The best thing about still being involved in fantasy baseball is that it means I am in the playoffs. While I am in many leagues, there are three which I consider the important leagues. I define “important” to mean there is a reasonable buy-in accompanied with it and an even more reasonable first place prize. Unsurprisingly, if you read my baseball posts, all three of these leagues are points leagues. Currently I am in the World Series in two of them, and the semi-finals of the third. Pulling off a three league win would be pretty sweet, but I’ve still got a long way to go.
The worst thing about still being involved in fantasy baseball is that it means my fantasy football research has been severely hindered and delayed. While I refuse to play in a pay league where the draft occurs more than a week before the regular season starts, this still gives me little time to prepare. And perhaps even worse, it reduces that amount of pre-draft advice I can attempt to sling your way. Not that many of you give a sh*t what I have to say, but I do have a handful of readers that have at least some interest in my posts.
Take me on in the Razzball Commenter Leagues for a chance at prizes! Free to join, leagues still open!
It’s no secret that I hate leagues with snake drafts. Just like I refuse to pony up money for a league that drafts two weeks before the season, I also refuse to be a member of a league that snakes. It’s auction or bust for me. Paraphrasing myself from previous seasons, in an auction league you have the opportunity to own any player. You could potentially roster three players that would have been first rounders in a snake. Of course you will likely be crippling your budget and ability to bid on mid-level players, but if you are a studs and duds kind of owner and are happy with waiting until the end of the auction to fill your roster with $1 players, you can. Being at the mercy of the picks leading up to your pick, or having to pick one player or the other because you know the other won’t be there at your next pick is just not my definition of fun. Being a slave to ADP is bullsh*t. And finally deciding who you want with your next pick only to have that player selected one turn before yours is the fantasy football draft equivalent of a kick in the nuts.
My strategy for an auction is simple. Procure a set of projections with which you feel comfortable. Without projections, it is very hard to move forward. It’s almost like trying to beat The Legend of Zelda without the sword. It’s doable, but not advised.
Perhaps sword was not the best analogy. I view projections more as my map that helps guide me. I then couple those projections with the current going dollar value for each player. Please keep in mind that this is different than the dollar values that the major sites assign to players. I don’t care how much an “expert” thinks a player is worth, what’s important is how much you are actually going to have to spend to get said player. These rough values are available on most sites by looking at the completed draft/auction results. I referred to these as “rough” because they are not entirely accurate. Many of the league results included are leagues with different variables than your league. These variables include number of teams, total auction dollars, roster size and lineup configuration. However, at the end of the day they are give you a very good ballpark figure. I can’t seem to get my mind off of baseball.
I thought about making this next section its own post, but since draft season is nearing an end it made more sense to cram it all into this post. Now that you have estimated costs for each player, I’d like to share my process for figuring out exactly how much I think a player is actually worth.
First take your projections and calculate each player’s expected fantasy points based on your league’s scoring settings. Next separate the players by position if you haven’t already done so. We need to generate position adjusted rankings. To do this we need Z-Score and FVARz. Enter math.
The key to determining position-adjusted rankings is trying to figure out how much more valuable each player is than the replacement level player at his position. The replacement level player is the guy that can be typically found on the waiver wire. You always want to make sure you have a player better than this player.
To do this we need to figure out how many players at each position we care about. In a 12-team, 1-QB league, we really only care about 12 QBs. While most will draft a second QB, it’s that first one that you really care about.
For the purposes of this demonstration I am going to use a 12-team PPR league with the following roster: QB(1), RB(2), WR(2), TE(1), FL(1), DST(1), K(1), Bench (6). This is a total of 15 players per team. However, I really only care about the starting lineup minus the kicker and DST. You should not spend more than $1 on K and DST, so we don’t need any fancy math there. With 12 teams we are looking at the following numbers of players at each position: QB(13), RB(43), WR (43), TE(13)
Now before you rush to the comments section asking how why I have 43 running backs and 43 wide receivers, let me explain. Even though there are only two RB spots in the lineup, we all know that running backs are a hot commodity and they will be going like hot cakes on draft team. Teams will grab at least four of them. This number also takes into account the flex position in our lineup. My explanation for WR is pretty similar. Also, I have added one player at each position to represent the replacement player.
The last player at each position is the replacement player. Once we have our list of players at each position completed we can calculate each player’s Z-Score.
Z-SCORE = (Player’s Projected Points – Average Projected Points For All Players At That Position In Our Pool) / Standard Deviation For That Data Set
Given the QB player pool below you need to calculate the average points and the standard deviation. Excel is your friend. If you can’t figure out the average, this exercise is not for you. As for standard deviation, it’s not all that hard. The average is 289.69, the standard deviation is 23.32 and Derek Carr is our replacement player. Use the Z-Score formula above to get Z-Score.
Now we need to determine each player’s fantasy value over replacement (FVARz). We do this by taking the replacement player and subtracting his Z-Score value from everyone else at his position. The replacement player will end up with an FVARz of zero. Once we’ve done this for each position, we can not only compare players across positions, but we can also calculate auction values specific to your league.
The next step is to take all of the players from each position pool and combine them into one player pool. This represents all of the players we care about on draft day. That’s not entirely true. There will certainly be sleepers and $1 players you are hoping to draft, but this list of players is the list of players that are expected to cost more than $1. Once you have the list you can sort by FVARz and you will see your league’s overall rankings.
One thing you will notice is that you will likely find a QB (Aaron Rodgers) in the top ten. If this were a snake draft I wouldn’t take him in the first, but it’s not. In snake leagues I usually subtract some constant value from the FVARz of all QBs to adjust their rankings, but that’s outside the scope of this discussion. I don’t do that in auctions because Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady really are that valuable to teams.
Back to calculating each player’s dollar value. Let’s assume each team has $200 to spend during the auction. Here is the formula:
$$ = (Player’s FVARz/Sum of FVARz For All Players In Player Pool) * (Total Dollars Available – Team Budget + $1 Players) + 1
Allow me to explain this in more detail.
Sum of FVARz For All Players In Player Pool – This value is determined by adding up the FVARz of every player in our list
Total Dollars Available – Multiply the number of teams by the number of dollars each team gets to spend (12 * $200)
Team Budget – The number of dollars each team gets to spend ($200)
$1 Players – Total number of players on all teams (12*15 players) minus the number of players in our pool (112). Then add four to that number for the four replacement players
At this point you will have dollar values for every player and are ready to go. But I wouldn’t start clicking the bid button just yet. Earlier I talked about finding out approximately how much a player is going to cost based on completed drafts. At this point you have two valuable data points. How much is a player really worth to me in my league and about how much is he going to cost me. This helps you uncover over and undervalued players.
For example, let’s say your calculations say that LeSean McCoy is worth $40 in your league, but it’s going to cost you $51 to get him. You know what that says to me? You shouldn’t end up owning him. By all means stay in the bidding, but once it goes a few dollars past $40, let him go. Let someone else over pay and deplete their budget.
How about Tevin Coleman? His value is about $15, but his actual cost is closer to $5. That’s a $10 discount. Not too bad for an extra running back who scored eight touchdowns last season. While he is behind Devonta Freeman in the depth chart, Freeman is just coming out of the NFL’s concussion protocol. Regardless, you should see how comparing your calculated dollar values to estimated cost can help identify targets (pun intended) on auction day.
There are a couple of things I’d like to mention.
Be certain to make sure your projections are up to date. Remove any players like Julian Edelman and Spencer Ware that are out for the season. Leaving them in will result in slightly distorted results. At the same token, be sure to adjust projections for players affected by others being removed. Kareem Hunt is the perfect example. His projections certainly increased once Ware was ruled out. When projections change, so does a player’s value. This may result in a lot of repeated number crunching, but it’s the only way to ensure you head into your auction with the most accurate assessments.
One of the most important facets of navigating an auction is to go into the auction with a set budget for each position. Keep in mind that these budgets are soft budgets and you can deviate from them, but the most important thing to do is to be sure to adjust remaining budgets accordingly by rebalancing. Rebalancing will help you keep on course when things get crazy. And rest assured, things will get crazy.
Here is a sample budget that I often use when I have $200 to spend.
Bench=$13 (7 players)
Now let’s say I win Jordan Howard as my RB1 for $40. Well since I budgeted $50, I now have $10 to spread around. My updated budget might look something like this after I rebalance.
RB1=Jordan Howard ($40)
WR1=$35 (+5 from Howard)
WR2=$30 (+5 from Howard)
Bench=$13 (7 players)
If my next player is Michael Thomas for $43, then again I have to rebalance.
RB1=Jordan Howard ($40)
RB2=$25 (-5 from Thomas)
WR1=Michael Thomas ($43)
WR2=$27 (-3 from Thomas)
Bench=$13 (7 players)
Now I grab Drew Brees to pair up with Thomas for $8. Time to rebalance. You rebalance after every player you win unless you got that player for exactly the amount you budgeted for.
QB=Drew Brees ($8)
RB1=Jordan Howard ($40)
WR1=Michael Thomas ($43)
WR2=$29 (+2 from Brees)
Bench=$13 (7 players)
If you don’t get it by now, you should probably stick to snakes. Just remember. Rebalance. Rebalance. Rebalance.
If your calculations say a player is worth $30, don’t be afraid to spend a few extra dollars to win said player. Don’t forget that all of these calculations are based on projections, which are little more than educated guesses. Don’t let a player you really want get away for $5 or $10 early on in the auction. You don’t want to end up leaving money on the table and find yourself regretting earlier decisions. As long as you continue to rebalance and don’t overspend on every player, you will be fine.
Another note about quarterbacks. Their calculated dollar value is going to be greater than their actual cost. People just don’t spend big bucks on a QB. Rodgers is going to go for somewhere between $18 and $30. While your spreadsheet might say his actual value is about $45, that doesn’t mean you should spend that much. And if you are thinking that getting him for $25 would be a value buy, you’d be both right and wrong. At $25 you would be buying him at $20 less than his computed value, however, there is another concept that will tell you that drafting Aaron Rodgers is not necessarily in your team’s best interest.
This is called points per dollar (PPD). How many points is a player going to get you for every dollar you spend on said player? My projections say that Rodgers will score 341 points. At $25, his PPD is 13.64 points. That still sounds pretty good. But now let’s look at Matt Ryan. He projects to 301 points and has an estimated price tag of $12. That gives him a PPD of just over 25 points. It seems to make a lot more sense to take Ryan and save the $13 by sacrificing 40 points. Besides, over the course of 16 weeks, 40 points is just 2.5 points per week. I think that $13 you just saved can help you win another player that will make up for that loss of 2.5 points.
PPD is your friend. It can help you separate the players you want from those you do not. The proper way to utilize PPD on auction day is to use it to compare players that are projected to score similar point totals. Here are a few such comparisons for 2017.
Tyreek Hill is projected to score 216 points and cost about $14 (15.42 PPD)
Alshon Jeffery is projected to score 214 points and cost about $27 (7.92 PPD)
If you take Jeffery over Hill then you just reek at this!
Terrelle Pryor is projected to score 210 points and cost about $25 (8.4 PPD)
Stefon Diggs is projected to score 211 points and cost about $10 (21.1 PPD)
Do I have to keep taking digs at you until you pick the right player?
Bilal Powell is projected to score 195 points and cost about $15
Dalvin Cook is projected to score 195 points and cost about $20
I don’t even need to tell you their PPDs to illustrate that you be cooked to take Dalvin.
You might not end up with the flashiest names on your team, but by playing it smart and spending your dollars wisely, you might have enough to overpay for a $60 David Johnson! He’s actually not overvalued at $60, but committing all of those auction dollars to one player is a risky endeavor. However, if must have him, I have provided you a clear path towards doing so.
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