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Recency Bias and its Impact on Dynasty (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Joshua Lefkowitz | @JLefkoNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 27, 2021

Recency bias occurs without escape in the world of fantasy football, especially in the sector of dynasty leagues. This method of thinking follows the basis of valuing what has happened most recently over historical occurrences.

When looking at dynasty assets, people tend to value younger players higher than proven veterans because the potential upside of a prospect blooming into a fantasy stud outweighs being tied to an aging veteran who has gone over the hill. However, understanding recency bias and its effect on fantasy manager’s strategy, it is easy to take advantage of these situations.

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Examining Recency Bias

Let’s take a look at Stefon Diggs as an example. After a somewhat disappointing 2019 campaign in which Diggs’ receptions dropped from 102 in 2018 to 63 in 2019, he was widely faded by the fantasy football community. Heading into 2020, his Average Draft Position, or ADP, was the WR23.

Despite being historically productive with an elite skillset often overlooked due to the offensive scheme in Minnesota, once Diggs changed teams and situations, many analysts fell victim to fading Diggs because his most recent season did not live up to preconceived expectations. Recency bias allowed Diggs to become an incredible value in fantasy leagues and for those targeting him via trade. Diggs exploded in his first season in Buffalo, finishing as the WR3 while finishing first among wide receivers in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.

Exploiting your league mates who fall for recency bias can correlate to future fantasy success. As Free Agency and the NFL Draft rolls through like a thunderous storm cloud shaking up the entire league, managers will grow nervous of certain players and will look to trade them off.

If you see another Diggs situation unfolding, hop on that and try to buy-low. People buy into false narratives every offseason that rarely come to fruition. Study and research ADP. If there’s an elite player who is absurdly lower than he should be, target them through trades or in startup drafts at a great value.

On the other hand, certain player’s values might be peaking right now, which presents a great sell-high window. Despite a player performing at a high level the year before and the potential for more stellar years to come, knowing when to trade a player and at what price is detrimental to your teams future success. Often it is best to trade aging running backs on their second contract before they fall over the cliff. Players like Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, Mark Ingram, and David Johnson, who were all high draft picks in redraft leagues and dynasty, are almost undraftable in 2021.

Understanding the right time to move on from a player separates true dynasty contenders from the pretenders and rebuilders.

It is easy to feel “burned” by a player after a disappointing season. But holding grudges in a made-up game will prove to burn you harder than that player ever did. Don’t hold hard feelings or prejudice about a player. Recency bias (and fantasy twitter) has crowned Joe Mixon a fade because of his up and down, injury-filled 2020 season. Any fantasy diehard who has partaken in a startup draft at this point in the offseason has seen how far Mixon has dropped. Due to recency bias, Mixon has become an incredible value, and if he returns high-end RB2 numbers or better, something he is more than capable of doing, he will be a steal for managers in 2021.

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Concluding Thoughts

Project-forward, don’t live in the past. If a player didn’t live up to your expectations from the season before, leave that mindset beyond you and focus on moving into the future. Fantasy managers are impatient and want results right away.

If a rookie had an underwhelming season in the minds of the masses, but you believe they are capable of living up to expectations and producing at a high-level, such as Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, take a chance and look to acquire them for your fantasy squad.

Jump on the opportunity of buying-low on players who fit the trend of recency bias that you believe can bounce back and prove to be a valuable fantasy asset once again.

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