Jul 24

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy Interview Series: 4for4.com’s John Paulsen

As part of our 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide we’re bringing you a QnA with some of the brightest minds in the virtual game to help you understand what makes them tick in their own leagues, and what strategies are worth employing in your own fantasy football draft strategy and roster management to help you dominate your league. First up: John Paulsen from 4for4.com.

John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 season, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in 2012 for an unprecedented three straight top 5 finishes. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-13 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate preseason rankings. Find him on Twitter at @4for4_John

You and I have briefly discussed your use of fantasy points per touch when assessing a player’s fantasy football value and likely outcomes. What is the premise behind this approach? Why is this a better measure than, say, yards per carry?

FP/touch is a good way to identify potential breakout players, specifically running backs who see both carries and receptions. If a player is productive (i.e. has a high FP/touch) in a limited workload, and he’s set to receive more touches, we can be reasonably optimistic about his upside/production in a larger role. It’s better than a metric like YPC because it takes both rushing and receiving into account. And, after all, we’re in the business of predicting fantasy points, so I like to use that variable in my analysis whenever possible. I’ll look at YPC as well, but I definitely prefer FP/touch when studying low-workload running backs.

The per touch data suggests a big year is in the offing for Toby Gerhart in Jacksonville (Photo: John Raoux/Associated Press).

The per touch data suggests a big year is in the offing for Toby Gerhart in Jacksonville (Photo: John Raoux/Associated Press).

Is there anyone (or any two players) when contemplating per touch or per snap data from 2013 that stands out to you as a candidate for a breakout season?

The two players that jump to mind are Andre Ellington and Toby Gerhart. Ellington’s FP/touch of 0.804 was 10th in the league among the top 60 running backs last season, and he’s going to see an increased workload with Rashard Mendenhall out of the way. (The average FP/touch is 0.656 in standard formats, by the way.)

As for Gerhart, he averaged 1.002 FP/touch on just 49 touches in 2013. This is encouraging, but it’s a relatively small sample size, so it’s wise to look at his career touches (or at least the last few seasons) to get a larger sample. He has a career FP/touch of 0.676, and has averaged 0.731 in his last three seasons, which is what Matt Forte averaged in 2013. Is he going to be as productive as Forte? Probably not. But even with a drop in per-touch production, Gerhart should be above average and will see a much bigger workload as the Jaguars’ primary back. This should lead to solid fantasy production.

Ok. Now that you’ve plugged your side of things… I really only asked you to do this interview to help plug mine. We look at points per touch on the defensive side of the football as well, what do you think? I can add the following to the question, or kill it depending on whether you think it is suitable, and/or where you take your response….  essentially noting that saying ‘New England is a top 10 run defense (in yards allowed per game, or even fantasy points per game), Player X is going to go nowhere against them’ misses a lot of variables. Let’s say Tom Brady is going to miss the game, and let’s say that the only reason opponents are scoring few fantasy points against them on the ground is because they lead a lot of games and the opponent abandons the run in the second half. Knowing the per touch data becomes relevant if we can expect a heavier workload for a certain opponent against them, then we have a better vision of that opponent’s expected output than saying “Avoid. Tough matchup.”

It’s essentially the same thinking, but on the other side of the ball. At 4for4, we use Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA) – it’s “adjusted” for strength of schedule, so if a defense faces four great running backs at the start of the season, that schedule bias is removed.

You bring up a good example of how defensive FP/touch could be utilized if injuries (or weather?) changes the landscape of a particular game. I wouldn’t want to give up aFPA, but defensive FP/touch would be nice to have as well, though I’d probably want to adjust it for schedule bias so that we can do an apples-to-apples comparison of defenses.

Fantasy points per touch aren’t the only non-standard metric you use in your player valuation. Tell us about %RV and why relative value is an important measure for gamers to understand?

RV stands for Relative Value, which is the metric I use to measure a player’s preseason and end-of-season value relative to the other fantasy “starters” in the league. This is based on a Value Based Drafting philosophy, and I used it specifically to evaluate how different scoring systems value different positions.

I read your ‘to PPR, or not to PPR’ piece, penned for Rotoworld and shared via Yahoo that pretty convincingly argues in support of standard scoring settings. Is there anything you want to share on that here?

Well, I prefer standard to PPR for the reasons laid out in the study, but I’m not at all opposed to making other changes to reduce the league’s dependency on touchdowns scored, which can often be random and difficult to predict. I mentioned the concept of rewarding players for gaining first downs, which is a better way (in my opinion) to reward players for on-field production. Leagues could also ramp up the points rewarded for yardage, which would also serve to reduce the importance of touchdowns.

In your argument, you point out that an Alfred Morris (4th in rushing yards last year) was just the 20th scorer in PPR settings. Aside from the merits of the scoring system, can you share how this fact (and full PPR scoring in general) impacts draft strategy?

I don’t believe that Morris’s real-world performance is reflected in his value in PPR formats. This is also true for the entire quarterback position, which is drastically devalued in PPR. As far as strategy goes, drafting WRs and TEs early becomes more viable in PPR formats, while waiting a long time to draft a QB makes a lot of sense. Someone like Danny Woodhead has more value than, say, Frank Gore since Gore is barely involved in the 49ers’ passing game.

Another one of your offseason articles, (this one on the Quarterback by Committee approach) piqued my interest.  I’m not the brightest guy, but I managed to figure out the QBBC matrix… I think. The notion of QBBC or QBB waiver wire is gaining increasing popularity. Why is it a viable strategy in 2014 and what is the matrix all about?

The position is as deep as it has ever been, so in standard/PPR 12-team leagues, it’s a viable strategy to wait a long time to draft a QB. In leagues with large rosters (18-plus), owners may want to draft two similar QBs (i.e. a “committee”) and start the player with the better matchup each week. The QBBC Matrix measures how the schedules of each QB pairing mesh, so it’s a quick and easy way to build a committee, especially if owners are pressed for time during a live draft and don’t have time to analyze their options.

Any other 4for4.com content we should know about?

We offer a variety of different tools, reports and content to help subscribers field and manage a competitive team, but the key thing we offer is our consistently accurate in-season and preseason rankings. FantasyPros found that we have the most accurate in-season rankings since 2010 and they recently reported that our preseason rankings were 4th out of 132 experts/sites in 2013.

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