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2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 7 Tiers

By: STATS LLC

It was a year ago today I started doing my Tiers piece in order to offer some free content mid-week that could help everyone make smarter lineup decisions. I have started to tailor my articles to focus on my overall thought process, showing how I create my projections.

In the long run, explaining how/why I arrive at decisions is going to be more beneficial to you than answering one-off questions such as, “Do I start Jermaine Kearse or Robby Anderson this week?” or, “Is D’Onta Foreman droppable right now?” I will use this platform to do a much deeper dive into my process and shed some light on it, rather than telling you Tom Brady is good at football or that players facing the Saints or Patriots get a boost. Just know that ALL factors are taken into account in the projections that will be reflected in the rankings below.

One last thing to point out is that the projections evolve and increase in accuracy throughout the week as I spend more time digging deeper into data, news, etc. Therefore, you have to keep in mind that these articles are where my projections are at on Tuesday night. There are five whole days after that during which I fine tune everything, so some players may jump up/down considerably in the rankings. I will attempt to be a bit more transparent on how/why that is for certain cases with tweets later in the week that summarize big movements.

Last week I touched on how volume is often overlooked when it comes to short-term value in RBs, and how talent alone is typically over-valued. The examples I used were Adrian Peterson and Marlon Mack, who were ranked 38 and 41 last week by experts on FantasyPros, respectively. I had them much further apart at 32 and 42, due to a big difference in expected volume. Sure enough, Marlon Mack busted for a 22-yard run on his very first attempt and then finished the game with two rushes for 18 yards and zero receptions.

Highlight-reel plays don’t always translate into a ton of points that can help you win. On the flip side, AP carried the rock 26 times for 134 yards and two TDs. He clearly blew away even my expectations, but there is a lesson to be had here. The more times a RB touches the ball, the more likely they are to add yardage stats that can actually help you win. Red zone touches increase a player’s TD chances, no matter what their SPARQ score was when they were drafted. This might all sound pretty silly and obvious, but I really feel like it’s overlooked, based on the questions I get.

Where do we go from here now with AP? Again, I would like to emphasize that spending three paragraphs breaking down AP isn’t worth the time. It’s important, though, to discuss the process of how I will handle a situation like his.

First off, I’m already getting tweets asking if I like AP even more now; whether or not he’s a RB1 all of a sudden; or if he still sucks and this was all a fluke. Before I can even justify saying something like, “Yes, he’s a no-brainer RB1 now,” or, “No, it was all just a fluke and he’s still a low-end RB4,” I first have to update my priors on him in order to create a Week 7 projection. Once I do that and project all other players, I will have a better sense on where I have him ranked going forward.

Each week, I go into it with a projection for every single player/stat, even if it’s projecting a fullback for 0.2 carries for 1 yard. After all of the games are played I can then see exactly where I went wrong and where I went right. Not only does this help update my beliefs on certain players who I might have missed on, but I also have to carefully figure out why I missed on those players. There is a lot of volatility in week-to-week predictions vs. actual outcomes in football. That’s just how it is, so you have to embrace that. I have to be extremely careful not to over- or under-react, walking the fine line between acknowledging my own error vs. blaming random chance. The fantastic book Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction is very informative and really does hit on a lot of the practices I seem to have built into my projection system. One of the topics it addresses is finding the right balance between under- and over-rating of evidence through belief updating. In other words, the act of updating projections for Week 7, based on new information we learned from Week 6.

“Belief updating is to good forecasting as brushing and flossing are to good dental hygiene. It can be boring, occasionally uncomfortable, but it pays off in the long term. That said, don’t supposed that belief updating is always easy because it sometimes is. Skillful updating requires teasing subtle signals from noisy news flows, all the while resisting the lure of wishful thinking.

Savvy forecasters learn to ferret out telltale clues before the rest of us. They snoop for nonobvious lead indicators, about what would have to happen before X could.”

I majored in psychology and statistics in college. My background is a blend of being able to spot trends in data while also making sense of it. I enjoy going a bit deeper and really finding the indicators that could lead to new data trends in the future – hence projections! Keep in mind, I do not just have some algorithmic model that does everything for me, nor am I a robot. I have my own opinions, beliefs, sense of humor and complaints, of which you’ll note from my tweets during a daily fantasy slate. While I do channel my own personal expertise in tweaking my projections, I am extremely careful to not hold any sort of bias – to the best of my ability –  that could seep into the projections and make them less accurate.

*Deep breath*

Ok, now that my mini-novel of an introduction is out of the way: let’s look at Adrian Peterson’s Week 6 as a case study! I had mentioned that Andre Ellington’s usage was potentially going to see a decent hit in Week 6. My reasoning was that the Cardinals were using dump-offs to him as their proxy of a run game. This, in turn, gave Carson Palmer a huge boost in passing yards as well. With AP, however, they have a more traditional running back who can handle a 15-20 carry workload. There are a finite number of snaps a team can run each way, so even a subtle shift in their game plan could have a big fantasy impact. This is my version of “snooping for non-obvious lead indicators” from my years of doing this at a high level.

It turns out I was right, but to a much greater degree than I was willing to predict. We saw AP play 73 percent of the snaps to Ellington’s 20 percent. In turn, Ellington didn’t gain a single yard and saw one target. We can certainly take away from this single game that Ellington’s value took a massive blow due to AP’s presence. On the flip side, AP went off. It’s also safe to say his stock is way up after Week 6.

Before we move on to Week 7 and potentially overvalue the Week 6 results, though, we need to play Devil’s Advocate a bit. Could it be that this particular game’s flow led to unique results? As a matter of fact, I think it did. The Cardinals ended up winning 38-33, but the game was nowhere near this close. They were up 24-0 at halftime, and Jameis Winston had to leave the game due to injury. In the second half there was no real need to force the issue downfield, so they kept feeding AP in order to help run the clock out. Given this, we have to attribute some of this result to game flow, and thus these two backs will likely have their usage altered a bit based on that going forward.

Looking to Week 7, I would be willing to bet my mortgage that Ellington will have at least one reception and that Peterson will not match his Week 6 stats. In finding that right balance, I currently have AP projected for 17.5 carries, 71 yards and about a 46 percent chance of scoring a TD. In Ellington’s case, I have him set at 3.8 catches for 32 yards and a 9 percent chance of a TD. This makes AP a solid RB2 and Ellington a low-end PPR Flex.

Thanks for reading that lengthy intro. It’s now time for the actual Tiers! And don’t forget, these tiers reflect non-PPR scoring. The number in parentheses next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. Without further ado, here are the Week 7 tiers.

Quarterbacks

Marcus Mariota is a prime example of someone whose projection/rank could go up or down quite a bit this week depending on reports concerning his hamstring. We saw Monday night that he can’t supply his usual rushing stats with the injury. If managed correctly, he should be able to have a bit more mobility as the year goes on, something I will monitor closely when updating his outlook.

Pro tip: If you check out his player page on FantasyPros you can see my exact updated rank on him later in the week (as with everyone else).

Yes, Brett Hundley really is in Tier 6. The combination of his dual-threat capabilities and great matchup gives him a fairly high ceiling, which makes him a great daily fantasy tournament play. However, his basement-low floor means he is less enticing in a traditional H2H league, since you only need to beat one person in your league each week (not necessarily put up the highest score of the week in your league – huge difference). Even if he puts up sneaky QB2 numbers most weeks, having him under center instead of Aaron Rodgers is still a significant downgrade to the entire Packers offense.

Tier 1

Tom Brady (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Drew Brees (@ GB)
Russell Wilson (@ NYG)
Carson Wentz (vs WAS)
Matt Ryan (@ NE)
Dak Prescott (@ SF)
Kirk Cousins (@ PHI)

Tier 3

Cam Newton (@ CHI)
Alex Smith (@ OAK)

Tier 4

Marcus Mariota (@ CLE)

Tier 5

Tyrod Taylor (vs TB)
Jameis Winston (@ BUF)
Carson Palmer (@ LAR)
Jared Goff (vs ARI)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs CIN)
Philip Rivers (vs DEN)

Tier 6

Brett Hundley (vs NO)
Case Keenum (vs BAL)
Kevin Hogan (vs TEN)
Blake Bortles (@ IND)

Tier 7

Andy Dalton (@ PIT)
Derek Carr (vs KC)
Trevor Siemian (@ LAC)
C.J. Beathard (vs DAL)
Jay Cutler (vs NYJ)
Jacoby Brissett (vs JAX)
Josh McCown (@ MIA)
Mitchell Trubisky (vs CAR)

Tier 8

Eli Manning (vs SEA)
Joe Flacco (@ MIN)

Running Backs

Aaron Jones was a player last week that fell 10+ spots in my rankings come Sunday. You have to keep in mind that, for someone in a situation like his, we can’t simply rank him on talent alone or what he did the previous week. The availability of Ty Montgomery has a significant impact on his outlook, no matter if you think GB should just use Jones as a workhorse back. I’m in the business of trying to figure out what the Packers will do in the upcoming week (aka “understanding McCarthyism”), not what I think they should do.

Once they had announced Montgomery was wearing a flak jacket and would have no limitations or some specific snap count, I made them a 56/44 rush attempt percentage RBBC, making both very weak fantasy options for Week 6. That turned out to be exactly what happened, and I would imagine Montgomery’s increased health this week means that split will be even closer to even this week. That’s just one example of a player(s) whose rank on Tuesday night could swing quite a bit with five whole days of news/updates.

Tier 1

Kareem Hunt (@ OAK)
Le’Veon Bell (vs CIN)

Tier 2

Ezekiel Elliott (@ SF)
Leonard Fournette (@ IND)

Tier 3

Todd Gurley (vs ARI)

Tier 4

Melvin Gordon (vs DEN)
LeSean McCoy (vs TB)
Jay Ajayi (vs NYJ)
Devonta Freeman (@ NE)
Mark Ingram (@ GB)

Tier 5

Jordan Howard (vs CAR)
Carlos Hyde (vs DAL)
Jerick McKinnon (vs BAL)
Adrian Peterson (-2, @ LAR)
C.J. Anderson (@ LAC)

Tier 6

DeMarco Murray (@ CLE)

Tier 7

Doug Martin (@ BUF)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, @ CHI)
Chris Thompson (+1, @ PHI)
Alvin Kamara (+1, @ GB)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs KC)
Tevin Coleman (@ NE)
Joe Mixon (@ PIT)
Derrick Henry (-1, @ CLE)
Javorius Allen (+1, @ MIN)
Isaiah Crowell (vs TEN)
LeGarrette Blount (-1, vs WAS)
Aaron Jones (vs NO)

Tier 8

Frank Gore (vs JAX)
Jonathan Stewart (@ CHI)
Mike Gillislee (-1, vs ATL)
Orleans Darkwa (vs SEA)
Ty Montgomery (vs NO)
Alex Collins (@ MIN)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+1, vs TEN)
Marlon Mack (vs JAX)

Tier 9

Latavius Murray (vs BAL)
Tarik Cohen (+2, vs CAR)
James White (+2, vs ATL)
Chris Ivory (+1, @ IND)
Matt Forte (@ MIA)

Wide Receivers

The availability of Stefon Diggs and DeVante Parker greatly influences the outlooks of their teammates in the passing game, and to a certain extent can impact their QBs’ outlook. If Diggs is ruled out again, expect Thielen to jump up to the top of Teir 4 or higher. If Parker is ruled out again, nearly the same can be said for Jarvis Landry. I also mentioned on ESPN Radio last Friday that Kenny Stills was a sneaky WR3 play with Parker out. That would apply to Week 7 as well.

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (vs CIN)

Tier 2

A.J. Green (@ PIT)
Julio Jones (@ NE)

Tier 3

Michael Thomas (@ GB)
Dez Bryant (@ SF)
Mike Evans (@ BUF)
Larry Fitzgerald (@ LAR)
Chris Hogan (vs ATL)
Brandin Cooks (vs ATL)

Tier 4

Demaryius Thomas (@ LAC)
Michael Crabtree (vs KC)
Doug Baldwin (@ NYG)
Tyreek Hill (@ OAK)
Alshon Jeffery (vs WAS)
Adam Thielen (vs BAL)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ CHI)
Jarvis Landry (+1, vs NYJ)
Jordy Nelson (vs NO)
Keenan Allen (vs DEN)
Pierre Garcon (vs DAL)
Rishard Matthews (@ CLE)
T.Y. Hilton (vs JAX)
Stefon Diggs (vs BAL)
Devin Funchess (@ CHI)

Tier 5

DeVante Parker (vs NYJ)
Amari Cooper (vs KC)
Marqise Lee (@ IND)
Nelson Agholor (vs WAS)
John Brown (@ LAR)
Danny Amendola (vs ATL)
Robby Anderson (@ MIA)
DeSean Jackson (@ BUF)
Davante Adams (vs NO)
Ted Ginn Jr. (@ GB)
Terrelle Pryor Sr. (@ PHI)
Eric Decker (@ CLE)
Cooper Kupp (vs ARI)
Sammy Watkins (vs ARI)
Jermaine Kearse (@ MIA)
Robert Woods (vs ARI)
Allen Hurns (@ IND)

Tier 6

Martavis Bryant (vs CIN)
Roger Lewis (vs SEA)
Mohamed Sanu (@ NE)
Ricardo Louis (vs TEN)
Jeremy Maclin (@ MIN)
Kenny Stills (vs NYJ)
Bennie Fowler (@ LAC)
Paul Richardson (@ NYG)
Tyler Lockett (@ NYG)
Taylor Gabriel (@ NE)
Randall Cobb (vs NO)
Juju Smith-Schuster (vs CIN)
Willie Snead (@ GB)
Tyrell Williams (vs DEN)
Kendall Wright (vs CAR)

Tight Ends

Austin Hooper would jump up to Tier 4 if Sanu were to miss another game. It’s important to know when a WR who typically covers the middle of the field is out because it can give the TE a decent boost. To no surprise, Hooper racked up seven receptions on nine targets in Week 6. Even if Sanu plays, the matchup warrants a look for Hooper as a streaming TE play.

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Zach Ertz (vs WAS)
Travis Kelce (@ OAK)

Tier 3

Evan Engram (vs SEA)
Delanie Walker (@ CLE)

Tier 4

Jimmy Graham (@ NYG)
Jason Witten (@ SF)
Jordan Reed (@ PHI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ MIA)
Hunter Henry (vs DEN)
Kyle Rudolph (vs BAL)
Cameron Brate (@ BUF)

Tier 5

Austin Hooper (@ NE)
Jared Cook (vs KC)
George Kittle (vs DAL)
Ed Dickson (@ CHI)
Martellus Bennett (vs NO)
Zach Miller (vs CAR)
Jack Doyle (vs JAX)
Tyler Kroft (@ PIT)
Benjamin Watson (@ MIN)

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Dan Bailey (@ SF)
Matt Bryant (@ NE)
Harrison Butker (@ OAK)
Jake Elliott (vs WAS)
Wil Lutz (@ GB)
Greg Zuerlein (vs ARI)
Josh Lambo (@ IND)

Tier 3

Ryan Succop (@ CLE)
Kai Forbath (vs BAL)
Nick Novak (vs DEN)
Adam Vinatieri (vs JAX)
Giorgio Tavecchio (vs KC)
Blair Walsh (@ NYG)
Justin Tucker (@ MIN)
Nick Rose (@ PHI)
Brandon McManus (@ LAC)
Phil Dawson (@ LAR)
Graham Gano (@ CHI)
Robbie Gould (vs DAL)
Stephen Hauschka (vs TB)

Tier 4

Mason Crosby (vs NO)
Cody Parkey (vs NYJ)
Chris Boswell (vs CIN)
Zane Gonzalez (vs TEN)
Chandler Catanzaro (@ MIA)
Connor Barth (vs CAR)
Randy Bullock (@ PIT)
Patrick Murray (@ BUF)
Aldrick Rosas (vs SEA)

Defense/Special Teams

Tier 1

Jacksonville Jaguars (@ IND)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs CIN)
Minnesota Vikings (vs BAL)
Tennessee Titans (@ CLE)

Tier 2

Dallas Cowboys (@ SF)
Buffalo Bills (vs TB)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs DEN)
Miami Dolphins (vs NYJ)
New Orleans Saints (@ GB)
Carolina Panthers (@ CHI)
Seattle Seahawks (@ NYG)
Los Angeles Rams (vs ARI)
Denver Broncos (@ LAC)

Tier 3

Cincinnati Bengals (@ PIT)
Chicago Bears (vs CAR)
New York Jets (@ MIA)
New York Giants (vs SEA)
Kansas City Chiefs (@ OAK)
Indianapolis Colts (vs JAX)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ BUF)

Tier 4

Philadelphia Eagles (vs WAS)
Baltimore Ravens (@ MIN)
New England Patriots (vs ATL)
Washington Redskins (@ PHI)
Arizona Cardinals (@ LAR)
Cleveland Browns (vs TEN)
San Francisco 49ers (vs DAL)
Oakland Raiders (vs KC)
Green Bay Packers (vs NO)
Atlanta Falcons (@ NE)