The Anatomy of a Projection
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in 2018 and has been updated for the 2020 season.
Projections are the backbone of everything we do at Draft Sharks.
Fantasy football, after all, is a game based entirely on numbers. Frankly, if you’re playing fantasy football and not doing your own projections or listening to someone who does, you’re doing it wrong.
But how do we come up with these numbers?
Glad you asked! I’m here to take you into the Draft Sharks kitchen and show you exactly how this sausage is made.
OK — so it’s not really like sausage. The process is more like a pyramid, with each level building on the previous one.
We start by projecting team level stats: total offensive snaps and run/pass split.
That gives us a total number of pass attempts and rush attempts to divvy between the team’s QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs.
From there, we apply efficiency stats to the volume numbers to come up with the projections. Here are the efficiency stats we use for each position:
QB - completion rate, yards per pass attempt, pass TD rate, INT rate, yards per carry, rush TD rate
RB - yards per carry, rush TD rate, catch rate, yards per catch, receiving TD rate
WR - catch rate, yards per catch, receiving TD rate
TE - catch rate, yards per catch, receiving TD rate
Nick Chubb's 2020 projection
Wanna see an example? Let’s take a look at Nick Chubb’s projections to see exactly how they were made.
1,354 rushing yards
10 rushing TDs
221 receiving yards
1 receiving TD
We start by projecting total offensive snaps and run/pass split for the Browns.
On a general level, NFL teams have averaged 1,012.3 offensive plays over the past 3 seasons. The totals for the Browns: 1,008, 1,023 and 973.
Cleveland has a brand new offensive coaching staff in 2020, though. Kevin Stefanski was hired as HC and Alex Van Pelt as the OC.
Stefanski took over as Minnesota's OC for the final 3 games of the 2018 campaign. That offense ran 173 plays over those 3 contests -- a full-season pace of 923 plays. Last year's Vikings ran 973 plays.
Van Pelt has just 1 year of experience as an OC: back in 2009 with the Bills. That team ran 911 plays.
So this looks like an offense that might run a below-average number of plays. Let's project the 2020 Browns for 1,000 snaps, which would have ranked 22nd last year.
Now let's project the run/pass split. League-wide, offenses have dropped back to pass on 58.4% of their plays over the past 3 seasons. We can break that down further into 54.5% pass attempts and a 3.9% sack rate
Here are the run/pass splits from Stefanski's 3 games as Vikings OC in 2018 and full season in 2019
And here are Buffalo's splits under Van Pelt in 2009:
This looks like a coaching staff that wants to run the ball more than league average. So let's go with a 56% pass rate for the 2020 Browns. Apply that to our 1,000-play projection and we get 560 dropbacks and 440 rush attempts.
Last year's Browns allowed a sack on 7.1% of dropbacks. They upgraded at both OT spots this offseason, though, by adding free agent Jack Conklin and rookie Jedrick Wills. So let's drop that sack rate down to 6% on 560 dropbacks for 34 sacks. That gives us 526 pass attempts.
We compute Chubb’s carry projection by multiplying those 440 team carries by Chubb’s projected carry share.
Let's look at his carry shares over his first 2 NFL seasons:
Chubb opened his rookie year playing behind Carlos Hyde. After Hyde was dealt to Jacksonville, though, Chubb accounted for 75.5% of Cleveland's carries.
He registered a nearly identical carry share this past season. But we saw a significant change from the first 8 games of the season to the 2nd, when Kareem Hunt joined the fray.
It's also worth noting that Vikings RB Dalvin Cook registered a 57.6% carry share in his 14 games in Stefanski's offense last year.
Let's split the difference between Chubb's share over the final 8 games of last season and Cook's 2019 share and go with a 64% carry share for Chubb this year. Apply that to Cleveland's 440 projected carries and we get 282 carries for Chubb.
We go through the same process to project Chubb’s targets for this season. Let's look at his target shares over the final 10 games of 2018 -- and then his shares without and with Hunt last year:
In Minnesota last year, Dalvin Cook garnered 15.3% of the Vikings' targets.
But with Hunt and his strong pass-catching resume back in the mix this season -- plus WRs Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry returning -- let's project a 7% target share for Chubb. Apply that to Cleveland's 526 projected pass attempts and we get 37 targets.
So we have Chubb’s volume projections: 282 carries and 37 targets.
Now we apply efficiency stats to come up with the statistical projections we care about in fantasy football.
Chubb has been 1 of the most efficient runners in the NFL over the past 2 seasons, averaging a big 5.1 yards per carry. That's well above the league-wide RB average of 4.3 yards per carry.
We shouldn't expect Chubb to remain quite as efficient as he's been so far. But it's also fair to project him well above league average in yards per carry considering he's fared so well in blocking-independent metrics like missed tackles forced and yards after contact per carry. Cleveland's offensive line should also be better this season after adding Conklin and Wills.
Let's project Chubb for 4.8 yards per carry on his 282 attempts. That gives him 1,354 rushing yards.
How about rushing TDs? Chubb has scored on 3.27% of his carries over the past 2 seasons -- just slightly above the league-wide RB average of 3.19%. Chubb is an above-average NFL RB, and we expect this Browns offense to be above average this year. So let's give Chubb a 3.5% rushing TD rate. On his 282 carries, that nets him 10 scores.
In the receiving department, we have Chubb for 37 targets. We multiply that by a projected catch rate to come up with his projected catches.
Here are Chubb’s catch rates over the past 2 seasons:The league-wide catch rate for RBs over the past 2 seasons is 76.1%. Let's project Chubb to make another improvement up to a 76% catch rate this year. On 37 targets, that gives him 28 catches
Chubb averaged 7.5 yards per catch as a rookie and 7.7 yards per catch last season. That's below the league-wide RB average of 8.0 yards per catch. We'll project Chubb to take a slight step forward in 2020 and average 7.9 yards per catch. Apply that to his 28 projected grabs and we get 221 receiving yards.
Finally, we’ll project receiving TDs by multiplying those 28 catches by a projected receiving TD rate.
Chubb has scored on 2 of 56 career receptions -- a 3.57% TD rate. The league-wide receiving TD rate for RBs over the past 2 seasons: 4.06%.
Let's give Chubb a 4.0% receiving TD rate this season. On 28 catches, that gives him 1 receiving score.
So there you have it. Chubb's 2020 projections:
1,352 rushing yards
10 rushing TDs
221 receiving yards
1 receiving TD
Then we repeat that process for all 32 teams and over 350 players. The result is a detailed (and hopefully accurate) set of projections that fuel our rankings.
More importantly, the MVP Board takes these projections and applies them to your league’s exact scoring system to produce rankings tailor-made to your league.