The FF Industry Is Drawing All the Wrong Conclusions About the 2016 Season

Throughout the offseason, I wrote a series of articles focused on league-level trends. My interpretation of the impact they would have on the 2016 season was flat wrong. Naturally, I’ve been curious to understand why. My curiosity has piqued with the season over and, with it, a rush of opinions on Twitter and elsewhere about the viability of Zero RB as a fantasy football draft strategy. If you follow FF Twitter at all, you’ve almost certainly seen a lot of explanations since the conclusion of the season discussing what 2016 meant. Given that, and given my research throughout the offseason, I decided to dig into the data and see exactly what happened. My favorite part about data is there are no secrets – you can test a hypothesis and determine whether it was valid or not. In this case, my hypothesis — based on the fantasy scoring results we saw and the types of rosters I saw succeed in my own leagues — was that I was overconfident in the trends I analyzed last offseason. Testing that hypothesis turned up some extremely interesting results.

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By Ben Gretch | @YardsPerGretch | Archive

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  1. Excellent article; thanks for the great work this season. Data pointing to variance is the best news for Zero RB drafters in 2017.

    Do you know if there much change in the average bust rates between RBs/WRs this year?

  2. Dennis says:

    Really awesome stuff! And yeah, the variance exhibited is making me want to double down on ZeroRB. @FF_Contrarian suggested I allocate about 20-30 of my 200 auction bucks for HPPR on a couple guys like Melvin Gordon, J. Hill, T coleman, and spend the rest on WRs. that was great advice. Ben, your podcasts with @RotoDoc down the stretch were unbelievble for daily picks, you and he must've done pretty well. thanks and congrats.
    im curious...totally an eyeball hypothesis from watching lots of redzone...but could defensive penalty's inside the 5 have helped these RB tds and might that not necessarily be going away? maybe DB's are learning to take the flag and live to fight another play

  3. Eric says:

    Great article Ben. As somebody who had a bunch of WR heavy teams with little success in 2016 it's nice to know that things have a chance to look up next year. Maybe as owners switch to a more RB heavy approach I can take advantage of the swing draft strategy.

  4. Great article. A couple of points....

    So rushing TDs are up as compared to receiving TDs? I have to wonder if rushing TDs from the 1-yard line SPECIFICALLY are up at all. DPI isn't going away. Teams lob it up to covered receivers in the end zone all the time and get bogus PI penalties when the receiver stops to come back to the poorly thrown pass. I would assume that PI calls in the end zone are trending upward, and I wonder if that explains the rise in rushing TDs compared to receiving. This may well be a trend and not simple variance, IMO. I wish the NFL would fix the way DPI is called, personally, but that's a different conversation.

    Something weird happened this year with the decrease in targets to primary receivers and increase to #2's and #3's, and that something crippled Zero RB. I have no idea if this a trend or an aberration. In past seasons, our Zero RB teams were all built upon the premise of purchasing targets, and filling our lineups with as many targets as possible. The targets simply weren't there this year. The article lists this as reason #3 for the failure of Zero RB, behind variance and touchdowns, but my armchair common sense opinion is that it was reason #1. Not only did our lineups lack the distinct advantage at WR provided by target hogging receivers, but our opponents' lower-tier options were more viable starters. I didn't feel like I was losing FF games this season because of my opponents' RBs, but I was losing because I had no real advantage at WR despite the heavy draft investment. Is this because defenses adjusted to being repeatedly butchered by the AB's and Julios of the world? Or did offensive coordinators decide they needed more balance/spreading the ball around in their attacks? I have no idea, but this shift IMO is what went wrong with Zero RB this year. It was completely aberrant to the trend of the last few seasons. Whether this is a new trend or merely one weird year for some reason is what will determine the success of Zero RB in future seasons.

  5. Matt says:

    I agree that the fairly dramatic decrease in targets for the top WR was pretty concerning to me. It's not targets but if you look at the graph on WR PPR PPG Scoring by Year, you can see that the gap between WR 10 and WR 40 dramatically shrank this year. WR 40 has been on a steady rise the last several years, while WR 10 had been fairly steady until last year. Even looking at last year, it appeared that scoring was on a steady rise for pretty much all WR, making it look like drafting WR was the way to go. Even though this was my first year of doing 0 RB, I'm pretty much undeterred due to the decreased bust rate and decreased injury risk of WR, as well as the fact that people are likely to draft RB earlier because of what happened in 2016. Would love to see more analysis of this year and what we can learn from it.

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