Welcome to Fantasy Football Friday. This is hopefully going to be a weekly column digging into the world of fantasy football. It will be a mix of advice, general trends, and we’re really not sure what else yet. We’ll figure that out with you. Let us know what you guys would like to read about fantasy-wise leading up to and over the course of the season. This doesn’t have to be the billionth start/sit column you read every week.
It’s the end of July and training camps are just starting to open around the league, so the majority of you are maybe just starting to think about the upcoming fantasy season. For our first dip into fantasy this year, let’s take a look at a couple things you could be doing as the real football calendar kicks off to get you ready for the upcoming fantasy season.
Keep an eye on depth charts
There’s going to be a lot of reports over the next few weeks about every second of every practice of training camps across the league. For fantasy purposes, what means the most is who’s playing. If there’s one thing you learn from this column it’s that fantasy football is a game of opportunity. Players who get more time on the field get more targets and carries and are more valuable to your fantasy team.
While it’s cool to try to find the sneaky breakout guy a beat writer is saying is having a really good camp, or that guy who flashed in the third quarter of a preseason game, it won’t matter as much if that guy isn’t breaking into the starting lineup.
Get to know schemes and trends
Let’s take opportunity to another level. If you’re taking wide receivers, a pass heavy offense helps. If you’re looking at running backs, a run heavy offense help —, also a running back who can catch is the ideal, especially in a PPR league.
Last year’s Detroit Lions were a slightly above average offense — they were 14th in yards per drive and 10th in points per drive. But they also had the second-highest pass-to-run ratio in the league at 63 percent. That helped Marvin Jones finish as WR4 in fantasy points and Golden Tate finished as WR21.
On the other side, despite playing just 13 games, Leonard Fournette finished as RB8 in part because no team ran the ball at a higher rate than the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Of course these are the extreme examples at the top, but they can help with some decisions late in your draft. If you’re taking a flier on a wide receiver in the last few rounds, would you rather one on the Miami Dolphins (64 percent pass) or Buffalo Bills (52 percent)? Hopefully we’ve done enough to prepare you leading into your draft that those aren’t your two options, but you get the point.
Sharp Football Stats is a great place to look at pass-run ratios and personnel frequency (i.e. how often teams have three wide receivers on the field).
Familiarize yourself with projections
There’s a lot of fantasy projections around the internet and you don’t (and shouldn’t) take any of them as gospel, but it’s definitely a good thing to get an understanding of some.
One of the best things projections can do is counteract any biases you might have going into the season. You might be super high on a player and projections might not be as bullish. That doesn’t mean one of you are wrong or that you shouldn’t draft the guy you love, but it can help recalibrate some expectations.
Some projections I trust: Mike Clay of ESPN, numberFire is good for both season long and daily fantasy, KUBIAK projections from Football Outsiders are also great, though those cost $20.
In reality, the best way to take advantage of projections is to use a few to average and compare. Just don’t let the first time you see a projection this season be in the draft room.
Take a peak at ADP
Average Draft Position (ADP) is basically a player’s draft grade for fantasy. Sites like Fantasy Football Calculator take data from a collection of mock drafts and rank where each player is taken on average and you can adjust for league size (10, 12, 14 teams) and league rules (PPR, half-PPR, non-PPR, 2QB). This can help you get a sense of what a draft might look like and where players are being taken. It can help you find some values — Marvin Jones, last year’s WR4 is being taken as WR26 at the end of the fifth-round — and have an idea of how you want to strategize going into your draft.
At this stage in the offseason at lot of ADP data is coming from drafts with the most hardcore fantasy players or people within the industry, so this ADP isn’t likely to look exactly like it will in a draft with all your buddies in August, but it still gives a good sense of where these players are being valued and there’s worse people to get this data from than those who make a living around fantasy.
You have time to kill at work. Or you don’t actually have that time, but you’re probably going to make it anyway. Hop in a mock draft lobby or two or more at your favorite site. Play around with decisions, find out what you like, don’t like and how your team turns out from different draft slots. The best way to get a draft you like is if you do it yourself.
There’s really an endless amount of resources you can use between now and your draft to prepare for the fantasy season. Hopefully this becomes one of them. Let us know of suggestions for other things you might like covered throughout the year.