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Fantasy Depth Chart Interview And Expert Advice

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May 2, 2010

Mike Clay from Fantasy Depth Chart recently took some time to answer a few of our questions.

When did you become interested and begin playing fantasy sports?
When I was young, my Dad threw a small fantasy football league together with a few family members. That was my first whiff of the game. He let me do the scoring, but back then I had to use boxscores from the local newspaper. I don't remember a lot about the league, but I do remember 2 things: (a) tabulating the point totals for each team was fun (probably more fun than it should've been for a child) and (b) I had Herman Moore and Carl Pickens on my team.

How long have you been running a fantasy sports website?
I've been writing about sports, including fantasy, since high school, but my most recent site ( is still very young. The site made its debut on May 1, 2009.

You are one of the more active fantasy experts on Twitter. What has been your experience with using it?
Twitter has gone a long way towards the growth of Fantasy Sports and has been a huge help for me in promoting my website. Without it, I'm not sure I'd have half the readers I do today considering how young the site is. It has been great for advertising articles and talking with the players and beat writers, but my favorite part about it is being able to easily debate/discuss/argue fantasy football topics all day long with dozens of other experts in the field.

You are one of the most innovative in the fantasy industry with your use of statistics in projections. Can you explain some of the statistics you look at and how you use them in your projections?
Without going into a ton of detail, here is a basic example of my current Andre Johnson projection: I project 64 offensive plays-per-game for Houston, 55% of which are pass attempts. This translates into about 34 pass attempts-per-game for Texans' quarterbacks. Next, I project how many of those attempts will be directed to Johnson. In 2010, I project that figure to be 28%, which would result in about 10 per game. I then use his projected catch%, yards-per-reception mark, and touchdowns-per-reception mark to fill in the blanks. Add it all up and you get 158 targets, 94 receptions, 1,414 yards, 9 touchdowns. I do this for every player. None of the projected figures you just saw are random guesses. I study historical data to make each and every one of them.

Note that it is very rare for me to look at common stats like total touchdowns or total yards when running projections. Instead, I focus on the per-play stats. For example, the main stats I use in projecting a quarterback are yards-per-attempt, Touchdowns-per-attempt, Completion percentage, and Interceptions-per-attempt. Projected Targets coupled with the player's expected percentage of targets turned into receptions (like you just saw in the Johnson example) goes a long way towards determining my wide receiver rankings.

What got you interested in really digging into stats to base projections on?
My "real" job is as an Accountant, so it should be no shocker that I'm into numbers. That being said, I've been into stats since I was very young. I actually used to simulate entire NFL seasons and make up scores for every single game. I learned the divisions, playoff format, and even how to determine the schedule for the upcoming season at a very young age. From there, my interest in stats just grew. These days, most "Stat heads" lean towards the analysis of baseball because it is easier to predict player and team performance. I gave it a shot, but I love football way more than baseball, so that is where I focus all of my attention.

What are some of the more interesting trends you have found with your statistical analysis?
I could go on all day long, but here are some interesting stats you never hear: During the 2009 season, NFL running backs caught 73% of the passes thrown to them. Tight Ends were second at 64%. Wide Receivers caught 57%. 3% is a number that comes up a lot. Since 1999, the NFL average for interceptions/attempt for QBs, rushing touchdowns/attempt by RBs, and receiving touchdowns/reception by RBs is 3%. Tight Ends catch a touchdown on 0.4% more of their receptions than Wide Receivers, but both are right around 8%. Ever see a yards-per-reception figure and wonder how good it is? Runningbacks average 7.8 YPR. Tight Ends sit at 10.6, while Wide Receivers lead the way at 13.5.

We all continually tweak our fantasy projection formulas. Have you been happy with the accuracy of your projections?
Absolutely. The reason I started was because I felt that I could offer a new, innovative way of looking at the game. Although I accept that there is no perfect methodology to predicting the NFL season (I'm confident in my work, but I'm not ignorant), some methods are significantly more effective than others. I'm always tweaking my formulas to try and get as close to perfect as I can and I'm confident that my system will prove again and again that is one of the best out there.

Do you play in fantasy football leagues, and if so how did you do last year?
I play in 8-12 a year and, yes, I was very successful each of the last two seasons. In fact, last season, I qualified for the playoffs in every head-to-head league I participated in, which, if I'm not mistaken, was 10 leagues. In the preseason, I was not afraid to make sure everyone knew Aaron Rodgers was my top fantasy QB going into the season. I took my own advice in drafts and Rodgers breakout season carried me a long way.

Do you have any advice for new fantasy players?
You mean besides "follow me on Twitter and visit regularly"? Although following that advice is very important, I'd also suggest making sure you get a pen and paper or fire up excel and build yourself a set of rankings. Make sure you incorporate your league settings into those rankings. Knowing whether or not your league is PPR is extremely important considering the impact that one stat will have on your rankings. Make sure you keep your rankings updated during the season. To do this, stay up to date on player news, injuries, and changes on the depth charts.

Any tips for seasoned fantasy players?
Pay better attention to Quarterback rushing yards. That may sound silly, but I can't get over how many people dismiss it. Aaron Rodgers was my #1 QB last year and is again this year not because he will out-pass Peyton Manning. In fact, he will score fewer points than Manning in passing categories. He will, however, use 1 point per 10 rushing yards and 6 points per rushing TD to slip past him in total fantasy points.

Do you have any early fantasy football sleeper picks for next year?
I'm higher on David Garrard than most. I see him as a guy who could easily slip into the top 12 if you consider the rushing yards he will put up and the impressive group of skill players around him. Ryan Mathews is getting all the attention, but Jahvid Best could easily be this year's top rookie back if Kevin Smith isn't on the field very often. At wide receiver, I've been very high on Hakeem Nicks and I expect Santana Moss to benefit a ton from the Donovan McNabb trade.

Who are the fantasy experts and fantasy websites you follow in order to keep up with the latest fantasy news and trends?
Rotoworld's Player News feed is one of my favorite places to get player news. I use CBS Sportsline for Player Transactions. Other than that, I really don't focus in on one site. I read work done by my favorite tweeters such as Matt Schauf, Sigmund Bloom, Chet Gresham, etc., but most of the fantasy news and opinion I see each day comes from Twitter.

Do you have anything new coming out that fantasy players should be on the lookout for?
Most people visit my site to see my year-round updated projections and fantasy depth charts. Although that takes up a ton of time, the site will definitely continue to grow. We hope to have improved stat pages, a forum, and customizable rankings, among other features in the near future. If only we could find a talented, reliable web designer...

How can fantasy players follow your work and learn more about what you are doing?
The best way to keep in touch with me is to follow me on Twitter (@FDC_MikeClay). I'm on almost all day long each weekday and randomly on weekends. I answer all questions and I'm always up for a good debate. Of course, you can see all my work at

Thanks for your time and insight Mike. I encourage everyone to check out his work. I believe he has some of the most up to date and insightful fantasy information you will find out there.