Tread Lightly and Draft with Caution Players with the Worst Opportunities in 2018

By Adam Hall
Adam Hall

Hard Times Ahead

One trend lies at the heart of every successful fantasy team, value taken at the expense of consensus. This article utilizes the optimized strength of schedule described in my previous article to find underdrafted and overlooked players that represent immense value obscured by opportunity or community narrative.

To be able to take advantage of the available value, a savvy player needs to know not only the players to pick, but who to stay away from as well. In 2017, the Bengals had one of the more difficult schedules in the league along with a projected bottom-three offensive line. After looking through the data it was easy to tell that players like Joe Mixon, and A.J. Green would provide underwhelming performances. Furthermore, last year the Denver Broncos, and New York Jets had two of the best schedules in the NFL, but they were projected to have two of the worst offensive lines. After the season was over, it didn’t matter how “easy” their slate of games were, their offensive lines undercut any means of producing points. This article will focus in on the crossover between the two unfortunate conditions, and hopefully give the reader a means of knowing who to stay away from in 2018.

A quick description of the model before continuing. The model is based on previous defensive production of opponents for the coming year. After determining defensive production from the year prior, free agent, retirement, and draft changes to rosters are quantified using Profootballfocus data, along with a unique weighting system. This outcome is used as a value to determine how difficult a specific team will be this year. A similar system is used to project offensive line production.

A control schedule was made without utilizing the ending weights that serves as a verification measure to add more certainty to the projections. The number before the word “control” or “weighted” depicts their ranking. All ADP data in this article assumes a 12 team PPR league and comes from

The Worst of Both Worlds

The following teams have a combination of poor offensive lines, and tough schedules. Not every player on each of these teams is a poor value and should be kept away from. Though with so many positive choices available it would seem backwards to deliberately pick from a team that’s starting off on the wrong foot. Previous data shows that every year players with tough schedules outperform their expectations, but it is rare to see a player outplay both their schedules and a poor offensive line. Bolded players are players that I think will actually fail to live up to expectations, while italicized players only have a difficult 2018 to look forward to.

Cincinnati Bengals

Strength of Schedule Pass: 29 Control, 29 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 32 Control, 32 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 17 Control Pass, 9 Weighted Pass, 24 Control Rush, 24 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: A.J. Green, Joe Mixon

Baltimore Ravens

Strength of Schedule Pass: 28 Control, 28 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 28 Control, 28 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 10 Control Pass, 28 Weighted Pass, 19 Control Rush, 25 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Alex Collins

Cleveland Browns

Strength of Schedule Pass: 30 Control, 31 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 22 Control, 26 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 28 Control Pass, 28 Weighted Pass, 29 Control Rush, 29 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Carlos Hyde, David Njoku

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Strength of Schedule Pass: 27 Control, 27 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 30 Control, 27 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 25 Control Pass, 21 Weighted Pass, 18 Control Rush, 18 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Ronald Jones, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin, Jameis Winston

Los Angeles Chargers

Strength of Schedule Pass: 23 Control, 16 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 25 Control, 29 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 15 Control Pass, 14 Weighted Pass, 26 Control Rush, 26 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon

New York Jets

Strength of Schedule Pass: 15 Control, 24 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 18 Control, 19 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 29 Control Pass, 29 Weighted Pass, 32 Control Rush, 32 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Isaiah Crowell, Robby Anderson

Seattle Seahawks

Strength of Schedule Pass: 21 Control, 22 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 21 Control, 21 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 30 Control Pass, 31 Weighted Pass, 21 Control Rush, 21 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Rashaad Penny, Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, Chris Carson,

New York Giants

Strength of Schedule Pass: 18 Control, 10 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 24 Control, 25 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 23 Control Pass, 22 Weighted Pass, 20 Control Rush, 20 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr.

Kansas City Chiefs

Strength of Schedule Pass: 31 Control, 29 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 17 Control, 17 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 24 Control Pass, 25 Weighted Pass, 23 Control Rush, 22 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce.

Oakland Raiders

Strength of Schedule Pass: 25 Control, 25 Weighted

Strength of Schedule Rush: 15 Control, 16 Weighted

Offensive Line Rankings: 2 Control Pass, 2 Weighted Pass, 10 Control Rush, 10 Weighted Rush

Overdrafted Players: Amari Cooper
*Great value: Marshawn Lynch

Worst Offensive Lines

As mentioned above, even teams with a great overall schedule can have their season derailed by a bottom-tier offensive line. Beware drafting players from these teams. It would be wise to consult all three articles in this series before deciding, as they each hold a separate piece of the opportunity puzzle.

*The following scores depict the team’s offensive line ranks according to the model.

Best of Luck!

Drafting is never a monolithic exercise. This article is not supposed to stand as the final word on any decision to make on draft day. Though, hopefully after reading this series any player will walk into the draft confident that they know who will have a leg up on their competition. The saying goes that you can’t go broke taking a profit, and if one follows the lessons contained in this series it’s unlikely the reader will go broke any time soon.