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

Wide receivers are all the rage in fantasy football. Are they the most important position in the game?

I'm a pretty boring fantasy football drafter.

I think I take plenty of chances on the next big thing -- (like Justin Hunter!) -- and have a bit of an unorthodox method in that I draft, basically, nothing but running backs and wide receivers until the final four rounds of my draft. Then I get my quarterback, tight end, defense, and kicker.

But even with that mentality, the wide receiver position plagues me. It's really my bane.

The reason is that running backs bust at a high rate after, well, basically after Round 2. It's also pretty clear that the weekly floor elite and no-brainer backs provide is pretty unmatched by waiver wire wonders, who don't really put back-to-back games together very easily.

So I know that it's kind of all-or-nothing when it comes to backs. Draft them early or be stuck with players who don't provide an edge, according to our FireFactor numbers.

By the way, FireFactor, if you haven't read the breakdown on quarterbacks or running backs yet, is basically a Value Over Replacement Player method that helps compare players of different positions to one another. You can customize it to fit your league settings, and that's really a big variable when it comes to receivers.

So I know that backs are risky propositions in the first two or three rounds -- but not nearly as risky as banking on finding a solid waiver wire back and playing him in the right matchups -- and that taking backs means I miss out on those stud receivers.

Here's why I'm still comfortable doing that. Even in PPR leagues.

FireFactor and Wide Receivers

To summate the quarterback and running back articles, quarterbacks aren't worth a whole heck of a lot given the supply and demand of the position, provided that you're in a one-quarterback league. Running backs are always in higher demand than quarterbacks.

But most leagues start pretty much the same number of backs as receivers, and we know that most teams can get the ball to two or maybe even three receivers. It's not always the case with running backs. So the supply is greater, and FireFactor indicates just how to handle that fact.

What's a Wide Receiver Worth?

If you've read my other two installments, then you'll know that I like to provide some interpositional comparisons by offering a bit of a trade value chart that shows rough equivalents between various positions based on FireFactor. For an example, if you're picking at, say, fifth or sixth overall in a standard league and none of the running backs you like (i.e. trust with a first-round pick) are on the board, you might be faced with an Eddie Lacy versus Antonio Brown debate.

Based on FireFactor, Lacy, who has a 166.89 FireFactor in 12-team standard leagues with 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 receivers, 1 tight end, and 1 back or receiver flex, is the more valuable player at RB5 than Brown is (144.19) at WR1. Now, you can disagree with the rankings, but unless scoring totals end up being vastly different than historically (as in, RB5 scores 100 points on the year or something absurd), then the positional comparisons are valid.

And that's really what this is about: the strategy and not the players.

So, here's some FireFactor equivalents for receivers in standard leagues with the aforementioned settings.

FireFactor EquivalentFireFactor ScoreQBRBTE
WR 1144.19-RB 8-
WR 4126.66-RB 10-
WR 7111.7QB 1RB 11-
WR 1099.47QB 3RB 16TE 1
WR 1382.87QB 5RB 24TE 1
WR 1668.82QB 6RB 25TE 2
WR 1965.95QB 6RB 27TE 2
WR 2256.62QB 7RB 28TE 3
WR 2553.21QB 7RB 30TE 3
WR 2848.98QB 8RB 31TE 3
WR 3136.47QB 11RB 33TE 7
WR 3434.27QB 11RB 34TE 7
WR 3732.66QB 12RB 34TE 7
WR 4031.37QB 12RB 35TE 7

One thing is clear: top receivers are hands-down better investments than either quarterback or tight end. A lot of that deals with replaceability. And that's why even Aaron Rodgers or Rob Gronkowski -- elite options at their position -- aren't worth such a high investment when you have a chance at a top-flight running back or receiver. (Seriously, the gap isn't worth it.)

This also indicates that in standard leagues, running backs are more important players than receivers, based on year-end totals. Of course, we can't predict weekly outputs to the decimal or anything, but it's interesting to see that, say, WR13 is about as important as just the last ideally startable running back (RB24) over the long haul.

That's different in PPR leagues, right?

FireFactor EquivalentFireFactor ScoreQBRBTE
WR 1216.74-RB 3-
WR 4170.58-RB 7-
WR 7161.46-RB 8-
WR 10146.31-RB 9-
WR 13117.9QB 1RB 13TE 1
WR 16100.15QB 3RB 20TE 2
WR 1992.3QB 4RB 24TE 2
WR 2287.62QB 5RB 26TE 2/3
WR 2580.28QB 5RB 26TE 3
WR 2861.28QB 6RB 29TE 5
WR 3156.38QB 7RB 31TE 6
WR 3451.24QB 8RB 32TE 6
WR 3748.04QB 8RB 34TE 7
WR 4036.68QB 11RB 35TE 7

Yeah, receivers creep up the board a bit and distance themselves from quarterbacks and tight ends. In PPR settings, 11 of the top 24 players via FireFactor are receivers. One is a tight end. The other 12 are running backs. (In standard leagues, it's 13 backs, 9 receivers, and 2 quarterbacks.)

Sure, elite receivers are getting rewarded for 100-plus catch seasons and all, but other receivers like Jarvis Landry are getting rewarded for receptions, too, even if the yards and touchdowns aren't there.

Multi-purpose, workhorse backs actually get a boost in PPR leagues. Jamaal Charles has a FireFactor score of 202.16 in standard leagues. Five backs have scores better than that in PPR leagues because they separate themselves even more than rotational backs. I know this isn't the running back article, but it's important to note that receivers aren't the ones seeing the biggest boost relative to their own position in PPR leagues.

How to Use FireFactor to Dominate

It's simple, really. Go after running backs even if you don't really love the idea of doing so. If you don't go for backs early, go for receivers. It's really a no-brainer.

Quarterbacks and tight ends don't stack up, provided that you can only start one, so not even Rodgers or Gronkowski can give you the edge that a true WR1 can give you.

That's why I'm going to be drafting only running backs and receivers until the very end of my drafts. It's the only logical approach.