Saturday, July 31, 2010

Building a Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart

The yearly NFL Draft gave rise to NFL Draft Value Charts (see my earlier post on the matter). NFL Draft Value Charts were built and designed to give a numeric value to each draft pick position for an entire NFL Draft. The reason for building a chart was to be able to evaluate trades before, during (on the fly), and after the draft. If one were to receive draft picks in a trade or trade away draft picks one needed to know the potential value they were trading. Everyone knows earlier picks are more valuable than later picks but how much more valuable are they? Well, smart NFL executives have assigned values for each pick in the draft. So what does this have to do with fantasy football? Everything.

It should logically follow that fantasy football players build a league specific Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart. In a straight re-draft fantasy league the rule might not allow for trades during the draft so a chart would not be as beneficial to you and your league. The following discussion may still offer you some help. Some leagues, however, like Brothers Keeper, allow for trades involving keepers or draft picks before and during the fantasy draft.

While I haven't seen much out there by way of fantasy football draft value charts, some do exist. Here's an ESPN writer creating a Fantasy Football 2007 Draft Slot Rankings. You'll also discover's Pick Value Calculator and maybe stumbled across a related article like Lab Test: The Snake Draft.

First, a Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart needs to consider a few things. Most drafts do not draft the most productive straight fantasy point producer to the least productive fantasy point producer. If they did, QBs would take up most of the first round draft picks. Today's fantasy football drafts and rankings are ruled by replacement level baselines in order to equally value each position. Also called Value Based Drafting (most famously popularized by
The simplest formula is the last starter baseline. What you do is figure out how many people are going to start at each position. If you are in a 10 team league that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE then you figure out what the 10th ranked QB, 20th ranked RB, 30th ranked WR, and 10th ranked TE will score. Then you subtract that number from all the players in the same category (RB number from RBs, etc.) This will give you a last starter baseline of 0. Everyone ahead of the last starter will have a positive value while all those below will have a negative value. Now, you have a way of comparing positions to each other.
Because Brothers Keeper has 10 teams and starts 1 QB, 2 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE, 1 WR/RB, 1 K, and 1 DEF the baseline is thus: the 10th ranked QB, TE, K, and DEF along with the 50th Ranked WR/RB. They are the baseline of zero. Everyone else scores fantasy points above or below this baseline. This eliminates the variations for positional needs. The acronym for this is FPOB (Fantasy Points Over Baseline). If a player's FPOB is negative they are below the baseline, while a player who has a FPOB that is positive is above/over the baseline. Negative FPOB players may be on a fantasy team's roster but aren't usually starters on non-Bye weeks. Positive FPOB players should be regular starters on a fantasy team. That's the advantage of utilizing Value Based Drafting and FPOB. The result of employing this method means about 90 players will be above this baseline (10 teams with 9 positions for each team to start each week). There may be more than 90 as more than one player may score the same amount of FPOB around that 90th ranked player. It may be helpful to think of the baseline as Replacement Level.

Important caveats: By the way, each league's fantasy point scoring for offensive positions and defensive positions is different. So use your league's scoring model to calculate the information. Below I will list an Ideal Draft Value Chart which will not account for the fact that many draft strategies draft backup RBs or WRs before or during TEs and DEF. Nor does it account for a strategy where most fantasy players draft K's at the end of a fantasy draft. It is an Ideal Draft Value Chart with a static baseline not a dynamic baseline utilizing the historical data of the previous Brothers Keeper Fantasy Football seasons.

Before calculating a draft value chart outright, one needs to figure out what to use: Should we use real/actual draft data from previous seasons (an Authentic/Market Value Draft Value Chart) or the final season stats of previous seasons (an Ideal Draft Value Chart)? While there is little difference other than the rare anomaly, I chose the Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart as the point of departure. I want an honest assessment of how fantasy owners drafted without being subject to human choices or strategies. The idea behind an Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart is to highlight human error and try to avoid human errors. I do not want to use a Draft Value Chart laden with human errors in order to evaluate human error. The Authentic/Market Value Draft Value Chart doesn't tell you what the picks should be worth unless you assume perfect market efficiency, which is not what has occurred historically. I want a perfect standard to measure all others. Therefore final season stat lines should be utilized in creating an Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart.

As a result I have collated the final season fantasy points and FPOB totals from the past 4 seasons and took an average from them. That's right, I am including the 2006 season's data (the season prior to Brothers Keeper's inception) because it's "one louder."

Another consideration that needs to be addressed is whether or not you average the baseline for all the years of production or if you utilize each year's baseline. The more years you collect in data the closer these two items come to one another. I imagine, if you couldn't decide you could just take the average between the two of them for a more stable guideline. But using each year's baseline makes most sense. That way the 90th player selected should be the baseline of 0. Namely, everyone, ideally should have all their starters drafted. After the 90th pick the players are below replacement level. This does not account for drafting strategies that delay Kickers or Team Defenses to later rounds. This is an ideal draft scenario which includes Kickers, Team Defenses, and Tight Ends as equal to the Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Wide Receivers. Each position is treated the same as it relates to it's replacement level/baseline.

Baselines of Overall Performance For Each Year:

10th Ranked QB = 240.3 fantasy points
50th Ranked RB/WR = 148.9 fantasy points
10th Ranked TE = 112 fantasy points
10th Ranked K = 118 fantasy points
10th Ranked DEF = 139 fantasy points

10th Ranked QB = 281.18 fantasy points
50th Ranked RB/WR = 150.8 fantasy points
10th Ranked TE = 106.55 fantasy points
10th Ranked K = 127 fantasy points
10th Ranked DEF = 146 fantasy points

10th Ranked QB = 266.32 fantasy points
50th Ranked RB/WR = 163.28 fantasy points
10th Ranked TE = 100.9 fantasy points
10th Ranked K = 129 fantasy points
10th Ranked DEF =142 fantasy points

10th Ranked QB = 304.34 fantasy points
50th Ranked RB/WR = 155.65 fantasy points
10th Ranked TE = 138.6 fantasy points
10th Ranked K = 122 fantasy points
10th Ranked DEF = 137 fantasy points

Below is the Brothers Keeper Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart. The first column is the round each pick is made in. The second column is the individual team's draft position for a snake draft. The third column is the overall pick number. The next four columns detail each season's Ideal Draft Value for each pick from 2006 - 2009 (One Louder!). The column farthest to the right is the average of those 4 seasons at each pick. So without further ado:

If we were to chart or graph the Brothers Keeper Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart for 2006 - 2009 along with their 4 year average it would appear as follows.

As you can see, assuming an ideal draft, the earlier the pick the more valuable the player compared to the baseline. The 90th pick for all seasons is zero. So after that pick in an ideal draft you are beginning to draft below replacement level players.

A Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart can only tell you what the picks should be worth assuming perfect market efficiency. Because Brothers Keeper is a keeper league it will never be perfect market efficiency since players who are kept by their owners/GMs throw that off. But you can evaluate past performances of owners in the league and the future of your potential keepers better with an Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart than without it. It is a better evaluation tool than predictor of future success. Make sure this is clear in your understanding: An Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart does not project future statistics at all. It is merely an estimate of the FPOB each draft pick should be worth in a draft where perfect market efficiency exists. If one is using projected statistic of their own or from a website or magazine, then one might be able to compare a player's value for this upcoming year but it only helps to see if it is a good or bad value for the pick they are worth if the player achieves the projected statistics. An injury or some other set of circumstances may toss that out the window. However, this tool can be used for two other reasons as well.

What is the significance of Brothers Keeper's Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart? I began building this chart in order to better understand who to keep and who not to keep. My teams at the end of 2007, 2008, and 2009 were stacked with talent I did not want to see go to some other team. But I had no idea if B Westbrook RB in Rd 1 was better to keep than J Witten TE in Rd 11? I wanted a better gauge as to who to keep. I wanted the most value for each pick that I could get. Plus, I also did not know when I should let someone go. When were players going to under perform their draft value if they were kept? I did not want to waste a keeper on someone who was not going to perform better than his Ideal Fantasy Football Draft Value. Plus, I wanted to be able to evaluate previous seasons and see which owners/GMs had success and why.

Another reason I built this chart was so that I had some sort of standard by which to evaluate trades prior to and during the draft. We will be able to look back and evaluate the only draft day trade in Brothers Keeper's history. Is this tool useful for future trade discussions? We will explore all these questions at a future date but here is the raw data for Brothers Keeper. Improvements can and could be made or considered in the near future as well. For instance, should one utilize this information on a per game basis instead of on a full season level, thus accounting for injuries and the like?

In a following series of posts I will begin a team by team assessment of their drafting and keeper skills utilizing this data as a gauge for the discussion. Perhaps it will also help highlight why certain teams perform better than others over the course of time.

UPDATE: Now that the 2010 season is over I posted an important update: A Fantasy Football Draft Value Chart Update: 2011

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