fantasy football’s effect on salary distribution

I’ve often wondered whether the growing popularity of fantasy football has resulted in NFL teams spending progressively more on “skill” players.  Because of the salary cap constraint, this would obviously mean relatively less spent on defense and special teams players. 

Why would teams’ choices of salary distributions amongst players be driven by fantasy football?  Quite simply, fantasy football fans create a large source of revenue, and teams are first and foremost interested in maximizing revenue.  Thus, Chad Johnson, a fantasy football darling, as well as a circus clown, might get a relatively higher salary than he would without fantasy football, because Chad Johnson owners watch Bengals games and perhaps even buy Chad Johnson jerseys, etc.  I’m certainly guilty of watching games that I don’t care that much about just to see if my players do well.

The hopefully testable hypothesis, then, is: fantasy football’s growing popularity, and consequential increase in revenue for teams from skill players, has caused teams to spend relatively more of their salary cap on skill positions.

If this is true, the implications might include that teams could take advantage of this trend by purchasing underappreciated non-skill players.  There are two margins here: marginal revenue product and marginal winning percentage.  A skill player might increase the first dramatically while his impact on the second is ambiguous.  Conversely, if skill players’ salaries are all bid up as teams compete for their higher marginal revenue products, then a team interesting in maximizing wins (rather than revenue) could take advantage by buying those non-skill players who will have the largest positive impact on marginal winning percentage.

 Is it testable?

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