Fantasy football is a game. All the football knowledge in the world isn't going to help you win unless you are willing to improve your game-playing skills. Human beings tend to process information in similar ways, and as such, we are prone to making similar mistakes.
While we all have heard the advice, "Never judge a book by its cover," the truth of the matter is we do this every day. We decide based on first impressions.
Ever decided not to hire a guy because he was five minutes late for a meeting? Or crossed the street to avoid having to talk to someone? Maybe left a bar because you got a bad vibe from the patrons?
These feelings are natural, but they don't always lead to the best decisions. What's worse is we humans tend to hold on to these first impressions, despite all subsequent evidence to the contrary. Modern decision theorists refer to this phenomenon as anchoring.
In business, anchoring causes us to hire and promote the wrong people. In fantasy football, the phenomenon causes owners to keep the wrong players on their rosters, because before the season started there were high hopes for these players' numbers.
This article examines a real-world, fantasy football example, where anchoring is affecting the decision-making of vast numbers of owners. If you can free your mind from these chains, you can score more points over time than most of your competitors.
Laurence Maroney (RB) New England Patriots
Before the season started, Laurence Maroney was expected to be the feature back on the highest-scoring offense in the league. Maroney was a standout in the second half of last season, and the Patriots were returning most of their record-breaking offense.
We all know what happened to Tom Brady in Week One. After five weeks of play, we can be assured that this Patriots team isn't going to score very many points.
Even before his injury, Maroney was far from featured on this low-scoring team. He shared carries with Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and LaMont Jordan.
According to a popular fantasy site, Maroney is owned in 69 percent of leagues. More than both Michael Pittman (37 percent) and Tim Hightower (39 percent). Pittman and Hightower are the established short yardage backs on the third- and fifth-highest scoring offenses in the NFL.
The Broncos are averaging 29.8 points per game this year, the Cardinals 29.4. The Patriots are scoring only 19.8 points per game, yet the marriage to Maroney continues in most leagues.
Making It Worse
In a recent Washington Post article, a political study was conducted on how likely people are to change their minds. The Yale University study showed that after people are shown facts that refute their opinion, for most people these opinions become more strongly held than before.
The political scientists concluded that when people's beliefs are contradicted by facts, most human beings argue back in their own minds, twisting their perceptions until they come to their originally held conclusion.
In other words, people are naturally stubborn. At least it's not just me.
What Should I Do?
Take an honest look at your roster and look for players who do the same job on higher-scoring teams. Unless you have a football reason for thinking your player is going to bounce back, he probably isn't.
Pick up some guys who are doing it now. If you make the proper adjustments midseason, you can make up for a multitude of draft-day errors, but you must first let go of your draft-day assumptions. You must be willing to change your mind in the face of new facts.
If you are aware of the mistakes that human beings are predisposed towards making, you'll make better decisions in both fantasy football and life.