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Game Theory: Is Value a Lie? There’s a Better Way to Evaluate Your Players.
None of us are from the future, so we can't know for sure what will happen with our players. That makes "value" tricky... but what if I told you there's a better option?
I’ve got a controversial take for you here.
Before I elaborate on why that is, I first need to define a few terms.
How you, the manager, view a player. That can be influenced by data, news, film, and more! All of these sources will shape how much you think an asset is worth.
The general consensus valuation of an asset. It’s how the fantasy industry as a whole generally views an asset, and this can vary by league!
In the preseason, it is represented by a player’s ADP. In-season, it can be represented by a trade calculator value, a ranking on a fantasy rankings website, their percent rostered on a fantasy platform, or any publicly-impacted data set that takes into account the opinions of a large sample size of managers.
Market value can fluctuate based on the same information that personal value relies on, but doesn’t always react the same way.
Opponent value is how an individual opponent in your fantasy league chooses to value an asset. This concept is typically only relevant in trade discussions. Your opponent’s valuation of assets can fluctuate based on all of the same information that personal and market value rely on, but every manager reacts differently.
So, now that we understand what those concepts are, how would they interact with one another in the marketplace of fantasy football?
If your personal value is higher than market value you buy that asset. If your personal value is lower than market value, you sell that asset. When trading, if your opponent values an asset more than you do, you generally trade away that asset, and if you value an asset more than your opponent does, you generally trade for that asset.
Hold on a minute, though. Didn’t I start this article by saying we SHOULDN’T be using value to guide our transactions? What’s the big issue with it?
Here’s the issue: “value” is a conceptually shallow way of determining an asset’s worth. For example, a trade calculator might give a player a specific number to determine how valuable a player is. While we as managers likely don’t give assets a specific number to signify their value, we might use rankings or something else to summarize the instantaneous worth of an asset.
The problem is that, in reality, we are almost always wrong about a player’s value. We take a guess at exactly how much an asset is worth and then make transactions based on that valuation. But if you’re wrong, then those transactions can become detrimental to your team.
If you see the worth of an asset as a point on a linear scale, then you prevent yourself from factoring in the reality that you aren’t from the future and you don’t know what’s going to happen exactly. So, what’s the solution? How can we assess the worth of an asset aside from an instantaneous value assessment?
Range of Outcomes is the answer.
R.O.O. (or “ROO”) is a much more comprehensive way to assess the worth of an asset. It can be determined by envisioning all of the possible outcomes an asset can attain, and how likely you believe it to be that the asset reaches each of those outcomes.
Now, instead of seeing an asset as a singular point of value on a number line, we see them for all of their possible future instances of worth, as well, and can make wiser transactions using that information. Now that I’ve explained what ROO means, allow me to explain what it DOES and how you can use it.
Let’s say you have a player whose contract expires at the end of the season, allowing them to become a free agent and sign with any NFL team in the offseason.
You believe this player will stick with the same team they’ve played with, and since they’ve done well with that team, you expect them to continue to be as “valuable’ as they have been in years past. However, you also have to admit to yourself that there’s a chance they don’t re-sign with that same team. You then have to decide what percent chance there is that this player moves on to a new franchise, and whether or not this change of scenery will benefit the player, or be a detriment to their production. You have to fully understand the range of outcomes that this player has.
Now let’s also say that you have a leaguemate who is making the same assumption that you’re making. They, too, think that this player will re-sign with the team and retain their worth. However, they are making trades assuming that’s going to happen. If they think there’s a 100% chance that the player stays with their team, and you think there’s a 75% chance the player stays with their team, you can make a profitable trade by sending that manager this player. Why? Because you admit that there’s a 25% chance this player’s situation can change and that will impact their worth.
Now maybe this player is on someone else’s roster, but for whatever reason, that manager isn’t confident that this player will stay with their team. That manager thinks there’s no chance they stick around. You would then trade for that player because you admit there’s a non-zero chance that this player’s value stays the same, while that manager expects it to plummet in the offseason.
If you can find managers who value players differently than you do and make advantageous transactions based on THEIR values instead of yours, you’ll find that you’re benefitting from a majority of your trades, and soon enough: winning your fantasy leagues. This topic can be confusing in practice sometimes, so if you’d like me to help you apply this to your process, reach out to me on Twitter @BGTEvan or on Instagram @BigGameTheory, and I’d love to elaborate further!
Good luck this offseason, and make sure to stay in the loop!
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