The Big Board: WRs (PPR)

QB | RB | RB (PPR) | WRWR (PPR) | TE | TE (PPR) | K | DT

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

Assumes 6 pt per TD, 1 pt per 10 yards rush/rec, 1 pt per rec
Updated 9/5/11

The Big Board: WRs

QB | RB | RB (PPR) | WRWR (PPR) | TE | TE (PPR) | K | DT

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

Assumes 6 pt per TD, 1 pt per 10 yards rush/rec
Updated 9/5/11

Owners give up fight for ‘right of first refusal’

As the lockout nears its end, one of the sticking points is how free agency is going to work this summer. The owners wanted to be able to designate three free agents whose contracts they could match, but have since given up on that request. As the agreement tentatively stands, teams will have 72 hours to sign their own players and then…well…all hell breaks loose. Most players will find it in their best interests to test the free agency market, so this year’s free agency period promises to be fast and furious.

How does this affect fantasy owners? A great example is DeAngelo Williams — for a time it looked like the 2011 season may be played under 2010 rules, and he’d have to wait another year for unrestricted free agency (UFA). But it appears that he’s headed for free agency this summer, which means it’s likely that he’ll land elsewhere in 2011, assuming the Panthers aren’t willing to pay him. Carolina could re-sign Williams, but it seems more likely that they’ll move forward with Jonathan Stewart as their feature back. This means that instead of a two-headed RBBC monster in Carolina, we may have two more bona fide bell cow backs to draft in the first three or four rounds.

Below is a list of the top free agents at each position. I’m mainly going to list players who are likely to have a fantasy impact if they land with new teams. An asterisk indicates that the player has been slapped with a franchise tag, and it appears the new CBA will honor those tags. That means the player will be under control of their current team for at least one more season.

QB: Peyton Manning*, Michael Vick*, Matt Hasselbeck, Alex Smith, Marc Bulger and Rex Grossman

Manning and Vick will almost certainly re-sign, but Hasselbeck is likely to be on the move. The 49ers look like they’re planning to hold onto Smith, while the Redskins may re-sign Grossman.

RB: Arian Foster, DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mike Tolbert, Michael Bush, Darren Sproles, Jason Snelling, Ricky Williams, Brandon Jackson, Tim Hightower, Derrick Ward, Cadillac Williams, Le’Ron McClain and Leon Washington

The Texans will likely lock up Foster before the 72-hour period is up, but Williams, Bradshaw, Benson and Addai could be on the move. Of those four, Williams seems most likely to change teams.

WR: Vincent Jackson*, Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice, Santana Moss, Braylon Edwards, Steve Smith (NYG), Malcom Floyd, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, James Jones, Steve Breaston, Mike Sims-Walker, Lance Moore, Ben Obomanu, Danny Amendola

Plan on V-Jax sticking with the Chargers for one more year, which makes him an interesting pick in the third round. If rumors of the Redskins’ interest are true, Holmes could be a hot commodity, though the Jets will have a chance to lock him up early in FA. Keep an eye on Steve Smith 2.0 — if he leaves New York, Mario Manningham will be in for a big year.

TE: Zach Miller, Marcedes Lewis*, Kevin Boss

Lewis was slapped with a franchise tag, so he’ll be in Jacksonville next season. That makes Miller the one and only impact TE available in FA, so the Raiders would be wise to lock him up early. He’s a sleeper again this season, especially with the way Jason Campbell came on late in 2010.

Once the CBA is finalized, I’ll be writing a comprehensive FA preview for 4for4.com.

Fantasy Football Chain Reaction #10: Holmes re-ups with the Jets

Wondering what this series is all about? Click here.

With no idea why it has taken this long for his phone to ring, an unshaven and generally disheveled Santonio Holmes is startled out of a mid-afternoon nap when he hears his phone’s ringtone for Rex Ryan: “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. Ryan sounds apologetic, “Santonio, just wanted to let you know that we signed Plaxico Burress…and, um…well, we realized that we hadn’t yet re-signed you. Do you want to re-up?” Despite the downgrade from Braylon Edwards to Burress at WR2, Holmes agrees and becomes a sneaky-great pick in the 5th round of your fantasy draft.

In the nine games from W8 (after he eased himself into the Jets’ offense) to W16 (he didn’t play much in W17), Holmes averaged 4.9 receptions for 71 yards and .56 TDs. That equates to 15.3 fantasy points per game in PPR formats, or WR9 numbers. Yeah, the Jets should re-sign him.

Fantasy Spin: And fantasy owners should draft him. At his current ADP (5.06, WR22), he’s a veritable steal. Maybe he has more off-the-field risk than other WRs, and maybe there’s a (small) chance he doesn’t re-sign with the Jets, but the guy is simply better than many of the WRs currently going ahead of him in fantasy drafts. With Edwards likely out the door, I just don’t see the Jets letting both starting WRs walk. A move like that would make Mark Sanchez’s pretty little head explode. Nope, not happening. Holmes is a borderline WR1 at a borderline WR2 price. Snatch him up in the late-4th/early-5th and laugh all the way to the playoffs.

Next up is Lou Tranquilli, who predicts that a certain Miami RB will be on the move.

To see the entire FF Chain Reaction series, click here.

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.

[table id=32 /]

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.

[table id=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…

[table id=25 /]

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:

[table id=24 /]

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.

[table id=23 /]

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.

Using depth charts to predict production

As I was putting my WR Big Board together, I ran across several unproven players who are poised to fill certain roles in 2011, and I wasn’t sure where to rank them. This got me thinking — wouldn’t it be nice to have a set of parameters for certain wideouts based their pecking order with their team? For example, Player A is probably going to be the WR2 for Team X, where is he likely to finish the season in terms of total fantasy points?

Better yet, if we knew if Team X was a pass-heavy, run-heavy or balanced team, wouldn’t that help us get an idea for where these young players should be ranked?

Below you’ll find a table that summarizes the last three years of fantasy data (PPR format) and reveals where players have finished based on where they rank within their team in total targets. This ranking (R1-R6) includes TEs and RBs, so if you’re looking at a player like Malcom Floyd, you know that he is likely going to be third or fourth in targets behind Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and perhaps Ryan Mathews.

[table id=17 /]

Sticking with the Floyd example, the Chargers have been “Balanced” (within +/- 2% of the average Pass % for the league, where Pass % is the number of pass attempts divided by the number of pass attempts plus rush attempts) for the last three seasons, so as “Receiver #3” or R3 (behind Gates and Jackson), he would likely finish somewhere around WR69 in 2011. If Ryan Mathews passed him in targets, he is more likely to finish around WR78.

The table also shows the lowest and highest finish of a player fitting the profile, so that you can get an idea what kind of range we’re dealing with.

The next piece of the puzzle is how each team is categorized. Below you’ll find a table with the 32 teams and whether they have been Pass-Heavy, Run-Heavy or Balanced for each of the last three seasons.

[table id=18 /]

Notice that only three teams — CIN, KC and WAS — have been both pass-heavy and run-heavy in the last three seasons, and both the Chiefs and Redskins have had head coaching changes during that span. Without a change at head coach (or offensive coordinator), we can probably assume that a team won’t deviate too far from its 2010 tendencies.

It would also be useful to know the standard deviation for each category so we can calculate a range for each profile. The table below does just that, with one standard deviation added and subtracted from the average. This gives us a range where we can expect approximately 68% of the data points to fall.

[table id=19 /]

Let’s apply this to a few different WRs:

Besides Floyd, another player that jumped out at me was Arrelious Benn. If he comes back healthy from his knee injury, he would potentially be the Bucs’ WR2. But he’d probably be R3 behind Mike A. Williams and Kellen Winslow. Since the Bucs are a balanced team, he would likely finish around WR69 (in the WR48-WR91 range). If he were to surpass Winslow in targets, he would be a good bet to finish in the top 40.

Jason Hill of Jacksonville is a young player that could earn the WR2 job in camp. Since the Jags are likely run-heavy, and he is probably going to be R3 behind Mike Thomas and Marcedes Lewis, the average finish of players in the same situation has been WR65 over the last three years. Most have fallen in the WR45-WR84 range.

How about St. Louis? Josh McDaniels comes over from Denver, which was pass-heavy in 2010. If he shows the same tendencies with the Rams, then Danny Amendola could finish in the WR5-WR34 range if he ends up leading St. Louis in targets. If he finishes as the Rams’ R2, then his predicted finish would be around WR44 (or somewhere in the (WR22-WR65 range).

A.J. Green also springs to mind. Let’s assume that the Bengals are balanced in 2011 and he gets the most targets of anyone in Cincinnati. If that’s the case, then we can safely assume that he’ll finish in the top 35, making his current ADP (WR29) seem reasonable. Conversely, Julio Jones as the R2 in a balanced offense would be expected to finish in the WR19-WR56 range. Surprisingly, if the Falcons go pass-heavy, it wouldn’t project to impact Jones too much. It appears that R1, R3 and R4 are the main beneficiaries of a pass-heavy offense.

One more example is Anthony Armstrong. If Santana Moss departs via free agency, Armstrong could very well start the season as the Redskins’ WR1. If that holds up, and Shanahan’s offense continues to be pass-heavy, he would project to finish in the WR2-WR27 range. That’s probably a reach, but the WR22-WR65 (R2) would be a definite possibility if the targets were spread around more evenly.

This is by no means a black and white process, just a useful little tool to try to predict the unpredictable. If a player’s situation hasn’t changed much since 2010, then it’s best to use last year’s production as a starting point. But for players like Floyd, Benn, Hill or Amendola, who expect to see substantial change in 2011, looking at the average production of the depth chart can be a good place to start.

The Big Board: WRs (PPR)

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

[table id=16 /]

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

The Big Board: WRs

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

[table id=13 /]

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