, I don’t fully agree with the premise that we penalize unique players. Calvin Johnson is a unique player, and if we had been around when he was coming out he would have likely been our favorite prospect of all time. Rob Gronkowski is unique, but he has the highest phenom index score we’ve ever given to a TE, by quite some distance.
We don’t strive to be right all the time. We merely strive to be right more frequently. This is one of the biggest advantages of taking an analytical approach: Since we’re using statistics and frequencies to inform our processes, we are acutely aware of the fact that we are not going to be right all of the time. We strive for the best processes, not the best results, because “being wrong for the right reasons usually leads to a higher frequency of simply being right.” Furthermore, we’ve found that when analysis is right, it tends to be right by a larger margin than traditional evaluation.
In this article, Shawn Siegele discusses RotoViz Reaches,4 players we like that also have the additional value of being cheaper to acquire. I’m dubbing players like Benjamin as Anti-RotoViz Reaches; players that we’re not particularly high on that the NFL has reached on, making their value higher than what we would expect.
If we accept that traditional evaluation methods may as well be a coin flip, it’s hard to get too excited by a player’s film. But of course, our methods don’t work all the time either. Typically, you want a marriage of the two, but prospects like Kelvin Benjamin often lead to divorce. If we willingly go with the framework that we expect to be less successful, and do so in spite of reservations in our typical framework, doesn’t that suggest that our odds may actually be worse than a coin flip?
In short, selecting an Anti-Rotoviz Reach represents accepting a bad value proposition, accepting a smaller margin when you’re right, accepting an inferior framework for talent evaluation, and by extension, knowingly accepting the use of bad process. We’re not being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian when we criticize prospects like Benjamin or Beckham, we’re just madly in love with good process.