Folks that play in College Fantasy Football Leagues (C2C/CFF/DEVY) that use Individual Defensive Players (IDP) are always looking for ways to evaluate players. As a result of that desire, I have built a tool that can be a piece of the puzzle used to assess College Fantasy Football IDP, a Tackles Production Model.

As most experienced IDP players know, tackles are the most consistent and reliable statistic for defensive players. Generally speaking, (in most scoring formats), the biggest percentage of a defensive player’s fantasy points on any given week. Thus, the more we can understand about a player’s tackles beyond just the actual number, the more successful we can be when evaluating a defensive player for their potential fantasy production.

Courtesy of Billy Schuerman/The Virginian Pilot

This tool is five models, one for each position group EDGE, Defensive Tackle (DT), Linebacker (LB), Cornerback (CB), and Safety (S), and all trained using data from PFF. Those five models are combined to produce the output in the tool. You should use the tool with that in mind, as it is not really built to compare players across position groups but to compare a player within their respective position group.

Model Background

Actual vs. Expected Tackles

To build the model, multiple years of data were used to determine the expected tackle production of each position group. To start, I independently evaluated each position group (Edge, Defensive Tackle, Linebacker, Cornerback, and Safety). Within those groups, I looked at the run snaps and production (tackles) when playing versus the run and the pass snaps and production (tackles) when playing versus the pass. I used those to create an expected tackle rate against the run and pass for each position group.

Once I had the expected tackle rates (run and pass) for each position group, I used that to estimate each individual player’s expected number of tackles for a given year (based on that year’s run/pass snap data) and then calculated the residual.

This allows us to see who were the overachievers (positive numbers) and who were the underachievers (negative numbers) with respect to their position group in a given football season.

Tackle Efficiency

While tackles themselves are a good measure, they don’t necessarily tell the entire story; that is where tackle efficiency can help. Tackle efficiency looks at the number of tackles (solo and assists) compared to the number of snaps for a player.   While yearly tackle efficiency itself is not necessarily an indication of a great player, it can be used to help evaluate defensive players. It can help you distinguish who the great players are versus players that perhaps overachieved and might regress versus players that underachieved and might see improvement versus players that just aren’t good.

To understand what category a player may fall into, you would want a few years of tackle efficiency data. For example, if a player is consistently high in tackle efficiency every year, that player would fall into the very good player category. Meanwhile, a player consistently low in tackle efficiency every year would fall into a not-very-good category and is likely to be replaced (if their position or defensive scheme relies on them to be a tackler). 

Conversely, if a player shows a few years of high tackle efficiency, then suddenly has a bad year in terms of tackle efficiency, it could mean that the player has a good shot at improving his tackle numbers the following season. Suppose a guy that consistently has a low tackle efficiency suddenly pops a higher/good tackle efficiency. In that case, it could mean that player will regress the following season with a lower tackle number.

Opportunity is a big part of the player scoring for fantasy football, and tackle efficiency can help you determine if a player made the most of those opportunities. Or if they were given many opportunities and didn’t necessarily make the most of them.

Percentage of Team Tackles

This calculation merely compares an individual player’s number of tackles to the total number of tackles for their team in a given season. So, what does that mean to us for fantasy football? Well, it could indicate a few different things.

A high percentage of team tackles could mean:

  • The defensive scheme is set up to funnel tackles to a certain position/player.
  • The rest of that player’s defensive team is not very good.
  • The player is outstanding.

A low percentage of team tackles could mean:

  • The defensive scheme is set up to funnel tackles to other positions/players.
  • The rest of that player’s defensive team is very good.
  • The player is really bad.

In my opinion, you can use this statistic in combination with the tackle efficiency and tackles over expected numbers to help make the determination of which bucket a player falls into. You can look at the percentages for each of a player’s teammates for context, as well as the historical numbers for that team’s players for comparison to another season.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped give you a better understanding of tackles and how to use them in different ways to assess defensive players in your fantasy football leagues. This article and the College Tackles Production Tool are merely pieces of the puzzle to use when evaluating players. They are aimed at increasing your understanding and knowledge to inform your decision-making. After all, as the great philosopher “G.I. Joe” once said, “Now You Know. And Knowing is Half the Battle!”

I hope you enjoyed this article and the College Tackles Production Tool. If you are interested in seeing more content from me, you can find it on the Campus2Canton site as well as on the DEVY IDP Grind Podcast (available on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts). You can also find me on Twitter @Justice_2318

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