Eli Manning is a quarterback to target on your waiver wire. Oh, you’ve heard?
Who am I kidding? I’m not surprised. This week every writer who even feigns an interest in fantasy football has told you to either pick up Eli Manning or keep an eye on him as a name to watch.
Bleacher Report tells you to look to start Eli Manning in Week Five. An SBNation writer let you know that Eli Manning gets an amazing matchup this week. FantasyCPR encouraged us: Don’t be afraid to add Eli Manning off the waiver wire! FantasySeasonPass let us know that Eli Manning is improving. And NFL.com — known, of course, for its cutting-edge fantasy analysis — told us that Eli Manning may be worth a roster spot as your backup quarterback.
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Know the common element from all those articles? They were written after Eli Manning threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns last Thursday night against the Washington Redskins.
Know what’s much harder to find? Articles from the week before telling you Eli Manning should be picked up before he caught fire.
But why is that? Isn’t this something we could have seen coming? Or was it such a fluke that no one could have predicted this?
Eli Manning’s Success Was Predictable
Not only could we have predicted Eli’s improvement, but some did. Josh Berger and I wrote last week that Eli Manning had a cakewalk of matchups coming up and hadn’t looked bad the week before against the Houston Texans. We even got it up on audio Wednesday, telling fantasy owners to pick up Eli Manning before the Thursday night game.
Granted, we write to an audience of 2QB and Superflex enthusiasts who only needed Eli to break into the top twenty to make him worthwhile. But the point is that if mediocre fantasy analysts like us could see improvement coming, so could others.
Like we wrote, Eli had thrown for 75% accuracy and two touchdowns against a solid Texans defense in Week Three. That wasn’t rocket science; it was a box score. Like J. J. Zachariason has pointed out, Eli did all that against Houston, who was the fourth-best defense at that point.
We also pointed out how easy the upcoming matchups looked for Eli. That wasn’t rocket science; it took a couple clicks on any major fantasy site. If Eli could do it against Houston, odds were good he’d put up decent numbers against Washington, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Dallas, all of whom are in the bottom half of passing defenses in the league.
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Nothing about fantasy football is rocket science. It’s watching grown men play a game and drawing conclusions from what you see. At its most complex, it’s numbers and statistics at a basic freshman level. So why aren’t we getting advice that’s a bit more predictive? Advice that helps us a little further in advance?
Demand Better Fantasy Advice
So enough about Eli Manning. His case is just a symptom of a larger issue.
Like Eli, too many NFL players are hyped by the fantasy community only after they’ve hit a threshold level of interest. The Internet gets flooded with dozens of waiver wire articles every week of the regular season, and nearly every article is pitching the exact same players. If you followed nothing but the popular waiver wire articles, you’d be swimming with the crowd.
Swimming with the crowd might be enough to make the playoffs this year. It might even get you a championship in 2014. But if it does, it’s largely due to luck. If your approach is to follow the same advice everyone else in your league is following, you better find a very lucky rabbit’s foot if you want to lock up your league’s title this year.
Think about fantasy football like playing the stock market. If the best you can do is take the advice of the major finance shows and articles, you’ll almost always be buying high and selling low. As William Bernstein put it, it would be like playing tennis against an invisible opponent and realizing later it was actually one of the Williams sisters. If your best hope is that the other owners in your league are all less intelligent or less informed than you, odds are you’re wrong.
We all get an emotional rise out of reading or hearing fantasy advice we already knew. It makes us feel good. We feel informed. We feel smart. We feel like we deserve the championship.
But what we are all less comfortable with is seeking out advice that rubs us the wrong way. Advice that scares us. That advice, however, is exactly what you should be looking forif you want to win a fantasy football title.
No matter your fantasy league, you’re likely competing against seven, nine, eleven, or thirteen other owners. They all want to win the league. Probably as much or more than you do. They’re all soaking in fantasy news and advice, even if it’s only by checking the box scores each week.
So why are you doing the same things they’re doing? That’s turning fantasy football into a game of chance. Did you happen to pick the players who stay healthy? Did you happen to have the most free agent auction budget cash left when the next elite player broke out? If every owner takes the same fantasy advice, those elements of chance are what will determine who wins the championship.
Instead, you should push yourself to seek out novel ideas. Look for contrarian advice that goes against the mainstream.
But most importantly: stop reading the weekly waiver wire articles as your go-to source each week. That’s too late.
This week, spend some time looking at the players who will be next week’s hot pickups, and stop obsessing over this week’s waiver wire finds.