Many Fantasy Football owners are on a constant quest for a Holy Grail.
That one "advanced analytic" that unlocks a player's true upside. That one film breakdown that reveals future fantasy value. The one expert who never misses on his/her takes.
Guess what? None of those exist.
No single stat. No one tool. No sole expert. Hell, even if I think I'm one of the greatest fantasy football gurus to ever exist, I'm also "real enough" to know batting 100% is impossible. Or 80%. Shit, 70% is a banner year.
You see, so many factors go into fantasy success -- all of which are out of the control of us nerds. Thus, hunting for that one crystal ball metric or analyst is a complete waste of time.
Rather, owners should be hunting for something that captures every success-driving factor.
A recipe, not an ingredient.
Consider it found:
On Wall Street, analysts are always hunting for Indicators -- predictive factors that help project the future value of a particular stock. In the best five minutes of The Wolf of Wall Street, Matthew McConaughey calls them nonexistent, and the market completely unpredictable:
“First rule of Wall Street – Nobody – and I don’t care if you’re Warren Buffet or Jimmy Buffet – nobody knows if a stock is going up, down or fucking sideways, least of all stockbrokers. But we have to pretend we know.”
Fortunately, the exact opposite is true in the fantasy football world on Roto Street.
Fantasy Football Value has far clearer indicators. In fact, we believe fantasy success or failure boils down to four clear and crucial areas:
Now, I know none of these factors are groundbreaking, crazy discoveries in the fantasy world. Indeed, these indicators are often intertwined -- talent and/or scheme can dictate usage, impacted by the team's ability to stay on the field, controlled by the talent of the whole unit. And of course, once the season begins, other areas, such as the matchup, need to be considered -- especially for DFS.
Still, rarely do all of these variables get considered as one unit — a Fantasy Stock Score – to clearly yet holistically project fantasy value with every important area considered.
These factors serve as the foundation for our Fantasy Stock Profiles on each and every player.
Below, we delve into the metrics and stats we track to evaluate each player, in each category:
Talent is simply a player’s sheer ability and skill level.
There seems to be a wide split in the fantasy community with how to best evaluate and project talent: either you’re a stats guy, or a film guy.
Personally, I like to blend both, and find the stats that illustrate what my eyeballs are testing me.
When evaluating talent, we look at both:
B) On-Field Productivity:
Talent is crucial, especially in establishing a player's fantasy football ceiling. Yet, no matter how physically-gifted a player may be, this won't matter without the right...
Few words draw fantasy wood faster than “every-down workhorse” or “target hog.”
The logic is simple: the more frequent a player's usage, the greater opportunity he has to rack up fantasy points.
Thus, we break opportunity down by analyzing:
A) Sheer Opportunity:
B) Quality of Usage:
We've seen meh players like Leonard Fournette ride volume (2nd most 2020 opps) to fantasy gold (RB7), even if he was incredibly inefficient. When finally utilized, explosive talents like Austin Ekeler (PPR RB4) and Chris Godwin (WR2) blew up.
Conversely, intriguing talents -- especially rookies -- often have their talent rot on the bench. Stefon Diggs struggled to find consistency in a run-heavy attack. Duke Johnson failed to make the leap so many expected as his volume trickled away to Carlos Hyde.
Simply: nothing is a cleaner translator to fantasy production than opportunity.
Still, experts will too often stop the equation here. Talent + Opportunity = Fantasy Gold, right?
Not so fast. 20 uncreative carries straight into the line won’t automatically facilitate a monstrous year, especially if his surroundings blow (just ask Todd Gurley about his 2016 versus 2017).
We also need to analyze the player's Surroundings, specifically the players around him and the one scheming up the plays.
A) Team Talent
The benefits of playing within an explosive offense, surrounded by quality players, cannot be overstated: more scoring chances. Lesser defensive attention. Longer-sustained drives.
Conversely, the stacked boxes, minimal red zone visits, and frequent three-and-outs of an awful overall offense can drain serious value.
Indeed, certain "surrounding talents" impact different fantasy positions to varying degrees. Line play is important for the whole offense, but is especially important for an RB's success or failure (Chubb is about to lead the NFL in rushing). QB play impacts all positions, but is obviously more tightly responsible for WRs outputs (hey, JuJu). Attention-commanding WRs, or lack thereof, can help or hurt the backfield, but is particularly crucial for QBs (chuck it on up, Jameis).
Of course, all the Team Talent in the world won't matter without the right:
B) Scheme / Playcalling
You'd think at the NFL-level, all play callers would be top-notch, fitting their scheme to their talent, crafting creative and unpredictable attacks that push the ball downfield and bring TDs in oodles.
Sadly, the assumption of rational coaching gets fantasy owners in trouble every year.
When the skills and scheme do align, the results are glorious. Lamar Jackson was an unstoppable force in Greg Roman's creative, run-centric attack. Dalvin Cook couldn't have fit a zone-blocking scheme any better.
On the other hand, uncreative, dull, risk-adverse coaches who force square pegs into round holes can tank fantasy outlooks. Yup, staring right at you, Adam Gase.
Beyond just their impact on an overall offense, coaches can often have tendencies related to specific positions. Some coaches, such as Pat Shurmur (now in Denver) LOVE riding bell cows, while others like Bill Belichick prefer committees. Dirk Koetter peppers his TEs, Bruce Arians avoids them (hello, OJ Howard).
Indeed, chasing past coaching trends can often lead to correlation traps -- good playcallers are constantly reinventing themselves, especially to the talent at their disposal. Still, positional usage and overall offensive trends can often be found in coach analysis -- arguably the most ignored fantasy factor in fantasy.
To quantify "Surroundings" as a whole, we analyze:
Of course, every box could be checked, and it won't matter if...
Risk can be hard to quantify, and is the least-weighty of our factors.
Still, we quantify "Risk" by looking at three areas: injury susceptibility / history, consistency, and provenness.
Indeed injuries are impossible to predict. Every single player on the field has a chance to get hurt any given play.
Yet, there are identifiable trends that suggest one player may carry more risk than another. High mileage / older RBs often break down, and it's a position that generally carries the highest risk regardless given the greater exposure to hits.
Style of play, such as an upright rushing style or fearlessness over the middle, can also create greater injury susceptibility. Some players seem to fight through the pain more, or are built to absorb the punishment better, than others.
Previous injury history also needs to be considered, particularly if a player is coming off a surgery. Compensation injuries occur all the time.
While injury is by far the greatest "Risk" factor to consider, consistency is important. Are you Michael Thomas, churning out double-digit weekly outputs? Or are you Amari Cooper, booming for week-winning 30 FPs weeks, and then disappearing for game-costing goose eggs?
A track record and an established role are also both comforting, though unnecessary. This generally provides a longer leash and clearer weekly usage as compared to an unproven commodity.
This does not mean to only draft "proven players," however. More often than not, their "best case" are often known more firmly "capped." While security has its own appeal, there’s often more sexiness -- and value -- to the allure of the unknown. A balance between the established floor versus the limitless potential is key to being a true contender.
The development, and increased reliance, upon Advanced Analytics can confuse many fantasy footballers.
Now, owners are led to believe one metric or evaluation tool will open up Fantasy Nirvana.
Instead, owners should be taking a simpler, more holistic approach: the Fantasy Football Stock Formula.
Talent, Usage, Surrounding Talent, Coaching Scheme, Risk, and Upside are obvious, yet the beauty is in this simplicity. They all dance with one another to drive Fantasy Football Value, creating a whole that's greater than the sum of the parts.
Still, knowing those parts can help guide predictions, and then evaluate where they went right and wrong Indeed, my grades on Player X's Talent, Player Y's Opportunity, or Player Z's Risk Level are all open for debate. Sure, I'll swing and miss on my fair share of evaluations, overlooking a line downgrade or underselling a new coach's importance.
However, there's one thing I won't be wrong about: the Fantasy Stock Formula is 100% the best way to evaluate Fantasy Football value. Please, if you feel I am missing or overvaluing certain factors, please let me hear it @RotoStreetWolf.