News & Analysis

Bring back the fantasy football pop quiz

Sep 25, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson (15) celebrates a touchdown in the end zone during the second quarter of a football game against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor’s note: Every Sunday, we’ll wrap up the week on PFF Fantasy with some topic one of our writers has been thinking about of late, and recap the features, columns, and podcasts you could find on the site that week.)

If you equate fantasy drafts to tests in school, most of them are open-book — you can check your notes, consult any research you might have accumulated, even have a full cheat sheet.

What we need is the pop quiz.

Our first staff mock draft, concluded just over a week ago, started before there was any ADP data to go off of. I can’t speak for the other drafters, but I used my own rankings as an ADP surrogate. Failing that, people could have downloaded our staff rankings or those of any other site. And failing that, they could just scroll names and hope they didn’t miss anybody.

What I’d like to see, especially in the long-running leagues where everybody gets together every year, is a fantasy draft with no research, no support materials, nothing. You can bring a blank paper to write down your roster if you want, but no laptops, no magazines, no rosters. You can research beforehand, because there’s no real way to stop that. But where an open-book exam tested application of pre-existing knowledge, a pop quiz tested research and preparation and actual absorption of the information.

I’d like to test that side of it. Do you know your football names, rosters, and everything that goes with them? Prove it. Don’t prove you can run the best spreadsheets. (Yes, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the idea.)

My first fantasy football league, in 2004, was a mess. I was at work, waiting tables, on Sunday at 6 p.m., when a friend came up to me and asked if I wanted to join the work league.

“Sure,” I said. “When’s the draft?”


It was that sort of thing. We didn’t do advance research. It was how we ended up drafting kickers by the fifth round; how my roster ended up with two kickers, three quarterbacks, and only three running backs; it was how one guy tried to draft Dennis Green when he got drunk and confused.

And it was fun.

Consider it this year, if you can get the people in your league to sign off. Leave the magazines at home. Turn the computers off. Don’t use the pre-printed stickers with player names. Do your research, then show up at the draft with only your brain and have your draft. Do quarterbacks go earlier because of name recognition? Does the guy in the league with a photographic memory run the draft? Does, say, Allen Robinson fall five rounds just because he’s been out of sight, out of mind?

It’s not practical to do every league this way, not in a world where fantasy leagues are big-money propositions. But — and I say this with no knowledge, just a guess — if you can get one league done that way, I bet that draft will be the most fun draft you have all year.

  • It’s combine time, which means everybody’s focus is on rookies. Jeff Ratcliffe offered up his initial top 50 rankings for the fantasy rookies heading into the combine, to give a framework for what we’ll be talking about for the next month.
  • We’ve looked at players whose injuries forced them to miss significant time last year, but what about those who played through their pain? Scott Barrett pored over the 2017 injury reports to find players whose numbers went down when they were apparently on the mend to find potential 2018 draft values.
  • Scott Spratt dove deep on yards before and after contact, offering up a tweak to our traditional way of calculating them that attempts to carve out chunk runs from the equation, and then looking at the teams and players whose chunk runs made up the biggest part of their production.
  • Speaking of blocking and running backs, it’s easy to discuss how many defenders a back faces. But without knowing how many blockers he has on his side, is it really that helpful? Scott Barrett took a trip into blocking advantages to see what backs made the most of their advantages and which overcame their disadvantages.
  • Eight times in the last seven years, teammates have both finished as top-12 fantasy receivers, WR1s in most leagues. It didn’t happen in 2017, but still, that’s an average of more than one pair a year. With that in mind, Walton Spurlin offered up his candidates to do that in 2018.
  • Daniel Kelley looked at a couple of passing-game successes from 2017. First, was Alex Smith a deep-ball success because he had Tyreek Hill, or was he a deep-ball success who happened to have Tyreek Hill? The answer really matters to Smith’s chances at success in Washington, where he won’t have Hill any longer. Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor was a big first-round bust in 2015 and 2016, but he turned things around in 2017 and started to look like a success. Can that continue?
  • Finally, Scott Barrett’s Metrics that Matter series looked at three different areas: The 1-yard QB sneak, the league’s best deep-ball receivers, and Kenyan Drake’s ridiculous after-contact rushing numbers.


  • Top Rookie WRs and TEs

  • NFL Combine Kickoff


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