POINTS ABOVE REPLACEMENT

What position is most valuable for a fantasy team?





What position is the most valuable for your fantasy team?


Is it the player that scores the most points?


I came across some comments on Twitter about what position scores the most points and has the longest career. The first response that most people have is quarterback. They score the most points consistently and have long careers. It seems like the obvious choice.


What if there was a way to even the playing field? What about using points of each skill position relative to the rest of the players in their position? Maybe the player that is consistently above their replacement is the most valuable asset to a fantasy football team.


Points above replacement can be used to compare each position to other players at the same position and provide an equalizing value to bridge between the differences in scoring for running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends.


Criteria and Terminology


RB1: The top number of running backs equal to the number of teams.


Example: In a 12 team league, the top 12 running backs in that scoring format are RB1s.


In a ten team league, the top 10 running backs in that scoring format are RB1s.


WR1, QB1 and TE1 all are seen similarly.


RB2: The running backs below RB1 in groups equal to the number of teams based on the league scoring format.


Example: In a 12 team league, running backs 13-24 are RB2


WR2, QB2 and TE2 are seen similarly.


The position directly below the RB1 is the “replacement.” In a 12 team league the 13th overall player is the replacement.


The points above replacement gives a measurement of how a player performs with respect to others at their position. The higher the number, the more valuable that player is with respect to their position.


Let’s take a look at the data for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends going back to 2015. This will be based on a 12 team, PPR league with 4 points scored for a passing touchdown. Initial scoring data is from www.fantasydata.com.


The top 24 players at each position are included to give perspective on how many less points a player scores compared to the 13th overall player (“replacement”). Additionally, the average of the top 24 players at each position for each year is also listed.


If you click on any of the tables they will pull up on a full screen.


QUARTERBACKS

RUNNING BACKS

WIDE RECEIVERS

TIGHT ENDS

ANALYSIS


The top 24 players at each position every year are averaged. I took the total number of points scored by those 24 players divided by the number of players to see how that position performed that year. This is an indicator of the quality of that year’s class.


If you take the average from 2015 to 2019 and average that number an estimate of the average yearly production from that position is obtained. This number is how many points should be scored by the top two players at each position on your team and answers the question: Which position scores the most points?


Quarterbacks have scored the most points on average over the last five years averaging 266 points. Wide receivers are second with 245.45 although in some years they scored less than running backs. Running backs follow in third with 230.7 and tight ends come in last with 149.4. The most consistent elite play came from the tight end position.


Travis Kelce has been the highest scoring tight end for four years in a row. Antonio Brown was the number one scorer at wide receiver for three years in a row. Running back and quarterback have not had a player be the highest scorer twice in the last five years.


Points above replacement provides a different lens for looking at the most valuable player for your fantasy team. Quarterbacks scored the most points, but having the top running back in a given year has provided a significant advantage to a fantasy owner. The top running back has scored up to over 200 points more than their replacement. (Points Above Replacement, PAR)


Having the number one at any position is very helpful for a fantasy team, but which position is the best to have the number one player? Averaging the highest scoring player from each position with PAR shows that running backs are the most valuable asset to your fantasy team. Having the best running back in a year is more valuable than the top player at any other position. The following list shows the average PAR for the top scorer in each position for the last five years.


Five Year Average PAR - Highest Scorer at Each Position


RB: 181.2

QB: 127.5

TE: 120.5

WR: 104.3


Running backs provide a significant advantage to a fantasy team. Note that the positions that have the most consistent top performers (tight end and wide receiver) also provide the least advantage to a fantasy team. For dynasty purposes a team that has quality wide receivers and tight ends may often be in contention for a title, but the top running back is the best advantage.


Repeatability of success for running backs has been more difficult to predict in the last five years. Todd Gurley was showing great potential to be the top back for two years in a row in 2017 and 2018 before having problems with arthritis in his knee. To narrow things down, it is notable that the highest scoring running back has been a top ten running back in the previous year.


Tight ends provide the most stability from top to bottom of the top 24 players at their position as their average five year low PAR is -35.9. This means that the TE24 is only scoring 35.9 points less than the TE13. Given that TE1 scores the lowest PAR above TE13 it is shown that TE’s are the least volatile.


A great analogy for a fantasy draft is the lottery. Every player is like a ticket to win the lottery. You win the lottery when you draft the number one player at their position and you hit the jackpot when you draft the highest scoring player in all of the league that year.


Based on PAR having the number one scoring player at their position doesn’t give an owner the same advantage if he doesn’t score that many points above the average replacement for his position.


Key Takeaway


Using PAR, an owner can determine which position to draft in the early rounds will have the biggest bang for the buck. The top running back has provided the best advantage for a fantasy team in the last five years. The top running back in the league each year was a top ten running back the previous year. If an owner were to draft two running backs from the previous years top ten they would be in the best statistical position to have drafted the top running back for that year and thus the best chance of having the biggest advantage in their league.


Overall, using points above replacement provides numerical values that can be used for making clean decisions between position performance. Analyzing this data and creating spreadsheets similar to the ones shown in this article for your league scoring can help an owner prioritize needs during the draft process and roster creation.


@FF_Spotlight Most Valuable Position


My most valuable position in redraft and dynasty is running back for 12 team PPR leagues with 4 points for passing touchdown.





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