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How y’all doing again? Since a few of you thought my last article was a little too cliche, I’ll cut out the fat and just give you the red meat (another cliche, I know). As I stated in my first article, I’m here to help you score the most points. My personal preference, when drafting, is to get solid, no-risk players in the first four rounds. I don’t care for the players with tons of upside that make their way into the top rounds. I want the players with the highest floor, not the biggest upside in these early rounds. I grab guys with tons of upside in the middle rounds, and swing for the fences in the late rounds. I want the guys that score the most points week in and week out, just like everyone wants. Figuring out who these guys are is the hard part, though.
Below is an analysis of each position for the last three years. I have them ranked on how many points per game (PPG) they score, with a minimum of six games. The players in blue have been Top 12 or 24 (definite starters depending on position) for all three past seasons. Players that are bolded weren’t in the Top 12 or 24 the previous year.
I like taking a look at PPG numbers rather than overall season totals. For fantasy football purposes, when a player goes down and is out two weeks, I know I’m starting someone else until that player is back. Players that play hurt, or have low PPG for a full 16 games, are not players that are going to help me win. Mike Goodson was the every down running back for the Carolina Panthers in Week 10 and 11 last year and he had total yards of 113 and 151 rushing yards in those two games. He would have made a nice RB2 spot start for those two games when Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams were both injured. While his season totals were really low, for those two games he was fantasy relevant. While this is a small scale example, taking a look at the big picture for PPG numbers, helps to weed out some of the players you don’t want to draft.
There were five quarterbacks that have been in the Top 12 all of the past three seasons: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo. If Tom Brady hadn’t have gotten hurt in 2008 he probably would have made it six (Matt Cassel, playing for New England that year did make the Top 12). The turnover on the Top 12 is 36 percent, or about four quarterbacks a season, and two of those four usually land in the 11th or 12th slot.
Tony Romo going down in Week 6 doesn’t mean that he didn’t help you win those first five games last year (John Kitna was the 13th PPG quarterback in 2010, if you’re wondering). Likewise, when Michael Vick went down last year, you weren’t dropping him, you just started someone else. A combo of Vick for 12 games and any 12-18 ranked quarterback for four games, got you a higher PPG average than the No. 2 ranked quarterback. Injuries aren’t something to plan for when making projections; they just make a player more risky of a pick.
The 36 percent turnover rate of quarterbacks is the smallest of all key fantasy football positions. With such a small turnover rate, and only half a dozen guys that are always at the top, I tend to grab a quarterback in the third or fourth round. I don’t need the top guy; I just want one that isn’t likely to fall out of the Top 12. I’m spending a high pick on a quarterback, and I’ll work on finding a sleeper running back or wide receiver. Would you rather try to figure out which one of four quarterbacks will crack the Top 12, or which one of nine running backs will crack the Top 24?
There are some running backs that have nice numbers at the end of the season, but PPG-wise they’re not in the Top 24. Felix Jones, Jonathan Stewart and Jahvid Best come to mind. These are the guys that play through their injuries instead of taking time off so they can be at 100 percent. These are the guys I don’t want on my team. On the flip side of the coin, there are guys that are very fantasy relevant when they do play. Guys like Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno and Ryan Mathews. These are the guys you start when they’re healthy, and sub into an Injured Reserve spot (if your league has one) when they’re not. These PPG numbers are something that translates to overall rankings as well. Jones, Stewart and Best are all ranked lower than McFadden, Moreno and Mathews in almost every ADP list you can find. Coincidence? I think not.
Running backs turned over nine players every year in the past three for a turnover rate of 38 percent, and had seven players in the Top 24 all three years as well. While I don’t think LaDainian Tomlinson will be in the Top 24 again, the other six I’d say will be.
Receivers had the highest turnover rate of any position at 44 percent, averaging about 11 players a season. There were seven players in the Top 24 for all three previous seasons, and none of those names would surprise anyone: Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston and Larry Fitzgerald.
There are a few things that jump out at me on this chart. First, Andre Johnson has never been lower than fourth. He missed three games last year, but when he’s on the field, he’s producing. Second is Hakeem Nicks going from out of the Top 24 to first last year. He’s getting little recognition when he gets picked, but I’d be damn happy to have him on my team. Third is Marques Colston. When it’s said that he makes a nice WR2, there is actual data to back that up. He’s been in the Top 24 all three previous seasons, but he’s never been higher than 12th or lower than 20th. Does he stay that high again with his knee surgery this offseason? PPG-wise probably, but I don’t think he makes it a full 16 games.
My draft plan for looking at wide receivers will be to get one or two of the studs in Round 1 and 2, and then not look again until Round 5. The high turnover means that I’ll be using the third-year wide receiver rule to pick some receivers with upside in Rounds 5-8.
Tight ends are similar to quarterbacks in that there are the Top 5-6 guys and then there’s everyone else. Tight ends turnover around five players every year, and out of the five new guys on average one cracks the Top 5. If you miss out on the Top 6 (Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez and Vernon Davis), I’d let them slide way down into the double digit rounds until you grabbed one.
I know a lot of you are on your high horse about Jermichael Finley (played five games last year, that’s why he’s not on the chart) and I don’t blame you. He’s a tremendous talent … when he’s on the field. His injury history scares me. If he slides down into the sixth round, I might take him, but his average draft position in the fourth round is just too rich for my blood. I’d rather grab my quarterback with that pick.
I hope by looking at these charts it gives you some insight into who and who not to draft. My personal draft plan is to grab a stud running back and wide receiver in the first two rounds, using the best player available mentality. A Top 6 quarterback in the third round, and a top tight end in the fourth round. Then grab as many backs and receivers in the middle rounds, hoping my pre-draft preparation pays off and some of them break into the Top 24 at their position. Scouring the waiver wire for those Mike Goodson’s is a good idea during the season as well. I hope y’all enjoyed.
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