Introducing: The DailyRoto Fantasy Football Rankings and Projection Algorithm
The DailyRoto-powered NFL365 Fantasy Football Tools
We’re excited to launch the RotoExperts NFL365 Premium Package with the Daily Roto-powered Fantasy Football Rankings and Projection Algorithm.
As part of the package, you have access to year-round rankings and projections, which will provide you with an edge at any point during the season - whether fantasy draft day is approaching, you’re deciding on off-season keeper trades, or you want to grind some best ball leagues in March!
The DailyRoto Model
Our projections are driven by the same model that our sister site, DailyRoto, has used with success for NFL DFS.
The DailyRoto projections and ranking model is a pure math model that takes a top-down approach, projecting team level baselines and statistics and filling the holes with individual volume and efficiency expectations. The model then projects each player out for 16 games with their individual and team rates used to create the cumulative projection
There are numerous advantages to approaching projections and rankings in this manner. Most importantly, our projections are grounded in reality and logic. We know about how often a particular team will throw per game; we also know roughly how many plays a team will run in each game. We can extend that over a 16-game season. We know roughly how those targets will be distributed and how successful those targets will be on average. As a result, the individual projections represent a reasonable range of outcome for all players, and the detail projections for individuals on a team equate to the team level projections.
For example, we are projecting Jameis Winston for 34 passing TDs in 2019. If you add up all of the receiving TDs for the Tampa Bay players, it will net out to 34. This prevents us from wildly over or under-projecting the receiving TDs for Mike Evans, which could happen in a system that is not top down. We can reasonably project Mike Evans to account for around a quarter of the team’s receiving TDs, and, as a result, we find ourselves with a receiving TD projection of 8.6.
Another example of how these projections can be beneficial is the case of Robert Foster where there are a lot of unknowns. Foster came on strong over the second half of the season for the Buffalo Bills, and his role in the offense clearly grew. Projection systems that are based solely on his 13-game statistics from a year ago are bound to under project Foster. Meanwhile, arbitrary player-up projections may be too optimistic if they lean on Fosters’ per game numbers over the second half of the season. We’re able to look at the likely available volume in the Buffalo passing game, assess Foster’s likely role in the offense in terms of volume, and regress his efficiency numbers.
Another advantage to the way our projection system is set up is that it will allow us to make projections fully customizable to subscribers over the summer. When that functionality is introduced (we’re aiming for July for this aspect), subscribers will be able to test out different scenarios. You’ll be able to toggle play calling projections for teams, expected points scored for teams, and individual volume percentages for players.
What if the Seahawks let Russell Wilson throw the ball 35 times a game? What if Mike Evans sees his target share rise to 30 percent with DeSean Jackson leaving Tampa Bay? These are all easily testable scenarios that will allow you to visualize meaningful ranges of outcomes for particular players and the type of environments that would have to occur for players to meet or fail to meet certain projections.
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As much as we believe in the DailyRoto model, there are weaknesses in pinning down a specific projection on players for fantasy football rankings.
Some backup running backs may hold more fantasy value as stashed players than running backs with better pure projections because of the context around them and their range of outcomes. We also assume a 16-game season for all players without known injuries and/or suspensions, but some players carry more injury risk than others. In general, there are going to be situations that carry more unknowns than others in terms of projected playing time, especially early in the offseason for fantasy football rankings.
So, how do we account for that?
Two ways. The first way is simple. We have icons attached to certain players with different meanings like:
-Zero RB/WR Target
-Like More/Less Than Projections
-Volatile Playing Time
And a handful of others exist as well. These icons are clearly visible on both the projections and rankings pages, allowing for some immediate context to be placed around the DailyRoto model projections and rankings.
The second way is that we have integrated the rankings of our two experts - Davis Mattek and Anthony Amico - with the DailyRoto model ranks on our rankings pages. Our experts are able to take the base DailyRoto model projections and then come up with more subjective, nuanced rankings for players. We have also added icons that indicate Mattek/Engel/Amico favorites, which are displayed on the projections pages.
When you put it all together, we believe our rankings and projections are highly actionable and the ideal blend of objectivity and subjectivity - allowing you to utilize them year-round to make positive expected value decisions when it comes to your fantasy teams!
Below are some early favorites identified by the DailyRoto model as of our initial release (February 15th, 2019), as well as some options that Davis Mattek likes much more or less than the DailyRoto model.
DAILYROTO EARLY FAVORITES
Russell Wilson, SEA --
Okay, Wilson is actually the opposite of a favorite. While we’re low on QBs in general in terms of overall rank because we’re proponents of the late round QB strategy, we’re particularly low on Wilson. Wilson finished last season as QB9, and the early season FantasyPros consensus rank has Wilson as QB5. The DailyRoto model has Wilson as QB16; what gives?
This is where incorporating team play calling into our projections allows us to set realistic expectations and spot things that are likely unsustainable from the past. The Seahawks were super run heavy last season with 55 percent of total play attempts as rushes last season, four percentage points higher than the next most run-heavy team (Tennessee Titans at 51 percent).
Wilson was able to overcome an offense that was deliberately not fantasy friendly by posting his highest YPA of the last three years and, more importantly, posting a career-high 8.2 percent TD rate. Wilson’s career average is 6 percent. The difference between those two rates at Wilson’s 427 attempts was roughly 9.5 TDs, or 38 fantasy points - the difference between finishing QB9 instead of QB15.
Wilson is quarterbacking a run-heavy offense and stopped running much himself last year (career-low 67 rush attempts). Unless you expect things to change dramatically in both departments, he is decidedly overvalued right now.
Devonta Freeman, ATL --
Freeman played just two games last year as he battled foot and groin injuries. While there’s always some risk taking a player following a lost year, the injury discount on Freeman is currently steep - he has a FantasyPros consensus overall rank of 54 while we have him ranked 24th overall.
Admittedly, this projection is on the aggressive side. Freeman’s average overall rank the previous two seasons is 37th, and that’s a better spot to draft him at right now (third round in most leagues) where you can beat the market to him without being overly aggressive.
There are reasons to believe that Freeman, who is just 26 (27 in March) could step into even more volume than he saw in 2016/17. Freeman signed a five-year contract extension with $22 million guaranteed prior to the 2017 season. On the other hand, his backfield mate the past few years, Tevin Coleman, is an unrestricted free agent and expected to leave the Falcons.
While we still expect the Falcons to utilize two backs, Freeman could immediately see the same volume he saw in 2017 (52 percent market share of carries, 10 percent market share of targets). In fact, that’s exactly what we’re projecting Freeman for to arrive at his overall ranking. It is also worth noting that It'o Smith, the other Falcons running back, is coming off a season-ending injury in 2018 as well.
Taylor Gabriel, CHI --
Our initial projections have Taylor Gabriel as the 65th ranked player overall, nearly 100 spots higher than the current consensus rank on FantasyPros. Why are we so high on Gabriel?
For starters, the Bears have one of the more stable situations to project as far as volume goes. The young offensive nucleus that was put together last year is unlikely to see major changes; Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Trey Burton were all acquired last offseason in addition to Gabriel, who signed a four year $26 million deal. That stability is going to bleed into early projections where so much volume is up in the air.
We’re projecting Gabriel for 89 targets, four less than what he had last season. Gabriel had a career-high 72 percent catch rate, as Matt Nagy found creative ways to get the ball to Gabriel on high completion rate throws in the screen and short passing game. Part of the reason we’re so high on Gabriel relative to the market, though, is we expect some return of the big plays that he saw with Atlanta (averaged 14.1 yards per catch compared to 10.3; some of that is due to more short passes, but we still expect it to rise).
We also believe that Gabriel’s TD rate was unlucky; he scored just twice on 93 targets. Last season Gabriel had 19 deep targets (tied for 25th most among WRs). Of 42 players with 15-plus deep targets, only five failed to score a single TD. Gabriel was one of these players. In his previous two seasons with Atlanta, on the same amount of targets and similar yardage, Gabriel found the end zone three times. There’s obviously a lot of variance in deep passing, but there’s more room for growth than a decline in this area of Gabriel’s game.
Aside from the specific potential growth in the deep passing game, Gabriel’s overall TD rate of 2.15 percent screams regression. His overall TD rate over the past three years is 5.1 percent, and the positional average is also 5.1 percent. Obviously, his three year TD rate is inflated a bit by an outlier performance in 2016, but we’re expecting a TD rate north of 4 percent this year, which results in a 14 percent market share of receiving TDs projection for Gabriel (off an overall market share of targets projection of 17 percent).
In short, expect similar targets, a few more big plays, and a couple more TDs from last year, when Gabriel finished as the WR49 in half PPR scoring. Throw in a confidence premium on our volume projections for the Bears, and the DailyRoto rankings spit out Gabriel as WR32.
Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI --
While it won’t take much for Arizona’s offense to be more fantasy-friendly in 2019, we are expecting some systemic improvements across the board. Our initial team baselines have the Cardinals running close to a league average amount of plays, a year after running the second fewest per game. Coupled with increased overall volume, we’re calling for a slightly heavier pass tilt, a higher YPA, and higher points per game (although still projected as one of the lowest scoring offenses in the league).
All of these small expected improvements make a big difference when you add them up, even if Arizona stills finishes as a bottom five fantasy offense overall. As they climb out of ineptitude, it’s still difficult to place much trust in Josh Rosen, David Johnson, and Christian Kirk/Larry Fitzgerald as value options relative to the field. However, one way you can benefit from these team level improvements is by picking up shares of Ricky Seals-Jones as your late round tight end.
Jones ended up seeing 16 percent of the targets for the Cardinals last season. He was absolutely putrid from an efficiency standpoint - catching just 49 percent of passes to go with 4.90 Yards Per Target and a 1.4 percent TD rate. We’re expecting those marks to go to 57 percent, 6.54, and 5.4 percent respectively this season. That would still put Jones below the league average across the board, but if he had achieved even that low level of efficiency last year, his fantasy points would have gone from 57.3 in half PPR leagues (TE30) to 87 (TE18). And that’s basically where we are projecting Seals-Jones right now (85 half PPR points, almost the same targets as last season with a reduced market share expectation canceling out with more projected team attempts). He’s someone you can get for free as a second or third tight end at the end of early best balls.
UPDATE: With the Cardinals signing Charles Clay, our projectiona nd ranking has dropped on Ricky Seals-Jones. We no longer see him as an end game target in early offseason drafts.
DAVIS MATTEK: MAN V. MACHINE
Baker Mayfield, CLE - -
In general, quarterback for fantasy football is an upside game. When the conversation is about projecting quarterbacks over the course of 16 games, there are groups of guys who are going to end very close to one another both in projection and in the final production. For the 16 week fantasy football season, you are likely either streaming QB’s or in best ball, hoping for a trio of QB’s who all provide a ceiling.
Baker Mayfield unquestionably provides a ceiling that is not fully captured by the projections. The Cleveland offense has a clear upgrade at head coach and offensive coordinator. Freddie Kitchens helped Baker Mayfield throw the most touchdown passes of any rookie QB ever and then hired Todd Monken who lead the Buccaneers to the 4th most yards per play of any team in football last season. My ranking of Baker is about all of these things combining to give him a top-5 QB ceiling.
Christian McCaffrey, CAR --
It is probably cherry picking just a little bit to say that I am “higher” on CMC than the machine is just because I have him as my 2nd running back and the machine has him towards the back end of the top-5. The ranking of McCaffrey is certainly contingent on the health of Cam Newton; if Cam has to have shoulder surgery and is out for the 2019 season, I will be moving CMC down. However, with a semi-healthy Cam under center, I think McCaffrey is a better selection at #2 overall than Elliot, Gurley or Alvin Kamara.
McCaffrey had only three games last season with less than five receptions and in one of those three games, he scored two touchdowns anyway. His 124 targets made him 17th amongst all players in targets, not just running backs. Then he added on 219 rushing attempts and goalline work to those targets. Drafting CMC is like drafting a WR2 with RB1 upside. I have concerns about the Dallas offense, Gurley’s 2019 workload, Drew Brees’ age causing a decline in efficiency for the Saints offense and therefore, CMC is my 2nd RB in 2019.
Jarvis Landry, CLE --
If Baker Mayfield is going to put up a QB1 season, then it is exceedingly likely that Jarvis Landry is going to put up a WR1 season. We have actually already seen Landry do that, albeit in a different role in Miami. Last season, Landry ran more routes down the field and did sacrifice some efficiency to do. However, I do think he demonstrated the ability to play more like a real outside wide receiver and not just be short, slant and go oddity route runner that he was in Miami.
I do not even particularly believe in Landry the player. If the team, for example, signed Golden Tate in free agency or traded for Chris Godwin or drafted a wide receiver in the first round, I would radically change my expectations for Landry. However, all of the pieces are here for Landry to break through his projected ceiling. The offense will be more pass heavy than he has ever played in before, this is the best QB that Landry has ever played with and the best offensive coordinator as well. When Davis Mattek is touting Jarvis Landry, it is clear that there is some serious supporting logic.
Eric Ebron, IND --
In a certain sense, Eric Ebron’s 2018 was not a fluke. He might not score 14 touchdowns again, but there is no real reason that he would not be the teams' primary red zone weapon. Jack Doyle has always been more of a ‘possession’ receiver. He is not supremely big or fast (in fact, Doyle ran a 4.92 40 time at the combine) and is better suited to being used between the 20’s. The same is true of T.Y Hilton, Ryan Grant, Dontrelle Inman and the rest of the haphazard Colts WR group.
It is probable that the Colts will draft at least one if not multiple wide receivers this season but it is hard for me to imagine that any rookie comes in and takes away from Ebron’s dominant share of red zone targets from 2018. The tight end position was such a wasteland in 2018 that I expect 60 receptions and 8 touchdowns to pretty easily finish around the top-5 of the position and Ebron should be right around those figures.
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