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Fat Tails: The Impact of James Conner

Through week 9 of the NFL season, James Conner has 206.5 PPR points and is currently the RB3.  The impact of that has been massive both this season and historically.

James Conner’s Profile

James Conner’s profile was interesting when he was drafted.  There were a lot of signs for high-level potential when he was drafted by the Steelers:

  • Prototypically sized (6’1″ 233lbs)
  • College career with workhorse workload
  • Good offense
  • Day 2 pick (105th)

Just by draft pedigree alone, he would project as an early 2nd (Picks 13-18) round rookie pick where the average RB is the 107th pick in the NFL Draft.

Continue reading Fat Tails: The Impact of James Conner

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Why Season Long Finishes Are Terrible Metrics

James Conner has 136 PPR points this season.  That total would have been good for RB36 in 2017.  That is a pretty good pace through 6 weeks, especially for a player thought to be a backup in season.

An RB36 season long finish in 2017 would have put Conner behind Tarik Cohen, Isaiah Crowell, Jamaal Williams and Jay Ajayi, but ahead of Orleans Darkwa, Derrick Henry, and Rex Burkhead.

If you came into the season knowing you would get a RB36 season out of Conner would you have been satisfied with season?

Asking the Right Questions

Asking about James Conner’s final season standing is terrible process.  If you read or hear someone discussing Conner in the offseason saying, “yeah, but he only finished as RB 20-something” read something else or turn the channel.

The right question to ask about players, especially players like James Conner is how many wins do they add to your team? For Conner in 2018, he has added .94 wins over replacement player (WORP).  Only four RBs have produced more through week 6, Gurley, Gordon, Kamara and Barkley.

WORP is a metric similar to WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, in baseball. Simply put, WORP represents how many wins a player adds above a replacement level substitute player.  For the purposes of my stats, I measure WORP from weeks 1 through 13, and the replacement player is a set weekly finisher.  (There is some decision making that goes into those numbers which I delve into in detail in the book.)

WORP gets to what really matters in fantasy football: winning.

Final season standings are a terrible metric to measure player, because every point counts the same. Except every point should not count the same in season value calculation.

For example: Would you rather take a Player A who scores 100 points in 5 weeks or Player B who score 100 points in 10 weeks?

Player A is only usable for a short time frame, but has a high ceiling.  On the flip side, Player B is widely usable scoring a solid floor of 10 points per game.

The answer is clear: Player A. Player A has made a signficant impact in a 5 week timespan that likely has your team with a winning record.  Through that period Player A has likely added you about .4 regular season wins.

Those who answer Player B are missing the significant boom weeks, and the benefit of knowing when not to play Player A. They are also starting a below replacement level player with about -.3 WORP.

In the 5 other weeks player A is not playing, in a worst case scenario, you start a player who averages 7 points. Instead of Player A scoring 100 points through 5 weeks, he and the replacement player score 135 points, a 35% increase over player B. Through my research that is a low estimate for a replacement player.  Instead you can expect closer to 12-13 points, especially with the proper teambuild.

Where a player has a concentrated level of production through 6 weeks like Conner, he has an immense impact on your team. Consider, of the RBs around RB36 finished last season, Burkhead (RB39) was the best with .42 WORP, while higher seasonal finisher Jamaal Williams (34) produced -.04 WORP. If James Conner retired tomorrow, he would have more than twice as much of an impact than Burkhead in 2017, despite playing only 6 games to Burkhead’s 10.

With the narrative that Le’Veon Bell is likely to come back in week 8, James Conner’s lead role looks to be closing for the time being. That presumes Bell is coming back, plays week 8, plays well, and does not get hurt.  That is a lot of presumptions in an uncertain scenario. Being bullish on Conner is a good play given every risk factor points in his favor.  In a worst case scenario, where Conner gets hurt and misses the rest of the season he’s still no worst than a 4th round startup pick  when Bell leaves in free agency. At best, Conner is a 2nd round startup pick.

With his difference making impact, you cannot sell him low, and should instead look to buy him. For comparison, no RB in the 2019 class can approach Conner’s value.

Any points that you lose from Conner not playing in games this season can be replaced by Theo Riddick-types, trades, or other developments from backup RBs.


The narratives and talking points in dynasty football are easy to exploit if we look at them differently than the consensus. WORP is a great example.   Loading up on “Conner type” RBs has a massive upside. It’s also highly efficient and practical inseason.

My work for the book is looking a lot at WORP right now. Looking for what WORP is like in startup drafts, rookie drafts, and positionally is a highly exploitable and something unique you will find in my book. The Conner example is a classic one and is an example of the efficiencies found in my research.

If you have questions, feel free to let me know on twitter @mcnamaradynasty


The Analytics of Dynasty (with Strategy Session)

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5 Hours Left to Pre-Order The Analytics of Dynasty for $25

Tonight is your last chance to pre-order The Analytics of Dynasty for $25.
The pre-order will get you the book when it comes out in January and a one-on-one strategy session.
The book has a lot of content including:
1. Startup hit rates
2. Rookie-Veteran value trade chart
3. Positional scoring history
4. Why drafting a lot of wide receivers is a bad strategy
5. Draft and trade tips to give you an edge
The content will give you an edge over your fellow owners that you can use to improve your teams in your dynasty leagues.
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Deadline tonight: Hours Left to Pre-Order for $25

Today is the final day of my pre-order offer: If you pre-order The Analytics of Dynasty by midnight tonight, you will get the book for $25 and a one-on-one strategy session.

The strategy session will cover team building, roster construction, and trading tips based on the research from the book. By ordering early, you will get a sneak peak of the data to use against your opponents before the book is released in January.

Some of the topics in the book include:

  1. Better startup decision making
  2. Optimized rookie draft strategies
  3. How to value future picks in trades
  4. How to hit on your picks at a higher rate.

Some of the research for the book is contrary to common narratives and can provide you a way to exploit biases in drafts and trades.

I have detailed some of the findings from my research at including

  1. How the “Boom Bust” narrative about Brandin Cooks is demonstrably false;
  2. Why Kalen Ballage is a must selection in the second round of rookie drafts;
  3. How truly rare Arian Foster was as a running back.

Make sure to pre-order today to lock in the pre-order price of $25 and a one-on-one strategy session.  You only have hours left!