Football Projection Tool Guide
1. Microsoft Excel
If you’re running Windows you must have Excel 2016, 2013, 2010, or 2007. On Mac you’ll need Excel for Mac 2016 (although some workarounds are required) or Excel for Mac 2011.
2. Solver plugin for Excel (free). Instructions on how to enable it are found here. If you don’t enable this plugin you won’t be able to use the tool to generate an optimal lineup. There’s an extra set of steps that are required for Mac users.
How to Use the Tool to Create Projections and Generate an Optimal Lineup
The first step is to ensure you have the scoring settings set for the site you’d like to create a lineup for. In the top left of the “Projections” tab is a black box labeled fantasy site. Change that value via the dropdown box to the site you’re creating a lineup for.
The NFL Projection Tool allows you to use historical data and matchup specific stats to create custom projections for each player. There’s a lot of data at your disposal, and this guide will show you how to go through the workflow to ultimately produce the best possible lineups for daily sites like FanDuel and DraftKings.
There are 4 main components of the NFL Projection Tool:
Adjustments, Player History, Rank, Depth Chart
Each of the 4 components generates a projection for each player and then you can choose how you’d like to weight the 4 component projections to get to your final composite projections which you’ll use to choose your optimal lineups. Here’s how each of the components works:
The Adjustments projection starts out with a historical average of fantasy points scored by a range of the weekly rankings at each position. For QB’s and TE’s the average of all starters is used, RB’s and Wr’s are broken up into ranges of 1-15, 16-30, 31-80. So if a RB is ranked 45th in the current week his base projection would be the historical average of RB’s ranked 31-80 in past weeks. Then adjustments from all of the other factors will increase or decrease that base projection. In this method historical stats from each player are not used at all. All of the adjustment values have been determined by analyzing historical data in the same situations over the past 4 years (2010-2013). The situational factors you can choose to use in your custom projections are:
- Vegas Line
- Vegas Projected Points (derived from the over/under and the line)
- DST Against Rank
- Stadium Type
- Wind Speed
For example, in Week 1 of 2014 Peyton Manning starts with a base projection of 15.9 (based on Fanduel scoring) which is the average for all starting QB’s. Then he gets a 10% increase from the Vegas line since the Broncos are a 7 point favorite against the Colts and historically QB’s in that situation scored 10% higher than average. The Vegas Projected Points for the Broncos is 31 based on the over/under of 56 and the 7 point cushion for Denver. Manning gets a 40% increase from that value because QB’s that have played with Vegas Projected Points of 31 have scored 40% higher than the average QB. The same types of adjustments are made for the rest of the factors if you choose to use them by selecting “Yes” or “No” in the Use? column.
There are 4 sub-components that you can use to create your own custom player history projection:
- Preseason Projections – aggregate projections provided by FantasyPros.com broken down to a per-game set of values
- Season averages – once the season gets started, weekly averages will be computed for each statOne variation used on season averages is the option to use a player’s “floor” or “ceiling” instead of the average. This could be particularly useful in different daily tournament types (i.e. it might be preferable to use floor stats for head-to-heads to create a safer lineup, but use ceiling stats when building a lineup for a GPP. Floor is defined as the 25th percentile of each player’s fantasy points and the ceiling is the 75th percentile. For the first 3 weeks the prior season floor and ceiling values are used, but in-season stats will be calculated starting week 4. You can choose Average, Floor, or Ceiling on the bottom-left of the controls highlighted in brown
- Last 3 game averages – similar to the season stats, but limited to the last 3 games
- Defense-Adjusted averages – assumes that each player will receive his season average number of touches, but uses the opposing defenses’ yards per carry, yards per attempt/target, and TD rate per play to compute values for the offensive player if they performed exactly at the average level of the defense they’re facing. Regressed prior season defensive numbers are loaded for the first 3 weeks of the season, but in-season averages will take over in week 4.
You can choose how you’d like to weight each of those components to create your own composite player history projection. For example, during the first 2-3 weeks of the year it doesn’t make much sense to use in-season statistics because the sample size will be too small. In that case it might make sense to split 50/50 between preseason projections and defense-adjusted. Later in the season you might want to use all four elements. Just remember the total weight assigned to each of the four components must equal 1.
Each sub-component contains all relevant fantasy stats including rushing attempts, receiving targets and of course all the stats that produce fantasy points.
The rank method is very simple. Over the last 4 years I’ve computed the average fantasy points scored by each week according to the projected weekly ranking value of each position. The best fit regression line was found to smooth over the anomalies. The starting point (based on Fanduel scoring) is 20.94 for QB’s which decreases by 0.36 points for each rank of QB. RB’s start at 16.47, WR’s at 14.46, and TE’s at 11.8. For example, a QB ranked 10th in the weekly rankings would get a projection of 20.94 – (o.36*10) which is equal to 17.34.
Depth Chart (starting week 4)
Once the season gets into full swing the Depth Chart component will become active. This will look at the average fantasy points scored by the player at each given position on the depth chart from week to week. As an example, say Jamaal Charles gets injured in week 6 and is unable to play in week 7. Charles has been the #1 running back on the Chiefs and he’s scored 17 fantasy points per game. With Charles out the next week someone else (almost certainly Knile Davis) would take over the #1 running back spot. The tool would set a value of 17 fantasy points to the player that assumes a starting role.
Now that you’ve gotten projections using four different methodologies you can choose to weight all 4 of them equally or create your composite projection any way you’d like. The values must add up to 1, but you could choose to give all other methods a weight of 0 if you’d only like to use Player History.
Once you’ve finished tweaking the settings you can browse through the projections for each of the players. The “Customized Projection” all the way to the right of your sheet is the final value that you’ll be using to create your optimal lineup. If any of those values jump out to you as being wrong you can make a manual adjustment for any player. Simply navigate to the Manual Adjustments tab, enter the players name in the “Manual Adjustments” column (make sure you spell it correctly or it won’t show you a valid projection) and then enter the value you want to add or subtract from the current value. You’ll see the projection change as soon as you enter in a value.
You can also exclude particular players from your lineup if you want to avoid them completely by entering their name into the “Exclude Players” column.
Loading your own custom projections
Alternatively, if you have you own projections that you’d like to use and you’d prefer not to use the projection engine in the file you can load your own set of projections in the “Custom Projections” column of the Manual Adjustments tab. The format needs 2 columns: Player Name and Projected Points. Please be sure that player names match exactly with the Fanduel and DraftKings naming conventions. Loading data in these columns will completely overwrite the projections that the sheet derives so you will no longer be able to make adjustments via the controls.
Once you have your projections set you’re ready to move to the Fanduel Optimal Lineup tab or the DraftKings Optimal Lineup tab. You can only create lineups for one site at a time, but all it takes is the change of the Fantasy Site value in the top left to switch to the other site.
At this stage, all you need to do is hit the “Run Model” button and it should take about 5-10 seconds to generate your optimal lineup. You will get an error message (Compile Error – Can’t find Project or Library) if you have not installed the Solver plugin in your instance of Excel so please be sure to follow the instructions to enable Solver.
The first component you’ll see on the left is the ability to Lock or Exclude players from your lineup. Simply put an “L” next to any player you want to guarantee to be part of your lineup regardless of their projection and an X to prevent that player from ever appearing in your optimal lineup.
Lineup Type Settings
Next to the “Find Optimal Lineup” button you’ll the the Lineup Type Settings. This allows you to gear your lineup towards the type of contest you’re playing in and what factors are important for you when building your lineup. The settings you can choose are based on two factors that are calculated as an average across the entire lineup.
Ownership %: This is an estimate of what the ownership levels will be for each player in DFS contests. This is not going to be exact because you won’t know ownership until the contests start and each contest could be different. Ownership is very important to GPP’s because you don’t want to own too many players that so many others are already going to own. By contrast, you don’t too many lesser owned players in a cash game lineup because that just increases your variance considerably.
Risk Level: This is the frequency at which a player fails to score at least 15 fantasy points. If a player can score at least 15 points – he should at least be serviceable and won’t completely kill your lineup. This metric looks back over the course of the season and identifies the number of games with less than 15 fantasy points and divides by the total games played. A player that has never scored 15 fantasy points would have a value of 100 and the lowest somewhere around 10 to 15.
Cash: High Ownership & Low Risk Level
Cash game settings put a minimum of 12 on the overall ownership percentage and a maximum of 60 on the risk level
GPP: Low Ownership & High Risk Level
GPP games use a maximum of 10 on ownership percentage and a minimum risk level of 50
Custom: Set your own ownership and risk level min and max
None: Create the best possible lineup regardless of Ownership % and Risk Level)
At this point you should be ready to find the best possible lineup. Hit the Find Optimal Lineup button and you should see the results box change after a few seconds.
Creating Lineups with the Multi-Lineup Optimizer
If you’re interested in getting more than the best possible lineup you’ll want to open the NFL-Multi-Lineup-Optimizer file along with the Projection Tool at the same time. Make sure the files are saved to your computer and you have the file named exactly as it was when you downloaded it from the site.
From the Projection Tool file, click the red “Send to Multi-Lineup Optimizer” button to copy data from the Projection Tool to the Lineup Optimizer. You’ll see an error message immediately if your Projection Tool file is named incorrectly so be sure to have that done first. *If you’re using Excel for Mac 2016 please see workaround below*
Once data is copied over, make sure you SAVE and CLOSE the Projection Tool.
There are 3 new features in the Multi-Lineup tool that were not present in the Projection Tool
- Exposure: set a limit of the percentage a player appears in the lineups you request. So if you don’t want Andrew Luck to be in more than 50% of your lineups you would set luck to 0.5
- Lineup Lock: you can lock guys into certain positions that you definitely want in all your generated lineups. The tool will fill in the rest with the best possible options
- Number of Lineups: This is where you can request the number of lineups you’d like to receive. You should expect the tool to run about 2-3 seconds per lineup requested
Lineup Generator: ALL Possible Combinations
The Lineup Generator is designed to allow you to find ALL possible lineup combinations that can be created from a limited pool of players that you pre-define. This allows you to see how the players that you’re highest on best fit together in a lineup and may reveal similar combinations that you hadn’t thought of. To get your data to the Lineup Generator, click the green “Send to Lineup Generator” button in the Projection Tool *If you’re using Excel for Mac 2016 please read workaround instructions below*. Once this is complete, SAVE and CLOSE the Projection Tool
You’ll see several boxes at each position in the Lineup Generator. This is where you manually enter the players that you’re considering. Be sure not to delete the entire cells, but you can delete the values I’ve pre-loaded and build your own groups of players. You don’t have to use every box (if you only have 4 running backs you’re considering or you’re locked into 1 defense), but you cannot add any additional boxes. There is a hard limit at 3 QB, 6 RB, 8 WR, 3 TE, 6 K/Flex, 2 D
You can use the values on the bottom right to determine how many possible lineups can be generated based on how many players you input.
You’ll want to make sure the “Site” is set to the site you’re building lineups for and then hit the Generate Lineups button. You should see the best possible lineups created from that pool of players ranked in order of highest projected points.
For Excel for Mac 2016 only
The send buttons is currently not supported on so you”ll have to copy data manually between the sheets. Here are the steps for the Multi-Lineup Optimizer:
- In the Projection Tool on the Optimal Lineup tab of your choice: Highlight entire columns B:F in the Optimal Lineup tab and choose copy
- Paste Special – Values Only into B-F in the Multi-Lineup Optimizer on the FanDuel Optimizer tab
- In the Projection Tool Unhide columns J:S in the FanDuel Optimizer tab
- Copy columns M-N and paste special – values only into columns K-L on the Multi-Lineup Optimizer file in the FanDuel Optimizer tab
- Copy the entire sheet of the Projections tab in the Projection Tool
- Paste special > values only into the Static Adjustments tab of the Lineup Optimizer.
- Hide columns I:O in the FanDuel Optimizer tab
Steps to send data to the Lineup Generator
- In the Projection Tool on the Projections tab highlight cells A13:P2016 (can use CTRL + Shift + Down to get to the bottom of the column)
- Paste special – values only into the Projections tab of the Lineup Generator file in cells A3:P1990
- In the Projection Tool on the Projections tab highlight cells CU13:CY2016 (can use CTRL + Shift + Down to get to the bottom of the column)
- Paste special – values only into the Projections tab of the Lineup Generator file in cells AA3:AE1990
- In the Projection Tool on the Projections tab highlight cells DC13:DD2016 (can use CTRL + Shift + Down to get to the bottom of the column)
- Paste special – values only into the Projections tab of the Lineup Generator file in cells AH3:AI1990