Fantasy QB strength of schedule guide for 2016

You're going to draft a quarterback this year, so you should do it with as much information as you can get. Pat Thorman has that info.

| 12 months ago
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Fantasy QB strength of schedule guide for 2016

Projecting fantasy strength of schedule is an inexact science. Of course, forecasting football results, on both sides of the ball, is more about anticipating outcome ranges than pinpointing perfect predictions. If you can somehow nail the head constantly, you should instead be reading flight schedules to Vegas.

Used properly, as one more tool on our fantasy belt, strength of schedule has its place in both preparing for the season and after Week 1. We comfortably base lineup decisions on matchups, both in season-long and DFS formats — so why ignore information we already have until after our rosters are drafted?

Introducing additional variables to a projection makes it more fragile, but again, we are not expecting to pinpoint precisely and are aiming for a general snapshot of schedule strength. Nobody can definitively say whether the Falcons or the Redskins will be tougher on quarterbacks. Yet we are almost certain the Saints will be easier to throw on than the Broncos.

As in years past, we will work off the schedule grid below. Red indicates the toughest matchups, followed by orange. Dark greens are the easiest opponents, followed by light green. Yellow and white are neutral matchups, with yellow shading on the more difficult side than white. These designations will shift as outlooks crystalize throughout training camp and, especially, once the season kicks off.

Colors were assigned only partly based on fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2015. Manual adjustments were made for offseason player and coach movement, expected Vegas win totals, offensive game plans (for example, the Cowboys’ ball-control approach), and PFF grading. Re-designations will occur, but we have enough to dig into as fantasy draft season rapidly approaches.

Check back all week for ways to put this information to use in the fantasy season. Today, we’ll check in with some quick first thoughts as to how the season schedule breaks down.

Initial thoughts

The AFC East features some of the league’s hardest schedules. On top of mostly tough intra-divisional matchups, they face the NFC West and AFC North. In addition to matchups with those three divisions, the Bills get a game with the Raiders’ revamped defense, the Jets have to travel to Kansas City, and the Patriots face Houston and go to Denver.

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Pat Thorman is a lead writer for PFF Fantasy and a Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner.

  • goose

    I think this is the most underrated fantasy tool. Especially once the season starts and we get a better idea of how good defenses actually are. But its a great point about how we don’t actually know exactly how good any given defense is going to be before the season starts because there is always a lot of change in terms of defensive ranks every year, and furthermore we may not even really have a complete picture until the very end of the season (see Houston last year). BUT, we can say that the best defenses from the year before are unlikely to become cupcakes, and visa versa. Bottom line, trying to predict strength of schedule is really no different than trying to predict any other element that factors into fantasy production. I even believe it ought be way more of a consideration when people do their positional ranks–I feel like it’s pretty much ignored in that context on most sites and it makes no sense to me.

    This is a great chart but I feel like it could be a little less crude. I would love to see some kind of system that quantifies the quality/ease of schedule for each team, and I would love to see the same thing for running backs and wide receivers as well. Visually the colors help but it ends up being very difficult to tell which teams/quarterbacks/receivers/backs actually have the best schedule over the course of the whole (rest of) season without some kind of ultimate figure/color/valuation of the ease of the schedule. In other words it’d be great if we didn’t have to add up how many of each color there are in each row.

    • Pat

      Thanks for the thoughts, Goose. They key really is to understand its limitations and use it accordingly.

      As for the grid itself, I can see what you’re saying. It’s the one I’ve used to put this together the last four times. There is an overall strength of schedule ranking for each position in our fantasy draft guide.
      Thanks again for checking it out. More to come throughout the week.

      • goose

        I don’t want to get into a big thing about this but I went and checked out the SOS for each position in the draft guide, and it doesn’t seem to be consistent with the little per-player SOS that you see when you click on an individual player in the “my league”/”fantasy hub” area… Am I missing something? Like for instance is the draft guide saying that the Giants have the best schedule for running backs, etc.?

        • goose

          better example is that doug martin only has 3 green match ups on his player page but on the draft guide it says that tb has the 4th best schedule for RBs… unless I’m missing something.

          • Pat

            Good catch. We’ll be aligning the Draft Master with the Guide SoS shortly. Thank you.

          • goose

            Great, thanks! Not sure which is correct but the one in the player profiles seem to make more sense. Could be wrong.