Every year some players are projected to miss the beginning of the season due to injury or suspension, and every year fantasy managers are tasked with making hard decisions about where to draft those players or how much to trade for them. I've written about this challenge in 2015 when Tom Brady was scheduled to be suspended to open the season. I wrote again in 2017 when Ezekiel Elliott was slated to miss the opening kickoff. And now news has just been handed down that Deshaun Watson will be suspended six games in 2022, pending additional appeals.
There's a big advantage to be had if you're able to get perfect player values compared to the rest of your league. But there's also an advantage to be had if you're able to get pretty good player values much faster than everyone else. This article will help more with the latter-- it's not so much geared toward getting values exactly right, but more towards arriving at very good values within minutes of the news breaking, towards staying ahead of an ever-shifting curve.
So how should we value a player who will miss the beginning of the fantasy season?
First Things First: What Do You Want For Your Team?
The first and most important thing to remember is that your team is exactly that-- YOUR team. It's up to you who you want on it and who you don't. Many people won't want Watson on their team at any price, and that's fine. As a fantasy football advice site, we can give our best objective estimate of how valuable a player's production will be for fantasy football, but it's entirely up to you what you do with that estimate. It's your team.
Secondly: Missed Games Aren't Zeroes.
At this moment, with all projections updated in light of the most recent news, Footballguys' consensus projections currently have Deshaun Watson to score 253.55 points in 10.8 games. That 253.6 points is the 29th-highest total among every quarterback. But this doesn't mean that Watson is the 29th-best fantasy quarterback this year.
Why? Because you don't set your lineup once and keep it unchanged all season long. Instead, you set a new lineup every week, and if Watson is out, you start a different quarterback instead. Consider Davis Mills, our 28th-ranked quarterback. We have Mills projected for 277.9 points in 16.5 games, or 17.0 points per game, the lowest figure among all players projected to start the entire season. He's basically free in standard 1-quarterback leagues. But if you take eleven games of Watson's 23.5 points per game projection and six games of Mills' 17.0 points per game projection, the result is 360.5 points, which would rank as the 16th-best quarterback projection. You'll score even more if your backup is better than the worst-projected starter.
When projecting a player for the season, you should look at his projection in games he plays and add in the value of replacement level in games he misses. (Replacement level here means, at a minimum, what you'd expect to score if you used a freely-available replacement player off of waivers in his absence.)
But I think there's a quicker and even better way to estimate a player's value on the fly. Because for fantasy football, not all games are created equal.
Thirdly: The Timing of the Missed Games
A traditional fantasy season will run for 17 weeks, from Week 1 to Week 17. Because of bye weeks, most fantasy players will play at most 16 games. If his six-game suspension stands, Watson will miss 6/16ths of the fantasy season, or 37.5%.
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