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Ask Your Fantasy Football Swashbuckler: Joe Pisapia

I know it will kill the purists out there, but I interviewed a guy who started as a fantasy baseball dude. Joe Pisapia (pronounced Peezapia) came up with a formula to rate players across positions, called it Relative Position Value (RPV), and made this acronym into a bestselling e-book called The Fantasy Baseball Black Book.


Naturally, he he’s produced a football version called The Fantasy Football Black Book. It’s tough enough to rate players by position, but rating them across positions is a greater challenge. As I mentioned in the interview, it’s a tough spot at pick 1.05, deciding between Eddie Lacy, Calvin Johnson, and Jimmy Graham. RPV helps with that, as a kind of pumped-up version of Value-Based Drafting or VBD.

Every player gets a percentage, which is based on their 2013 performance, a 2014 projection, and career averages. Each player gets a score that is subtracted by the fantasy league average of the position and that number’s divided by the fantasy average to get a percentage. Players who are above average are preferable to those who are below, but it’s a matter of seeing what the drop-off is to the next guy as much as comparing numbers across positions.

We chatted on the evening of August 20, so here’s the interview (just click the play button). You really want to know what he does for a living, if you ever happen to be in a “trial by combat”. I’ll continue the book review below.

E-books in general are shorter than regular books, so you’re looking at 78 pages of material. Joe, along with his co-authors Dennis “Coach” Esser and Dan Strafford, the latter his co-host on the Sirius/XM Sport’s Channel’s Going 9 Baseball, put the football version together. The book begins with a description of RPV and last year’s values based on final results. It’s not surprising that in the RB category, Jamaal Charles finished way ahead, with a 39% score compared to #2 finisher LeSean McCoy at 24%. It’s not hard to believe that Peyton Manning had a score of 43% with a big drop-off to Drew Brees at 23%.

What Joe wants to emphasize is that it’s not just about the raw numbers. If your RB1 has a 15% RPV (sure, numbers can go negative), and the RB2 is 10%, you might still go with the WR if the drop-off in that position is between 20% and 10%. Joe still emphasizes that the “big 4″ running backs look like the best deals at the top of drafts.

After the introduction of the formula and some starter rankings, the book breaks down by positions. What’s critical in the positions in which you have multiple starters is that there are rankings by RB1, RB2, and so on. Based on your own starting requirements, you can tinker with the numbers to see how valuable each position is. If your league is PPR or if there are multiple flex positions, scoring will vary.

Joe and his co-writers include under- and overrated guys by position as well, and there are kickers and team defenses. There’s a chapter on IDP written by Steve Schulz of The Fake Pigskin. Joe closes out with a chapter called “Making Moves” about the art of the trade, working the waiver wire and the bench, and one final chapter about daily fantasy.

The book is worth your time and minimal investment. There’s a bit of math involved, but that’s the nature of fantasy football these days. Try out the formula with your own rankings and see how players sort out. Just like the real thing, The Fantasy Football Black Book is something you might not want to share with your league mates if you’re interested in that whole winning thing.

Follow Joe on Twitter, why dontcha.

If you want to check out my interview work of the past, you can get There Is No Offseason: The First 50 Interviews from the Ask Your FF Expert Series, and There Still Is No Offseason: Interviews 51-100 of the Ask Your FF Expert Series.

About Zach Law

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