Drafting for Success- Running Backs

During the off-season I’m going to take a look at each position and dig a little deeper and see if we can spot some trends to help us predict or improve our selection strategy come Draft 2015. This week I’ll start with the workhorses for our teams; the running backs.

Usually the key to a successful season is a stud RB who can produce a steady 10-25 points each week. In past years these players were easy and reliable selections at the top of the draft. The evolution of the NFL away from bell-cow offenses to multi-purpose running games has meant that selecting a running back you can rely on isn’t as easy as it once was.

Despite the risk, running backs still dominate fantasy drafts and there are obvious reasons why this is the case. The risk/reward ratio for landing a 2013 Adrian Peterson, a 2014 DeMarco Murray or 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson are just too tempting for GMs and coaches to ignore.

This article won’t go any deeper into drafting strategies and there are a number of great articles out there that discuss the merits of drafting differently. What we’ll concentrate on here is the RBs we drafted , where we drafted them and discuss if there was anything we could have done to improve our chances of selecting hits rather than misses.

The Earlston Fantasy Football League draft took place during week three of the 2014 pre-season. In total 180 players where drafted of which 56 were RBs. Eight of the 12 first round selections and 21 of the first 36 players picked were RBs. How did these guys do?

We pretty much stuck to the expert advice and drafted accordingly, but was this a wise move? Could we have predicted the top ten scoring RBs this year?

The table below shows the the preseason rankings of the top ten running backs from footballguys.com in the three columns (pre-season rank , name , team, their final rank and where they were drafted.

Preason Rank Name Team Final Rank EFFL Draft
1 Jamaal Charles KC 6 1.03
2 LeSean McCoy PHI 10 1.01
3 Adrian Peterson MIN NR 1.02
4 Matt Forte CHI 4 1.04
5 Eddie Lacy GB 8 1.05
6 Marshawn Lynch SEA 3 1.11
7 DeMarco Murray DAL 1 2.02
8 Montee Ball DEN NR 1.06
9 Arian Foster HOU 5 1.09
10 Giovani Bernard CIN 18 2.06

From the raw stats we can see that 7 of the preseason top 10 were ranked within the top 10 end of season rankings. This means that a GM had an excellent chance of their selection being a strong pick. In fact only one of the top 10, Adrian Peterson,  was kept out by exceptional circumstances. Peterson’s replacements Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon had a couple of memorable games but produced underwhelming numbers that placed them outwith the top 10 on combined production.

The other 2 preseason top ten predictions who failed to appear in the top ten scorers were no.8 Montee Ball and no. 10 Giovanni Bernard.  Although both were injured during the season their teams combined RB1 scores (Ronnie Hillman/CJ Anderson for Ball and Jeremy Hill for Bernard) produced 200 and 220 points respectively (Both top 3 outputs). Their failures as draft selections can really be attributed to poor roster management by their GMs rather than poor draft selections.

So this year like so many past fantasy seasons it was a very good idea to draft one of the top 10 ranked RBs. You were guaranteed points, perhaps not as many as you expected, but somewhere in the top 10 rankings and certainly RB1 numbers. Of course it’s easy, with hindsight, to spot those top 10 backs who were over-rated and again those who were under-rated. The question for you as a GM next year are you brave enough to go with your convictions.

Now that makes sense for preseason rankings, but how did we do as a league? The next table lists the top 24 RBs selected in our draft, their preseason ranking and their final rank in actual scoring. These top 24 players are probably the best description of “legitimate fantasy starter” i.e. our RB1 and RB2’s.

Pick Player Preseason Rank  Final Rank
1.01 LeSean McCoy 2 10
1.02 Adrian Peterson 3 NR
1.03 Jamaal Charles 1 6
1.04 Matt Forte 4 4
1.05 Eddie Lacy 5 8
1.06 Montee Ball 8 NR
1.09 Arian Foster 9 5
1.11 Marshawn Lynch 6 3
2.02 DeMarco Murray 7 1
2.06 Giovani Bernard 10 18
2.1 Doug Martin 11 NR
3.01 Ryan Mathews 16 NR
3.02 LeVeon Bell 12 2
3.04 Alfred Morris 13 9
3.05 Zac Stacy 15 NR
3.06 Toby Gerhart 19 NR
3.07 Reggie Bush 17 NR
3.08 Frank Gore 20 22
3.09 Rashad Jennings 22 19
3.11 Bishop Sankey 26 40
3.12 Andre Ellington 14 11
4.01 C.J. Spiller 18 NR
4.03 Chris Johnson 24 39
4.07 Joique Bell 23 16

If our predictions were good we’d expect the majority of our top 24 picks to appear in the top 24 RB scorers for the season. Of course injuries play a part and so will team and player form.

The season ended with fourteen of our top 24 RBs selected in the Top 24 scorers, this isn’t an endorsement of those finishes especially if you’re the Coach who selected LeSean McCoy, but at least there was a good chance a player you drafted fell within an acceptable starter range.

However……We’ve already had a look at the top ten picks and 7 of those made the top ten with 1 other making the top 20. So that means in total only 6 of the next 14 players selected ranked in the top 24. For LeVeon Bell, Joique Bell and Andre Ellington owners that meant a hit and for Alfred Morris, Rashard Jennings and Frank Gore owners a steady starter.

That leaves us 10 players who didn’t make the top 24;

  • The first, Adrian Peterson, occupies a dumb-ass category by himself, one that couldn’t really be legislated for unless you were his local minister and in that case you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about.
  • The next category are those players who suffered season ending injuries. There were 5 in total and they could be separated into two categories
    • Ball, Martin and Mathews all suffered injuries that ended their seasons or prevented them from playing the majority of games. All but Martin had adequate replacement(s) that would have allowed a savvy coach to endure their loss.
    • Bush and Spiller also suffered season ending injuries, but because of their status as the other half of a multi-headed backfield their absence only served to increase the workload (and output) of the other half (Joique Bell and Fred Jackson respectively). Perhaps their draft status should be mitigated by this risk?
  • Next comes the true busts- Stacy and Gerhart, but here again both Stacy and Gerhart were replaced by better players during the season (although both offenses stunk and were expected to stink!!).
  • And finally the over-drafted (easy to say in hindsight!). Chris Johnson and Bishop Sankey played the entire year, but continually disappointed as RB2 starters. Both would’ve made adequate RB3/4 contributors. Johnson was the loser in a competition with Chris Ivory, but Sankey and the Titans rushing offense was just rancid.

But what about the players who made the top 24 scorers that we didn’t draft in the top 24, how many of those did we miss? The table below shows the top 24 scoring RBs in the EFFL and where we drafted them.

RANK NAME TEAM POINTS draft
1 DeMarco Murray DAL 215 2.02
2 LeVeon Bell PIT 198.9 3.02
3 Marshawn Lynch SEA 197.3 1.11
4 Matt Forte CHI 193.8 1.04
5 Arian Foster HOU 177.6 1.09
6 Jamaal Charles KC 172.7 1.03
7 Justin Forsett BAL 165.6 undrafted
8 Eddie Lacy GB 164.2 1.08
9 Alfred Morris WAS 143.8 3.04
10 LeSean McCoy PHI 132.9 1.01
11 Andre Ellington ARI 131.5 3.12
12 Lamar Miller MIA 126 5.11
13 Mark Ingram NO 123.8 10.4
14 Jeremy Hill CIN 120.3 10.10
15 Ahmad Bradshaw IND 116.5 14.6
16 Joique Bell DET 107.9 4.07
17 Chris Ivory NYJ 105 12.6
18 Giovani Bernard CIN 104.5 2.06
19 Rashad Jennings NYG 100.6 3.09
20 Steven Jackson ATL 99.9 6.11
21 Shane Vereen NE 96.5 6.05
22 Frank Gore SF 95.5 3.08
23 C.J. Anderson DEN 95.4 undrafted
24 Matt Asiata MIN 94.7 undrafted

From this list it doesn’t seem all that bad with the league just missing 3 players. Given that C.J. Anderson was 3rd/4th on the Broncos depth chart and Asiata was a fullback blocking for Adrian Peterson we could perhaps be forgiven for not drafting either. As for Justin Forsett he was one of the finds of the season and emerged from a cluttered competition to win the Ravens starting job after the Ray Rice lift debacle. As a journeyman RB who had bounced around the league it was no surprise he wasn’t expected to win the job.

For the RBs who were drafted lower than we’d expect a top 24 back to be such as Lamar Miller, Mark Ingram, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jeremy Hill and Chris Ivory there was a mix of lucky circumstances, offensive changes, injuries and contract years at work.

Their low draft status wasn’t an accident either.

Miller and Ingram have been disappointing players since joining the league and both were expected to share carries during the season. This limited them to RB3-5 status at best. Ingram benefited from being the only man standing in the Saints backfield and Miller also took advantage of starter Knowshown Moreno’s season ending elbow injury to have a break out season.

Bradshaw has been a great player over his career, but has been injury prone and benefited from a large dose of passing game number from Andrew Luck rather than running work. Hill actually lost his share of the Cincinnati workload by mid season and it was only an injury to Bernard that saw him promoted back to the starting lineup.

Ivory is probably the most under appreciated here, but fear of a multi-headed backfield and the chance he’d lose the No1 role in New York in a turgid offense led to his slip down the draft board.

So what can we conclude from our drafting? It looks like in the main the preseason predictions are fairly accurate for the top ten ten players but beyond the top ten this is where the accepted knowledge begins to fade.

It’s common knowledge from advanced statistical sites such as Football Outsiders that NFL offenses are more consistent and easier to predict on a year to year basis. This in part should make predicting the top 10 RBs easier to do. Select the top offenses, look which ones have the best QBs, look at their efficiency and line quality and bingo you have an excellent predictor for running game success. Add in a winning record and you have your magic formula.

So what does it mean to us when selecting RBs in the draft. For the first round we can see the lesson of ensuring you pick at least one top back and trying to ensure you get first a consistent performer and secondly a superstar season (or at least the potential of one). The indicators for success are there as well as your ability as GM to ensure you have proper insurance to protect your investment.

How the selection of a first round running back versus a top WR or TE plays out is something I’ll discuss later in the offseason, but be warned- Not selecting a Running Back in the first round severely reduces your chances of picking a winning ticket.

We Want You

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The Earlston Fantasy Football League (EFFL) has space for a new franchise in Season 2015-2016. If you’re interested in the NFL and would like the thrill of managing, coaching and (almost) playing for your own fantasy team then it’s time for action.

Rookies are more than welcome and because the league is a mix of experienced and new NFL fans you’ll never be out of your depth. You’ll have the benefit of an experienced back-room staff to get your franchise up and running and with an experienced design team you’ll be assured top class branding and uniform design to rival Nike.

Officially we’re a non competitive league, but there are monetary prizes to be won and of course the prestigious EFFL Championship Trophy.

So don’t delay and get your application in now!

We expect a large number of applications for this prestigious spot so to help us in our decision please give a short introduction about yourself, why you want to join and why you’d be an asset to the league.

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: 01 February 2015

Good Luck!

Drafting for Success?

After looking at Gav’s post on draft value I thought i’d build on his work and add a couple of twists to try and iron-out the problems he identified.

Gav’s calculation used a compound score that based value on a sliding scale of variables assigning arbitrary value based on draft position. This created a scoring system that favoured high scorers in lower rounds and positions where a high average score is the norm.

As Gav noted this leaves us with a QB and K heavy value chart and although it would be correct to say that these positions are valuable perhaps the more important question for us is;

“Am i getting value for my selection in the round I selected the player?”

In developing this calculation I’ve also made a number of assumptions. The first is I’ve assumed that the perfect draft would have seen a processional selection process of the highest to lowest scores (i.e. the best RB should have been the first RB taken and so on). The second assumption I’ve made is the selections we made as a group within each round defined the value a position had within a given round at that given point of the draft (early picks not scoring highly will be heavily penalised). My third and final assumption was the performance of a player away from his original team was not taken into account for the players overall performance).

I haven’t posted all of the calculation here, but what it showed me was that if we compared the top 180 fantasy points scorers for the season with the 180 players we selected in the draft only 25 players were selected at a position where their output exceed expectation. Every other player under-performed.

Lets repeat that: Only 25 players out of the 180 we selected exceed the score they were expected to reach!

This sounds horrendous and although we have take into account the frightening attrition of players in the NFL it does show the difficulty of “getting it right” in the draft. Considering most of our GMs draft from draft value sheets available from media outlets in print and from the web it reflects poorly on the consensus of “expert knowledge” or does it?

Although our bottom 20 picks are littered with players injured during the season there are also a number who perhaps spent far too long on a roster when they could have been moved on for value at another position. Players such as Ryan Tannehill, Tony Romo, Cardinals DST and LeSean McCoy are the glaring examples.

On the opposite side of the coin just outside the bottom 20 there are a number of notable casualties of impatience. Players such as Torrey Smith (21st ranked WR) who scored only  15 of his 96 points, Steven Jackson (20th ranked RB) who scored 0 of his 100 points, Jordan Matthews (19th ranked WR) who scored 0 of his 110 points, and Jeremy Hill (14th ranked RB) who scored 10 of his 114 for their original teams.

So, without giving anything away for the awards night in February here are the Top and Bottom 20 draft picks for this season (excluding the top/bottom 3):

Draft Highlights (Top 20)

RND PICK POS Player Selected By Points Expected PLUS/MINUS
8 76.50
3 75.10
2 71.20
9 2 WR Emmanuel Sanders Kelso 187s 147.40 86.30 61.10
5 6 QB Andrew Luck Earlstonian Bohemians 297.74 243.32 54.42
5 1 WR T.Y. Hilton Tranent International Tornadoes 146.50 112.00 34.50
1 11 RB Marshawn Lynch Jimmy’s Jerman Jaguars 197.30 164.20 33.10
3 12 RB Andre Ellington Nitten Pickaxe 125.50 96.50 29.00
2 11 WR Antonio Brown Kelso 187s 174.90 146.50 28.40
2 7 TE Rob Gronkowski Earlstonian Bohemians 145.00 119.00 26.00
14 6 RB Ahmad Bradshaw Oakbank Oddities 79.90 55.40 24.50
3 4 RB Alfred Morris Dodgy Touchdown 143.80 120.30 23.50
2 9 WR Jordy Nelson Dodgy Touchdown 171.90 151.90 20.00
11 7 WR DeAndre Hopkins Oakbank Oddities 91.00 78.60 12.40
1 9 RB Arian Foster Earlston Earthquakes 177.60 165.60 12.00
3 3 WR Randall Cobb Pilton Panthers 153.90 145.00 8.90
10 9 PK Justin Tucker Dodgy Touchdown 116.00 110.00 6.00
10 6 PK Stephen Gostkowski Oakbank Oddities 122.00 118.00 4.00
7 12 TE Greg Olsen Nitten Pickaxe 98.70 95.40 3.30
11 3 PK Matt Bryant Pilton Panthers 107.00 104.00 3.00

Draft Lowlights (Bottom 20)

13 2 PK Sebastian Janikowski Kelso 187s 0.00 102.00 -102.00
2 10 RB Doug Martin Pilton Panthers 28.00 131.50 -103.50
11 2 DST Arizona Kelso 187s 3.00 108.00 -105.00
4 8 WR Victor Cruz Mercy Flush 23.00 128.40 -105.40
10 5 PK Matt Prater SanFran Gordon 69ers 10.00 120.00 -110.00
13 10 QB Ryan Tannehill Fog on the Tyne 18.66 134.78 -116.12
6 10 QB Nick Foles Pilton Panthers 104.90 225.02 -120.12
3 1 RB Ryan Mathews Tranent International Tornadoes 5.70 126.00 -120.30
1 1 RB LeSean McCoy Tranent International Tornadoes 93.90 215.00 -121.10
11 6 QB Tony Romo Mercy Flush 65.28 187.12 -121.84
7 1 DST Seattle Tranent International Tornadoes 14.00 153.00 -139.00
6 1 QB Matthew Stafford Nitten Pickaxe 98.18 242.24 -144.06
1 6 RB Montee Ball Earlstonian Bohemians 27.40 172.70 -145.30
12 10 QB Andy Dalton Pilton Panthers 24.46 171.06 -146.60
12 11 QB Alex Smith Kelso 187s 22.72 169.64 -146.92
13 7 QB Johnny Manziel Oakbank Oddities 0.00 164.02 -164.02
12 12 QB Blake Bortles Tranent International Tornadoes 0.00 164.46 -164.46
8 -166.68
1 -189.60
7 -194.56

Now the tables above are great and give us some idea of our drafting ability, but what I wanted to do with this analysis is look a little bit deeper and see if we can spot some trends in the draft. Was there a secret formula that would have led to success or do we just have to buy lottery ticket and hope for the best.

Over the off-season I’ll be writing a series of articles commenting on our strategy for each position. Next I’ll begin with the big hitters: Running Backs.

2014, It was a very good Year.

I have tried to write this a few times now and must say it has been difficult not to sound to big headed, so I am going to keep it simple if I can.

Firstly you should all know how pleased and relieved I am to have won this this year. I was very pleased with my rookie performance last year in making the final but it wasn’t the Holy Grail and it hurt to get so close and not win. I think if anything tho it made me more determined to not make any mistakes this year if possible. I new going into the play off that I had the strongest team and it was mine for the taking but with such a strong squad I still needed to play the right players on the right weeks which didn’t make life any easier. Last year I had about 10 good players so my team picked its self making decisions that much easier.

How have I won it? What was my secret?

Well because it worked for me reasonably well last year I opted for the same starategy of playing 3 RBs wherever possible and I also used a lot of luck. I came out the Draft with 2 cowbell RBs in Murray and Lynch who were with me right to the end. These 2 were the Keystone to my success they gave me week in week out points without fail all I needed to do was build on them. I use the waivers as much as I can too, I see a lot of you just sit on your team because you have a good starting 9 players where as I aimed this year to have 15 good players, so every week I trawled the waivers to find someone better as at least one player on my bench. With this I did get lucky especially this year with so many injuries, the best of them all being a wide reciever that goes by the name Odell Beckam. Apart from that I had a good QB that got steady points and a good kicker this year, defences were as last year a bit of a streamin game and as last year I played without a TE but it wasn’t so bad this year as there were a few of you in the same boat.

That is about it as I don’t want to go into to much detail and blow my own trumpet. But I will say this, when August comes around the draft is the single most important day of the season and the least important at the same time. What do I mean? Its important to get a few top players from the draft but not important to get a whole team as the team will change and develop as the season progresses!

So I will leave you all by thanking you for all taking part again in what has been another very enjoyable campaign, and I look forward very much to retaining the trophy next year. I am pleased I have won this early on as it takes the pressure off going into next year. Things could have been very different if I had indeed been bridesmaid twice. But know this I won’t be lying down next year now that I have a Championship, as I have the Hall of Fame to think off.

A special word of thanks to our Convener who puts a lot of work into this and makes it all possible.

Futures: USC DT/DE Leonard Williams

Probably a future Oakland Raiders. Do you remember Richard Seymour?

The Rookie Scouting Portfolio (RSP)

Photo by James Santelli. Photo by James Santelli.

This year’s unofficial theme at Futures is profiling complete football players: physically, mentally, and conceptually sound prospects with the versatility to contribute in multiple roles within their position — and in some cases, on either side of the ball.

My profiles of Shaq Thompson, Myles Jack, and Ameer Abdullahhighlight the skills that earned these three the term of endearment “he’s a football player.” The more I study tape, the easier it is to see the commonalities among good football players from any position.

They often seem like invisible threads that weave through the game: techniques and concepts that link defensive linemen to wide receivers and running backs, offensive tackles to cornerbacks, and centers to safeties. However, these threads become luminescent when an excellent football player takes the field.

We marvel at their freakish athleticism with cross-positional undertones. He’s got the speed of safety…

View original post 126 more words

EFFL AGM- Paul’s Hoose on SuperBowl Night

Current items for the AGM.

  1. Scoring- The executive committee have looked at a number of different scoring options and roster make-ups over the course of the season. In the interests of consistency we propose retaining the scoring system. Passed- Scoring and roster sizes will be maintained at current levels.
  2. My Fantasy League or NFL.com- As commissioner I’ve taken the decision to move the league to My Fantasy League from NFL.com. There are a number of reasons for this, but unless you’re prepared to take over the commissioner duties I’m afraid there is no vote or choice. The mobile apps are still a concern as well as the considerable change in the user experience, but there are a considerable number of apps available, it’s your responsibility to find the one YOU like. A list of MFL compatible apps can be found here: http://football2.fulltimefantasyleagues.com/2014/support?L=54440&FAQ=865 Passed
  3. League Fees- I’m proposing a change to league fees and payments date. League fee this year is proposed as £20. Payment date will now be draft day. If we want more trophies and prizes then we’ll need to add the cost. Any ideas welcome. I’m happy to continuing to look after the accounts, but if anyone would like to do something more formal such as fansafe then we can discuss at AGM. Passed.
  4. League History Project- We have a league site for the 2013 season on MFL. We need volunteers to populate weekly rosters and scores. (http://football99.myfantasyleague.com/2013/commissioner_setup?L=70554)– Passed. Gav and Nicky have volunteered to help out.
  5. Injured Reserve- I propose adding an extra roster spot to allow coaches to retain 1 injured player a week during the course of a season without negatively impacting their roster. The IR spot can be used for NFL designated IR and OUT players. Players assigned to IR are locked for 2 days when reactivated. Rejected There will be NO IR spot for next season
  6. Waivers, Free Agency and Roster Moves- I’ve been unhappy with the way waivers, free agency and roster moves have been handled by the NFL site (my main gripe). I’ve also been unhappy with the way waivers are handled by the worst to first designation that gives players with good roster and draft management penalties in the early weeks of the season. I therefore propose a change, but rather than impose one I think we need to discuss each on their merits. There are three flavours of waivers to choose from:

Option 1- First Come, First Served– Whoever requests a player first gets that player immediately.

Option 2 (current)- Waiver Request– Owners submit requests for a player, and at the end of a specified period of time, players are assigned on a worst-to-first basis (i.e., the lowest ranked team gets the first choice, the second lowest ranked team gets the second choice, and so on).

Option 3- Blind Bidding– Owners submit dollar bids on players, and at the end of a specified period of time, the owner with the highest bid on a player is awarded that player.

My preference is to go with blind bidding. I’ll discuss my reasons at the AGM.

Voting was tied 5:5 for options 2 and 3. As commissioner I had the deciding vote, but due to the split vote I have decided to continue with the status quo. Option 2 will continue to be our preferred waiver process.

What we also need to discuss is transaction limitations (if any) and timing. Ideally I’d like to simplify things. Here are the options we need to decide:

  1. Player locking- Once a player is dropped how many days are they locked? 1 day
  2. Do we have a limit of how many players can be added via waivers in a season? no
  3. Do we have a limit of how many players can be added via waivers in a week? no
  4. Do we have a limit of how many players can be added via free agent moves in a season? no
  5. Do we have a limit of how many players can be added via free agent moves in a week? no
  6. For purposes of the above weekly transaction limits, a new week starts when?  Tues 9am GMT
  7. Do we prevent prevent Owners From Making ANY Waiver/Free Agent Moves Between Kickoff of that player’s game and the end of the last game of the week? no
  8. Once a player is acquired, do we prevent him for being dropped? If so, for how many days? no
  1. We have a number of candidates for the Oakbank Oddities place in the league. Depending on the final numbers we may ask each of the candidates to tell us why they think we should vote for them. Each franchise will have 1 vote in the selection process. The executive committee will break any ties. The Oddities history and honours will be stored and the place will be filled by an entirely new franchise. New franchise has been selected
  2. I propose that our 2 co-commissioners continue in their post and function as the executive committee. If anyone would like to join the executive committee we have space for 1 more person. Passed
  3. Draft Day- It looks very likely that draft night will be on Saturday 5th September 2015. We won’t know for sure until the NFL schedule is published in June so please keep the 29th August free in your diary. Nicky (and Susannah) have offered to host the draft next season in their swanky new extension. Your vote is required for the lucky couple to be awarded this prestigious event. Normal league catering rules will apply! So don’t skimp and make sure they know what you’re bringing. Passed