Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Using Quality Factors in Your Pre-Draft Statistical Analysis

You can find links to all of my Auburn Realist Blog posts here.
Follow me on Facebook, YouTube,  and Twitter!

Best5Zach's Best 5 QBs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Receivers for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Running Backs for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Tight Ends for 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 DSTs for 2015

While reading some publications, I stumbled upon their fantasy rankings. Usually these magazines list about 20-25 different athletes per position. The top 5 are usually pretty easy to pick. Look at the RB position, for instance. Ezekiel Elliot and Nick Chubb are easy picks. They are the elite backs who are going to churn out yardage regardless of who is returning on offense, what style of offense is going to be fielded, and who they play. 

But, the rest of the backs are typically ranked on their future projections based upon past experience. Again, that's probably fine for the top 10 backs out there. But, what after that? 

We have a 20 man league which means that a minimum of 40 backs will be taken on any given day. To be more realistic, most people are going to carry 4 backs on their roster to account for bye weeks and FLEX play. So. 80 backs. Once you get past that first do you judge their future performance?

That was the question that I kept asking myself. Every year we see the same things. There are the sure-fire backs that come off the board starting in the second round. Then there is a slew of backs that averaged about 15 points per game the year before. Then, there are all the potential breakout stars. Make no mistake, if you want to win a league, you will have to have a big time player. But, realistically, leagues are won from consistency. 

Great backs can put up 30 or 40 points per game. But, they can have the box stacked against them. They can be sat in cupcake games. You need those guys that have a low floor and high ceiling each and every week. And, having that guy that scores a minimum of 15 points each and every week is going to win you a lot of weeks. And, really, that's the trick. You want a high seed going into your tournament play. Specifically, you want that bye week where you can really tweak that lineup. 

Initially, it seemed so random which guys thrive and which ones just disappear. Who would build on last years scores? Who would be one-hit-wonders?  Some guys get a steady number of limited carries each game. Some had big games early but disappeared. Some did the opposite.  Some guys had huge inflated scores based on a few big games that put them up in the standings. I wanted stability. But, getting those backs...and you need 2 or 3 of them....can be very difficult. Just like I said earlier, most people draft these guys by past performance. That is, simply on the total points that the player scored the year before. And, I paid attention to the scoring system.

So, I decided that I would try and apply some logic to the situation. 

I began months ago by finding players that offered me the most versatility. These are the kind of guys that are going to get their touches regardless of who they play and where. My typical back may only get 15 carries from the backfield, but he is going to add 5 catches. He may also return kickoffs. Sure, it's nice to have a back like Derrick Henry who is going to get 30 carries in a game. But, you have to consider what happens when LSU stacks the box or Saban sits him. 

I then paid attention to how many games they played and how many touches they got per game. I don't want to see a roller coaster ride. 

Doing this got me pretty far. But, how did I rank the rest?
Using Fantrax, who we use for our league, I downloaded the top 200 returning players per position. Obviously there are really only 2 positions you need that many players....WR and RB. 

Using their rankings, I reorganized using an adjusted score that emphasized touches instead of just points. After all, last year they might have broken 10 TDs of 60 yards or more which gives them a really high total point score that isn't representative of their real worth from year to year. 

I thought of a series of parameters that would help me score each individual back. To me, the important things to consider were things like:
  • Coaching system- Was the current coaching regime a veteran unit? Was it a drastic change in philosophy? 
  • Offensive system- In the case of running backs, did the current system benefit them? I.E. is this an air raid attack where the back is just getting TDs from vulture carries? 
  • Are they a multi-threat? 
  • Strength of Schedule
  • Returning Offensive line
I assigned each of these different parameters a point value and input them into a custom formula which would then rank each player based upon what I call a "Quality Factor." That is, taking their past performance and bouncing it against a quality factor that gives me a true representation of what I can expect from the other factors surrounding the player. 

Then I sorted the players. I am not going to give everything away, but I just want to prove a point. 

Based upon Fantrax, here are the 20-25 ranked running backs who are returning. You see their names and teams, their bye weeks, and their total points scored in 2014. 

20 Perkins, Paul (Jr) - UCLA 6,14 228
21 Lasco II, Daniel (Sr) - Cal 7,14 218
22 Linwood, Shock (Jr) - Bayl 3,9 215
23 Taylor, Anthone (Sr) - Buff 6,14 215
24 Gordon, Michael (Sr) - ArkSt 6,12 203
25 Waller, Marteze (Sr) - Fres 9,14 203

But, if I resort based upon my quality factors, we find that these guys have shifted a good bit.

Perkins is now ranked as the 9th best RB. How does he go from 20 to 9? Well, he has a majority of his offensive line returning, as does his coaching staff. He gets an offensive system bonus because he will be the offensive feature behind a freshman QB. He offers a lot of stability from his ability to catch the ball. The only knock is the relatively hard strength of schedule, but it's the PAC-12 and that can be debatable. Again, now that I type that, it may make sense to you. But, it was awfully easy just to look at my spreadsheet. 

Lasco drops to 24. Linwood up to 18. Taylor all the way down to 38. Gordon to 26 (about the same) and Waller to 30. 

Again, why the big moves from some guys? 

Taylor plays on a team with a high turnover on the offensive line. The coaching staff has been in transit. The offense has been balanced.

Waller only returns parts of his line. The offense isn't geared for him. He isn't a multi-threat. The strength of schedule doesn't benefit him. The only pro he has is that his coaching staff returns. 

But, that's just where the fun starts! Though I did this to separate the mid-level guys, I applied this to the top 40 returning backs and I was amazed at what the formula told me. 

Connor, from Pitt, is the top returning scorer, but my formula knocked him down significantly...all the way to 15! The biggest move was Perine, who was the #2 scorer who checked in at 28. 

That's important info, considering that we are talking about two guys that scored over 300 fantasy points. Is it worth drafting these guys super early if you can swoop in and get 2 (or 3!) of these other mid-level backs, for whom the formula says they will consistently produce.

But, lets be real. Running backs may fluctuate from 300 points to 270, and that really won't win or lose anything. Receivers, however, are the biggest boom-or-bust players on your roster. 

Here is the 20-25th ranked receivers with bye weeks, total points, and per game average:

Sharp, Hunter (Sr) - UtSt 4,14 154 11.85
Braverman, Daniel (Jr) - WestMI 5,14 149 11.46
Williams, Mike (Jr) - Clem 4,14 148 12.33
Morgan, Teldrick (Jr) - NMSt 4,11 148 13.45
Dangerfield, Jared (Sr) - W Ky 11,14 144 11.08
Robinson, Demarcus (Jr) - Fla 8,14 144 13.09

If I rank these guys using a modified-for-receivers formula that takes QBs into account, here is what we see. 

Here is the new 20-25: 

Payton, Jordan (Sr) - UCLA 6,14 141
Williams, D'haquille (Sr) - Aub 6,14 109
Treadwell, Laquon (Jr) - Miss 11,14 92
Higgins, Rashard (Jr) - ColSt 8,14 343
Shepard, Sterling (Sr) - Okla 4,14 162
Morgan, Teldrick (Jr) - NMSt 4,11 148
Interesting. Higgins was the top WR in 2014. Why is he so far down? Well, he lost his offensive-minded coach as well as his QB (to the NFL, no less). 
Treadwell and Williams vault into the Top 25. Both WOULD be higher if it weren't for competitions for catches. Williams, in particular, also will play on a balanced offense. 

Where did the previous 20-25 go? 
Sharp drops to 24. Braverman up to 20. Williams up to 9. Morgan to 25. Dangerfield to 21. Robinson to last place! Not a ton of movement for some, but enough to make you take notice. 

Everyone is looking for an edge. Everyone can get the top names off the board, but trophies are won with the mid-round guys. Can you sort them? I don't think my formula is perfect, but it's very telling. 

If you want more info, comment below!