StrategyApril 3, 2006


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Draft Strategies
The Best Ways to Prepare for Your Draft

By Matt Blevins

Everyone has their own opinions on the best way to make cheat sheets and how to use them on draft day. These range from strictly using statistics to make the picks for you to going completely off of your own hunches and gut feelings. This article will outline some of the more popular strategies that are used and give positives and negatives of each to help you decide which one is best suited for you.

Value Based Drafting (VBD)
One method that has gained a lot of popularity is a statistics-based approach called Value Based Drafting (VBD). Many of you already know what VBD is in essence, but for those who don’t, I will offer a brief explanation. The basic idea behind VBD is to determine how a player does in comparison to the other players at his position.

This approach requires a pretty good amount of fantasy knowledge, because you must make predictions on numbers for each fantasy player you wish to include in your cheat sheet. The next step is to determine the projected fantasy points for each player using your league’s scoring system. What you will want to do next is to find a baseline value by which you can compare the rest of the players at each position. One way is to simply take the last player at each position who will be starting in your league and use their fantasy stats as your baseline. For example, if you have 12 teams in your league and each starts one QB, the 12th-best QB’s numbers would be the baseline. Another way to do this is to average all of the starters at the position in the entire NFL, which would be 32 QBs, 32 RBs, 64 WRs, and 32 TEs. There are many different ways to figure out a baseline number; you just need to make sure you are able to get a value to which you can compare others at that position. Once you have your baseline for each position, you subtract the baseline from every player’s projected fantasy numbers at that position. You can either stop there and simply sort the numbers fromhighest to lowest, or you can take it a step further and weight the scores based on scarcity. The idea behind that is that since the ratio of fantasy starters to NFL starters is higher for RBs than for WRs, for example, RBs are more scarce than WRs and therefore weighted higher.

Positives: VBD allows you to base your cheat sheets off of your predictions and gives you a good idea of the relative depths of each position. It gives a solid look at which players are best to take based more upon how they do in comparison to others at their position, giving you as large of an advantage with each pick as possible.

Negatives: You must have a good basis in football knowledge to be able to predict the statistics of all those players. Statistics are many times unpredictable, and personal biases about certain players or teams can skew the rankings. Overall, it’s quite a bit of work, and so unless you have plenty of time on your hands, this method is pretty difficult to work out.

Average Value Theory
The Average Value Theory method (AVT) is a little less well known than VBD but is another statistics-based method of creating a cheat sheet. This method allows you to use past statistics but also use either your own personal position rankings or use the Average Draft Position (ADP) from a source that you trust for rankings.

This method doesn’t necessarily take as much football knowledge, but it requires a lot of time as well. First of all, you should find the average of each player’s stats over a certain amount of time. You could use just last years stats, or you could average the past two or three years. It won’t really matter too much which one you choose. Next you will want to convert all of the statistics you found into fantasy points using your league’s scoring system. After you have figured out the fantasy points, you should sort players by their fantasy points from highest to lowest. This next step is what makes this method different. What you do next is take out all of the names of the players; they don’t matter anymore because all you wanted was the fantasy points. Now, when you look at your list, you no longer have Peyton Manning with X fantasy points, you have the #1 QB with X fantasy points. This is where your own personal rankings or the use of ADP comes into play because you just plug the names next to the corresponding values. The #1 RB on your list would go with the top RB fantasy total, and so forth. Then you can make a composite list of all the names you added in based on the projected fantasy points.

Positives: This method is a more concrete way of predicting statistics based upon years past. But unlike other methods, you are not predicting what a certain player will finish with, but what the top QB, top RB, or top WR will finish with. It doesn’t require as much football knowledge because you can simply put in statistics and use an outside ADP to figure the rankings to put in.

Negatives: Once again, this method takes a lot of busy work. Drafting simply by the final results of this can lead you to take players at certain positions earlier than they should be taken, because some years the QBs are stronger than others, and the past is not necessarily a sign of what is to come in the future. For example, I calculated AVT values for my league and the #4, #10, #11, and #12 picks would all be QBs if you adhered strictly to this method.

Personal Opinion and Gut Feelings
This method is best used by those who have plenty of fantasy football experience. Basically, using this method you make your rankings for your cheat sheets based upon your personal views and opinions about how a player will do and where they should be taken. This method also takes into account where you believe that other owners in your league value each player. There is no definite step-by-step method here, it is simply you coming to your own conclusions about where each player should go based upon factors such as: how they performed in the past; whether they changed teams; whether their supporting cast has stayed the same, gotten better, or gotten worse; whether they have had coaching changes; their age; etc. These are things that can only be taken into account using this method of personal opinion and gut feelings.

Positives: You are able to factor in all of the circumstances surrounding a player, not just look at their previous statistics when they may have been in a different situation. You are also able to take players where they will be of the most value based on how other owners in your league will draft.

Negatives: Personal biases will play a big part in your draft, and you may not end up with the best team because of them. It is a very inexact method. Many situations can go multiple ways when changes in surroundings occur, so this way of drafting may cause you to take more chances based on gut feelings than you would otherwise. You must have a good deal of fantasy football experience to use this method because nearly all of it is based upon both general football and fantasy knowledge.

Conclusion
For those just beginning in fantasy football the best way to prepare for a draft is probably to do a more statistics-based approach until they gain more experience and knowledge, and the AVT method is probably their best bet. For those more experienced in fantasy football, a combination of approaches is probably the best technique. I use all three of these methods when making cheat sheets and selecting players on draft day. The statistical methods are good ways to get a rough rankings sheet, and you can see the approximate output of most players. But then you can move people up and down using your own personal opinions and based upon how situations have changed for each player. The more methods you use in combination when trying to make your cheat sheets, the better prepared you will be on draft day. The statistical approaches will tell you to suppress your gut feelings, but using a combination of these methods, you will be able to take chances while still drafting well in the late rounds, which is really what makes or breaks a fantasy football team.

 
Matt Blevins can usually be found browsing the Cafe's forums, where he specializes in answering tricky Start & Sit questions. You'll recognize him by his handle mattb47.
 
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