This is the 158th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation.
It’s the morning of Oct. 6, and last night on Thursday Night Football (in an offense missing wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski) veterans Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola collectively turned 19 targets into 16 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown in a performance that surprised many people on Twitter, to the point that . . .
A degenerate’s Twitter mentions of Chris Hogan –
1/22/17: 12 targets for 9/180/2, dude is a BEAST!!
10/5/17: I guess he’s legit, who knew?
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 6, 2017
. . . I had to insert myself into the almost nonexistent conversation.
Anyway, this is a piece with some ideas about how people think about Hogan and Amendola and why they have those thoughts. I would’ve written this last night instead of this morning, but #EditorLife.
Hogan and Amendola Are (Sort of) Good
I don’t know if Hogan and Amendola are actually good, but they’re good for fantasy football and good for what New England likes to do. Entering the Week 5 Patriots-Buccaneers game, Hogan had played 18 games with quarterback Tom Brady. In those games, Hogan averaged 13.17 DraftKings and 10.89 FanDuel points per game (PPG), turning 5.1 targets into 3.4 receptions for 61.3 yards and 0.5 touchdowns (with 0.33 carries per game). As for Amendola, he entered Week 5 having played 10 Edelmanless contests in his 58 games as a Patriot. In those games he averaged 7.6 targets for 5.2 receptions, 52.2 yards, and 0.2 touchdowns.
So, in a vacuum, it would be reasonable in an average Edelmanless 2017 game to expect Hogan and Amendola to combine for an 8.6/113.5/0.7 receiving line on 12.7 targets. When you add in the fact that they would be likely to see substantially more targets in Gronk’s absence, and that these targets would be accumulated against a Bucs defense that was allowing top-two fantasy marks to opposing wide receivers, then it becomes clear that their combined performance isn’t surprising: It’s what a reasonable person would’ve expected.
Why Do People Undervalue Hogan and Amendola?
All the way around, Hogan and Amendola are routinely undervalued.
- They’re underpriced by DraftKings and FanDuel.
- They’re underprojected in our Models.
- They’re underowned by the DFS market.
Why do people undervalue Hogan and Amendola?
It’s Probably Not Because They’re White
The easy/lazy answer would attribute the cause to race: They’re white, and there’s (unfortunately) the stereotype that white receivers aren’t as effective as black receivers — just as there’s (unfortunately) the stereotype that black quarterbacks aren’t as effective as white quarterbacks.
- I think those stereotypes are garbage.
- I think race isn’t a (prevalent) factor in the market value of Hogan and Amendola.
While society in general might hold these race-based stereotypes, I think the fantasy markets are sharper if for no other reason than the market participants are invested. The market can’t afford to be inefficient — at least not for long. Eventually, markets correct. For instance, this season the market has been fairly fast to embrace the potential of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp — two rookies who are going against the race-based positional stereotypes.
Regardless of whatever racial issues might exist in reality, the fantasy markets (in my opinion) tend to move beyond race quickly. In general, fantasy players don’t care about skin color when it comes to the NFL players they roster. They care only about production.
The Genetic Fallacy
If people aren’t undervaluing Hogan and Amendola on account of their race, then what’s happening? I think people are being too slow to update their assumptions (their unofficial Bayesian priors) regarding Hogan and Amendola — and I posit that those assumptions are linked to the early circumstances of both players. In other words, the market has fallen victim to the genetic fallacy (or the fallacy of origins).
Last year I wrote a piece about this fallacy and how it relates to early-season suckage and mean reversion in fantasy football. Basically, whenever someone is genetically fallacious, that person prioritizes origin as an explanatory factor over some other factor that is more correlated and/or predictive. Example: “That running back must be good because he went to the University of Alabama.” If you allow someone’s originating past to distort your ability to evaluate them effectively in the present and estimate their potential for the future, then you’re probably under the influence of the genetic fallacy.
I think that’s what’s happening with Hogan and Amendola. Both entered the NFL as unheralded free agents. Neither one was able to make an active roster his first year in the league. Both of them moved from practice squad to practice squad before finally catching on with lower-tier NFL franchises (Bills and Rams) as reserve receivers and special teams players. Both of them hung around those franchises for years and failed to make much of a real or fantasy impact during that time. And then both guys signed with the Patriots well into their NFL careers, playing their first seasons in New England at the age of 28. Although both had developed reputations in Buffalo and St. Louis as solid football players, neither one was expected to be an alpha receiver for the Patriots when joining the team, and so both have been relatively ignored due to an “If you ain’t first, you’re last” logic.
Essentially, both players are undervalued now because we’ve gotten used to the idea of their being relatively valueless assets for years, and that longtime estimation of their worth is almost certainly linked to their early-career circumstances. As a result, many people spent the first month of the season undervaluing two contributing wide receivers on one of the best offenses in the league. That’s not ideal.
An All-Time Great and Powerful Conclusion
Don’t be genetically fallacious. On Thursday night, it wasn’t just wrong. It was costly.
The Labyrinthian: 2017.63, 158