I recently signed on as an editor with a great up-and-coming site. One of my first assignments is to compile rankings for the 2015 season. As an editor whose compensation is tied to site activity, rankings are my best friends. The denizens of readerland LOVE rankings. As somebody who’s trying to build a new fantasy brand, well-done rankings are an excellent vehicle. As a fantasy player, I have serious reservations about the whole process.
Rankings have their time and place. Not every fantasy player is like me – in fact I’d hazard that most aren’t. I have internalized opinions and values on just about every player available. For somebody like me, rankings are there simply to avoid panic. If I have three third basemen left in my queue and they’re taken with the three picks ahead of mine, I can turn to the spreadsheet to avoid a bad selection. For auction leagues, I build value sheets to establish priors. I want to know how Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos Gomez should compare to each other. I know the dynamic nature of the auction will push me to use any number of strategies and tactics.
RotoGraphs readers aren’t typical fantasy owners. A lot of you share my grasp of the player universe, which is what makes this topic possible. While I don’t actually hate rankings – that’s just a bold title – I do think they’re an ass-backwards way of building a roster.
When I analyze my best and worst rosters, I consistently find two things – depth and a smidgen of luck are the keys to victory. It’s also important to draft to the scoring format. Yadier Molina might be a better fantasy player than Evan Gattis, but if your league uses OPS, you may prefer Gattis’ superior power.
Building a strong fantasy roster is like spinning a convoluted web. Simplistically, all you have to do is draft the best combination of players to fill every position with multiple redundancies subject to your scoring system. Easy, huh? Rankings and value sheets contribute to that process, but they’re just a beginning.
Honestly, they’re not even an important component to my draft preparation. Last season was the first in which I didn’t incorporate any external rankings into my draft preparations. I did just fine. Instead of ranks, I simply used very basic raw projections (Steamer plus ZiPS divided by two) and my own intuition.
So here’s my advice. Reference the rankings we and other sites post, but prepare so you don’t need to lean upon them on draft day. Rankings are a crutch. They’re a way for you to punt responsibility for the make-up of your team. Learn to draft and value players for their expected stats rather than their place on an ordinal list.
As we get closer to draft season, we’ll have additional coverage on various strategies, tactics, and methods for drafting in different scenarios. For now, just remember this simple mantra: don’t be a rankings bitch.
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