After employing the process below for IDPs and getting some positive feedback from the Sharks community, I decided to do the same for the offensive players.
Notice that this column isn’t about “sleepers”; it’s about identifying players who are likely to return to their 2016 level of fantasy output.
Sifting through the Mess
Look, sometimes I come up with novel ways to apply statistical theories about things like anomaly detection and try to apply them to NFL players—some work out (see The Curse of 325), some need to be proven out (see Targeted Opportunities), and some just don’t pan out (let’s not talk about the aborted attempt to correlate QB performance to the number of throws they make and the sacks they take).
This year, I decided to try and identify IDP bounce-back players in a more scholarly way. Thinking through some statistical control processes that originated at General Motors in the 1950s to help identify anomalies on the assembly line, I decided to apply a variation to NFL players.
I started by selecting all the offensive skill position players in 2017 whose fantasy output (PPR Points) declined compared to 2016, but were still above their positional average (so the players we’re looking at were fantasy relevant). Next, I looked at players whose decline was between one and two standard deviations from the average—meaning significant enough to warrant being considered as “bounce-back candidates”, but still within the “anomaly range” (as opposed to two to three standard deviations, which would indicate the beginning of a systemic decline). Finally, I took the results and eliminated those players whose age would indicate a high likelihood of declining performance in 2018.
The following was the set of players who fit all the criteria listed above:
Looking at this list, there’s no real surprises or “sleepers” here… but remember that the goal here is to identify players whose under-performance last season was likely an anomaly and not the start of a steady decline.
The one note here is Drew Brees. Starting QBs entering their age 40 season are not exactly a bustling population, and while my previous age analysis indicated that Brees should be heading into a significant downturn, I’ll stop short of excluding him outright and leave the decision of whether he’s bouncing back to you.