Football is simple at its very core but a very complex game to
evaluate and analyze because 11 men are 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
now - adds another element to the equation that is difficult to
Regardless, it doesn't mean we should not try. Over the last
month, I have evaluated the weekly matchups for 500-plus players.
Analyzing matchups alone requires me to make 8,000 "decisions".
That is not 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. Even if my grading
process is only 70 percent accurate, that is still a significant
advantage over any analyst that does not consider it at all. I
like to believe that even if readers believe my process is flawed
for whatever reason, they can appreciate how much thought has
been put into that opinion.
How much thought, you ask?
For example, Allen Robinson lined up on the left side of the
formation 409 times, on the right side 298 times and in the slot
245 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, Robinson's ability to match up
and defeat each of the defensive backs in those spots should 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 Robinson lines
up in a certain spot will inevitably change from last year, it's
unlikely the way he is deployed will change all that much in this
fourth year under HC Matt Nagy.
Fantasy football is a stock market game, and the job of an analyst
is identifying when stocks may be poised to skyrocket or ready
to tank. While last year's results help fantasy managers/analysts
set the table for the following season, they are merely a starting
point. Fantasy rankings and drafting need to be predictive, not
reactive. I have taken this approach for more than 10 years. While
some of the processes have changed in that time, the main goal
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 few weeks. As always, the
matchup grades 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. 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
Over the next week, I will release my first Big Boards for Half-Point
PPR leagues as well as and the FFPC. 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
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.