I started doing my own player projections last year, and refined my method during this offseason. So 2021 is the first year where I approach drafts with my very own player projections.
I thought a lot about how to do this. Here’s my methodology, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Let’s start with the problem I faced last year: I simply looked at each player individually, and checked whether I would give them more or less production this year than they had previously.
When I added up player numbers for their NFL teams, I realized I had just projected all 32 NFL teams to improve on offense, some even quite drastically.
That was not what I actually expected. So now I tried a different approach:
Step 1: team rankings
I ranked all 32 NFL teams in 7 different categories:
- pass attempts
- completion rate
- passing yards
- passing TDs
- rush attempts
- rushing yards
- rushing TDs
Each team got a rank from #1 to #32 in each of these 7 categories.
Then I looked at the NFL stats of the last few years and calculated the median for each position. E.g.: having the 10th most passing yards in the NFL translated, on average, into 4017 yards per 16 game season over the last few years…
That’s how I determined the available volume per team. And by this method, I avoided what I call “the optimism trap”. There is a legitimate case to be made for all 32 teams to do better in 2021 than they did in 2020. (Okay, for 31 teams - sorry Texans fans!)
But as a matter of fact, they won’t. There will be a #31 team in terms of passing yards this season, and that spot won’t suddenly translate into 4,000+ yards.
Step 2: target shares
So now that I have the available volume for each team, I looked at each team indvidually and distributed the available volume among the players. That translated into fantasy points, and into a ranked table.
The good news: most of the players I have pretty close to their ECR. But there are some exceptions. Jalen Hurts is a prominent example. His ECR is QB9. I have him at QB17, and that only after bumping the Eagles offense further than I was actually comfortable with.
I gave Hurts a massive share in rush attempts and rushing TDs. I gave him a reasonable completion rate (well above 60%). He’s still only my QB17. In order for him to become a top 10 QB, the Eagles would have to become a top 10 offense. In 2020, they were #27. Who are the 17 teams they are supposed to put behind them this year?
Another interesting team: the Bills. Josh Allen is the consensus QB2. Diggs the consensus WR3. I agree with both. I have also ranked all 3 RBs and TE Dawson Knox all within 2 spots of their ECR.
But that still leaves a ridiculous amount of targets unclaimed! All Bills WRs not named Stefon Diggs are massively (!) underrated, if you ask me. I have Cole Beasley, Gabe Davis, Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie each (!) 15+ spots ahead of their ECR. All 4 of them. Just by distributing the volume that everybody seems to agree is there. It’s insane.
Anywhere, I digress. Love to hear your thoughts on my projection methodology. As I said, it’s the first year I do this. Can’t wait to see how my projections will turn out.