Football is simple at its very core but a very complex game to
evaluate and analyze because 11 men are being asked to work in
harmony approximately 60 times per game, while 11 other men are
being asked to disrupt that harmony. Pro football is not pro basketball
in that a team can clear out one side of the court when things
break down and the offense can still score. Pro football is not
pro baseball in that one player can defeat a pitcher and eight
fielders by timing his swing just right. Even as great as Barry
Sanders was, he never beat a defense all by himself. In football,
every player needs some help to accomplish his goal. That is part
of what makes football so great and part of what makes it so highly
unpredictable. The violence of the game - even by the tamer standards
in this day and age - adds another element to the equation that
is difficult to quantify.
Regardless, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Over the last month,
I have evaluated the weekly matchups for 500-plus players. Analyzing
matchups alone requires me to make 7,500 "decisions".
This is not meant to be a humble brag. Each year, my goal is to
give those who put their faith in my evaluations the confidence
they have the best draft-day tool at their disposal. I like to
think that even if readers believe my logic is flawed for whatever
reason, they can count on the fact that much thought has been
put into that opinion.
How much thought, you ask?
For example, Michael Gallup lined up on the left side of the
formation 456 times, on the right side 292 times and in the slot
96 times last year. Since the majority of defensive coordinators
tend to have their cornerbacks stick to one side as opposed to
following a particular receiver, Gallup's ability to match up
and defeat each of the defensive backs in those spots should/needs
to be considered. I do that for each player who projects to stand
inside the top three of his team's depth chart, and all of that
information is factored into my projections. While how often Gallup
lines up in a certain spot will inevitably be different from last
year, it's unlikely his role as Dallas' "X" receiver
will change under second-year OC Kellen Moore.
Fantasy football is a stock market game, and our job as analysts
is identifying when stocks may be poised for an increase or ready
to tank. While last year's results help fantasy owners/analysts
set the table for the following season, they are merely a starting
point. Fantasy rankings and drafting need to be predictive, not
reactive. This is the approach I have taken for more than 10 years.
While some of the processes have changed in that time, the main
goal has not.
The Success Score Index (SSI) below is powered
in large part by my target and carry predictions that have been
featured in this space over the last two weeks. As always, the
matchups are included in the algorithm. SSI allows me to compare
apples to oranges across positions. Perhaps just as importantly,
I have been able to eliminate most of the guesswork across different
scoring systems (PPR, standard, etc.).
For all of those unfamiliar with my Big Boards, allow me to explain
the color-coding system before we start:
Red – For lower-level players, a red matchup
is the most difficult one a player can face. 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 an RB2).
Yellow – For lower-level players, he is a borderline
start at best. For a second- or third-tier player, the slight
edge goes to the defense in what is essentially a toss-up. For
the elite players, expect slightly better than average production.
White – This one can go either way, but I favor
the player over the matchup. In some cases, I just don’t
feel like I have a good feel yet for this matchup. Generally speaking,
these matchups are winnable for all levels of players.
Green – For non-elite players, the stage is
set for a player to have a productive day. For the elite player,
this matchup could produce special numbers.
Note: Players with a
next to their name have some degree of injury/character/holdout
In the second and final round of Big Boards near the end of the
preseason, I will rank at least 200 players and present my final
rankings for kickers and defense/special teams.
Here is the scoring
system that I used to rank the players in the PPR format:
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured
in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He
is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst
on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's
"Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.