Scheduling is an important facet of fantasy football but it is often overlooked until after the draft. This can have disastrous effect. This year I drafted Jamal Lewis as my third running back. It looked like a value pick in the seventh round, but was it? A cursory look at the schedule would have revealed 4 games against the steelers and ravens and another 4 against the NFC east. A matchup against the Titans makes 9 weeks in which I would not be able to play him. I should have known that before the season and avoided drafting someone who would sit on my bench all year, without being quite bad enough to drop. That's true worthlessness.
To make things easier I classified every run defense on a 5 star scale. For example, the Lions and Rams are 5 star matchups. I've factored in not just the quality of the run defense, but also the likelihood that a team will be leading and thus running, and also if a pass defense is bad enough for their opponents to pass for many first downs and grab a few running opportunities.
For example, the Saints feature a putrid run defense, but only warrant a 4 star matchup because their offense is likely to keep them on top and their opponents passing to keep up. The seahawks, whose run defense isn't that bad are still a 5 star matchup because teams will up on them so frequently.
Now, forecasting defenses isn't perfect, and I will undoubtably be dead wrong on some of my defense classifications, but isn't some information better than none. We could have safely predicted that aforementioned Lewis opponents would be poor fantasy opponents. Most of the predictions are fairly safe, a few have been nudged from this year's performance. The niners have moved down based on expected improvement. The Bengals have moved up because I'm not confident their strong performance wasn't a fluke.
Speaking of the Bengals, their strong run defense went unoticed by everyone all year. Aroudn midseason I noticed that they had repeatedly been shutting down opposing rbs. They didn't allow 100 yards after week 7, and held big name backs under 50 yards on occasion, all while be consitently behind on the scoreboard. No one was marking Bengals opponents down in fantasy value, but they were fantasy death for backs. The year end stats at www.footballoutsiders.com backs up this assertion. The Bengals run defense is good.
The next question, which ive devoted thought to recently, is what makes a good schedule. I think that it differs based on the situation. For your stud back, you want a schedule with as few bad matchups as possible. 5 stars are nice but if he's your guy you spent your first pick on, he's going to be in your lineup everyweek. You want the guy with the fewest 1 and 2 star matchup. You will feel very comfortable with this guy against 3 stars and will probably play him against 2 stars. For your second and third guys your 3 star plays arent as valuable, and your 2 stars are no longer playable. For 4th running backs and late round fliers your looking at guys that have a lot of 5 stars. Unless they surprise you, I'd rather take a bench guy that has a bunch of great matchups, then someone like Ryan Grant, who will likely put up decent anount of points and never see your fantasy starting lineup.
How much should you factor schedules into your draft. The only answer is somewhat. Draft the guy you want, draft the guy that's going to have a good year, but if there are two guys your considering, that's when you factor in the schedules.