Predicting Bounce Back Candidates Using Fibonacci Levels (Fantasy Football)
An NFL team is like a living organism in which everything has to be healthy and in great shape for it to perform at an optimal level. Every player’s performance is dependent on their teammates. Even the greatest wide receiver can have an underperforming season if he is catching passes from a rookie quarterback, or if his team’s starting QB gets injured and the backup isn’t good enough. But once the rookie gets the hang of it or the injured QB comes back next season, that wide receiver’s performance is expected to bounce back.
That’s why the career of an NFL player is cyclical in a very natural and organic way. Their highs and lows aren’t determined only by their talent and opportunity. There are many variables in play and most of them are impossible to predict or control. This is why analyzing fantasy football sometimes feels like predicting the weather. You can make your best-educated guess using the available data, but anything can happen because chaos is part of nature.
Thinking about this natural and chaotic aspect of NFL players’ careers made me wonder if there could be a way to analyze their fantasy performance as an organic pattern like the ones that can be found in nature, and therefore consider all these unpredictable variables somehow. I started digging and what I found blew my mind.
Join me down this crazy rabbit hole. It’ll be fun.
A Quick Intro to Fibonacci Levels
There is a mathematical sequence that can be found in nature, art, statistics, and even in stock markets. It’s called the Fibonacci sequence and it’s crazy how many things in the world naturally behave according to this pattern.
You might have heard about the golden ratio in art. It’s built by tiling squares of different sizes following the Fibonacci sequence and it’s supposed to be the most pleasing way to compose an image.
This golden ratio was adopted by stock traders to create a method to help them determine where the price might change direction. This method is called Fibonacci retracement, and what it basically does is overlay several lines determined by the Fibonacci numbers on a price chart to give traders some hints on where the price could bounce down or up.
There is one area between two of these levels called the “golden zone”, which is the natural price bounce point. But there are other levels where it can be expected to change direction considering other variables (if the price action is too bullish or bearish, for example).
If this natural pattern can be used to predict bounces in something as chaotic and volatile as markets, why shouldn’t we use it to predict and confirm bouncebacks in fantasy football?
How can this be applied to a player’s fantasy performance?
I experimented using a simplified Fibonacci retracement tool on some graphs showing players’ fantasy performance over their careers. I did what traders do and placed the tool using the low and high points to see how “naturally” their performance has fluctuated over the years and determine what to expect in 2023.
To show you how surprisingly exact this can be sometimes, let’s take a look at Patrick Mahomes’ career:
I highlighted the golden zone in green in each set of Fibonacci levels, and I also used some reversed Fibonacci retracements to alternate between the highs and lows. As you can see, every single year his fantasy points per game have fallen exactly in the golden zone. Scary, right?
Mahomes has been great his whole career, but every player fluctuates and he has had his ups and downs, changing direction every season. This doesn’t mean his 2023 season will bounce down again. It could, but his trend could also continue its way up. Some players’ fantasy production can move continually up or down during the span of two or more seasons before changing direction, as we will see in some of the bounce-back candidates I’m about to highlight.
Bounce Back Candidates
Disclaimer: This experiment isn’t an exact science. Not even traders use Fibonacci retracement as an infallible tool. They have to take other variables into account because it’s not magic. It’s just a very useful indicator.
Surprisingly, it turns out it can be useful for fantasy as well. But it’s a somewhat crazy thing to trust, so take it as an alternate source to confirm what you already think. Of course, it won’t give us 100% certainty that these players will bounce back. But it can shed some light on where to expect them to bounce if they do.
I chose some players from which at least part of the fantasy football community expects a bounce-back season, to observe their careers under the Fibonacci looking glass and set some expectations for 2023.
From 2018 to 2019, Lamar Jackson’s production had a big jump up, going from 10 to 28.2 fantasy points per game. According to the Fibonacci retracement logic, a pullback is expected after a move like this. The question is: where will this pullback bounce back up? His production has been trending down during the past two seasons and it has finally reached the 0.382 level. Traders usually look out for possible changes in direction at these higher levels when the momentum is too bullish.
There’s no guarantee that Lamar’s production will bounce back up at this level, but we have reasons to believe it will, like the addition of Zay Flowers to the WR corps. If he manages to have a bounce-back season, our inverse Fibonacci retracement suggests that a realistic expectation would be around 26 FPPG.
This is an interesting case. We don’t have enough seasons from Justin Herbert to read a clear trend. However, after two years of consistent elite fantasy production, his third season did see a considerable drop, due to the kind of unexpected and chaotic variables I mentioned at the beginning of the article.
Everyone expects Justin Herbert to bounce back. His weapons are healthy, he has a shiny new one in rookie WR Quentin Johnston, and his new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore should boost his production. So if we assume that 2022 was the floor of this downward trend from his previous high of 23.3 FPPG, the Fibonacci retracement suggests we could expect a bounce back to the area of around 22 fantasy points per game.
Enough about quarterbacks. Let’s take a look at bounce-back candidates from other positions.
Diontae Johnson’s career has been a story of constant improvement in fantasy performance until the natural cycle of life in the NFL got him a rookie quarterback in 2022. This plummeted his production down to 10.6 FPPG due to the lack of touchdowns. Looking at the Fibonacci retracement, this 2022 pullback landed just below the golden zone. What should we expect now?
As I already mentioned in this article from The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season Series, Diontae Johnson is one of this season’s biggest positive regression candidates. But if we need further reasons to believe he will bounce back, this Fibonacci retracement chart gives us one more. According to this, Diontae Johnson’s production should bounce back to at least 15 FPPG.
Mark Andrews’ fantasy production is obviously linked to Lamar Jackson’s. They’re the two main limbs of the Ravens’ living organism. His career has had its ups and downs, but it has followed an overall healthy upwards trend. His first pullback was a bullish one, bouncing around the 0.236 level, a sign that the trend would continue its way up and break its previous high. In 2022 he had a bigger pullback all the way down to 12.7 FPPG, which was enough for him to finish as the TE3.
The good news is that Mark Andrews’ fantasy production in 2022 finished just below the golden zone, registering a higher low point than the previous one, which is a very positive sign that this year he could finish even higher than his 2021 season. Of course, this is not guaranteed, but it’s a possibility. A more conservative expectation is for him to at least finish inside the golden zone, around 16 or 17 FPPG.
Joe Mixon’s career has been good for fantasy. When we overlay the Fibonacci retracement on his ups and downs, we can see he had a first bullish bounce in his third season, and from there on he trended upwards for two years. In 2020, he bounced back up to the exact golden zone and then continued trending up until his production took a hit last season.
His 2022 fantasy finish wasn’t terrible. It was just affected by a very bad first half of the season. He averaged only 3.3 yards per carry during the first eight weeks and had a hard time finding paydirt. But he managed to balance the scales during the second half, helping his production land just above the expected Fibonacci golden zone. This is a good sign that he should bounce back up in 2023 now that Samaje Perine is out of the picture. The realistic expectation according to the retracement would be around 17 FPPG.
I could play around with this all day, reading the retracement levels on different players, but if I continue further down this rabbit hole, I might start thinking we live in a simulation. If you’re curious about a player in particular, let me know in the comments and we could take a look at what the Fibonacci levels have to say about him.