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2015 FANTASY FOOTBALL
You may have noticed we're starting to ramp up our fantasy football coverage for the 2015 season. Our Draft Kit page is live. Go there to see what we've done and what we're planning to do.
Read the latest team previews | Check out the 2015 Draft Kit
DVOA strength of schedule analysis | Printable strength of schedule chart

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Fantasy football

Roster churn in San Francisco: 49ers lose five starters from elite defense, all-time best RB

San Francisco 49ers

2014 Record: 8-8, missed playoffs, 1-4 in last five

49ers impact rookies | 49ers impact sleepers | More team previews

Four downs

1st: 16th in DVOA* overall offense (21st pass, 8th rush) | 5th in DVOA* overall defense (4th pass, 10th run)

2nd: 11th or better at stopping all receiver types, but most effective against WR2s (fourth-best, 7.1 pass attempts per game, 49.8 receiving yards per game), according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.

3rd: Key loss: LB Patrick Willis/Chris Borland | Key addition: WR Torrey Smith

4th: Key loss was a tough choice for the 49ers this season, but I had to go with the star linebacker and the rising star who replaced him when he got injured last season. Willis, 30, and Borland, 24, both retired after last season. Willis was an All-Pro LB. Borland was certainly on his way, leading the NFL in tackles from Week 7 on as Willis’ injury replacement. Both players cited their concern over concussions and CTE which hangs like a black cloud over the NFL. The loss of Borland and Willis isn’t the only concern for this squad. San Francisco had a dominant defense last season, but only six starters returnSuperstar LB NaVorro Bowman, who hasn’t played since 2013, is one of them, so the middle might not be as squishy as it seems. Key loss was tough not just because of the loss of those two monsters, but also because they lost RB Frank Gore, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Despite being “too old” for what seems like a decade, Gore held back every replacement San Francisco drafted. Now he’s in Indianapolis and SF goes into the season with Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush in the backfield. They also lost WR Michael Crabtree, but brought in Torrey Smith, a huge upgrade alongside veteran Anquan Boldin, a top-19 WR in PPR leagues last season. If QB Colin Kaepernick can take the next step, Smith will certainly help them improve their 21st-ranked passing offense.

*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.

Rich get richer in Seattle: Seahawks bring in TE Graham, lock-in QB Wilson

Seattle Seahawks

2014 Record: 12-4, Super Bowl runners-up, NFC West Champions, 5-0 in last five

Seahawks impact rookies | Seahawks impact sleepers | More team previews

Four downs

1st: 5th in DVOA* overall offense (10th pass, 1st rush) | 1st in DVOA* overall defense (3rd pass, 2nd run)

2nd: Effective at stopping all receiver types: fourth against WR1s (6.2 pass attempts per game, 41.2 receiving yards per game) and slot/bench receivers (5 pass attempts, 33.1 yards) and sixth against WR2s (5.9 pass attempts, 45.3 yards), according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.

3rd: Key loss: CB Byron Maxwell | Key addition: TE Jimmy Graham

4th: The Seahawks already had the 10th-most effective passing offense in the NFL last season. The addition of All-Universe TE Jimmy Graham will only make them — and super-rich QB Russell Wilson — better in that regard. To get Graham, Seattle dealt C Max Unger and a first-round pick to the Saints. Unger was a stabilizing force for the O-line, but has missed 13 games in the last two years, including 10 last season. His departure shouldn’t hurt Marshawn Lynch’s production. Lynch is at an age where RBs typically show a significant decline in production, but as the workhorse running back in the most-effective running attack in the NFL he’ll still be worth the price you pay on draft/auction day. CB Byron Maxwell was sixth on the team in tackles last season and is a homegrown member of the Legion of Boom. He signed with Philadelphia, but Boom  added Eagles’ CB Cary Williams in the offseason. Williams was part of a squad that allowed the most passing yards in 2013 and second-most in 2014. He also got into fights with Patriots WR Aaron Dobson in the preseason and teammate WR Riley Cooper in practice last year. Still, Williams impressed for the Ravens during their Super Bowl championship season and he’s 6-2, 198 pounds, so he fits the Legion of Boom mold. Even though the Seahawks have the second-toughest schedule of 2015, according to DVOA, I expect more of the same from Seattle this season.

*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.

Winston could upgrade Buccaneers into sneaky-good territory, but is it enough for a title run?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2014 Record: 2-14, missed playoffs, 0-5 in last five

Buccaneers impact rookies | Buccaneers impact sleepers | More team previews

Four downs

1st: 32nd in DVOA* overall offense (31st pass, 31st rush) | 18th in DVOA* overall defense (23rd pass, 8th run)

2nd: Second-worst defense in the NFL against WR1s (8.5 pass attempts per game, 84.7 receiving yards per game), but seventh-best against receiving RBs (7.2 pass attempts, 37.4 yards), according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.

3rd: Key loss: LB Mason Foster | Key addition: QB Jameis Winston

4th: It’s a glorious new day in Tampa Bay as top draft pick Jameis Winston is the new quarterback. He already has impressive receiving weapons in place in WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Everyone is also making TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins one of the top sleepers of the year. The passing game, in theory, should open up running lanes for RB Doug Martin. It also doesn’t hurt that the Buccaneers have the easiest, on paper, schedule in 2015. All factors point to improvement for the Buccaneers offense this season, but that won’t be too difficult for the least-effective overall offense in the NFL, which ranked 31st in both passing and running effectiveness, according to DVOA. Defensively, they were in the middle third in the NFL, but they let 100-tackle LB Mason Foster, known for blowing up the run, go to the Bears. This is not a surprise. The Buccaneers have wanted to upgrade from Foster since late in the 2013 season. And he didn’t help his chances by missing seven games in the last two seasons. Bruce Carter is his replacement. Carter had 96 tackles in 2013, but has never played a full 16-game season and has missed nearly an entire season (15 games) in his four-year career. Danny Lansanah was impressive for stretches in 2014, especially in coverage, but had eight games with three or less tackles. Lavonte David, the team’s leading tackler, returns. But they also lost Dashon Goldson, an 80-tackle safety. While the defense may be in a state of flux, that hasn’t stopped teams from making title runs in the past. And one CBS writer thinks the Buccaneers are a candidate to do just that in 2015.

*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.

2015 fantasy football DVOA strength of schedule rankings

Strength of schedule is not my favorite fantasy football statistic.

There’s not much value in using last year’s statistics to determine how teams will perform this season. It’s even worse, in my opinion, when players are drafted based on strong SoS opponents during playoff weeks, usually weeks 13-16. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m starting players who face the Jaguars. And I know teams with a bad run defense usually stay bad.

However, injuries and matchups alter outcomes and can make defenses look worse than they actually are.

But can we make a better strength of schedule using Football Outsiders’ advanced metric, Defense-adjusted Value Over Average? I hope so.

DVOA is a results-based metric that looks at a defense’s effectiveness per play as opposed to final statistics. That should make it a better indicator of future success.

I spent quite a few words talking about it on our new strength of schedule page: DVOA strength of schedule chart and analysisPrintable DVOA strength of schedule chart

Do you use strength of schedule? How much do you rely on it on draft day? Let us know in the comments.

Saints need to score, but how will offense operate without TE Jimmy Graham?

New Orleans Saints

2014 Record: 7-9, missed playoffs, 3-2 in last five

Saints impact rookies | Saints impact sleepers | More team previews

Four downs

1st: 7th in DVOA* overall offense (9th pass, 9th rush) | 31st in DVOA* overall defense (27th pass, 32nd run)

2nd: Third-least effective defense in the NFL against WR1s (7.5 pass attempts per game, 79.9 receiving yards per game), worst in the NFL against receiving RBs (6.7 pass attempts, 53.6 yards), but best in the NFL against TEs (8 pass attempts, 38.6 yards), according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.

3rd: Key loss: TE Jimmy Graham | Key addition: RB C.J. Spiller

4th: Drew Brees burned a few daily fantasy owners last season, but the offense wasn’t the big problem for the Saints. Their defense was second-worst in the NFL and they were worst in the NFL against the run. It takes a lot to turn a defense around, but the Saints have revamped their roster in hopes of giving their fans hope in 2015. While the drama and conflict will be on that side of the ball, fantasy football players should be excited for the Drew Brees-led offensive unit. C.J. Spiller will be an interesting one-two punch with Mark Ingram, who had a career year in 2015. Second-year WR Brandin Cooks was on his way to a breakout rookie season before a broken thumb cost him the final six games of the season. He’s a smaller receiver, but his debut was eye-opening and he makes a good complement to Marques Colston who saw statistic declines across the board in his age 31 season, but he’s still 6-foor-4, 225 and Jimmy Graham won’t be there to steal all of the red zone opportunities. The other side of that coin: How does the Saints offense function without Jimmy Graham in 2015?

*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.

Despite additions, Falcons defense has long way to go

Atlanta Falcons

2014 Record: 6-10, missed playoffs, 2-3 in last five

Falcons impact rookies | Falcons impact sleepers | More team previews

Four downs

1st: 10th in DVOA* overall offense (8th pass, 22nd rush) | 32nd in DVOA* overall defense (31st pass, 30th run)

2nd: Eighth-most effective in the NFL against WR1s (9.1 pass attempts per game, 78 receiving yards per game), but fifth-worst against WR2s (6.1 pass attempts, 68.5 yards), sixth-worst against slot/bench receivers (6.2 pass attempts, 51.1 yards), third-worst against pass-catching running backs (7.1 pass attempts, 49 yards), according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.

3rd: Key loss: Steven Jackson | Key addition: RB Tevin Coleman

4th: The Falcons record was worse than I remember, but when you have the least effective defense in the NFL, that sort of thing happens. The addition of Brooks Reed and Justin Durant will only be a marginal help. The Falcons also added a handful of rookies — including pass-rusher Vic Beasley — who should help considerably. But rebuilding a defense from the bottom doesn’t happen overnight, even if you bring in a Super Bowl Champion defensive coordinator to be your new head coach. RB Tevin Coleman was brought in as RB Steven Jackson departs. Coleman will compete with Devonta Freeman for starting RB duties. The lone bright spot was the Falcons passing offense. Matt Ryan amassed 4,694 yards and 28 TDs even though superstar WR Julio Jones missed a game and only scored six TDs. Not that Jones was terrible. He still finished as the seventh-best WR in PPR. Age seems to be catching up to Roddy White, but he still made 80 receptions for 921 yards and 7 TDs and finished as the No. 21 WR in PPR.

*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.

Panthers made getting help for franchise QB Newton a priority

Carolina Panthers

2014 Record: 7-8-1, NFC South Champions, 4-1 in last five

Panthers impact rookies | Panthers impact sleepers | More team previews

Four downs

1st: 20th in DVOA* overall offense (23rd pass, 16th rush) | 15th in DVOA* overall defense (9th pass, 23rd run)

2nd: Fifth-worst in the NFL against WR1s (7.9 pass attempts per game, 65.3 receiving yards per game), but second-best in the NFL against pass-catching running backs (6.6 pass attempts, 31.6 yards), according to Football Outsiders’ defense vs. receiver types chart.

3rd: Key loss: RB DeAngelo Williams | Key addition: WR Devin Funchess

4th: Adding rookies WR Devin Funchess, RB Cameron Artis-Payne and a couple offensive lineman, the Panthers are trying to improve one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Adding those pieces to Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart should give a well-paid Cam Newton enough weapons to improve the Panthers 23rd-ranked passing offense. It might be the best supporting cast he’s played with. Healded first-round pick LB Shaq Thompson should help improve the Panthers 23rd-ranked rush defense. The loss of Greg Hardy will hurt the defense. He is facing a tiny suspension for a huge incident — assaulting a woman — but from a team defense and fantasy perspective, Hardy was a playmaker on a defense that could use a few.

*Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a Football Outsiders’ advanced NFL metric, measures a team’s performance on a per-play basis. The metric attempts to limit variance and provides a more realistic measurement of how good a team is regardless of matchup or situation, making it a strong indicator of future success. Read more about DVOA.