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Exploiting Fantasy Football Innumeracy: How To Pants People in Jorts

 height=The NFL owes a tremendous debt to the numerous fat dudes in starter jerseys and jorts who follow fantasy football with the rigor and passion with which Ohio St fans burn couches - not coincidentally, also fat dudes clad in starter jerseys and jorts.

Correlation and causation have a way of blending there.

It's a testament to the whole enterprise that Vick Rockz Beeyotch can sit riveted watching a putrid Browns Raiders game swaddled in adult diapers so he doesn't have to take bathroom breaks knowing that a Dennis Northcutt 4 yard reception is all that stands between him and sweet victory over I Dig Zeta Jones Tits in his Da Home Depot Playas pay league.

Where passion, mindless devotion, jorts, and mathematical helplessness coalesce, there is opportunity to make money. If you don't think so, you're completely unaware of Oprah & Friends, Applebees, or Las Vegas.

School is in session, playaz.

First, my assumptions.

1. This is a standard Yahoo league auto-setting for a 12 team head-to-head league.
2. Passing 1 point per 50 yards, 4 points per TD, -1 points per INT.
3. Rushing/Receiving 1 point per 10 yards, 6 points per TD, fumbles -1 point.
4. One flex position, mandatory TE.
5. Defenses score points on sacks, turnovers and TDs/safeties and are penalized on a sliding scale for giving up points.

You get the idea...this is standard stuff. If you're in some kind of exotic scoring league where you get 53 megabonus points for any receiving TD caught by a Caucasian, or if you can transfer hit points from your favorite Dungeons & Dragons character, I can't help you.

Here's the thing - the only thing: the scoring system is The Thing. 91.7% of fantasy players don't pay any attention to the scoring system, even if they give it lip service. So here's the Second Thing which is a subset of the The Only Thing: your personal opinion as to the value of a player is irrelevant. The relative value of a player is not really in debate if you can project with some realism and more accuracy than Ricky Williams' first agent. A player's value is right there for you in a pretty number.

Value is what formula say.

Here are the areas of opportunity:

QB. This year, after the "premier" RBs go, clowndicks will make a hysterical run on brand name QBs: Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb - all far too early. Most of these players are going in the top 25-30 of every draft out there (Palmer and Manning often in the 1st). Consider The Thing: simple math tells us that rushing yards & TDs are rewarded hugely, passing volume is more important than passing efficiency, and a 4:-1 TD to INT ratio demonstrates that a 2TD/3INT QB has more value than the 1TD/0 INT QB. Did the names Vince Young, Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, Matt Leinart just pop into your head? Good. 3 of the 4 have elite receiving corps and VY is the game's best running QB. Yet all are available in rounds 6-8. The gap between them and the players drafted far ahead of them is decievingly small, and to the casual fan, completely counterintuitive.

Stick with me on this...

Drew Brees - currently a 2nd round selection in almost all leagues had 4045 yards, 26 TDs, 11 INTs with 50 yards rushing and no TDs in 2006. Nice job Drew. You're a good QB. That's worth 259 points.

In 2007, I'll project Vince Young for a weaktit 2875 passing yards, 18 TDs, 20 INTS. Wow. Dogshit. He'll rush for 45 yards per game (inconsequential, right?) and he'll continue to be a good red zone running threat. We'll call it 720 rushing yards with 7 TDs. Congratulations Vince - you're worth 280 points. Now go get LenDale White away from that ice cream truck.

You just got a "better" player in the 6th or 7th round than the guy taken in the 2nd or early 3rd. If you run similar models with 2007 Jon Kitna vs. 2007 Carson Palmer, you'll find Palmer inevitably on top - just not by the margins you anticipate.

Peer pressure plays a key role in innumeracy: no one laughs uproariously at a guy who takes Carson Palmer with the a late first round pick, though I can pretty definitely prove to you that this person is a slapmonkey. However, take Vince Young in the 3rd round and you'll be mocked: Too Early. No Supporting Cast. Stupid.

BTW, don't take Vince in the 3rd. He'll be there later.

WR. In 2006, the gap between a Lee Evans (1290 yds, 8 TDs) and Chad Johnson (1370 yds, 7 TDs) is precisely none. Yet Ocho Cinco will go in Round Dos or Tres and Evans will go 20-30 players later. Maybe Evans should race Smarty Jones. Like QB, this is a position where value gaps are consistently overestimated. You can draft 2 high quality RBs in your first two rounds and still come back to pick up two of Roy Williams, Lee Evans, Calvin Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Javon Walker. Take Chad Johnson and a QB early, and you're sporting Brian Piccolo and Merrill Hoge in your backfield. Good luck with that.

RB. The top runners are in short supply as job sharing is now the norm for working mothers and NFL running backs. This year RBs should take up your first two picks. I'd even consider your first three. As demonstrated, quality QBs and WRs will be found later.

TE. If he's not named Antonio Gates, he may as well be named Phineas J. LemurDick. Yet inevitably, the minute Gates goes, the "TE run" begins. Hold your water.

Apples and Oranges. You don't compare how many points Peyton Manning will score vs how many points Steven Jackson will score and then draft accordingly. A significant number of jort jockeys do this. What you should compare is the difference between your best guess of estimated production for each player vs. a same position player in a later round. In other words, compare the difference between a 1st round Manning with a 6th round Tony Romo/Jon Kitna. Then compare a 1st round Steven Jackson to a 6th round Julius Jones. As the English say,"Mind the gap, please."

Beta. Borrowed from the financial world, beta is a measure of volatility relative to a market. If the "market" represents a mean of individual player performance, then we'd like a player that's consistent. Think of the Greg Davis offense, pre & post Vince. 625 yards vs North Texas, 225 vs OU. The average is 425 - yea. We rock. Except we're now 1-1. Boo. We suck. 500 vs North Texas, 350 vs. OU means the same average but now we're probably 2-0. Reggie Bush will do nothing for three games and then explode for 3 TDs and several long runs. This year, Travis Henry will probably have low volatility. 9 out of 10 will draft Bush over Henry. If production is equivalent, I'll take the more predictable guy playing in the head-to-head league.

It's worth noting that WRs also have a higher volatility than RBs.

Consider these things, make me proud, and go forth and pants the jorts.