Fantasy Football -- Week 9 Preview

11/05/2011 02:49 pm ET | Updated Jan 05, 2012

Strategy topic of the week: How should you rank players by position for the upcoming week's games?

I used to believe that re-ranking fantasy football players by position each week based on their upcoming match-up was a waste of time. Why not just go with your hunches or your preseason rankings, adjusted to reflect injuries, changes in playing time, etc.? Over time I've come to believe that I was wrong. There's no question that analyzing the upcoming week's games can be a time-consuming exercise, but if done consistently, it can certainly improve your fantasy team's results. Here's an outline of the process I use before I set my lineups each week:

Predict the final score for each game. If you're looking to develop player rankings by position for the remainder of a season, it's fine to put most of the weight on how many yards passing, rushing, or receiving they accumulate. Touchdowns are a secondary concern because they're more random than yardage.

However, even among the best fantasy performers (i.e. the ones you start every week without thinking about it) there's a good deal of week-to-week variation in yardage totals. Even though Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, and Calvin Johnson are undoubtedly better fantasy options over the course of an entire season than Josh Freeman, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Anquan Boldin, respectively, there will be a handful of weeks each season in which the players in the second group will outperform the players in the first group.

Assign each player to one of three categories: start, neutral, sit. Some people will trust their instincts in ranking players, but I prefer to look at team rankings for rushing yards per game, passing yards per game, rushing yards allowed per game, and passing yards allowed per game -- these are the same set of stats I look at to predict the outcome of each game. After I get a sense of how well the team will perform in a game, I can start making judgments regarding how well individual players will perform that week.

Rank players by position.

  1. Separate the players at each position by the three categories listed above (sit, neutral, start).

  • Within each category rank players by their status for the upcoming week, excluding players who've already been declared "out". Group together players who don't appear on the injury report with those listed as "probable", then group together players listed as "questionable" with those listed as "doubtful".
  • For offensive players use the player's team's predicted points scored as a starting point to rank players within the "healthy/probable" and "questionable/doubtful" subgroups. The lowest-ranked player in your "healthy/probable" rankings should precede the highest-ranked player in your "questionable/doubtful" rankings. Do the same thing for team defenses and individual defensive players using "team points allowed". For offensive players you'll sort the team points scored in descending order, while for team defenses and individual defensive players you'll sort the team points in ascending order.
  • Adjust the rankings from the previous step as you see fit. If you like a running back on a team you've projected to score 28 points better than a running back on a team you've projected to score 31 points, by all means feel free to revise your rankings. However, the greater the gap between the two players' projected team points amounts, the longer you should think before revising your rankings. Especially when you're trying to rank players for one specific week, the team points matter just as much as any yardage totals you may project.

    Players you'll wish you hadn't started this week
    QB: Ben Roethlisberger (vs. Baltimore), Matt Schaub (vs. Cleveland), Jay Cutler (@ Philadelphia)
    RB: Ray Rice (@ Pittsburgh), Chris Johnson (vs. Cincinnati), Rashard Mendenhall (vs. Baltimore)
    WR: Wes Welker (vs. NY Giants), Steve Johnson (vs. NY Jets), Jerome Simpson (@ Tennessee)
    TE: Fred Davis (vs. San Francisco), Aaron Hernandez (vs. NY Giants), Jermaine Gresham (@ Tennessee)
    DEF: NY Jets (@ Buffalo), Buffalo (vs. NY Jets), Washington (vs. San Francisco)
    K: Mason Crosby (@ San Diego), Sebastian Janikowski (vs. Denver), Rob Bironas (vs. Cincinnati)

    Players you'll wish you had started this week
    QB: Matt Moore (@ Kansas City), John Beck (vs. San Francisco), Josh Freeman (@ New Orleans)
    RB: Cedric Benson (@ Tennessee), Michael Bush (vs. Denver), Reggie Bush (@ Kansas City)
    WR: Eddie Royal (@ Oakland), Jabar Gaffney (vs. San Francisco), Jason Hill (vs. Cincinnati)
    TE: Scott Chandler (vs. NY Jets), Jake Ballard (@ New England), Ed Dickson (vs. Pittsburgh)
    DEF: Arizona (vs. St. Louis), Philadelphia (vs. Chicago), Cincinnati (@ Tennessee)
    K: Lawrence Tynes (@ New England), Alex Henery (vs. Chicago), John Kasay (vs. Tampa Bay)