Using FireFactor to Dominate Your Fantasy Football League: Wide Receiver Edition

Do the numbers suggest taking elite receivers at all costs?

Fantasy football is all about scoring points.

You already knew that.

You also know quarterbacks score a lot of points -- more than any other position players -- and wide receivers are safer choices early in your drafts than running backs are.

But what if you're looking to draft the best players in your league, based on your league's actual settings? If you're in a non-PPR league, are receivers still the key?

Luckily, we can use math to figure this out.

Our mechanism called FireFactor -- which is found in our customizable cheat sheet and in our brand new draft kit app -- identifies how valuable each player is (per our projections) in your league based on your league settings and roster construction.

FireFactor Explained

FireFactor is a Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) formula, so we can cross-compare positions easily.

Who is more important: a quarterback who scores 300 points or a receiver who scores 200? It depends. Can you start two quarterbacks? Do you need only one wide receiver? What's the deal?

Punch in your league settings in the draft kit and let the algorithms figure it out for you.

FireFactor and Wide Receivers

Receivers are probably the most unique position in fantasy football. Their safety makes them valuable in standard-scoring leagues, but their upside makes them crucial in PPR leagues. How should this impact your draft strategy?

Let's start with standard leagues.

We'll run the numbers for a 12-team, 1-quarterback, 1-tight end, 2-running back, 2-receiver, 1-running back/receiver/tight end flex league that rewards no points for receptions and 4 points for passing touchdowns while subtracting 2 points for an interception. You know, one of them default leagues more or less.

In this format, our projections peg Antonio Brown as the most valuable player in fantasy football. Three other receivers make the top eight: Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, and DeAndre Hopkins.

Then, running backs take over, and we don't see any receiver separating himself from the pack. That's why we have 10 receivers ranked between 20th through 35th overall.

Rank Player Team Pos Rk Pos FP FireFactorâ„¢
20 Jordy Nelson GB 5 WR 176.77 91.24
25 A.J. Green CIN 6 WR 173.86 88.33
26 Dez Bryant DAL 7 WR 171.9 86.37
27 Allen Robinson JAC 8 WR 171.77 86.24
28 Alshon Jeffery CHI 9 WR 169.44 83.91
30 Brandon Marshall NYJ 10 WR 166.78 81.25
31 Mike Evans TB 11 WR 165.97 80.44
32 T.Y. Hilton IND 12 WR 163.68 78.15
34 Randall Cobb GB 13 WR 163.53 78
35 Sammy Watkins BUF 14 WR 163.13 77.6

It's a pretty tight race here, and this makes for a large tier of receivers who should be valued similarly. Higher on Dez Bryant than our projections are? That's fair. I am, too, but the key here is that it's likely to shake out such that a lot of receivers fall in a similar range of outputs over the full season. You can target players lower in this list at a cheaper price and get similar production.

Simply put: FireFactor says that only three or four receivers are way ahead of the second tier, and you can use that to avoid overspending on the second group of receivers.

In PPR leagues (with the same roster construction outlined above), things are actually still similar. Brown, Jones, Hopkins, and Beckham make up the top four, Nelson is 13th, and a slew of receivers -- 22 to be exact -- make the list from 20th through 45th.

To be clear, it's a pretty razor-thin margin between players ranked 12th through 50th, really, as only a few points separate the second and third tiers at running back and receiver, respectively. You can use this how you please, whether that is targeting receivers and waiting on running backs or seeking running backs with safer workloads and taking chances on players such as Sammy Watkins to outperform projections.

The point is that our rankings value the top four receivers Brown (248.76 FireFactor), Jones (217.75), Hopkins (193.97), Beckham (191.35) above all, then a handful of running backs, and then a slew of everyone else for the next few dozens of picks.

This means that you can hone in on who you like most from this tier to outperform projections, as you aren't really missing out by drafting either position early on.

The bigger picture here is that only five quarterbacks and three tight ends enter our top 75 in PPR formats with pretty typical rosters. Load up on backs and receivers early.

What's a Receiver Worth?

We can use FireFactor to get a rough scale, like a draft value chart. Here are some benchmark receiver positions with their closest FireFactor comparisons in standard formats.

FireFactor EquivalentQBRBTE

If you aren't going for a top-tier quarterback, you should just wait, as a fringe starting receiver is worth a mid-level quarterback, so it makes more sense to target receivers in your draft and during trades.

The elite group of receivers should compare to the top running backs this season in standard-scoring formats, but after the top three or four (or five or six if you believe that guys such as Bryant and A.J. Green will finish close to the top of the position), receivers drop off a cliff and running backs become more valuable given the league setup and positional scarcity.

As for tight ends, don't really bother. Unless you're drafting Rob Gronkowski (or maybe Jordan Reed if you believe in him), don't value tight ends over receivers.

Implementing FireFactor Into Your Season

As always, FireFactor is going to show you which positions really matter in your league based on your actual settings. And our projections work to show you which players we see as better than the rest.

The important takeaway is that -- at year's end -- the fantasy point tallies are going to mirror everyone's projections. It's no guarantee that Antonio Brown is the WR1, but whoever is the WR1 is going to be roughly as valuable as we project him to be.

And the math says that -- while receivers will end up as some of the most important pieces in fantasy football this season -- you can't forget about running backs in the pursuit of pass-catchers.