Recently, there seems to have been a proliferation of opinions on dynasty Twitter and other corners of the fantasy football universe on the ubiquity of hot takes. This seems fueled by a divisive rookie class and a lack of substantial player movement during free agency. Since February, five different players have been selected as the 1.01 in DLF rookie mocks, while free agency was a wasteland for skill position players outside of Le’Veon Bell and was only propped up by the high profile trades of Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown. This lack of movement gave us little to talk about besides rookies as a community, while a lack of consensus on rookies allows for more viewpoints to be heard and validated. In 2018, there was little disagreement among the influencers in the community on Saquon Barkley as the 1.01, and thus individuals not at the top of rookie scouting depth charts were unlikely to have their voices heard because there was less interest in another analyst trumpeting Barkley. Even those with concerns about Barkley were offering them in the context of “he’s great, but I’m worried he’s not as great as everyone says he is” rather than any true questions about his place in the draft class.
2019 is a year without such a consensus, which is an incredible opportunity for those within the community who are not as well known to make their mark. High profile individuals disagree on whether Hakeem Butler is a one year wonder, N’Keal Harry being good, and whether D.K. Metcalf and Josh Jacobs are deserving of fantasy players’ high-value picks despite underwhelming raw college production. Intelligent analysts who begin on the periphery of reader and listener minds can use their voices to offer greater depth into these players. This is a good thing! Diversity of opinion leads to new methods of thinking about these players and allows for new individuals to stand up and make a case. Fantasy players who engage at the level of watching tape and analyzing data themselves can find individuals who share what they value in prospects and learn from them, while they can also find individuals who clash with their beliefs and examine flaws in their own process. Players who depend on analysts to form their opinions because they either choose or are unable to go as deep are also served by the greater diversity of opinions available. They can still take in a number of perspectives and are challenged more to decide for themselves. In choppy waters, we all become better sailors.
This is where the question of hot takes - or bold statements, depending on who you ask - becomes an issue. The definition of a hot take is nebulous, but something we understand without having ever truly seen a definition. Your context may differ slightly, but it is widely understood as an opinion which goes against the norm. Some are just gut feelings, while others are the result of countless hours of analysis and experience. Neither are bad, but both are more valuable when understood within the context of the person making the take. Certainly, your cousin down the street telling you Barkley’s 2019 is going to be one of 3,000 yards from scrimmage is of less value than a respected draft analyst telling you Barkley is going to be a good player. You can evaluate your cousin’s prediction by knowing both the past occurrences of such an event in NFL history and their football acumen, while you can also judge the analyst on both their track record and their arguments specifically about Barkley.
In years of certainty, the trumpeting of a universally viewed lesser prospect over a higher one requires a certain degree of work, both in analysis and presentation. One could have ranked Nick Chubb over Barkley in 2018 - and some did - but those individuals received scrutiny for their choice. Analysts who offer the contrarian perspective in years of certainty must prove the other - must make their case soundly - or their ideas will be dismissed out of hand. It does not matter if they are right; analysts will lose credibility if they go against consensus unless they can offer a strong argument for why they are doing so.
In years without consensus, the barrier to entry is much lower. We as content consumers know there is uncertainty, so we are more willing to accept items which could be viewed as outlandish as a possibility. In a year with five players in discussions on a reputable website as the 1.01, adding a sixth player is not a strange thought, though who said player might be is. Is this dangerous unto itself? No, but this is dependent on the context in which the opinion is offered. Just as in years of certainty, a thorough, well-thought-out analysis of a player deserves respect, all of which is then judged in the context of the previous work by the analyst. If the process and work are on display and show a logical argument, the analyst should have established credibility. While the take may be against the grain and thus hot, this does not make the thought bad. Plenty of smart people in fantasy football have made a name for themselves by going against the grain with good reason.
Unfortunately, too many people know and attempt to exploit this. Uncertainty leads to opportunity, a chance for an analyst to make a name for themselves based on the sheer audacity and differentiation of their opinion for the masses. Ranking on Twitter without context is the perfect example. A new analyst displays enough aptitude to rank players and the confidence to put those rankings out and takes advantage of the uncertainty at the top of the draft to make an argument without much context. With any level of engagement, the ranking is then distributed to a number of people who run the gamut from engaging in their own rankings to depending on analysts to form opinions. Without context, we as consumers do not know if this is good work with a strong process which led to a unique result, or a lazy attempt to get their name out there without engaging in the level of work which befits such recognition. Lack of context disenfranchises consumers, and if the work does turn out to be nefarious - done without work, for recognition, etc. - no one benefits. Content consumers begin to distrust everyone, making the barrier for entry higher for all. The analyst trying to gain credibility will not benefit, as if they’re making an absurd statement to gain attention which flops, the community will remember the attempt.
I have this discussion with our writers here at Dynasty Happy Hour all the time: you can’t just tell me what’s right, you need to show me why it is. Share the context of your data, your film. Don’t accept “I’m just trying to start a conversation” as a rationale for putting a piece out into the aether, believe what you’re saying and be ready to defend it wholeheartedly. For our writers who depend on watching film: put film into your pieces. For our data analysts: show your process for creating these calculations. Writers push back and point to respected analysts who do not include their process in every piece, as do analysts called out for the Twitter scenarios such as above. Analysts who have earned the following and credibility which comes from significant output and success can afford to skip over their description of their process due to this banked goodwill. Even so, many of the best still at least outline their process each and every time they put out new work to ensure consumers new to their content have an understanding of where their thoughts come from. Analysts without such success should not be held to a lower standard because they’re just starting out. “Trust me, I’ve watched the tape” is never an acceptable answer. It’s specifically because you’ve watched the tape and seen something different we want to know the how and why. Arguments without analysis should not be given credence or attention.
In the end, going against consensus is acceptable, be it a year of consensus or one of uncertainty. As content consumers, we want to be exposed to different ideas, differing styles, and a variety of perspectives to look at this hobby we have. The hot take, the different idea, is not invalid; it can be a learning experience. What is bad is the opinion presented without context, and we as a community can do a better job pushing back on it. It is not too much to ask those who offer opinions to provide their rationale, and we all learn from the experience. As my colleague of Dynasty Happy Hour Jesse Patterson (@df_patterson) says, “you can be part of the community while standing out.” I welcome your hot take, as I want to learn why you think there is a possibility of something different than the generally accepted views on a subject; I also want to know why such a thing may happen. The hot take itself is not the problem, but rather the attempt to make noise without substance. Bring the knowledge, and we all sail better together.