FANTASY FOOTBALL LAW OF AVERAGES REVISITED FOR 2008
by Russ Bliss

The Fantasy Football Law of Averages is a personal theory of mine that dictates you recognize the fact that every player will have “spikes” (commonly referred to as peaks and valleys) in their fantasy production from week to week throughout the course of an entire season. Barring injury, there will be a common average a player will usually hover around in terms of the amount of fantasy points he should score each week. If a player is failing to meet his average production, it stands to reason that if his projection was realistic in the first place, the player will have to have weeks where he exceeds his average to even the discrepancy out. It also applies in reverse to players who are exceeding their average; they’ll have to have weeks where they fall short of their projected average. It’s hardly an extreme idea and if you recognize it, it can help you in making sure you’re smart in your fantasy football management skills. Understanding the Fantasy Football Law of Averages will allow you to optimize your fantasy football trades by knowing who has underperformed but probably will have more spikes in his production going forward and who you should be thinking about trading away while his stats are higher on average right now than what he’ll probably finish the season with and his value in a trade is therefore higher now than what it probably will be down the road in a few weeks.

Some practical examples of this from the 2008 season so far are Falcons RB Michael Turner, Rams RB Steven Jackson, Broncos rookie WR Eddie Royal, Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer, along with his two WR’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson. And we’re going to cover a few of these so you have practical examples of how the Fantasy Football Law of Averages works. Let’s look at a struggling former stud QB, one stud RB having issues, another RB in his first year as a starter and while on the verge of stardom has yet to prove himself as a feature guy, and a rookie WR whose stock has risen mightily in just two weeks.

Carson Palmer: From Big Stud to Big Dud? Would you believe it if I told that after 2 games, Palmer has scored less fantasy points than Baltimore Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco did in one? Or Tyler Thigpen of the Kansas City Chiefs in less than a full game where his team scored only 8 points? It’s true. Palmer has been WOEFUL with a stat line that reads like a fantasy obituary for a QB: 26-52-3, 233 passing yards, 0 TD’s. And that’s both of his first two games of the season combined! As we look at his historical numbers, we’ll notice that Palmer has slipped a little in passing TD’s the past 2 seasons going from 32 in 2005 to 28 in 2006, and 26 in 2007. His interceptions have increased in that same time from 12 in 2005 to 13 in 2006, and a horrific 20 in 2007. His yardage numbers have increased each year during that time, and his 3 year average in passing yards is just over 4,000 yards per season. His preseason fantasy football projection for 2008 was around 4,000 yards and 25 TD’s. Considering he has only 14 games to do that in, let’s go ahead and bump those projections down to a meager 3,400 yards and 20 TD’s (both of which are hideously low numbers for a guy who has averaged 4,000 yards and nearly 29 TD’s the last 3 seasons). So what happens when we apply the Fantasy Football Law of Averages to Palmer for the remaining 14 weeks? That’s an average of 226 yards and 1.43 TD’s per game. That tells me that the very low end of Palmer is still better than what half the QB’s in the league will produce by seasons end. And that’s the very low end. Drew Brees was having a horrible 2007 season the first few weeks and still managed to finish with over 4,400 yards, so Palmer getting to 4,000 isn’t out of the question as no one gave Brees any chance of reaching 4,400 after the first 4 weeks of 2007 (and we’re only talking two weeks here with Palmer). Just dropping him to a more realistic projection of 3,700 passing yards and 21 TD’s means an average of 248 passing yards and 1.5 TD’s per game the rest of the season. If Palmer were to actually reach that original 4,000 and 25, he would need to average 269 yards and 1.79 TD’s per game. Considering how poorly Palmer has played, to get a QB who has these types of projections the rest of the season with the high upside wouldn’t cost you very much right now probably. And if you have Palmer, don’t panic as it’s way too early for that as you can see.

Michael Turner: Two Different Weeks, Two Totally Different Results After a week one performance where he gained 220 yards, averaged 10 yards per carry, and scored 2 touchdowns, Turner was being hailed as the next great elite fantasy RB. My original projection for him was around 1,200 yards and 8-10 touchdowns. Despite that being a fairly realistic, yet conservative projection, he was well on his way to blowing those numbers out one week into the season. But because I believe in the Fantasy Football Law of Averages, I knew he was going to have some bad games to even things out. Sure enough, in week 2, he only had 42 rushing yards and no touchdowns. Yes, the differences in matchups plays a part in this, but you can’t always say whether a matchup is particularly great or horrible this early in the season. The point is that over the course of the season, his numbers will average out to around his original projection. And that means he’s got some more of these stinker games in him. I’m not saying he isn’t a solid #2 RB in fantasy terms or that I wouldn’t have him in my fantasy football lineup because of this, but I am not surprised when he doesn’t have a great game. He’ll have some great games, but he’ll also those stinkers as well and by seasons end he should average out to what he had been projected for.

Steven Jackson: Still a Fantasy Starter? Jackson has been awful the first two weeks and only in leagues where you get a point per reception has he been even acceptable as a fantasy starter. 93 rushing yards and no touchdowns through 2 games is hardly going to make him reach a projection of 1,400 rushing yards and 11 TD’s. The Rams offense looks horrible so far after only 2 games and it’s hard to see it getting better, but the law of averages says that it will. It may not get back 1,400 rushing yards and 11 TD’s, but even if he only gets 75% of the original projection, that comes out 1,050 rushing yards and 8 TD’s for the season. Considering where he’s at right now that comes out to him getting an average of about 68 yards per game and a little better than 1 TD every other game. And that doesn’t include his receiving yards. And personally, I think barring injury, and that’s always the caveat when figuring these things out as injuries can and do happen at any time, to any player, Jackson will easily exceed that 75% total of 1,050 and 8. When all is said and done, Jackson is still a solid fantasy starting RB going forward. Even if the Rams are the worst team in the NFL.

DeSean Jackson: Record Setting Rookie or Just Great Right Now? The first time in nearly 70 years that a player has recorded 2 100+ receiving yards games in his first two NFL games is quite an accomplishment and a testament that Jackson flew way under my radar of projection in preseason. He was originally tagged for around 500 yards and 3 TD’s. While well on his way to besting the yardage mark (he is on pace for a ridiculous 1,728 receiving yards, a pipe dream for anyone who thinks he has a chance of seeing it), he does have yet to catch a TD pass (although to be fair, he simply threw one away before crossing the goal line in a mistake he’ll hopefully never make again). So the 3 TD catches isn’t too far out yet considering how many yards and receptions he has after two games. But the yards will come up. Not as far as some overly optimistic fantasy fans would like however. It’s just plain dumb to think Jackson is going to have 100 yards every week. It’s ridiculous to think he’s going to have 75 yards every week. Especially considering that the Eagles have been without their two starting WR’s (Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis) to this point in the season. When they come back, Jackson will have a diminished role in the offense. But let’s say that Jackson is going to now finish the year with a feat few rookie WR’s ever accomplish: 1,100 receiving yards and we’ll go ahead and give him 5 TD’s (one for every 3 games which seems fair since he has yet to score one after two great games). That means in the course of the last 14 games, Jackson will average 63 yards and one TD every 3 weeks. I don’t know about anyone else, but those are hardly eye popping numbers that grab you and say “must start every week fantasy player”. Those are the type of numbers you expect from a WR3 in most 12 team leagues. And to be realistic (which I believe the 1,100 yards and 5 TD’s is being generous) those are hardly the numbers I would want to trade a more proven valued fantasy player to acquire. But there is a mad dash in fantasy football leagues to get Jackson nonetheless. I certainly hope you are one of those who are selling high on Jackson now while his value is at its likely highest instead of those who are buying high on him.

I could go on and break down Eddie Royal or either of Palmer’s WR’s along with many other examples of how this works, but I hope I’ve made the point. Understanding how the Fantasy Football Law of Averages applies to almost every player will prevent you from making mistakes and giving up on players you shouldn’t give up on as well as allow you to know when the Fantasy Football Stats favor you either trading for a player who’s not performing to his actual value or trading away a player who’s outperforming his actual value. This can help you be a fantasy champion instead of a pretender.