Over the last fifteen years, fantasy sports has gone from groups of hardcore sports fans pouring over newspaper box scores to a robust media industry. Stores now carry specific sections on the magazine rack for fantasy sport mags and major companies like TSN and ESPN run large media arms dedicated to fantasy sports. This shift has given rise to a new personality: the fantasy sports expert.
These experts give statistic and advice about fantasy sports in the same way financial analysts give advice to everyday people. And, just like financial analysts, they base their advice on information, knowledge, and a healthy dose of guessing. Often, that fantasy experts have to guess in the end can be wrong about the advice they give (which can cause backlash within the player community).
But, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of their true value to fantasy players. Views on fantasy experts seem to swing from the extreme of infallible to the other extreme of pointless. The truth, meanwhile, hovers between. Experts are valuable when used in an advisory role to a player’s decision making.
They are humans and are limited just like everyone else is. This means that they can be wrong, that they don’t know everything about what has happened and they know little about what will happen. Easy calls are far fewer than ambiguous ones. Everyone knows that Miguel Cabrera will finish the season as one of the best hitters in baseball. Few could have predicted the kind of season Nick Foles had for the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Variables outside the ability for anyone to reliably predict factored in, as a result many who predicted Foles to put up average performances were wrong, even though they made the safer choice.
They can have biases, as well. While this can mean team biases, I’m speaking more about bias against a specific player. Such a bias is difficult to avoid. I once saw a man in a league who drafted Tom Brady the year his knee was blown out in the first game. Despite him being an unquestionable top QB for years after, this guy could never bring himself to draft Brady again. He was just burned too bad after that. This type of bias is present in fantasy experts to, some even admit to it. The problem is that bias skews the objectivity needed for objective evaluation.
However, these experts are in a unique position. Most are part of a large, established company with statistical research departments. The fact that these experts are paid to research and gather statistics and trends gives them valuable information to distribute. I’d love to look at four-year trends for every player that I may draft for a new season, but I can’t. An expert can. They’re in a position to provide others with the information that comes with a large amount of time and resources dedicated to information gathering from a fantasy perspective.
This is their value that, although they are human and can often be wrong, they are the best positioned to be right. They are capable of putting a large amount of time and energy into research that most people can’t or won’t. If you've struggled to find them useful, just remember to take their advice with a grain of salt.