2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Ranking the best and worst schedules
What good is drafting a player if you don't know how good or bad their schedule is?
What sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And what big-name running back could ruin your season? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out.
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- More: Early season preview
What do you think about when you're getting ready to draft a player to your Fantasy team? You probably remember the good things he did. You might choose a guy from a perennial playoff contender or one of the league's perceived high-scoring teams. Maybe an offseason acquisition helped push you to take him.
Those are all nice things, but have you ever considered who the player will actually play against?
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Fantasy Football is about the matchups, so outside of the must-start studs we'll never bench, we should account for the easy and tough schedules. Obviously, every player will face some tough matchups as the season rolls on, but if we can weed out the players with easier paths to robust stats from those who will face major challenges, our squads should benefit.
The schedule will never be the main reason why you will or will not draft a player, but it should be part of the process. That's why I have a process to determine the strong and weak defenses across the league, all designed to help all of us win at Fantasy.
- First and foremost, absolutely no stats from 2017, including wins and losses, were used for this data. It's all based on current player personnel, the expectations for the player personnel, defensive schemes and coaches, and of course the makeup of each team's schedule.
- There are three major elements to a defensive unit -- pass rush, run defense and pass coverage. Each of these elements were graded on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible grade. The grades were formed based on talent, depth and coaching staff. The primary means of judging these players were watching them and utilizing Pro Football Focus' grades.
- My numeric grades were added together to give a cumulative grade for an entire defense. The higher the number, the tougher that defense is expected to be.
- Next, I plugged these grades into the 2018 NFL schedule, independent of game location, day of game, start time, etc.
- Slight adjustments were made for teams playing opponents coming off a bye. Over the past two seasons, teams coming off a bye were 38-26 with no discernible edge if they're at home or on the road. A one-point "penalty" was given for each instance.
- An equally slight adjustment was made for teams playing Thursday night road games. Road teams are 11-19 over the past two seasons when they have only a couple of days to prepare. One exception for 2018: Oakland plays at San Francisco in Week 9, a game that won't require a day of travel for the Raiders, so they weren't penalized, but every other Thursday night road team with a short week had a one-point "penalty" added to their grades.
- After adding the totals, I had an overall grade that measured the expected strength of schedule for all 32 teams. The higher the number means the tougher the schedule.
- Remember, this is a cumulative grade for the opposing defenses these teams are facing, not these team's actual defenses. The rankings below reflect those numbers, with the bolded rankings representing the best schedules and the italicized rankings representing the worst schedules. (In other words, bold is good, italics are bad).
- And finally, a good schedule is only worth a darn if you have a good enough team to take advantage of it!
| ||TOTAL||VS PASS||VS RUN|
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