How To Pick Your Starters For Week 1
There is no doubt that picking starters is the task that fantasy football players spend the most time doing during the season. This is a difficult task that involves a lot of guessing and a lot of luck but it is even more difficult for the first week of the year because there is very little data to use. In this analysis we will look at what you need to consider when picking your players for week one and which teams have an advantage this week.
The first mistake that fantasy players often make in the first week of the season is that they give too much importance to the defense that their players are facing. We looked at the points allowed by defenses to opposing offensive players to determine what percentage of last year’s statistics we can use for this season. Here are our results:
For quarterbacks, this means that if last year the difference between two defenses was 100 points, this season it will be only 22.6 points on average.
Obviously, we also know that your player’s offensive skill has an impact on how he will perform that week. We estimate that the offense and defense are worth about 50% each. In other words if a quarterback averages 16 points per week and the defense allows on average 20 points per week to opposing quarterbacks, we can expect that player to score about 18 points. This means that the percentages above need to be divided by two.
Last season the Arizona Cardinals allowed the most points to opposing quarterbacks while the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed the fewest; the difference between these two teams was 153.8 points. Multiply that by 22.8%, divide by two and then by 16 games which gives a difference of approximately 1.1 point per week. This means that even if your starting quarterback is playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and your backup is playing the Arizona Cardinals, unless you believe both are within 1.1 fantasy points of each other you should start your better player.
One other factor that is not looked at very often is whether your players are playing at home or on the road. We decided to look at statistics from the past three years to try and determine whether home field advantage plays a role in fantasy football. Here are our results:
|QB Home||QB Away||RB Home||RB Away||WR Home||WR Away||TE Home||TE Away|
As you can see, over the past three years, quarterbacks have scored 4.7% more points when playing at home. If you take the difference between the two and divide by eight (each team plays eight home games) it gives an advantage of 0.77 fantasy points per week for quarterbacks playing at home.
The following chart shows which teams have an advantage at each position for week one based on both their opponent and whether they are playing at home or on the road:
Note: This includes points for all players on a team so if your receiver only gets 30% of the fantasy points scored by wide receivers on his team you need to multiply his team’s number by 0.30.
Picking players for Pay The Fan and our Ultimate FF Strategy Challenge:
In this league you pick players every week but you may only pick each player twice during the season. Here is our strategy and some suggestions for each position:
You should pick amongst your top ten QBs but we recommend keeping Manning, Brady and Brees for later in the year when we will have more statistics and will know for sure that they are playing a weak defense. Garrard, Romo, McNabb and Rivers are all playing on the road and are at a disadvantage based on the chart shown above. Therefore, our suggestions for week one are: Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner and Matt Schaub.
Since you start two RBs every week you should try and pick amongst the top 20 RBs in your pre-season rankings. Jones-Drew, Peterson and Forte are the obvious top three so you should save them for much later in the year when you know which defenses are strong and which are weak. L. Johnson, Barber, Smith, Westbrook, Gore, Jackson, C. Johnson, Brown and Portis all have pretty negative numbers in the chart above so we would recommend staying away from them. Pierre Thomas is unlikely to play in the first week of the year so you may want to consider Reggie Bush. Our suggestions for week one are: Steve Slaton, LaDainian Tomlinson, Ryan Grant, Darren McFadden, Brandon Jacobs, Cedric Benson, Michael Turner and Reggie Bush.
Since you start two WRs every week you should normally try and pick amongst the top 20 but there are always a lot of surprises at the WR position. We see a pretty big drop after the top 13 and we also recommend to stay away from Moss, A. Johnson and Fitzgerald until later in the year. Of the other ten, only Smith and Ochocinco have negative numbers that are worth worrying about. Cassel’s status for week one is uncertain so you should also stay away from Dwayne Bowe. Our suggestions for week one are: Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Greg Jennings, Terrell Owens, Anquan Boldin, Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker.
You only start one TE every week but there is a significant drop after the top seven TEs so you should only pick amongst those for the first couple of weeks. We recommend saving Witten and Gates until later in the year which leaves five players to choose from. Of those five, Cooley is the only one with number that is significantly negative which leaves us with four suggestions for week one: Dallas Clark, Owen Daniels, Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen.
PK and Defenses:
Kickers and defenses already involve a significant amount of luck during the season and there is even more when we have little data to analyze. Kickers have an advantage of 4.8% while playing at home and defenses have an advantage of 12.3%. Your best option is therefore to pick a top 16 kicker and defense that are playing at home and hope for the best. At kicker we do like John Carney because he is playing at home and since Hartley should take over after the first four games, you could use a Saints starting kicker four times during the year instead of two.
If you want to test your skills and believe you can beat us, join the Ultimate FF Strategy Challenge now for a chance to win $75,000 as well as $4,000 in weekly prizes. Currently the participants also have a 1 in 6 chance at the Ultimate FF Strategy Trophy and an NFL Replica Jersey of their choice.