Every week the biggest challenge with your Fantasy Football team is who to play and who to bench. Each season, we seem to react more to what happened the week before than common sense.
Last week I saw a poll asking whether Aaron Jones, Chris Thompson or DeDe Westbrook should be played in the Flex position. If you didn’t instantly laugh at that group of players, then you need this week’s statistical breakdown because you are mismanaging your Flex decisions.
Simple Early Season Rule
Forget trying to figure out the Strength of Schedule early in the season based on what a team did in the first few weeks. Don’t even try on what the team did last season. In today’s Salary Cap NFL, players and coaches are coming and going so fast, it is hard to have any confidence in last year telling us what will happen this year.
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Two weeks worth of data is also too little to know what will happen. That brings us to Early Season Rule number 1: If you drafted them in the first five rounds, you are playing them in the first five weeks if they are healthy.
Too many Fantasy Football players over think their weekly starter decision. We try to outsmart the matchups rather than going with the odds. Some NFL players are very matchup sensitive and others are not.
Understanding that difference can be the difference between you winning and losing in Fantasy football. Starting running backs always have the edge against equally talented or less talented wide receivers and tight ends. This bold statement is proven by the data.
Which Position has the Edge
You must look at the threshold of scoring 10 points, 15 points and 20 points in PPR fantasy football between the positions. Then the decision on which position to start in your Flex position becomes very easy.
Over the last two seasons, the average running back scored 10 or more points 67% of the time compared to 55% for the average wide receiver or 45% for the average tight end. Scoring 20 or more points happens 24% of the time with the average running back versus 23% for the average wide receiver. Only 9% of the time for the average tight end makes them a non factor. Your wide receiver has to be 12% better than your running back to make up that difference.
Third Down Backs are Quirky
Last season, there were only five running backs with 60 or more receptions who ran the ball fewer than 150 times. These are your typical passing game style running backs, and include names like James White, Tarik Cohen and Nyheim Hines.
Only three of the five running backs qualifying with 60 or more receptions and fewer than 150 carries were above the average Consistency Rating for all running backs.
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If you look at the data closer, their variance from one season to the next is greater than a typical running back based on how many touchdowns they scored. This shows clearly that a third down style back is never going to be a better choice than the starting running back of similar talent.
Guessing the Outcomes
Last year, Aaron Jones had seven games where he scored 15 or more points in a PPR format out of the eight games he took 50% or more of his team’s snaps. Jones scored 9 points in the other game.
Only three of those games where he played a full game were against Top 15 Fantasy defenses. He averaged 14.7 points in those games. DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best Fantasy football wide receivers, only scored 15 or more points in 11 of his 16 full games last year.
Why worry about the matchups for a top running back like Aaron Jones when his WORST games were still about 14 points in PPR?
If you invested in a running back or wide receiver in the first five rounds, play them every week unless they are injured. You drafted them because they are elite and their Consistency Rating and Best 10 Rating is better than those players being drafted later in the draft.
As the numbers have shown, an elite wide receiver is no match for a starting running back on a good offense. So why would you play a lesser wide receiver in their place? While running backs active in the passing game keep you from getting shut out, they are less predictable than a starting running back who will get 15 or more touches when healthy.
Worry about matchup plays when it comes to lesser talented players. You are only these players because of bye weeks or injury. Getting too cute with matchups is a surefire way to mismanage your flex decisions and fall into Fantasy Football mediocrity.