An indispensable tool of fantasy football research is the player rankings list. Whether you’re the kind of person who pours over dozens of lists from different publishers and follow closely the iterated offseason updates, or you’re the clown who bought a magazine on your way to the draft, rankings are a basic cornerstone for drafting a team.
There are an overwhelming number of lists from which to choose and each one claims “expertise.” Curious about the allegations of said “expertise,” I selected a small sampling of lists from fantasy expert web sites before the season, extracted the four positions that matter (Kicker and Defense are obviously worthless; why they aren’t obsolete or dramatically reduced in value is criminal) and compared them to actual end-of-season stats after Week 16. Here’s a brief breakdown by position at which sites were most reliable, according to my findings. Click on the links to view original rankings pages. For a more detailed account of how the data was collected, check out the spreadsheet here.
Some notes on the statistical method:
- 150 players in all were considered in the analysis
- Scoring was based on standard league scoring format (another sore spot for me, but it’s for another post)
- Accuracy was determined by finding the difference between preseason rank and actual end-of-season rank. The differences were averaged out according to outlet. The lower the average difference, the more accurate.
- Averages tend to reward rankings that paid close attention to players picked in the mid-rounds as well as in the top rounds.
So a week after CBS Sports’ fantasy guru Dave Richard finished second overall in the Media Accuracy rankings, CBS Sports shows up as particularly accurate. On the surface, this may be the case, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Along with ESPN, CBS Sports’ rankings were largely generic, offering no insightful offering at sleepers or busts. With a few exceptions, they ranked each player right around the overall average, give or take a few sports. To editorialize, this isn’t particularly helpful for fantasy football owners looking for an edge.
Walter Football and Sports Illustrated (compiled by David Sabino), on the other hand, ranked its players very unconventionally. Many of their busts and sleepers hit (Joe Flacco, Michael Turner, Derrick Mason, Hakeen Nicks, Terrell Owens for Walter Football; Jonathan Stewart, Matt Forte, Desean Jackson for Sabino), but just as many missed (Eli Manning, Frank Gore, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall for WF; Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, David Garrard, Matt Cassel, Pierre Thomas, Felix Jones for SI.) What’s important is that both appeared to put unique and original thought into their rankings. After all, no rankings list is designed to be followed exactly on draft day, but rather act as a guide for which players may be worth a high pick.
A final note: This comes in advance of the much more comprehensive Projection Accuracy Challenge, which is published by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the winners of which will be announced on January 26 and 27. We’ll be sure to follow up with who wins this when the time comes.