At RotoWire, I’ve been working on building the ideal players. I started with quarterback.
Mobility Isn’t Essential, But It’s Ideal
All quarterbacks need to be able to throw with accuracy – that’s not up for debate – but the rookies who have found recent NFL success have all been able to make plays with their legs. As I mentioned in my article on rookie quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson,Cam Newton and even Andrew Luck have already turned in some of the top quarterback rushing performances of all-time. When selecting a quarterback, try to target one who can give you points as a runner; it increases his value because it’s a trait that’s often overlooked in drafts, and it decreases week-to-week volatility.
Efficiency > Bulk Stats as a Predictor
Most fantasy owners pay for bulk stats – yards and touchdowns – and for obvious reasons. You clearly want a quarterback who will throw for a lot of yards and touchdowns, but it’s difficult to acquire value by emphasizing those stats because everyone else is doing the same. To profit, you need to search for predictors of future success, especially for quarterbacks who have yet to break out. Yards-per-attempt (YPA) is the best of the bunch.
In my article on using rookie stats to project future quarterback success, I found that YPA actually predicts future production far better than touchdowns or yards.
That’s pretty surprising, and it provides an opportunity for you to exploit the tendency of others to pay for yards and touchdowns. When others are jumping on Andrew Luck (6.98 YPA), you can get Ryan Tannehill (6.81 YPA) – now equipped with new weapons on the outside – at a bargain.
And I’ve also worked on building the ideal running back.
While opinions on the importance of the 40-yard dash differ from “completely worthless” to “he ran a what!?,” the truth is the test is really important for running backs. In terms ofapproximate value – a good measure of overall production – the fastest running backs have been the most success, and it hasn’t even been close.
Running backs who have run sub-4.40 have been around six times as successful as those above 4.50, which is remarkable. The difference is far greater even than that for wide receivers. Frank Gore and Alfred Morris-type players are outliers at a position that has thrived on game-breaking speed over the last decade.
Bigger Is Better
Everything else equal, you always want bigger, faster players. For some positions, however, height is more important than weight. For running backs, height doesn’t seem to be too crucial, whereas weight – or more specifically, height-to-weight ratio – predicts NFL success. Historically, “stocky” running backs – those with a high body mass index – have been able to withstand the wear and tear of the position better than tall, lanky ones.
By comparing a running back’s speed to his size, we can get a really good idea of his future production. There are all sorts of advanced formulas out there to combine weight with metrics like the 40-yard dash and short shuttle, and those formulas seem to work better as a predictive tool than either speed or weight alone.
While wide receivers can post outstanding fantasy numbers on efficiency alone, running backs absolutely require heavy workloads. Look at the 16 backs who rushed for 1,000 yards in 2012; with the exception of C.J. Spiller, every one of them had at least 220 carries, and most a lot more. The standard deviation of yards-per-carry is low; a top running back might average 5.5 YPC, which is barely 20 percent higher than the league average. That means the first stat you should consider when projecting running backs is total touches.