I’m playing NFL fantasy football with coworkers for the first time in years. In doing so I knew I wanted to apply advanced statistical “Moneyball”* techniques to drafting and managing the team. With a diligent google search I thankfully found Boris Chen, a Princeton educated mathematician. His simple website, www.borischen.co, helped me draft my team and provides weekly rankings.
My results so far? I’m 4-0 and the leagues leading scorer.
Boris’ math model is built on the intuition that an aggregation of many expert opinions provides more reliable rankings than what any one expert can predict. His model starts with expert rankings from www.fantasypros.com. Every week, fantasypros collects data from over 130 experts, each of whom watch and analyze football for a living. The more accurate experts are given a higher weighting. Boris then applies a clustering algorithim (called a Gaussian Mixture Model) to arrange the rankings into “tiers” of players. Players on the same tier are considered equal by the experts, you could toss a coin or use your own intuition to pick from them. He does this for each position (QB, RB, WR, TE, Flex, Defense and Kicker). Some players at a position may occupy their own tier because they’re just that good (Adrian Peterson, Jimmy Graham)
The rankings and tiers change each week of the NFL season, based of course on expert observations of player performance and the weekly matchup.
Before the season started Boris provided a list of the top 250 NFL players, both together as one unit and then separate by position. I used those lists to draft my team. I selected the best player available, while checking the position ‘tiers’ to make sure I got every opportunity to get a player in the highest tier possible at each position.
I’m now using the weekly rankings to “trade up” for better players, and replace injured players. And I don’t have to fret over who to start each week, I let 130 experts decide that for me. One key to success I believe is to not get emotionally attached to the players – that can be difficult as you tend to mentally “anchor” to players you have selected and watched play.
It’s still early in the NFL season, if you’re playing fantasy football I’d recommend a visit to Boris’ website to learn more.
*”Moneyball” of course refers to Michael Lewis excellent baseball book: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.