How to get the most out of your PFF subscription for fantasy
Talk about comprehensive. Brandon Marianne Lee takes you through every part of a PFF subscription so you get your full money's worth.
How to get the most out of your PFF subscription for fantasy
Whenever you start a new job, no matter the industry, you get asked, “What does your company do?” Normally, the answer to that question is pretty generic because you’re just figuring out your new company. You don’t have a lot of context, so answering that question with any sort of depth is normally impossible. You’ll say something like, “It’s a software company.” Then you and your friend will move on to some other, hopefully more entertaining, topic.
I work in fantasy football, so let’s just say that the questions never stop.
My time as a contributor with Pro Football Focus started in May of this year, but I’ve actually leaned on my Pro Football Focus membership for years. It’s hard to remember playing fantasy football without it.
And yet, since starting with the company, I learned that I wasn’t getting everything I could out of my membership. There were tools and advice that I didn’t even know existed. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.
Consider this your “getting started” manual. Or consider this your “membership refresher course.” Whatever way you look at it, read on to make sure that you are getting absolutely everything you can from your PFF membership.
I first found out about PFF when other sites mentioned player grades. I was especially intrigued with the offensive line grades. Like many of you, I see football through a fantasy lens and normally concentrate on the players that get me fantasy points. I always knew that the offensive line was important and effected the fantasy points of the other players, but I didn’t feel confident in assessing their performances. Enter Player Grades.
Let me take you out of your comfort zone for a minute and let’s go right to left. Trust me, this is going to make a lot more sense.
As I said, this feature is how I found PFF and why I became a member. I can’t stress that enough. Let’s visit Featured Teams and click on the current Super Bowl champions, the Denver Broncos. This is what you can see above the fold:
Basically our analysts here at PFF determined which players should be the starters and gave you two different ways to view the rosters. Here, you will see the Base Offense vs. the Base Defense. You can see that configuration at the top of the page. If you use the arrows to navigate, you can also see the 3 Receivers Set vs. the Dime.
Each player is listed by their last name and their grade from last season is under their name. After the first regular season game, that grade will reflect their 2016 performance. Even though our team gave out player grades for the preseason, we all know that starters barely play in the preseason. Their preseason grades are not nearly as relevant as their overall season grades.
If you scroll down the page, you’ll find the rest of the offensive starters and a key to better understand the color designation under the player grades.
If you want to dig a little deeper into a particular player, all you have to do is click on that player from the team page and their player card will pop up. You can find historical player grades and their snap count data, divided into passing and rushing snaps from the previous season. This is true for both offensive and defensive players.
Let’s say that a player gets hurt and someone else will need to go in and play that week.
At the bottom of the page you have two options, lineup and roster. The nice graphics with the players in formation is the lineup. If you go to roster, you’ll find a depth chart will all of the player grades, starters and backups.
You’ll notice there is a more detailed grading system. Instead of simply seeing the overall grade, you see their scores receiving, rushing, run blocking, total snaps, etc. This is really a treasure trove for those of us that want to dig deep into each NFL roster.
While it’s helpful to see the grades of each team all together on the field at once, it’s also good to be able to compare those guys to their positionmates around the league. Well, the season grade section is what answers that question.
When you click on the “grades” button, you will land on a page with the all of the positions on both sides of the ball.
Once you select the position you want (in this case I selected wide receivers) you’ll get a list of the players along with their detailed grading. Each column is sortable.
Notice the position navigation at the top of the list. You can easily switch from position to position while you’re doing your fantasy research.
If you want to see the grades of the players that are not on a team, all of those players are in the Free Agents section. This section also features players that were in contract negotiations during the offseason. It’s a really interesting tracker.
Football is all about matchups. If you select Choose a Matchup, you’ll get to visualize the matchups before game day. It’s incredibly helpful.
When you go into the tool through the Custom Matchup button, you can select any two teams and see how they match up against one and other.
This is the Carolina Panthers vs. the Denver Broncos, the opening game of the season:
The offense is always highlighted at the top in yellow and also is the team at the bottom of the page. In this picture, you can see that this is a base offense vs. a base defense. You can change that with the arrows at the top of the navigation.
When you look at this image, you can see that the tackles on the Panthers team are the weaker part of the line. Based on the elite scores for the pass rushers Ware and Miller, you might believe that Cam Newton could have a tough night of football.
You won’t get access to the Fantasy Gold articles, but you will get unfettered access to the NFL analysis in a variety of articles. Right now you can log in and get an individual cheat sheet breaking down all of the positional strengths and weaknesses for every team in the NFL. You can see the analysis behind every player grade when you read a game synopsis. And yes, our analysts graded each and every player in each and every preseason game.
PFF Magazine, issue 1
This year, Pro Football Focus will put out a monthly digital magazine chock full of NFL information, trends and tips addressing all of your fantasy needs. If you get the Player Grades, you get to see the first offering for free.
This is a monthly service, but the benefits know no bounds. If you want to dominate your daily contests, the DFS Lineup Optimizer is all you need. I mean that.
DFS articles and analysis
Every week, the DFS team at PFF will bring their insights and research to you in a series of helpful articles. The entire goal is to help you optimize your lineups while also forcing you to think outside the chalk. That’s where the magic happens.
DFS Pro Optimizer
Right now my tool is set to FanDuel, but you can also select Draft Kings and Yahoo through the dropdown menu in the upper navigation or right there in the middle of the page. Both options work.
The Players link in the top navigation and the Players research image in the middle of the page both go to the same landing page.
The salaries for each site are updated each week. These are the initial prices set by FanDuel. As you can see, each player has a position, team, opponent and salary. At the end, you have the PFF projected stats for that week. Other categories of note:
- ROI — A player’s historical return on investment based on weekly fantasy points scored compared to salary.
- Matchup — The PFF propriety matchup rating factors in several data points to score each player’s weekly matchup.
- Value — The value score refers to a player’s projected points and ranking versus his weekly salary.
- FFPG — FanDuel Fantasy Points Per Game (this stat line is empty in this example because no games have been played in 2016)
You’ll also notice that you can select boxes next to the names of players. If you select more than one player, you can scroll down and compare players.
You can also select compare players in the bottom navigation of the DFS Pro Tools homepage and go directly to the comparison page. You can type in any player you want. As you type the text will autofill with suggestions.
After you enter your players you can look at the stats side-by-side. In this example I selected Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. The comparison not only compares the detailed salary breakdown, but also gives you a deeper understanding of how each of the player’s projection breaks down.
Perhaps the most useful and unique aspect of our tool is the presentation of the platform specific historical data. Each player is clickable, and when you select that player you will go to their “Player Profile.”
I selected Russell Wilson.
At the top of the page you’ll find his projections in each stat category and his totals from last season. The most useful aspect of this view is the ranking next to the stat itself. Knowing that a player has a 91.7 PFF Grade is one thing, but to know that it was the fifth-highest ranking at that position adds context.
If you scroll down, you’ll also get the scoring breakdown in game log format. You can see the projected game logs for the entire 2016 season.
From a historical perspective, you can see the scoring breakdown from the 2015 and 2014 season if you use the dropdown menu at the top. You’ll notice that there are rankings next to the stat lines in the game log, as well.
Later, you’ll find the matchup overview. The PFF propriety matchup rating factors in several data points to score each player’s weekly matchup. Along with the PFF Grades for the upcoming matchup, which is a comprehensive performance metric based on PFF’s property grading of every NFL player, on every play, in every game.
PFF also suggests similar players you may want to run through the player comparison tool prior to generating your lineups.
Create a lineup
Right there in the center of the DFS Pro Tools page you have access to creating a lineup. When you click on that link, you will go to a page where you can select a slate (a Thursday night slate, Sunday 1 p.m., etc.) and you’re asked to give that slate a name.
In this case, I selected a 1 p.m. ET FanDuel slate and named the lineup Matthew Stafford. I often will optimize around one player so it makes sense to name the lineup after that player. If I make more than one lineup around that player, I add a number. You’ll find your own system that works for you.
The lineup that you create for yourself will get saved under my lineups. Once you press “+Add Lineup” you will land on the generator page.
Here you’ll see that I selected Stafford and his salary information populated. You can select as many players as you want before optimizing your lineup and you can remove one or all of them by using the checkboxes to the right of the lineup and pressing the “remove selected” or “remove all” buttons below the checkboxes.
Also at the bottom of the lineup, you will notice that there are lineup totals. And one of the most useful indicators is the remaining salary amount in green. As you add more players, you will have the ability to track whether or not you’re getting too close to your salary cap max.
Once you are done selecting the players that you absolutely must have in this lineup, simply press the “OPTIMIZE LINEUP” blue button and the tool will fill in the remaining players with the highest projected points total.
As you can see here, this is the optimized FanDuel lineup if I simply built a team around Matthew Stafford. You’ll notice at the bottom that I used 100 percent of my salary cap. There is a 74.78 average ROI, a 71.9 matchup rating, a 92.63 value score and my team is projected to score 129.34 FanDuel Points. It’s that easy.
This lineup isn’t set in stone. There is a “CHANGE” button next to each player. Let’s say I’m terrified of playing any player on the 49ers, I can click on “CHANGE” and I’ll go to a page with other options.
The system tells me that Carlos Hyde is my current selection. In my lineup’s current state, I cannot afford the players in red. If I would rather have Jeremy Langford, I will select him and he is automatically placed in my lineup.
Generate (multiple) lineups
You can click on “Generate Lineups” in the top navigation or “Generate Multiple Lineups” in the middle of the DFS Pro Tools homepage you will go to the same location.
This is where you can generate multiple lineups based on your own DFS philosophical preferences. On the right side of the tool, there is a sliding scale. You can determine how you would like to weigh ROI, matchup rating, value score and total projected points.
As you move to the left of the tool, you’ll notice three checkboxes of preferred methodology.
- Prevent the QB/RB on same team
- Prevent WR/RB/TE/K on same team
- Prevent Offense vs. Defense
As always, you select your slate and below that selection, you can decide on the number of lineups would like to generate.
But the really cool part of the tool is down in the player descriptions. “EXP.” Refers to exposure. You’ll notice that I entered 20 percent for Andrew Luck as an example. That means 20 percent of the generated lineups will contain Andrew Luck.
The lock icon next to the exposure percentage means that you want a player in every single one of your lineups. The exposure percentage will go to 100 percent if you select the lock.
The “X” icon means that you want NO exposure to that player and the exposure percentage will populate with a zero if you select the “X.” See Aaron Rodgers.
The “Save Exposures” button changes to “Generate Lineups” once pressed. Then you’re on your way.
Once your lineups are generated, you will get a lineup overview indicating all of the players in your lineup and your exposure to each.
Under the overview you will your lineups. You can edit or delete each or all lineups. You also have the option to export your lineups.
I suggest exporting your lineups because they are not saved under “MY LINEUPS.” Only the individual lineups that you create and name are saved there.
Overall, this is an incredible tool that helps streamline all of your DFS activity. Having the platform specific research, historical data and comparison tools will help you hone in on your DFS skills and will separate you from the competition.
PFF Fantasy Gold
Not to be too tongue in cheek, but this is the fantasy gold standard. If you want all of the tools that are necessary to win your season-long leagues, this is it.
Fantasy Gold tools
As the caption states: START HERE! Import your league settings to access Draft Master, Fantasy GM, and custom player rankings.
The PFF Fantasy button at the top takes you to the PFF Fantasy homepage with all of our articles. You should absolutely check that out, but first add a “New League.”
You can simply add your league with your league URL if you use one of the platforms listed. If for some reason your league URL doesn’t register, or if you use a different platform, you can manually set up your league. If you do manually set up your league, you will have the following options:
Once your league has been created you will enter the Draft Master tool.
Here are the different options that you have within the Draft Master tool.
These rankings are specific to your league setting and come with projections. You can also mark how you feel about each player. On the right you’ll see a lock icon. If you click on that then you believe that player is a “must have.” Next to that is an eye symbol. If you click on that icon you will add that player to the “watch list.” And next to that is the no-go symbol, meaning that you do not want that player on your team.
You have two options. Run a mock draft with computer-generated opponents and using PFF recommendations for each of your picks. Our round-by-round suggestions are based on best available players and your team needs and league settings. Better yet, you can also keep track of your league’s live draft, getting real-time recommendations as they come each pick comes off the board. Each time you do a mock draft you can pick your draft position, the ADP source, the ranking source, the randomness and if you want the kickers and defenses to get drafted last.
Picks by round
This tool suggests which players you should select in which round with the most value. It’s incredibly visual and can help you envision your team as a whole.
There are two options for your customized cheat sheet. One is the position cheat sheet:
The other (and the one I suggest) is the tiered draft board:
Once you draft your team, you can use the Fantasy GM tool. This is where you’ll get the guidance you need all season long to win your fantasy league.
Who do you start? I do SiriusXM radio and all I do is answer this question. Well, we have this tool so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Not only does the sit/start tool tell you who to start, but they will also give you projected points and allow you to compare your starter to other players. Maybe there’s someone on waivers that you like better. This took is exceptionally important come bye weeks.
It doesn’t get clearer than this. We give you the projected season rank, projected points and average scoring and the ability to compare two players. There is nothing more frustrating that humming and hawing over which of two players you should pick up off of waiver. You don’t need to do that anymore.
We update the rankings for your specific league throughout the season. The best part is that toward the right you will notice that there is a projected ranking for the week and for the remainder of the year. We also added two helpful columns to the projections: fantasy points per opportunity and fantasy points per opportunity relative to their position.
PFF analyst rankings
We keep our rankings behind a paywall because we don’t think everyone should get access to the rankings that our Gold members enjoy. Each of our analysts regularly update their rankings and use their own algorithms and fantasy expertise to be the most accurate they can be.
As evidenced by the dropdown, we have multiple categories for our rankings. Choose the rankings that best fit your league settings and enter the player with the highest ranking into your roster. You can sort the rankings by individual analysts, as well.
PFF full-season projections
We take projections very seriously here at PFF. Our accuracy is paramount to our success. Here is the raw data that we use to make those projections.
As you can see, you can view the projections for players at different positions. The default view is the projected season total, but you can utilize the dropdown menu to look forward to each individual week in the upcoming season.
PFF fantasy stats
Our stats dig deeper than what you’re going to find in an average game log. We think that there’s a lot more to the game than the fantasy box score and if you ignore the metrics, your fantasy team will suffer.
Here is an example of the fantasy stats page:
You can select any year from 2006 to 2016 and any position at the top of the page. You can select any preseason game (example P1), any regular season game, the wild card weekend (WC), Divisional Playoff Game (DP), Conference Championship (CC), and Super Bowl (SB). You’ll also notice that in this example I selected that the players play in at least 25 percent of the snaps in the upper right corner. Next to that you can isolate a team, but instead I have all players selected.
Here is a list of some of our most noteworthy stat lines:
YAC – yards after contact
Targets – our target count is different than other sites. We only count the targets that are actually thrown towards the player. All attempts are “targets” and get assigned to wide receivers, even if they are really throw aways. We don’t think that’s an accurate reflection of the player, so we weed those “non-targets” out.
Drops – self explanatory, but really good information to have
aDOT – average depth per aimed throw
YPR – yards per reception
YPT – yards per target
RAC – run after catch
PPS – fantasy points per snap
PPO – fantasy points per opportunity
aC% – this is a quarterback metric that measures completions plus drops per aimed throw
PP DB – another quarterback metric, fantasy points per dropback
I know I’m a little biased, but no one covers fantasy football deeper than PFF. Everyone on the team digs deep into the statistics every week and puts it all together in article format. Hey, maybe each week you have 40 hours to dedicate to our research. But even if you do, we’re here with some great analysis and want to help you win.
PFF WR/CB chart
Another incredibly popular tool for both season-long and DFS players alike is our WR/CB depth chart. Each week this chart is updated with the upcoming matchups so you can see exactly who will be covering who, and whether or not you should be concerned about fantasy production.
The column that I pay the most attention to is the Adv. (Advantage). If you look at Week 1’s matchups, Mohamed Sanu has quite the advantage over Tampa Bay’s Alterraun Verner. Even though Sanu isn’t exactly a “must start” kind of player, this matchup could be something that a fantasy player would like to exploit.
PFF depth charts
Depth charts are dynamic documents. The information changes, sometimes week to week. Therefore, we have a place where you can check in and see if your guy is still the No. 1 option on his team.
Another nice feature of our depth chart is that we list their age and draft year. Sure, Larry Fitzgerald is the WR1, but he’s also 33 years old with two 26-year-olds right behind him.
PFF Handcuff Index
One of our most popular tool, the PFF Handcuff Index is the first place you should go whenever there is an injury to a starter. The Handcuff Index is like the depth chart on steroids.
For instance, David Johnson is considered the clear starter in Arizona. Chris Johnson is his first handcuff, and if David Johnson were to go down, Chris would be a RB2. Andre Ellington is the next player in that rotation, but his involvement would be minimal unless the bottom dropped out, so we suggest leaving him on waivers.
PFF projected box scores
Whenever you talk to fantasy professionals, they always bring up the box score projections. The reason for that is simple: the more points scored in the real game, the more fantasy points are scored, as well. Therefore, we have all of the projected box scores in one convenient place that you can access at the touch of a button.
It’s simple, but it’s effective. We list each team’s projected score, along with the game total. And we already projected all of the scores through the end of the season. Of course, things change, but this is a great forecast.
We produce a variety of podcasts at PFF. We have strictly NFL and college football podcasts, but more importantly we have a variety of fantasy podcasts. Whether you want season-long tips, news and notes, or DFS information, we cover it and you have access to it.
IDP and auction leagues
We know that IDP and auction leagues require a separate perspective, so we have you covered. When click on this selection, you will go to a League Editor page where you can enter as many customizations as your league requires.
You can enter roster spots, auction values, offensive scoring, IDP scoring, team defense scoring, kicker scoring. Once everything is entered, you can save the league.
Once your league is saved, you can utilize the draft tool with your specified league settings. For instance, here I can select “Home League” to generate the specific rankings. It’s that easy.
So there you have it. Hopefully you learned something new about a new tool, or maybe added a task to a favorite. Either way, have a great season and thanks for trusting us with your championship.
Brandon Marianne Lee
Brandon Marianne Lee is a PFF Fantasy contributor, a SiriusXM host, co-founder of Her Fantasy Football and was a finalist for FSWA's Newcomer of the Year in 2014.