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IDP Player Turnover
Steve Gallo
August 26, 2010
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Football is a sport not just for the young at heart but also the young in general.  Football players easily have the shortest career lengths among all major sports.  The NFL Players Association says that the average NFL career is just 3 ½ seasons long.  Sure, there are players that approach and pass a decade in the league but they are far from the norm.  When you have turnover like that then it makes senses that there is turnover in fantasy football rankings.

One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced fantasy players make is to draft off the previous year’s end of season rankings.  Many factors can affect a player’s outlook for the upcoming season.  On the offensive side of the ball, coaching changes, changes in offensive philosophy, retirement and or injury to a key player can all have a negative effect on an offensive player’s value.  However, with that said a RB is usually going to remain a RB and not move to FB or the OL and the same goes for WRs.  The difference for IDP players is that not only can the above listed factors affect a player’s value but so can a position change.  The difference from an offensive player is that a shift from MLB to SLB means that the player is still a LB but that does not mean they are going to have nearly the same value. 

What you will find below are tables for Defensive Linemen (DL), Linebackers (LB) & Defensive Backs (DB).  The tables show the turnover of the top 20 from the previous year.  The numbers in the boxes represents where a top 20 player ranked within their position the season after their top 20 performance.  To help illustrate the turnover, boxes are color-coded.  Green shows a player that repeated a top 20 performance; blue shows a ranking between 21 thru 50 and red indicates a player that ended the season ranked 51st or worse.  The yellow DNP boxes indicate a player did not play the year following a top 20 performance and the yellow PC boxes utilized in the DL tables indicates a top 20 DL that had his position changed to LB.

When it comes to one of the most violent positions on the football field, LB has to be right there at the top.  With LB being such a violent position to play, it would be safe to assume that would contribute to an above average turnover at the position.  However, from the look of the table below that does not seem to be the case, at least not for the top 20. 

Linebackers
Previous Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
1 2 39 2 1 1
2 5 6 5 23 2
3 119 3 91 49 85
4 12 2 36 102 8
5 93 5 37 10 31
6 4 125 29 28 16
7 19 40 35 14 19
8 164 53 6 2 34
9 32 36 79 68 13
10 83 34 10 12 4
11 3 25 12 137 46
12 6 15 46 61 7
13 7 16 17 35 38
14 39 8 32 31 10
15 26 20 30 4 24
16 23 13 31 DNP 69
17 13 31 58 40 27
18 31 46 102 5 DNP
19 1 4 7 54 117
20 88 DNP 14 69 95

The next table shows how the top 20 LB fared by year.  While an average of only 8.8 LBs repeating a top 20 performance the next year may seem low, it is in fact the best among the defensive positions.  What the chart does not show is that from 2005-2009, 40% of top 5 linebackers repeated their previous top 5 performance.  Conversely, there is some risk associated with drafting a previous top 5 linebacker, as 20% of them finish ranked outside of the top 50.  However, that risk is mitigated some because 76% of top 20 linebackers finish in the top 20 the following year.

Linebackers
Rank 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Avg.
Top 20 10 10 8 7 9 8.8
21-50 15 17 16 13 15 15.2
51+ 5 2 4 6 4 4.2

DL are a major contributing factor to the overall success of an NFL team yet they tend to be overlooked and do not get the credit they deserve in fantasy circles.  Sort of the way tight ends outside of the top 3 used to be viewed.  That is similar to the way that fantasy owners look at the DL position.  In Huddle IDP scoring the DL position doesn’t score near as well as the LB position, so it is easy to see why that point of view exists.  However, with the advent of the 3-4 taking the NFL by storm, reliable good scoring DL are becoming hard to find.  With the position being so thin and the table below showing that turnover in the top 20 isn’t as bad as one would expect I would actually recommend looking at drafting a top tier DL over the top tier LB this year.  It’s all about supply and demand. 

Defensive Linemen
Previous Year DL 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
1 35 2 1 4 3
2 18 101 PC 3 9
3 67 103 9 102 4
4 24 12 47 14 1
5 4 131 150 103 22
6 1 21 27 DNP 91
7 15 1 PC 2 7
8 71 8 7 9 28
9 3 3 18 24 13
10 86 10 44 122 69
11 64 13 39 95 58
12 19 143 15 DNP 47
13 8 23 5 46 20
14 17 5 PC 1 37
15 PC 43 2 161 12
16 43 145 76 26 46
17 51 136 DNP 124 207
18 89 6 52 8 164
19 36 9 110 16 115
20 94 86 DNP DNP 39

The compilation table below shows that DL are close to LBs in the amount of turnover they have in the top 20.  While 40% of top 5 LBs repeat a top 5 performance only 36% of DL repeat a top 5 performance.  That might not seem like very good odds but the top 3-5 DL are fantasy game changers and securing one should be a top priority.  61% of all DL repeat a top 20 performance but that number is severely depressed by the bottom 25% of the top 20.  DL in the top 15 repeat a top 20 performance at a 70% clip but the DL ranked 16-20 only do so at a 36% clip.

Defensive Linemen
Rank 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Avg.
Top 20 8 10 7 8 8 8.2
21-50 12 13 11 11 14 12.2
51+ 7 7 4 6 6 6

Now we move onto the DB position.  You know, the guys that run like the wind and tackle like a matador swings a red cape.  Sure, not all DBs run like the wind and some even hit like a Mack truck but for the most part, you get the point.  The point being that probably playing the least violent position on the field you would expect that there would be much less turnover at the DB position.  Yet, the table below shows the exact opposite.  The DB position easily has the highest turnover of all defensive positions.  On top of that, the risk of turnover does not seem to be mitigated by the top performers either.  I started the research for this article expecting to prove the point that the DB position is so deep that you need not reach for one early or often in a draft.  While the position is extremely deep (2005-2009 average number of DBs scoring 100+ fantasy points is 127), the amount of turnover at the position is what really took me by surprise.
The amount of red in the table below almost calls for an R rating.

Defensive Backs
Previous Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
1 240 2 126 82 29
2 3 18 24 77 4
3 144 3 45 45 26
4 150 11 10 71 103
5 203 92 143 257 84
6 65 8 36 101 38
7 1 35 6 22 80
8 32 32 154 9 16
9 24 10 DNP 36 34
10 85 40 48 72 87
11 12 6 18 41 36
12 8 48 65 213 13
13 7 51 15 44 69
14 73 2 DNP 11 11
15 33 79 131 61 25
16 DNP 70 82 104 93
17 52 59 84 166 213
18 30 98 28 1 5
19 297 29 79 76 62
20 96 19 44 6 184

This compilation table puts the amount of red in the above table in perspective.  While LBs (40%) and DL (36%) top 5 performances were hard to repeat they were far better than the lowly 16% top 5 repeat rate of DBs.  If that does not make you think twice about drafting Brian Dawkins, Tyvon Branch, Yeremiah Bell, Bernard Pollard and Dashon Goldson then I do not know what will.  To make matters worse the top 5 do not just miss out on repeating and fall safely into the top 20 but they instead have a 60% rate of dropping completely out of the top 50.  To drive the point home a bit more, 32% of the top 5 fall to a ranking in the triple digits.  Yes, twice as many top 5 DBs will rank in triple digits as will rank in the top 5 again.  As the table below shows it isn’t just the top 5 that have such a tough time repeating.  On average 50% of the top 20 falls completely out of the top 50.  The last thing I really have to say is, ouch!

Defensive Backs
Rank 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Avg.
Top 20 5 9 4 4 5 5.4
21-50 9 14 7 6 10 9.2
51+ 10 6 11 14 9 10

In conclusion, it is safe to say that drafting off last year’s end of season rankings can be a very risky proposition.  In addition, it is easy to see why LBs are the top dogs of the IDP world but just like the RBs used to be first round darlings, things change.  The time has come to realize how thin the top tier of DL has become (largely due to the explosion of the 3-4), and to embrace making the elite DL like Jared Allen & Mario Williams the first IDPs selected in drafts.  That leaves us with the DB position, the deepest position in all of fantasy football and the position on the defensive side with not just the most turnover but also by far the most risk.  You know I might even consider taking my kicker before a DB in a draft.  Nah, I am not that crazy, kickers are still the second-class citizens in the fantasy world, but DBs are not very far behind.

Note:  Huddle IDP Scoring system: solo tackle (2 pts), assisted tackle (1 pt), sack (3 pts), forced or recovered fumble (3 pts), interception (3 pts) and pass defended (1 pt).

Follow me on twitter @IDPSteve and if you have any questions, criticisms, or suggestions feel free to email me at IDPSteve@gmail.com.

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