Don't Use Strength Of Schedule In Your Draft
By Jake Ciely
I write about schedule matchups yearly. In fact, I created my own metric that calculates FPPGA (Fantasy Points Per Game Allowed) and other meaningful defensive statistics to create the ultimate matchup-based weekly rankings. As much as I preach the success of my system – now I sound like an infomercial – I endlessly caution owners not to put any weight in offseason SOS (Strength Of Schedule). And that's with my metric equating to a 75-80 percent accuracy rate across the four skill positions! However, when you draft, ignore SOS… completely. Okay, maaaybe you can use it to determine a coin-flip draft decision, but even then, you're just as likely to be wrong as right. Want proof? Of course you do!
Let's start with the near impossible task of repeating as the toughest defense in the NFL. The last time a team accomplish this feat was from 1993-94 by the Steelers. Need me to do the math? Okay. That was twenty years ago folks! Too many factors alter the SOS ranking, whether it's player movement, coaching changes, etc., and the worst part is that SOS uses numbers from the previous season to predict the future. Hogwash.
Want more proof that SOS is a terrible way to decide draft selections? You don't need to look further than last year. Only seven teams finished with a SOS within six spots of their preseason rank. Just seven. And a six-spot spread isn't great.
Last year, the Lions were supposed to have the second toughest SOS, and yet they finished with the third easiest. The Texans had the sixth easiest SOS in the preseason and finished with the second toughest. Those differences aren't just a bit off; they are game changers (pardon the cliché). A SOS swing of 24-27 spots, heck, even anything into the double digits, can make or break your season, yet owners want to gamble on a stat that is based on insignificant data.
This year, people are warning you about the AFC West, where the Raiders have the toughest SOS for 2014, and the Broncos come in second. Meanwhile, the Saints have the ninth easiest SOS with the Colts having the best. That's why some are also advocating taking Drew Brees over Peyton Manning at quarterback. You know, that guy who just destroyed records last year…
Back to giving you one minor opportunity to use SOS in coin-flip situations, is that even a guarantee? Sure, seeing a mix of the 49ers, Seahawks and Ravens late in the season would concern most. However, what guarantee do we have that all of those teams will actually be daunting matchups three-plus months from now? None… okay, maybe those Seahawks will be even with a few injuries, but you understand the point by now. Just ignore strength of schedule. After all, you’re not going to try to win the lottery by using numbers from the past sets of winning numbers are you?