The lessons of plus-minus

Do not sleep on Roddy White as a fantasy option in 2010. Getty Images

It's nearing mid-August, so your fantasy draft is likely approaching. When looking at WRs to draft, there's one metric developed by Football Outsiders that could prove helpful: the plus-minus rating.

A receiver's plus-minus rating is the number of passes he should have caught -- versus his actual catch total -- in a given season. We arrive at the figure by using our Game Charting Project data to strip out as many "uncatchable" passes as possible. From there, we take each pass and use the historical catch rate for the past four years to create a baseline catch percentage.

Let's say that a pass thrown eight yards in the air downfield on third-and-10 to the left side of the field is caught 72 percent of the time. We then take every one of a receiver's targets and figure out how many catches he should have had, using those baselines. After adjusting each individual's figures for the team around him, we compare the expected catches to the receiver's actual catches and produce the plus-minus figure. You can find more info here.

We've discovered that a receiver with a particularly high or low plus-minus tends to regress toward the mean in the subsequent season; this is where the fantasy hook comes in. Very few fantasy projections take into account a player's catch rate -- and because plus-minus is a new statistic, none use plus-minus. We're going to use plus-minus to highlight players who are either overvalued or undervalued heading into 2010.


Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints (45 catches, 10.6 plus-minus)