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The first order of business is understanding the law of probability when it comes to fantasy football. For instance, did you know that since 2009, 36 percent of first-round picks are statistical busts for that season? That means roughly one out of three first round picks will underperform. Six of the first round busts since 2009 were thanks to a serious injury and five had prior years of injury problems, whether through professional or college years. (Frank Gore, Ryan Mathews, Rashard Mendenhall, Darren McFadden and Andre Johnson)
Or the fact that since 2000, the running back who leads the league in carries has scored less fantasy points the following year. The decrease in production is actually staggering for carries leaders from the prior year since 2000. Thirty-nine percent average decrease in yardage, and 49 percent decrease in touchdowns.
So, if you were thinking Maurice Jones Drew, who led the league with 343 carries in 2011, be prepared for 979 yards and five touchdowns in 2012, according to this data.
When the 2012 drafts begin, you will have heard all about how this is a passing league and running backs are as thin as Kate Moss, but if you are a numbers cruncher, be prepared to blow those people away.
Let’s get started with quarterback. This might be a pass-happy NFL, but why does this mean you have to draft quarterback so early? Aaron Rodgers is a sure-fire Top 5 pick, and rightfully so if you ask me. He is the picture of consistency, scoring in the Top 3 of all fantasy players the previous three years. So you missed out on Rodgers, now what?
Wait on a Quarterback
Assuming you are in a 12-team league, standard scoring with one starter each week.
You are certainly going to see Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Drew Brees and most likely Matthew Stafford off the board by the start of Round 3. But how much true value are you receiving by watching these guys go by? In 2011, the average draft position (ADP) of the Top 10 quarterbacks combined was the sixth round. Only two of the Top 10 averaged a first- or second-round ADP.
And history tells us …
In 2009, Rodgers was the top fantasy quarterback in standard leagues, scoring 397 points.
The 12th-best quarterback in standard leagues scoring was David Garrard, with 234 points. The weekly difference in a 16-game schedule with playoffs: 6.81
In 2010, the two quarterbacks to compare were Michael Vick and Matt Cassel. The weekly difference in a 16-game schedule with playoffs: 5.19
In 2011, this number did climb to more than 10 in marginal difference. While the difference warrants you to consider the top quarterbacks in the draft, also remember this statistic: Eli Manning scored exactly 2.12 points more than Mark Sanchez on a weekly matchup basis.
Brad says: Use the middle rounds to grab a quarterback. In 2012, there are 14 legitimate fantasy starters and you can grab a Tony Romo, Matt Ryan or Matt Schaub anywhre between Rounds 5-8.
Grab up some Running Backs
Assuming you are in a 12-team league, standard scoring with two starters each week.
Your train of thought about drafting running backs has likely changed as much as Brett Favre’s retirement over the past few years. The old way of thinking is to go running back, running back. The cool thing now days are going quarterback, wide receiver. One of the rules to being a good fantasy football player – do not try to be cool. Generally, this rule helps you in life too, but I digress!
In 2011, the ADP of the Top 10 running backs in fantasy points was the fourth round. However, six of the 10 came in the first two rounds.
And history tells us …
In 2009, the leader was Chris Johnson, putting up 346 fantasy points. The 24th-ranked running back that season was Jerome Harrison, putting up 150 fantasy points. The weekly difference in a 16-game schedule with playoffs: 12.25.
In 2010, the leader was Arian Foster, who put up 329 fantasy points. The 24th-ranked running back was LeGarrette Blount, who scored 138 points. The weekly difference in a 16-game schedule with playoffs: 11.94.
And while the gap narrowed in 2011 to 9.5 points per matchup between the No. 1 and No. 24, remember that you start two running backs, and missing out on the elite could cost you 12-18 points each matchup!
Brad says: Depending on your draft position, do not be afraid of going with two running backs in your first two picks. Statistically speaking, you have a better chance of getting two Top 10 scorers then at any other position when going running back.
Wide Receivers: the waiting game
Assuming you are in a 12-team league, standard scoring with three starters each week.
In the 24 mock drafts I have completed so far this season, 62 percent of the selections in the fifth and sixth round are wide receivers. So when do you grab those pesky wide receivers?
In 2011, the ADP of the Top 10 wide receivers was the fifth round. Subsequently, half of the Top 10 wide receivers were taken in the first two rounds.
And history tells us …
The average difference between the No. 1 wide receiver and the No. 36 wide receiver since 2009 has gone 6.94, 6.31 and 9.75 last year (taking into account Calvin Johnson in Detroit, who was 50 points ahead of the pack.)
Brad says: If you have the opportunity to get a Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald in the first two rounds, it would be very hard to pass up. However, when you crunch the numbers, you can end up with wide receivers in middle rounds that will finish Top 20 and provide you the difference in wide receiver points.
Overall Analysis: Of the 3 most important fantasy positions, what I hope you see is that a running back/running back/wide receiver/wide receiver/wide receiver/quarterback strategy will statistically give you the best chance to have the most Top 10 positional players at each position.
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