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How to Leverage Recency Bias to Win Your Dynasty League (Fantasy Football)

by Jim Colombo | @WideRightNBlue | Featured Writer
Mar 25, 2020

Are you the type of person who asks, “What have you done for me lately?”

If so, you might suffer from recency bias –– a cognitive phenomenon that occurs when your brain favors fresher memories instead of older ones. In other words, it’s the reason we can remember what we had for lunch today but not last Wednesday.

Makes sense, right? Well, here’s the thing…

In fantasy football, recency bias is a deadly poison. It will destroy your team, leaving you to writhe in agony as another championship season slips away.

Fortunately, your friends at FantasyPros have the antidote.

Here are three ways to leverage recency bias to win your dynasty league.

And if you stick around until the end, I’ll even throw in some dynasty players to buy and sell, too. Or, I dunno, just scroll down to that section right now if you want. IDGAF. I’m not the boss of you.

Still with me? Let’s go.

Complete early mock drafts using our free draft simulator >>

Temper Your Expectations

Here are some recency bias nightmare scenarios we’ve all experienced — and how to make sure they never happen again.

Scenario 1: Unexpected Explosions
One of your mid-level players absolutely blew up in Week 3, and now — despite your best judgement — you’re tempted to start him over one of your top-tier players in Week 4. Why? You’ve convinced yourself he’ll post similar numbers. Maybe you start him, maybe you don’t, but either way, you’ve been gripped by the neon claws of recency bias.

Scenario 2: Slow Starters
One of your star players has gotten off to a sluggish start. You’re starting to regret drafting him, you’re sick of looking at his stupid face, and you’re thinking about putting him on the trading block. So, what do you do? You make a deal with the shadiest manager in your league, wheeling your slow-starting star for a couple of low-level players who are performing reasonably well now. You know how this story ends.

Scenario 3: Sleeping on Sleepers
You scored one of your favorite sleepers of the summer, but he’s not getting the opportunities you expected out of the gate. His lack of action persists into the second half of the season, and your patience is toast. This late in the season, you might need to replace an injured player or a busted draft pick, so you drop your sleeper. Then what happens? He finally gets a shot in like Week 12 and emerges as a league winner. Just brutal.

Onward and Upward
We’ve been down these roads more times than we’d like to admit. How can we learn from these recency bias mistakes?

We must be the masters of our own domain. Be patient. Stay calm. Don’t act irrationally.

Even for trade-happy, wheeling and dealing, riverboat gambling fantasy managers like me, understanding how recency bias works will empower you to make better decisions throughout the season.

Research!

Now that you’re familiar with recency bias, you’ll need to know how to detect it. What’s the best way to do so? Research!

In all three of the scenarios we just looked at, you need to do more than just say, “Whoa, this guy had a monster game last week,” or “WTF?! My first-round draft pick stinks this year,” or “My sleeper pick hasn’t gotten a touch all season!” Even if those things are true, you’ve got to see through the recency bias and think about other circumstances at play.

Before you freak out and make a move you’ll regret later, consider the following:

Level of Competition
Has your player been going up against the best defenses in the league? The worst? The NFL is an unforgiving battleground of world-class athletes, so even the best players get shut down from time to time. On the flip side, don’t get too excited if your no-name wide receiver torches the league’s worst secondary.

Game Flow
Sometimes the pace of a game will eat into a player’s productivity. Penalties hurt game flow and put teams in compromised situations, altering their game plan. Going up or getting down early can impact player targets and touches. Look beyond the box score and find out how the game was truly played.

Weather
You’re always checking the weather to see if you should start a player before kickoff, but have you ever gone back to see how the weather impacted a game after the final whistle? Try to find game highlights or read about how the weather impeded or improved a player’s performance.

Coaching Schemes
This is a perfect time to talk about how annoying it can be to own New England Patriots players because coach Belichick is constantly reconfiguring his plan of attack from week to week. If a player has just blown up or laid an egg, is it because the team ran or passed the ball more than you expected? Less than you expected? Know who your players’ coaches and coordinators are so you have an idea of how they run their offenses and use players.

Player Chemistry
My fantasy-focused friend Ken just pointed out to me that a player’s performance can also vary based on the chemistry he develops with his teammates. We typically see this with quarterbacks and wide receivers. For example, look at the Ryan FitzpatrickDeVante Parker connection from last year. Is that a sustainable scenario? Probably not.

For insights into these areas, dig into team stats, highlights, and player profiles at FantasyPros, Yahoo! Sports, and USA Today Sports. Follow NFL beat writers on Twitter to see what the’re saying about player relationships. Also, if you can access actual game tapes or all-22 footage on YouTube, you’ll be able to boost your football IQ and make your own informed decisions.

Ruthlessly Exploit Your Leaguemates

Okay, now that you’re an expert in recency bias, you can use your knowledge to ruthlessly exploit the other managers in your league. You know exactly who to target, too, don’t you? Sure you do. Every league has that guy or gal who always falls for the pop and sizzle of recency bias. But not you. You know better. Now’s the time to use your powers against the unsuspecting suckers in your league.

If a typically underperforming player on your team just went off on an injury-hobbled cornerback, had a 30-carry game in a muddy blowout, or benefited from some connections with a short-term quarterback-you know what to do.

Strike while the iron’s hot! See if you can move your flash-in-the-pan player for a guy who’s been underperforming against elite-level competitors. Dish ’em now and strut your stuff to another championship later.

In your dynasty league? You. Must. Be. Forward. Thinking.

When you’re dealing with recency bias and the transactions it may — or may not –– call for, be smart. Take a close look at the circumstances and determine who the best players on your team will be moving forward. Build your dynasty, damnit!

Dynasty Players to Buy and Sell

All that said, here are some players to buy and sell in your dynasty leagues (excluding rookies). And yes, in addition to thinking about all the points we just looked at, remember that player age and situation are also a factor.

Dynasty Players to Buy Dynasty Players to Sell
Josh Allen

Teddy Bridgewater

Miles Sanders

David Montgomery

Nick Chubb

Courtland Sutton

Tyler Lockett

Christian Kirk

Allen Robinson

Hunter Henry

Dawson Knox

Noah Fant

Kirk Cousins

Ryan Tannehill

Melvin Gordon

Carlos Hyde

Duke Johnson, Jr.

DeVante Parker

Odell Beckham, Jr.

Keenan Allen

DeAndre Hopkins

A.J. Green

Jared Cook

Kyle Rudolph

Austin Hooper

Complete early mock drafts using our free draft simulator >>


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Jim Colombo is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Jim, check out his archive and follow him @WideRightNBlue.

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