Archive for June 2011

2011 Strength of Schedule: RBs (Rush)

Pass | Receiving | Rush

Of all the year-to-year defensive data, rush defense is the most consistent and therefore the most trustworthy in the preseason. Below you’ll find the SOS for RBs. The first two columns summarize the 2010 and 2011 SOS — the 2011 numbers are generated by assigning points (from +2 to -2) for very good (++), good (+), bad (-) and very bad (- -) matchups. The higher the score in the first two columns, the better the overall schedules for that particular season. The next four columns (in orange) show the number of 2011 matchups that fall into each category.

For an explanation of my methodology, check out the QB SOS as well as the post that examined the dependability of preseason SOS.

Remember, in PPR leagues, 40% of total fantasy points scored by RBs come from receptions and the passing game, so this rush SOS is just one part of the picture, especially for pass-catching RBs.

Tm20102011VGGBVB1234567891011121314151617
ARI3-40533+?+?------+?-+--+?+
ATL442512??+++--+++?+---?+?+++
BAL1-31433---+--??++--+?-+?-+?
BUF-9-62153+++--????---------++--
CAR-124132++--??+-?---++?++-?+++
CHI165423-+--+++--++?++-++++++----
CIN-623423+++-++??+-----+--?+++--
CLE-4-32233??--+++-?+??----++----
DAL-144222---?++--+?+++?-++?++??
DEN-3-34144++?-----+++++-----?--+++
DET-5-13343+++---?--++?+--+--++---
GB-264422++?++-+-----++++?+++?++
HOU-502332?-+--++---?+++?-?+?-
IND-2-31433?+--+++?+--?+-----??
JAX-2-51343---++?----??+?-++--?
KC6-35035++++---?++--++----?----++++
MIA-324223--?+---++?+?++-++?++----
MIN-196322-+++++++?--+--++-+++++??
NE-7-33143--++++-----?--+???++-++
NO413232--???+++?+++-?++----+
NYG-1-22333?+?+++++----?+---?---
NYJ-204133-?++------++--++++?+??-
OAK-214324++++----?++++---?---+++-
PHI-6-32252+-?-++?-?++?--+----?
PIT-2-21423--+??-?++----?+?+-++
SD615215----+-++--+--++?++?++--++++
SEA6-31342---++-?+?---+??+?-++
SF974412+-??+++++??++--+++--++
STL1002423??--?---+++++++-+?---
TB3-21442++---?-+?+?---+?-+-
TEN-243312?--+++--???+-+++++???
WAS-3-32343?++-+?+++---+----?--?

2011 Strength of Schedule: WRs, TEs (Receiving)

Pass | Receiving | Rush

Below you’ll find a strength of schedule table for receivers, which are mainly WRs and TEs, but pass-catching RBs are also affected. The first two columns summarize the 2010 and 2011 SOS — the 2011 numbers are generated by assigning points (from +2 to -2) for very good (++), good (+), bad (-) and very bad (- -) matchups. The higher the score in the first two columns, the better the overall schedules for that particular season. The next four columns (in orange) show the number of 2011 matchups that fall into each category.

You’ll notice that the yearly summary numbers (in grey) are similar to the pass SOS, which makes sense because both are dependent on passing yardage. Receiving numbers are also impacted by receptions (PPR formats), so that’s why there is some variation. If you play in standard scoring leagues, you’ll want to look at the QB SOS for your WR/TE SOS.

For an explanation of my methodology, check out the QB SOS as well as the post that examined the dependability of preseason SOS.

Tm20102011VGGBVB1234567891011121314151617
ARI401001--?++????????????++
ATL-624113??-++----++??++?++--+?-
BAL-143111?++?--+++??++????-??
BUF-5-42023?--++????--??--++-?-++
CAR175121?--+??++??++++?-++++-?
CHI-5-34034++?----++?-?++---?-++--?
CIN-643111?-?--+?++++????++???
CLE-453101???++--++?++?+??????
DAL-113012--??++++??++--????-??
DEN-2-63025--?++---?++--?---??++--?
DET-7-71033-?????++-?----??-----
GB2-32032?--?-++??-?-++?--??++
HOU112212????--?+++?-+++?--?++
IND9106111++??-???+++++--++?+++++
JAX645022++----????++??++--++++?
KC1-92035--++-??---?-++??-------
MIA-5-43024++++?----???--?--?--++--
MIN-6-53034--++???--------++-++???
NE-13-100024?-------???--????-?--
NO555122--?+++---??-++?++++?++--
NYG8-22003????++--?++???--??--?
NYJ0-32123?+--?++?---++---?????
OAK5-33033-----++++??--???--++?-
PHI923002?++??--?????++++?--??
PIT-494100?++?+++++?++????????
SD8-52124?++??---?----?-+--?++--
SEA-221000???++????????????
SF-353010++???-++????????++?
STL422001????--????++??++???
TB334103++?++?????++--++--+?--++
TEN202222+?-??++??--++---??+++
WAS2-22003?????----???++--++???

2011 Strength of Schedule: QBs (Pass)

Pass | Receiving | Rush

As promised in Wednesday’s post that examined the dependability of preseason SOS, here is a look at team-by-team QB (pass) SOS for 2011. You’ll notice that there are no numbers associated with each specific matchup. I found that using previous year’s data was pretty undependable, so showing matchup-specific data to a tenth of a decimal point just isn’t appropriate since it gives the illusion of accuracy when there is none.

At this point, I am just going to adopt a five-category system for matchups: very good (++), good (+), mediocre (?), bad (-) and very bad (- -). I’ve found that defenses that fall into any particular category generally won’t stray too far away in the following season. For example, 44% of defenses with a “very bad” two-year average against the pass (i.e. good matchups for QBs) finish “mediocre” to “very good” the following season. That means that 56% finish either “bad” or “very bad” the following year. Those may not seem like great odds, but only 17% finished either “good” or “very good” (becoming bad matchups for QBs), so if you know your QB faces a “very good” matchup in Week 16, you can be reasonably certain (83%) that it will be at least “mediocre” and possibly “good” or “very good.” Got it? Good.

Just so we’d have some summary of a QB’s SOS outlook, I assigned points for each matchup: very good (2), good (1), mediocre (0), bad (-1), very bad (-2). You’ll find the total score for each team (for W1-W16) in the first two columns. The “2010″ column shows the actual SOS from last season so you can compare it to each team’s projected SOS in the “2011″ column. Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have generally favorable schedules, while Tom Brady and Matt Cassel do not. (Though it should be noted that Brady’s schedule is actually more favorable than last season.)

Bottom line: Preseason SOS is volatile, especially for pass/receiving, so be careful not to depend too heavily on it when making roster/draft decisions. It can be used as a tiebraker between two players in the same tier — i.e. Joe Flacco (+4) vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick (-3) — but I wouldn’t bump a player up or down a tier based on his predicted SOS.

Tm20102011VGGBVB1234567891011121314151617
ARI6-11121--?++???-??????+-++
ATL-714142???++---++--+?++--++-?
BAL-443331?+?--++++??++-?+--+-
BUF-5-31232+-++-???--??--+-??++
CAR-563330?-++?-+??+++-?+++?-
CHI-113251+----++???++--+?++-?
CIN-953321+??--++-+++?-+?++??-
CLE-713160--?+-++?++?++--??-?
DAL-323002--??++++??++--???????
DEN1-42262--+--?++-+---??++--+
DET-6-40241?+????+??----?---
GB0-11231---??+??-??++?-+?++
HOU2-12361-?-?--++++?+++----+
IND1084531+++??+--++++--++-+++++
JAX5-12452+------?-++-+++-?++-
KC6-62062--++-?---??++??----?
MIA-603223+++++---??+?--?-?--++--
MIN-6-12251-?+++??-----+?++-??
NE-13-80133?------???--+?-???--
NO053321-?++++--?-??+?+++?+--
NYG4-22022????++--?++??--??--?
NYJ003132?++--++?---++?--?+???
OAK433322?----++++++?-???-+++-
PHI512102?+??--?????++++?--??
PIT-464350-++-+++++?++--+-+??+
SD1113232?+++??--+--??++---++-
SEA-100220???+?+-?-???????
SF-153120++?-??+++???-???++?
STL612140??-?-?-?+++??++-??
TB-403242++?+-?-?-++-+--++?--+
TEN5-13252++-?+?++----+?----++++
WAS1-22003?????----???++--++???

Stay tuned for more SOS for WRs, TEs and RBs.

The Dependability of Preseason SOS

I’ve been using Strength of Schedule (SOS) while putting together my rankings, and as I was trying to decide between Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy as my fifth-ranked RB, I elected to go with McCoy given how much tougher of a schedule Charles is projected to have in 2011.

This got me wondering — just how dependable is preseason SOS? I have always relied on it heavily in-season (with great success), but how much variance do defenses show against the run and the pass year over year?

To that end, I calculated fantasy points allowed by each defense over the last six seasons in three areas: pass (QB), rush (RB) and receiving (WR, TE, RB). (For receiving, I used a PPR scoring system, since I play almost exclusively in PPR leagues.) For each defense, I adjusted for strength of schedule, and calculated the percentage over (or under) the average for that season. I then compiled two-year running averages because I found them to be a better predictor than just using the previous season’s numbers.

For pass, receiving and rush, I grouped the defenses into five different categories: very good, good, mediocre, bad, very bad. If a defense is “very good” against the pass, they are obviously a bad matchup for a quarterback. The cutoff for each group was set by the data set’s standard deviation at the -1, -1/2, +1/2 and +1 sigma marks. The idea was to see how predictable movement between the groups would be year to year.

Here’s an explanation of each column:

repeat +/-
chances that teams in the group will repeat a finish in the positive (or negative) the following season

repeat VG/VB
chances that a team will repeat a “very good” or “very bad” finish

repeat G/B
chances that a team will repeat a “good” or “very good” (or “bad” and “very bad”) finish

reversal
chances that a team will go from “good” or “very good” to “bad” or “very bad” (or vice versa)

2-yr avg
the two-year average of the (adjusted for schedule) +/- for all teams in the group

avg y+1
the average of the +/- finish the following year for teams in that group

PASS

Group#%repeat +/-repeat VG/VBrepeat G/Breversal2-yr avgavg y+1
Very Good2217.2%68%23%45%23%-15.5%-3.7%
Good1713.3%65%59%24%-7.5%-5.6%
Mediocre5139.8%47%0.0%0.1%
Bad2015.6%55%35%30%7.3%1.3%
Very Bad1814.1%72%33%56%17%17.8%7.9%

RECEIVING

Group#%repeat +/-repeat VG/VBrepeat G/Breversal2-yr avgavg y+1
Very Good1612.5%56%38%50%25%-11.6%-3.9%
Good2821.9%61%46%21%-5.5%-1.5%
Mediocre4837.5%50%0.1%-0.9%
Bad1511.7%67%47%20%5.7%3.0%
Very Bad2116.4%71%24%57%14%12.0%4.9%

RUSH

Group#%repeat +/-repeat VG/VBrepeat G/Breversal2-yr avgavg y+1
Very Good1814.1%94%61%72%6%-26.3%-21.0%
Good2418.8%58%42%21%-12.9%-3.0%
Mediocre5039.1%66%-0.1%-1.4%
Bad1814.1%67%50%22%13.3%8.5%
Very Bad1814.1%83%50%72%0%30.6%20.4%

A few takeaways:

Rush defense is by far the most consistent year to year. Rarely do very good rush defenses turn into bad rush defenses and vice versa. This happened just once in 36 occurrences. So if you see that your RB faces six defenses that were very bad in 2010, you can bet that they will be at least mediocre to very bad against the rush in 2010.

Pass and receiving defense is tougher to predict. While rush defense is somewhat static year over year, pass defense is not. We can be reasonably sure that a defense that is very good (or very bad) against the pass isn’t going to suddenly become bad (or good), but the chances are significantly greater than the same thing happening against the run. Take the “very bad” group against the pass — just 17% of teams finishing in that category managed to finish in the “good” or “very good” groups the following season, but that’s still quite a bit higher than the “very bad” rush group (0%).

On average, groups will return to the mean. The far right column in each table shows the resulting performance the following year. You can see that it is almost always closer to 0% than the two-year average for each subgroup. Intrinsically, this makes sense — if you are terrible at something, you are going to work at that area and will likely improve (i.e. you have nowhere to go but up). Conversely, if you are the best at something, you have nowhere to go but down — it’s difficult to maintain superiority when there are 31 other teams working to be superior.

In the next few days, I will be releasing projected SOS tables that will replace the tables that I released earlier this summer (which used last year’s actual points allowed). SOS is not an exact science year to year, so we need to be careful when using it to make major roster/draft decisions.

Breaking down my second experts mock draft

To review my first experts mock draft, click here.

I really enjoy mock drafts this time of year because it helps me sort out my rankings. It’s one thing to put Player A ahead of Player B in a list of WRs, but will I actually pull the trigger on Player A when it’s my time to pick?

Since my first experts mock of 2011 was so enjoyable, I decided to organize another mock with the help of Jim Day (@Fantasytaz) and his Draftmaster series sponsored by Go Ahead Score. These aren’t really mocks — they’re no-transaction, best ball format — but for my purposes, I treated it as a mock. The league starts a QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, flex, K and DT. The scoring system is PPR with 4 points per pass TD so keep that in mind as you review the results.

In addition to Jim, the participants included Andy Behrens of Yahoo!, Josh Moore of 4for4.com, Chet Gresham of Razzball, Mike Clay and Jeff Ratcliffe of PFF Fantasy, Bryan Fontaine of Dynasty Blitz, Brian Quinlan of Fantasy Football Whiz, Clint Chugg of YHIHF, Ryan Burns of Football Sickness and Scott Pashley of FF Spin. Be sure to follow these guys on Twitter — just click on the link in the header in the table below and it will take you to their Twitter page.

Apologies for the size of the font in the table. There’s just no way around it, so get out that magnifying glass (or you could zoom in on your browser, I suppose).

Let’s jump right in…

@FF Spin@circular genius@Fantasy Shrink@BN
Quinlan
@Jeff Ratcliffe@Andy Behrens@Bryan_ Fontaine@PFF_ MikeClay@Fantasytaz@chet razzball@YHIHF@Ftbl Sickness
1Peterson, AFoster, AJohnson, CMcCoy, LCharles, JRice, RJones-Drew, MMendenhall, RJohnson, AWhite, RMcFadden, DJohnson, C
2Wayne, RVick, MRodgers, AWallace, MJennings, GTurner, MMathews, RFitzgerald, LJackson, SNicks, HGore, FForte, M
3Welker, WHillis, PJackson, VBowe, DAustin, MWilliams, MJackson, DBradshaw, AStewart, JMoreno, KBest, JManning, P
4Brady, TWilliams, DMaclin, JMarshall, BGreene, SThomas, DJohnson, SColston, MBrees, DBlount, LCollie, AGates, A
5Benson, CLloyd, BFinley, JLynch, MIngram, MBryant, DRivers, PClark, DHolmes, SRice, SWitten, JJones, F
6Boldin, AGarcon, PAddai, JRoethlis
berger, B
Graham, JDavis, VHarvin, PSchaub, MWilliams, RRyan, MRomo, TBritt, K
7Grant, RNelson, JJackson, FCrabtree, MFreeman, JStafford, MWilliams, MTolbert, MGreen, AHelu, RManningham, MThomas, P
8Jacobs, BLewis, MKnox, JPettigrew, BThomas, MJones, JMiller, ZSmith, SDaniels, OStarks, JManning, EBess, D
9Moss, SFord, JAmendola, DGreen-Ellis, BLeshoure, MSimpson, JBradford, SSmith, SCutler, JGronkowski, RBush, MFlacco, J
10Floyd, MOwens, TFitzpatrick, RBrown, RBranch, DTorain, RWoodhead, DTomlinson, LMoore, LKolb, KClayton, MSpiller, C
11Cassel, MCampbell, JCarter, DSanchez, MScott, BVereen, SLittle, GCooley, CWells, CChoice, TWinslow, KHernandez, A
12Gonzalez, TWatson, BMeachem, RGresham, JTebow, TOrton, KRinger, JSims-Walker, MEdwards, BKeller, DSanders, EWard, H
13Hardesty, MPackers, GSteelers, PArmstrong, ABush, RAvery, DSnelling, JGoodson, MCook, JJones, JMoss, RJennings, R
14Miller, HSproles, DWilliams, RMcCluster, DMoeaki, TBears, CCelek, BEagles, PHightower, TMurray, DJets, NBennett, E
15Giants, NJanikowski, SHeap, TPatriots, NRavens, BBreaston, SLions, DNewton, CBrown, JCowboys, DHunter, KRaiders, O
16Rackers, NMason, DBryant, MGould, RCarpenter, DHartley, GCrosby, MGostkowski, SSaints, NCundiff, BKaeding, NBironas, R

EARLY ROUNDS

I was happy to get a pick in the top 5. I think there’s a small drop-off to Ray Rice, and a steeper drop-off to the rest of the RBs/WRs available in the 1st round. It was actually a tough decision between CJ2K, McCoy and Charles here, but I went with Johnson due to the news that the Titans are going to do whatever they can to use him in space. One really frustrating thing about watching Tennessee’s offense last year was their refusal to use Johnson extensively in the passing game.

I was hoping that Mike Wallace or Larry Fitzgerald would slip to me at 2.10, but Brian plucked Wallace out from under my nose. At this point, I thought about Peyton Hillis, whom I really like in the late-2nd/early-3rd, but I thought that he might be available at 3.03. So I had to decide between Reggie Wayne and going with a QB. As you can see, I went with my top QB, Aaron Rodgers. This is a departure from my usual strategy, and I wanted to see how it would work out.

Hillis in the 3rd? Yeah, that didn’t happen. Once again, the guy I was targeting went one pick early. I was not a fan of the RBs available (Ahmad Bradshaw, Jonathan Stewart, Knowshon Moreno and Jahvid Best went later on in the round), so I narrowed my decision to Vincent Jackson and Dwayne Bowe. I ended up going with V-Jax due to his easier projected schedule and better QB. Bowe seems very inconsistent.

I was targeting Antonio Gates, Austin Collie, Steve Johnson and Jeremy Maclin in the 4th, and Maclin slipped to me at 4.10. I thought about going RB (DeAngelo Williams), but was turned off by his situation. Will he play in Carolina this year? If he changes teams, will he be the starter? Too much uncertainty for the 4th, so I went with Maclin who is very steady.

MIDDLE ROUNDS

There are several players I liked here, but none of them were RBs, which was my position of need. Instead of reaching, I went with value which was most apparent at TE. It was a tough call between Jermichael Finley and Jason Witten, but the 5th round is when I start looking for upside, and I believe Finley’s role will grow as Donald Driver fades into the background. Finley should become GB’s de facto WR2 (or even WR1) — Rodgers loves him.

In the 6th, I couldn’t wait any longer to draft my RB2, and felt fortunate when Joseph Addai slipped to me. He’s very productive when healthy and I suspect the Colts will bring him back. In the 7th, I was very pleased to take Fred Jackson, who is a value pick in the middle rounds. People overestimate C.J. Spiller’s readiness/role — Jackson was productive last year and should remain the Bills’ RB1 for at least one more season.

Remember when I was talking about Player A and Player B with relation to my rankings? That situation came up in the 8th round when I had to decide between Johnny Knox and Santana Moss. History has not looked kindly on 32-year-old WRs that change teams and that’s probably the case with Moss. He would need to land in a good situation (New England?) to keep top 20 value. Knox on the other hand is the best WR in a pass-first offense and he’s entering his third season, so he should see his last big jump in production. Even if the Bears add someone like Terrell Owens, Knox should still see plenty of targets as the WR2.

Jacoby Ford versus Danny Amendola would have been an interesting decision, but I didn’t have to make it. Josh McDaniels is reportedly a big fan of Amendola’s game, and we’re hearing a lot of “next Wes Welker” talk. While that may be overblown, I do think that Amendola is a very solid WR4 in PPR formats. I did consider Rob Gronkowski here since Finley is an injury concern, but ended up going WR instead.

LATER ROUNDS

In the 10th, I drafted Ryan Fitzpatrick, whom I believe will make a terrific QB2 in 2011. It turns out that I could have let him go since both owners drafting after me in the 10th had QBs with the same bye. Keep that in mind when you are 1-3 spots from the turn. Anyway, the guy I would have drafted (Delone Carter) was there in the 11th, so I now had the Indy running game pretty much wrapped up.

After that, it was just a matter of rounding out my roster with some upside: Robert Meachem, who could emerge if Marques Colston isn’t completely healthy; Ricky Williams, who could play a big role depending on where he lands; and Todd Heap, who is a very good TE in PPR formats when healthy.

Normally, I would go DTBC or play the waiver wire week to week, but I elected to take the Steelers in the 13th since this was technically a best ball format.

Here’s a look at the entire roster:

QB – Rodgers, Fitzpatrick
RB – CJ2K, Addai, F. Jackson, Carter, R. Williams
WR – V-Jax, Maclin, Knox, Amendola, Meachem
TE – Finley, Heap
K – Bryant
DT – Steelers

As a whole, I really like this team. I have a top 5 RB, a top 2 QB and one of the best TEs in the game. My WRs are reasonably strong as a group. My main issue is at RB2. If the Colts let Addai walk, he better land somewhere favorable and/or Carter better step up in his place. Even if the worst happens, I think Jackson would make a serviceable RB2 given the rest of the roster.

Just for fun, I asked Josh Moore of 4for4.com to comment on both of our drafts. Here’s what he had to say:

My Draft (@circulargenius):
I head into a draft looking to grab the best possible 4 players with my 4 picks. After 4 picks I re-assess my draft strategy for the remaining rounds. In this draft, Arian Foster was a no brainer with the 2nd pick. I felt Michael Vick was another no brainer at 2.11. By selecting Peyton Hillis & DeAngelo Williams at 3.02 & 4.11, I cemented my roster with 3 nice RBs, but would have to focus on building WR depth in the middle & late rounds.

Through previous drafts, one thing I consistently notice is that throughout the entire draft I am able to find what I consider to be good value WRs that I like in just about every round. While I don’t have #1 stud WR on my team, I filled up quite nicely with Brandon Lloyd, Pierre Garcon, Jordy Nelson, Jacoby Ford, Terrell Owens & Derrick Mason in the final round. It’s guys like TO & Mason available late in drafts that make me like the strategy of waiting on WRs in favor of early talent at the more shallow RB position, or an elite QB/TE (read Vick, Rodgers & Gates).

The one area of concern I have is only rolling with 4 RBs in a league where I can’t go to the waiver wire. I have confidence in the four I do have, but this could end up being a problem if someone goes down with a season ending injury. If I were to change one thing about my draft, I would use my 7th round pick to select a nice RB4 like Fred Jackson. Jordy Nelson or someone like him would have been available with my next pick.

Paulsen’s Draft (@FantasyShrink):
Paulsen’s draft started out like mine, going elite RB & QB with his first two picks (Chris Johnson & Aaron Rodgers). However he chose to stock up on WRs in the 3rd & 4th with Vincent Jackson & Jeremy Maclin. Jackson & Maclin are guys I really like, and both guys I target in drafts. Paulsen ended up a bit thin at RB with Joseph Addai & Fred Jackson as his 2nd and 3rd RBs, but has nice upside at WR and at TE with Jermichael Finley. We both used a similar strategy of gabbing an elite defense in the 13th. Pittsburgh and Green Bay are basically interchangeable as fantasy’s top 2 defenses heading into 2011.

To see commentary from the other experts, check out the main draft page. A few of the other experts said they planned to write about the draft, so check back for updated links:

- Andy Behrens (@AndyBehrens) wrote about his team on RotoArcade.
- Clint Chugg (@YHIHF) posted his take on Razzball.

How does age impact WR production? (Part II)

For an understanding of my objectives and methodology, please read Part 1. I didn’t know it was the first of a two-parter at the time, but that’s sometimes how things go. For all I know, this could be a 25-part series. (Shoot me now.)

I decided that perhaps the scope of Part 1 (1980-2010, Top 72 WR in any year of their career) was a bit too expansive. Training changed a lot from the 1980s to the 1990s and the lifespan of an athlete has increased proportionally. So for Part 2, I’m limiting my sample size to WRs that played sometime after 1990 and finished in the Top 36 in at least one season during their careers. Also, with so many teams going to some version of the quick-hitting West Coast Offense, reducing the number of fly routes, perhaps that would also extend the average wideout’s career. (Hat tip to 4for4′s Josh Moore for that consideration.)

Here’s a look at the results, in PPR formats.

PPRAllSame TeamNew Team
Age#% Diff#% Diff#% Diff
221445%1445%--
237858%7658%255%
2413921%13521%4-25%
2516323%14623%1719%
261725%1464%268%
27172-5%137-2%35-19%
28160-8%118-9%42-2%
29149-2%1042%45-14%
30129-12%95-9%34-22%
31109-15%79-12%30-27%
3282-17%58-10%24-38%
3357-21%39-24%18-15%
3438-7%272%11-33%
3531-23%25-24%6-17%
3622-22%16-21%6-26%

Since the subgroups share so much data, it’s no surprise that we see a similar trend as the 1980-2010/Top 72 study, but there are a few differences. (I’m looking at “Same Team” data to remove the variability involved with changing teams.)

First, the jump at age 23 is about 15% greater once we remove the wideouts from the 1980s and the fringe fantasy performers. This may be a function of WRs being more prepared for the NFL when they enter the league than their counterparts in the 1980s.

Next, we see steady growth through age 25 at which point the average receiver’s production essentially plateaus until age 29. Starting with age 30, we can expect a slow but steady (9-12%) drop for the next three years. It seems like we can expect peak performance through age 29 and then his production is likely to fall off at a 10% clip for every year beyond that.

Also notice it’s generally worse to change teams, especially when the receiver hits age 29.

For those interested in standard scoring data, it is very similar…

StdAllSame TeamNew Team
Age#% Diff#% Diff#% Diff
221445%1445%--
237860%7660%257%
2413920%13521%4-35%
2516323%14623%1727%
261724%1463%2610%
27172-5%137-2%35-21%
28160-9%118-11%421%
29149-1%1041%45-12%
30129-12%95-10%34-21%
31109-15%79-12%30-26%
3282-20%58-13%24-41%
3357-20%39-23%18-13%
3438-7%273%11-36%
3531-25%25-26%6-14%
3622-25%16-25%6-22%

Here are the same data sets (“Same Team” only) in chart format.

Notice how the improvement continues until age 25 (20%+ per season), then plateaus by oscillating around the 0% axis for four seasons before starting the aforementioned 10% annual drop. Don’t worry too much about the slight increase at age 34. That’s probably just a function of the types of WRs who are still chugging at that age along with the relatively small sample size (27).

How does age impact WR production?

This is another statistical study that has sprung from the last few weeks of rankings and mock drafts. As I was looking at Reggie Wayne, who will turn 33 this season, it got me wondering — how does age affect a wideout’s production? We all know that Wayne (and every other WR, for that matter) is going to decline, but when does the decline come and how steep is the cliff?

Conversely, what is the average increase in production for young receivers? There has always been the theory of a breakout for third-year WRs, but what about the player’s actual age?

To try to answer these questions, I compiled wide receiver data from 1980 to 2010 to see how WRs develop over their careers. I only used “fantasy relevant” WRs — i.e. players who finished in the Top 72 in at least one season (in either standard or PPR formats) during their careers — so that the data wasn’t impacted by fringe players. Why 72? It’s arbitrary, really…12 fantasy teams x 6 WRs per team = 72 players.

I also wanted to take into account player movement in this study. Conventional wisdom has long been that WRs who change teams generally don’t fare as well in the first year with their new teams as they get acclimated to a new offense and a new quarterback. Obviously, there are exceptions, but I wanted to test the theory nonetheless.

I play primarily in PPR leagues, so let’s take a look at that data first:

PPRAllSame TeamNew Team
Age#% Diff#% Diff#% Diff
222043%2043%--
2317445%16844%686%
2433822%32122%1725%
2539712%35913%38-6%
263855%3245%610%
27362-4%2840%78-24%
28323-11%248-10%75-12%
29282-8%221-6%61-18%
30222-14%171-12%51-25%
31174-15%130-11%44-31%
32123-15%95-10%28-37%
3388-22%67-24%21-13%
3462-13%49-8%13-34%
3546-28%37-28%9-27%
3628-22%20-18%8-35%

Along the top you’ll find “Same Team” (players who did not change teams), “New Team” (players who did change teams) and “All” (both). Also, the % Diff is for total fantasy points scored by each subgroup, which places more importance on the bigger fantasy players. Lastly, the age for each player is his age as of Dec. 31 of each year.

Notice the sample size for 22-year-olds is pretty small; it’s not often that a 21-year-old makes his debut as a WR in the NFL. Interestingly, for 22- or 23-year-olds, the season-to-season jump is more than 40%. The increase slows down but continues through age 26 for players sticking with the same team and peaks at age 27.

Then the slow decline begins. Looking at the “Same Team” group (eliminating the variables involved with changing teams), we can expect about a 10% drop in production every year once a player hits the age of 28. In almost every case, the drop associated with changing teams is typically worse.

How does this apply to the aforementioned Reggie Wayne? Well, based on the table, we could see a substantial (24%) drop in production. It should be noted that Wayne is in a position to buck this trend since he has had very few health issues and has one of the greatest QBs ever to play the game throwing to him. Perhaps a 5-10% drop in production would be more appropriate.

As for Mike A. Williams, he would project to see a 22% increase in fantasy points, though I wouldn’t bet on it since he was an outlier in his rookie season (i.e. there isn’t as much room for improvement as the typical 24-year-old).

Below you’ll find the same data for standard scoring leagues. The numbers follow the same general trend.

StdAllSame TeamNew Team
Age#% Diff#% Diff#% Diff
222041%2041%--
2317445%16843%694%
2433822%32122%1726%
2539711%35912%38-3%
263854%3244%611%
27362-4%2840%78-26%
28323-12%248-12%75-9%
29282-7%221-6%61-16%
30222-15%171-13%51-25%
31174-15%130-11%44-30%
32123-17%95-12%28-40%
3388-21%67-24%21-10%
3462-13%49-8%13-37%
3546-29%37-30%9-24%
3628-24%20-22%8-32%

What’s the moral of the story? This is useful in general terms, but we still need to consider each WR on an individual basis. This also sets up the possibility of looking at specific subgroups. For Wayne, we could examine 33-year-olds coming off of top 10 seasons to see how they finished the following year. Or for Williams, we could look at 24-year-olds who finished in the top 20 the previous season and didn’t change teams. The sample sizes would be smaller, but it would be useful to look at players of a similar talent level when trying to predict production.

Be sure to check out Part 2, where I limit the sample size to Top 36 WRs from 1990-2010. It turns out that prime of the average WR lasts a little longer.

Breaking down my first experts mock draft

I was recently asked to join a fantasy football experts mock draft (my first of 2011) and you’ll find the results below. (Apologizes for the font size, but there’s really no way around it. Bigger font = wider table, and that’s just not going to fit. So get your magnifying glass out.)

Pro Football FocusLester's LegendsFanatic Fantasy FootballFantasy Footall XtremeFootballguysFantasy ShrinkAll Purpose RotoFFSDraftsharksFantasy Football TraderGO Ahead ScoreJunkyard Jake
1Foster, APeterson, AJohnson, CCharles, JRice, RMcCoy, LJohnson, AMendenhall, RJohnson, CJones-Drew, MWhite, RGore, F
2Jennings, GTurner, MJackson, DRodgers, AFitzgerald, LWallace, MJackson, VWayne, RForte, MMcFadden, DNicks, HJackson, S
3Vick, MBowe, DMathews, RAustin, MBrees, DHillis, PWilliams, MManning, PWelker, WRivers, PBradshaw, AMaclin, J
4Clark, DMarshall, BGreene, SLloyd, BFinley, JGates, ABryant, DBlount, LCollie, AColston, MBest, JMoreno, K
5Jones, FBrady, TRomo, TIngram, MWilliams, DJohnson, SFreeman, JWitten, JAddai, JDavis, VStewart, JRyan, M
6Holmes, SHarvin, PCutler, JSpiller, CRice, SBenson, CGraham, JThomas, DSchaub, MBritt, KRoethlisberger, BCrabtree, M
7Grant, RLynch, MBoldin, AGarcon, PJackson, FGreen, AStarks, JNelson, JDaniels, OWells, CManningham, MKnox, J
8Smith, SOchocinco, CPettigrew, BWilliams, RMoss, SStafford, MManning, EAmendola, DJacobs, BThomas, MGronkowski, RJones, J
9Tolbert, MMiller, ZBess, DLewis, MFord, JGreen-Ellis, BHelu, RLeshoure, MFlacco, JWilliams, MBradford, SCooley, C
10Smith, SCassel, MWard, HBrown, RCarter, DFitzpatrick, RThomas, PAlexander, DMeachem, RBranch, DTorain, RKeller, D
11Bush, MTomlinson, LMoeaki, TMoss, REdwards, BLittle, GWinslow, KSanchez, MWoodhead, DKolb, KMoore, LPalmer, C
12Celek, BSteelers, PTate, BOrton, KGonzalez, TOwens, TVereen, SGoodson, MCook, JJennings, RHernandez, AScott, B
13Tebow, TGresham, JPackers, GBush, RMurray, DHardesty, MGreen, ASanders, EClayton, MJets, NHankerson, LSimpson, J
14Ringer, JSnelling, JJones, TIvory, CHunter, KHeap, TGiants, NRodgers, JChoice, TGerhart, TPowell, BEagles, P
15Ravens, BShipley, JSims-Walker, MCardinals, APatriots, NBears, CBrown, DFalcons, ASaints, NFloyd, MJanikowski, SMcCoy, C
16Henery, AAkers, DBironas, RBarth, CHartley, GBrown, JCrosby, MRackers, NBryant, MKaeding, NLions, DGostkowski, S

This is a PPR league that starts one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, a flex, one K and one DT.

EARLY ROUNDS

I would consider LeSean McCoy as early as #2 or #3, so I was really happy to get him at #6. I think the #5 pick is the sweet spot this year as you’re guaranteed one of my top 5 RBs: Arian Foster, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles. At #6 or #7, you are at the mercy of the owners ahead of you. Ray Rice isn’t a bad consolation prize, but after he’s gone, I’d start thinking about going with Andre Johnson instead of Maurice Jones-Drew or some other RB. But back to McCoy — he has this year’s #3 adjusted points per game (using 2010′s per game output adjusted for 2011′s strength of schedule).

In the 2nd round, I took my favorite underrated stud Mike Wallace, but if I had to do it over again, I’d probably nab Larry Fitzgerald instead. I’m drafting based on current status and the Cardinals’ QB situation is dreadful. But he’ll likely fare much better even if Arizona upgrades to a mediocre talent like Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton. We probably should assume that the Cardinals will do something at QB. Still, getting Wallace in the middle to late 2nd round is a nice value given his per target output, Ben Roethlisberger playing a full season and the odds that his looks will increase as Hines Ward continues his decline.

In the 3rd, I was fortunate to have Peyton Hillis fall to 3.06, which prompted me to write this piece about him. I think he’s a terrific value in the 3rd and a pretty nice value in the late 2nd. In the fourth, I considered considered a few WRs (Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and Brandon Marshall), but couldn’t pass on a WR talent at TE in the form of Antonio Gates. I typically take Gates in the late 3rd round in PPR formats, so getting him in the middle of the 4th seems like a steal.

MIDDLE ROUNDS

I was fortunate to have Stevie Johnson fall to me at 5.06. I have him ranked as the #18 WR, so he’s a solid WR2. In taking Johnson, I passed on Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Freeman. The hope was that Big Ben would be there at 6.07, but he was gone. I went with Benson and if I had a do over I would perhaps go with Santonio Holmes or Percy Harvin instead. At this point, I was targeting Eli Manning in the 8th. You’ll notice that everyone picking between 7.07 and 8.06 already had a QB, so I was gambling that no one would take Eli as a backup in the first half of the 8th. All Purpose Roto ended up taking him at 8.06 (doh!), so I instead went with Matthew Stafford who will finish in the top 10 if he can stay healthy. (Big ‘if,’ I know.) I landed A.J. Green in the 7th, which is a gamble, but if he gets WR1 targets, he should have a good chance to finish in the top 35.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a lot better last year than people give him credit for, but the Patriots’ draft picks are a little worrisome, so that’s why the Law Firm was available in the 9th. I feel great about him as a RB4. I’d even be comfortable with him at RB3 if I were strong at WR and TE.

I decided to take Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 10th to shore up the QB position. I think he’s an excellent QB2 and would be a solid addition to any QBBC. Plus, he has the 9th-highest adjusted PPG due to a much improved schedule.

LATER ROUNDS

At this point, I felt great about my RB (McCoy, Hillis, Benson, BGE) and TE (Gates) positions, but a little thin at WR with Wallace, S. Johnson and Green. So I took back-to-back WRs in Greg Little (likely the Browns’ WR1) and Terrell Owens, who will no doubt find a landing spot and get WR1/WR2 targets. I thought about Tony Gonzalez in the 12th considering he was 2010′s TE6, but felt it was more important to get some additional upside at WR.

At that point, it was a matter of grabbing a handcuff/insurance for Hillis (Hardesty), a backup for Gates (Heap, who is fringe starter worthy in PPR leagues when healthy), a defense and a kicker.

Here’s a look at the entire roster:

QB – Stafford, Fitzpatrick
RB – McCoy, Hillis, Benson, BGE, Hardesty
WR – Wallace, S. Johnson, A.J. Green, Little, Owens
TE – Gates, Heap
K – Brown
DT – Bears

I am a little shaky at QB, but that’s not a bad position to be shaky. There are always QBs that emerge during the year and if Stafford can’t stay healthy, I can always go QBBC. I’m strong at RB and TE and solid at WR with two bona fide WR1s (for their teams) and three more potential WR1s. Considering that this was an experts draft, I’d say the team turned out quite well.

The Big Board: TEs (PPR)

QB | RB | RB (PPR) | WR | WR (PPR) | TE | TE (PPR)

Tier#NameTmSOS20102-yr AvgComments
11Antonio GatesSD-5 (-13)18.817.0if healthy, belongs in tier of his own
22Jason WittenDAL1 (+2)15.514.3steady as he goes
23Jermichael FinleyGB-3 (-5)14.313.0more upside than Witten, larger injury concern
24Dallas ClarkIND10 (+1)15.016.02011 was first in four seasons that he missed 2+ games
25Vernon DavisSF5 (+8)11.813.8Harbaugh should help
36Owen DanielsHOU1 (+0)8.812.022-271-2 over his last four games; de facto WR2 in HOU
37Jimmy GrahamNO5 (+0)6.56.511 rec, 4 TDs las three games; Shockey gone
38Rob GronkowskiNE-10 (+3)9.89.8presence of Hernandez depresses ADP; 20 rec in last 5
39Marcedes LewisJAX4 (-2)11.89.1breakout 2011; things unchanged around him
310Zach MillerOAK-3 (-8)10.610.8great when healthy; possible FA
411Chris CooleyWAS-2 (-4)11.210.9QB situation a concern; more valuable in PPR leagues
412Tony GonzalezATL2 (+8)10.711.8still effective after all these years; improved schedule
413Kellen Winslow Jr.TB3 (+0)10.611.4major target for Freeman; knees a concern
414Brandon PettigrewDET-7 (+0)10.58.7will Stafford target him as much as Hill did?
515Aaron HernandezNE-10 (+3)10.110.1tailed off towards the end of 2010; just 12 rec in last 7
517Dustin KellerNYJ-3 (-3)9.68.2didn't catch a TD after Week 4; 3+ rec in last 9 games
517Brent CelekPHI2 (-7)7.310.6came on at the end of 2010; will Vick look his way?
518Todd HeapBAL4 (+5)10.09.6will get almost five targets per game if healthy
519Jermaine GreshamCIN4 (+10)8.28.2one of 7 TEs to register 50+ catches in rookie year
520Ben WatsonCLE5 (+9)10.18.2what does new WCO mean for him?
521Jared CookTEN0 (-2)4.42.824-292-1 over last 6 games, who will be QB in TEN?
622Tony MoeakiKC-9 (-10)8.08.02nd-most targets of all Chiefs last season
623Kevin BossNYG-2 (-10)7.98.35 TD in 7-game stretch from W9-W15
624Heath MillerPIT9 (+13)7.59.73rd in targets to Wallace and Ward; Big Ben favorite
625Greg OlsenCHI-3 (+2)7.08.8good talent, but 5th in targets isn't going to cut it
626Anthony FasanoMIA-4 (+1)7.76.6more short passes could help his numbers; nice schedule
627Lance KendricksSTL2 (-2)--TE-shy McDaniels should use him
628Jeremy ShockeyCAR7 (+6)7.78.6joins Cam Newton in Carolina
629Visanthe ShiancoeMIN-5 (+1)7.09.1fighting off Kyle Rudolph; new QB can't help
630John CarlsonSEA2 (+4)4.67.058 targets only one TD in 2010

Updated 6/19/11

SOS: 2011 projected strength of schedule (change from 2010)…so 4 (-3) would indicate a generally favorable schedule, but one that is tougher than the previous year. QBs and WR/TE (std) use pass SOS, WR/TE (PPR) use receiving SOS and RB (std/ppr) use a combination of rush, pass and receiving SOS. Std uses 75/25 rush/pass while PPR uses 60/40 rush/receiving. This is due to receiving SOS including one point per reception.

2010: Average fantasy points in 2010

2-yr Avg: Straight two-year per game average

The Big Board: TEs

QB | RB | RB (PPR) | WR | WR (PPR) | TE | TE (PPR)

Tier#NameTmSOS20102-yr AvgComments
11Antonio GatesSD1 (-10)13.812.0if healthy, belongs in tier of his own
22Jason WittenDAL2 (+5)9.68.4steady as he goes
23Jermichael FinleyGB-1 (-1)9.08.3more upside than Witten, larger injury concern
24Dallas ClarkIND8 (-2)8.89.82011 was first in four seasons that he missed 2+ games
25Vernon DavisSF5 (+6)8.39.6Harbaugh should help
36Owen DanielsHOU-1 (-3)5.47.822-271-2 over his last four games; de facto WR2 in HOU
37Jimmy GrahamNO5 (+5)4.44.411 rec, 4 TDs las three games; Shockey gone
38Rob GronkowskiNE-8 (+5)7.27.2presence of Hernandez depresses ADP; 20 rec in last 5
39Marcedes LewisJAX-1 (-6)8.16.2breakout 2011; things unchanged around him
310Zach MillerOAK3 (-1)6.66.6great when healthy; possible FA
411Chris CooleyWAS-2 (-3)6.46.4QB situation a concern; more valuable in PPR leagues
412Kellen Winslow Jr.TB0 (+4)6.46.9major target for Freeman; knees a concern
413Brandon PettigrewDET-4 (+2)6.05.1will Stafford target him as much as Hill did?
414Tony GonzalezATL1 (+8)6.47.0still effective after all these years; improved schedule
515Aaron HernandezNE-8 (+5)6.96.9tailed off towards the end of 2010; just 12 rec in last 7
516Brent CelekPHI1 (-4)4.76.9came on at the end of 2010; will Vick look his way?
517Todd HeapBAL4 (+8)6.96.4will get almost five targets per game if healthy
518Dustin KellerNYJ0 (+0)6.25.1didn't catch a TD after Week 4; 3+ rec in last 9 games
519Jermaine GreshamCIN5 (+14)4.74.7one of 7 TEs to register 50+ catches in rookie year
520Ben WatsonCLE1 (+8)5.95.1what does new WCO mean for him?
521Jared CookTEN-1 (-6)2.61.624-292-1 over last 6 games, who will be QB in TEN?
622Tony MoeakiKC-6 (-12)4.94.92nd-most targets of all Chiefs last season
623Kevin BossNYG-2 (-6)5.55.75 TD in 7-game stretch from W9-W15
624Heath MillerPIT6 (+10)4.55.83rd in targets to Wallace and Ward; Big Ben favorite
625Greg OlsenCHI1 (+2)4.45.6good talent, but 5th in targets isn't going to cut it
626Anthony FasanoMIA0 (+6)5.14.2more short passes could help his numbers; nice schedule
627Lance KendricksSTL1 (-5)--TE-shy McDaniels should use him
628Visanthe ShiancoeMIN-1 (+5)4.15.9fighting off Kyle Rudolph; new QB can't help
629John CarlsonSEA0 (+1)2.54.458 targets only one TD in 2010
630Jeremy ShockeyCAR6 (+11)4.55.1joins Cam Newton in Carolina

Updated 6/19/11

SOS: 2011 projected strength of schedule (change from 2010)…so 4 (-3) would indicate a generally favorable schedule, but one that is tougher than the previous year. QBs and WR/TE (std) use pass SOS, WR/TE (PPR) use receiving SOS and RB (std/ppr) use a combination of rush, pass and receiving SOS. Std uses 75/25 rush/pass while PPR uses 60/40 rush/receiving. This is due to receiving SOS including one point per reception.

2010: Per game fantasy points in 2010

2-yr Avg: Straight two-year per game average



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