August 2021
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Wherefore art Thou, VBD Baseline?

One of the common arguments about the value-based drafting method is how to determine your baseline players. A number of theories have been presented, but confusion and misunderstanding abound about how to ‘properly’ determine your baselines. This article details a proposed standard method to determine any league’s baseline: the market-driven baseline (MDB). Or- perhaps, the new ‘standard’ baseline.

Baselines are critical to determining the value of players when compared to each other. As Joe Bryant espoused way back in 2001 (here), a player’s value is determined by how much he outscores other players that play the same position. That value is derived by choosing one baseline player to compare all the others against. Therein lies the rub- who is that player?

There are many ways to go about it, and they all have their pros and cons. Some folks simply use the worst/last starter. This requires understanding how many players you start and can become complicated if you use flexible positions. Some use the very last player selected in a given position, but you are then using a guy that may be cut at any time and may never even start; that doesn’t represent a player’s true value to the market. Others essentially use an arbitrary line drawn through the draft list and tally up the players taken at each position, but that completely disregards the composition of the starting roster or number of teams in the league and may not give a true representation of how the league values any given player.

Are any of these inherently ‘wrong’? No, not necessarily. After all, you are picking a single point of comparison within one position, so it is just a relativistic measure. However, there is a way to standardize how we select our baselines, and it is remarkably simple. It’s also inherently adaptable to any sized redraft league with any number or starters. It will always accurately reflect how a given league values a given position. Remember, the whole point of this exercise is to determine a given player’s value. How do we do that? Let’s break that question down first:


Who determines the value of a player? We do. We are the market.

Who is valuable? The player we start because he’ll score more points than other players.

How do we calculate value? By comparing player projected fantasy points.

How do we express that value? We draft them sooner than others players.


OK, so there’s your answer. You didn’t see it? The market decides the value. We determine the relative value of players by the order in which we draft them. I think anyone would agree that perceived starters are more valuable than perceived reserves, and that some position reserves are perceived to be more valuable than starters at other positions (e.g. taking your 6th RB prior to drafting your starting K).

Let’s say in a theoretical draft that all starting players would be selected in exact order from most valuable to least, stopping at the last starter in the league. No reserves would be selected until all starter positions are filled. We would then use the number of total starters in the league as our baseline. That means that in a given position, the baseline player would be the last starter and would have a value of 0.  If you have 10 starting positions and 12 teams, the last starter would be drafted with pick number 120. If you have 16 teams with 8 starters, your baseline is 128. If you have 6 teams with 9 starters, 54 is your number. And so on.

That’s just the worst starter method, right? As we said, that doesn’t accurately reflect how the market actually values the players. We can also do better because that’s certainly not how we draft. Most of us don’t draft all starters before drafting our reserves. But we can still use that model to draw a line where we should begin our valuation of players to suit our VBD purposes.

Without further ado, the market-driven baseline model:

  • The market-driven baseline (MDB) = # of teams X # of starters.
  • The baseline players at each position = tally of each position selected at or before the MDB.


For example, in one of this author’s leagues last year, we had 12 teams and 12 starters, yielding an MDB of 144. There were 21 QB, 49 RB, 51 WR, 12 TE, 1 DB, 2 DL and 8 LB selected by pick 144; those could become my baseline players for this season. In other words, for this year, I’d compare all QBs to QB #21 on my projection list, subtracting QB 21’s project fantasy points from all QBs to arrive at their value- or X Number as the esteemed Joe Bryant coined it. This isn’t some number pulled from the air- it is determined by the very market I’m participating in.

As you can see, my league values offensive positions way more than kickers and IDP- as they should. We start 1 each of QB/RB/WR/TE/K/DB/LB/DL, plus we have 3 offensive flex (RB/WR/TE) and 1 defensive flex. That means we draft 9 reserve QBs (representing a 75% premium on the position) & 40 total reserve RB/WR/TE (56%) by pick 144. That’s how we express value and it points exactly where to begin comparing players.

You could also average out your baseline player tallies by combining results from previous years, instead of just relying on one year. You could also apply the model to ADP lists to see how a broader market values players, useful if you are entering a public league or a new private league. Just make sure the ADP list was generated from leagues with a similar scoring system to yours.

This method accurately captures the perceived value of positions as determined by the market, and it adapts to the size of the league and the number of starters in question. The model reflects the market’s interpretation of all the league rules. It’s offered as a potential standard part of the overall VBD strategy with the hope that it can resolve the ongoing confusion and argument regarding the ‘right’ way to select a baseline.

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