Every year, fantasy magazines fill out 50 to 100 pages full of fantasy football projections. These publications print in black-and-white the number of yards and touchdowns a running back is going to have, going so far as to project the number of carries, receptions, and receiving yards they’ll have. Quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends get the same treatment, with the projected numbers getting down to single-digits. So you might see Roddy White is projected to have 95 receptions for 1,455 yards and 9 touchdowns and it all looks quite official.
But do those projected totals actually mean anything? Do each of the prognosticators have some formula, program, or software that lets them predict fantasy stats, or do they eyeball the fantasy player and assign arbitrary numbers to them, as I just did? My questions are serious ones, because it’s important to how seriously a fantasy owner takes those numbers.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have formulas which let them factor in home field advantage, weather conditions, and injuries to key stars. In fact, big time oddsmakers include anything they can get data on when deciding on a line, so much so that you’ll see them hold off on setting a line until certain up-in-the-air factors are clarified (such as injury reports coming out). But even Vegas isn’t actually trying to set what they think will be the final score. Oddsmakers are trying to predict what the betting public is thinking, so they can get half the people to bet one way and half the other way. So even the most genius Vegas gamblers don’t actually project stats the way fantasy football mags do.
How to Project Fantasy Football Players
I’ve read fantasy football books which tell players how to make their own draft list based on projections. The next step is to take the projections, find where the performance tiers are at each position, then separate these positions into tiered lists. When a tier starts to get empty, that’s when you know to draft the highest value players. It’s great advice, but only if you can predict with some degree of accuracy every player on every tier. In the “real world” of fantasy football, though, that’s impossible. I’ve still yet to find someone who can convince me they can project fantasy football numbers accurately, and if you disagree with me, tell me whether you had Arian Foster projected in the Top 5, or even Top 10, last year.
How Most People Project Fantasy Numbers
I’ll tell you how most of the owners in your league are making projections, if they aren’t going by a list somewhere. To properly follow this process, you’ll need to find a trusted fantasy football website with accurate stats for last years. Hopefully, you’ll find one for your scoring system. Some fantasy football league management websites offer this information, perhaps even your league’s final results from last year. Others don’t offer this service. My advice is to only use fantasy sites that allow you to view past seasons for years and years to come. I digress, so let’s get to the fantasy football projection tips.
In 2011, find accurate final statistics for 2010 according to the exact scoring system your league uses. No other stats will be accurate enough.
Make a list of the players, along with short notes on their final fantasy points. Leave room for marks to be made.
Mark beside each player whether their numbers should increase, decrease, or stay the same. Use age, injury news, free agent additions, losses in free agency to their offensive unit, and any other factors you might find relevant.
Once you have each player marked, decide how many yards, touchdowns, receptions, carries, interceptions thrown, and fumbles lost each player is likely to have in 2011. Be specific.
Re-rank the players according to these new stats. Remember to add in rookies and other new additions that might not have been factors last year, due to injury, suspensions, or prison time. When making these projections, use a combination of that player’s last game experience (college usually), their measurables, and the results of their counterpart on the team last year. For instance, if you want to project Mark Ingram’s contribution to the Saints, learn what Christopher Ivory and company did rushing the ball in the Saints Offense, then project whether you think Mark Ingram improves or weakens the Saints’ running game, or whether it stays about the same.
Review strength of schedule, key free agent additions and subtractions, and important retirements to your player’s offensive unit to make certain you aren’t missing something. Move your player accordingly, once all stats (mentioned above) have been factored in.
Build separate lists of quarterbacks, running back, wide receivers, tight ends, field goal kickers, team defense, and even IDP players if your league uses these players.
Once you have the list, look at the big drop-offs between certain sections of the players at each position. When you find a large gulf, draw a line and make this your newest value plateau.
Fantasy Football Projection Lists
Now you have your fantasy football projections. These become your cheat sheets at the next draft. I tend to make one of these a year for my main league, then make notes accordingly when events happen (like trades and injuries). Use a yellow highlighter the first draft you use this list for. Then use a pencil to mark out the players in the second and subsequent drafts.
One good set of projections help you get as accurate as possible in predicting the outcome of the season, though you should understand that these projections immediately change after Week 1 of the season and (to a lesser extent) all other weeks of the season. Fantasy football is a game of information, and each new week provides a whole new wealth of information. To paraphrase Moltke the Elder, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. I’m sure Moltke would have said the same about fantasy football projections.
Fantasy Football Projections 2010
Our series on fantasy football projections for 2010 comes to the hardest league to gauge: the touchdown-only league. I’ve played in a couple of these leagues over the years, and served as “draft consultant” for another friend at his 25-year old touchdown-only fantasy football league. These can be some of the most frustrating leagues out there, including last year, when I drafted Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, and Rashard Mendenhall, and the team dominated all year, only to fall flat on its face in the championship week.
Touchdown leagues have a hit-or-miss quality to them, where a running back can add up 150 yards of production, but if someone else wolfs the touchdown, you get nothing. Owners who have only played in performance or “high performance” leagues don’t know the meaning of the word “touchdown wolf”, since they at least get all those impressive yards stats that added up on the touchdown drives. There have been certain NFL teams over the years where fullbacks were better to have, instead of the starting halfback.
That’s probably why most leagues have gone to the more 3-dimensional high performance scoring system, where yards and other performance plateaus and attainments also matter. Still, you’ll occasionally find some of the stubborn old-timers leagues that go with fantasy football the way it was originally played – 21st century fantasy football scoring rules be damned!
Touchdown-Only Projections 2010
Just like starters in any one game in this format, projections for touchdown-only leagues can be just as hit-or-miss, especially on teams with RBBC set-ups or no clear goal line carrier. The fantasy football projections 2010 for touchdown-only formats are no different. That being said, here’s a good list to draft by, if you want to play the odds. I’ll also give tips, to help you increase your odds of winning your league.
Lower Scoring Totals
Keep in mind that your scores are going to be lower in the touchdown-only league than performance scoring, so don’t panic in Week 1, when you have 3 points from your kicker and nothing else at halftime of the first 10 games. Your opponent probably has a low score, too. Even if not, things can change completely in Week 2 and beyond.
Quarterback Projections 2010
- 1. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints (10)
2. Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts (7)
3. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers (10)
4. Tom Brady – Indianapolis Colts (5)
5. Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers (10)
6. Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys (4)
7. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (4)
8. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings (4)
9. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins (9)
10. Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles (8)
11. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (8)
12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (8)
13. Eli Manning, New York Giants (8)
14. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals (6)
15. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (7)
16. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (8)
17. Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals (6)
18. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (9)
19. Matt Cassell, Kansas City Chiefs (4)
20. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
21. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins (5)
22. Marc Sanchez, New York Jets (7)
23. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks (5)
24. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
25. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders (10)
26. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans (9)
27. Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers (6)
28. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
29. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles (8)
30. Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns (8)
31. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos (9)
32. Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills (6)
33. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (9)
34. Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers (6)
You’ll notice some minor differences between this list and the performance league fantasy football projections. That’s because some teams throw the ball more near the goal line than others. The New England Patriots don’t have a running game to speak of. Even though Laurence Maroney showed a few flashes last year, when the Pats get near the goal line, the team puts the ball in Tom Brady’s hands. That’s why I moved him ahead of Romo and Rivers from that other list, because the Cowboys and Chargers have credible touchdown threats at the running back position – especially the Cowboys.
For the same reason, I dropped QBs like Joe Flacco and Chad Henne, who both come from teams with solid goal line running solutions. Roethlisberger tumbled a little further down the list, since Mendenhall should wolf a few touchdowns, even once Big Ben is back after a 6 week suspension. Many TD-only fantasy league tend to have smaller roster or fewer waiver wire pickups over the year, so you can’t really have a guy who’s out half your regular season sitting on your bench.
Running Back Projections 2010
- 1. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans (9)
2. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings (4)
3. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens (8)
4. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
5. Frank Gore – San Francisco 49ers (9)
6. Rashard Mendenhall – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
7. Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons (8)
8. Shonn Greene – New York Jets (7)
9. Deangelo Williams – Carolina Panthers (6)
10. Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams (9)
11. Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
12. Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
13. Lesean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
14. Knowshon Moreno – Denver Broncos (9)
15. Beanie Wells – Arizona Cardinals (6)
16. Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers (6)
17. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears (8)
18. Pierre Thomas – New Orleans Saints (10)
19. Joseph Addai – Indianapolis Colts (7)
20. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers (10)
21. Ryan Mathews – San Diego Chargers (10)
22. Brandon Jacobs – New York Giants (8)
23. Marion Barber – Dallas Cowboys (4)
24. Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills (6)
25. Felix Jones – Dallas Cowboys (4)
26. Ronnie Brown – Miami Dolphins (5)
27. C.J. Spiller – Buffalo Bills (6)
28. Laurence Maroney – New England Patriots (5)
29. Darren Sproles – San Diego Chargers (10)
30. Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints (10)
31. Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins (5)
32. Ahmad Bradshaw – New York Giants (8)
33. Jerome Harrison – Cleveland Browns (8)
34. Jahvid Best – Detroit Lions (7)
35. Justin Forsett – Seattle Seahawks (5)
36. Arian Foster – Houston Texans (7)
37. Tim Hightower – Arizona Cardinals (6)
38. Clinton Portis – Washington Redskins (9)
39. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts (7)
40. Ladainian Tomlinson – New York Jets (7)
41. Ben Tate – Houston Texans (7)
42. Thomas Jones – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
43. Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders (10)
44. Michael Bush – Oakland Raiders (10)
45. Chester Taylor – Chicago Bears (8)
46. Jason Snelling – Atlanta Falcons (8
47. Julius Jones – Seattle Seahawks (5)
48. Willis McGahee – Baltimore Ravens (8)
49. Leron McClain – Baltimore Ravens (8)
50. Marshawn Lynch – Buffalo Bills (6)
51. Kevin Smith – Detroit Lions (7)
52. Tashard Choice – Dallas Cowboys (4)
53. Mike Bell – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
54. Larry Johnson – Washington Redskins (9)
55. Jonathan Dwyer – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
56. Carnell Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
57. Bernard Scott – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
58. Toby Gerhart – Minnesota Vikings (4)
59. Anthony Dixon – San Francisco 49ers (9)
60. Derrick Ward – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
61. Steve Slaton – Houston Texans (7)
62. Montario Hardesty – Cleveland Browns (8)
63. James Davis – Cleveland Browns (8)
64. Andre Brown – New York Giants (8)
65. Willie Parker – Washington Redskins (9)
66. Brian Westbrook – *Free Agent
67. James Starks – Green Bay Packers (10)
68. Dexter McCluster – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Obviously, if you see Brian Westbrook sign with the St. Louis Rams, put him a good 20-25 spots higher on the list. Right now, he’s a free agent, so Westbrook is where he belongs. Even if he signs with the Rams, he’s still the obvious backup to a big back who is unlikely to give up a whole lot of goal line touches to him, on a horrible team which is going to score sporadically, anyway. But I think Stephen Jackson is about due for an injury, so Westbrook does have more value, if he signs.
You’ll notice that I placed Steven Jackson way down at the #10 slot. That’s because he does play on the Rams. Last year, Jackson was a productive ball carrier for gaining yards, but his touchdown totals were inconsistent, due to the offensive talent surrounding him. With a rookie quarterback likely starting, and the inconsistency that can cause, I placed Stephen Jackson below all the big backs or touchdown-scoring backs that are certain to carry the load themselves, or who are on playoff contenders.
Cedric Benson Projection 2010
Cedric Benson is a mystery, because he came out of nowhere last year. Benson got injured towards the end of the season, and the magic appeared to be coming to an end. I’m not so certain Cedric Benson is going to be such a productive back this year, though he should still get his share of touchdown opportunities, even if he’s not as good between the 20s.
I like Shonn Greene, Michael Turner and Deangelo Williams to move up on the touchdown rankings, and I moved up Jonathan Stewart, as well. If I were convinced the Panthers were going to continue with the brilliant success they had with Matt Moore at the end of the season (during the fantasy playoffs), I might even put Jonathan Stewart higher on the list. But the Panthers have to find someone to replace a departing Julius Peppers, and Steve Smith is going to be dealing with a broken arm throughout training camp. It should be noted that Jonathan Stewart had foot surgery in the offseason, and he should be playing without pain in his Achilles for the first time in his 3-year career in 2010.
More Football RB Projections – 2010 Fantasy Runners
I placed Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams closer to one another on this fantasy rankings list, because the two seemed virtual equals in the touchdown category, though Ronnie Brown got more consistent yardage, until he went out with injury last year. I think the fact that Ronnie Brown is coming back from his 2nd major injury in 3 years offsets the age factor with Ricky Williams, who I’m sure will drop off a fantasy cliff one of these years (though his retirement and a series of season-ending injuries early in his career may mean Ricky has less wear-and-tear than many RBs his age).
Arian Foster is my pick in the Houston Texans backfield at the moment, after word came out that he’s currently their starter (according to their running backs coach). One thing is certain, and that’s the Texans are likely to jerk you around about who the starting RB is, at least until Week 1. So I wouldn’t draft a Texans RB too high, and give Foster or Ben Tate the nod, when I do draft. Wait until one goes, then consider drafting the other (that is, draft them late).
On a similar note, I suggest you avoid the Washington Redskins running backs in 2010. Between Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Fast Willie Parker, I’m sure one has productive numbers, at least for a certain stretch of games. But deciding who ends of being that runner isn’t an easy task, and hopefully you’ll address your RB position, before you have to rely on these guys. My advice is to wait until 2 of the 3 are gone off the board, then take a flier on the last of the three in the late-late rounds.
- 1. Andre Johnson – Houston Texans (7)
2. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals (4)
3. Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts (7)
4. Miles Austin – Dallas Cowboys (4)
5. Desean Jackson – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
6. Randy Moss – New England Patriots (5)
7. Marques Colston – New Orleans Saints (10)
8. Roddy White – Atlanta Falcons (4)
9. Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions (7)
10. Brandon Marshall – Miami Dolphins (5)
11. Sidney Rice – Minnesota Vikings (4)
12. Anquan Boldin – Baltimore Ravens (8)
13. Vincent Jackson – San Diego Chargers (10)
14. Steve Smith – New York Giants (8)
15. Greg Jennings – Green Bay Packers (10)
16. Michael Crabtree – San Francisco 49ers (9)
17. Hakeem Nicks – New York Giants (8)
18. Chad Ochocinco – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
19. Donald Driver – Green Bay Packers (10)
20. Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers (6)
21. Mike Sims-Walker – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
22. Hines Ward – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
23. Santonio Holmes – New York Jets (7)
24. Dwayne Bowe – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
25. *Wes Welker – New England Patriots (5)
26. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys (4)
27. Percy Harvin – Minnesota Vikings (4)
28. Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
29. Pierre Garcon – Indianapolis Colts (7)
30. Robert Meachem – New Orleans Saints (10)
31. T.J. Houshmandzadeh – Seattle Seahawks (5)
32. Kenny Britt – Tennessee Titans (9)
33. Mike Wallace – Pittburgh Steelers (5)
34. Santana Moss – Washington Redskins (9)
35. Derrick Mason – Baltimore Ravens (8)
36. Steve Breaston – Arizona Cardinals (6)
37. Braylon Edwards – New York Jets (7)
38. Antonio Bryant – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
39. Lee Evans – Buffalo Bills (6)
40. Devin Aromashodu – Chicago Bears (8)
41. Julian Edelman – New England Patriots (5)
42. Austin Collie – Indianapolis Colts (7)
43. Kevin Walter / Jacoby Jones – Houston Texans (7)
44. Johnny Knox – Chicago Bears (8)
45. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos (9)
46. Anthony Gonzales – Indianapolis Colts (7)
47. Louis Murphy – Oakland Raiders (10)
48. Chaz Schilens – Oakland Raiders (10)
49. Mohamed Massaquoi – Cleveland Browns (8)
50. Devin Hester – Chicago Bears (8)
51. Eddie Royal – Denver Broncos (9)
52. Donnie Avery – St. Louis Rams (9)
53. Chris Chambers – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
54. Nate Burleson – Detroit Lions (7)
55. Devery Henderson – New Orleans Saints (10)
56. Roy Williams – Dallas Cowboys (4)
57. Malcolm Floyd – San Diego Chargers (10)
58. Jerricho Cotchery – New York Jets (7)
59. Taylor Price – New England Patriots (5)
60. Mike Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars (9)
61. Mario Manningham – New York Giants (8)
62. Golden Tate – Seattle Seahawks (5)
63. Brandon LaFell – Carolina Panthers (6)
64. Devin Thomas – Washington Redskins (9)
65. Laurent Robinson – St. Louis Rams (9)
66. Mardy Gilyard – St. Louis Rams (9)
67. Davone Bess – Miami Dolphins (5)
68. Brian Hartline – Miami Dolphins (5)
69. Josh Morgan – San Francisco 49ers (9)
70. Early Doucet – Arizona Cardinals (6)
71. Dexter McCluster – Kansas City Chiefs (4)
72. Terrell Owens – Free Agent
Reggie Wayne moves one spot over Miles Austin, because the Colts are still a better touchdown-scoring offense than the cowboys. I list Vincent Jackson down a few spots, because each of the guys ahead of him should be solid, without injuries, and there’s a bigger chance Vincent Jackson holds out for a significant period of time. If I knew Jackson was going to be in camp and happy, I would take him over several players listed just above him on the list, due to his big scoring offensive team.
Mike Sims-Walker showed in 2009 that he was capable of multiple-TD games, so unless you think he’s got a sophomore jinx coming, he should be a solid pick around 20. I slotted Steve Smith a few slots lower than I originally planned, due to his broken arm. Early word out of Panthers camp is that there should be no problem with Steve Smith playing Week 1, though he’ll miss time in training camp. That should be no big deal, though who knows what this does for him getting extra time with new starter, Matt Moore, or Jimmy Clausen, if he should be the starter.
Rookie and 2nd Year Receivers in 2010
I list Dez Bryant one slot higher than several 2nd year receivers, just on the chance that he breaks out with a huge rookie year, a la Randy Moss. The Cowboys Coaching Staff is calling Dez Bryant a “football savant”, though they may just be cya by indirectly calling Jerry Jones an NFL draft savant. Still, in a league where most decent WRs are only going to put up scores 6 out of the 16 weeks anyway, I prefer to swing for the fences, assuming I can always get the 6-TD season guy later.
Broncos Wide Receivers 2010
I slotted Denver Broncos receivers lower than some would, because I think Denver has fantasy wasteland written all over it. The Broncos recently mentioned Eddie Royal is going to be a valuable kick returner and punt returner, which is usually a sign they don’t want you to be a starting receiver. Otherwise, you would think the departure of Brandon Marshall would assure more production for Eddie Royal in his 3rd year, after he had 90+ catches in his rookie season. I pushed Demaryius Thomas a few spots higher than Eddie Royal, using the Dez Bryant thought process with the rookie. The Broncos did say he reminded them of Brandon Marshall on draft day, which begs the question of why they traded Brandon Marshall, if they were going to draft someone who reminded them of their disgruntled WR.
Josh McDaniels appears to me to be the classic case of a young guy given way too much power, but maybe he’ll prove me wrong. His team-first philosophy seems to apply to everyone but himself, since he’s run the team like a prima donna coach who is more valuable than any talent on the field. Maybe that philosophy works wonder in Denver eventually, but you’ll notice I didn’t add Tim Tebo to my QB list.
Given his TD total last year, Roy Williams is a lot further down than he should be, but the addition of Dez Bryant means he’s going to see fewer looks than in ’09, and he has a chance of being sent to the 3rd receiver. That may be less likely than it might appear, since both Dez Bryant or Miles Austin are going to be better in the slot, which is one reason Roy Williams isn’t productive (doesn’t want to go over the middle). The coaching staff has been working with Roy to get him to crouch more coming off the line, so his chest isn’t exposed to cornerbacks trying to knock him off his route. That would sound good, but I heard Michael Irvin say 18 months ago that he had mentioned the same thing to Roy Williams about exposing his chest by standing too upright, and Roy didn’t want to hear it. One 1,000 yard season in 7 NFL years should tell you all you need to know about Roy Williams.
Fantasy Football Tight End Projections 2010
- 1. Dallas Clark – Indianapolis Colts (7)
2. Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers (10)
3. Vernon Davis – San Francisco 49ers (9)
4. Brent Celek – Philadelphia Eagles (8)
5. Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys (4)
6. Tony Gonzales – Atlanta Falcons (8)
7. Jermichael Finley – Green Bay Packers (10)
8. Daniel Owens – Houston Texans (7)
9. Kellen Winslow – Tampa Bay Bucs (4)
10. Chris Cooley – Washington Redskins (9)
11. Zach Miller – Oakland Raiders (10)
12. John Carlson – Seattle Seahawks (5)
13. Visanthe Shiancoe – Minnesota Vikings (4)
14. Heath Miller – Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
15. Greg Olsen – Chicago Bears (8)
16. Jermaine Gresham – Cincinnati Bengals (6)
17. Fred Davis – Washington Redskins (9)
18. Jeremy Shockey – New Orleans Saints (10)
19. Todd Heap – Baltimore Ravens (8)
20. Brandon Pettigrew – Detroit Lions (7)
21. Kevin Boss – New York Giants (8)
22. Tony Scheffler – Detroit Lions (7)
23. Jared Cooke – Tennessee Titans (9)
24. Bo Scaife – Tennessee Titans (9
This list doesn’t change much at all from what we saw in the performance league, because tight end production is often keyed to touchdowns, and there’s less variation in who gets the looks at the goal line, as opposed to the rest of the field. I did move Tony Gonzales up a couple of spots. I assume that, even if the veteran TE starts to slow down over the course of the season, he’s still crafty and knows how to score, and he’ll save his best for the clutch moments of the game.
I move Kellen Winslow up a couple of spots, for the same reason. He’ll have a young quarterback who might look for him more near the endzone. I could see taking Chris Cooley higher, since he had Donovan McNabb throwing to him, but he still has the Fred Davis factor to contend with.