Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – How To Pick Your Starters For Week 1

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:

Position Percentage
QB 22.8%
RB 34.2%
WR 23.6%
TE 29.8%

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
2008 141.11 128.93 208.23 190.53 243.36 247.09 83.85 77.12
2007 137.87 134.35 195.13 180.46 253.51 263.35 85.89 78.24
2006 134.38 131.62 198.47 186.05 239.51 238.62 73.50 75.28
Average 137.79 131.63 200.61 185.68 245.46 249.69 81.08 76.88
Home Advantage   4.68%   8.04%   -1.69%   5.46%

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:

OPP QB RB WR TE
ARI SF 0.47 1.15 0.10 -0.23
ATL MIA 0.50 0.35 0.10 -0.07
BAL KC 0.51 2.43 -0.17 0.58
BUF @NE -0.28 -1.79 0.45 -0.20
CAR PHI 0.09 -0.09 -0.80 0.47
CHI @GB -0.45 -0.16 -0.26 -0.08
CIN DEN 0.43 2.68 -0.45 0.55
CLE MIN 0.27 0.22 -0.49 0.29
DAL @TB -0.62 -1.11 -0.10 -0.52
DEN @CIN -0.36 -1.31 0.44 -0.11
DET @NO -0.24 -1.40 0.72 -0.55
GB CHI 0.43 1.03 0.49 0.26
HOU NYJ 0.65 0.42 -0.09 0.91
IND JAX 0.55 0.78 -0.23 0.49
JAX @IND -0.93 -0.38 -0.58 -0.38
KC @BAL -0.73 -2.28 -0.25 -0.49
MIA @ATL -0.21 -0.58 0.15 0.03
MIN @CLE -0.50 -0.81 0.42 -0.56
NE BUF 0.35 0.61 -0.21 -0.05
NO DET 0.70 2.50 -0.04 0.78
NYG WAS 0.24 0.51 -0.73 -0.14
NYJ @HOU -0.19 -0.66 0.24 -0.19
OAK SD 0.71 0.44 0.20 1.30
PHI @CAR -0.42 -1.09 0.45 -0.19
PIT TEN 0.11 0.61 -0.85 0.44
SD @OAK -0.41 0.29 -0.18 -0.39
SEA STL 0.40 2.10 -0.08 -0.02
SF @ARI 0.11 -0.59 0.97 -0.53
STL @SEA 0.01 -0.99 1.24 -0.23
TB DAL 0.34 0.39 -0.27 0.09
TEN @PIT -0.98 -1.72 -0.65 -0.54
WAS @NYG -0.56 -1.58 0.44 -0.73

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:

QB:
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.

RB:
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.

WR:
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.

TE:
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.

Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Top QB or QB Tandem?

Top Quarterback or Quarterback Tandem – Summary

Draft Recommendation: Drafting two quarterbacks between the eighth and tenth round proves to be a much better strategy than drafting one of the top quarterbacks.

One of the questions that many fantasy football players ask themselves is when to draft their starting quarterback. Many sites suggest waiting before drafting your starting QB because there is generally good value in later rounds. In our Average Draft Position Analysis Article we came to the conclusion that the two groups that have value at QB are the top three and the 13 to 16 group. However, the problem with the 13 to 16 range is that there are some risky picks in that group so this made us think: what if we selected two QBs in that 13 to 16 range to increase our chances of finding a big sleeper and reduce the risk of being left without a starter? In the following article we will compare the strategy of drafting a top QB with a below average backup to the strategy of drafting two QBs in the 13 to 16 range.

Based on our analysis, a top QB and a below average backup will earn on average 27 more points than two QBs in the 13 to 16 range. However, those calculations assume that between your starter and your backup you will have started the QB who will have the most points at the end of the season in all weeks. There is however one additional advantage of having two good QBs which is that you can adjust for matchups and start the one which you believe has the most favorable matchup every week.

We decided to look at weekly statistics from the last three years to see which strategy would have been better if you started your QB with the most points every single week. That advantage drops from 27 points to only 2 points. If you pick the best starter in most weeks (but not all) we estimate that advantage to be somewhere between 10 and 15 points.

It is still early but at this point the QBs in the 13 to 16 range are Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel, Eli Manning and Matt Hasselbeck. Matt Schaub and David Garrard are also around that range, both of whom are QBs that we believe could be undervalued this season. As shown in the article above, you can expect to earn about 10 to 15 fewer points from a QB duo composed of two of those QBs than you would with Brees, Manning or Brady and a weaker backup. The difference is that you might spend a ninth round pick on Cassel and a tenth round pick on Garrard as opposed to a second or third round pick on Brees, Manning or Brady. If you selected a WR like Reggie Wayne or Marques Colston in the second or third round instead of a top QB, you would be at a slight disadvantage at the QB position but would gain a large advantage at the WR position.

A final advantage that you can gain from picking your QBs later is that you have more players to pick from. Most websites have the top QBs ranked in the same order and if, like last year, Brady is injured and Manning does not have his best season, you could be in trouble. In our rankings last season, we had Jay Cutler ranked 5th, David Garrard 6th, Matt Schaub 11th, Aaron Rodgers 13th and Kurt Warner 14th, all five of those QBs had an average draft position at least five spots lower than where we ranked them. At the end of the year, four of the five finished in the top ten. We might not be as lucky this season but even if you pick any two QBs in the 13 to 16 range, you will gain an advantage over your opponents.

See the complete analysis

Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Rookie Wide Receivers

Rookie Wide Receivers – Summary

Draft Recommendation: Rookie wide receivers who were drafted in the top 12 in the NFL Draft are very overvalued in fantasy drafts.

The 2009 National Football League Draft took place once again at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City in late April. Year after year, once the draft is completed, analysts try and determine who were the winners and losers on draft day. Once training camps begin, fantasy sites and fantasy football managers try to predict what impact newly drafted rookies will have on their new teams. I was curious to find out whether rookie players were generally overrated or underrated by the average manager in fantasy drafts. In this article, I will compare the average draft position for rookie wide receivers to their end of year ranking in fantasy points (in a points per reception scoring system) in order to determine whether or not rookie wide receivers are worth drafting.

For this analysis I decided to look at wide receivers drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft who played at least one game in their rookie year. Of the 70 rookie wide receivers since 2000, 28 of them performed better than their average draft position which is equal to 40%. On the other hand, 46.8% of the non-rookie wide receivers with similar average draft positions performed better than expected. As you can see, by drafting a rookie wide receiver, your chances to make a good pick are 6.8% lower than by drafting a non-rookie wide receiver.

Another interesting thing I noticed by looking at rookie wide receivers is that wide receivers drafted early in the NFL Draft performed worse compared to their average draft position than ones drafted later. Since 2000, there have been 15 wide receivers drafted in the first 12 picks of the first round and only two of them performed better than their average draft position in fantasy drafts. In the past few years, Calvin Johnson, Braylon Edwards, Reggie Williams, Troy Williamson, Ted Ginn and Mike Williams are all top receivers who disappointed in their rookie season. As for the group of wide receivers that were drafted outside the top 12, the data is once again in favor of non-rookie wide receivers but only by 3.3%.

The data presented in this article makes it quite evident that you should stay away from rookie wide receivers drafted in the top 12 picks. You will want to consider rookie wide receivers that were drafted later in the NFL Draft but they are still a risk. We believe it is much easier to predict performance of receivers that have been in the league for at least one or two years than taking a guess on a rookie receiver. One thing is for sure though; do not worry about drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey or Michael Crabtree in 2009 because they are almost certain to be overvalued in fantasy drafts.

See the complete analysis

Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Rookie Wide Receivers

Rookie Wide Receivers

The 2009 National Football League Draft took place once again at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City in late April. Year after year, once the draft is completed, analysts try and determine who were the winners and losers on draft day. Once training camps begin, fantasy sites and fantasy football managers try to predict what impact newly drafted rookies will have on their new teams. I was curious to find out whether rookie players were generally overrated or underrated by the average manager in fantasy drafts. In this article, I will compare the average draft position for rookie wide receivers to their end of year ranking in fantasy points (in a points per reception scoring system) in order to determine whether or not rookie wide receivers are worth drafting.

For this analysis I decided to look at wide receivers drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft since the year 2000. To be part of this analysis, the wide receivers had to have been drafted in at least 5% of fantasy drafts according to data from myfantasyleague.com and had to play in at least one NFL game in their rookie season. This left us with 70 rookie wide receivers to analyze. As mentioned in my introduction, in order to determine if rookie wide receivers are generally overrated or underrated, I am comparing their ranking amongst other wide receivers before the season (average draft position) and after the season (fantasy points). Of the 70 rookie wide receivers since 2000, 28 of them performed better than their average draft position which is equal to 40%. On the other hand, 41.4% of the non-rookie wide receivers performed better than their average draft position since 2000. As you can see, by drafting a rookie wide receiver, your chances to make a good pick are 1.4% lower than by drafting a non-rookie wide receiver.

It is evident that players drafted later in fantasy drafts are more likely to improve than players drafted early because they have more room to improve. One of the problems with the data presented above is that the average draft position of rookie wide receivers is 61.9 while the average draft position for non-rookie wide receivers is 42.3. Therefore, instead of comparing the rookie wide receivers with all wide receivers, I thought it would be fairer to compare them with only the wide receivers that were between the 40th and 85th wide receivers taken in fantasy drafts. This ensured that the average of the average draft positions for both groups would be around 62. By choosing only that group of wide receivers, the percentage of non-rookie wide receivers that improved increased from the original 41.4% to 46.8%. This means that your chances of making a good pick in your fantasy draft decrease by 6.8% when you choose a rookie wide receiver over a non-rookie wide receiver.

 

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Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Rookie Running Backs

Rookie Running Backs

The National Football League Draft is an annual event that takes place at the end of April and was watched on ESPN by over five million viewers in 2009. Once the draft is completed, the analysis begins as to which teams won or lost the draft and which players will have the biggest impact with their new team for the upcoming season. In terms of fantasy analysis, rookie players are amongst the hardest to analyze because all we have are college statistics which are often flawed by the varying quality of opponents, the system of play or the talent surrounding the players. I was curious to find out whether rookie players were overrated or underrated by the average manager in fantasy drafts. In this article, I will compare the average draft position for rookie running backs with their ranking in fantasy points (in a points per reception scoring system) to try and determine whether or not rookie running backs are worth drafting.

For this analysis I decided to look at running backs drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft since the year 2000. To be part of this analysis, the running backs had to have been drafted in at least 5% of fantasy drafts according to data from myfantasyleague.com and had to play in at least one NFL game in their rookie season. This left us with 67 rookie running backs to analyze. As mentioned in my introduction, in order to determine if rookie running backs are generally overrated or underrated, I am comparing their ranking amongst other running backs before the season (average draft position) and after the season (fantasy points). Of the 67 rookie running backs since 2000, only 22 of them performed better than their average draft position which is equal to only 32.8%. However, only 36.8% of the non-rookie running backs performed better than their average draft position since 2000. As you can see, by drafting a rookie running back, your chances to make a good pick are 4% lower than by drafting a non-rookie running back.

By looking at the data I noticed that the lowest average draft position for a running back since 2000 was 14. Moreover, it is evident that players drafted later in a fantasy draft are more likely to improve than players drafted early in drafts because they have more room to improve. For that reason, instead of comparing the rookie running backs with all non-rookie running backs, I thought it would be fairer to compare them with only the running backs that were between the 14th and 68th running backs taken in fantasy drafts. This ensured that the average of the average draft positions for both groups would be the similat. By choosing only that group of running backs, the percentage of non-rookie running backs that improved increased from the original 36.8% to 41.3%.  This means that your chances of making a good pick in your fantasy draft decrease by 8.5% when you choose a rookie running back over a non-rookie running back.

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Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Do Pre-Season Statistics Matter?

Do Pre-Season Statistics Matter?

Football fanatics wait anxiously for the pre-season every year and fantasy football players often watch pre-season games in order to find a sleeper for their fantasy football league. However, looking at player statistics from last season there seems to be very little evidence that players who surprise in the pre-season will continue to impress in the regular season. Some of the top players in yards per carry average last pre-season were Ahmad Bradshaw, Jesse Chatman, Reggie Bush and DeShaun Foster while the leaders in receptions were Lance Moore, Troy Walters, Paris Warren and Chris Henry. After looking at those it became pretty obvious to me that player statistics have very little meaning in the pre-season since top players see little action and the level of their opponents vary. After taking a look at team statistics, I noticed that there seemed to be some meaning to them since the best teams were usually near the top. In the following article I will look at pre-season team statistics to try and determine which ones can help improve player projections for the upcoming season.

The two statistics that typically interest fantasy football players are yards and touchdowns. Looking simply at those two statistics to try and predict regular season statistics would however not be the best method. Yards are dependent on both the number of attempts and the performance on each attempt. During pre-season, one thing that is consistent is the coaching staff so a team that runs the ball more during pre-season should also run the ball more in the regular season. I therefore thought that by separately predicting attempts and yards per attempt I would obtain more accurate results. Here is the list of pre-season statistics I looked at to try and predict regular season statistics: % of rushing plays, plays per game, yards per carry, yards per pass attempt, % of rushing touchdowns and touchdowns per game. The following table shows the formula that best predicts each regular season statistics using data from the past four seasons:

  Formula
% of Rushing Plays 26.7% + 0.417 x Pre-Season
Plays per Game 48.9 + 0.191 x Pre-Season
Yards per Carry 3.35 + 0.187 x Pre-Season
Yards per Pass Attempt 4.78 + 0.269 x Pre-Season
% of Rushing Touchdowns 33.9% + 0.091 x Pre-Season
Touchdowns per Game 1.59 + 0.322 x Pre-Season

Those formulas mean that for example if a team averaged 55 offensive plays per game in the pre-season, you can expect them to average 48.9 + 0.191 x 55 = 59.4 offensive plays per game in the regular season. The coefficient by which the pre-season statistic is multiplied gives an indication of how much meaning each statistic has. As initially expected, the percentage of rushing plays has the most meaning since a coach will usually use the same system during the pre-season and the regular season. Those numbers mean very little without a point of comparison so I did the same thing but comparing regular season statistics with the previous year’s regular season statistics:

  Formula
% of Rushing Plays 27.2% + 0.409 x Previous Year
Plays per Game 34.8 + 0.423 x Previous Year
Yards per Carry 2.68 + 0.339 x Previous Year
Yards per Pass Attempt 3.59 + 0.446 x Previous Year
% of Rushing Touchdowns 30.0% + 0.197 x Previous Year
Touchdowns per Game 0.95 + 0.561 x Previous Year

As you can see the coefficients by which the previous year’s statistics are multiplied are all higher than for the pre-season statistics except for the percentage of rushing plays where they are very close. This means that the only pre-season statistic that has more meaning than the previous year’s statistic is the percentage of the time that a team will run or pass the ball. However, looking at all the data, I noticed that very often the team’s statistics for the upcoming season were between the pre-season statistics and the previous year’s regular season statistics. For example, San Diego ran the ball 53% of the time in 2006, only 45% of the time in the 2007 pre-season and 51% of the time in the 2007 regular season. This led me to believe that by combining both the pre-season statistics and the previous year’s regular season statistics I could improve the projections for the upcoming season.

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Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Does Pre-Season Matter?

 

Does Pre-Season Matter?

Football fanatics wait anxiously for the pre-season every year and fantasy football players often watch pre-season games in order to find a sleeper for their fantasy football league. However, there seems to be very little evidence that players who surprise in the pre-season will continue to impress in the regular season. Some of the top players in yards per carry average last pre-season were Ray Rice, Danny Ware, Darren McFadden and DeAngelo Williams while the leaders in receptions were DeSean Jackson, Dominique Zeigler, Dwayne Jarrett, Dominique Thompson and Kevin Walter. Even though a few players perform well in both the pre-season and regular season, it doesn’t seem like player statistics have much meaning since it really depends on the playing time that each player will get. However, the one thing that is consistent between pre-season and regular season is the coaching staff and the system that they are using. For that reason, team statistics should have much more meaning than individual player statistics. In the following article I will look at pre-season team statistics to try and determine which ones can help improve player projections for the upcoming season.

The two statistics that typically interest fantasy football players are yards and touchdowns. Looking simply at those two statistics to try and predict regular season statistics would however not be the best method. Yards are dependent on both the number of attempts and the performance on each attempt. During pre-season, one thing that is consistent is the coaching staff so a team that runs the ball more during pre-season should also run the ball more in the regular season. I therefore thought that by separately predicting attempts and yards per attempt I would obtain more accurate results. Here is the list of pre-season statistics I looked at to try and predict regular season statistics: % of rushing plays, plays per game, yards per carry, yards per pass attempt, % of rushing touchdowns and touchdowns per game. The following table shows the formula that best predicts each regular season statistics using data from the past four seasons:

  Formula
% of Rushing Plays 29.0% + 0.367 x Pre-Season
Plays per Game 51.9 + 0.140 x Pre-Season
Yards per Carry 3.48 + 0.157 x Pre-Season
Yards per Pass Attempt 5.03 + 0.233 x Pre-Season
% of Rushing Touchdowns 34.8% + 0.091 x Pre-Season
Touchdowns per Game 1.63 + 0.310 x Pre-Season

Those formulas show that if, for example, a team averaged 55 offensive plays per game in the pre-season, you can expect them to average 51.9 + 0.140 x 55 = 59.6 offensive plays per game in the regular season. The coefficient by which the pre-season statistic is multiplied gives an indication of how much meaning each statistic has. As initially expected, the percentage of rushing plays has the most meaning since a coach will usually use the same system during the pre-season and the regular season. Those numbers mean very little without a point of comparison so I did the same thing but comparing regular season statistics with the previous year’s regular season statistics:

  Formula
% of Rushing Plays 26.9% + 0.417 x Previous Year
Plays per Game 34.3 + 0.430 x Previous Year
Yards per Carry 2.83 + 0.309 x Previous Year
Yards per Pass Attempt 4.06 + 0.374 x Previous Year
% of Rushing Touchdowns 31.5% + 0.186 x Previous Year
Touchdowns per Game 1.14 + 0.478 x Previous Year

As you can see the coefficients by which the previous year’s statistics are multiplied are all higher than for the pre-season statistics but they are quite close for the percentage of rushing plays. This means that none of the pre-season statistics have more meaning than the previous year’s statistic. However, looking at all the data, I noticed that very often the team’s statistics for the upcoming season were between the pre-season statistics and the previous year’s regular season statistics. For example, Seattle ran the ball 42% of the time in 2007, 52% of the time in the 2008 pre-season and 47% of the time in the 2008 regular season. This led me to believe that by combining both the pre-season statistics and the previous year’s regular season statistics I could improve the projections for the upcoming season.

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Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Does Pre-season Matter – Summary

Does Pre-Season Matter – Summary

Draft Recommendation: When watching pre-season games, focus on the system that each team is using and whether they run or pass more often than they did last year rather than focusing on individual players.

Football fanatics wait anxiously for the pre-season every year and fantasy football players often watch pre-season games in order to find a sleeper for their fantasy football league. Even though some players perform well in both the pre-season and regular season, it doesn’t seem like player statistics have much meaning since it really depends on the playing time that each player will get. However, the one thing that is consistent between pre-season and regular season is the coaching staff and the system that they are using. For that reason, team statistics should have much more meaning than individual player statistics. In the following article I will look at pre-season team statistics to try and determine which ones can help improve player projections for the upcoming season.

The two statistics that typically interest fantasy football players are yards and touchdowns. However, looking simply at those two statistics to try and predict regular season statistics would not be the best method because yards are dependent on both the number of attempts and the performance on each attempt. The performance on each attempt between the pre-season and regular season will not be very consistent because top offensive players play very little in pre-season but one would think that if a team runs more in the pre-season, they will also run more in the regular season.

In this analysis, I looked at six different statistics and tried to determine if they could truly help us predict regular season statistics. Based on our analysis, here are those six statistics from most to least important: % of rushing plays, touchdowns per game, yards per pass attempt, yards per carry, plays per game and % of rushing touchdowns. However, in this analysis I also noticed that the previous year’s regular season statistics than the current year’s pre-season statistics are a better indicator for all six of those numbers. Therefore, we can come to the conclusion that pre-season statistics have an impact but not as much as the previous year’s regular season statistics.

However, this led me to believe that by combining both the pre-season statistics and the previous year’s regular season statistics I could improve player projections for the upcoming season. Using both of those, I calculated that the average error was almost 3% lower than if I used only regular season statistics.

Now the question many of you are probably asking yourself by now is: how useful can this be for fantasy football projections? To answer that question, I calculated passing fantasy points for each team based on my calculations of the six statistics mentioned earlier which used both the previous year’s regular season numbers and the current year’s pre-season numbers. On average, the formulas were off by 34 points or 12.7% while the average change from the previous year is 41 points or 16.3%. My formulas gave a more accurate number of fantasy points 58.1% of the time. If we look at team rushing fantasy points, the formula gave a more accurate number of fantasy points 61.9% of the time

In conclusion, pre-season statistics do mean something but you have to know which statistics to look at. When watching pre-season games it is always interesting to see which players look good and which don’t but if you want to gain information for your fantasy leagues, focus on the system that each team is using and whether they run or pass more often than they did last year. After the third week of pre-season I will publish a chart of the projected passing and rushing statistics for each team based on these formulas.

See the complete analysis

Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Drafting Individual Defensive Players

Drafting Individual Defensive Players

Most fantasy leagues involve only offensive players but drafting individual defensive players is becoming more common. We were recently invited to participate in Fantasy Football Indepth’s IDP Challenge so I decided to do a statistical analysis to find out when individual defensive players should be selected in these types of drafts.

The Average Draft Position Analysis Article compared the average draft position of players at each position with their end of year statistics. This statistical analysis is quite similar to that one but instead of looking at average draft position I will look at statistics from the previous season. It is not a perfect method but the situation does not change as much for defensive players from year to year so most people draft based on statistics from the previous year. I wanted to improve on that since as mentioned quite a bit in other articles, some statistics such as touchdowns are much harder to repeat than others. In the case of defensive players, a player such as Patrick Willis is much more likely to have over 150 tackle again than Antonio Cromartie is of having 10 interceptions again. The statistics used in IDP leagues are usually tackles, assists, sacks, safeties, interceptions, touchdowns, forced fumbles and fumbles recovered. In order to calculate which of those are easier to repeat, I looked at statistics from the past five years and imputed them in a program which gives a formula that best predicts how the player did in the following year. For example, to have the most accurate average prediction of a player’s tackles you take his previous year’s number, multiply it by 0.54 and add 23. This means that players who have 100 tackles will generally average 77 (0.54 x 100 + 23) in the following year. Here is a chart that shows the best formula to predict each of the statistics mentioned earlier:

  Formula
Tackles 23.5+0.54*Previous Year
Assists 6.5+0.58*Previous Year
Sacks 0.6+0.72*Previous Year
Safeties 0
Interceptions 0.72+0.42*Previous Year
Touchdowns 0.16+0.11*Previous Year
Forced Fumbles 0.78+0.28*Previous Year
Fumbles Recovered 0.61+0.11*Previous Year

We have projected the statistics for the top 300 defensive players based purely on these formulas and they are adjustable to your scoring system which you can download here. Please note that these statistics are not adjusted for games played so some players will be lower than they should be but it should give you a general idea of what you can expect from defensive players this year. Although the rankings can be interesting to look at the part that interests me the most is the difference in points between players. The scoring system used for Fantasy Football Indepth’s IDP Challenge is the following:

  Points
Solo Tackles 1
Assists 0.5
Sacks 3
Safeties 2
Interceptions 4
Touchdowns 6
Forced Fumbles 3
Fumbles Recovered 2

The starting lineup consists of two defensive linemen, two linebackers, two defensive backs and offensive players of course. There are twelve teams in the league so each week there will be a total of 72 defensive players starting, 24 at each position. The following chart shows the difference between the top player’s fantasy points projections and the 24th best’s projections at each position:

  Difference
DL 26.4
LB 31.5
DB 11.4

As you can see the biggest difference is between linebackers but if you take out Patrick Willis and Brian Urlacher, the difference drops to 14.4. This means that with this scoring system, other than Willis and Urlacher you should draft defensive linemen before linebackers and defensive backs. These differences are quite low however because as you can see in our Average Draft Position Analysis Article, the difference between the top wide receiver and the 36th receiver (since most leagues start three WRs) is about 125 fantasy points. It is about the same for running backs while for tight ends it’s around 100 and around 60 for quarterbacks. In other scoring systems these differences may be higher but in this case, defensive players are worth much less than players at every offensive position. The main reason to explain this is that teams will generally have four defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs on the field at the same time but they will only have one starting quarterback. Furthermore, some defensive player statistics such as touchdowns and interceptions are very hard to predict and vary a lot from year to year.

In conclusion, as shown by the statistics above, defensive players in IDP leagues are not as valuable as some may think. We will analyze individual players more within the next few days but it is very unlikely that we will draft any defensive players before the 11th round (after 2 QBs, 3 RBs, 4 WRs, 1 TE) and probably later depending on how the draft goes. We could be tempted by Patrick Willis earlier but he is likely to be gone by that time. Although the scoring system may be different in your league, it is quite obvious that defensive players do not have very much value and you should wait until much later in your drafts to select them.

Ultimate Fantasy Football Strategy – Strategies for Drafting Depth

Strategies for Drafting Depth – Summary

Draft Recommendations: Draft the most depth at the position which you neglect in the first nine rounds of your fantasy draft, do not pass on a good player in early rounds because you already have all your starters at that position and do not neglect the importance of a third QB.

Fantasy owners often focus on the strategy for drafting starting players for their fantasy football team but often forget that injuries happen very often in the NFL. Some people will pass on a running back they really like because they already drafted two and would rather draft their third starting wide receiver. In this article, we will address this and tell you at which positions you should have the most depth and how important it is to have depth on your fantasy team.

In order to do this analysis, we used a measure called “starter games”. Starter games are equal to the average number of games played by players drafted at a certain position (QBs in the top 8, 9 to 16 or 17 to 24 in average draft position) in fantasy drafts but only for players who would have been good enough to start on your fantasy football team. For example, for quarterbacks it will only count the number of games played for quarterbacks who averaged more than 17 fantasy points per game in a season.

This may seem complicated at first look but it will clarify as we analyze each position one by one:

Quarterbacks
Quarterbacks are the ones that play the fewest number of starter games amongst all positions. This means that quarterbacks are quite unpredictable and also get hurt quite often. In our Top QB or QB Tandem Article we suggest that you should draft two quarterbacks in the 13 to 16 range instead of drafting one of the top quarterbacks. Our numbers show that it is a slightly better strategy for depth than drafting a top QB but it also tells us that, if you can, you should draft a third quarterback in the top 24.

Running Backs
Fantasy players generally draft a lot of depth at the running back position because it is known that running backs are injury-prone and you can usually find some nice sleepers late in the draft. The best strategy for depth is to draft a top 12 running back and three in the 13 to 36 range. If you do that, most of the time you will not need your other backups and four running backs would be enough. If you cannot draft that many in the top 36, you just have to draft more running backs later in your draft.

Wide Receivers
Wide receivers will generally play more games than running backs and there is also more depth available later in the draft and on waivers. If you draft two WRs in the top 24 and two more in the 25 to 48 range, it will leave you a few games short. However, even if you have to wait until the final few rounds of your drafts to select your backups, it is not a big deal because there is quite a bit of depth at the position and you can always get more on waivers during the season.

Tight Ends

Most fantasy players generally don’t bother about their backup tight end but as you can see, even if you draft a top eight tight end, you are still missing 4.4 starter games.  Because of that, we strongly recommend that you draft your backup tight end in the top 16 or you could lose some valuable points from the tight end position for a number of games.

Conclusion

These numbers were quite surprising to us and show that you cannot underestimate the value of a backup quarterback or a backup tight end. Based on this analysis and our Average Draft Position Analysis, in the first nine rounds of your draft you will need at least 1 QB, 3 RBs, 2 WRs and 1 TE.

There is nothing wrong with drafting your second backup RB before your last starting WR or your backup QB before your first backup WR if you are getting good value. The only thing that you want to ensure is that you do not go over the average starter games required before having drafted all of your starters at these four positions. The final pieces of advices are that the position which you neglect in the first nine rounds of your draft is the position where you will want to draft the most backups and if your draft has 20 rounds or more, you should absolutely draft a third QB.

See the complete analysis