Articles by Peter Schoenke

Peter Schoenke is the president and co-founder of RotoWire.com. He's been elected to the hall of fame for both the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and Fantasy Sports Writers Association and also won the Best Fantasy Baseball Article on the Internet in 2005 from the FSWA. He roots for for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings and T-Wolves.

Don’t become a slave to ADP

Fantasy football has two elements: you need to pick the best players, but you also need to know the market for those players.

Even if you knew for certain that an unheralded player would finish with the most fantasy points in the season, it would be foolish to take him with your top pick. You’d be ceding value to your opponents who would not think to take your player until much later (which Chris Liss hilariously illustrates at the end of each season).

But too often people become slaves to ADP. In fact, an article a few years ago argued that using ADP as your primary resource was the best drafting strategy. The notion has merit. It’s hard to beat the Wisdom of the Crowds on many risk management decisions. In the stock market, for example, the experts rarely beat the stock indexes. In fact, 84% of large-cap mutual funds generated lower returns than the S&P 500 in the five years before 2016, and 82% fell shy in the previous 10 years. (The data is a year old, but it’s easy to find more recent data or for other market segments.)

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It’s time to end PPR

The time has come to end the points-per-reception (PPR) fantasy football scoring format. Fantasy football has evolved to where it’s no longer needed.

I know, it’s popular. It may be the most common fantasy football scoring system. Most of the high-stakes formats (including the National Fantasy Football Championship) and almost all daily fantasy football contests use PPR.

But it’s outlived its usefulness. Here’s why:

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It was 20 years ago today

It was 20 years ago today that fantasy sports’ first player news update was written. The very first update was about Roger McDowell. A second update that day was written on Jason Bere. RotoNews.com had launched in January, but added a new system of player news with a searchable database on this date. RotoNews later morphed into RotoWire.com and the player news has remained in the same database. The original updates can still be viewed on RotoWire.com:

Roger McDowell
Jason Bere

Since 1997, RotoNews-RotoWire has written 590,801 MLB updates and more than 1.8 million updates among 14+ sports.

Before 1997, there were some web sites and print publications that had nuggets on players for fantasy purposes. However, RotoNews’ format of having a “news” and “analysis” (then called “recommends”) section for each update has become a standard that even competitors follow. And RotoNews’ player news system was the first that featured a searchable database.

An article from USA Today Baseball Weekly on April 16, 1997 below heralds the launch of the RotoNews player news pages (RotoNews didn’t even have it’s own URL at the time, that would come a few months later).

 

In 1997 we gathered information mostly from print sources, TV and a few online newspapers. With the invention of blogs and then Twitter, the amount of information available on players has increased dramatically. We write many more player notes per player each year as a result. Given those caveats, here are the top 20 most updated MLB players over the past 20 years. It’s a mix of big stars and frequently-injured players.

  1. Carlos Beltran    1,179 updates
  2. David Ortiz    1,044
  3. Alex Rodriguez    1,032
  4. Hanley Ramirez    984
  5. Carl Crawford    923
  6. Josh Hamilton    890
  7. Chipper Jones    889
  8. Jose Reyes    885
  9. Coco Crisp    875
  10. Albert Pujols    874
  11. Aramis Ramirez    842
  12. J.D. Drew    820
  13. Pedro Martinez    813
  14. Miguel Cabrera    809
  15. Jake Peavy    809
  16. Bartolo Colon    804
  17. Kerry Wood    802
  18. Derek Jeter    791
  19. Ryan Howard    788
  20. Joe Mauer    784

RotoWire’s Jeff Erickson has authored the most MLB updates with 45,282.

I’ve chipped in 23,352 MLB player notes since writing the first two and 66,136 overall in all sports (at least the ones we tracked).

Thanks to everyone who has read our work the past two decades on RotoNews, RotoWire or the many partners who utilize our player news (currently ESPN, FoxSports, NFL.com, CBS Sports, FanDuel, Yahoo! Sports, DraftKings, MyFantasyLeague and many more). Here’s to another great 20 years.

No top RB has ever been on sale like Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman is setting records for getting no love from fantasy football owners.

Which is surprising, since fantasy owners should be fawning over him. Last season he had 1,056 yards rushing, 11 rushing touchdowns, 578 yards receiving and 73 receptions on 97 targets. Plus, he added three receiving touchdowns. Add it all up and he led the NFL in fantasy scoring.

And he did that all in 15 games and just 13 starts.

But his ADP this year is just 17th overall in 12-team, non-PPR formats. It’s just 7th among RBs.

He’s just 18th in ADP for the National Fantasy Football Championship, which is a PPR and starts three WRs. He’s 7th among RBs there as well.

And it’s not just ADP. It’s expert leagues as well. He was the 6th most expensive RB in the recent Stopa11K auction.

Yes, he had a decline in the second half (over his last eight starts he was limited to 3.25 YPC, and he had a modest four overall TDs) and has a viable backup in Tevin Coleman. But when do you see a RB who led the league in fantasy points the year before fall out of the first round of ADP the next year?

It only happened once before and that was last season. Demarco Murray finished first in fantasy points in 2014, but fell to 14th in ADP the next preseason. Of course he had been traded from the Cowboys to the Eagles in the offseason, so his circumstances had changed significantly.

Previously since 1998, the lowest the leading fantasy point scoring RB finished in the following year’s ADP was 7th overall. Here’s the list:

Year RB Overall Rank ADP next preseason Rank next season
2015 Devonta Freeman 2 17 ?
2014 Demarco Murray 1 14 55
2013 Jamaal Charles 1 2 13
2012 Adrian Peterson 1 1 18
2011 Ray Rice 3 3 6
2010 Arian Foster 1 1 11
2009 Chris Johnson 1 1 5
2008 DeAngelo Williams 1 7 46
2007 LaDainian Tomlinson 3 1 13
2006 LaDainian Tomlinson 1 1 3
2005 Shaun Alexander 1 3 95
2004 Shaun Alexander 1 2 1
2003 Priest Holmes 1 1 29
2002 Priest Holmes 1 5 1
2001 Marshall Faulk 1 1 26
2000 Marshall Faulk 1 1 1
1999 Marshall Faulk 1 2 1
1998 Terrell Davis 1 1 237

So by any measure Devonta Freeman is being discounted like a top back has never been before. He hasn’t changed teams. And while he has a viable backup, many on the list above had millage (300+ carry seasons), viable backups and changes on offense. It’s entirely possible that the market is off on Freeman’s value.

(h/t to Dalton Del Don of Yahoo! Sports for the idea of this study as after he bought Freeman in the Stopa11K auction he asked “how often do you see last year’s top fantasy scoring RB go so cheap?”)

Is ADP overreacting to last year’s RB busts?

Last year was the worst ever for first-round running backs. Fewer running backs than ever are now being taken in the first round of 2016 drafts. But was last year’s results a trend or historical anomaly?

Of the seven running backs last season in the top 15 overall of ADP (average draft position), five of them were disasters. LeVeon Bell, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch all succumbed to injury while Eddie Lacy and C.J. Anderson all failed to live up to top fantasy status for performance (and minor injuries). All five were busts, defined as not producing enough fantasy points to finish in the top 24 at their position (thus being an optimal starter in a 12-team league that starts two RB).

The first round of fantasy drafts used to be the almost exclusive domain of running backs. Twelve of the top 15 picks in drafts were used on running backs as recently as 2007. The NFL has of course changed since then becoming more of a passing league with rule changes and we’ve seen more time shares at running back to reduce punishing workloads. And last year’s performance of top backs appears to have shaken people’s confidence and accelerated the trend. Only 5 running backs are being taken in the top 15 of ADP for 2016 drafts at this point of the summer. Since 1998, no fewer than seven RB have been taken in the top 15 of ADP.

[For the purposes of this study I’m using ADP data from MyFantasyLeague.com and only for 12-team leagues with non-PPR scoring. Formats without PPR and those that started only two RB were more prevalent 10-15 years ago, so it’s a better historical comparison.]

Maybe it’s inevitable that fewer running backs would be taken in the first round in 2016. But the injury rate in 2015 looks like an aberration. The failure rate of 75% of the running backs taken in the top 15 is far above the career norm. It was by far a record high (next highest was 45% in 2013).

RB in top 15 Busts 1st-round bust %
2015 7 5 71.4%
2014 7 2 28.6%
2013 11 5 45.5%
2012 8 1 12.5%
2011 10 2 20.0%
2010 10 2 20.0%
2009 10 1 10.0%
2008 9 1 11.1%
2007 12 4 33.3%
2006 12 3 25.0%
2005 11 2 18.2%
2004 10 0 0.0%
2003 10 0 0.0%
2002 7 0 0.0%
2001 8 1 12.5%
2000 8 1 12.5%
1999 7 2 28.6%
1998 8 0 0.0%

It would appear that the market is overreacting to last year’s first-round busts for running backs. That could present a buying opportunity. The market has overreacted before. After a 2011 season that saw Tight ends and Quarterbacks put up record numbers, five QB and two TE went in the first 20 picks of ADP in 2012 drafts. And five QB went in the top 15 of ADP. Hard to believe, right? Not many panned out and only three QB and no TE went in the top 20 the next season. Maybe this year’s assessment of RB production will also miss the mark.

RotoWire’s All-Time Most Updated Players

NHL: FEB 15 Penguins at Blackhawks

The RotoWire player database (which was RotoNews from 1997-2001) just passed its 18th anniversary. We were the first company to develop player notes in its current format (landing one founder on the “Mount Rushmore” of fantasy baseball). So we thought it would be interesting to see which players have been updated the most over that span.

Racing: Kyle Busch (784)
CBB: Tyler Hansbrough (90)
CFB: Matt Barkley (84)
MLB: Carlos Beltran (1047)
NBA: Kobe Bryant (1237)
NFL: Ben Roethlisberger (792)
NHL: Marc-Andre Fleury (1300)
Golf: Tiger Woods (832)
Soccer: Wayne Rooney (332)

We wouldn’t have guessed Marc-Andre Fleury would be the most updated player, but a successful goalie gets notes after almost every start plus we track practice movement closely to post notices and confirm who will start (really important these days for Daily Fantasy Sports and tools like our DFS Lineup Optimizer).

Tyler  Hansbrough’s record is the one that may never be beat. How many college kids these days stick around long enough, and are good enough, to get that many updates? Tiger Woods may also keep his record a long time since it may be a long time until a golfer has his high profile again. He basically was everything in fantasy golf for most of the past 18 years and was our pick for top fantasy sports athlete of the last decade.