Fantasy Football 10 Commandments

How to not suck at Fantasy Football

FPS has 12 years of winning Fantasy Football experience under its belt. Not just in record, titles and 2nd place finishes, but when teasing out variance and luck: FPS consistently outperforms expectations of the “crowd”. Below you can see 2 quick examples from last year alone, where our teams outperformed their expected finish (relative to what ESPN’s Algorithm computed) at league high rates.

In other words, we are better at predicting player performance than the market.

FPS has developed consistent winning habits that for the first time, in aggregate, we decided to share with you.

Whether you’re new to the game, or an advanced player, the following article is written to help you win more by understanding/utilizing our tried-and-true-approach to Fantasy Football. The Fantasy Football 10 Commandments are what we have used to win multiple championships, and field an 72% set of winning teams over the last 5 seasons and return roughly 240% of our league entries. Following these commandments will set you up for success in the 2020 season (God willing that there is one).

  1. Thou shall understand the “Production Formula”

Opportunity(Scheme + Touch Volume) + Talent = Production. This is a key fundamental to success in Fantasy Football. Winning games comes from scoring points. Scoring points comes from stats. Stats do NOT necessarily equate to talent, or opportunity alone. And the formula and its scale is key to understand and predict outcomes during your preseason prep. In other words, there are plenty of players that are not efficient/even “good” that because of touch volume you can win Fantasy Football with. On the flip side, there are players that are insanely talented, yet may not get the ball at a high rate, but will still be valuable.

Its important to recognize the “Opportunity” variable in the formula as a function of Scheme AND Touches. The NFL is littered with talented players that excel in one scheme or another. Whether its heavy Play-Action vs Drop back, Quick Passing Game vs 5 Step Drop or Zone vs. Gap Running, when you dive into the advanced analytics, you will find players far more efficient in one scheme vs the other.

This is one (of the many) reasons so many prognosticators are high on *LAR RB Cam Akers in 2020. He is a prototype zone runner (both anecdotally and by the success rates in college), going to a team and Offensive Coordinator (OC) that wants to employ a zone running concept. As a side-note, Cam should also be an example of the “Talent” aspect. Besides coming in with good measurables for a Runningback (RB), along with solid NCAA advanced running metrics, he did all that with the 4th worst Power-5 rated Offensive Line (OL) by **ALY yards (115th overall in NCAA):

*Note: As always, all NFL team names are written in their “assumed” 2-3 letter abbreviation (Chicago Bears are CHI, Los Angeles Rams are LAR, etc)

**ALY: Adjusted Line Yards, a proprietary metric of Football Outsiders that attempts to hone in on OL vs RB responsibility for rushing yards.

Note: Zone running schemes (briefly) deploy OL that block an area, vs. Gap (or what should just be called Man Running) Schemes are where the OL blocks a designated man. Typically Zone Running Schemes require RBs with great vision, and agility to put their foot in the ground and find an NON-Pre-Planned hole, whereas Gap Schemes are more “ground and pound” (think ISO plays from back in Pop Warner) that require a strong RB with good straight-line acceleration and contact balance.

2. Thou shall embrace regression as KING when predicting season-long outcomes

When I was about 10-years old, and just started playing Fantasy Football, I would look at a player’s stats from last season, and think, “wow, he caught 15 TDs last season, I need to target him”. I was too young and dumb to know what “Regression towards the mean” meant, or particularly with “extremes” like touchdowns, turnovers or explosive plays aren’t constant from one year to the next. Plays that are unusual relative to any given football play tend to sway, or rebound (like a basketball) around a middle section called the median. If player A had 200% his normal TDs, or picked off Quarterbacks (QBs) at a 2x rate his historical norm, the next year, he’s likely to regress towards his mean/median (average) output. This concept, VERY SIMPLY PUT, that players and teams that have exceptionally good/bad performances in a certain, non sustainable, category over a period of time, tend to always come back to a norm. This is a central theme of importance to predicting Football Success, Fantasy or otherwise. This applies to the team level as well, regression being the entire basis of the NFL 2020 Predictions article.

So, how do you apply this to fantasy football? We will cover a few in the sections to come, but a good place to start is Touchdown Dependency. If a RB runs for one yard on his own 33 yard line, he gets .1 fantasy points, if that same RB runs for 1 yard on the opponent’s 1 yard line, he gets 6.1 points (6 points for the TD + .1 points for the yard). As you can see “not all yards are equal”, and when a player has a high ratio of TDs (incorporated with the rest of his production), relative to his position, historical average and other “fantasy point contributions” (like that yard at the 33 yard line) in a given year, he tends to fall back towards his mean the next year. As a prime example LAC Mike Williams was a semi-breakout WR in 2018, finished as WR20 with 137 Fantasy Points. During that year he posted an astonishing 23.25% TD/Reception rate. He essentially caught a TD every 4 passes. This is not sustainable, and knowing that his overall production was buoyed by an insane TD rate, most could guess his Fantasy value would take a hit in 2019, and it did with a regressing TD rate. In 2019 Williams almost got a 50% bump in targets, yet his TD rate fell to 4.08% and finished outside of WR3 territory.

Chargers News: WR Mike Williams named most-promising building ...

Mind you this works both ways. Wide Receiver (WR) Robert Woods averaged 5.5 TDs in his first two years with LAR, then fell to 2 TDs in 2019. Ignoring all the targets that are up for grabs for the LAR WRs, a player like that, with an established median expected production line, that failed to hit a “multiplier variable”, will almost assuredly regress back and hit 4-8 TDs this year, and creep into WR2 territory (even though he’s going at WR 28 right now).

One key point to note here: 60-75% of the players you’re drafting against still think like the 10 year old Ryan. They see last year’s insane production and they click “draft”. This is the second part of regression’s “one-two punch” when applied to Fantasy Football. Not only will you be able to predict outcomes better than the next guy, “the next guy” is likely to fall into the “not understanding regression” trap, like selecting Williams in 2019 (you know who you are).

Note: If you are unfamiliar with the concept of “tendency towards the mean” think back to the old ACT question that used to be on every test in some format. It went something like this: A fair-sided coin has been flipped 100 times, 70 times its come up heads, and 30 times tails. What is the probability of a tails on the 101st toss…the question is meant to trip up those unfamiliar with this phenomenon: the answer is 50%, as it is with every toss. All outcomes in nature tend towards their normal distribution of outcomes…if you tossed that same coin 10,000 times, you would eventually get to something close to 5,000 heads and 5,000 tails (even if that 101st time it came up tails).

3. Thou shall draft Safe Early, Risky Late

Contrary to your 401k Nest egg, good Fantasy Football drafters know to “keep things safe early” while being “risky” late. Two things to note here. First, good players are good. Yes, I said it. But the point is, the first 2-4 rounds of a draft are not a time to get cute (Saul, aka the Karen of Fantasy Football Drafting). The fact of the matter, as much as you think you know, 90% of the time, in those early rounds the “market”/”prognosticators”/whatever you want to call it are right. This is a time to load up on blue-chip talent *regardless of need. This is the time to draft players with the highest FLOOR (minimum expected output). Second, and maybe that’s the takeaway here: late rounds aren’t treated by league winners as places to grab backups, or make sure your bye weeks stack up (that’s really dumb by the way, but will keep that for another day). Its a place to be risky, and more so, find POTENTIAL league winning players. In other words this is the part of the draft you grab players with the highest CEILING (maximum expected output).

In Fantasy Points Upside Wins Championships Scott Barrett goes so far to say

“One last time: prioritize upside. A player’s best-case projection is more important than their base projection, which is more important than their worst-case projection. With ADP being more a reflection of a player’s most likely outcome, the optimal strategy also comes at a discount. As we go farther along in the draft the more important upside becomes. Upside maybe isn’t our chief concern in the first round. Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott have about the same upside – it’s sky-high, hence why they’re drafted in the first round. In the fifth round, it matters a great deal more. In the double-digit rounds, upside is just about all that matters. It should be the driving force behind every pick you make.”

Essentially it comes down to this: there is only one winner of the league. Payouts are heavily skewed to the champion (not 2nd, 3rd…etc place), so you should draft late thinking, who has the highest likelihood to be the next 2018 Alvin Kamara, not which handcuff should I take from the BAL backfield.

*Quick sidebar about drafting based on talent vs need. Very similar to actual NFL Drafts, smart GMs have figured out there is so much risk in any pick already, pigeon-holing yourself into players from one position just limits the upside even more. Frankly put, in fantasy IGNORE your positional needs (especially early). Worst case scenario, you end up with an excess of star players in PositionA, that you can trade for a position of need after week 3-4 when outcomes are more clear.

4. Thou shall not covet absolute value over scarcity

(Disclaimer before I say something that will ruffle some feathers: My Mom has been a CPS School Teacher for almost 30 years) Teachers SHOULD get paid more (just like policeman and fireman), right? Maybe, but in a free market, occupations are not paid on “SHOULDs”, they are paid on scarcity. What can you do, that most can’t. Like it or not, many people can teach, police and put out fires. Maybe 2-3 people on the planet will ever be able to do what Pat Mahomes can, hence he recently entered the “Half-a-Bill” club.

I say this, because one of the biggest mistakes novice drafters make is ignoring relative values/scarcity. Here is the best way to explain it. See the chart below of the Top 12 Fantasy Scorers in 2019 regardless of position:

You will find 11 QBs, and only 1 RB. If you expand that to the top 24 scorers, you get 19 QBs and 4 RBs. A QB has finished as the top fantasy scorer just about every year ever. So, you should use your first pick to take a QB, right? NO!

If you are playing in a league with 12 teams, what you SHOULD look at is the difference of the QB1’s output from QB12’s, which was about 150 points. Think about that, the difference from the best QB, and the “worst” starting QB was 150 points (of scarcity). The difference from RB1 and RB24 (12 teams x 2 RBs start = 24) is 215 points. That’s more than 43% difference in the “Best RB starter” and the “Worst RB starter” vs the “Best QB starter” and the “Worst QB Starter”. Your goal, ideally, should be to field a team with top players at every position. That’s known. What’s also known is there isn’t as much difference between QB1-QB12 as there is RB1 and RB24, so why get a QB, when you know you can wait, gather RB/WR/TE which are much more scarce (have a larger range between their 1 and 24/36)?

Key: You can draft a QB that’s likely to end up as a QB1 after round 8. You can NOT draft a RB likely to be RB1/2 after round 8, so collect RB/WR/TE early.

Some publications and websites are starting to do a great job in baking the scarcity concept into their “standard draft stats”, where you’ll see columns labeled “X Number” or “Points over Baseline” to help ensure you are picking a player with a projection of higher relative value with all positions considered. That is, when choosing between, say an RB who’s “Points over baseline” is 100 and the best of the other positions is 75, take the RB.

*This is likely a good place to mention: (Check league setting before the draft) If you don’t need to draft a K and/or D/ST at all, don’t (you can always pick one up before week one, and instead draft some additional injury exposure insurance in the weeks before the season starts, especially in a pandemic). They are by FAR the least scarce position. And if your draft makes you pick one, no matter how hard it is to find a player in the 2nd-3rd to last pick, please resist in taking a K/DST.

Note: If you are playing in an auction league this is especially crucial as it should serve as the pricing function base you use. You can learn more about How to Budget an Auction Draft, but spoilers “Its finding out how scarce each position (as a whole from RB1-12, WR1-12 etc) is based on 2020 projections, then pricing/budgeting accordingly. FPS will have its 2020 Auction Budget up shortly.

5. Thou shall know what to look for, and what to avoid

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned, for both Fantasy and Sports Betting is to “let go” of certain indications I THOUGHT had value, but learned later were skewing my decisions from causal to correlated. Freakonomics produced an excellent piece on the “Information Overload” phenomenon when its comes to predicting sports outcomes. Essentially, there are certain “markers” or indicators, that help you target value going into a season. But, knowing what to look for, and what to ignore is key. Below are some key metrics FPS utilizes that have actual, causal and predictive value, and some we suggest you avoid and don’t really help at all.

Red/Green Flags to consider

We have already covered TD Regression above, so we won’t include that in the following sub list, even though we absolutely recommend tracking this number (especially for WR, as its highly predictive of the following year’s outcome).

A. Plexiglas Effects

Offensive Team factors clearly affect individual Fantasy performance. Therefore, using the previously noted power of regression we can glean information on the direction a team/offense is likely to go in one year vs. the next. There are 2 good, predictive examples of this, as outlined in 2020 NFL Predictions, but honing in on offence, we have included the data for 2020 below.

Note: all (except Y/P) performance is valued in Football Outsiders DVOA, as it teases out variance, luck and accounts for opponent strength to hone in on actual outcomes.

2020 Offensive Yards/Point

The concept of looking at Yards/Points (Y/P) from year 0 to predict year 1 outcomes goes to Phil Steele. Essentially, football is a game of gaining yardage, and apples to apples, teams that turn that yardage into points more efficiently in one year, typically see a regression the following year (and vice versa).
*You can read the table below this way: OAK (now LV) at 18.6 Y/P took 50% more yards to get the same points as BAL at 12.3 Y/P

TeamPYY/P
Oakland Raiders313581918.59
Cincinnati Bengals279516918.53
Jacksonville Jaguars300546818.23
Los Angeles Chargers337587917.45
Chicago Bears280474916.96
Denver Broncos282477716.94
Buffalo Bills314528316.82
Washington Redskins266439516.52
Cleveland Browns335545516.28
Detroit Lions341554916.27
Miami Dolphins306496016.21
Carolina Panthers340546916.09
Atlanta Falcons381607515.94
Dallas Cowboys434690415.91
New York Giants341541615.88
New York Jets276436815.83
Houston Texans378579215.32
Pittsburgh Steelers289442815.32
Los Angeles Rams394599815.22
Arizona Cardinals361546715.14
Philadelphia Eagles385577214.99
Seattle Seahawks405599114.79
Green Bay Packers376552814.70
Indianapolis Colts361523814.51
Tennessee Titans402580514.44
Tampa Bay Buccaneers458636613.90
Minnesota Vikings407565613.90
New England Patriots420566413.49
Kansas City Chiefs451606713.45
New Orleans Saints458598213.06
San Francisco 49ers479609712.73
Baltimore Ravens531652112.28

2020 Offensive 3rd Down Rebound (Credit goes to Football Outsiders for this metric)
Offenses that performed well in the first 2 downs, relative to 3rd/4th downs are likely to improve in the coming year (and vice versa). See 3rd Down Regression Team Candidates below.

Team1+2 dn. DVOA3+4 dn. DVOA3+4/1+2 DVOA
KC15.90%46.10%30.20%
MIN-0.50%26.60%27.10%
OAK-0.90%25.90%26.80%
ATL-3.20%21.80%25.00%
PHI-2.75%18.40%21.15%
HOU-3.75%15.90%19.65%
DAL21.40%37.60%16.20%
BAL25.20%40.80%15.60%
IND-6.15%7.10%13.25%
DET-4.85%7.20%12.05%
NYG-9.80%-0.30%9.50%
CHI-11.75%-5.80%5.95%
MIA-13.60%-10.50%3.10%
SF5.60%8.40%2.80%
CIN-16.65%-14.60%2.05%
LAC2.50%3.90%1.40%
LAR0.80%0.30%-0.50%
GB7.10%5.80%-1.30%
ARI4.35%1.60%-2.75%
JAX-8.85%-12.00%-3.15%
SEA18.20%14.10%-4.10%
NE5.65%-1.00%-6.65%
BUF-5.65%-15.10%-9.45%
PIT-22.20%-36.60%-14.40%
DEN-7.85%-23.60%-15.75%
TB-3.50%-21.50%-18.00%
CLE-0.90%-19.30%-18.40%
NO24.85%5.80%-19.05%
NYJ-20.00%-42.70%-22.70%
TEN18.00%-9.10%-27.10%
CAR-8.95%-38.50%-29.55%
WAS-9.20%-55.30%-46.10%

2020 Offensive Redzone (RZ) Rebound
Offenses that performed well in the first 80 yards of the field, relative to the redzone are likely to improve in the coming year (and vice versa). See Top RZ Regression Team Candidates below.

TeamRZ DVOANon RZ DVOANon RZ/RZ DVOA
KC-3.40%3.7515.25
LAC-15.20%10.7512.25
CLE-25.50%16.2511.75
JAX-27.00%20.258.75
OAK-7.70%11.758.25
NE-2.30%11.256.75
PIT-48.30%266
CIN-35.70%25.255.75
BUF-13.90%175
SF1.30%10.254.75
DEN-21.20%23.253.75
CHI-18.10%223
DET-13.80%18.52.5
CAR-15.30%22.51.5
ATL0.10%15.751.25
NYJ-30.10%291
NO26.70%5.750.25
WAS-20.20%26.25-0.25
MIN9.90%10-1
DAL34.70%5.25-3.25
BAL45.10%4.75-3.75
HOU6.00%15.75-4.75
TB0.50%20.75-4.75
ARI6.20%15-5
SEA34.40%8.25-5.25
IND2.60%19.5-5.5
NYG4.30%19-7
GB16.10%15.25-7.25
TEN31.20%12.5-8.5
LAR22.20%19.75-12.75
MIA3.00%27.25-14.25
PHI27.50%19.5-14.5

B. Displaced Targets

Although FPS is weary of the typical market production of Target Displacement/Targets Lost/etc (seeing many outlets don’t account for player additions and ignore their effects on historical target ratio), if you can find a reputable site that lists displaced targets, this can be a very useful tool when finding value for WR/TE (and even RBs). This idea, is pretty logical: if the same offense, OC and QB remains, targets that have been “lost” via WR/RB/TE free agency/trade/retirement, “someone has to catch the ball”. right?

Note: FPS had its own displaced target research, but upon further review, we weren’t 100% confident in its efficacy, so we are going back to the drawing board, stay tuned.

C. Team Capital Invested

One of my all-time favorite indicators: Capital Invested. Not only does it make infinite sense that Owners, GMs and OCs are more likely to feed the ball to players a team either drafted highly, spent a lot on in Free Agency or traded serious capital for, but it parallels the real world (unfortunately or not). Economically speaking, labor you have invested highly in, you expect a good Return on Investment (ROI) from. Hence, its human nature to do everything you can to squeeze that ROI out of a heavily vested player.

*Bonus: Frankly, we have not run regression on this yet, but have seen other implications swear by it, and we (at least anecdotally agree): When in doubt: Draft RBs from good teams, that will likely have positive game scripts (i.e. lots of running) and QB/WR/TE from bad teams as they will have the opposite situation (passing a lot).

Red/Green Flags to ignore

As noted, to avoid “Information Overload” and try to ignore the “noise” we recommend not putting any value in these “flags” below:

A. Strength of Schedule (SOS)

Back in 2006, before it became mainstream, I realized many a NFL team win predictions were based on SOS. That is, how tough a slate of opponents does a team face in the coming year. Makes sense right? Well, I thought, why doesn’t that also apply to fantasy? If teams that stopped the run well last year carries over to the next, shouldn’t I look for RBs likely to face an easy slate of run-stoppers? It was my first football research project ever, and after hours of copying and pasting into excel (I hadn’t learned v-lookup or pivot tables yet) I came up with the world’s first Fantasy Football SOS (honest to God, I tried to ask a lawyer if I could do anything to ensure credit for it, and he just told me “dumb”). Many years later its become pretty mainstream, and many years later I have become much wiser. There is so much to consider in predicting one players’s outcome of 53 among 32 teams, that I have realized: This is information overload. Rarely does the preseason positional defensive SOS perform as expected, hence wasting your time to look at this function.

For starters, Team Defense as a whole is much less predictive from one year to the next compared to offense. Second, projecting a defense with all its moving parts (change in coaches, personnel etc), is very difficult on its own, and when you try to drill down to how they will fare vs RB/WR/TE, it becomes impossible.

There are a couple of small exceptions to this rule. For one, if you are streaming a Defense (highly recommend doing so) taking a D/ST based on its Week 1-2 opponent strength has value (for one D/ST SOS is easier to predict since it corresponds to a full team/its Offense, and two its a much smaller window you consider). Additionally, we have seen some success when looking at SOS ONLY for QB, ONLY in the first 4 weeks as explained by Mike Tagliere. As a position of such small scarcity, we’re okay with using it as a “differentiator”.

Note: Match-ups are very important in the Micro, i.e. week-to-week, but not when taken over the course of 16 games in the aggregate

B. Curse of 370

What was once a very solid predictor (RBs that carried 370 or more times the year before, will get hurt/decrease value in the next season), has essentially become defunct. In the 2020s NFL, even when you try to adjust for postseason carries, or include receptions, etc…it just doesn’t really happen anymore. Instead, I recommend looking at positions based on when their peers have typically deteriorated. As Football Outsiders puts it ” Running backs usually decline after age 28, tight ends after age 29, wide receivers after age 30, and quarterbacks after age 32.”.

C. Contract Year

I used to notate every player that was in a contract year, assuming (as they are human) they will be extra motivated to produce. Although this is intuitive we have found next to 0 correlation between players in a contract year and additional production above what’s expected. Not to mention all of this is ignoring the fact that in 2020, the way the market behaves/Rookie Wage structure, players could be 2, even 3 years away from their “actual contract year”, yet be viewed in a “prove it situation”. Just don’t waste your time with this one.

*Only because we’re on the topic of what to ignore, am I the only person that gets pissed off at Preseason Fantasy Magazines that include “Team Sections”…what is the point to these? Its about 10-20% of the magazine’s content, yet I am not drafting a team. It seems like such a waste. Anyway, off my soapbox.

6. Thou shall not be “that guy” on Draft Day (Be Prepared)

OK, you all know what I mean by “that guy”. And yes, its cute and funny, but in reality if you’re reading this post, this far down you take Fantasy Football seriously, so I know you also can’t stand “that guy”. I also know you likely have heard time and time again to practice via mock drafts, so I won’t just repeat what you have heard 100 times. However, I will quickly note, Mock Drafts suck, and often result in unrealistic scenarios, so I highly recommend using a “Draft Simulator” instead, like the Fantasy Pros Draft Simulator. They are much more realistic, take about 1/4th of the time as a mock, and provide in-depth feedback after every bout.

Since the whole point of this article is to provide you with tools you were not aware of I will teach you something absolutely unique and game-changing:

Arrive to your draft with a “Draft Script” (and only a Draft Script). What is a Draft Script? Its an FPS original, here’s what 2019 looked like (PPR, 14 team, redraft):

As you can see, it outlines who was likely to be taken in each round (based on ADP), with only players you truly covet (based on intense research)/ranked by “your want in that round”, all ready to go, so when draft day comes you don’t really need to do anything, but find the most coveted player still on the board and snag him.

No cheat-sheets, no rankings, nothing that distracts you from what you are there to do: make the most out of the work you have put in researching and get the guys you really want (color-coated and sectioned to maximize you fielding a winning team).

Note: FPS scripts will be available for the public in August.

7. Thou shall not covet QBs that performed well under pressure (vs a Clean Pocket)

Every position has a multitude of factors, stats and scenarios you need to evaluate to predict success. Below is a game-changer for the QB position.

Last preseason I went to the Bears training camp, and heard multiple homers in the stands crying out to Mitch Trubisky, begging him “not bankrupt the franchise” with the inevitable massive contract extension a star 2019 season would bring. Holding my tongue, and not trying to educate a grown man wearing cargo shorts, I still couldn’t help but think I was the only one that saw this coming. Well, at least Football Outsiders and myself. The fact is many in the analytics community have found a very predictive indication with QB Play: QB performance under pressure is much less a function of QB talent vs QB performance in a clean pocket. Think of it, with all the chaos that pressure brings with it, many more things out of a QB’s control have to go right to perform well RELATIVE to the “ownership” a QB has over the play in a clean pocket.

Its similar to how the analytics community separates fumbles and interceptions in defensive turnovers. A fumble recovery has next to 0 to do with performance, and varies wildly from year to year. However, an interception is derived more from skill (relatively speaking). Hence, team fumble recovery rates vary wildly from year to year, regardless how good or bad a team is. Say a defense forced 35 Defensive turnovers, including 15 fumbles recoveries at a 75% fumble recovery rate in a given year. That recovery rate of 75%, will very likely tend towards the mean (50% or lower), bringing the fumble recoveries down, and inevitably the defense’s overall turnovers forced.

Similarly, QBs that perform well under pressure, relative to a clean pocket, tend to perform worse (towards the mean) when pressured the coming year pulling down overall performance. Take a look at what these rates looked like going in to the 2019 season, and why I knew Mitch would not get that contract:

No photo description available.

If you are curious about the rates going in to the 2020 season, here is a very shortened list of relevant QBs “lucky factor” (not good for 2020) from last year (Thanks to SIS for the numbers, using their proprietary IQR metric):

NameCleanDirtyLucky
Derek Carr111.6110.8-0.8
Aaron Rodgers111.1108-3.1
Ryan Tannehill122.2118.5-3.7
Lamar Jackson124.9118.1-6.8
Deshaun Watson105.596-9.5
Drew Brees119.8109.1-10.7

Unlucky from 2019 (Good for 2020):

NameCleanDirtyLucky
Josh Allen105.757-48.7
Drew Lock109.363.3-46
Philip Rivers104.959.1-45.8
Dwayne Haskins98.854.4-44.4

Note: First of all, we should note that we have found the predictive “strength” much higher in the “lucky” QBs, taking a step back in the coming year. Second, we highly recommend NOT using this data point in a vacuum. There are some outstanding QBs in that “lucky” category from 2019 we are not worried about at all. Instead, players like Derek Carr (and potentially Tannehill), who you already thought “Eh, I’m a little iffy taking this guy (like Mitch last year)” should be the ones to avoid.

Key: Always be weary of QB performance that was propped up by unlikely to repeat aspects of his performance.

8. Thou shall avoid players caught for using PEDs last year, and anyone coached by Adam Gase.

FPS’ old site covered the PED play, oddly never covered before in 2017’s Why you shouldn’t Draft Julian Edelman or Mark Ingram. Essentially, why would you think an athlete would continue a level of performance after they stop taking steroids?

Adam Gase, the NYJ Head Coach, has nothing to do with PED use, but essentially is the same “Stop Sign” for drafters. He is literally where fantasy relevant players go to die. Ranked 22nd in EDJ Coaching Ranks (based on 4th down decision making) he is terrible as a coach, and miserable as a OC. Constantly making bad calls, ignoring first down markers and not playing to his team’s strengths.

Since Peyton Manning (which I could OC to a top 5 Offense), this “offensive guru” has produced the following rankings of the best players at their position for teams he has coached:

QBBest RBBest WRTE
NYJ HC 1927213420
MIA HC 1816214563
MIA HC 1727341424
MIA HC 1627*111633
CHI OC 1521**94116

If you take out one outlier year with Jay Ajayi in 2016, and the one year he had fantasy darling Matt Forte, Gase has produced 0 Position 1 players for fantasy post Manning era. Just avoid him, especially Bell as much as you think he’s likely to upswing (we covered why in the “5 Bold Predictions for the 2019 Fantasy Football Season“).

*You can find other OC changes that may or may not effect 2020 outputs at 2020 OC Changes and their Impact on Fantasy Football.

9. Thou shall know what to look for with RBs

Touches are King for RBs

As 4×4 has detailed, the most predictable metric between RBs and success is touches. This may seem intuitive, but can sometimes get burred during preparation among success rates, OL rankings etc. Base your rankings on the RB most likely to touch the ball. Its that simple.

Coach-speak matters for RBs

We have been conditioned to ignore coach interviews, and dismiss the majority of whats said as “coach-speak”. However, like Football Outsiders tracks in This Week in Quotes, modern BBCs, or Backfields by Committee, can at times be untangled by hearing what coaches tell you. Obviously, you should also look for the RB who is not playing in the Preseason Week 4 game, and gets the most touches in the Preseason Week 3 game, but many owners must draft before this. Don’t sleep on coach-speak when its comes to learning which RB will get the most touches this season.

Draft RBs based on years ahead, not behind

Age matters when it comes to RBs. Its been well-documented for sometime that RBs deteriorate overtime based on usage, but what has been a relatively new trend: Rookie – 3rd RBs are ruling Fantasy. Zeke Elliot ushered this in back in 2016 going as the overall RB1 in his rookie year. It seems every year there is 1-2 late round backs that emerge from a crowded backfield. As you can see in the graph below that depicts the average age of RB1s this past decade, grab AT LEAST one Rookie RB you think could breakout. Since the late 2000s, early 2010s we have been HUGE proponents on using as many late round “chips” on Rookie RBs, that at least have a “road to get touches”. We have seen the Kamaras and Lindseys win leagues, and the NFL seems to always have 1-3 Rookie RBs that come out at RB1s by year’s end.

*Bonus: This may come off as contradictory given our first RB tip, but it is un-debatable to say RB performance isn’t directly tied to OL run-blocking-ability. FPS just has two differences in the way we look at OL play relative to drafting RBs. First, 90% of the OL rankings you see going into a season include pass blocking (i.e. general OL rankings) at a higher rate than running (deservedly so, for the “real game”). This doesn’t help us when we are trying to hone in on what RBs could benefit from OLs that are good at run blocking. Second, many of these rankings lean too much on the actual results from the previous season rather than the coming year (not accounting for players coming and going). FPS’ True Adjusted/True OL Run Blocking Projections help remedy this issue.

10. Thy is tired of all the “thous” and can’t think of a name for this one but “all the other stuff you should do”

Check your draft settings and if in doubt contact your commissioner to find out if you need to draft a K and/or D/ST. If you don’t need to, save that spot for one extra “chip”, and simply fill-out the roster the Wednesday before the season begins. This helps increase your likelihood of finding a gem, protects against injuries and has next to no effect on your team as K and D/ST (that have next to 0 scarcity levels).

IF you must draft D/ST, and you plan to stream one for the year, simply find the one with the best match-up in week 1.

IF you must draft a D/ST and you don’t want to stream (not recommended), use our “regression strategies” above to find teams likely to “bounce up”. That is, find teams that pressured the QB well last year, yet (relatively speaking) didn’t turn those pressures into sacks. Find teams with low fumble recovery rates, or even interception rates. Look for defenses that under-performed on 3rd down vs 1/2nd down, or teams that didn’t do well in the Redzone compared to the first 80 yards…or, if you don’t want to do that use this chart (BIG NOTE here: THIS IS NOT what we think the defensive rankings will be, this is a chart of what direction defenses will go relative to their 2019 finish):

3dn going upDvoa y2y going upInt rateFumRecRateRZR going up
JAX1.50231.93%42.86%4.50
HOU14.50191.79%59.09%-9.75
LAC15.00132.37%35.14%-14.00
DAL-18.00101.23%52.94%9.00
CLE-12.50102.73%41.94%-9.25
DEN-3.0081.86%59.46%15.00
IND5.5072.67%44.12%4.25
MIA0.5072.39%47.62%1.25
CHI-8.0071.75%53.57%-13.00
ARI-5.5051.16%40.62%3.25
WAS14.0042.41%50.00%0.00
BUF4.0042.42%52.94%-4.00
SEA-4.0042.45%53.57%-4.00
CIN-2.5032.20%44.44%16.00
MIN4.0032.91%62.07%10.25
NYG-4.0031.80%46.67%-6.25
CAR-1.0032.57%43.90%-12.50
BAL-2.0012.33%56.10%4.00
OAK-0.5011.71%50.00%3.50
DET6.0001.15%42.86%8.50
NO-9.0002.05%69.23%4.25
PHI7.50-31.83%50.91%-4.75
TEN-3.00-32.33%58.14%-11.00
LAR7.00-82.31%52.50%-17.50
PIT17.00-103.89%58.73%0.25
ATL-6.00-112.24%44.19%0.75
NYJ15.50-112.05%42.00%-4.25
KC-6.00-122.58%46.94%10.75
GB-10.50-142.91%43.24%11.25
NE-12.00-154.71%44.19%2.50
SF-3.00-212.70%45.76%-4.50
TB-1.50-271.81%56.00%5.50

*Pick a D/ST that is PROJECTED to be top 12-20, then use this chart to find teams in the top 5-8 likely to positively regress.

Bonus 11th: Absolutely use up 25-50% of your FAAB in the first 2-3 weeks of the season trying to find and capture that star free agent that didn’t get drafted, but seems to be a league winner. We have used this method to success in the last 4 seasons, grabbing the Kamaras, Gary Barnidges, and Lindseys.

There will be lots more content to come from FPS, but our hope was this would give you a baseline to mimic the success we have had, and make some money. Please remember, if you got this far, you like what you see. We charge 0 for this content, please like/comment/share/subscribe. It means a lot to us.

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