There are many ways to evaluate IDP players in fantasy football, what do you look for to pick the players that will help you win?
How do you evaluate IDP players?
Using skill to evaluate IDP players is an obvious method but talent does not always translate to fantasy productivity. By now most people have recognized that the most talented corners do not score well in most IDP formats because they are not thrown at, so they do not get very many opportunities for fantasy scoring.
Opportunity is a popular response but how do you evaluate opportunity? It depends on a wide array of factors including, but not limited to, scheme, role, game plan, opponent tendencies and of course a lot of these things translate to snap count.
This is a big part of the reason why we talk a lot about 3-down linebackers. They are mostly immune to a lot of the factors that could potentially limit their peer’s opportunities because they are on the field for a lot of snaps and play a role in both the running and passing game.
Many people will look at popular snap count sites to evaluate a player’s involvement in the games and they most often refer to snap count percentage. Typically if a player is on the field for more than 90% of a team’s snaps they are considered to be an every-down player, thus presenting a lot of opportunities, but is this the best representation of opportunity?
How do you evaluate opportunity?
Players A and B both played 90.7% of their team snaps so they must have had equal opportunity, right? Player A is Jamie Collins who played 1067 snaps and player B is Kyle Van Noy who played 946 snaps. 121 snaps may not seem like that many snaps, but it represents Van Noy playing only 88% as many snaps as Collins or roughly 7.5 a game fewer.
That adds up to nearly two full games worth of snaps over the course of a season. Depending on your scoring system, top linebackers can score 0.2 points per snap so you’re looking at about 24 points per season, 1.5 points per game.
Player C only played 80.1% of his team’s snaps so surely you would want both players A and B ahead of him. Player C is Anthony Hitchens with 944, only 2 fewer snaps than Van Noy. Obviously, it is easy to cherry-pick these specific cases to show how snap percentage is not indicative of total snaps but what can we take away from all of this?
Snap percentage is only part of the equation, it helps us identify a player’s role on the team but does not tell us as much about their total opportunities. Would you rather have a player playing 100% of the snaps on a defense that is not on the field much (think of the Ravens over the final seven games of the season)? Or a player that plays 90% of the snaps on a defense that is on the field a lot (see the Cleveland Browns with a league-leading 70.1 offensive plays per game against them).
Does opportunity equate to productivity?
The last missing piece is productivity. Sure, it is great to be on the field a lot for a team that plays a lot of snaps but what are you doing with those snaps? Scoring systems may vary but in one league in which I play, Collins scored 180 points, Van Noy scored 162 and Hitchens scored 173. That works out to about 0.169 points per snap (PPS) for Collins, 0.171 PPS for Van Noy and 0.183 PPS for Hitchens.
You want players that are productive while they are on the field. Top pass rushers typically have the highest PPS because they typically play fewer snaps, due to cycling in order to stay fresh, and when they are on the field they are more inclined to splash plays worth a lot of points. The key is to find that happy balance between playing a lot of snaps and being productive while you are on the field. Ideally, you want both high snaps and high production.
How do we use this information to evaluate players?
It is nice to sit around evaluate who was productive but what we really want to know is who will be productive. How can we take descriptive historical data and use it to for predictive analysis? This is the question we will aim to answer over the course of this article series; stay tuned.