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Going Deep

Stats To Know For 2020 Fantasy Football Drafts

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: August 30, 2020, 2:31 pm ET

Does Zero RB Work?

 

Not enough time is spent on fantasy football draft strategies even though it’s an easy edge to gain. We now have enough historical Average Draft Position data to test which strategies do and don’t work, so in this column, I wrote about my favorite draft strategy for the 2020 season based on historical fantasy football win rate data and where the gap between WRs and RBs is widest. As you can see in the chart above, WRs crush RBs between picks 30th and 80th overall, so that’s where I want to target receivers. On the flip side, we’re best off drafting one or two RBs with our first two picks and then largely ignoring backups until after the 80th overall pick. There’s a lot more data and evidence backing this strategy in this column if you have time to read.

Players to target: RBs in Rounds 1-2, WRs in Rounds 3-8

Players to fade: RBs in Round 3-5

 

Fantasy Usage Positional Rankings

 

With advanced play-by-play data, we now have access to top-notch fantasy football models that properly analyze usage. My expected fantasy points model accounts for air yards, how close a pass catcher is to the sideline, how far he is from the end zone, whether a team is shotgun, which gap the ball-carrier is running into, and a whole lot more. In this column, I rank players by position using expected fantasy points per game from Weeks 9-16 last year based on my adjusted-usage model. I highlighted the players who performed above and below expectation to find potential sleepers and busts for the 2020 season.

Players to target: Robert Woods, Jamison Crowder, Marvin Jones, Anthony Miller, Le’Veon Bell, Mike Gesicki

Players to fade: Chris Godwin, A.J. Brown, Darius Slayton, Aaron Jones, Jared Cook

 

Game Script Dependent Players

 

Understanding when coaches use certain players is wildly helpful during the season, especially for DFS, but it’s also useful when making season-long projections. If we know a player gets the ball more when his team is trailing and we believe his team will trail more often in 2020, then he’s probably undervalued in fantasy drafts. In this column, I highlight the players who do better while trailing and while leading, and if they’re values or busts because of it.

Players to target: Joe Mixon, Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee

Players to fade: Chris Carson, David Montgomery, Zach Ertz, Sony Michel

 

Pass Rates By Situation

 

Teams pass the ball at various rates -- largely because of scheme -- but also because of the scoreboard. All teams pass the ball more while trailing, but the degree to which they pass more is different from team to team. For example, the Rams passed the ball on 84% of their offensive plays while trailing big last season, which was by far the most in the league. In this column, I share the pass/run splits of each NFL offense based on whether the team was in neutral situations, playing with a lead, or chasing points. From there, I find fantasy football winners and losers.

Players to target: Adam Thielen, Calvin Ridley, Hayden Hurst, Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee, Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown

Players to fade: Derrick Henry, Todd Gurley, Chris Godwin, Golden Tate, Austin Hooper

 

Offensive Pace By Situation

 

A head coach’s (or offensive coordinator’s) philosophy dictates how fast a team plays at offense. Some coaches like to play with tempo. Others like having their quarterback milk every second of the play clock. In this column, I find out which teams play the fastest and slowest, plus highlight teams that have large offensive pace splits between when they’re leading and trailing. I also make projections on which teams will run more (or fewer) plays in 2020. A team like the Cardinals are set to run far more plays this season because they were second in neutral-situation pace, yet 22nd in total plays. With a better roster that can sustain drives, they should run more plays.

Players to target: Kenyan Drake, Terry McLaurin, Jamison Crowder, Rams Offense

Players to fade: Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers

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Passing Touchdowns Over Expected

 

Touchdowns can be random, so it’s helpful to compare a quarterback’s touchdown total and touchdown rate to a model that projects them based on situation-adjusted usage. In this column, I highlight the quarterbacks who I expect to throw for more or fewer scores this year, and which ones are being undervalued in fantasy football.

Players to target: Jared Goff, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater

Players to fade: Drew Brees, Daniel Jones

 

Receiving Touchdowns Over Expected

 

Like I mentioned before, touchdowns can be random and that’s even more so with receiving touchdowns because the sample sizes are smaller. My receiving touchdown model adjusts for how close a pass-catcher was to the end zone and to the sideline, plus other important variables. There are a few clear-cut buys and sells at WR and TE because of this column.

Players to target: Travis Kelce, Tyler Higbee, Mike Williams, Le’Veon Bell

Players to fade: Darius Slayton, Jared Cook, Mecole Hardman, Stefon Diggs

 

Rushing Touchdowns Over Expected

 

A running back has less than a 10% chance of scoring a touchdown until his team is within seven yards of the end zone. For this reason, it’s extremely important to know which players are seeing inside-the-10 carries and which players have scored long touchdowns (usually because of good fortune). In this column, I highlight the players who were lucky and unlucky in the touchdown department last year, and what that means for their fantasy football outlook in 2020.

Players to target: Joe Mixon, Miles Sanders, Le’Veon Bell, Gardner Minshew

Players to fade: Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, Josh Allen

 

Yards After Catch Over Expected

 

Yards after the catch are largely based on how deep downfield the target was. In this column, I quantified how dump offs behind the line of scrimmage (usually to RBs) produce more yards after the catch than targets 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (usually to WRs). I put every player’s 2019 targets into my yards after the catch model to find which players over- and under-performed, and how that makes some players “buys” and “sells” in 2020 fantasy drafts.

Players to target: Allen Robinson, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Lockett, Marvin Jones, Curtis Samuel

Players to fade: Chris Godwin, A.J. Brown, Austin Ekeler, Darren Waller, Mecole Hardman

 

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Deep Targets Over Expected

 

Downfield targets are both more valuable and more volatile than underneath targets. This combination makes accounting for air yards on each target very important for fantasy football, so I created a deep-target model to quantify which players we can expect to rebound or bust in 2020 based on how they did last season. In this column, I highlight which players those are, and how often a player was targeted over the middle of the field (good) and near the sideline (bad).

Players to target: Odell Beckham, Robert Woods, T.Y. Hilton, Curtis Samuel

Players to fade: Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Stefon Diggs, Mecole Hardman

 

Free Agency Winners and Losers

 

In this column, I analyzed player to team fits for the notable free agent acquisitions. Some players fell into perfect landing spots, while others like Diggs found themselves in worse situations for fantasy football production. Kirk Cousins completes passes at a 5-10% higher clip than Josh Allen at all depths of the field, particularly on downfield passes.

Players to target: T.Y. Hilton, Curtis Samuel, Will Fuller, Hayden Hurst, Anthony Miller

Players to fade: Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs, Austin Hooper

 

Percentage of Snaps With A Lead

 

Teams don’t typically change their offensive pass/run splits until the 4th quarter, so I looked at how often each team played with a lead in the second half of games to determine which teams could pass the ball more or less in 2020 in this Twitter thread. For example, I think the Ravens are unlikely to lead on 60% of their offensive plays this year, which is great news for Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown’s projected target volume.

Players to target: Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake, Miles Sanders, Robert Woods, Ronald Jones

Players to fade: Aaron Jones, Sony Michel, Christian Kirk

 

Percentage of Red Zone Trips Ending In a Touchdown

 

Good teams get to the red zone more often, but weird things can happen once inside the 20 yard line, especially in a short 16-game season. The chart shows how often each offense scored a touchdown once they reached the red zone on a drive, and the Titans stick out like a sore thumb. A 76% touchdown rate is far from sustainable and is due to regress. On the flip side, there are a few teams (Bengals, Cardinals, Falcons) who struggled converting drives into scores last year and look like teams to buy at a discount in 2020.

Players to target: Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake, Travis Kelce, Calvin Ridley, Matt Ryan

Players to fade: Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Ryan Tannehill, Chris Godwin, Zach Ertz

 

Head Coach Analytics Rankings

 

In this column, I analyzed 10 metrics that the head coach and/or offensive coordinator has control of to determine which offenses are mirroring what analysts suggest. I highlighted why coaches were ranked high or low, and if we should expect team changes in 2020 based on personnel and/or coaching changes. For example, Washington is expected to play faster and pass the ball more often in 2020 than they did in 2019 because OC Scott Turner is far more aggressive than Washington’s last coaching staff. The Eagles also should play more aggressively with better receivers.

Players to target: Kenyan Drake, Terry McLaurin, D.J. Chark, Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield

Players to fade: Aaron Rodgers, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton

 

RB Pass Blocking

 

People love to talk about how good or bad a running back is in pass-protection, but how often are backs actually asked to pass block? In this column, I learned that running backs are asked to block on about every 1-in-6 pass plays, which makes it seem like pass protection is a thing that’s typically overanalyzed. With that said, there are differences across NFL offenses in how often they ask their backs to block, so I looked at how each rookie RB should fare on third downs.

Players to target: NA

Players to fade: NA