Why buy a car for $20,000 when you can buy the same car with a crappy paint job for half the price?
That, in a crude nutshell, is one way of looking at arbitrage, a concept the Fantasy Douche first applied to fantasy football several years ago.
The 2017 draft season presents no shortage of opportunities to purchase players who have a host of things going for them – whether it be their situation, talent, or some other factor, for a far lesser price than a similar player.
This time out, I investigate the question – why draft Joe Mixon when an RB in a similar situation is set up to succeed at a significantly cheaper price?
Much like the Bengals took a considerable risk by drafting a running back with major character concerns in the second round, you are required to risk a lot of draft capital to land Joe Mixon on your fantasy team. The rookie back is the assumed starter in Cincy, and he is now being drafted as a borderline RB1 – the 13th back off the board.
Meanwhile, a big, pass-catching RB who just put up a season which might be Mixon’s best-case scenario in 2017 is often available three or four rounds later.
WOKE ON WARE
Spencer Ware is coming off a season in which he finished as the RB14 in PPR formats, just 11 points behind Jay Ajayi, who is now an early second-round fantasy pick. Ware was actually on pace to finish as the overall RB4 through the first seven weeks. He suffered a concussion in Week 8 and faded down the stretch.
Despite the RB14 finish, and the addition of just one RB with a questionable resume in the draft (more on that later), Ware is now the 22nd RB being selected in best ball drafts.
Using the RotoViz RB Sim App, we get an idea of the range of outcomes that we can expect from players similar to Spencer Ware who’ve put up comparable seasons to his 2016.
Ware’s median outcome adds up to 206 PPR fantasy points, while the high-end of his outcomes for 2017 would produce an eye-opening 244 points. That point total would have been good for a RB8 finish in 2016, a historically good year for RBs.
APPLES TO DIFFERENT APPLES
Joe Mixon lands in the NFL with a reputation as a big, bruising back (6 – 1, 228) who can run between the tackles and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.
Spencer Ware is a big, bruising back (5 – 10, 229) who can run between the tackles and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. In fact, outside of Travis Kelce, Ware is probably the best receiver the Chiefs have, as Hasan Rahim recently pointed out.
Joe Mixon might not even be best receiving back on the Bengals roster. Not only does he face competition in that department from the proven Giovani Bernard, but Jeremy Hill is still just 24-years old and has a 1,100-yard season to his name. Everyone is down on Hill these days, but it would be foolish to discount him completely in 2017.
Meanwhile, Spencer Ware is set to assume the same role that led to a high-end RB2 finish last season. You may be scared off by the presence rookie Kareem Hunt, but there is little is Hunt’s profile to suggest he’s any threat to Ware’s job.
On paper, the difference between the third round and the fifth or sixth round doesn’t look that big. But remember that the value of draft picks decreases exponentially. The early rounds are high leverage, and the difference in value drops precipitously.
For what it will cost you to buy Joe Mixon, you could draft a stud WR like Demaryius Thomas, Sammy Watkins, or Keenan Allen. All three are more proven commodities and likely have a higher upside too. Then you have a green light to snap up Spencer Ware in the sixth instead, an RB who will post the kind of season that Mixon should aspire to in 2017.
I’m out on Mixon at his inflated ADP, and as a Zero RB zealot, I’m happily drafting Spencer Ware every time I see him in the sixth.