Since this is supposedly a fantasy site, and we are supposedly fantasy football experts, I felt it was time we got the ball rolling on some early fantasy football analysis and research strategies.
But before I do, I wanted to lay out some ground rules:
Rule #1-We Focus Primarily on PPR (Point Per Reception) Fantasy Leagues
We at TFN would like to become your one-stop location for PPR analysis. If you’re not in a PPR league, well, you should still read our stuff, but keep in mind that almost 100% of our analysis will be based on PPR scoring formats. Last year Yahoo! reported that the percentage of their leagues that used PPR scoring had gone up to an all-time high of something like 20%. That doesn’t sound like much, but we feel that it’s significant enough to offer niche analysis; most sites give you standard scoring rankings and analysis, so you’ll be happy to know that if you do play in a PPR league, TFN will not mislead you by ranking stone-handed RBs ahead of ones who catch a ton of passes…so there’s that.
We have yet to officially prove that PPR is better than standard scoring or touchdown-only leagues, but we’re working on an argument for it. The truth is, as of now, I don’t really know that PPR is better, and can’t really argue for it without doing a ton of research that I’m not going to do (I plan on letting Chairman Mao take care of that, and his article should be coming soon).
But here are the basic premises (keep in mind, these are yet to be backed up by actual facts; again, stay tuned for the Chairman’s article which will hopefully help justify it):
1. PPR allows for more scoring, and more scoring is better. The more opportunities each player has to score points, the more parity and competitiveness will exist in your fantasy league. For that reason alone we urge you to employ PPR if you’re just starting your league, or switch to PPR if you’re continuing a league.
2. PPR promotes relevance and value form unexpected players. For instance, last year Reggie Bush had a pedestrian rushing year. He appeared in 14 games, which is more than in any year since his rookie season. But his rushing attempts were a career low 70. Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Lydell Hamilton ate up most of the rushing attempts for the Saints. Bush, whose strengths have always been in the receiving/return games, still managed to score 8 combined TDs. In standard scoring leagues, Bush would’ve totaled a modest 118 points. But his 47 receptions bumped that number to 165 in PPR leagues, or a difference almost 8 more TDs in standard scoring formats. Essentially, by counting his receptions, Bush’s 8 TDs that probably failed to impress standard scoring owners, went to 16 TDs, a marked difference. Check out Bush’s totals over his career in standard scoring vs. PPR formats:
|Standard Scoring||PPR||Difference of Fantasy PPG from Standard to PPR|
As you can see, Bush averaged nearly a TD more per game in fantasy production in each of his first three seasons. That number decreased last year because his receptions went down. But you get the idea. He was more viable when receptions counted. And he’s not the only one. Several RBs’ viability increased. The basic idea is, the more viable fantasy options there are, the deeper the player pools are, and the more competitive your league will be. And while some RBs suffered in PPR, overall, the stars weren’t neutralized; with a few exceptions (like Adrian Peterson and DeAngelo Williams) dominant fantasy RBs have good rushing yard and reception totals. The stars you’re used to drafting are only made better in PPR leagues. When Chairman Mao gets around to writing his article, you’ll see that to be true.
3. Most of us play in PPR-only leagues. Sorry. It’s just the way it is. And since it’s what we like, and what we know, it’s what we’re going to write about.
Rule #2-We will Never Analyze Kickers or Defenses, or include them in mock drafts in which we participate.
Look, I know kickers and defenses are part of the game, but if it were up to me, kickers wouldn’t be, and it would be against the rules to draft a defense at all (or at least until the last round). The only benefit of including kickers in fantasy leagues and allowing people to draft defenses whenever they want is that inevitably some dumb bastard will draft one too early, thus opening up value for you, a fantasy owner who is hopefully smart enough to know that you shouldn’t draft kickers and defenses until the last two rounds of your draft.
There’s no argument to the contrary. If you can come up with one, keep it to yourself, because no matter your evidence, you’re still going to be a moron. If you need us to prove to you how stupid it is to draft kickers and defenses before the last two rounds of your league, I’ll have Chairman Mao or someone write up a report letting you know how history has proven that you can either get a defense that will out-perform the mean later than the popular choices, or you can just add/drop defenses every week until you find one that works, and that kickers are a complete and utter statistical crapshoot.
Rule #3-With very few exceptions, we will never draft QBs higher than similarly-ranked RBs or WRs
While not every ninja will agree completely, and everyone’s rankings will be different, it’s safe to say that the numbers can be trusted, and the numbers suggest that the point per game dropoff between the top 5 QBs and the QBs from 10-15 is much smaller than the same dropoffs from WRs and RBs ranked in the same range. Furthermore, unless you play in a league that requires two starting QBs, the need for maintaining value in the WR/RB positions is much greater. In other words, it behooves you to draft a pair of dominant RBs or WRs before you draft one dominant QB, simply because the more dominant RBs/WRs that you miss out on, the larger the amount of fantasy points you stand to lose at multiple required starting positions. The numbers don’t lie. Anyone who tells you having a top three QB on your team is essential is basically an idiot.
That said, I am certainly not opposed to drafting a tier one QB in the right situation. Just know that myself, and most of my staff, will not draft a QB in the top 4 or 5 picks. Currently, I’d take Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and probably Andre Johnson, in that order, before any QB in the pool; I don’t care if it’s Manning, Brees or Rodgers, they’re not making it above those four or five. Now, if the 5th or 6th pick comes along and all of those guys are gone, I may consider a QB, but it’s still probably statistically ill-advised. It depends on your philosophy. If you want a sure-fire contributor who won’t disappoint from week to week, and value that more than a probable statistical edge at more important positions, well, you may want to draft Peyton Manning at #5. We’ll explore that later. Point is, you should never draft a QB higher than the RBs and WRs who you rank on a comparable tier.
Rule #4-With very few exceptions, we will never draft TEs higher than similarly-ranked RBs or WRs
Tight ends are important, don’t get me wrong. But like QBs, you usually can only roster one of them (barring some weird flex rules your league may employ). Either way, it’s statistically advisable to only roster one, so that means two things: First, you stand to lose more points if you ignore RB/WR for TE early. Secondly, you can probably wait to draft a TE until the later rounds, because many of your league-mates will be filling their rosters. Once 8 or 9 teams in a 10-team league have drafted a TE, you will have your pick of what will probably amount to 5-8 similarly-ranked TEs, but no one else will have a reason to draft them out from under you, so you can probably wait until the very end of the draft and still land an adequate one.
So there you have it. I’m doing some research right now, and plan on a series where I’ll be participating in 10 mock drafts at CBSsportsline.com. Five will be 10-team leagues, five will be 12-team leagues. In two I’ll focus on filling out my roster. For instance, I’ll ignore the best values in order to make sure I field a full team. In two I’ll just pick the best player available. In two I’ll try to get a QB first, followed by a WR, then either an RB or another WR, depending on value. In two I’ll try to double up on WRs, then go RB, but ignore QB until late in the draft and/or try to draft a viable tandem of average QBs. Finally, in two I’ll go with the traditional RB-RB route, followed by a WR and a late/tandem QB.
I’ll complete the first part of the series in June, then do it again in July, then again in August. The aim of my project is multi-faceted. First, I’d like to determine what is universally the best draft strategy in order to create the best team. Second, I’d like to examine where guys are being drafted in June, versus the other two months. As actual fantasy drafts approach, you’ll see lots of guys’ values shift based on injuries, rumors, contract situations, pre-season/training camp performance, etc. This exercise will help you see where you can get sleepers and where you might want to plan on drafting players you really want.
Look for it in the coming days, but for now, make sure to start doing your research. It’s never too early.