2012 Sneaky Keepers

December 22nd, 2011 5 comments

If your fantasy football season isn’t technically over, but your team is out of the running and you are in a keeper league, now is the perfect time to stash a few players that might see their value increase heading into next year. Players that have wound up on IR and were ditched by their owners make good prospects. So too do RBs and young WRs with the chance to be #1s on their teams. All of the QBs and TEs worthy of keeping are all rostered at this point (with the exception of Peyton Manning), so I won’t bother with them. Here are a few situations worth keeping an eye on, and players worth stashing.

  • Jamaal Charles – Charles is an obvious choice for this list, an elite player with a season ending injury. It’s anybody’s guess how productive Charles will be when he returns from a torn ACL. The good news for Charles is that he was injured in week two of this year, so he has nearly a full calendar year to rehab. Reports are that he is ahead of schedule and rehab is going well – but that is reported after just about every injury in the league, unless there is a staph infection. Another positive is that the Chiefs didn’t find a replacement that comes anywhere close to Charles. It also doesn’t hurt that Thomas Jones will be one year older, and one year closer to retirement in 2012.
  • Kenny Britt – Britt was off to a monster start to 2011 until he tore his ACL in week three. In his two complete games, Britt totaled 271 yards and 3 TDs. Like Charles, Britt was lucky to be injured early in the season and will have plenty of time to rehab the knee.
  • Cleveland Browns backfield – Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis is doing a pretty good job of burning bridges in Cleveland. After a strong 2010 season, Hillis’s unhappiness with his contract became a major distraction. He missed games with questionable injuries and illness. He will most likely test the free agency waters this summer, and most likely be disappointed. Second year player Montario Hardesty has had a difficult time staying healthy, after he completely missed his rookie season, but is probably next in line for the starting spot. Chris Ogbonnaya had a string of productive games when Hardesty and Hillis were both out, but he doesn’t look like he has as much confidence from the coaching staff at this point.
  • While most leagues’ trade deadline is long gone, these rostered players make intriguing options for next fall:

  • Torrey Smith – The rookie has been wildly inconsistent, but you can’t deny his speed. Smith seems like the kind of player that could really benefit from a full offseason. If he develops a stronger short/intermediate game, and if Anquan Boldin continues to slow, Smith could become the teams lead receiver in the not too distant future.
  • Roy Helu – Helu is currently the lead back for the Redskins, and has been quite productive down the stretch. He’s a powerful straight line back without many moves, but seems well suited for Shannahan’s zone scheme. He’s also been an effective receiver out of the backfield. The return of Tim Hightower next fall could cut into Helu’s touches, but he is definitely worth keeping an eye on for a lead back at a bargain price.
  • Just for good measure, here are a few fellows you may have forgotten about, but back in August they were high on the sleeper lists:

  • Mikel Leshoure – Leshoure was drafted in the second round in 2011 by the Lions to compliment Jahvid Best, but tore his Achilles tendon in early August. Best’s continued concussion problems could mean a full time gig for Leshoure if he can stay healthy himself. Keep an eye on this power pack who could play a major role in an explosive offense in 2012.
  • Ryan Williams – Like Leshoure, Williams was a second round pick whose season was over before it ever started. Williams tore his patellar tendon during the preseason. He should team with Chris Wells in Arizona, although that prospect was brighter last year at this time. After an abysmal 2010 season, Wells has been very productive in spurts this season, so Williams upside may be just a timeshare.

Setting Lineups and Comparing Players

September 16th, 2011 No comments

Here we are entering week two, you drafted the team of your dreams, but thanks to the enormous depth you’ve established, picking starters each week is like choosing between your children. Maybe the opposite is true, after an injury you are left sorting through backups to pick the next man up. Whatever the case may be, setting your lineup each week is a crucial component of being a successful fantasy football player. We’ve all had bench players explode for huge games while our starters disappoint us.

The proven best way to set your lineup is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. Pulling all the relevant statistics together used to mean clicking around to page after page. If only there was a better way. Well there is. The AZFS Comparitor is a player comparison tool that gathers up all the stats you need to make your decisions each week:

  • Recent history
  • opponent strength
  • opponent history
  • projected output
  • upside potential
  • downside risk
  • three custom recommendations
  • confidence level of recommendation

Everything is customizable for the players on your team and the scoring settings of your league. There are also quick links to each team and player for easy deep diving into more stats.

The page runs off of our powerful projection engine, which uses dozens of factors to calculate projected stats. When you enter your players to compare, the projections from those players are stacked up against each other, and the statistical winner is picked, with probability that they do win. That’s where the recommendations come in: conservative, overall, and aggressive. I think of the three styles this way: if my team is a juggernaut, I only need to play reasonably well to win, so playing it safe is a pretty good option. On the other hand, if my team is a massive underdog, I may need to be aggressive and play riskier players with more upside to have a chance at knocking off my opponent.

I will caution you, I’m here to apply cutting edge, advanced statistical analysis, not to update injury status minutes before kickoff. In some cases I don’t update for injuries, so be aware that these projections are assuming healthy players.

Categories: General Tags:

Fantasy Football Abbreviations

September 9th, 2011 No comments

Fantasy football, like many other sciences, utilizes a lot of abbreviations due to laziness. Those new to the game might get a little confused, so here is a quick reference for beginners with terms and their meanings:

FP: Fantasy Points
FPG, FPPG: Fantasy Points per Game
PPG: Points Per Game
PPR: Points Per Reception – some fantasy football leagues award points for every catch a player records.
ADP: Average Draft Position – this is from fantasy football leagues and/or mock drafts
RBBC: Running Back By Committee – the use of more than one RB to handle running back duties instead of one workhorse.

Player Status – Most fantasy football host sites update player status with a red letter(s) next to the player’s name. The injury status of each player is updated by the NFL team, and reported to the league during the week. The final status of each player is not decided until gameday, when the active roster is determined – only 46 players are active for each game out of the total 53 players on the roster.

  • P – Probable: The player has approximately a 75% of playing
  • Q – Questionable: The player has approximately a 50% of playing
  • D – Doubtful: The player has approximately a 25% of playing
  • O – Out: The player not expected to play
  • IR – Injured Reserve: The player can not play for the remainder of the season
  • IA – Inactive: The player has not been included on the active roster for game day
  • NA – Not Active: The player is not active, this includes game day decisions and inclusion on the PUP list on some sites
  • PUP – Physically Unable to Perform: The player is ineligible to play or practice for six weeks to start the season, the player then has three weeks to return to practice, and after returning to practice the player has three weeks to be activated on a game day roster, or else he is ineligible to play the rest of the season.
Categories: General Tags:

2010 in the Rearview – WR

September 5th, 2011 1 comment

Here’s the final installment of the rear view series, focusing on the WR position. The table below shows six standouts and three major disappointments on a per game basis.

Overachievers – The biggest common ground that these six surprising pass catchers share is youth. Brandon Lloyd is kind of the oddball here. A journeyman receiver in his eighth year, Lloyd came out of nowhere to nearly double his career bests in yardage and TDs. The other five players averaged out to be in their second year in the league (one rookie and one third year player). Projected QB play is not always the best indicator of potential, as Williams, Britt, and Johnson (and perhaps Lloyd as well) all entered the year with uninspiring QB situations, although none of these teams brought in new starting QBs during the offseason.

Brandon LloydNR116209.08.7
Austin Collie42339110.96.3
Steve JohnsonNR1016165.36.0
Kenny Britt462212129.55.1
Hakeem Nicks24813169.25.1
Mike Williams (TB)571316156.45.0
Bernard Berrian291151424.4-5.5
Steve Smith (CAR)10691464.3-6.0
Randy Moss214988.0-11.9

Disappointments – This list starts with Randy Moss, an record setting WR during his tenure in New England. Entering his thirteenth season and fresh off of a #2 final WR ranking in 2009, there was no reason to expect anything but elite production from Moss. Before the year was up Moss was cast off by two teams and benched by a third.

Smith was entering his tenth season in the league and was coming off of a #18 finish in 2009. He had shown glimpses of chemistry with QB Matt Moore towards the end of 2009, and a return to elite status was far from impossible. Smith just never got things going as the Panthers imploded and finished as the worst team in the league.

Lessons – All of the overachievers became the #1 WR on their team except for Collie (who outperformed Reggie Wayne on a per game basis in 2010 anyway). None of these winners were playing with new QBs or on new teams except for the rookie Williams. By the end of the year Ryan Fitzpatrick took over in Buffalo and Kerry Collins was behind center in Tennessee, but both QBs were backups and already had chemistry with these receivers. The lesson regarding risk here is not to overpay for an aged WR. Moss is not the first elite WR to have his performance drop off a cliff. In 2006 Marvin Harrison finished as the #1 WR, but finished as #100 in 2007.

Prospects – The best prospects will come from teams without an established #1 WR and continuity at the QB position. These WRs tend to come out of nowhere, and can be almost impossible to draft. A few of the teams to keep an eye on are the Rams, Raiders, Jaguars, and 49ers. The Rams have a stable of young WRs, too many to be draft considerable. I personally like Jacoby Ford of the Raiders as a dangerous threat in the open field. Mike Thomas could also distinguish himself further as a true #1 in Jacksonville. The best strategy is to keep an eye on catch and target numbers in the early stages of the season to identify if a WR is emerging as a team’s #1. You’ll find those stats and the matching analysis right here at AZ Fantasy Sports.

To avoid downside risk, the biggest downgrade may be for Reggie Wayne. He will deal with Peyton Manning’s neck situation, and is entering his eleventh season. His production has not slowed down yet, but it may be better to be safe than sorry and downgrade him a few slots. Anquan Boldin is the next highest ranked older WR, but is only entering his ninth year. Boldin is still a physically imposing WR, but his speed is not what it once was.

2010 in the Rearview – RB

August 25th, 2011 No comments

The rearview ride continues with RBs. QB playing time is generally pretty predictable, but every year a few RBs come out of complete obscurity and become productive starters.

Surprise Stars – Five of these seven overachieving RBs were unranked entering the season, illustrating just how unpredictable this all can be. McFadden had the best pedigree, but that was due to his success in college; in the pros he had been a near bust up to this point. Hillis, Blount and Torrain all emerged from backfield vacuums. There was no entrenched starter entering the season to speak of. Tolbert passed up rookie Ryan Matthews, and Green-Ellis took the job by default when previous starter Laurence Maroney was sent packing. McFadden crushed Michael Bush in their competition, and we all know about Foster.

Arian Foster23116324.011.2
Peyton HillisNR416227.911.1
Darren McFadden38613218.410.4
Ryan TorainNR3010118.78.7
BenJarvus Green-EllisNR1516187.38.6
Mike TolbertNR2015151.16.9
LeGarrette BlountNR2713130.16.9
C. J. Spiller31621446.0-4.2
Steve Slaton411041210.4-5.1
DeAngelo Williams861646.2-5.4
Shonn Greene12371594.6-5.5
Beanie Wells14571357.1-6.9

Disappointments – It’s been well documented that RBs have a short shelf life, as their productivity drops off near age 30. What’s interesting here is that we don’t really have any aged backs on this list of disappointments. The oldest back was DeAngelo Williams, and he was 27 last season. Maybe it was a lucky year for the old backs of the NFL, but more likely is that fantasy players have learned to avoid older RBs.

Williams season was cut short by injury, but his per game performance shows how ineffective he was even before injury. The other under achievers were young backs that failed to live up to their potential. Spiller and Slaton spent most of the year on the bench, but at least they were relatively cheap low risk options. Greene and Wells were more costly, and as a result, more disappointing. Wells didn’t get many carries at times, but managed only 3.4 yards per carry in the pitiful Cardinal offense. Greene got more run than Wells, but was expected to be the main cog in the Jet attack. Outplayed by LaDainian Tomlinson at times, Greene failed to make the leap to workhorse status.

Lessons – The successful players here were the backs who were able to capture the lion’s share of work from timeshares. After the stud backs are gone, the next tier is RBs who are expected to get the better side of timeshares. By avoiding these overpriced time-sharers, and targeting their cheaper running mates, you leave yourself open to much more upside. The riskiest RBs are those that are expected to take a leap, but are unproven. Those upside backs are great in the mid rounds, but taking an unproven commodity in the second round is risky, however you slice it.

Prospects – There are plenty of timeshares around the league to choose from. Those with young or unproven expected starters make good targets.

  • Mike Tolbert is in good position to repeat as an over achiever with Ryan Matthews again getting most of the hype.
  • The Washington backfield is up for grabs this year again, thanks mostly to Ryan Torrain’s brittleness, and Mike Shanahan’s track record. Tim Hightower was brought in via trade, and has looked good in the preseason. Hightower should come cheap and is a nice upside play. Don’t forget about rookie Roy Helu.
  • The Dolphins didn’t make a big splash (get it?) in the free agent RB market, but instead traded for Reggie Bush. Rookie Daniel Thomas is a nice sleeper, but the word is that Bush will start the year as the main man. With Chad Henne’s amazing check down ability, Bush should be in line for a lot of touches, as long as he can stay healthy.

2010 in the Rearview – QB

August 23rd, 2011 No comments

So often in fantasy football everyone races ahead to start the new season without a look back on what happened last year. As with anything in life, it’s important to look backwards and evaluate what went right and wrong, and learn from both. So this starts the 2011 rearview series with QBs. Who surprised us in good or bad ways and why, and what can we learn.

Here is a table of the QBs that deviated the most from their expectations based on average draft position. I ranked based on fantasy points per game above expectations (Delta FPG) to eliminate some of the injury situations. I also took out injury fillins like Jon Kitna and Drew Stanton. I picked out six players who did well, and really only found two QBs that were disappointing.

Michael VickNR112306.320.2
Ryan FitzpatrickNR1813200.910.1
Josh Freeman27716258.49.0
Matt Cassel241215229.16.6
Sam Bradford302016192.86.5
Kyle Orton211613211.96.3
Kevin Kolb1236766.4-4.3
Brett Favre8291399.2-7.9

Overachievers – Vick is the superstar of this article, but everyone knows about his return to stardom. Fitzpatrick was expected to back up Trent Edwards, but took over the job and played pretty well, but he still wasn’t starter-worthy in fantasy. Sam Bradford put together an excellent season for a rookie, especially when you consider his lack of weapons in the passing game.

Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman are the two QBs that we can probably learn from here. Both were already starters, but were being drafted in the mid-twenties among QBs. Cassel proved he is a legit QB in his own right in his second season in KC, with a TD-INT ratio of 27-7. Freeman has become a darling of the media and threw a 25-6 ratio in his second season. Both QBs benefited from, or perhaps powered, much better play by their WRs. Freeman teamed with rookie Mike Williams, while Cassel and Bowe were a lethal TD connection. Both also reaped the rewards of solid running games, with Jamaal Charles exploding and LeGarrette Blount emerging.

Disappointments – For the most part, 2010 QBs did very well on a per game basis. Brett Favre and Kevin Kolb are the only two QBs who performed worse than 2.1 FPG below expectations. Favre simply imploded with age, and there isn’t a whole lot more to say about him. Kolb is a little more interesting. We all know he lost his starting spot to Vick after injury, but was his play this bad? The answer is… sorta. Kolb played in seven games, but in one game all he did was take a knee once. If we drop that game from his count, he still performed at -2.7 Delta FPG; not good, but not terrible. In game one of the season he attempted only five passes before being knocked out, so if you are feeling generous, you could eliminate that game too, but I won’t. He started the game and fantasy players expected him to play, so it stays in my book.

Lessons – The QB landscape is a little bare when it comes to lessons learned. QBs naturally develop and grow, but it can be difficult to tell which ones. This season may be a little different due to the disrupted offseason. Under the circumstances, it is reasonable to expect fewer young QBs to take their game to the next level. The emphasis this season should be on continuity. Players playing in new schemes and with new teams may be a little behind the eight ball at the start of the season.

Prospects – A look at this list gives a good prospect in Sam Bradford (current 14th QB in live drafts on ESPN). He showed a lot last year, but still has much room to grow. An improvement in his WR core would surely help him out too: maybe Mike Sims-Walker can get his head screwed on straight and be his go-to-guy. I’ll throw out one more name here, Cleveland starter Colt McCoy (currently 21st QB in live drafts on ESPN). He is in his second season in the league, and has the starting job in a stranglehold. He also looks very comfortable this preseason running the team and the new west coast offense (I just contradicted the above paragraph didn’t I). Both of these youngsters have solid RBs to help carry the load. Neither one will be drafted as a starter except in deep leagues, but both would make great bye week fill-ins, especially when facing favorable matchups.

Projecting WRs – The QB Effect

August 22nd, 2011 1 comment

Projecting the performance of players is a tricky business. There are many thousands of variables that affect every player’s performance. All we can hope to do is make educated guesses.

As I’ve discussed before, production from the WR position is more dependent on factors outside of the player’s control than any other position. WR performance is largely dependent on offensive philosophy and opportunity, but is influenced by QB play more than anything else. While that can be frustrating in some situations, acknowledging that linkage is a great tool for forecasting.

Here’s the example that is fresh in my mind. I know it was a long time ago, but back in 2009, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan effectively missed three games, and was banged up for much of the year. Roddy White was his favorite receiver and notched 1150 yards and 11 TDs, finishing as the #7 WR. Conceivably, if Ryan had been healthier, White’s production would have been better, right? That was a big factor in ranking White my #3 WR last summer. That’s exactly where White finished (behind phenoms Brandon Lloyd and Dwayne Bowe – who expected them to be there???).

So which WRs can expect better QB play than last year? I have a few ideas…

  • Mike Wallace (PIT) – Wallace was one of my favorite prospects last year as he replaced Santonio Holmes, and he finished as the #5 WR. Don’t forget that Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games. He had one big game without Ben, but his other three were duds. If you project his stats with Ben for a full 16 games, he puts up 206 FP and finishes a hair behind Dwayne Bowe as the third best WR in the game. This year with Ben all year and a full season of starting experience under his belt, he should improve on his 2010 stats.
  • Miles Austin (DAL) – Last season, the Cowboys were a trainwreck. Tony Romo broke his collarbone in game six, and Jon Kitna took over. Austin was maybe the most hot and cold WR in the world in the five games he played with Romo. He either had two catches (twice), or nine/ten catches (three times). Despite the rollercoaster ride, Austin’s stats from the first five games projected over 16 games put as the #5 WR in the league last year. Austin’s involvement in the offense was a real concern last year. There were ten games in which he caught three or fewer passes. With Romo at the helm, Austin should improve on his lackluster 2010 stats.
  • Dez Bryant (DAL) – Bryant had to deal with the same QB situation last year that Austin did. He has real maturity concerns, but has all the physical tools. He shouldn’t have much trouble improving on last year’s stats, but that’s already been priced in. Bryant is a darling of the fantasy draft season this summer, and already has an inflated price tag.
  • Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) – This one is a no-brainer. It had to be agonizing for Fitzgerald to struggle through 2010 with the three headed monster of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, and Max Hall at QB. After three seasons as a top five WR, Fitz finished as 16th in the league last year. Kevin Kolb will be an immediate upgrade, and has to at least push Fitz back into the top ten at the bare minimum. Last year he was third in the league in targets. With the Cardinals limited options in the passing game he should again be near the league leaders in targets, but thanks to better quarterbacking, he should parlay them into more fantasy production.
  • Calvin Johnson / Nate Burleson (DET) – Last year Matt Stafford could only survive through two complete games, giving Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton plenty of time behind center. Despite Stafford’s injury concerns, he is most likely an upgrade over his backups. It’s hard to say Johnson will improve much on 12 receiving TDs, but his yardage could certainly increase. Burleson on the other hand may have more to gain. In Stafford’s two games, Burleson had 160 yards on 14 catches with 1 TD (small sample size warning). The Lion offense is pretty diverse, but the running game already has injury problems, so Detroit may have to win games through the air more often than originally planned. If Stafford is healthy, Burleson could have nice value as defenses load up on Megatron.
Categories: General Tags: , ,

Comparing Performance Between Positions

August 16th, 2011 No comments

In the last issue, I showed off some color charts showing how each of the four main position stack up against each other when it comes to living up to fantasy expectations. Based on those charts, TEs are rock solid while top rated RBs and QBs often disappoint. As I noted in that post, when it come to those charts, the deck was stacked against the top RBs and QBs due to their high point totals and expectations.

The colors are great and all, but they aren’t very useful unless digested into rankings to see how it all sorts out. I took all of the stats I used to make the charts, and calculated a function for adjusted projected FP for each position. Basically, all players at every position (except only the lowest preranked players with the lowest of expectations) don’t perform as well as they are expected to. Based on each player’s projected FP, we can estimate by how much they can be expected to underperform those expectations. Calculating each position separately allows us to compare between positions.

Based on the charts, you would expect RBs to drop and WRs to rise in the rankings right? Surprisingly, that’s not how the numbers play out. This table shows the original overall rankings and the resulting overall ranking using the adjusted projected FP.

Overall Rank

For example, Aaron Rodgers is my #1 ranked QB. I project him to score 324 FP this year. When that total is adjusted based on past QB performance, the adjusted projection becomes 276 FP. In the original rankings Rodgers was ranked as the #8 player overall. After adjusting, he comes in at #14 overall. Every player had his projection adjusted as well, but Rodgers was pulled down more than the RBs around him, and so his overall ranking dropped.

Using this method, RBs gain even more on their stranglehold on the top of the fantasy draft. The top thirteen players are all RBs. While QBs and WRs fell slightly, if at all, across the board, reliable boring TEs actually gained ground. Originally, Antonio Gates was rated as #22 overall – that’s probably much higher than any of us would actually draft him, but is a good reference to show his value based only on the numbers. Since TEs are the best at living up to expectations, Gates’s projection only dropped from from 171 FP to 147 FP. He moved up to #17 overall, an almost ridiculous spot for a TE.

Of course, all this analysis is a matter of averages; some players are certainly more reliable than the average player. With the gift of hindsight, it’s easy to dismiss results from years past, but the best fantasy footballers learn from the past. It’s easy to say that today’s top WRs are more reliable than those from years past, but they were ranked highly for the same reasons as today’s top WRs.

This is the type of research that you won’t find anywhere else in the fantasy world. I was expecting elite WRs to move up against second tier RBs, but the exact opposite happened. That’s why it is so important to actually run the numbers. I’m leaving my prerankings as they are, and not incorporating these results, but I think we’ve all learned something here. If nothing else, this study just further cements the RB position as the most valuable in fantasy football.

Categories: General, Research Tags: ,

Back with a Bang – Winners and Losers

August 3rd, 2011 5 comments

The NFL returned with a bang last week. The flurry of trades and signings made for the most exciting week in offseason history. With so many moves in such a short time, which ones have the greatest impact to your fantasy draft, and who are the winners and losers?

DeAngelo Williams is a big time winner for his well above market five year $42 million deal with the Panthers. Carolina is paying him like a big time back, so he will get plenty of work.

Jonathan Stewart is the loser. He had a chance to be the number one back in town, but his disappointing 2010 probably sealed his fate. Stewart will still be productive, but not like he could have been if given the work horse designation. Promising Mike Goodson also lost almost all of his fantasy relevance, as Williams is more than capable in the third down role.

Larry Fitzgerald is a winner thanks to the acquisition of Kevin Kolb by the Cardinals. Fitz was relatively productive last year with putrid QB play, now he has an unproven but legitimate QB. A slow start wouldn’t be surprising, however.

Kevin Kolb won the starting QB gig in Arizona. Throwing to Fitzgerald will be great, but he has a lot to prove.

Vince Young has won by signing with Philadelphia. Yes he is a backup, but many expect Michael Vick to miss a few games this year due to his style, and Young will also receive excellent coaching. There aren’t many better places where he could try to reclaim his career.

Tim Hightower has won the chance to be relevant again with his trade to Washington. We all know Mike Shanahan’s history of elevating RBs, and Hightower could be the latest.

Chris Wells also won because of the Hightower trade. He will share time with rookie Ryan Williams, but Hightower’s departure means one less body in the backfield. Wells has been named the starter, but given his track record, Williams may be more valuable in the long run.

Ryan Torain doesn’t know if he is a winner or loser. He should still be the lead back, and won because the Redskins didn’t bring in any better RBs than Hightower, but lost since he will probably have some competition. Backups Keiland Williams and Roy Helu probably lost most of their value.

Anthony Armstrong is a loser in Washington. He had an impressive 2010 season, and was one of my sleepers due to the expectation of lots of opportunity. However, Santana Moss resigned with Washington, and veterans Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney were added to the squad. None of the receivers are anywhere near elite, but Armstrong may not be handed a starting job by default despite his potential.

Rookie RB Daniel Thomas is a big winner down in Miami. Faced with the possibility of backing up Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, or the addition of a veteran like DeAngelo Williams or Ahmad Bradshaw, the trade for Reggie Bush pushes Thomas’s value way up. Bush has all but proven to be an ineffective traditional RB, so the larger Thomas should see most of the grunt work with Bush contributing in passing situations.

Roy Williams’s situation brightened after signing with the Bears. He was the forth option in the passing game in Dallas, but has a chance to make some noise in Chicago. He is not the same player as when he put up stellar numbers under Mike Martz in Detroit, but he is a big target for Jay Cutler, and could surprise if he has anything left in the tank.

Willis McGahee should get more touches in Denver. The switch from backing up Ray Rice to Knowshon Moreno should mean more opportunity for the former TD vulture veteran. This is also good news for Moreno, since no better RB was brought in to take his starting spot.

Mike Sims-Walker gets a fresh start in St. Louis, which could due the sometimes trouble WR some good. MSW has the talent, and could turn into a reliable target for Sam Bradford.

Don’t forget about Chad Ochocinco. He goes from a team with a rookie QB and a veteran who refused to play, to Tom Brady. There’s no question that’s a win! The erosion of his skills is certainly a concern, but he is an interesting option for fantasy WR depth to say the least. (He also won by finagling number 85 from TE Aaron Hernandez.)

Comparing Expectations Between Positions – Painting the Picture

July 27th, 2011 No comments

When we get to the big draft day, we all know the draft starts off with RBs. There are only so many workhorse RBs in the game today, and they are the cornerstones of the traditional fantasy team. But what about the perception that the elite WRs and even QBs are safer than second tier RBs? I’ve had that feeling for quite a while, but couldn’t put my finger on a way to evaluate my opinion… until now.

Every ranking list, including mine, starts with projections for each player. But how reliable are those projections? Are some positions easier to predict than others? Because of their vastly different roles within modern offenses and differing likelihood of injury (which is not to be ignored), we would expect that some positions carry more uncertainty than others.

In order to sort this out, I took every player’s performance since the year 2000 into account. We need enough data to get a strong statistical picture here. I averaged out the final standings over those years for each position. So I had a list that told me how many fantasy points the third best RB finished with, for example, on average. With that table as a benchmark, I could then evaluate how each player performed relative to the expectation.

Sounds complicated, but it’s pretty simple; here’s an example. In 2008, Andre Johnson was ranked as the sixth best WR entering the year. Over this timespan, the sixth best WR in the league scored an average of 187.5 FP, so that is what we expected out of AJ. At the end of the year, his FP total was 203.5, so he scored 16 FP more than expected. So I am calling his “performance” +16. That’s it!

So I grouped up all the players to make little color charts (excel doesn’t draw a plot like this so I had to write some code to draw up these custom charts). These are pretty easy to read; lighter colors mean fewer players in that box. The bottom axis shows the preranking for the players within their position, starting left and working to the right. The axis on the right side shows the performance. Players who outplayed their draft position end up towards the bottom, while busts show up at the top. Here are the charts.





A quick glance at these charts shows that top ranked players are more likely to underperform than lower ranked prospects. That’s rather obvious since we don’t expect much from scrubs, but have huge expectations for the perceived studs.

When comparing RBs to WRs, it is hard to ignore the darkness up at the top of the RB chart, especially the black square in the corner. Those are elite top five ranked RBs who put up seasons with 100 FP or more below expectations. Sure, some elite WRs bust (see Randy Moss 2010), but these charts suggest it is a rarer occasion. The QB chart also shows a lot of bust activity. Meanwhile TEs are rock solid and boring, with most falling close to where we expect them.

One thing I will caution is that since we are looking at performance in terms of FP, nothing has been scaled to the position. What I mean is that a 50 FP difference means much more to a 120 point TE than it does to a 250 point QB. It may be more useful to view these changes in terms of percentages rather than straight FP, but for what comes next these results are more useful.

Speaking of what comes next… these results are great and all, but we really need to quantify how much each player is expected to deviate from their projected output. Then we can add another layer of sophistication to the comparison of players of different positions for preranking purposes. I’m finishing up that analysis now, so stay tuned for the results!

Categories: General, Research Tags: ,