Most dynasty owners are guilty of living and dying by their biases whether it be against players from a certain college, players who are below a particular size threshold, or just players from entire positions. The most common of these is the “first impression” My initial intent when I set out to write this article was to state the reasons why I would not be drafting Devante Parker in my rookie drafts this year. My reasoning for this was based off of the evaluation of Parker that I made late during the regular season. This was not an in-depth evaluation, but it was enough to plant a bias firmly in my mind which influenced my thought processes about Parker throughout the entire off-season up to this point.
In order to prepare for this article I broke down every play that Devante Parker was involved in based on the tape that was available on Draftbreakdown.com. I looked at each play individually and identified what Parker did well and what he did poorly because initially I saw him as a WR that struggled with contested catches and that had a poorly developed route tree. At first his only real positive in my eyes was his athleticism and his solid hands. I didn’t have many positive things to say about Parker, and that is why this second assessment was so crucial to opening my eyes to how I viewed Parker and how I was crippling myself as a dynasty owner altogether. Doing this significantly removed my biases because I could not exaggerate the negatives to his game while also downplaying the positives to his game. This forced me to reassess my entire evaluation of Parker, and my entire process as a whole. When I watched the games that were available on Parker in November, I came away with a strong conviction that he struggled on contested catches and the only reason that the issue was not more apparent was because he was fairly skilled at gaining separation. I stuck to this narrative for months, so much so, that I almost completely wrote him off my draft board. This changed when I went back and charted his targets I found a player far different from the one I remember watching.
When I came back to Parker’s film I saw a WR with solid hands, that could adjust well to the ball, as well as track it through the air. He could turn on a dime for a comeback route, though he still looked uncomfortable in some of his other route running duties. Most importantly, I evaluated the plays that convinced me, in November, that he struggled with contested catches. After doing that, I realized what a small percentage of his targets that those issues actually occurred on. Previously, I allowed the negatives to stick out in my mind like a highlight reel; and when I thought of Parker those were the plays that came to mind. Having that mindframe was all it took to create my negative perception of Parker.
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This “first impression” bias is fairly common within the fantasy community, and it is a mind-set that most dynasty owners deal with on a pretty regular basis even if they do not realize it. A perfect example of this would be the hype that Cordarelle Patterson received as a prospect and as a rookie. People latched on to him and it took many weeks of him failing to produce before people were willing to go back to the drawing board. This is because people had an impression of him given to them by tape, metrics, or even an article by a respected analyst and it was difficult for owners of Patterson to move past that. I could list numerous other examples just from the 2014 season where similar situations occurred, but the point I am making is that these first impressions run rampant and without awareness it is extremely difficult to move past the bias they create.
When I began my evaluation, I sought out negative plays from Parker in order to enforce the impression I already had of him. This caused an interesting side effect, and that was when Parker made an impressive play or made a play that showed his proficiency in an area of his game, it stuck out to me much more than it would have during a normal evaluation. (Perfectly displayed by the above clip from Parker’s 2012 game against Pitt). This was immensely helpful in allowing me to see past my blinders, but it is not always that easy. Sometimes there are players or situations where owners are so invested in their personal narrative or viewpoint that they get tunnel vision and can’t envision a different reality separate from their narrative.
First impressions can cloud a dynasty owner’s judgement and cause us to make suboptimal decisions, but they do not always lend themselves to inimical results and that is the reason we continue to allow them to exist. Having positive results from a poor process does not validate the process however. This is why dynasty owners need to identify their biases and find ways to isolate those biases from their evaluations.