JJ Zachariason

Draft Analysis

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Drafting QBs: Opportunity Cost

Friday, May 03, 2013

Guest writer JJ Zachariason is doing an offseason Rotoworld series on fantasy quarterback draft strategy. JJ authored The Late Round Quarterback in 2012. A link to this series' initial three columns can be found here: Quarterbacks & Fantasy Value, here: Quarterbacks & 2013 Depth, and here: Fantasy QB Supply & Demand.

This is part four in a five-part series.

Your fantasy football draft isn’t just about the players you select. It’s also about the players you don’t select.

I’ve already connected basic economic supply and demand principles to fantasy football, but now it’s time to do the same with another traditional economic term: opportunity cost.

Your Econ 101 textbook will helpfully explain that opportunity cost is “the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. “ In other words, when you perform any action, whatever you didn’t do is your opportunity cost.

Each time you make a choice throughout a given day, you associate a value to that choice. This value is usually not even consciously recognized. Do you want broccoli or asparagus as your side for dinner? You choose broccoli, and don’t think twice about it. Broccoli tastes good and is nutritious, adding some sort of value to your overall meal.

You didn’t view the asparagus as highly as you did broccoli, so you didn’t choose it. Asparagus still has nutritional relevance though, and in the end, holds value. The value of the asparagus, in this instance, is the overall opportunity cost of the choice you made.

So what do broccoli and asparagus have to do with fantasy football? Well, let’s pretend you’re in a snake draft. You’ve got the third-to-last pick in the first round, and you begin to contemplate whether or not you should select the top quarterback in the year’s class. With five seconds left before you run out of time, you decide to choose the quarterback, believing that the eighth-best running back just didn’t have the same amount of value as the top signal-caller.

Your roster now shows you have one player – a quarterback – and you feel good about it. “I’ve got my quarterback,” you say. But do you know what you don’t have? A top running back or receiver.

When you made your choice to select a passer in Round 1, you lost the opportunity to obtain first-round running back or wide receiver talent. You chose broccoli, but left the asparagus. And trust me, that asparagus was a better choice.

Historically, a top running back outscores a middle-of-the-road one by a larger margin than any other position. In other words, squads with a top running back are gaining a larger advantage over opponents with top quarterbacks. In standard leagues, this really can’t be disputed.

The reason people draft quarterbacks early is because of certainty. Will Aaron Rodgers be a top quarterback in 2013? Probably. Will C.J. Spiller be a top runner? He should, but there’s more risk.

But for just a second, let’s pretend that every position is equally inconsistent (to be fair, the consistency from position to position is a lot closer than you’d think). In this scenario, you’d know the first running back selected would finish as the top running back, the second as second and so on.

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