2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Another Award, Plus Week 17 Tiers

By: Sean Koerner | December 28, 2017

It was this time exactly three years ago when I lost my lead in the FantasyPros fantasy football expert accuracy contest in Week 16 and fell to second place. It was a devastating moment, but I was determined to finish on top the following year.

And the year after that. And the year after that. Now, I’m writing this as a three-time champion after officially being named the FantasyPros most accurate fantasy football expert.

Year after year, roughly 120 of the top fantasy football experts in the world compete in the contest and submit their rankings week-in-week-out. It’s a pretty daunting task to try to compete against so many top minds in the industry and it takes a huge part of your life to dedicate the time needed to really be able to stay on top of all of the moving pieces for a sport like the NFL for 16 straight weeks. I don’t think people truly understand just how much work it takes some of the top experts to stay on top of their game.

When I entered the contest back in 2013, I already had 15 years or so of fantasy football experience since I started playing at the young age of 10 years old. When it came to making weekly projections/rankings I was still fairly new and had about two years of doing it for my old company. I was pleased to end up finishing 10th place my debut year in the contest and really didn’t know what was next for me. In 2014 I made some significant improvements to my process and really started to make my NFL weekly projections my main focus. That season you may have remembered a sit/start tool on Yahoo! Fantasy Football that was powered by Bloomberg Sports – that was me.

As I mentioned above, it was pretty devastating to come so close to winning in 2014. It was still pretty cool to follow up my debut season with a top-10 finish with a runner-up finish. I knew that I was here to stay. Those who know me personally know that I am ultra-competitive. As soon as I found out I finished runner-up I immediately started to think about what I need to do/improve with my model and process to become No. 1. I was determined to do so in 2015.

Winning first place in 2015 was surreal because of all of the hard-work and determination I had paid off. For those who think the contest has quite a bit of luck involved, the only thing I can say is to look at the top 10 finishers year after year. You see 6-7 of the SAME names each and every year. Granted, there is certainly some luck involved in the contest. Week to week there is a ton of volatility and you can make the case that any given week there is a great deal of luck involved. But over 16 weeks, you tend to really see skill/talent prevail.

Heading into 2016, I was still determined to improve my process/model and try to repeat as the most accurate expert. Winning the contest again felt just as good as winning the first time. Again, after winning I began to think about all the various things I still thought I could improve upon and try to further increase my accuracy. I was determined to get a three-peat and fairly certain it had never been done before in the history of the contest.

After successfully winning the contest for the third straight year in 2017, I can finally say I feel content and am definitely enjoying the moment. This is not to say that I won’t be back again next year and trying as hard as ever to win again or to stop providing the most accurate projections/rankings in the world! It just goes to show that if you put your mind and heart into something you are passionate about, there’s just no limit to what you can accomplish. I certainly can’t imagine what 10-year old me would think if I told him how I’d be able to have a career in fantasy football. It’s definitely a dream come true.

Having said all that, I can’t thank those of you who read my content week in and week out. I enjoy all of the feedback (both good and bad) that I get with how these help effect your fantasy football decisions. Thank you for those of you have reached out to congratulate me on twitter as well, it means a lot to me.

For some of my readers, the season isn’t over yet!

I am happy to announce that I will be providing Week 17 tiers and as always, if you are not following me on twitter @the_oddsmaker and/or visiting the sit/start tool I provide there, you are missing out! This week it’s more necessary than ever to remember that this Tiers piece is fixed content based on where my projections/rankings are at on Thursday morning. For all updated ranks you have to stay informed by visiting my twitter and the info I provide there. I have a vested interest in Week 17 not as a season-long fantasy player, but as a daily fantasy player. Often times people don’t realize that I am actually much more of a daily fantasy expert/player than season-long.

Week 17 is such a crazy week for fantasy given the various levels of efforts from teams. There are a lot of teams with nothing to play for this week- whether it’s they have been eliminated from the playoffs or their playoff seeding cannot change no matter what happens this week. That’s why I have to emphasize that you need to be taking the rankings below with a grain of salt. I will 100 percent be updating these on FantasyPros and Twitter leading up until kickoff Sunday and will still be providing my most accurate projections process throughout. Feel like Week 17 is a great week to showcase just how precise my projections process really is.

When it comes to creating projections in general I feel like most people are either too data-driven or too hands-on. That’s to say that I feel people either rely on math too much or their gut too much. I really do try to find the optimal balance with the only goal in mind being to create the most accurate projections possible. Because of this I literally project out every stat for every team for every player.

I do not consider any scenario too trivial. If Jermaine Kearse is ruled out this week I don’t just set him to 0, laugh, and say “Jets suck”- and move on. No. I set all Kearse’s stats to 0, of course, but I then do the next very important step of figuring out where those stats go now. If I was projecting the Jets to throw for 183 total yards I would then consider if Kearse’s absence would impact that all. When updating his teammates, I am always aware of who is actually on the active roster or who will get called up from the practice squad to replace his spot.

This is how I end up projecting a player like JoJo Natson Jr. for 0.3 receptions, four yards and 0.05 receiving TDs. I take every scenario THIS seriously. This is always why I crack up when people ask me on twitter, “Are you factoring in how Player A’s absence will impact Player B?” the answer always has and always will be “Yes.”

Week 17 is such a perfect case study in how to know when to disregard all the data and trends we learned in the first 16 weeks and know when and where to adjust on the fly.

We have a handful of teams with a lot left to play for, these teams are going to be easier to project this week as they will be playing “straight up” and trying to win, they are: Ravens, Bills, Panthers, Falcons, Saints, Titans, Patriots, Steelers, Vikings. It’s important to note that I can see certain scenarios where this may change in-game. For example, the Steelers need to win, but also need the Patriots to win in order to claim the #1 seed in the AFC. They will certainly be scoreboard watching and there is a chance if they see the Patriots are up 35-0 at the half over the Jets, Mike Tomlin may decide to just rest players like Big Ben, Bell or JuJu in the second half. That’s not to say I think that’s likely to happen, just that these will all be scenarios I will try to be factoring into my projections as much as possible. It’s certainly worth saving that type of energy come Saturday/Sunday when we get more info as to what teams are planning to do for this week. Right now the Tiers reflect my best guess.

There are teams with nothing to play for but pride as they wrap up their season with no chance of making the playoffs. These teams are: Bengals, Packers, Lions, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Jets, Colts, Browns, Redskins, Giants, Bears, Cowboys, Raiders, Cardinals, Broncos, 49ers. I will be on the look out to see if there are any player contracts with any performance incentives that are going to be close this week. While these may or may not impact my projections at all- it just goes to show the lengths I go in order to ensure I’m not leaving any stones unturned when doing projections.

The trickiest teams this week are the ones that have clinched a playoff spot but have nothing to gain by winning in Week 17. They are the Jaguars, Eagles, Chiefs and Rams. I think the Rams still have some way of gaining some playoff incentives through some miracle but they have announced they intend to rest their starters, so I’m lumping them in here. I’m ultimately just worried about what teams intend to do this week verses pointing out hypothetical playoff scenarios.

Two teams that are in their own unique position are the Chargers and the Seahawks. I believe they need certain teams to lose in the early games in order for their games to matter. There is a chance either one of these teams will become lumped in with the “nothing to play for” group of teams. All of these variables will be factored into my ranks come Sunday morning.

Due to the extreme volatility of the ranks this week I’m simply just showing their standard rank (see my sit/start tool link on twitter for PPR/Flex type ranks as well).

Without further ado, here are the Week 17 tiers:

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

Russell Wilson (vs ARI)

Tier 2

Tom Brady (vs NYJ)

Tier 3

Cam Newton (@ ATL)
Drew Brees (@ TB)
Philip Rivers (vs OAK)
Matthew Stafford (vs GB)

Tier 4

Tyrod Taylor (@ MIA)
Jameis Winston (vs NO)

Tier 5

Jimmy Garoppolo (@ LAR)
Matt Ryan (vs CAR)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs CLE)
Case Keenum (vs CHI)
Kirk Cousins (@ NYG)

Tier 6

Blake Bortles (@ TEN)
Marcus Mariota (vs JAX)

Tier 7

Joe Flacco (vs CIN)
Jacoby Brissett (vs HOU)

Tier 8

Brett Hundley (@ DET)
Patrick Mahomes II (@ DEN)
Paxton Lynch (vs KC)
Jay Cutler (vs BUF)

Tier 9

Eli Manning (vs WAS)
Derek Carr (@ LAC)
Sean Mannion (vs SF)
DeShone Kizer (@ PIT)
Andy Dalton (@ BAL)

Tier 10

Mitchell Trubisky (@ MIN)
T.J. Yates (@ IND)
Drew Stanton (@ SEA)

Tier 11

Nate Sudfeld (vs DAL)
Cooper Rush (@ PHI)
Bryce Petty (@ NE)

Tier 12

Dak Prescott (@ PHI)
Nick Foles (vs DAL)
Christian Hackenberg (@ NE)

Running Backs

Tier 1

Le’Veon Bell (vs CLE)

Tier 2

LeSean McCoy (@ MIA)
Mark Ingram (@ TB)
Alvin Kamara (@ TB)

Tier 3

Melvin Gordon (vs OAK)

Tier 4

Kenyan Drake (vs BUF)
Derrick Henry (vs JAX)
Alex Collins (vs CIN)

Tier 5

Leonard Fournette (@ TEN)
Dion Lewis (vs NYJ)
Devonta Freeman (vs CAR)
Carlos Hyde (@ LAR)
Jamaal Williams (@ DET)
C.J. Anderson (vs KC)
Latavius Murray (vs CHI)

Tier 6

Christian McCaffrey (@ ATL)
Marshawn Lynch (@ LAC)
Frank Gore (vs HOU)

Tier 7

Jordan Howard (@ MIN)
Lamar Miller (@ IND)
Mike Davis (vs ARI)
Giovani Bernard (@ BAL)

Tier 8

Jerick McKinnon (vs CHI)
Samaje Perine (@ NYG)
Peyton Barber (vs NO)
Kerwynn Williams (@ SEA)
Isaiah Crowell (@ PIT)

Tier 9

Wayne Gallman (vs WAS)
Bilal Powell (@ NE)
Kareem Hunt (@ DEN)
Tevin Coleman (vs CAR)
Kapri Bibbs (@ NYG)
Duke Johnson Jr. (@ PIT)
Rod Smith (@ PHI)
Theo Riddick (vs GB)
Jonathan Stewart (@ ATL)
Malcolm Brown (vs SF)

Tier 10

Devontae Booker (vs KC)
Marlon Mack (vs HOU)
Ezekiel Elliott (@ PHI)
Javorius Allen (vs CIN)
Charcandrick West (@ DEN)
Matt Forte (@ NE)

Tier 11

Matt Breida (@ LAR)
T.J. Yeldon (@ TEN)
Tion Green (vs GB)
Danny Woodhead (vs CIN)
Alfred Blue (@ IND)
Orleans Darkwa (vs WAS)
Branden Oliver (vs OAK)
Alfred Morris (@ PHI)

Wide Receivers

Tier 1

Julio Jones (vs CAR)
Keenan Allen (vs OAK)
Michael Thomas (@ TB)

Tier 2

Mike Evans (vs NO)
A.J. Green (@ BAL)
Juju Smith-Schuster (vs CLE)
Adam Thielen (vs CHI)
Brandin Cooks (vs NYJ)
Marvin Jones Jr. (vs GB)

Tier 3

Larry Fitzgerald (@ SEA)
Marquise Goodwin (@ LAR)
Doug Baldwin (vs ARI)

Tier 4

T.Y. Hilton (vs HOU)
Stefon Diggs (vs CHI)
Golden Tate (vs GB)
Demaryius Thomas (vs KC)
Martavis Bryant (vs CLE)
Michael Crabtree (@ LAC)

Tier 5

Jarvis Landry (vs BUF)
Jamison Crowder (@ NYG)
Devin Funchess (@ ATL)
Mohamed Sanu (vs CAR)
Josh Gordon (@ PIT)
Robby Anderson (@ NE)
Mike Wallace (vs CIN)
Rishard Matthews (vs JAX)

Tier 6

Dede Westbrook (@ TEN)
Keelan Cole (@ TEN)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ MIA)
Randall Cobb (@ DET)
Tyreek Hill (@ DEN)
Josh Doctson (@ NYG)
Sterling Shepard (vs WAS)
DeVante Parker (vs BUF)
Kenny Golladay (vs GB)
Will Fuller V (@ IND)
Paul Richardson (vs ARI)
Ted Ginn Jr. (@ TB)
Tyrell Williams (vs OAK)
DeSean Jackson (vs NO)
Kenny Stills (vs BUF)

Tier 7

Roger Lewis (vs WAS)
Jermaine Kearse (@ NE)
Amari Cooper (@ LAC)
Danny Amendola (vs NYJ)
Corey Davis (vs JAX)
Kendall Wright (@ MIN)
Eric Decker (vs JAX)
Chris Godwin (vs NO)
Jakeem Grant (vs BUF)
Trent Taylor (@ LAR)

Tier 8

Travis Benjamin (vs OAK)
Brandon LaFell (@ BAL)
Tyler Lockett (vs ARI)
Emmanuel Sanders (vs KC)
Deonte Thompson (@ MIA)
Ryan Grant (@ NYG)
Corey Coleman (@ PIT)
Chester Rogers (vs HOU)
Jeremy Maclin (vs CIN)

Tier 9

Brice Butler (@ PHI)
Eli Rogers (vs CLE)
Seth Roberts (@ LAC)
Geronimo Allison (@ DET)
Braxton Miller (@ IND)
Adam Humphries (vs NO)
Nelson Agholor (vs DAL)
Alshon Jeffery (vs DAL)
Brandon Coleman (@ TB)
Kendrick Bourne (@ LAR)
Robert Woods (vs SF)
Tavon Austin (vs SF)
Albert Wilson (@ DEN)
Dez Bryant (@ PHI)
Jaydon Mickens (@ TEN)

Tight Ends

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (vs NYJ)

Tier 4 (yes, that big of a drop)

Delanie Walker (vs JAX)
Greg Olsen (@ ATL)
Eric Ebron (vs GB)
Jack Doyle (vs HOU)
Antonio Gates (vs OAK)
Evan Engram (vs WAS)
Charles Clay (@ MIA)
Jimmy Graham (vs ARI)

Tier 5

Kyle Rudolph (vs CHI)

Tier 6

Travis Kelce (@ DEN)
Cameron Brate (vs NO)
Vernon Davis (@ NYG)
Jared Cook (@ LAC)

Tier 7

Benjamin Watson (vs CIN)
Austin Hooper (vs CAR)
Stephen Anderson (@ IND)
George Kittle (@ LAR)
Tyler Kroft (@ BAL)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ NE)
Zach Ertz (vs DAL)
Vance McDonald (vs CLE)
Lance Kendricks (@ DET)
Jason Witten (@ PHI)
A.J. Derby (vs BUF)
|Trey Burton (vs DAL)
Jesse James (vs CLE)
Garrett Celek (@ LAR)

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (vs NYJ)

Tier 2

Wil Lutz (@ TB)

Tier 3

Matt Prater (vs GB)
Matt Bryant (vs CAR)
Kai Forbath (vs CHI)
Justin Tucker (vs CIN)
Nick Rose (vs OAK)

Tier 4

Adam Vinatieri (vs HOU)
Chris Boswell (vs CLE)

Tier 5

Stephen Hauschka (@ MIA)
Blair Walsh (vs ARI)
Sam Ficken (vs SF)
Ryan Succop (vs JAX)
Robbie Gould (@ LAR)
Dan Bailey (@ PHI)
Graham Gano (@ ATL)
Dustin Hopkins (@ NYG)
Patrick Murray (vs NO)
Brandon McManus (vs KC)

Tier 6

Cody Parkey (vs BUF)
Josh Lambo (@ TEN)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (@ IND)
Harrison Butker (@ DEN)
Mason Crosby (@ DET)
Giorgio Tavecchio (@ LAC)
Jake Elliott (vs DAL)
Aldrick Rosas (vs WAS)

Tier 7

Phil Dawson (@ SEA)
Randy Bullock (@ BAL)
Chandler Catanzaro (@ NE)
Mike Nugent (@ MIN)
Zane Gonzalez (@ PIT)

Defense

Tier 1

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs CLE)

Tier 2

Seattle Seahawks (vs ARI)
New England Patriots (vs NYJ)
Baltimore Ravens (vs CIN)
Minnesota Vikings (vs CHI)

Tier 3

Los Angeles Chargers (vs OAK)
Detroit Lions (vs GB)
Washington Redskins (@ NYG)
Denver Broncos (vs KC)
Buffalo Bills (@ MIA)

Tier 4

Indianapolis Colts (vs HOU)
Los Angeles Rams (vs SF)
Jacksonville Jaguars (@ TEN)
Dallas Cowboys (@ PHI)
Kansas City Chiefs (@ DEN)
San Francisco 49ers (@ LAR)
Tennessee Titans (vs JAX)
Philadelphia Eagles (vs DAL)
Houston Texans (@ IND)
New Orleans Saints (@ TB)

Tier 5

New York Giants (vs WAS)
Atlanta Falcons (vs CAR)
Miami Dolphins (vs BUF)
Arizona Cardinals (@ SEA)
Carolina Panthers (@ ATL)
Green Bay Packers (@ DET)
Cleveland Browns (@ PIT)
Cincinnati Bengals (@ BAL)
Chicago Bears (@ MIN)
Oakland Raiders (@ LAC)

Tier 6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs NO)
New York Jets (@ NE)