Right or Wrong: Preying on Owner Tendencies

By Jeff Melbostad (@Jeff_DFW)

Now is the time of year when we all need a little something to get our competitive juices flowing.  Sure the draft is coming and dynasty leagues are in full trading effect as always but this is an otherwise slow time of year for our beloved NFL.  The Morality in Fantasy Football series is aimed at doing just that.  Tough questions that no one really has a definitive answer for intrigue me.  I love debating and re-debating (as my wife well knows) topics in great detail.  So let’s all make it happen with the topic of Preying on Owner Tendencies.

Fantasy football is a great competitive outlet for all of us.  If you’re reading this you likely agree with that assessment.  We compete to win and we win by competing our hardest.  Often times “hardest” means taking advantage of our fellow league-mates.  We all have an owner in our league that LOVES his or her NFL team and favors all players that play for that team.  Every league we’re in has a guy who prefers to build through the draft as a strategy or, on the flip side, a gal who is always itching to trade.  I’ve never been in a league where someone didn’t have a fascination with one particular player or another.  These situations exist all over the place and they’re completely natural.  The question really becomes whether it’s right or wrong to take advantage of them.  Are you exploiting your opponent’s weakness to your advantage or are you ripping someone off because they have a skewed view of things?

Let’s take a look at each of the situations I mentioned individually.  The first situation I mention is playing with a league mate with a favorite team fetish.  I’m a die-hard Vikings fan and while I don’t feel like I favor Viking players all that much the unintended bias is there.  Perhaps not as much as some of the guys I play with in leagues though.  In a league where someone has a crush on their team you can often net great deals by selling that guy or gal a player who plays for his squad.  The Vikings just signed Mike Wallace this offseason and I bet he’s a hot commodity in leagues dynasty leagues going on in Minneapolis.  Hell, in my leagues I’ve even seen the Minnesota defense go for a hefty price (at times), which is something a defense just should never do.  We all succumb to the favorite team bias here and there so we’re all susceptible to being taken advantage of at least a little.  So is it wrong for others to take advantage of us for it?  Should they be seeking us out simply because they know they have a player on our favorite team?  Seems at least a little bit wrong doesn’t it?

Now on to the second situation.  Everyone has their own fantasy football strategy.  It’s engrained in us and affects every move we make in a dynasty league.  I personally tend to favor proven older talent over young potential and don’t value draft picks highly at all unless it’s a top 3 pick.  Now that you all know that you can take advantage of me right?  But is it good karma to do so?  Preying on something so fundamental to our fantasy existence is like a sin against the fantasy gods.  Some people like to trade.  Sometimes to their detriment.  But that doesn’t mean we should all be force-feeding them offers does it?  Someone who loves draft picks is fine, but are we taking advantage of him or her by feeding the need?

Situation three.  There is nothing more deadly in a dynasty league than someone who believes unwittingly in a player…  either for that owner or for everyone else.  If a guy is willing to give up a ridiculous amount for Jonathan Stewart, for instance, because he believes in his “talent” – that can impact everyone in the league.  Should you benefit just because you happen to be the owner of that player?  Should everyone else in the league suffer because your team gets significantly stronger than the rest of the field?  Yet another instance of preying on owner tendencies and a hint of the fallout that can occur by doing so.

So I’ve hit you with a bunch of situations and a bunch of questions.  Now let’s reel it in a bit.  A competition (which is what fantasy football is) means one person wins and one person loses.  To do so one person has to take advantage of a strength or a weakness in order to beat out the other player.  The actual strengths and weaknesses can vary from situation to situation, but we’re all trying to do the same thing here aren’t we?  We’re all trying to secure our legacy as a true dynasty and win multiple league championships.  Taking advantage of other owners equals winning.  Knowing your opponents is akin to scouting.  It’s something that has to be done (at least to some extent) for us to get ahead and actually win a championship.

I agree with the sentiment in the previous paragraph, but I also don’t think it’s quite that simple.  Sometimes our league mates just know too much about us.  Playing in leagues where you’ve been friends with everyone for years means you know owner tendencies all too well.  Steve always drafts running backs and Russell will trade for the newest shiny toy without thinking twice.  Does this fact itself cause a problem?  If you take advantage of those tendencies does it create a paranoia of sorts.  Maybe keep people from revealing things like that and trying to hide their personality?  Does it give dynasty newbies pause because they know there are a bunch of sharks waiting to rip them to shreds as soon as they smell blood in the water?  It’s certainly a possible scenario.  And taking advantage of people too much is never, ever a good thing.

In my opinion this practice is wrong.  At least a little bit immoral I dare say.  Sure it’s fine in small bursts, but to continually take advantage of someone isn’t the way to go.  I know what you’re going to say next.  You can’t cheat the willing right?  If a guy will pay you a handsome price for one of your players it’s not like you’re going to turn it down.  You can’t protect people from themselves either.  Tendencies exist for a reason and the reason is that the owner thinks what they’re doing is to their benefit.  If we keep them from making their own decisions or fail to give them the options they’re seeking out that creates its own set of problems.  An owner shouldn’t be in your league if they can’t make their own decisions.  Those statements are certainly true when applied in moderation.  But as a steadfast rule I just can’t get on board with all of those “excuses”.  I get that we’re playing a competitive game and that we’re trying to do all we can to win, but we want to give everyone their fair shake.  To take advantage of an owner consistently can harm every owner in the league.  So think about that the next time you’re looking to rip off Jimmy because he loves the Patriots.

The key here is for everyone to know their weaknesses and to not let them be exploited.  I fully admit when I love a certain player and realize when it’s becoming a detriment.  Many times an approach I’ll take is to spread out my tendencies amongst a few leagues.  Even though I have favorite players I’ll limit my consumption of them.  If I already have them in 2 or 3 leagues that’s quite enough.  I’ll take a chance on someone else in my other leagues so I spread my risk and also limit the ability of other owners to take advantage of that tendency.  Small things like this can go a long way in helping out the victim and really the league as a whole to a great extent.  So just make sure you realize that you do, in fact, have weaknesses in addition to your strengths.  We all do… the secret is to not let them be taken advantage of.

Now that we’ve hacked this issue to death I’d like to hear what all of you have to say about taking advantage of owner tendencies.  The brilliance of the Morality in Fantasy Football series is that there is no right or wrong answer.  Sure I gave you mine but I would love to hear yours as well.  Have you encountered this type of situation before?  I have to think that for 90% of you reading the answer is yes.  So share your experience and either reinforce my view or change my mind.  We all learn from each other in this sport and issues of morality like this often get overlooked or not thought about.  Hit me up in the article comments or the forums.  I’d love nothing more than to discuss this with you all.