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Value-Based Drafting: The Best Way to Draft a Fantasy Football Champion

Value-based Drafting
Philip Rivers Photo Credit: Nathan Rupert

If you only take away one concept or read one article this year for your Fantasy Football research, make sure Value-Based Drafting is the theme. Value-Based Drafting, or VBD is the most successful and proven method with which to draft a Fantasy Football team.

Value-based drafting is not just a strategy. It is not trying to go RB-RB in the first two rounds or making sure to lock down an elite receiver. VBD is a Fantasy Football philosophy.

The ironic part of the method is that almost every single person that has played Fantasy Football has used the same logic and reasoning that value-based drafting is based off. Unless you draft a kicker in the single-digit rounds, then you are already using value-based drafting to an extent. What does that exactly mean?

Finding the Best Value

So everyone that plays Fantasy Football knows that in normal scoring, kickers are almost meaningless. There is no consistency year-over-year or even week-by-week. The difference between the top scoring kicker and the last starter is usually less than a point a week.

So as a community, we have realized that there is no value in drafting the top kicker off the board early. We reason that there is more to be gained by adding depth at the skill positions rather than lock in Stephen Gostkowski or Greg Zeulein.

The problem is that the majority of people only use this thought process with kickers and/or defenses. When in reality, it should be used with every pick in your draft.

Fantasy Football Draft Capital

Whether you are in a snake or auction-style draft, you have draft capital. It is either your slotted draft picks or your auction budget. The key is to obtain the most value from players with the capital with which you have to work.

Consider: everyone starts with (more or less) the same amount of draft capital. Therefore, everyone should come out with the same value on their Fantasy Football roster. Finding the inequities in terms of value is how to differentiate your drafting style from your league mates.

Think of an auction draft for instance. If you take Aaron Rodgers for $35 (325.6 projected Fantasy Points) and Joe Mixon at $27 (165.1 points) you have a combined 490.7 projected Fantasy Points. If you wait the quarterback position out to get Philip Rivers for $2 (257.6 projected Fantasy Points) and spent $60 on David Johnson (266.9). That would be 524.5 projected Fantasy Points.

So with the same exact draft capital, you can obtain over two points per week on the projected average. That is the basis of value-based drafting. You want to maximize the value on every piece of draft capital at your disposal.

Value-Based Drafting

Value-based drafting is essentially comparing how much value a player can provide over a replacement level player at the same position.

The philosophy is by far the most effective way to evaluate players from different positions. Once again, we are all using value-based drafting by not taking quarterbacks in the first round. I mean, they score the most points right? So if the object of the game is to score the most points, then that means they should go first, right?

No! That’s why we are all taking running back and receivers in Round One. We inherently know that there is more value added to your team with a top tier, elite running back or wide receiver. Just look at the example above.

Setting the Base Line

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The first and arguably most important aspect of value-based drafting is setting a baseline. The baseline is simply the replacement-level production for each position. How much value can you get from a back-up or waiver wire addition at the position?

First and foremost, you must create or find a set of projections you can believe in. Whether you just want to use the platform your league is on or take the average projections off of Fantasy Pros, you need to agree with them.

Feel free to change the projections to fit your personal thoughts too. If you think Kareem Hunt is being projected at his absolute ceiling, then lower his numbers down to where you are comfortable projecting him. That is more often than not the problem with certain projections. They put every player at his maximum possible output, instead of the more likely amount of production.

The best way to adjust projections is taking the player’s career trajectory into account. A great example of this is Melvin Gordon this year. In each year that the 25-year old has been in the league he has increased his carries, rushing yards, targets, receptions, receiving yards and Fantasy Points. Yet, his consensus projection has him with decreases in every single category. So I am going to bump his numbers up to a slight increase to fall in line with his career trajectory.

2 Ways To Set The Base Line

Setting the base line is also the most diverse portion of the strategy. There’s typically two ways to do it. The most common way is using the last starting player at the position. For example, if you start two running backs in a 12-team league, the 24th-ranked back is your baseline.

The other route is to use the waiver-wire as your baseline. If you know that your 10-team league averages taking about six wide receivers per team, then your 61st projected wide-out or top receiver on the waiver wire would be your base line.

The Dynamic Aspect

The baseline is where I have modified value-based drafting to be more active and malleable. A Fantasy Football draft is in a constant state of flux. One owner’s massive reach can change the whole draft board for you. The only constant with value in a Fantasy Football draft is that it is constantly changing.

For example, let’s say you are drafting out of the 8th spot in a 12-team league. You need a quarterback in Round 9 and there are four available within a few points of each other. Running back is another spot that you could shore up, but there are only two players within range of each other at that position. So you take the running back because, at that moment, he provided more value to the base line than a quarterback.

There is a mini-run at quarterback, and all four of your options are gone by your next pick while the other running back you were targeting is still there. By using the normal, basic form of value-based drafting, you actually cost yourself some value.

Dynamic Value-Based Drafting

So I created Dynamic Value-Based Drafting. What I do is create an Excel Spreadsheet that automatically updates the baseline of the remaining players at each position. Each player still has his original Points Above Replacement (or PAR) to the starter-level baseline production. However with a few VLookUp and Macro formulas, I have a draft tab that automatically shows me the value remaining at each position once I update with who was taken with a pick.

This ability to see the value of each player in reference to the remaining draft board is a clearer picture of where the best value lies.

Tiers

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Tiers are becoming more common and popular than normal rankings. Instead of saying that without a doubt Todd Gurley is a better option than LeVeon Bell who is a better option that Ezekiel Elliott, a tier lets you be more flexible with your draft strategy.

If you know that you just want one of that elite running back tier, then you can choose the third pick if given the option. You now know you will at least get one of that tier. This is especially useful in cross-positional comparisons. If there are four guys of one tier left as opposed to just one, then you can make a better value-based choice with your selection.

Once again, value-based drafting is already being used to an extent if you are using tiers. It takes less mathematical calculation and Excel knowledge as well. While it is still a bit simplified for me and I would rather have a quantifiable identifier for the comparison, I essentially am looking at tiers within my Dynamic Value-Based Draft spreadsheet.

Utilizing Value-Based Drafting

If you have never researched or used value-based drafting, then this article can be a bit dense. Without a doubt the best way to dive in is using the Fantasy Pros Mock Draft Wizard. You can literally do a mock draft in minutes, from your phone, and they have a VBD aspect to show you the best values.

The other easy way to institute the philosophy for your draft is exporting a set of projections you agree with to Microsoft Excel. All you need to do manually is add one column to subtract the baseline from each player’s projection. You can then see where the value is available with each pick.

I would highly encourage trying this out as many times as possible with the Draft Wizard tool. You will quickly find where you agree or don’t agree with the projections. You can also see which baseline method would be the best route for your personal draft.

Unless you are an Excel-Hogwarts graduate or have a deep history with value-based drafting I might stay away from the dynamic aspect just yet. Either way, value-based drafting can be the basis by which you construct a solid and profitable Fantasy Football roster through your draft.


Now that you have the skinny on value-based drafting, check out our running back primer along with some wide receiver sleepers. If you have any questions about dynamic value-based drafting, let me know on Twitter @Tomlin3

Michael Tomlin
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Michael Tomlin

Michael Tomlin is an ESPY-nominated, former college football player who stays associated with the game through Fantasy Sports. He has been writing his personal blog, Dirkland.blogspot.com, for three years and it focuses on Fantasy Sports, as well as handicapping. He was born and raised in the DFW Metroplex, and he follows all of the Dallas teams, along with Texas Tech athletics and Manchester City F.C.
Michael Tomlin
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