Football is simple at its very core but a very complex game to evaluate
and analyze because 11 men try to work in harmony approximately
60 times per game, while 11 other men make it their job 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 also 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 quantify.
Regardless, it does not 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 more than 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 goes
into that opinion.
Fantasy football is a stock market game, and the job of an analyst
is to identify when stocks are 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 15 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. 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 couple of days, I will release my first Big Boards
for 0.5 PPR and FFPC leagues. In the second and final round of
Big Boards near the end of the preseason, I will rank at least
225 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 Non-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.