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Game Level Similarity Projections: Quarterback Week 1

Week 1 is upon us, and it’s time to make the first of many Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em decisions. One method for answering these questions is to use Game Level Similarity Projections, GLSP for short or “Gillespie,” if you want to say it out loud.

In fantasy football it’s common to hear start/sit analysis phrased in the following way: In Tom Brady’s last four matchups against the Cowboys, he’s averaged 350 yards passing and three touchdowns. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Makes you think that starting Brady against the Cowboys is an absolute no-brainer, right? However, four games is a really small sample, and it’s tough to make a projection based on such a sample.

But GLSP makes a similar projection by just extending that analysis to include other quarterbacks similar to Brady, and other defenses similar to the Cowboys. It looks for the 20 most similar recent matchups and then creates a low, median, and high projection.

The low projection is equivalent to the 25th percentile point total from the comparable matchups. The median projection provides a benchmark, with even odds of the player producing more or less. The high projection is equivalent to the 75th percentile point total from the comparable matchups. The important thing to remember is that these projections are based solely on historical matchups. As such, they are agnostic of player specifics such as offensive situation and health.

Throughout the season, I’ll be using the GLSP data from Dave Caban to try and identify quarterbacks and tight ends that could be in line for a big week ahead.

PlayerTeamOpp Low Med High AVG
Aaron RodgersGBCHI18.326.631.725.3
Deshaun WatsonHOUNE17.125.830.724.7
Russell WilsonSEADEN15.325.831.524.6
Matthew StaffordDETNYJ20.323.628.424.3
Ben RoethlisbergerPITCLE18.324.831.724.1
Jared GoffLAROAK18.222.126.523.5
Sam BradfordARIWAS14.522.629.922.8
Philip RiversLACKC14.523.627.622.7
Case KeenumDENSEA17.122.528.122.3
Cam NewtonCARDAL14.522.629.722
Ryan TannehillMIATEN17.123.626.621.9
Kirk CousinsMINSF17.521.325.521
Alex SmithWASARI15.818.626.921
Blake BortlesJAXNYG15.818.626.620.7
Tom BradyNEHOU14.117.52519.5
Drew BreesNOTB14.91920.719
Andrew LuckINDCIN12.618.52418.9
Dak PrescottDALCAR13.31821.818.5
Joe FlaccoBALBUF15.816.919.417.7
Eli ManningNYGJAX14.217.620.817
Derek CarrOAKLAR15.416.518.416.4
Matt RyanATLPHI13.916.918.616
Tyrod TaylorCLEPIT10.71820.315.8
Andy DaltonCININD1214.218.215.6
Marcus MariotaTENMIA12.614.417.915.1
Mitch TrubiskyCHIGB11.614.618.315.1
Ryan FitzpatrickTBNO11.614.218.315
Jimmy GaroppoloSFMIN9.614.617.614.7
Nick FolesPHIATL4.38.112.59.4
Nathan PetermanBUFBAL - 4.310.96.5

Pleasantly Surprising

Player Team Opp  Low  Med  High
Sam Bradford ARI WAS           14.5           22.6           29.9

Few would have believed that after tearing the Saints apart in Week 1 of the 2017 season Sam Bradford would go on to throw just 11 more passes in the entire campaign. And yet, that is what happened. Bradford finds himself now back in the NFC West and on the Cardinals roster for the 2018 season.

His GLSP projections for his debut with the Cardinals are most encouraging. His 22.6 median projection puts him right in the QB1 conversation for Week 1. His high projection of 29.9 is the fifth highest of the Week 1 starters around the NFL.

Bradford has enjoyed some success against Washington in the past.

bradford v wash

Bradford is only owned in 2.9 percent of ESPN leagues and could make for an ideal streaming candidate for fantasy owners who drafted Carson Wentz. However, the absence of established playmakers outside of Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson makes it unlikely that Bradford will come close to his high projection.

Player Team Opp  Low  Med  High
Ryan Tannehill MIA TEN           17.1           23.6           26.6

Like Bradford, an awful lot of time has passed since the last time we saw Ryan Tannehill on an NFL field. Like Bradford, the GLSP for Tannehill is encouraging in Week 1. His median and high projections are right up there with the league leaders. More highly regarded signal-callers like Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees trail his 23.6 median projection.

The Titans defense should look quite different in 2018, however, and given the blueprint of the Dolphins under Adam Gase. Tannehill may have to play out of his mind to hit the median, let alone his high projection. It’s hard to recommend him as a possible streamer, although he’s readily available, owned in just 6.6 percent of leagues.

Player Team Opp  Low  Med  High
Case Keenum DEN SEA           17.1           22.5           28.1

The GLSP is very encouraging for new Broncos QB Case Keenum. He features as a QB1 in the low, median and high projections as he goes up against a depleted Seahawks defense.

Given these omissions, Keenum offers excellent value as a spot starter. Only owned in 13.0 percent of ESPN leagues, he shouldn’t be hard to lay your hands on.

Beware the Overvalued

Player Team Opp  Low  Med  High
Jimmy Garoppolo SF MIN             9.6           14.6           17.6

Despite being the second coming of Joe Montana, the opening week of 2018 is not an encouraging one for Jimmy Garoppolo according to the GLSP. He finds himself dwelling near the basement in all three projections, with a shockingly low floor and no real ceiling to speak of. He may well enjoy a successful 2018 season, but it may have to wait until Week 2 to really get going. The Vikings allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to QBs last season, and their defense has only gotten better on paper over the summer.

Player Team Opp  Low  Med  High
Marcus Mariota TEN MIA           12.6           14.4           17.9

Marcus Mariota has been freed from the prehistoric offense run by Mike Mularkey and Terry Robiskie and is a popular bounce-back candidate in the coming season. Certainly, he should at least come close to replicating the form he showed in his first two seasons, where he was noticeably healthier and given more license to run his offense.

mariota career

The GLSP doesn’t expect him to get off to a fast start in Week 1, however. But it should be noted that his opponents, the Dolphins, are not quite the same team that took to the field last season. It would stun me if Mariota were not able to outperform his lowly projections, just as our next surprise should also.

Player Team Opp  Low  Med  High
Andy Dalton CIN IND           12.0           14.2           18.2

Andy Dalton endured a down season in 2018, and as a result, saw the rest of the Bengals struggle along with him. However, he has an excellent chance to outperform his GLSP this week against a quite atrocious Colts defense. He’s an excellent streaming candidate to open the season.

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