I'm in my second year playing fantasy football. I'm doing pretty good this year, 8-4, but I still can't really help when I see a guy who I think will have a big day, and he is only projected to get like 3 fantasy points. Sometimes I wonder if I should play him. I know most of the projections are based on the madden video game, but still...
I'll be honest. I've been doing Fantasy Football for close to 10 years, and I still look at projections. I don't follow them strictly, but I think that they are a pretty good barometer.
I look at projections, and then I look at matchups, and then I look at what some of the guys are saying (I prefer Matthew Berry, but that's because I've been reading him for a long time).
The best analogy I can use, is that your Fantasy Football Team is a project that you are building. Whatever you use to make your decisions, are tools. It's all about finding the tools that work for you, and using them. I play in an ESPN league, and have for about 4 years now. I will say, in those 4-5 years, this is the worst year I've seen on the projections. There has been an awful lot of overhype in projections, more so than I remember.
For an example, go look at the projections the past two weeks for Benjamin Watson of the Browns. They have put him in double digits since he caught two TD passes. That just isn't going to happen. Not with a team like the browns. But then look at Cecil Shorts. His Projections have stayed a little under, or right on, with where he is.
Projections are little more than educated guess work, but sometimes, they will give you an idea of someone who has been catching on a little more than they had previously.
For me, When I'm looking at the waiver wire, I look at projections, and then I pull up the game history to see why they are projecting that. Sometimes, it pays off (stealing Cecil Shorts on Waivers), sometimes it doesn't (Gronk going out for the season, and putting my hopes in Brandon Meyers).
It is like a recipe, each person might make a food differently. Projections by websites, expert picks, and your gut feeling all mix together. It is up to you to decide what sort of mixture you want. Shoju has been doing this a long time, I've been doing it since 2008 (and only took it seriously the last year or so), over time you will find your own personal groove.
The most important part is to enjoy it all and do your best to win.
Projections are just one tool, but it is good to look at season averages, not just points, but reception/carries and yardage. If someone has a high projection, but that is based on a bomb TD once every few games, then I tend to stay away from them. My favorite WRs are guys who average 4+ catches and play on a good offense, or an offense that has a great matchup.
I also tend to shy away from average WRs who just had a really good game. In fact, I often pick someone who had a down weekend, hoping that I get them on the re-bound.
Here is an expansion on why I, and the others who have responded, look at projections as merely a tool, and not a stand alone guideline. Here is how the week broke down.
Game 1 - Me(9-3) VS (3-9) Projections had me favored to win by 23 points: 112 - 89 I win by 80: 122-42 I Exceeded my Projected Total by 10 He missed his projected total by 47.
Game 2 - 6-6 @ 6-6. Projections had the Away team winning by 20. 99-79 Away Team won by 42: 115-73 Away Team beat project total by 16 Home Team under-performed by 6.
Game 3 - 10-2 @ 2-11. Projections has 10-2 winning by 33. 124 - 91 10-2 Won by 48. 117-69. 10-2 under-performed by 7. Home Team under-performed by 22.
Game 4 - 7-5 @ 6-6 Projections had 6-6 winning by 30: 103-73 6-6 LOST 92-83 6-6 under-performed by 11 8-4 exceeded his projection by 19
Game 5 - 5-7 @ 7-5 Projections had 7-5 winning by 30: 109 - 79 7-5 won by 5: 80-75 7-5 under-performed by 29 5-7 under-performed by 4
Now, I can't be sure who does what in my league. I'm sure some of them go by "projection chalk", and others go with their gut, and others do.... other things. But what I can tell you, is that the projections, while right about the winner 80% of the time, proved to be wildly inaccurate in picking the final score. Only 3 times, or 30% was the projection within single digits of the final score of the team. BY the same token, it was only off by more than 20 points, 3 times, or 30%.
Now this is a small sample size, and pushing further, will only serve to take this topic into a deeply analytical place that is probably more math intensive than need be. The bottom line? Projections at a "team scope" are probably a good "barometer" but past that, I'd use them as a guide, and a loose guide at that.
There's also the question of how the utlimate score is derived, and how wildly individual scores vary from what players' were projected to score. In other words, if your team is project to score 120 points, and you score 120 points, but based on a totally different points tally amongst your starters than forecast, well then the projections were still messed up.
Ultimately, when I am uncertain about who to start, I try to start someone who I will probably watch play, so as to make it a little more interesting for me. Nothing like taking David Jones WR Buffalo, projected to score a few measly points, and go on to 17 or so right in front of my eyes. Don't remember if that was week 5 6 or 7, but sure felt great!