Fantasy Football Value Based Drafting
Every fantasy football owner is faced with the difficult dilemma at some point during the draft; when to pick a quarterback? Should I select my 2nd running back or my first wide receiver? Should I take a 3rd running back or the next best wide receiver? A value based drafting (VBD) strategy, originated more than a decade ago by The Football Guys, will dictate exactly when you select players at each position throughout the draft. We’ve added a few improvements on the theory, part of which considers injury risk. Read on…
Key point #1: The value of a player is determined not by the number of points he scores, but by how much he outscores his peers at his particular position. Value based drafting compares players across all positions.
Key Point #2: The reason that value based drafting is more effective than any other drafting strategy is scarcity of resources.
Let’s look at a 12 team fantasy football league that starts 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 2 Flex RB\WRs, 1 PK, and 1 Def/ST. For simplicity sake, we’ll omit the TE, PK and Defense for this example. Let’s focus on building the best starting lineup, which translates into 1 QB, 3 RBs, and 3 WRs. The PK and Def are irrelevant because the best PK and Def aren’t much better than the 12th best.
Without calculating anything further, we can see that the RB position is the scarcest. But let’s prove the point with some simple resource utilization percentages. There are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and only 12 are selected as starters in our 12 team fantasy league. 37.5% (12/32) of the available quarterback resources are used. Sure, some backups are drafted, but only 12 QBs are required to start. Translation: decent quarterbacks can be found late in the draft and during free agency.
There are 64 starting wide-receivers in the NFL and 36 are required to start in our 12 team fantasy league. 56.25% (36/64) utilization. Translation: wide receivers are more valuable than quarterbacks.
There are 32 starting running backs in the NFL and 36 are required as fantasy starters. 112.5% (36/32) resource utilization. Furthermore, only 10 NFL running backs are truly considered workhorse or every down backs (Charles, McCoy, Forte, Moreno, Lynch, Peterson, Murray, CJ2K, Lacy, and Gore). All of the remaining “starters” are part of a running back by committee (RBBC) to varying degrees or sit out on obvious passing downs. Do the math. 36/10 = 360% utilization! Translation: When resources are scarce, it’s wise to load up early on that position.
Now you have the basics, but we’re still faced with the tough decision when to draft a QB or when should you take a WR over a running back. The answer lies in the x-factor from our value based drafting chart. Step by step, here’s how it works:
1. Compile the average points for top 12 QBs, top 36 RBs, top 36 WRs and top 12 TEs for past 3 seasons. I’ve pulled a list of actual points from my CRFFL league for the past three seasons.
One rule of thumb with value based drafting is that we’re targeting the best starting lineup first and foremost. Backup RBs and WRs can be selected only after our top 7 starters (1 QB, 3 RBs, 3 WRs). Lastly, draft a kicker and defense in rounds 14-17.
Also note that the points for the past three seasons are averaged independent of player names. The top scoring QB averages 8,059 points per year, the second ranked quarterback averages 7,300 points per year …etc.
2. Calculate the Baseline
Baseline=replacement player value. The simplest method is to use the worst starter (12th ranked) or last starter – 1, which is the 13th ranked quarterback, as the baseline player to compare, but this assumes that the replacement player chosen is always the last starter. We can’t assume that the replacement player (i.e. next best option) is the last starter. Despite numerous popular articles on value based drafting, this is not the best method! There are usually several players in between that will be available prior to this last pick; therefore, all remaining players (starters) within the position must be considered in the baseline calculation.
The second most popular baseline method is to calculate the average starter for the position. The flaw in this method is that it includes players that have already been selected in the calculation. The average must be adjusted as players are removed from the board, which is exactly what we do.
The best method is to look at the average of all remaining starters at the position and use this value as the baseline, which is key point #3. Looking at the remaining players (starters) takes more consideration into the scarcity factor as the draft progresses in real-time rather than looking at a static view pre-draft.
How do you calculate the remaining average points for each position (i.e. Baseline)?
Note: Look closely at the formulas above for remaining position average. The #1 QB = Average ($D2:$D$13), #2 QB = Average ($D3:$D$13) and so forth. The #12 QB points and remaining average should be equal. We’re only averaging the starters for each position (top 12 QBs, top 36 RBs, top 36 WRs) and we’re averaging the remaining starters.
3. Calculate the x-Factor (avg. points – baseline) / baseline, adjusted for injury risk.
It’s simple. The baseline is subtracted from the 3 year average points. Then divide by the baseline to get a ratio. That number is also multiplied by a factor for injury risk by position. This is important because it takes into consideration that running backs, for example, are at a greater risk for injury than any other position.
4. Repeat x-factor formula for all positions.
5. Plug in your player rankings.
The rankings should be a composite list of the top 20 expert fantasy analysts from across the web. We inserted the consensus ranks from FantasyPros. Feel free to tweak players that you like by moving a few up or down one or two spots based on gut feel or new information coming out of training camp. However, ranking deviations greater than two spots should be avoided.
6. Copy all players for all positions and paste into a new sheet and sort by X-Factor in descending order.
You now have a complete list of the top 96 players. This is your value based drafting cheat sheet. Draft day will be a breeze. Simply cross off players as they are drafted. Pick the player with the highest x-Factor.
To prove our point that value based drafting is the solution to fantasy draft success, let’s hold a 6 player 2 team mock draft. Example: Let’s consider a two team league with three players, consisting of one QB, RB and WR.
Team A selects RB-WR-QB based on highest x-factor at each position. Team B selects QB-RB-WR based on highest player points.
- Team A Team B
- Charles .510 (5566 pts) Manning (8059 pts)
- C. Johnson .386 (5805 pts) D. Thomas (5364)
- Rodgers .199 (7300 pts) McCoy (5140 pts)
- Team A = 18,671 points. Team B=18,563 points
Team A comes out ahead by focusing on a RB, Charles, with an x-score of .510 and waiting on a quarterback with their last pick. The difference may seem slight, but when applied to a full fantasy roster with 12 teams and 17 rounds, the benefits are multiplied.
Remember the keys of value based drafting.
- The value of a player is determined not by the number of points he scores, but by how much he outscores his peers at his particular position.
- Value based drafting quantifies the scarcity of each position.
- The best baseline compares the average of all remaining starters at the position.
- Adjust the x-factor for injury risk.
Follow these simple steps and you will always have the answer as to which player to draft next. We also have a great article looking at auction values when combined with VBD.