The Gut Check No.479: 2019 Tiers And Confidence Levels (Updated 8/19)

Matt Waldman breaks down his 2019 fantasy rankings into tiers and provides a confidence level for the listed players. 

Projections and rankings are insightful analysis but they are flawed standalone processes for drafting your team. We all know this to be true if we pay close attention to the strategic twists that our minds make when examining this information on draft day.

We're calculating the needs and tendencies of our opponents as well as the perceived upside and downside of players as the draft unfolds. We're continuously making round-by-round bets on players not only with our selections but with whom we pass over—whether it's with the intent of not wanting their services whatsoever to calculated risks that they'll be available later.

Projecting and rankings don't do enough to help us here. Tiers are more effective because we can combine multiple rounds in a tier or weed out players that we don't want despite going through the exercise of assigning their forecasted values with projections and rankings.

Still, tiers don't go far enough with sharing how we truly value a player. Dwain McFarland and I were discussing the idea of tiers during a podcast series were doing on offensive projections and he mentioned the idea of sharing confidence levels for each player within the tier.

It's a good idea.

What factors into Confidence Level?

Here are the factors that influence my confidence level of players. Obviously, this is subjective and based on my experience studying football players and analyzing fantasy football. These factors are listed in order of importance, but keep in mind that the weight of one or multiple factors can be heavier or lighter on an individual basis.

  • Volume
  • Talent and the upside potential of opportunity and surrounding talent.
  • Offensive fit
  • Health
  • Fatal flaws with mental processing, technique or physicality:
    • Ball security
    • Technique- or contact-related drops
    • Poor ball tracking
    • Difficulty catching the ball versus physical play
    • Difficulty executing specific run-blocking schemes
    • Chronically poor judgment under pressure
    • Delays in processing coverage (quarterbacks and receivers) or keys in the run game
  • Quality of the surrounding talent
  • Quality of the depth chart

These factors will be used to assign Confidence Level Grades with a range of F to A and will include plusses and minuses.

About the Tiers

  • This analysis is based on 12-team PPR leagues and factors ADP, my rankings and private projections, as well as the Confidence Level above.
  • If a player is not listed, I'm not drafting him. If you want to know why then see my rankings and the comments that are available for almost every player.
  • The tiers have three sections where I approximate sections of rounds but these are tiers where I value players regardless of the ADP.
  • The more I do this, the less I care about ADP, which means there will be players that you may consider reaches. It means my Confidence Level is high.
  • Because I don't care that much about ADP, many of my tiers will have players recommended 1-4 rounds ahead of ADP.
  • If a player falls from an earlier tier to a later one, he should remain near the top of your list and his confidence ranking should be equal to the highest-rated players in the lower tier.

The easiest way to make sense of these tiers—if you're simply looking for players I like enough to take earlier than others and will even reach for them—is to note the players in bold.

When I've listed players who might make it back to you a round or two later I will place an asterisk (*) next to their names. I wouldn't recommend waiting on these players unless you are at the turn and have a strong chance of them making it back to you 4-6 picks later, at most.

If I have a higher confidence level in a player at a middle or later spot in the round, I recommend valuing that player the same as if his ADP were in an earlier section.

Spend a few minutes mapping out potential rosters with these lists. I recommend using Draft Dominator mock drafts to determine when it's best to target running backs, tight ends, and quarterback because there aren't as many running back options with this plan as others.

I left spaces in some tiers for you to print and write in your own players if you want to use this in some form as a cheat sheet for your draft.

Draft Spot
Early Turn
Middle Spot
Late Turn
Picks 1-12
Tier 1 Targets
WR Tyreek Hill (A-)
*RB Nick Chubb (A+)
RB Alvin Kamara (A-)
WR Julio Jones (B+)
*RB Todd Gurley (B+)
RB Le'Veon Bell (B-)

Tier 1 Commentary: I'm not worried about Elliott's hold out. If you are, there's little I can do to convince you otherwise. If you're playing it safe consider Kamara through McCaffrey in the Early Turn column and Hill, Johnson, and Adams in the Middle Spot.

Conner would have earned a higher Confidence Level from me if not for the turnover at receiver. Bell is an excellent talent but we're not sure that it will be maximized in the Jets' offense.

Updated 8/19: Nick Chubb earns more receiving yards in my assessment for the season, which earns him a definite spot inside my top-10 and there's still easy upside for him to earn a top-5 spot, overall. He may remain an outlier for some but he's a top talent in an offense with the surrounding talent to maximize his skills.

If you favor talent and have the guts, Gurley, Beckham, and Chubb are worth a reach if you're at the end of the first round. Gurley and/or Chubb could be league winners. Beckham has Julio Jones' upside and he's healthier, which places him in the same tier for me.

This is an aggressive approach that uses ADP in the way I believe is best: Using it as a tool to know what others are doing and timing the best point to take the players you believe in the most. All too often, fantasy players lament that they knew Player X was worth more but they hoped to maximize value and get him a little later because they didn't think anyone was going to take him that early.

If you want a safe build, head over to David Dodds' Perfect Draft—he's the Betty Crocker of successful fantasy teams because he'll maximize your depth. Work with Betty and Rate My Team will tell you that you have an 85 percent chance of making the playoffs even with borderline neglectful management that, if your squad were your children, it would earn a call from the Department of Child and Family Services.

If you want to cook up something original and have the guts to take players a little earlier than their most aggressive ADP range and you're ok with Rate My Team giving you the nice version of "your squad sucks and you should give up fantasy football," keep reading. This happens to me almost annually. All I need to tell you is that at year's end, I'm strutting into the postseason kitchen with blades against Betty Crocker clones armed with rubber spatulas.

Trash talk aside, Betty will give you a strong team to begin your campaign and help you mold it into a contender as the season unfolds. The Gut Check will give you a shot at higher reward if you can handle the higher risk. I address these risks in subsequent articles before the season and early in the year to prepare for ways to manage these types of builds.

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