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Dorey's Rule and the Schedule
David M. Dorey
1997

Dorey's Rule came about as the product of many years of playing Fantasy Football, reading every single shred of NFL-related information and attempting to find trends that could be useful in evaluating a player's future performance. As I have too often pointed out, I have scored every single meaningful TD in the NFL for the past three years by hand. I have done things with spreadsheet analysis that would make the average STATISTICS-1A student cringe. I say this not as some badge of merit, but that I have been rather intimate with the fantasy statistics for a while now and have come to this one rule as the most useful tool I have yet found.

Dorey's Rule:

"Draft as if the season only lasted the first six weeks"

Dorey's Rule considers these facts I have learned-

  1. There is on average, up to a 50% change in the top 10 (or 15 or 20) within each position each year.
  2. A great draft typically only benefits a team for the initial 6 weeks of the season and then come the injuries, player substitutions and the like that affect scoring. It is within those initial 6 weeks that outcomes are the most predictable and NFL rosters are most unchanging.
  3. Typically, in a competitive league, those teams that perform the best are the same ones that more aggressively manage their team in both activating different players week to week and continually adding and dropping players from their roster.
  4. Outside of the top five or so players in any given position (by year's end), scoring becomes more strongly correlated with the quality of defenses against which performances are made. This is most strong for RB's, and least revealing for WR's due to their inherent inconsistency. Past defensive performance is most predictive for the future during the first six weeks of a season.

Let's put it together and think about it. Almost half of the players selected in those valuable early rounds will not perform to expectations for the year and after 6 weeks changes come much faster and more frequent in the NFL. This leads to the experienced FF'er adjusting his roster, looking for good pick-ups by trade, supplemental drafts or free agency. By having the best chance at predicting performances for the initial six weeks, you can then be ready to make your trades of players who have done well for players who will do well. You can predict who will do well based upon what they have done against which team, and then who they will be against in the coming weeks.

My rosters invariably change a lot through the year. Last year my pick-ups included Bam Morris, L. Smith, Detmer, Banks, Kennison and many others. While none were exactly top 10 by year's end, all had at least small, strategic stretches that contributed to my scoring well enough in one league to tie for the season's best record and come in second in total points. Consider that I did this as a new team in a keeper league and the only player I owned before the draft was my supplemental pick Chris "you picked a fine time to leave me" Warren.

If you do not try Dorey's Rule, at least consider the roster you may have chosen and track what would have occurred. I want a fast start in FF, by week six I want to be 4-2 at worst and have a number of players who have performed well so far and are trade bait to obtain the players who have fallen short during the same period of time but should rebound quickly. It is generally advisable to never stand pat on a line-up unless you belong to a league of morons.

Using the same "strength of schedule" formula found in The Draft, the Schedule, and You article, lets take a quick analysis at which teams will probably have the better offensive advantage during the initial six weeks.

Team vs. Worst Defenses vs. Best Defenses
Denver 5 0
San Diego 4 2
Indianapolis 3 1
San Francisco 3 1
Oakland 3 1
Jacksonville 3 1
Cincinnati 3 1
New York Giants 3 2
Chicago 3 2
Buffalo 2 0

What does this tell me? Well, I'd guess Terrell Davis should be the #1 RB by week 6. After slicing through KC (at home though), @SEA, STL, CIN, @ATL and then NE, Terrell has just gone through the easiest part of his schedule and has a much tougher stretch coming up for the rest of the season, when he faces no worst ten defenses and yet 6 of the best ten defenses. I'd further that Denver as a team will likely look Superbowl bound during their week 7 bye and be much more humbled by week 17.

Terrell is an obvious top draftee, and yet I might consider trading him after his bye week depending on what I could get for him. He'll possibly be at his greatest value. But Dorey's Rule is more valuable for drafting the lesser-knowns. It helped me to draft Jabbar last year, take his initial high scoring games and then later obtain a player who I felt would be turning it on (E. George).But for 1997, what information can Dorey's Rule point to? I want to see who is #1 in SD to start the season at RB. Faulk looks promising at first if he proves healthy and in a Colt's uniform. At this time, I'd consider more strongly Hearst, Means and Kijana and whoever appears to be #1 for Oakland.

This also says to me that maybe SF will not be the pass-happy kings during this stretch. If they are focusing on the run more, breaking in a new offense and more importantly, playing STL, NO and ATL, maybe Young will not have to win the games single-handedly. Incidentally, look at their first eight games and tell me you won't consider the schedule when drafting and activating players. I want a SF RB during that time and for now, I think it's Hearst. Consider what the defenses will likely do to a passing game and which games it is reasonable to assume a QB will be playing catch-up by the third quarter. Also find the games that a QB will not have to worry about passing as much.

After these teams, you'd have to start to factor home games, astro-turf vs. grass, domes vs. open stadiums, etc.. This is far more work than most would bother, and beyond the initial six games, the ability to assess accurately outcomes dramatically decreases (even if I do it anyway). Again, you're trying to find tendencies and probabilities, not certainties. You want a feel for the game and the direction the teams will likely take.

Just as important as who is playing a sweet first 6 games, it is also revealing to see who will be facing the toughest schedules to begin.

Team vs. Worst Defenses vs. Best Defenses
Atlanta  1 4
Kansas City  1 4
St. Louis  1 3
Washington  1 3
Miami  0 2

Will you expect that Jamal Anderson, in a new offense, will shred defenses like CAR, OAK, @SF and DEN? Can Greg Hill realize his potential against a first four of @DEN, @OAK, BUF and @CAR? I think these two RB's show promise and may do good things next year, but not in the first 6 weeks of the season. I like Anderson, but mostly after week 9 when his schedule relaxes much more and he should be at his lowest value to obtain. That provided he isn't hurt or replaced by then.

St. Louis actually has their worst stretch to start the initial 7 weeks, and then a better, though not great, schedule from there on out. This indicates I'll be watching Mr.Phillips or whoever else may be there by week 8. Terry Allen will undoubtedly go early in the draft based from last year, but his worst part of the schedule is definitely up through week 8 and then he should find more running room the rest of the year. Almost all players have good and bad stretches. Dorey's Rule is a FF version of "buy low - sell high".

Hopefully this sparks your interest in considering the schedule when assembling your draft list and gives a bit of insight as to how you can determine who to keep, drop or obtain as the season progresses. Dorey's Rule is about gaining an edge, trying to make player assessments more accurate and then gaining benefit from better knowledge. Most people evaluate players based upon what they did for 16 weeks last year, and then try to guess what 16 games this year might be. It's like betting on a relay race that has 16 different runners for each team.

With the large number of players who join or leave the top of their positions each year and the uncertainties that are a reality, make it easier on yourself by reducing what you consider. The last 6 games are more indicative than the last 16. The first 6 games are much easier to predict than the next 16. And besides, your roster will change anyway if you are a true FF fan. Why not make those changes more manageable?

As a final note, no one can accurately predict in order even the top ten for any position for an entire year, much less I. Perhaps the most fun aspect of this hobby is that you just never know sometimes. But I've used Dorey's Rule for a few years now and proven it to be a worthwhile consideration and the most useful analysis tool I know. I do not pretend to know absolutely who will turn in the great overall seasons and who won't. But I am becoming as good as anyone at predicting what the next three or four games will bring.

And you know what? I play my season one week at a time. I really do not care what the final numbers are for any player. I've found a strange pleasure in occasionally not having any superstars but still owning the league's best record. Once I realized I couldn't control what up to 200 NFL players were going to do for an entire season, I decided to focus on winning my games one week at a time. And I have to admit it. I really like those W's a whole lot more than those L's during the season.

Bet you do too.