Last week I released a 1589 page fantasy football resource that I call The Crop Report (in an homage to the great Eddie Murphy movie Trading Places). The Crop Report is full of data and graphs for the key fantasy football positions of QB, RB, WR, and TE.
While a lot of the data and graphs in The Crop Report are meant to satisfy the cravings of even the most die hard Fantasy Football junkies, the signature resource – the player comparables pages – are meant to appeal to fantasy football players of all types.
The idea for player comparables is pretty simple. Take a guy that played last year, look at his statistics and physical measurements, then try to find players in the recent past that were similar to that player.
Let’s look at Julio Jones to see what I’m talking about here and how player comparables could be great for figuring out who to target in Fantasy Football.
First, here is Julio Jones’ 2011 season, along with his physical measurements.
In the 12 games that Jones appeared, he caught about 80 yards per game, 0.7 TDs per game, averaged about 10 yards per target and almost 18 yards per reception. You probably aren’t familiar with my statistic that I call “Fantasy Points Over Par”, but it’s an efficiency measure. It measures how many Fantasy points above or below average the player scored if we look at each play based on field position. For instance, a target from the 10 yard line is worth quite a bit more on average than a target from the 50 yard line. FPOP just measures whether a player did better or worse than league average with each target.
Now we can find statistical seasons that were similar to Jones’ 2011, and we’ll look primarily at players that were similar height, weight and age to Jones. If we do it right, all of the receivers we look at should be pretty close to Jones on most measures.
Now let’s look at how effective our player search has been. As a composite, the 15 players are within 4 yards per game of Jones’ 2011 season. The touchdown match is exact at 0.7 TD/G. Jones averaged 10 yards per target and the average of our comparables is 9.8 yards per target. As a group the comparables are very close to the actual height, weight and age of Julio Jones.
Some of the individuals in the comparables list vary from Jones in some important areas. For instance, DeSean Jackson is not similar in size to Julio Jones. But his 2009 was really close in most other ways. But even while some players might differ in one area or another, as a a group they were really close to Julio Jones’ 2011 season.
A quick scan of the similar seasons leaves me with a few thoughts:
- Even when the process is meant to find players of a similar age, all but two of the comparables were actually older than Jones. Julio Jones was extremely young to have the kind of season that he had in 2011. That’s a good thing.
- The list of comparables is a good one. Almost all of the players on the list have been good options in fantasy over a number of years. The one year wonder/flash in the pan types are limited to players whose careers were impacted by injury.
The killer thing about looking at player comparables is that we can now look at our list of 15 seasons and see what happened for those players in the year after they were similar to Julio Jones. Here’s what I call the Year 2 Table.
The Year 2 Table has one important function that shouldn’t be overlooked. You know how at the beginning of every Fantasy season you think things will play out pretty much exactly like they did the year before. Then by about September 20th or so, you’ve got your head in your hands and you can’t believe how differently things are going? The Year 2 Table is meant to give you that clue in August, not September. I spend a lot of time going through player comparables and then looking at Year 2 results. I do that so much that it’s been beaten into me that the future is only going to slightly resemble the recent past.
Here are my takeaways from looking at the Year 2 Table:
- Overall, Julio Jones strikes me as an extremely safe fantasy play this year. If you take out some catastrophic injuries (Javon Walker, Ronald Curry and Sidney Rice), the year 2 results show very little fall-off from the year 1 results. You’re never going to be able to predict catastrophic injuries, so there’s no point in trying. But the other players in the group held up generally well.
- However, you probably shouldn’t expect Julio Jones to be as efficient as he was last year. He might be, but he probably won’t be. Note that Jones averaged about 1/2 of a fantasy point over average on a per target basis (FPOP) in year 1, as did a few of his comparables. But Miles Austin, Marques Colston, and even Randy Moss then went on to be just slightly above averages on a per target basis. Probably what you should expect for Julio Jones this year is that he’ll see more targets and will score more Fantasy points for that reason. Roddy White saw about 3 targets more per game in 2011 than Jones. I think it’s reasonable to expect some of those targets to shift to Jones.
- Note that the average of games played went from 14.5 games in year 1, to just 11.1 games in year 2. I wouldn’t interpret that to mean that there’s anything about big/young receivers that makes them susceptible to injury. Rather, I think it’s just worth remembering that all of the players in Fantasy Football have risk. Don’t draft your Fantasy team as if your starters will be available for 16 games.
You could actually use the player comparables to create projections if you wanted to. When I do this I usually weight things towards the top of the table (the most similar) and then assign less weight to each comparable player as I go down the table. When I’ve done that for the 2012 season, I have Julio Jones ranked in my top 5 among WR.
Hopefully, you now understand the value behind the player comparables which are the signature resource in The Crop Report. However, in Jones’ case there is another useful item contained in The Crop Report. Each player in The Crop Report has a Fantasy Points Over Par graph based on field position. Let’s look at Jones’ FPOP graph to see how it can offer some value.
Here’s a quick primer on the graph. The x axis is Yards from Own Goal for the line of scrimmage. The dotted red line on the graph is par, or average. The blue line is the trend line and each dot is a target from Jones’ 2011 season. Touchdowns are at the top of the graph, while incompletions are at the bottom. You can see the areas of the field Jones was well above average due to his long catches and long touchdowns. Jones might not catch as many long touchdowns this year, but I would expect him to take a big step forward in the red zone. He wasn’t heavily targeted there and yet as Roddy White gets older, Jones is increasingly going to be the best option that the Falcons have in that part of the field. I think that’s another area where Julio Jones will have some Fantasy upside in 2012.
Hopefully, I’ve provided you with some valuable information on Julio Jones, and also illustrated the value of looking at player comparables. Since the future is only going to resemble the recent past, it helps to know the important ways that it might differ.