Are You Risking It All On Calvin Johnson?

Calvin Johnson is one of the safest picks in fantasy sports.  He has more upside potential than any other wider receiver in the NFL.  However using Calvin Johnson as your top receiver in Yahoo! Salary Cap Football doesn’t make your team immune to downside loss.

Make sure the rest of your team has enough muscle before you move all-in with Megatron

The problem arises when you start stripping salary cap dollars from your QB and RB budgets to acquire top-tier wide receivers.  You’re actually taking on a considerable amount of risk because you’re requiring more production at critical positions from less talented players with lower probabilities of upside profit.

The best way to mitigate your overall risk in salary cap football is to allocate more cap space towards the positions that have the most potential upside – QB/RB.  If you can acquire the players with the highest probabilities of upside profit in these key positions, you will inevitably score more points than your competition.

Let’s take a look at life is like without Megatron.

Instead of using $16.12 on Calvin Johnson we will upgrade from Matt Forte ($12.28) to Ray Rice ($16.83).

I am certain that Matt Forte would have scored more than 100 total points last season had he stayed healthy.  The consensus is that Forte will easily exceed his 2011 production.  I’m not entirely sold on Forte being RB1 worthy in Yahoo! Salary Cap Football, but I will be fair and give him credit for 125 total points. Maybe he scores a few more touchdowns.

Ray Rice scored 195.42 total points last year, so we will give him credit for 175 total points in 2012.

I am just as confident in Matt Forte reaching 100 total points as I am Ray Rice reaching 150.  However, I am more confident in Rice reaching 175 than I am Forte reaching 125.

In either case, let’s be modest and call it a difference of only 25 total points.  Assuming Rice only has a slightly larger upside, the probability for seeing the additional return is high enough to justify the upgrade.

The change at RB costs $4.55 and leaves us with enough salary cap space ($16.12 – $4.55 = $11.57) to acquire Atlanta’s Julio Jones ($10.56).

We will give Julio Jones credit for 100 total points, 3.25 more than last year.  I am certainly being modest here given Julio’s 2012 fantasy forecast.

Let’s give Megatron credit for the upside we’d be paying for, 175 total points (he scored 178.60 last year).

I am just as confident in Julio Jones reaching 100 total points as I am Calvin Johnson reaching 150.  Let’s assume I am as confident in Jones reaching 125 as I am Johnson reaching 175.  (I’m not. I actually think the odds are higher with Jones in this situation).

So the potential downside loss associated with the downgrade at WR is 50 to 75 total points, however there is a very low probability that the difference will be this great.  We’ll settle the difference at 50 points to account for these odds.

Overall we are looking at a potential downside loss of no more than 25 total points.

Assuming we are actually accepting a loss with Rice / Jones, we are still reducing the likelihood of downside loss at running back and placing ourselves in a more favorable position to start QB#1, the top scoring player in Yahoo! Salary Cap Football; a move that could easily cover the 25 point gap.

I also set very realistic expectations for Rice and Jones (150/100 total points respectively).  I think 160 total points from Ray Rice and 115 from Julio Jones are very achievable.  If they reach these totals, the example I used becomes a wash and we still haven’t accounted for the full upside potential of the Rice/Jones combo.

The key to understanding the value of the Rice/Jones alternative is realizing that the Johnson/Forte pairing carries more risk because this duo must reach its maximum upside potential in order for their fantasy owners to justify using the additional cap space.

This is just one example of how passing on top-tier receivers like Calvin Johnson can save salary cap space and increase your team’s overall probability for upside profit.  Remember that the best choice in salary cap football is not always the player with the highest probability of profit.

Your goal as a fantasy owner is to minimize the risk and maximize the reward of each selection by combining different players into one optimal asset.  Any time you can create salary cap space while mitigating your overall risk you must consider making the move, even if it means passing on sure thing like Calvin Johnson.

If your still stuck on Megatron, you can use my Top 10 Rankings for Yahoo! Salary Cap Football to find value at QB & RB.

Thanks for reading & best of luck this salary cap season!

For more advice on wide receivers be sure to check out the Boardroom at