Now that we have taken on the early rounds in your Fantasy Football Draft as well as compared weekly consistency vs. year-end total points, it’s time to pull back the curtain on Dynamic Value Based Drafting (DVBD) in general. I wanted to get those first two items out of the way since the early rounds are more about avoiding busts rather than finding value and we need to use year-end total points for baseline data.
Our own Jack Delaney broke down part of the theme of DVBD down terrifically in his Prisoner Dilemma article, “All players are worse off when they all play their dominant strategies, compared to when each plays some other strategy.” This is basically saying that if everyone is following the same strategy then it is as if no one is playing any strategy at all.
For example, if everyone in your 12-team league is sticking to the outdated RB-RB philosophy, then they will end up taking Joseph Randle at the end of the second round. Seriously, he is going as the 24th running back off the board by ADP and he might not even be a starter.
Obviously even the K.C. Joyner’s and Field Yates’ of the world (they think Mark Ingram and Melvin Gordon are worth top-17 picks!!) would draw a line at some point and switch their strategy. This already shows that we subconsciously act somewhat dynamically in that we know Randle would not be worth the 24th pick. Anyone would agree with this intuitive reasoning, but how can we act that logically with all of our picks while taking out pre-conceived bias?
This is where DVBD comes into play. I mean, think about the definition of dynamic: “characterized by constant change, activity or progress.” Does that not completely describe a Fantasy Football draft? It also depicts what your subliminal thought process is doing as the situation in front of you changes.
Valued-Based Drafting in general has been used for many years. The foundation of this strategy is finding a baseline projection for what a replacement level (waiver wire addition) would give your team in production. You can then use your projections to see how much value a player gives you over that replacement level, so that cross-positional comparisons can be made.
The reason this strategy is not talked about or used in analysis more is that it causes you to take a firm stance with rankings. There is significantly more wiggle room with pre-season predictions when you can rank guys within a position and not have to be held accountable for bad forecasts.
It is also difficult to evaluate because every league is different. These little differences (number of flexes, PPR, points for TD pass, etc.) can make huge differences in the baseline data. This, to me, is the biggest problem with Fantasy Football analysis in general: the dreaded “standard” league. I have played the game since 2003 and was in double-digit leagues last year, but have still never played in or known someone in a “standard” league by ESPN’s definition.
To me, this is what makes DVBD so great: with a little Microsoft Excel knowledge, you can adjust your projections no matter how your league is set up.
Creating Your Projections
First and foremost, you must decide on a set of projections. Whether you just copy one set off a website, average a few different sets out or make your own, you need to come up with a forecast for each player’s output that you will stake your claim to.
Now I know that no pre-season estimate is foolproof, and there is no guarantee that the set you choose will be accurate. This is why I create a few different sets of projections myself, and average them out with a few other analysts’ that I trust to get a consensus.
Once you have the expected total of how many yards/catches/touchdowns each player will have on a spreadsheet, you need to create a formula column that will calculate how many Fantasy Points the statistics will add up to. If you are in multiple leagues, this will definitely help so that you can just change one column if the scoring is different.
Adding the Dynamic
Regular Value-Based Drafting sets up a baseline for the waiver wire player and gives a value based on how many of that position you need to draft. Personally, I would rather know how much value that player is providing me over the other players that will be starting, since they will be matched up the majority of the time.
For example if the tight end pool is so deep that there is no significant difference in points between the 10th and 20th ranked players, the top tier will get under-valued by using the waiver-wire level. When, in fact, the value comes by going elite at the position because of the negligible difference in depth. If everyone is guaranteed low-TE1 production, then it would pay off to have a significant advantage there (zig when others zag).
The best way to see this difference is by using the last presumed starter at each position as the baseline. If your league starts two running backs, then the 24th ranked RB by total points will be your replacement level player. Flex leagues are a little different, so if there is just one flex (RB/WR), then take the Top 60 combined of the two positions and that player will be your flex replacement level.
Speaking of leagues that utilize a flex position, if your league is also any sort of Points Per Reception (PPR), then you will see that the Top 60 flex players will be over half filled with wide receivers. Using this DVBD system is what opened my eyes to how much running backs are over-valued and getting stud receivers pays off. As I just said, if everyone is going to need to start three receivers, it would be pay off to get the elite-level players to guarantee an advantage.
Points Above Replacement (PAR)
Once you have your baselines in place, you can then use the projections that you trust to come up with each player’s Points Above Replacement or PAR. It is basically the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic from baseball, but translated into a Fantasy Football measurement.
I did not like having the set values on players and going down a list since the draft situation was so fluid. This is where I added my own wrinkle by making a spreadsheet that could be easily changed to show the current situation. By using VLOOKUP’s in Microsoft Excel, you can create a “Draft” tab in your workbook that automatically updates each position with the best available players next to their PAR. (If you even want to go a step further, and are especially adept at Excel, I added another column next to the player and PAR to show their ADP, giving me a range for when that player might be taken.)
This tab will then allow you to easily and quickly see which player provides the most value with what is still available. In online-draft instances, this is especially clutch in making a decision with which you might only have 30 seconds. Either way, by having each player’s PAR value, you can compare players regardless of position.
How to Determine Value
There is something that needs to be said here that might help put the dynamic portion of the process into perspective: a player’s “value” can only be determined by the pool at which he is chosen from. By that I mean you cannot use players previously selected to determine the value of the current players available.
While you may think it is awesome that you picked Andrew Luck at the end of the second round that should have no bearing on when Peyton Manning should be taken. Another way to look at it: if you somehow get LeSean McCoy at the end of the second round, but leave a higher value in Matt Forte on the board then you actually did not get as much of a steal as you think.
Utilizing Dynamic Value Based Drafting
Let’s say that you are in the fifth round of your draft, with two running backs and two receivers rostered. You see a couple of tight ends, as well as quarterbacks that you like including Greg Olsen, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan. While Big Ben’s PAR may be higher than the tight end, Matt Ryan is not far behind him and the drop-off after Olsen is huge.
This is an instance when you might not take the highest PAR available and where DVBD has a leg up on regular VBD. With the ability to see the entire situation at hand, you can see that the opportunity cost of losing out on Olsen is much higher than the small leg-up Roethlisberger has on him in PAR.
These are the type of decisions that DVBD will help with. Whether it is an either/or conundrum in a snake draft, or trying to determine auction values, Dynamic Value Based Drafting can help you make informed decisions with logic and reasoning. Next, we will look at which players to keep in mind during the middle rounds using this strategy.
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