One of the things I hate about Fantasy Football is how it’s turned into Christmas. Every year it starts earlier & it’s so commercialized you get a ton of unimportant fluff to dredge through. Writers are pumping out Top Tens, Super Sleepers, & search word rich articles trolling for views. All this before we even see the guys walk into camp. Most writers I know hate this time because no one knows shit & doesn’t want to be held to it.
I often wonder why people draft leagues this early? It’s like betting on poker without knowing your cards while blindfolded in another room.
This is the time for research, not predictions. Everything is theoretical until camp. The best we can do is look back at what was & build profiles of teams. Then expectations of those teams & derive player profiles from those.
Rather than complain any longer I will go over my early season research process. (So you know, most of the writers I know don’t start fresh like this but off an expert consensus ranking.)
What I do each year is make a list of teams & break them down. First I note all the Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, & QB changes or competition.
These factors are the largest contributors to a team’s success. Very rarely can a new coach or OC come in and have a successful first year. The reason is that NFL offenses are layered & complex. The learning curve is huge & takes at least 8 games if not a whole season. Even Hall of Famer QBs have off years when learning a new system.
The next factor I note are the play makers & their assumed role in the offense. Is the RB still the man or going to rotate? Is the new RB going to effect the run/pass ration? Is the Rookie WR going to take catches from the number 1? Does the QB have a cast to support him?
I then compile Free Agent pickups of note & Draft Picks. I pull names to watch further.
The next variable is the questions & obvious strengths. Making notes about things like the Seahawks bad O-line. Note RB splits, lack of talent in a position, run/pass ratio changes, news of scheme direction. This once again allows you to build a character (team) profile. I can look at my notes and see Eli will have lots of great targets with big play opportunities but no running backs to support. Cleveland has all new coaches, new headcase QB, low talent level, hot hand RB split, & no WRs.
The last part before I break into player research is making a story line for each team. I make a profile like a FBI agent. I put together a season from the notes. I try to answer questions like:
-How will the offense function?
-What is the expected pass/run ratio?
-Any past teams that I could compare this team too?
-Will the play-makers get opportunities?
-Are they so bad they have to throw to catch up?
-How did the team do in the last 6 games?
-Predict division standings.
These simple exercises give you a ton of insight & making note cards like I do allows the right & left sides of your brain to tackle these issues together. The visual aspect helps reinforce new information. The layout makes your mind map new connections. The colors subconsciously temper your ideas.
Yes this is old school and is only the first part of my draft projections. My next step is to translate this into my R graphing program. I don’t like to pick expected yards & tds but value over the next best player. I want to clearly state, that I make projections not rankings. For viewing I may put them in a ranking but my program gives me projections. When you think about it, it’s a big difference.
The last part is entering player values from the nuances I gleamed before. Obviously going digital is what everyone does but I often find that using the cards first, allows for a God like view that a graph of players doesn’t.
Once I get theses projections I pull out the chicken bones & scrying mirror and invoke the dark spirits of fantasy football to reveal themselves to me.