Fanalytics Part 1: Who to Draft

Fantasy football analytics can help you decide if you should draft one player over another. Analytics – defined on as “the science of examining raw data with the purpose of drawing conclusions about that information.” It’s a buzzword nowadays. I feel that much smarter by working it into this article. Google uses it for everything, so you should too. As a fantasy football manager, you already do. Hence the title: Fanalytics. Clever, right? In my last article I explained how to go about collecting your data for your draft. Now let’s run through a simulation of when you need to analyze that data:

It’s draft day and you’re on the clock. Round 2, pick 23 overall and you have one minute to make your pick. You’re frantically shuffling through papers, rankings, cheat sheets (raw data) to come to a conclusion about who to draft between Randall Cobb and Alshon Jeffery. Cobb has a higher ADP, but you’re a Bears fan… 30 seconds remaining. Sweating at the palms, biting fingernails, hand shaking on the mouse. Alshon’s taller, but Cobb seems like such a nice guy. More shuffling. So much information, what do you turn to? 5-4-3-2-Cobb. Whew. Just in time, before the autopick. You look over at your Bears jersey hanging in your closet and a cloud of betrayal falls over you. Hang in there – you made the right decision. But you didn’t really know which data to look at during the decision making process. Let me try to clear it up. Below is my suggestion of what information to refer to when drafting offensive players (specifically WRs for the sake of time) starting with the most important. You can apply variations of these concepts to QBs, RBs, and TEs as well – it’s more about changing your overall thought process.

  1. Overall Offense

    Here’s where you look at offensive production stats. Cobb is on a way more consistent, explosive offense than Jeffery. Rodgers threw for 4,381 yards with 38 TDs last year, compared to Cutler’s 3,812/28. That’s a no-brainer. For RBs, you look at rushing yards/TDs/percentage of run plays called, instead of the QB play.

  2. Their Role in the Offense

    Some might be tempted to take Jeffery because of his real life “WR1” status. That only means something on the depth chart. Cobb may have Jordy in front of him, but with 91 receptions last year compared to Jeffery’s 85, he’s active enough to be a WR1 in fantasy. Some would say Marshall was the WR1 last year on the Bears, but with his injuries it was Jeffery who had more receptions. The number of receptions and being in an effective and efficient pass offense are the most important deciding factors when selecting a wide receiver.

  3. The Individual Player

    I know a lot of people that think this is the most important. They find some guy who’s 6 foot 6, natural pass catching ability, uses the same shampoo as Troy Polamalu, and they’re sold. All that comes into play when choosing a player, but it’s actually the least important out of the three here. Look at beast-of-a-man Brandon Marshall on the unproductive Jets offense with Geno Smith throwing him the ball going in the 5th round. He may have superior talent to Steve Smith going in the eighth, but I bet the latter scores more in all formats next year.

Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery  posing with NFL Play 60 kids.
Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Suzanna Lapi

In this exercise I chose two players that are essentially on the same team/same system from the previous year, so the stats I turned to should be relatively seamless barring factors we really can’t predict. If you’re evaluating rookies or players on new teams it gets a little trickier, but these guys I usually don’t take in the top rounds at all, considering I want to make my decisions based on data rather than hypotheses.

So there it is: your Fanalytics Funnel to run your players down when making your decisions about who to draft. What not to weigh whatsoever in the analytics process is your emotional attachments to players/teams, as well as falling victim to the “big name.”

As for injuries – no one can truly predict them, only assess risk. I simply won’t draft a guy like Joique Bell this year. His Standard League ADP is 6.09, right there with healthy guys who could easily match or beat his production (Bernard, Agholor, Wallace, Vereen). He’s currently on the PUP and coming off two surgeries. Cross him off your list entirely.

That wraps this one up guys. Check back in for Fanalytics Part 2: Who to Start and Part 3: Who to Pickup. Thanks for tuning in.

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