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Fantasy Football: Some Q&A from ESPN's Christopher Harris' Chat

As we start getting into fantasy football, here's a few questions from the most recent fantasy football chat over at ESPN with Christopher Harris.

Shawn (Port St. Lucie, FL): What draft spot would you least like to have in a standard 12 team league?

CH: Hi, Shawn. I did a research piece for ESPN the Magazine's preview issue to see if I could find an optimal draft spot, though that was for a 10-team draft (which is's standard game). I looked at the Average Draft Position heading into drafts for the past 10 seasons, and assigned players to Team 1, Team 2, Team 3, etc. based on ADP (and, to some extent, positional need). Then I looked back after the season, and saw which teams scored the most fantasy points. It turned out that for a 10-teamer, as you might expect the #1 and #2 teams performed very well; what was less expected was that the #10 team was also really strong. Weakest were the middle teams, on average: #s 5, 6 and 7. I can't promise that the same holds true for 12-team drafts because I haven't done the legwork, but I suspect it's similar. So I guess in general I think I'd least like to be in that 7, 8, 9 spot of a 12-teamer.... Again, though, these are composite-style analyses; in any single year, the variability is pretty high.

I thought this was interesting, as logically the point of a snake draft is to try to limit the effect of something like this from happening. That said, it does seem to have an impact, especially if you end up with a selection near one end or the other of the draft.

Mark (MI): How can you justify drafting a WR in the first round? SO much has to go right for them to be productive... WHy not take a RB or QB instead?

CH: Hi, Mark. In theory, I want to agree with you, but recent history indicates that the top receivers have actually been easier to predict than the top rushers. Look at the litany of RBs taken in the first round last year who busted: Forte, Turner, Tomlinson,

. If you took the top WRs (
, Fitzgerald, Moss), you did just fine for yourself.... I think that's how you justify it.

This is something I am really interested in this season. There seem to be so many timeshares for running backs and I liked the argument that predictability is crucial. While I don't think that reaching for them is necessarily the right idea, the strategy of RB-RB is no longer a lock.

Matt (DC): Do brandon jacobs and marion barber have anything left in the tank?

CH: Hi, Matt. I think each guy's tank is probably fine -- neither is even close to 30. But their legs are definitely at question. Jacobs can't keep from knee injuries, and Barber lost a lot of burst last year because of a thigh problem. If I'm picking one guy who has the higher upside, it probably has to be Jacobs, because if he stays healthy, he's a beast. But heck, I know folks at ESPN who love Barber this year because they think if he goes back to his "closer" role a la the final season of Julius

in Dallas, he could go back to being a TD machine. Neither guy is inside my top 25 RBs right now, though.

I did a mock draft earlier in the day today that I will hopefully be writing up after the 4th, and they lasted to the 8th and 10th rounds respectively. I haven't done a whole lot of research yet, but it seems to me that both of them were way too late.

Randy (USA): Chris I am going to test you allegiance to the fantasy world! How much of fantasy football is luck and how much is skill? Give me percentages please! Thanks!

CH: Hi, Randy. I would say it's probably 65-35 skill vs. luck. You have to put yourself in position with a competent, consistent, high-upside team. But absolutely, injuries and just random downturns can slaughter you. I think a good team usually positions itself to get to the playoffs, and maybe the Final Four of a league. After that...the crap shoot nature does tend to come in.

That seems about right to me. I played in a league a couple of years ago where I went undefeated through to the finals, and got smoked in the finals. As it was happening, I was confused because I had defeated the team I was playing in the finals pretty handily. It wasn't until I went back and looked at the original matchup that I figured out that the other team had their QB, RB1, RB2 and WR1 all on bye in the same week. Lucky timing originally I suppose.