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2019: The Best Damn Draft Theory

When should you draft different positions? Should Saquon Barkley be taken ahead of Michael Thomas? Should Aaron Donald be grabbed ahead of George Kittle?  Heck, where should any position be drafted as compared to any other position?

To answer that question, I’ll draw on one of the industry innovations I implemented over 15 years ago: Consistency Rankings. Let’s take a look at how consistent every position player is (excluding kickers, since many studies have proven that kickers should be drafted last, period), the range of their scoring and their relative value. In order to gauge the relative value of positions, for this data sample we’ve chosen to look only at players who would have qualified at the position (so we’re essentially looking at players who would likely be chosen in the early-to-middle rounds of most fantasy drafts). This is a departure from my previous CR methodology, which only looked at players who started more than eight games.

Table 1: Consistency Ratings (“CR”) by Year and Position

 

Note: The lower the CR, the more consistent the position

A couple of things to note:

  • This is a statistically derived definition of consistency. Unlike some other hack fantasy football writers who define “consistency” as scoring a minimum number of points in a game or as having “good” games, I use math, folks.
  • The two most “stable” positions in 2018 were QB (offense) and LB (defense) while the least stable were TE and DL.

OK, so what’s next? Well, the next reasonable step would seem to be calculating the relative value of each position, incorporating the stability of each. That is, WR might be the most volatile position but it might have the highest payoff (in terms of fantasy points produced). Let’s take a look:

Table 2: Average Fantasy Scoring by Year and Position

 

Note: Values assume standard Point-per-Reception scoring.

Hmmm. So QB, on average in this sample, produces the most fantasy points. Interesting. Now let’s look at one more factor: population size. That is to say, what is the number of “draftable” players (across all the positions in this study) belonging to each position? Is there one position whose value is driven up due to the scarcity of quality at that position? Let’s take a look:

Table 3: “Draftable” Players by Year and Position

 

Now this is confusing… TEs were the scarcest “draftable” position in 2018. But were TEs really the scarcest position? To really find out, we need to look at the quirk known as roster requirements or starting lineup requirements.

Starting lineup requirements vary from league to league, but most are a takeoff of the 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 DL, 3 LB, 3 DB, 1 PK model. How does a lineup requirement affect our analysis? Let’s keep looking…

Further assuming a 12-team league, the minimum percentage of draftable players that will be required to be taken, by position, would be:

Table 4: Minimum Percentage of “Draftable” Players


So RB becomes the position that requires the highest percentage of “draftable” players (by far), as defined as in Table 3. Does that mean RBs should demand our priority on Draft Day? What about those top-producing QBs? It is obvious that we need some way to weight the results of the first four tables in order to account for the information we’ve just uncovered, in order to place the proper value on each position.

To recap, we’ve tried to determine the relative value of each position in order to craft a draft strategy applicable to any situation. We’ve tried to focus on three factors:

  • Consistency (how volatile is each position?)
  • Relative value (how much in demand is each position?).
  • Inherent value (how well does the position perform?)

In other words, we’re trying to describe each position as if we were evaluating stock sectors in the marketplace. We’re trying to maximize value for the pick– a fantasy football version of “buy low, sell high”. We can do this by ranking the positions in order of their relative value in each component of analysis and come up with an aggregate score:


Note: The table above was derived for a league comprised of 12 teams and position requirements of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE.

We’ve done all this math and model building, what does it all mean? It means that for the league and rules listed above, we have established a relative value for every position (outside of kickers and defensive teams) such that during our draft, we’ll know that WRs and RBs are more valuable than TEs and that all other things being equal, we should choose to stack the RB and WR positions ahead of the TE position, and the TE ahead of the QB. Note that we have not attempted to predict the value of individual players– that would take a micro-level analysis that is beyond the scope of this article.

But notice the true payoff here: for the first time in all the years I’ve been doing this analysis, TEs have moved ahead of the QBs in terms of relative value.

On the defensive side of the ball, we get the following results:


Note: The table above was derived for a league comprised of 12 teams and position requirements of 2DL, 3LB and 3DB.

The defensive analysis validates what most folks knew instinctively: by far, the most valuable defensive position is linebacker; but the surprising fact might be that the DLs and DBs are tied for second.

But what if you’re drafting in a full IDP league? Where do you take your first IDP in relation to the offensive players? This is a little more difficult to gauge, but not impossible. The same principles apply:


So in a mixed offense/defense league, the BDDM assigns the following relative values: RB, WR, TE, QB, LB, DL and DB.

Note again the true beauty of the BDDM, which is its flexibility: while other “experts” are just now catching up to the insights the BDDM exposed in 2013, the BDDM adapts to NFL trends almost immediately. In an IDP league, running backs and wide receivers continue to rule the roost, with RBs being nearly 16% more valuable than running backs in offense-only leagues, but just 0.40% in IDP leagues.

 

Does Size Really Matter?

Some of you will read this and ask “Well, this works for a 12-team league, but I play in a 10-team league. Do the results of the BDDM change when looking at league of different sizes?”  That is an excellent question.

The truth is that I spent some extra time this off-season looking at 8-, 10-, and 14-team leagues to see if the BDDM yields the same results. In the interest of conserving some space, I’ll spare printing all 21 tables of data, but the answer is that the BDDM results hold true for leagues of 8-, 10-, 12- and 14-team leagues. The key metric is the availability of each position with respect to league size; the bigger the league the wider the spread between RB and WR, that is, the dominance of the WR position increases along with league size.

 

How Flexible is the BDDM?

Another wild card is the inclusion of a “Flex” position in the roster requirements (typically on offense). How should the flex position be treated by the BDDM?

Here’s the beauty of this solution: the flex position is an independent variable in this whole scheme. That is, the addition of the flex position should be treated as a completely separate event. Since the flex position can be any position—usually with the exception of QB—the flex should be filled by the most productive position available.

However, this is a bit problematic in that a lot will depend on the actions of the other owners in the draft. If everyone else is a competent drafter, then they will have likely grabbed all the “draftable” RBs by the time you get to select your Flex starter; in this event, a WR becomes the best choice.

 

The Executive Summary

For anyone who has ever worked in a big corporation, you have most likely heard of the ‘”Executive Summary”– this is a term applied to a summary so simple and concise that it takes very complicated and intense analysis and boils it down to a few easy-to-digest bullet points, something so clear that even a C.E.O. can understand it.

I’m doing the same for the BDDM. The tables below will break down the relative values of the various positions as percentages, both to the top position (RB) and to each other:

The Best Damn Draft Theory Executive Summary

 

Keep in mind what the BDDM is telling us: it is assigning a relative value to every position in the Draft, which the educated owner can then use to maximize his picks. It does not provide a strict draft order– although anecdotal evidence may eventually support that position.

 

Terms Defined

Scoring Average: average fantasy points produced by the position, using players who started at least eight games. Scoring methodology is the same as that used by World Championship of Fantasy Football.

Consistency Rating: the volatility within the position, i.e., how far from the scoring average did players perform? A lower score means a more consistent performance within the group.

Availability: the percentage of eligible players required by the draft at the position. This is determined by taking the starting requirements for the position, multiplying that by the number of teams, and then dividing the product by the number of eligible players.

Ranks: A positional ranking was assigned to each group, with four being given to the position with the highest value in a category, one to the lowest. For example, the position with the highest scoring average was given a four (for IDP rankings, the scale used was 1 to 3).

Adjusted Ranks: in order to properly weight the rankings while still trying to capture real-life trends, we did the following: the 2018 rankings were multiplied by five; the 2017 rankings by four; the 2016 rankings by three; the 2015 rankings by two; the 2014 rankings were taken at face value.

2019 BDDM Score: obtained by taking the Adjusted Rankings of each position and dividing by five.

 

 

About John Georgopoulos

John T. Georgopoulos is a 24-year veteran of fantasy sports journalism. John’s Fantasy Forecast series has won the prestigious Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for Best Series, and he’s been nominated as an FSWA Award finalist on nine occasions. You can also listen to his watch all his various shows at The Riot.