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Part V: Putting the Plan Together

We’ve broken down three years of drafts using the Draftologist Draft Analyzer Workbook. It’s time to get down to business- planning for this year’s draft. There are a number of questions you should ask prior to prepping a draft plan, but there are also some assumptions that need to be made.

Assumptions: 1) Your league has not changed any major rules or scoring. 2) You have the same number of teams- and pretty much the same owners. 3) You think that your historical drafts will be useful in predicting how future drafts may proceed. 4) You subscribe to the tenets of ‘Value-Based Drafting’, detailed here and here.

Many of the questions you might ask have already been answered once you input your league’s data into the DAW. The questions you now need to ask pertain to formulating your strategy.

1)      What draft slot will I have?

2)      How deep into each position will I have to choose at each pick?

3)      Who specifically could be there for me at my pick?

4)      What projections will I use?

5)      How do I tier the players?

6)      What players will be my baselines?

7)      What kind of team do I want to build?

It sure helps if you know your draft slot ahead of time. In my main redraft league we always draw the draft order around the time of the NFL draft, which allows us to have the summer to plan accordingly- not that all owners take advantage of that. Otherwise, you can’t really come up with anything other than general plans- unless you come up with a plan for every slot you could be in.

Assuming you know your slot, we now want to know which players will be available, per round, at that pick. Using the DAW, you can look at the Draft List page and filter on your draft slot. For purposes of our strategy walkthrough, I’m going to use slot 6 with the preloaded data I adapted from MyFantasyLeague.com. For illustration, we’ll only concentrate on the first three rounds:

1          QB 1   RB 5

2          QB 4   RB 11  WR 5

3          QB 5   RB 14  WR 10

 

So I now know what the draft looks like- typically- at my pick in the draft. Again, these number include the pick in question, but these numbers are guidelines on what to expect. So, in the first round, I expect to have QB 2, RB 6 and every other position available to me. In round two, I’m probably looking at QB 5, RB 12, WR 6 and the rest. And so on.

“QB 2” and “RB 6” don’t really mean much, do they? We need to put names to these lists, and thanks to the preponderance of Average Draft Position information out there, we can easily put some names there. Just go to your favorite ADP resource and filter the list on the position you’re interested in. You do want to make sure the site you use has a similar scoring system as your league (for instance, points-per-reception or no; TD only or performance/yardage, etc). So say I want to look at the QBs- I filter the list to look at QBs and voila, I have the order in which the ‘market’ is placing the QBs. So as you look at this list, you see that you could choose QB2 with your first pick, or RB 6.. looking at ADP info, you can put a name to RB 6.

Draftologist Tip: Use a site that uses real draft info from their leagues, like ESPN, CBS, Yahoo, MFL, etc. Also keep an eye out for sites that aggregate ADP info from these sites- that gives you the broadest market to evaluate, which gives a more accurate depiction of what order players are going in. Rely on more recent info- a week or two at the most. And, don’t worry about getting the ‘names’ until a week or two prior to your draft. Wait as late as you can to finalize the plan.

Whose projections to use? Do you even need to use projections? Well, you are better served, I think, to use projections. There are plenty of sites that make projections, and often they are remarkably similar- and also wind up being an exercise in futility. That is the one thing about the VBD system though- you have to have a way to compare different players in different positions. Projections seem to be the best way to do that.

No matter where you get your projections, you can use them to set up player tiers. Draftologist recommends using a point-per-game system; if your fantasy season is 16 games, use 16 point player tiers. So if the top player in a position gets 300 points, 284-300 is tier one, 268-283 is tier two, 252 – 267 tier three, etc. What this does is help you group players that are within 1 point per week of each other, and thus virtually the same player in terms of fantasy points (at least based on the projections you are using).

Who are my baseline players? Ah, baselines, a long debated tenet of the VBD method. The concept is simple- given a fantasy football player, how is he evaluated against his peers? How do you set the baseline? All you are doing is picking a player to compare all other players in that position to. How best to do that?

There is no easy answer to that question. Some people use the worst starter in a position. Some people look at the number of positions taken at a certain point in the draft- and those players at that point are the baseline players (Footballguys.com uses 100 picks).

I break my baselines up into two parts- one for evaluating offensive players, and one for evaluating defensive teams/players and kickers. For offensive, I look at the pick where the last ‘starting’ QB goes typically- QB 12 in my league. The reason I chose the QB is 1) the same number are drafted every year- 31 and 2) the point spread between QB 1 and QB 12 is usually pretty small. The principle is, use the starting offensive position that has the smallest spread from best to worst starter. We start 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 WR, 1 TE and 3 Flex (RB/WR/TE). For purposes of determining which position to baseline from, I use QB 1 – 12, TE 1 – 12, and I split the Flex difference between RB and WR. There are 3 * 12 = 36 flex in addition to 12 RB & QB, so I add 18 to each- to arrive at RB and WR 30 for baselines.

So, the spreads in my league last year:

QB 1 – QB 12 = 92 points.

RB 1 – RB 30 = 252

WR 1 – WR 30 = 135

TE 1 – TE 12 = 94

So, the smallest spread was between the QBs. To pick the point at which to evaluate each offensive position, I look at the DAW Dashboard for where the 12th QB typically goes- pick 7.4. Then, flipping over to the Draft List, I look at pick 7.4 and I get these players for baselines: QB 12, RB 29, WR 27, and TE 7. Note- I’d never use TE as my baseline since some owners ‘punt’ the position. No one punts QB/RB/WR.

I repeat the process for Defensive teams/players and special teams or players- the Kicker in my case. And we also use IDP, including 1 LB, 1 DB, 1 DL, 1 defensive flex, and a K. I again split the flex difference between LB and DB as few teams draft more than one K or DL historically. This gives me:

DL 1 – DL 12 = 36

LB 1 – LB 18 = 46

DB 1 – DB 18 = 25

K 1 – K 12 = 37

Now, I do switch how I baseline here- I take the middle player of the range. This is because in my league, if you took the worst player of these types, you’d be in the last round and that essentially makes your baseline the last starter in all positions. So, I use the middle player of the position with the smallest spread- DB 9 in my case. So, looking at the Dashboard, DB 9 goes at 18.2. Looking at pick 18.2, my baselines will be DB 9, K 9, DL 11 and LB 22. Once I know these, I can figure out the value of each player when compared to all other players, and I’m off and running.

Finally, what kind of team do you want to build? Kind of a trick question, right? A winning one, of course! Given the things I’ve listed here, you have plenty to think about. In the next section of the 3 P’s we get into perfecting your plan, and I’ll give you more to think about when evaluating one player against another, how to use mock drafts, etc.

Bonus Insight: Above you see I determined the spread between the theoretical first and last starters drafted to determine the baseline position. This is a measure of drop-off between the best starter and ‘worst’ starter at each position in my league. This illustrates why so many guys go after the top RBs in the first round- because the drop off is so steep! And, it shows why defensive players and kickers go so late- there isn’t a ton of difference between the best and worst when you spread out the points over a season.

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