Last year reinforced a valuable yet painful lesson: No matter
how much running backs should rule the day in fantasy football,
they have - for the most part - been surpassed by wide receivers.
Part of what makes us all human is the fact we show bias. I have
played fantasy football for nearly 20 years and running backs
have always been central to my draft-day plans. It's a philosophy
that has allowed me to win roughly three times as much money as
I have invested into this hobby over the years. While running
backs are arguably more important than ever due to the scarcity
of every-down workhorses nowadays, the league has emphasized passing
and most coaches now believe it is better to spread the punishment
one runner used to receive among two or three backs. These shifts
in philosophy are unlikely to change, no matter how much some
of us believe such changes are/were unnecessary and possibly even
Last year was bizarre even by
modern standards, but some offseason research has made it
painfully clear owners who choose to pin their hopes of winning
fantasy titles on running backs are doing so at their own peril.
Let's be clear this admission is not an endorsement of going WR-WR-WR-WR
in the first four rounds of non-TFC or FFPC drafts, but rather
an acknowledgement that elite receivers tend to hold their value
pretty well all season long. How often does a receiver that goes
undrafted in fantasy and become a WR1? It seems for every Miles
Austin or Odell
Beckham Jr. (remember, he missed the first four games of his
rookie year due to a hamstring injury), there are at least five
or 10 running backs that come out of the woodwork to power fantasy
teams to championships. Last year alone, James
White (fourth), Tim
Hightower (sixth), Javorius
Allen (eighth) and Bilal
Powell (ninth) powered their fantasy teams to the title by
finishing inside the top 10 in PPR scoring over the
final five weeks of the season. Now look at the
receiver positon. Many of us are quite familiar with the names
Marshall and Julio
Jones. In fact, I can only spot three players - Ted
Ginn Jr. (16th), Kamar
Aiken (17th) and Tyler
Lockett (18th) - inside the top 20 over the final five weeks
of the season who went undrafted in most leagues, none of whom
who actually "carried" their fantasy teams.
I'm quite confident the system I introduced last year to grade
players is one other analysts will try to duplicate in coming
years. My biggest mistake last year was my unwillingness to deviate
from the belief that a strong running back corps was the easiest
way to a fantasy title. That bias meant I barely broke even in
2015. While the position should return to "normal" levels
in the coming years as some future studs play their final year
of college football this year, receivers are probably going to
dominate the early rounds of fantasy drafts for the foreseeable
My system, which I have labeled the Success Score Index
(SSI), involves meticulously grading and assigning certain
weights to several attributes that I feel are critical to fantasy
success at that position. Iím not going to pretend as if
I have accounted for every possibility; itís an impossible
task in a sport that features 11 men on one side of the ball trying
to work in perfect harmony and 11 men on the other side trying
to interrupt it. Just because it is an impossible task, however,
doesn't make it worth doing. Someone is going to win your league
this year, so the title might as well go to the person weighing
as many relevant factors as possible in his analysis.
Before I get to the boards, I would like to remind readers about
two key points:
1) I doubt you will find another draft board like this one and
further doubt you will find a similar set of rankings anywhere
else. The standard the industry uses to measure accuracy
among analysts is overall scoring, but I am more concerned with
projected consistency and matchups. Consistency tends
to lead to big fantasy numbers at the end of the season and championships
while inconsistency and bad matchups at the wrong time usually
lead to frustration. Someday, I hope the industry catches on to
my way of thinking. Until then, Iíll try to win as many
titles as possible and help you do the same.
2 ) I'll include the risk signs you have become familiar with
in recent years when I release my final Big Boards in a couple
of weeks. For now, owners can take solace in the fact the SSI
I use to help me set my values below accounts for the attributes
I feel are most important for a fantasy player at his given position.
Among the areas I consider at each position are durability and
job security, so don't think the absence of
means I didn't account for such risk factors.
Let’s revisit the color-coding system before we start:
Red – A very difficult matchup.
For lower-level players, a red matchup means they should not be
used in fantasy that week. For a second- or third-tier player,
drop your expectations for them at least one grade that week (i.e.
from WR2 to WR3). For elite players, expect them to perform one
level lower than their usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like a
Yellow – Keep expectations
fairly low in this matchup. For lower-level players, a yellow
matchup is a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier
player, they can probably overcome the matchup if things fall
right. For the elite players, expect slightly better than average
White – Basically, this matchup
is one that could go either way. In some cases, I just don’t
feel like I have a good feel yet for this defense. Generally speaking,
these matchups are winnable matchups for all levels of players.
Green – It doesn’t
get much better than this. For non-elite players, the stage is
basically set for said player to exploit the matchup. For the
elite player, this matchup should produce special numbers.
OVR – Overall Rank
FPts/ G – Fantasy points/game (over first
SSI – Although you will not see it featured
in the Big Boards this week or next, SSI is the sum of several position-specific
attributes that I feel are important to fantasy production, weighted
and scored. A perfect score is 1000, but it may help to move the
decimal point one spot to the left and think of each score as a
percentage. It may also help to think of the final score as the
likelihood that player will produce at the level I have projected
him if his current environment stays roughly the same as it is now.
Value - After a year away, standard deviation has
returned to the Big Boards. "Value" is essentially using
the VORP (Value over Replacement Player) concept for a two-RB, three-WR
league, which essentially allows me to compare apples and oranges.
At QB and TE, the value reflects the standard deviation from the
12th-ranked player at the position – the last starting-caliber
player at the position. At RB and WR, the value reflects the standard
deviation from the 30th-ranked and 42nd-ranked player, respectively,
to better account for the vast number of leagues that feature flex
spots. Whereas I used point averages as my basis for value in past
seasons, I am using SSI for it now.
Just so you know what you are getting yourself into, here are some
of the attributes I weighed and scored at each position:
Quarterback – Talent, aggressiveness
of the offensive scheme, durability, offensive line play and difficulty
Running back – Talent, job
security, durability, percentage of team's backfield touches and
Wide receiver – Talent, targets/game,
scheme fit and the quality of quarterback play.
Tight end – Talent, importance
to the team in the red zone, targets/game, scheme fit and the
quality of quarterback play.
1. For this first set of Big Boards, I have chosen to stop at
150 players. Next week, I will release my first Big Boards for
0.5 PPR leagues as well as The Fantasy Championship and FFPC Big
Boards. In the final set of Big Boards in a little under two weeks,
I will rank 200 players and present my final rankings for kickers
and defense/special teams.
2. Over the next two weeks, I will be “quality controlling”
my projections (basically double-checking my numbers, such as
not having one defense projected to intercept 15 passes through
four games while another has just one), so my next set of Big
Boards (in two weeks) could look different – particularly
at the bottom – than they currently do. As with all things
that are worth doing, this process takes time and needs to be
constantly revised as more information about depth charts and
injuries becomes available. Thanks in advance for your patience.
3. As noted earlier, this Big Board is designed for owners drafting
in leagues who need to start one quarterback, two running backs,
three receivers, a tight end and a flex.
Here is the scoring
system that I used to rank the players in the non-PPR format:
| 0.5 PPR Big Board Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.