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The Weekly Gut Check - Vol. 101
Crank Score Projections: Part 2
8/10/07

Rookie Scouting Portfolio The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information. This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.

Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic, he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider, or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast as you can!


Last week, the Gut Check touched upon some research he’s using to refine player projections. The basis of this research has to do with consistency of performance from year to year, as opposed to game by game. Are there stats we can find that will help us predict a higher level of performance from year to year? Yours truly posted these charts to show that the best way to project future performance is in 2-year increments—in other words, year-by-year.

Once again, these charts show the percentage of time a player at each position repeated an Elite (top-2) or Starter worthy (top-12) performance in consecutive seasons from 1978-2006.

Total QB 2-year 3-year 4-year 5-year 6-year 7-year
Elite (2) 4 1 0 0 0 0
#1 (12) 48 32 20 13 11 10
Elite % 29% 7% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Starters % 57% 38% 24% 15% 13% 12%
             
Total RB 2-year 3-year 4-year 5-year 6-year 7-year
Elite (2) 7 2 1 0 0 0
#1 (12) 39 21 14 6 1 1
#2 (24) 96 61 41 32 19 12
Elite % 50% 14% 7% 0% 0% 0%
#1% 46% 25% 17% 7% 1% 1%
#2% 57% 36% 24% 19% 11% 7%
             
Total WR 2-year 3-year 4-year 5-year 6-year 7-year
Elite (2) 5 3 1 0 0 0
#1 (12) 35 22 16 10 6 2
#2 (24) 85 50 36 26 15 10
#3 (36) 146 99 69 50 33 20
Elite % 36% 21% 7% 0% 0% 0%
#1% 42% 26% 19% 12% 7% 2%
#2% 51% 30% 21% 15% 9% 6%
#3% 58% 39% 27% 20% 13% 8%
             
Total TE 2-year 3-year 4-year 5-year 6-year 7-year
Elite (2) 7 5 3 2 1 0
Starters (12) 43 27 15 10 5 3
Elite % 50% 36% 21% 14% 7% 0%
#1% 51% 32% 18% 12% 6% 4%

What we see here is how likely a player performing at a top-2 level as a fantasy starter at his position is likely to repeat as either a top-2 or top-12 player the next year and consecutive years afterwards. The answers weren’t pretty:

  • A little more than 5 of the top 12 QBs from the previous season probably won’t make the top 12 in 2007.
  • Between 6 and 7 RBs that made last year’s top 12 won’t repeat that feat this season.
  • Only 5 of 2006 top-12 fantasy receivers will likely reappear in the 2007 top-12 at years end.
  • Half the tight ends in the top 12 in 2006 aren’t likely to be there again in 2007.

The prevailing theme is the NFL—and fantasy football—is an entity with high turnover and it is worthwhile to see that expecting consecutive top-12 performances becomes an increasingly odds-on, disappointment with each subsequent season. But as mentioned last week, this doesn’t mean a player will fall off the face of quality fantasy performance.

Otherwise the best players of each era wouldn’t have several good-great seasons. They just don’t always string them together season after season—some do, but others are less consistent due to injuries or other changes.

Another reason has to do with the fact we’re only looking at elite performers and their resulting performances—two players every year at each position. What about the other 10, #1s at their positions? This is where the numbers get more encouraging in some respects.

Pct. A Player Repeats as a #1/#2/#3 FF Starter After A Previous Yr as a #1 (1978-2006)

Position Sample #1 #2 #3
QB 93 53% 73% N/A
RB 22 59% 53% N/A
WR 120 43% 68% 86%
TE 114 49% 79% N/A

The overall sample doesn’t show much of a difference between #1 starters and elite starters in regard to them performing at a high level during the next season. But consider the fact the #1 starters have 12 players each year in its sample vs. the 2 elite starters per season. Additionally, the likelihood a #1 WR performs as a #2 or #3 starter the following year increases with each lower tier. This should immediately tell you that if you draft a #1 WR from last season, he is over 85% likely to at least perform as a #3 starter and over 2/3 likely to be a quality #2. This sample includes WRs who were injured the subsequent season. What this tells the Gut Check is that you may not get the value for that #1 WR where you draft him, but you aren’t likely to get a complete bust, either. With the inherent turnover with the position, it also means probably have a shot at drafting a #2 or #3 receiver who makes the leap to #1 territory, so it should even out. If you pay attention to average draft position and don’t reach for receivers, you won’t miss out on obtaining solid players who will help you. If you reach too much, you increase the likelihood of a boom-bust draft.

Interestingly enough, the likelihood of a repeating as a starting quality player has increased in recent years if that player his an RB and he hit the top 12 the year prior.

Pct. A Player Repeats as a #1/#2/#3 FF Starter After A Previous Yr as a #1 (2000-2006)

Position Sample #1 #2 #3
QB 25 56% 92% N/A
RB 22 59% 82% N/A
WR 28 42% 65% 80%
TE 29 45% 95% N/A

The rest of positions appear similar to history of the 16-game season, but in recent years the RB who reached the top 12 at his position was over 80% likely to be at least a #2 RB the next year. If it continues to hold true this year, drafting a top 12 back from last year is highly likely to earn you a starter. None of these stats look unbelievably promising, but they do show not to reach for an RB or WR in the early rounds when there is still a #1 player from those positions last year still on the board. So if you are a strictly-by-the-stats type of owner, this will help you to play not to lose. As you know, I take more risks and would rather risk losing big in order to have a chance to win big. Still, like any game, there is an art to making a decision when to play the odds and when to deviate.

There are a fair number of changes to the middle of the positional rankings for Receivers, Tight Ends, and Running Backs.

2007 Crank Score Projections
QB Player ADP Crank RB Player ADP Crank WR Player ADP Crank TE Player ADP Crank
1 P. Manning 2.01 69.30 1 L. Tomlinson 1.01 96.23 1 C. Johnson 2.06 64.03 1 A. Gates 3.10 25.89
2 C. Palmer 3.04 62.59 2 F. Gore 1.03 75.78 2 R. Williams 3.05 56.99 2 V. Davis 7.08 16.84
3 J. Kitna 5.12 54.82 3 B. Westbrook 1.06 73.18 3 S. Smith (Car) 2.04 53.11 3 J. Shockey 6.09 14.42
4 T. Brady 4.02 47.04 4 J. Addai 1.05 61.96 4 M. Harrison 2.10 50.31 4 T. Heap 6.07 13.00
5 D. Brees 4.06 44.37 5 R. Bush 1.09 51.74 5 R. Wayne 2.12 49.22 5 T. Gonzalez 5.05 12.38
6 M. Bulger 4.10 40.24 6 L. Maroney 1.10 48.58 6 L. Fitzgerald 3.03 45.48 6 B. Watson 10.02 11.23
7 B. Roethlisberger 9.04 37.81 7 M. Jones Drew 2.07 45.27 7 T. Owens 2.11 43.92 7 C. Cooley 7.12 10.69
8 T. Romo 6.02 36.39 8 E. James 2.09 42.76 8 D. Jackson 6.11 39.22 8 H. Miller 10.12 7.85
9 M. Leinart 7.11 35.78 9 S. Jackson 1.02 39.90 9 T. Holt 2.08 38.04 9 K. Winslow 7.10 5.95
10 C. Pennington 12.01 31.76 10 R. Johnson 1.10 33.91 10 C. Chambers 6.10 35.68 10 D. Graham 14.09 5.45
11 D. McNabb 5.07 27.88 11 T. Henry 1.11 37.02 11 R. Moss 4.06 35.26 11 E. Johnson 13.03 4.64
12 J. Garcia 12.10 27.71 12 C. Portis 2.07 35.05 12 L. Evans 4.05 32.63 12 B. Olsen -- 4.17
13 V. Young 7.06 25.15 13 R. Brown 2.05 32.43 13 R. Brown 5.07 31.07 13 O. Daniels 12.11 3.96
14 R. Grossman 13.02 23.25 14 L. Johnson 1.03 26.37 14 A. Boldin 3.09 26.74 14 A. Crumpler 8.07 3.67
15 B. Favre 9.11 23.15 15 C. Williams 3.12 28.73 15 D. Stallworth 8.03 25.70 15 J. Witten 9.03 2.78
16 S. McNair 13.04 22.45 16 S. Alexander 1.06 28.58 16 J. Galloway 7.06 24.93 16 R. McMichael 11.02 2.32
17 J. Cutler 8.04 22.04 17 W. McGahee 2.01 26.29 17 T. J. Housh 3.10 23.58 17 Dal. Clark 12.05 2.14
18 M. Hasselbeck 7.03 20.69 18 T. Jones 2.11 20.70 18 S. Holmes 9.08 22.56 18 B. Scaife -- 1.84
19 P. Rivers 7.11 20.16 19 W. Parker 1.08 20.61 19 J. Walker 3.11 21.73 19 L. Pope -- 1.18
20 J. Delhomme 10.03 19.78 20 C. Benson 2.12 19.14 20 M. Colston 4.04 21.41 20 M. Lewis --. 0.99
21 E. Manning 9.01 19.33 21 J. Norwood 5.07 16.91 21 A. Johnson 3.10 19.94 21 J. Stevens -- 0.79
22 B. Leftwich -- 19.10 22 A. Green 4.10 16.44 22 L. Coles 5.08 19.41 22 M. Pollard -- 0.66
23 J.P. Losman 12.04 18.43 23 B. Jacobs 3.04 13.40 23 D. Driver 4.06 19.01 23 Z. Miller -- 0.52
24 A. Smith 10.09 18.00 24 J. Lewis 5.03 14.52 24 P. Burress 4.11 18.30 24 C. Baker -- 0.36
25 T. Green 14.04 17.85 25 J. Jones 9.06 15.92 25 Mark Clayton 7.03 17.65 25 D. Martin -- 0.32
26 J. Harrington -- 17.38 26 C. Taylor 7.03 13.79 26 B. Berrian 9.01 16.36
27 J. Campbell -- 14.37 27 M. Lynch 3.11 13.09 27 H. Ward 5.06 15.69
28 D. Culpepper -- 13.47 28 L. Jordan 6.04 16.38 28 Cal. Johnson 5.12 15.19
29 M. Schaub 12.01 11.39 29 D. Williams 4.08 11.39 29 G. Jennings 9.02 14.76
30 T. Jackson -- 11.03 30 F. Taylor 7.05 10.02 30 D. Henderson 10.05 14.65
31 B. Croyle -- 10.63 31 D. McCallister 4.04 9.60 31 J. Horn 11.04 13.46
32 C. Frye -- 9.19 32 M. Barber 5.08 8.24 32 S. Moss 6.02 13.01
  33 L. Betts 7.10 6.14 33 E. Kennison 13.09 12.93
  34 L. White 9.04 4.13 34 J. Porter 9.12 12.36
  35 Kevin Jones 8.02 6.32 35 E. Wilford 11.09 10.15
  36 A. Peterson 4.12 5.92 36 V. Jackson 7.07 9.47

Running Backs

Ronnie Brown drops in this list because of some slight uncertainty of the role of rookie Lorenzo Booker on 3rd downs, Cam Cameronís new offense, and Brown not performing well enough to warrant him as a projected first day back. I think heíll have a better year, but he hasnít shown huge signs of doing so, just yet.

Travis Henry moves up because of talk of him receiving a majority of the carries. Based on some conversation with Jordan Otte and his threads on the FFToday Board, Iím leery of the Broncos line. Still, Denverís line has long been better than Buffaloís, and Tennesseeís is better than advertised, but they werenít great. Henry moves up my list, but stays about the same place as his 2006 end of season Crank Score. McGahee moves up to 17thóabout the same spot Jamal Lewis finished in 2006 for the Ravens. He has the skills to perform better and he may continue to move up here because Iím a believer that the 370-f/carry-club of Steven Jackson and Larry Johnson may not perform so well.

Speaking of Jackson, he moves up solely for the reason that he is in camp, healthy, and despite the high-carry season, he hasnít been a workhorse in the NFL until last year. Iím still wary about him going anywhere but down, but between him and Johnson, Iíd rather have the Ramís starter. But Iím telling you again, pick Brian Leonard if you go with Jackson, and donít be shy about grabbing him even as early as round 7 or 8, youíll thank me later if Jackson gets hurt.

LJís situation is more difficult to analyze. From a non-fantasy perspective, Johnson is one of my favorite backs to watch but his carry count and the hold out is too worrisome to warrant a pick in the top half of the first round. The issue is who will replace Johnson in the lineup? Priest Holmes is making noise from training camp, but more with his mouth than his play at this point. Kolby Smith, the rookie from Louisville, is getting a lot of press for his stellar camp. Heís a smart runner, but think of him as KCís version of Olandis Gary, not Terrell Davis. That leaves Michael Bennett. I see this situation as the most likely RBBC by necessity if LJ sits out or doesnít last the year.

Clinton Portis drops because heís seeing a knee specialist and the tendonitis is not going away. Heís such a great back, but if it doesnít clear up within the next week or two, expect the ĎSkins starter to take a freefall in my rankings and Ladell Betts to appear in the top 20. If the results from the doctor show that Portis is going to be fine, Iím willing to bank on a strong season out of him.

Ahman Green, another great fantasy player from the past, had surprisingly high Crank Score in 2006 and appears to be on track to be the full-time starter in Houston. I think his consistency, work ethic, and breakaway speedósomething no Texans back in recent memory hadócould help this offense gel a bit more. If he stayed in Green Bay, Iíd say heíd be a high-end #2 RB, but look for a solid, but not spectacular season for the Texans starteróyouíll be able to use him as a #2 RB most of the time.

Receivers

Several readers asked why Chad Johnson was ranked so high this year, especially after such an inconsistent effort in 2006. I want to point out from 2003-2005 Johnsonís was #3, #9, and #9 in Crank Score for his position. I believe heíll rebound in a big way from a consistency standpoint and more opportunities from the slotóand the absence of Chris Henry for 8 gamesówill be the reasons.

Torry Holt drops because heís still recovering from knee surgery and the offense is more balanced with Linehanís system than Martzís pass-happy circus. I think Holt will still perform well, but Iím not counting on him to be the elite Crank Scorer prior to 2006. Reggie Wayne drops because I believe Marvin Harrison continues to prove heís the top receiver until he has a season that shows otherwise. Still, either Colt is a great addition to a roster. Reggie Brown drops because I simply placed too high expectations on him with a QB returning from an ACL tear and an unproven starter in Kevin Curtis (a player I really like to perform well this year) on the other side.

Joey Galloway bolts up the list because until he proves otherwise, heís demonstrated the past two years that heís a solid #2 receiver with several #1 games. Although a year older, he has an upgrade at QB and offensive line. Iím still expecting good things from the former Seahawk and Cowboy.

Santana Moss makes the list and should climb as long as he remains healthy. He will be Jason Campbellís go-to receiver. I believe Santonio Holmes will become the most productive receiver on the Steelers. Iím a huge Hines Ward fan, but I think Holmes is a greater deep threat. He was a Second Half Wonder in 2006 and I believe he could break out this year with a healthy Roethlisberger under center.

Tight Ends

Ben Watson and Kellen Winslow move up the list. Watson will have a lot more room underneath with the addition of Moss, Stallworth, and Welker. Look for Watson to see a lot of mismatches on LBs in coverage. Winslow moves up because I simply ranked this excellent tight end too low. Iím worried about his ability to stay healthy and the revolving door at QB that appears to be on the horizon. Heís a player who I feel will be drafted higher than his actual value based on an excellent 2006 campaign, but ignoring his knee troubleómicrofracture surgery is no joke. Remember Patrick Jeffers? The Panthers receiver was unbelievable for a season prior to this surgery, but was never the same. It took Deshaun Foster two seasons to return to form.

I ranked Vernon Davis so highly because I believe heís the most physically talented tight end in the NFL, and that includes Antonio Gates. The addition of Darrell Jackson, solid offensive line, and maturation of Alex Smith should spell huge things for Davis. I am not afraid to reach for him, because tight end is the one position where you wonít pay dearly for taking a chanceówaiver wire producers abound at this position early in the season.

Next week, Iíll have more updates to the projections and analyze the GOIDALPANKAL draft, a league featuring some prominent writers from FF Today and two other sites. This is an IDP league with no kickers (frankly, the best idea for a fantasy draft that I have seen from a personnel standpoint).