Over the last decade, we have seen high stakes leagues explode in popularity. Several high stakes leagues have come and gone in that time span, but the Fantasy Football Players Championship and its online sister, the Footballguys Players Championships, are alive and well. While many maintain fantasy football is far too luck-oriented, there are several players that consistently perform at a level above the average participant. We've asked them to give us some insight into how they approach the high stakes leagues. Here David Dodds sits down with high stakes veteran Jack Haan.
Name: Jack Haan
Occupation (when not playing fantasy football): Business attorney.
Family life: Married for 22 years, 3 children - ages 17, 14 and 10.
Years playing fantasy football: 23
Your biggest score(s) in fantasy football: Winning the NFFC Online championship.
Do you prefer drafting live or online? Why? Live. The interaction with players in a live draft is far more entertaining.
Name two players that you expect will be undervalued in most fantasy drafts this year. Explain why you think these sleepers could drastically outperform their ADP.
- Pierre Garcon - Historically, the position he plays in the Washington offense is the main targeted position. Then, when he played last year, his actual targets matched the historical numbers.
- Bryce Brown - His speed and talent are unique. He simply needs the experience to get up to speed for the years of college play that he missed. Even as a backup running back, he will get plenty of opportunities to put up some fantasy points in Chip Kelly's offense. If McCoy gets hurts, he is a top 5 running back.
Name two players that will not be on your roster at any draft position. Explain why you think these busts could drastically underperform their ADP.
- Rob Gronkowski - He is getting drafted too high for the surgeries he has had this year. These injuries will affect his play in the early part of this year. In a short high stakes season, this risk is too great for a 1st or 2nd round player.
- Reggie Wayne - The end of his great fantasy numbers is coming quickly. Too many players look at last year, and these fantasy players refuse to recognize the high probability that a player Wayne's age is about to suffer a great reduction in his numbers. The young and talented Indy WR's and TE's will be replacing his production very soon.
Give us a snapshot of how you prep for a fantasy draft once you know your draft position? I first determine what the quality and depth of the inventory is for each of positions (except kicker and defense) for that year. The strength of inventory for positions changes every year, and knowing these changes factors into my overall draft plan. For example, this year WR's are very deep. Then, I obtain the latest Average Draft Position data for the respective contest to determine where players are being drafted. Sometimes I prepare this information myself from recent drafts completed by friends. Using that information, I chart out on one page where my targeted players are being drafted next to what specific picks I have in each round. I will draft a critical targeted player at least one round early.
How do you go about evaluating talent that you will add via the waiver wire? I scout a player's playing opportunity with his team, both immediately and the likelihood he is a contributor in a few weeks. You must look forward to beat the other sharks to waiver picks and be willing to take flyers on players.
How much of fantasy football is skill? How much is luck? 50/50. People who lose like to blame the luck factor. However, year after year, the top players in the industry win on a far greater percentage than the average player.
What advice would you give a player taking a shot at high stakes for the 1st time? Without giving away all of your secrets, how can a newbie get up to speed quickly in the world of high stakes? Don't be afraid to think outside the box in a draft, and don't be overly influenced by the "norm". Just a few years ago, almost nobody drafted heavy WR's early in a high stakes draft, but were locked in to starting a draft with RB-RB. Times have changed. This also means times will change again. Relatedly, there are no industry "experts", despite many who are called as such. Each person has an opinion just like you do, so form your own opinions.
What is your favorite high stakes format? (Main Event, Draft Experts, Dynasty, Auction, etc). Why do you prefer this format? Auction. The strategies for putting a team together are endless. The concentration level and intensity necessary in an auction is far different than in a main event because of the flow of every auction.
To tight end or not to tight end? With the FFPC dual flex (and awarding 1.5 points per reception for tight ends), this position is extremely valuable. Do you generally pay a premium for a top five tight end or do you seek value at RB/WR and look to grab your tight end later? It completely depends on the respective year and the inventory. However, I usually do not place a premium on a top 5 TE, but will place the premium on getting at least 3 TEs with one or two of them being high upside picks.
Give us your top six picks in the FFPC Main Event:
- Doug Martin
- Jamaal Charles
- C.J. Spiller
- Jimmy Graham
- Calvin Johnson
- Adrian Peterson
Many of the best players in the FFPC wait on their quarterbacks. But with the NFL moving more and more to a passing league (and guys like Rodgers and Brees putting up ridiculous totals), when will you be looking to grab your QB in the Main Event? I have no set plan. For this year, I'd be surprised if I draft a QB prior to the 6th round, but this depends on the flow of the draft. If players are waiting on drafting a QB, I will take a top QB if the value is there.
Make a case for why someone should come to Vegas and participate in some high stakes events. The experience of drafting in a large ballroom with hundreds of other fantasy fanatics is unmatched in our hobby. Plus, an outgoing person gets to meet and greet many of the top industry players and form friendships along the way.
What's the biggest mistake you see high stakes players make? Drafting more than one defense or kicker.
Aside from the obvious payout and competition level, what's the biggest difference between high stakes leagues and regular leagues? Value rarely falls, especially at RB. You cannot wait to pick your "sleeper" player, because playing with the sharpest players increases the likelihood that the player you are waiting on to draft will be drafted before your next pick.
What's the thing you wished you'd learned 5 years ago? The greater your objectivity in assessing players, the better. It is easy to filter only the positive or negative informative into an assessment of a player to match your preconceived notions.