As the season comes to an end, it's important to take a look at how our preseason draft rankings matched up with reality. This is a practice that we have done internally for many years, and in the interest of transparency, we'd like to share the results with you.
We compared our draft rankings for both standard and PPR scoring to the fantasy production that those players delivered over the course of the season. We then graded each player for how he lived up to those expectations.
Click here to view the season report card.
To calculate our grades, we subtract the season rank from the draft rank and square the difference. An A+ means that the season rank is exactly the same as the projected rank. Letter grades are then determined based upon the incremental squared value.
One of the biggest themes that we typically find among the "F" player grades is injury. Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Kerryon Johnson, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Brandin Cooks, T.Y. Hilton, Adam Thielen, David Njoku, and Delanie Walker all missed time which is difficult to predict both from a timing perspective as well as a length of injury perspective. It's not impossible though as each year we grade each player on the likelihood that they miss time.
That being said, there are also a number of player disappointments for guys who simply did not live up to expectations. That discussion has to begin with the overwhelming consensus #1 pick: Saquon Barkley. Truth be told, Barkley also had to deal with missed games (ankle), but he just wasn't as involved in the Giants' offense like he was last year when he was the team's leading rusher *and* receiver. You could make a similar case for Alvin Kamara who has largely been a bust for most of the season as well when we consider where he was being drafted.
Odell Beckham Jr. failed to live up to expectations just as his QB Baker Mayfield did. Antonio Brown had more drama than a daytime soap-opera. O.J. Howard was the consensus #4 pick among tight ends but has largely been ignored in the Buc's offense. A.J. Green never bothered to set foot on the field during the regular season.
Then there were guys who far surpassed their expectations. As we pointed out back in June, Chris Godwin was a wide receiver that was ready to break out this year, and did he ever! We graded ourselves with an F for having him ranked 17th (PPR) and he finished 2nd; however, if you drafted him in the fourth or fifth rounds, you got a fantastic steal of a pick.
Other guys that performed far better than preseason expectations were Lamar Jackson, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, John Brown, Austin Ekeler, Darren Waller, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jason Witten.
As a whole, the wide receiver position was the most difficult for accuracy predictions. It was a struggle even for those sites that have historically performed very well in our consensus. It also furthers our belief that the "Zero RB Theory" is absolutely bunk. As we pointed out at the end of the 2017 season, having solid running backs was the key to winning your fantasy championship. If anything, 2019 provided additional debunking material as the WR position was far more volatile than any other position making a first round pick of WR riskier than the other positions. Think back to July or August and ask yourself if you would pass on Davante Adams, JuJu, Tyreek, or Odell? Hindsight is always 20/20.
As much as we're going to dwell on the misses this year (and trust us, we'll dwell on that for a while), we should also point out that many of the preseason draft rankings were spot on accurate. Deshaun Watson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Chubb, Marlon Mack, Robert Woods, Travis Kelce, Jared Cook, Harrison Butker, and Robbie Gould all had A+ which means that their draft rank was exactly how they ended up at the end of the season. Far more players received A's. Our consensus gave us a pretty good idea as to where Tom Brady, Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan, Joe Mixon, Devonta Freeman, David Montgomery, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, Austin Hooper, and Hunter Henry.
For 2020, we'll refactor the draft grades that each site has earned and re-weight them based upon another season's worth of data. Accuracy is always a moving target, but statistically we've found that our weighted consensus approach remains superior to relying on any one site for projections and rankings. There is no single site in our consensus that was the most accurate across the board. They each have different strengths and weaknesses. Being able to identify those strengths and weaknesses and leverage them to our advantage is where our NerdRank algorithm comes in handy, and we're looking forward to doing it again in 2020!
Enjoy your offseason!