Fantasy Football – Analyzing This Year’s Player projections

By this point in the NFL season, most season-long fantasy football has come to an end, and league champions have started to flex their bragging rights’ muscles. For me, let’s just say that I will not be doing any bragging. It was a tough season for my fantasy team. My roster was littered with players who spent some time on the injured reserve list. Even through all of that, I was still vying for the last playoff spot, ultimately, to no avail. I am hoping that next season brings better luck.

As you probably know, each August we put together the Fantasy Football Draft Analyzer app, which pulls in player projection data from at least six different fantasy football projection sites, collates the data, adds in your league’s scoring rules, and spits out customized player projections based on those scoring rules. Now that the fantasy football season is complete, I wanted to look back and see just how close, or far, those projections were based on the player stats from the season. Look, I know first-hand that injuries play a major role in overall player production. I will not only talk about players and their actual fantasy points scored, but also the expected total fantasy points scored if the player was able to play in every game (17 games). It’s still not perfect, but it will provide some insight into preseason projections versus actual stats.

I’ll use the scoring from my league to calculate the both the preseason projections and actual fantasy points scored. My league scoring is based on a standard ½ PPR league with six points for offensive touchdown (passing, rushing, receiving). 0.03 points for each passing yard and 0.1 points for every yard rushing and receiving.

First, let’s take a high-level look at the top fantasy football points producers.

Overall Fantasy Points Scored

When we calculated the points projections back in August, the data suggested that Buffalo Bills quarterback, Josh Allen, would emerge as the top scorer with 419.22 points. Well, I am happy to report that when we crunch the actual stats from the season, Josh Allen topped the list again, scoring 445.51 in 17 games played. Allen outscored his projection by ~26 points. Of our top 10 projected scorers, five of them found their way to the actual top 10 scorers. Tom Brady (17 GP, 425.58 FPTS, +62.92 +/- Proj), Patrick Mahomes (17 GP, 404.27 FPTS, -11.81 +/- Proj), Aaron Rodgers (16 GP, 369.55 FPTS, -10.60 +/- Proj) and Dak Prescott (16 GP, 366.07 FPTS, -3.16 +/- Proj) joined Allen on the list.

The other preseason top 10 scorers Ryan Tannehill (16 GP, -56.60 +/- Proj), Kyler Murray (14 GP, -68.48 +/- Proj), Russell Wilson (14 GP, -112.75 +/- Proj), Lamar Jackson (12 GP, -138.62 +/- Proj) and Christian McCaffrey (7 GP, -236.07) either missed games to injury or had their main targets suffer injuries, contributing to their lack of production.

The five players who replaced the players mentioned above on the actual top 10 points scored list are Justin Herbert (17 GP, 411.62 FPTS, +76.54 +/- Proj), Matthew Stafford (17 GP, 379.88 FPTS, +68.66 +/- Proj), Cooper Kupp (17 GP, 365 FPTS, +169.27 +/- Proj) Jonathan Taylor (17 GP, 357.10 FPTS, +115.11 +/- Proj) and Joe Burrow (16 GP, 352.13 FPTS, +37.25 +/- Proj).

Total Fantasy Points Expected

Now, let’s pretend that every player was able to participate on all 17 regular season games, and they performed at the same level every week. How would that affect our top 10 scoring list? To do this, I took the weekly average points scored for each player and multiplied it by 17 weeks (I know it’s not ideal, but it at least gives us an idea of potential overall scoring). Five of the top 10 Total Fantasy Points Expected leaders played in all 17 regular season games. Those players are Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford. The other five players missed some games and therefore left some fantasy points on the table. Those players are Derrick Henry (-200.36 from Exp FPTS), Kyler Murray (-68.55), Aaron Rodgers (-23.10), Dak Prescott (-22.88) and Joe Burrow (-22.01).

If we take the preseason Projected Top 10 and match it against the Expected Points Top 10, we can see that six players are on both lists: Josh Allen (PS Rank 1, EXPTS Rank 1), Tom Brady (PS Rank 8, EXPTS Rank 2), Patrick Mahomes (PS Rank 2, EXPTS Rank 4), Aaron Rodgers (PS Rank 6, EXPTS Rank 5), Dak Prescott (PS Rank 7, EXPTS Rank 6) and Kyler Murray (PS Rank 4, EXPTS Rank 7). The other four players on the Expected Points list are Justin Herbert (PS Rank 11, EXPTS Rank 3), Matthew Stafford (PS Rank 16, EXPTS Rank 8), Derrick Henry (PS Rank 23, EXPTS Rank 9) and Joe Burrow (PS Rank 13, EXPTS Rank 10).

Fantasy Scoring by Position

Finally, if we look at fantasy points scored by position, we can zoom in on both those players who outpaced their projections, and those players who fell short for various reasons. For each position, we will look at the Projected Fantasy Points, the Actual Fantasy Points Scored and the Expected Fantasy Points Scored. The Expected Fantasy Points Scored is calculated by multiplying the player’s weekly scoring average by 17 to produce an expected total points scored if the player participated in all 17 of his team’s games.


Josh Allen delivered on his preseason projection, outscoring his projected points by ~26 points. Los Angeles Charger, Justin Herbert, was another quarterback who exceeded his preseason projection. He overproduced by the tune of 76.52 points. On the flip side, injuries caused Lamar Jackson (-138.64) and Kyler Murray (-68.49) to underperform versus their preseason projections. If we compare our preseason Top 10 by position versus Actual Points Scored, we see that seven of the 10 appeared on both lists.




Running Back

It was not a good season for the projected Top 10 running backs this year. Only two of the projected Top 10 running backs played in all 17 of their teams’ games. Christian McCaffrey (-236), Saquon Barkley (-130.3), Dalvin Cook (-123.5) and Derrick Henry (-113.4) took the biggest hits. Jonathan Taylor (115.1) and Auston Eckler (57.7) outperformed their preseason projections. Despite all of the injures to running backs this season, half of the Projected Preseason Top 10 running backs appeared on the Top 10 Actual Points Scored.




Wide Receivers

The wide receiver position saw a handful of players come into their own as Cooper Kupp (+169.3pts over Proj FPTS), Deebo Samuel (+129.1pts), Hunter Renfrow (+105.2), Ja’Marr Chase (+81.8) and Dionte Johnson (+39.5) topped the list of Actual Points Scored, despite not appearing on the Preseason Top 10 Projected Points list. And, as those players outperformed their preseason projections, other players, through injuries to them or their quarterback, underperformed this season. Calvin Ridley (-185.9 under Proj FPTS, 12 games missed), DeAndre Hopkins (-118.5, 7 games missed), DK Metcalf (-21, 1 game missed) and A.J. Brown (-71.2, 4 games missed) all failed to stay in the Actual Top 10.




Tight Ends

The trends that we saw with the other positions rang true with tight ends as well. Five of the Preseason Top 10 missed three or more games. Logan Thomas (-84.08 under Proj FPTS, 11 games missed), Robert Tonyan (-88.94, 9 games missed), Darren Waller (-94.81, 6 games missed), George Kittle (-36.23, 3 games missed) and T.J. Hockenson (-27.14, 5 games missed) all missed their projections, mainly due to injury. There were also a couple of players who outperformed their projections. Dalton Schultz (+108.72) and top-scoring tight end Mark Andrews (+79.71) top that list.




As we know, you cannot predict injuries, although for next year’s projections, I may also incorporate an availability stat that captures the recent history of players ability to stay on the field to try to understand which players are generally available, as opposed to those players who wind up losing games to injury and other off-the-field issues.

I hope you found this information useful. Here is the link to the app if you want to dig in yourself to find some insights. Be on the lookout in mid-August for our annual Fantasy Football Draft Guide to help you win your league and commence bragging!

With the #NFL #SuperBowl in full swing, check out @Qlik's @Qlik_CBO's #FantasyFootball app to see how it can help you win your league next season


In this article:

Keep up with the latest insights to drive the most value from your data.

Get ready to transform your entire business with data.

Follow Qlik