A Fantasy Football Draft By The Machine
I know that many of you have used artificial intelligence programs before (I know I have), and you've always been disappointed with the results (I know I have). All of that is about to change. With the release of The Machine we're entering the next age in fantasy sports – the age of true artificial intelligence.
To read all about The Machine just click on the link, but here's a quick recap.
The Machine is an in-draft tool that helps you draft your team. It's a dynamic program that takes everything that is happening at the draft table into account before telling you who the best picks are to make. It not only suggests which player is the right one, it also tells you which position is best (you might really like RGIII over Stafford which The Machine likes. Even if you don't want to go with the player suggested, Stafford, you can still follow the advice of The Machine that is telling you now is the time to take a QB). The Machine is constantly reassessing the situation with every single pick in the draft. You no longer have to worry about when to take your tight end or defense. The Machine will tell you. Gone are the days of second guessing whether you're making the right selection or not. The Machine will tell you the right way to go based upon how the draft is unfolding (read the article linked to above to learn more about the other features The Machine has such as trade advice, waiver-wire advice, starting lineup recommendations etc).
So let's put The Machine to work. I recently used The Machine to complete a 12 team PPR draft on RT Sports. Here is the lineup the leagues uses.
1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, 1 DEF 7 BENCH SPOTS
How did my team turn out with the help of The Machine?
QB: Matthew Stafford (5th round), Michael Vick (12) RB: Doug Martin (1), Darren Sproles (3), Shane Vereen (4), Bernard Pierce (8), Roy Helu (5) WR: Larry Fitzgerald (2), Miles Austin (6), Cecil Shorts (7), Kenny Britt (8), Alshon Jeffrey (8) TE: Kyle Rudolph (5), Rob Housler (9) K: (16) DEF: Cleveland Browns (15)
Here's a pick by pick breakdown.
Round 1, #2 overall The Machine: Take Calvin Johnson The Oracle (that's me by the way): Took Doug Martin It's a PPR setup, but with only two starting WRs I couldn't pass up on an elite running back to take Johnson. There is a better chance a WR1 is still on board in Round 2 than an elite running back.
Round 2 The Machine: Darren Sproles The Oracle: Larry Fitzgerald So, I ended up with Martin/Fitzgerald over Calvin Johnson/Sproles. Which side would you rather have? We can argue, but I'll argue that my duo is stronger. Sproles is a fine player, but his upside is nowhere near as high as that of Martin. Still, the Machine would have left you with the best WR in football and a running back that we're about to learn more about...
Round 3 The Machine: Darren Sproles The Oracle: Darren Sproles It's a PPR setup, and though folks don't usually realize it, Sproles is a top-15 option in that setup. The last two seasons he's been #5 (2011) and #13 (2012) in a PPR setup at the RB position, and Sean Payton is back calling plays this season in New Orleans.
Round 4 The Machine: Told Me a QB The Oracle: Shane Vereen There's no way I'm taking a QB in the 4th round, not with only three quarterbacks drafted at the time and my stubbornness at avoiding signal callers early. I would have taken Le'Veon Bell instead at RB but he has a Week 9 Bye, the same as Doug Martin, so I went with the next highest RB on the list.
Round 5 The Machine: Suggested a QB The Oracle: Matthew Stafford Stafford was the best QB left, no problem there, but the fact is that taking a QB this early was a mistake in my eyes. Why do I say that? When my next selection was up the following three QBs were still there – RGIII, Romo and Luck. I would have been in great shape if I had waited to take a QB in the 6th round. Still, I bet most will see this pick and have no issue with it.
Round 6 The Machine: DeSean Jackson The Oracle: Miles Austin I love Austin as a WR3, but as a WR2? This is what happened when I went with the advice to take a QB last time around. I would have preferred to have had Hakeem Nicks, Antonio Brown, Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Mike Wallace or Pierre Garcon over Austin. In essence, I got Stafford/Austin instead of Romo/and one of those WRs. I'd have rather had the Romo side of things.
Round 7 The Machine: Cecil Shorts The Oracle: Cecil Shorts I agree with The Machine, Shorts was the best WR available. Unfortunately, he has a Week 9 Bye, same as Stafford and Fitzgerald, so I'm loading up on players with a Week 9 Bye, but talent is talent.
Round 8 The Machine: Anquan Boldin The Oracle: Kenny Britt Boldin is immanently safer than Britt, no question about that, but Boldin has a Bye in... you guessed it, Week 9. Hence Britt is on the squad (he was the next highest ranked WR).
Round 9 The Machine: Danny Woodhead The Oracle: Bernard Pierce Talent is starting to get pretty thin at running back with Pierce being one of the few handcuffs left that will have a role each week thereby offering a flex option here and there (whereas most handcuffs won't play enough unless the main guy goes down to injury). Woodhead would have been a solid pick here given that he's likely to see a ton of 3rd down work in San Diego, but I thought I could get get a very similar player later in the draft (hint, he plays for the Redskins).
Round 10 The Machine: Defense The Oracle: Kyle Rudolph Rudolph was the only top-10 option at tight end still on the board. That trumps the value of a defense. The Machine did have it right in listing Rudolph as the best option at TE on the board (Owen Daniels went with the next pick right after me, so I struck at the right time).
Round 11 The Machine: Defense or Kendall Wright The Oracle: Michael Vick This league allows trading. At this point of the draft, would you rather have Kendall Wright, Alshon Jeffrey or Michael Vick? If Vick is healthy, he's easily got a shot at being a top-10 QB. He's going underrated in many leagues, including this one. It's an upside pick that could lead to a bounty on the trade market, or give me the best backup QB in the league in case my top dog goes down to injury. If going QB, The Machine was playing it safe and suggested Andy Dalton. Given that we're talking about a backup QB in a one QB league, I would much rather take the upside play (Vick) than the boring/safe one (Dalton). Still, it's not like Dalton is a bad pick at all in the 11th round.
Round 12 The Machine: Defense or Rueben Randle The Oracle: Alshon Jeffrey I'd rather have Randle over Jeffrey, but it's close. Looking at the Bye Weeks, Randle is of course out on Week 9, so it's obvious that Jeffrey fits my squad better. Maybe I should have just listed and picked the best players, even if they all had a Week 9 Bye? What's the worst that would have happened – I lose in Week 9 but go 12-1 during the regular season?
Round 13 The Machine: Defense or Coby Fleener The Oracle: Roy Helu I'm betting that Coby Fleener or Rob Housler fall back to me in Round 14 if I want to take a backup tight end. We'll see if The Machine was right and I should have grabbed that TE with this pick, or if I should have gone with that defense consider that I'm drafting bench guys and leaving a starting spot – defense – totally undefended (pardon the pun). I took the guy that I personally think could match Mr. Woodhead and Mr. Helu went off the board four rounds later.
Round 14 The Machine: Defense or Rob Housler The Oracle: Rob Housler Fleener went at 14.8, two selections before me. Daniel Thomas, the player I really wanted with this pick, went one selection before me. Housler was there a round later as I thought he would be. The Oracle wins here, but was it luck? It probably would have been safer to have taken that other TE in Round 13.
Round 15 The Machine: Defense – St. Louis Rams The Oracle: I finally listened... Cleveland Browns Sooner or later everyone needs a Defense.
Round 16 The Machine: Kai Forbath The Oracle: Alex Henery I like the fact that Henery has a late Bye Week (12) so I don't have to worry about making an early move at that position. So there's the team. How did my squad, aided by The Machine turn out?
To compare it to the other teams in the league click on the link that follows: Aug15-Results-RTSports.
Did I follow all the suggestions made by The Machine? No. Does that mean I feel like the tool doesn't have merit? Absolutely not. This is, in my opinion, a fantastic tool. It's gives the best advice I've ever seen from artificial intelligence (I've seen some other tools, and boy were they awful). I also have an obnoxious tendency to avoid quarterbacks early, and I know that the vast majority of folks out there disagree with that line of thought. It should also be noted that I played a few hunches which worked. Will "hunches" always work? Certainly not. Is it wise to play a hunch? We can debate that of course, but there should be no doubt that over the long run data will win out over hunches.
This is also a great tool for one other significant reason - it gives you the support you crave. Are you afraid to make that gutsy call? Are you uncertain about who to take? The Machine will give you that pat on the back, hold your hand if you will, to help you to have the confidence you need to make the right call.
FROM THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS PIECE:
"I do things in an unorthodox way some times. It should also be noted, and I’m not trying to be obnoxious here by any means, but 90% of the folks that do fantasy football probably can’t “play” a draft like I can. Playing those hunches I had worked. Will they always work? Certainly not. The fact is that my experience led me to the belief that I could make this work. Nine out of 10 times it probably wouldn’t, and regardless, the vast majority of folks probably wouldn’t have been able to understand the flow of the draft to make those gut calls, that's why The Machine is such a fantastic tool.
Again, I’m not saying “look at me.” I’m merely stating that it may not be fair to judge The Machine against a guy who has been working full-time in fantasy sports for 13 years. I feel VERY confident that this tool would be a HUGE boost for 90% of folks out there."
You're sold and you want to pick up The Machine right now, don't you? If you still need more information before adding THE tool you will need to obliterate the competition, then read my previous article on The Machine.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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