I listen to a lot of fantasy football podcasts, including but not limited to the Fantasy Pros podcasts. One thing I have noticed is a tendency of experts to use the last known “good season” a player has had to support why they are good now, including going back to their college days.
What they are doing is reacting to their own cognitive dissonance. For those of you not familiar with the term, here is a definition:
Cognitive dissonance is a term for the state of discomfort felt when two or more modes of thought contradict each other.
When one learns new information that challenges a deeply held belief, for example, or acts in a way that seems to undercut a favorable self-image, that person may feel motivated to somehow resolve the negative feeling that results—to restore cognitive consonance. Though a person may not always resolve cognitive dissonance, the response to it may range from ignoring the source of it to changing one’s beliefs or behavior to eliminate the conflict.
A good example would be CMC, currently ranked #2 in ECR overall, even though he missed the majority of the last two seasons with various injuries. “But when he plays you get a 20+ points?” Yes, but the rest of the time you get a goose egg. And there is a LOT of “rest of the time”. What happened here is 2019, followed by enough occasional games to reinforce the expert’s bias which was formed from cognitive dissonance. They saw how good CMC could be, and then were faced with too many injuries and missed time.
Even worse: After 2020, where CMC only played 3 games, the experts were recommending him as the first pick AGAIN! When he only played 7 games in 2021, what do we get this year? He’s nudged down…to #2. This is a case of a few experts waking up and smelling the toast burning, but most of them are committed to the sunk costs of their poor decisions in the past 2 years.
But enough beating the CMC dead horse, even if it richly deserves it. Let’s look at something similar: College prospecting.
I’ve noticed in podcasts, when touting a player they scouted and liked in college, but who has had dubious returns as a pro, experts will frequently turn to their college analysis of the player to support their support of him now. When we have a case of a poorly coached player (see Matt Nagy), that is one thing. Otherwise, there comes a point 2 or 3 years down the line where we have to support what the player has done in the pros, not college. When you hear an expert use a player’s college career to defend the player now, and that player isn’t a rookie, or even a second year player, it’s time to fast forward past those comments.
I can appreciate the whole “I saw him in college, and he was excellent!” thing. But if the player doesn’t reinforce your view of him when he gets in the pros, after a reasonable period of acclimation to the pros, it is time to move on.
Having bashed the experts for a bit here, allow me to add this: They are still valuable resources, once you get past their own biases. Sometimes, they do nail an analysis. But the art for you, the listener or reader, is to spot when you are hearing/seeing a sound analysis, or just bias being spouted.