Fantasy Football: An Introduction to Target Score
Opportunity matters. There are many things the fantasy football community can’t agree on, but this concept is nearly universally accepted. All else equal, players with more opportunities will score more fantasy points. The fantasy football offseason often focuses on season-long data, looking at total targets or target market share a player received on the season. This kind of analysis is incredibly useful, but it lacks the context that fantasy football is inherently a weekly game, not seasonal.
Henceforth, what the main focus of this article series will cover season-long trends, but analyzed on a weekly level. Just ask Amari Cooper owners last year; total targets can be nice, but without consistency week to week, that player may just have his biggest game on your bench. So, after reading this article every week I hope you’ll see that not only does opportunity matter, but consistent opportunity matters.
An Introduction to Target Score
Over the course of this season, I’ll be using a metric I used last year to quantify consistent opportunity. This metric, Target Score, takes into account the amount and variability of target market share on a weekly basis. It compares it to a benchmark and centers a baseline opportunity around zero. For transparency, the formula for target score is the following: (using the denotations “p” and “b” for player and benchmark, respectively.)
((Average_Weekly_MS_Targetsp – Average_Weekly_MS_Targetsb) ^2) / (Standard_Dev_MS_Targetsp)
Ok, let’s use words to describe what this is doing. For those of you familiar with Finance, you’ll notice this is strikingly similar to a Sharpe Ratio. This was my baseline for creating the formula. A Sharpe Ratio compares a portfolio’s return compared to the benchmark, given its level of variability. This is our goal here. We want the players who average the highest market share, compared to an average player, with the lowest variability week to week. Sounds simple, right?
Advantages Of Using Target Score
The advantages of Target Score analysis are three-fold: It takes into account weekly variability, rewards consistency, and – perhaps most importantly – it stabilizes rather shockingly after five weeks of data. Of the players with the top 100 Target Scores after five full games in the 2017 season, the correlation to end-of-season was 0.89. We can essentially lock in this statistic after week five!
You’re probably still wondering how well Target Score is correlated with fantasy points. The results are fairly strong; check out this graphic below!
Target Score’s R2 value is good; it’s not outstanding by any stretch of the imagination. However, we know the aforementioned advantages that Target Score gives us. It allows us to identify elite usage players versus middle of the pack players in terms of usage in their offense. Target Score separates the elite from the average in a way that’s easily digestible, predictable, and usable.
How Target Score Can Help You In Fantasy
Target Score can be a helpful tool for your “portfolio”, aka your fantasy team. The ideal team will have a blend of high upside players and consistent producers. If your team is doing well but have players that have a low Target Score, it could benefit your team to diversify. Do this by acquiring higher Target Score (lower standard deviation/more predictable) players.
An example of a trade one could have made in 2017 was Golden Tate for Davante Adams. Both players had similar target share numbers, but Tate produced a target share more consistently than the Adams. If your team needed a high upside play, Adams might have been the better player for you. But, if your team needed weekly consistency, Tate was better in that area. My hope is for this tool to help your decision making. Use it when trying to formulate trades and improve your team every week.
Notable players that Target Score helped identify as players to target or avoid early in the season in 2017 were: Devin Funchess (target), Sammy Watkins (avoid), Jordan Matthews (avoid), and Mohammed Sanu (target). I’ll be writing a weekly piece this season involving Target Share, players to target, monitor, or be concerned with using this metric. Feel free to reach out to me @FFzinger on Twitter. Comment below if you have any questions. Also be sure to check out the Week Two Target Score report next week!