Want to win your league?  If your answer to this question is yes, then keep reading.  Now that I have your attention, bear with me through this as things are about to get dicey.  Turn off your TV, your Vengaboys CD, your wife, and your baby monitor, and devote your next 15 minutes entirely to Razzball.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Is it just me, or does it always seem like your first round pick is the hardest?  You will probably spend most of your time debating this pick more than any other pick.  However, the truth is, you should be concentrating on the later rounds rather than the early rounds.  For this walkthrough, let’s assume that you have the 6th overall pick in a standard 12 team non-PPR Razzball Commenter League (by the way, you can still sign up for an RCL here.  If you’re looking for a more competitive, active league, sign up now!).  Anyways, you’re now debating between taking a QB, RB, or WR as the top 5 RB are off the board.  You look at your cheatsheet, and at the top of their respective positions are Michael Vick, Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Johnson.  What’s the best approach?  Well, read below and find out.

It’s called value based drafting (VBD).  From my experiences, this is by far the best strategy to employ when going into a draft.  As long as your draft picks don’t poop the bed, I can guarantee your team will be a contender all season.  I applied this strategy for the first time two years ago in a 16 team dynasty league, and I walked away with the regular season points record, finished first overall in the regular season standings, and ultimately won the championship.  And I will admit, a large part of this was due to my draft, not necessarily my in-season moves.  Ten out of my twelve drafted offensive players (not including kickers or defense) finished the year on my team.  Not too shabby eh?  This should be more than enough motivation for you to use VBD in your leagues this year.

Okay, okay, okay, enough bragging, I get it.  Let’s move on.  What is value based drafting?  All in all, it is very simple and logical.  Understanding it is easy, applying it is the hard part.  Rather than drafting the best name available on the board, you should be drafting the positional player that will ultimately give you the best value at that point in your draft.

Initially, you will want to rank players by position (let’s not use K and DEF because, frankly, I hope you aren’t drafting them until the late rounds.  I’m talking very late.  Like last 2 rounds late.)  Along with ranking of players, include projections based on your league settings.  Hard work, right?  Well, if you take your mouse that actually isn’t a mouse, and move it to the top of this screen, you’ll see a link that has all of Razzball’s 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings.  You can’t go wrong using those.

Now that the easy part is over with, it’s time to actually concentrate.  From this point forward, you’ll need to play Miss Cleo.  You’re going to use personal drafting experiences, ADP reports, and reviews of expert drafts to properly analyze the future that your draft will bring to you.  Back to the problem at hand…  You’re drafting 6th, and you’re thinking to yourself, it would be awesome to grab the top WR off the board right now.  But, is this the smartest move?

Your next pick isn’t until pick 19 in round 2, so from picks 6-18, 13 players will be selected (including your pick).  Based on my review of expert mock drafts going on this year, on average, 3 QBs, 6 RBs, and 4 WR will be taken before your next pick.  Is this exactly how your draft will turn out?  Probably not, but it is a great guideline.  Now this is where VBD comes in.  You’re going to have to compare QB ranked 1 to QB ranked 4, RB ranked 6 (since the top 5 are gone) to RB ranked 12, and WR ranked 1 to WR ranked 5.  Based on your point projections, subtract QB ranked 4s projected points from QB ranked 1.  As per Razzball’s projections, you will deduct Peyton Manning’s 301 points from Michael Vick’s 357 points giving you a difference of 56 points.  This essentially means that by not drafting a QB right now, you will be giving up 56 points of value in QB.  Let’s look at the remaining two positions.

Deducting Maurice Jones-Drew’s 202 points from Rashard Mendenhall’s 231 points, you will get a 29 point differential.  And by deducting Hakeem Nicks’ 181.5 points from Andre Johnson’s 205 points, you get a difference of 23.5 points.  Comparing all three positions, you will see that the biggest drop off comes in the QB department.  For value purposes, your best bet is to draft Michael Vick.  However, you may not feel comfortable drafting a QB destined for injury at some point this year, and you decide to temper your projections for Vick.  Let’s drop his point total to Rodgers total, which I feel is a bit more reasonable.  By doing this, you’ll see that the drop off is reduced to 19 points.

Now if you believe that Vick will put up the numbers projected, then by all means, draft him with confidence.  If you’re looking for reliability from your first round pick, then don’t be afraid to reduce expectations for Vick (Doc has him ranked 13th, so does have reservations about him or would have him #1).  This change in Vick’s projections means that the biggest drop off comes from RBs.  For the sake of this experiment, I’ll go ahead and draft Mendenhall because if I don’t draft a RB right now, by the time my next pick comes around I will have given up too much value in RBs.

I’ll walk you through round 2 quickly to make sure you understand what’s going on.  So you’re sitting at pick 19.  Your next pick isn’t until pick 30 in round 3, which means 11 players will get drafted between picks 19 and 29 (including your pick).  Once again, based on expert mock drafts I’ve analyzed, 1 QB, 4 RB, and 6 WR will be taken in that time span.  Comparing QB ranked 4 and 5, there is a drop off of 3 points.  Comparing RB ranked 12 and 16, there is a drop off of 15 points.  Comparing WR ranked 5 and 11, there is a drop off of 18.5 points.  Looking at this data, it makes sense to draft a WR.

Below I’ve made a table of data for the first 8 rounds of the draft.  Remember, this is assuming a standard RCL league and picking 6th overall.  Every pick is different, so you’ll need to do a separate analysis for your league type and where you draft slot is.

Round

Picks

QB Drop off

RB Drop off

WR Drop off

TE Drop off

1

6-18

19

29

23.5

0

2

19-29

3

15

18.5

0

3

30-42

12

26

9.5

11

4

43-53

17.5

11.5

7.5

0

5

54-66

12.5

18.5

9

34.5

6

67-77

0.5

13

7.5

6.5

7

78-90

0

22

8.5

5

8

91-101

1.5

4

8.5

7

Your first 8 draft picks should go as follows: RB, WR, RB, QB, TE, WR, RB, WR.  This will provide you with the best value per round, and should give you one of, if not the best teams after the first 8 rounds.  Your team could look as follows (assuming players get drafted exactly as per Razzball’s rankings, which will obviously not be the case, so you’ll most likely get a couple steals at each position):

QB – Tony Romo

WR – Hakeem Nicks

WR – Austin Collie

WR – Jacoby Ford

RB – Rashard Mendenhall

RB – Shonn Greene

TE – Jermichael Finley

W/R – Brandon Jacobs

You’ll take that and like it.  Now you have an extremely solid foundation to build around.

To sum things up, should you be using value based drafting as your cheatsheet on draft day?  No, absolutely not.  Use VBD to help you determine the value of the player you are about to draft.  Use your knowledge of draft trends to find value.  This is difficult because you have to try and project what positions will be drafted before your next pick.

As the key to building your starting line up with the most overall value, there are times where you will take a lesser valued player because the expected drop off in value until your next pick is greater at another position.  It is often preached while everyone else zigs, you should zag.  But what I often preach is to zig before they zig.  The key is to react before they do.

  1. little big says:
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    great article. supposed ur in an 8 team 2 qb starting dynasty league. 5 keepers. u have kept 2 solid qbs, 2 solid rb’s N the best wr. according to thing table I should pick a Finley over a Djax or Jennings? with gates and Witten n Clark all kept already. or should I be grabbing a Jennings then a Te?

  2. DHill Dragons says:
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    Nice write up. I use a similar system for my draft to help set up my tiers, but I usually don’t go as far as trying to guess exactly what positions will be taken when, that’s pretty hard to get right enough to count on it. But by using a trusted set of projections I like to set up a nice big draft sheet with each position and the number of players that will probably be taken at each position (i.e. 35 QB’s, 65 RB’s, etc.). Once I have the players in order, I like to add lines that separate some players into common buckets (or tiers). When those tiers are set, I like to look at each tier and see if all of the names in that tier sound right with each other, if I think a guy should be moved up or down just by my perception and gut instinct, I’ll move him up or down until it seems right. Then on draft day, by using the tiers as a guide, it’s much easier to make decisions based on how many players at a certain position are available in the current tier on my sheet. Most of this should be common knowledge, but I’m just explaining my process.

    One thing I do on the fly on draft day which might be a good suggestion to some is a way to create sleeper tiers as your draft unfolds. Around the middle of my draft, when my next few picks could go several different ways, I like to circle a few players that I consider sleepers or good upside candidates that are either lasting too long in my opinion or may be drafted soon. If I have 3 WR’s circled, and two of them are taken before I pick next, my next pick might be an easier decision by process of elimination. I usually do enough research that at the end of my draft when many owners are yawning and wishing that it would just end already, I still have many players that I would like to add, so I keep that sheet handy to continue to scout those players up to the regular season. I just love when a guy drafts a backup before a starter because he doesn’t have up to date information as he works from a 4 month old magazine. Every season, Training camp reveals a few hidden gems that not everyone knows about, but finding and adding those players to your team can separate the men from the boys.

  3. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    @little big: Thanks! Value based drafting is harder to apply to 2nd or beyond dynasty/keeper leagues. Everyone has kept different positions, so your needs are different than all other teams. The best ‘valued’ player available on draft day position wise, may not make sense for your team. If Jennings/DJax are way above other available receivers in your draft, but most of the top TE are still available, it makes sense to take that top WR, then wait another round or so and maybe settle for the 3rd or 4th best TE on the board. You can still look at projected points drop off between players available, then look at other teams keepers drafting around you, and you should get a good idea of where players will get drafted.

    @DHill Dragons: Thanks! That’s an interesting/solid drafting approach you mentioned and I completely agree with everything you wrote. Finding those hidden gems based on training camp is always fun, but if that’s always the case, you may want to find a more competitive league to join. If everyone is generally on the same skill level, it makes things a lot more exciting (and harder) on draft day, and throughout the season.

  4. Sean says:
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    Very nice article! Typically value based drafting has nothing to do with projections but its nice to see a fresh take on something that’s over-focused on ADP alone. Though some caution is needed due to the volatility of projections.

    The one issue I see is the reliance on a set strategy which is never a good idea going into a draft. True value based drafting is taking the best player available (in terms of ADP) no matter what round it is. It also saves you from having to rely entirely on projections.

    One thing that is always reliable is getting a bargain. My general draft rule is to come out of the draft with at least 100 ADP more value than draft cost. For example, getting Brees at pick 46 (his ADP is 34) would constitute a 12 point value versus draft cost gain. For the most part this makes projections meaningless (with the exception of avoiding obvious flops and overvalued players). I’ve noticed that it is VERY difficult to lose a league in which your net draft value gain is over 200ADP. Injuries are the only real danger to your championship.

    It’s really a great beginner’s draft strategy too. You need not do any research or stat projecting and draft prep can be completely minimal if you so choose. Just pull up an updated ADP list, cross off some guys you believe are busts and draft the most valuable player available every round of the draft (keeping an eye on positions of need obviously). It’s worked for me for over a decade. I can’t remember the last time I missed the playoffs and I play in a LOT of leagues every year (for money and fun). Anyway, just food for thought.

  5. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    @Sean: What you said is true, however, if you’re an experienced enough drafter, it should be a lot easier for you to predict what will happen between your picks, and you really should use this to determine what position you will be drafting next. If you’re worried about the volatility of projections, you can simply gather the points registered by position over the last 3 or so years, average them out, then apply them to your rankings. So if you have Foster ranked 1st in RB, determine the average points received by the top RB over the last 3 years and use that as your projected point total. This can be very effective as well, and works extremely well with value based drafting.

  6. Buffalo says:
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    I love this approach and you explain it better than the way I have tried to implement it in years past – where I just “guessed” at who would be taken between my picks rather than using data. My league is 12 teams and only 2 WR (no flex) so it is difficult to determine who will be picked because we are hunting for 12 fewer starting receivers than most leagues. Should I use standard ADP information or do you think I should try to adjust this (and how could you suggest)?

    Thank you

  7. Sean says:
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    I think I misspoke when I said the volatility of projections. What I really meant was the volatility of rankings. I know my rankings won’t look anything like the end of the season so I try to avoid basing drafts on them when possible. Preseason rankings are supposed to be guidelines, not solid predictions.

    I’ve been brainwashed though. Phil Dussault has destroyed my ability to think for myself with his analysis. The best value based drafting article ever written (it was written in 2010): http://tinyurl.com/3h4uqaj

  8. Matt B says:
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    What are the applications in an auction draft?

  9. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    @Sean: Interesting article, and it brings up many similar points to what I say. However, I think it has one major flaw. If I understood correctly, the article more or less states that you should draft the player who has the highest value compared to the next ranked player. So you’re in the third round, and the next RB available will project to score 15 more points then the next ranked RB. You look at WR, and the difference is only 3 points. Logic says to draft the RB right? I think this is wrong, because what if based on your drafting experience, including previous years and mocks, and ADP reports, it looks like 10 WR will be drafted after your pick, and only 1 RB. Let’s safely assume that the drop off between those 10 WR and the next ranked WR is 25 points. If you drafted that RB, you’ve actually given up more value in points which you could have earned by taking a WR. Now I know this is hard to predict, but it all comes with experience. Not sure if that all makes sense, but I think it’s definitely the smarter way to approach any draft.

  10. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    @Matt B: It’s not possible to apply value based drafting to auction drafts, since everyone has a shot at drafting any player. You essentially have to apply a dollar value per projected point. That actually gives me a good idea for an auction draft article. I’ll write one up and hopefully get it posted soon.

  11. Matt B says:
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    @Cheese: Great! I look forward to it. I lucked out last year with Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy and still managed not to make the playoffs. (A nice fuck you to the $37 I spent on Ryan Mathews)…Wondering if I should go all in on Mike Vick this year….I’ll probably fuck up either way, but at least I’ll fuck up while having fun.

    Side Note- Actually, at one point last year my wife saw me clutched over stat tracker as I was losing yet another week and asked me, “Is this fun?”

    “Of course not!!!” I shouted. “It’s fantasy football, what could be fun about it. There is Only pain!”

    She sighed. I went back to being obsessive and a loser.

  12. zandercage says:
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    What if I traded my 5th round pick (I sit in the 10 hole in a 12 team snake). So I have the 39th overall pick (3rd pick in round 4) and don’t actually pick again until the 3rd pick of round 6 (pick 63). Should I be taking the difference between “actual” picks or scheduled “slotted picks”? Thanks!

  13. Sean says:
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    @Cheese I don’t know that Dussault was hardlining any particular picks or methods of evaluating players (thats more my strategy lol). The article instead points out historically undervalued adp ranges (which mirror many of your own sentiments). It also showed that the point dropoff between ranks is always much less steep than it is predicted (or realized) to be. The thing I found interesting was how the players you are targeting based on projection value line up with the players in adp ranges that the article values (essentially devoid of projections).

    Clearly you’ve both hit on a very good draft strategy. It would be interesting to combine the two. Now if we could just reconcile the two with the success of the upside down strategy…

  14. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    @Buffalo: If you can find ADP reports based on your league set up, go for it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t take too much information from them. But this also depends on the competitiveness of your league. The less competitive it is, the more likely they’ll draft as if it were any league and not take into account the 1 less WR spot. However, assuming it is fairly competitive, you will have to adjust your anticipation of what positions will be drafted. If you’ve participated in this league before with the same set up, go look at last years draft and see how that turned out. It will most likely be the same as this year.

    @Matt B: Hah!

    @zandercage: What are you trading your 5th round draft pick for? If you’re trading draft positions for other rounds, I’d say look at the competitiveness of your league. If it’s competitive, the higher (lower? lower number I’m talking here…) the draft pick, the better. This is because you’re less likely to have a “sleeper” fall to you at a later point.

    @Sean: Yeah, only if it were that easy! But all in all, both strategies are very similar in pedigree, which is why the final results will be very close.

  15. zandercage says:
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    the 5th rounder was part of an in season trade last year. Our league is also a keeper league. Can only keep two players and the compensation for keeping a player is a draft pick two rounds earlier than where that player was drafted the previous year (ie keep a player drafted in the 6th round pick last year and give up a 4th rounder this year). So basically there will be 20-24 players already slotted in spots prior to the draft (half the players in the first few rounds). Can I still use the VBD strategy?

  16. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    @zandercage: You can still use VBD, it’ll just be a lot more difficult. There will be more work that YOU will have to put into it. You basically have to go team by team and look at their keepers, and use that to determine what positions are going to be drafted between your draft picks. Once you’ve done that, you can go ahead and see the point drop off between positions and go from there.

  17. John Barleycorn says:
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    How would this model accommodate an uneven number of starters? For example, our PPR/PPC league has 3WR slots and 2 RB slots. (it also has three keepers) I’m considering using an early pick on a WR, based on this method. (In our scoring system, QBs outscore everyone else, and RBs score about twice as much as WRs).

    Due to trades, I have the 2nd, 14th, 22nd, and 34th picks. In between Rd 1 & 2, I expect 7RB, 4WR, and 1QB to go. Next round, 1RB, 6WR, 1 QB. Following that, 4RB, 5 WR, 2TE. Obviously, I MUST pick a WR in the 14th slot. Now, what about my first round? I calculated the net gain/loss to taking my first RB at pick 22, and it looks about the same. Maybe slightly advantageous to get the WR in the first round. But if I will be starting 3 WRs each week, and only 2 RBs…what next?

    Thanks. Very good explanation of VBD.

  18. do you think a 53rd overall pick is more valuable than two picks which r 61st and 80th pick?

  19. Cheese

    Cheese says:
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    @John Barleycorn: Don’t worry about how much each position outscores another position. It all matters about how much each player outscores another player at the same position. The problem you’ve mentioned definitely does happen, so you’ll want to try and plan enough rounds so that you have a full starting line up. Then go round by round, and try and figure out the highest total points in value you could gain by adding up each respective position. In the example I gave in the article, it just so happened that the best value in each round managed to make out a starting line up. However, this isn’t always the case, and that’s when you have to go round by round and do some extra math to figure out the highest total value. Hopefully that makes sense…

    @Chompster: It’s almost impossible to say prior to the draft. It usually depends on the competitiveness of the league. However, 53 and 61 are very close in value, and if you’re getting a free 80th pick with it, to me it makes sense to go with the 61st and 80th picks.

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