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Fantasy Football 2013: Avoid Biases, Beware the Deception of Numbers and Stats

Jamaal Charles Kansas City Chiefs

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

By now you have probably purchased a Fantasy Football magazine, maybe subscribed to a web service or simply printed off the latest cheat sheet so that you are up-to-date with all player projections.

In most cases these are great tools that offer you a good starting point for formulating your draft strategy – as long as you know what you are getting.

Most Fantasy Football experts – and we’re all guilty of this – advertise the player projections we nailed last year and every year prior to last season. No one is going to advertise their miss on the selection of Ryan Mathews in 2012 or remind you how they avoided Adrian Peterson like the plague last season even though the whole Fantasy Football world is pounding tables professing their man crushes on AP this year.

I say that in jest with the point being no Fantasy Football prognosticator nails every prediction every season; it just doesn’t happen.

By no means are these predictions drawn up with the “dart and dart board technique.” They are based on years of player production teamed with individualized metrics for determining consistency backed in some cases by good ‘ole fashioned gut feelings. Which is of course to say Fantasy Football predictions are merely educated guesses.

They are educated guesses that have a tendency to skew based on the writer or prognosticator’s likings because let’s be honest, numbers don’t lie but numbers can be deceptive. Don’t allow skewed numbers that appeal to your likings to impact your decision-making processes at draft time.

To illustrate what I am saying, let’s look at some popular trends and hype prior to this year’s drafts. Doug Martin and Jamaal Charles sit atop player rankings sheets with a bullet next to their name while players like Arian Foster, Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch continually see their stock plummet in many player projections.

If you love Martin and Charles you are swept off your feet with their season stats of 2012. Martin rushed for 1454 yards and 11 scores while Charles racked up 1509 rushing yards one season ago. Those numbers have the Fantasy Football world giddy with anticipation this year.

But what if I told you Charles had six games last season where he rushed for less than 50 yards? What if I added in the fact that he had one game of 10 yards and another of 53 during the fantasy playoffs last season and he scored in neither game? Concerning? Certainly is to me.

Did you know that Martin only rushed for over 100 yards five times last season? Not only that, he failed to reach the end zone in nine of the 16 games he played in. Factor those numbers with the understanding he rushed for 16 and 62 yards in two fantasy playoff games one season ago (without scoring a touchdown) and maybe the radiating glow of Martin dims a bit.

Meanwhile Lynch fell under 80 yards just twice last season, scored in nine games and finished the fantasy playoffs with 352 yards and five touchdowns. Yet Martin and Charles are drafted above him in many mock drafts I have participated in.

Morris finished the season with 1613 yards, he scored in nine games, was at or above 80 yards in 14 games last season and he finished the fantasy playoffs with 378 yards and six touchdowns. Yet Morris is drafted closer to tenth than he is fifth in most fantasy drafts? Why?

Everyone has heard that Foster is getting old and he is injury prone. I have seen him taken as late as fifth because of this common theme/misconception amongst Fantasy Football prognosticators.

What if I told you Foster was only 26 years old and that he has played in all 16 games in two of the three years he has been the Houston Texans‘ starting running back? What if I told you the one year he didn’t play the full season he only missed three games?

Those are true numbers; he has played in 45 of 48 games as the Texans starter. How does that justify his title of being injury prone? What if I told you 2012 was his best fantasy production yet? Does that change your mind about Foster, or do you have a counter point?

So what’s the bottom line? Do your own research, avoid biases and do your best to avoid deception – listen to the complete story stats have to tell. Best of luck.

Jim Heath is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jim_heath, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google