Storypost | 2014.08.19

Fantasy draft video chat 49ers

The 2014 Medieval Gridiron season has arrived, we drafted at Casa de Santos this past weekend. Good food, good drinks, Ryan and Dan drafted using the same fantasy football magazine - I know, right?

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thumbnail Fantasy football live draft

Now let's talk numbers. You'll want to stop reading here.

In previous years I drafted like a cowboy - who's good, who'll get carries, who'll rack up the garbage time points. What's more, I leaned on the espn draft kit, which really only helps in guessing when everyone else will be taking players. Nothing really quantitative, but I've done alright for myself.

I took a numerical, heuristic approach this time around. The seed for this was the well known fact that you're supposed to draft running backs early because, while throwers score more points on a season, the #10 quarter back isn't too far off the #5 quarterback. But then people with Rodgers and Manning started winning, so ???
A nu strategy

Suppose for a second that you're given a team with the bottom players at every position. Not all #32s, rather the last players that'll get drafted in your league. With a 14-team league, I'd get the #14 QB, RBs #27 and #28, and so forth. If you didn't draft at all, you might end up with a team that looked like this (ignoring benches and flex for the moment).

Now suppose you were given one draft pick to best improve your performance for the year. Would you choose based on position? Nope. Would you choose based on projected points? Kind of. The trivial/greedy/optimal solution is to take the player with the largest point differential to the corresponding player on your team. So trading Eli(200) up to Peyton(250) is better than Charles(300) instead of Bernard(280), even if Jamaal looks better on paper.

Simple enough, can you draft a team based on this principle? Because of work/defcon/soccer, I didn't really develop this notion other than to re-rank players using the following...
The formula

value = expected points(player) - expected points(worst player)
Where, as above, the worst player is the last one I could expect to get from the draft.

How did I determine expected points? Again, a basic formula: max(2013 points, projected), with projected being the espn projections for our scoring system (not draft kit rank). Using max() seemed appropriate because espn projections are fairly conservative and it would hoist players that were injured last year (e.g. Rodgers). Max() does come with a caveat for players that did well last year but for some reason aren't expected to score big this year (Moreno, Josh Gordon). No doubt expected value could be improved to the benefit of the above formula.
This means nothing without some mock drafts!

Say we had a two team league, each consisting of one QB and two RBs. The projected points might look like this:

QBRich Gannon200+20
QBJamarcus Russell180+0
RBBo Jackson170+30
RBDarren McFadden160+20
RBNapoleon Kaufman150+10
RBMaurice Jones-Drew140+0

Here I'll apply my strategy against an RB-first strategy. It's not too straw man-y because the QBs are fairly close on points.

CR: 1. Jackson 4. Gannon 5. Jones-Drew -> +50/510
AA: 2. McFadden 3. Kaufman 6. Russell -> +30/490

Easy with first pick! What about going second?

AA: 1. Jackson 4. Kaufman 5. Russell -> +40/500
CR: 2. Gannon 3. McFadden 6. Jones-Drew -> +40/500

Here RB-first converges with point differential, so the other guy gets Bo.

Say we jiggle the numbers a bit and create a situation where there is a dominant QB like Peyton or Brees, but also have a coveted RB like AP or Charles:

QBRich Gannon210+70
RBBo Jackson150+50
QBJamarcus Russell140+0
RBDarren McFadden130+30
RBNapoleon Kaufman120+20
RBMaurice Jones-Drew100+0

CR: 1. Gannon 4. Kaufman 5. Jones-Drew -> +90/430
AA: 2. Jackson 3. McFadden 6. Russell -> +80/420

AA: 1. Jackson 4. Kaufman 5. Russell -> +70/410
CR: 2. Gannon 3. McFadden 6. Jones-Drew -> +100/440

Does this scale to a 14 team league with real point values? Maybe. Should I have run this against previous drafts? Definitely.
So what draft order were you left with?

Keep in mind this strategy doesn't amount to a QB-first policy, three of the top four differentials this year come from running backs. But it certainly corroborates what many already know - Manning, Brees, and Rodgers are first-rounders, and so is Jimmy Graham. Most importantly, it helps with decisionmaking in the later rounds - do I get a TE, defense, or flex? When should I start the D/ST rush?

Unfortunately, Excel was hanging like crazy during the draft, I think it decided to import some junk from my player list copy-paste even though I told it to remove hyperlinks. Oh well, the Password is Taco draft is coming up.

Here are the first twenty rows, sorted by delta to the 14th or 28th ranked player ("Max Delta"). I also threw in "Draft Rank" (espn draft kit ranking) and "Proj Point Rank" (espn projected points) for comparison.

RankPlayer2013 Points2013 DeltaProj PointsProj DeltaChangeMax DeltaDraft RankProj Point Rank
1Jamaal Charles32219724595-102197317
2LeSean McCoy30317824293-85178218
3Peyton Manning449174367106-6817481
4Matt Forte27715223687-66152421
5Jimmy Graham238144190103-411441039
6Drew Brees40012533068-57125173
7Marshawn Lynch24512023081-40120523
8Knowshon Moreno241116129-21-13611693121
9Demaryius Thomas24311221684-281121527
10Calvin Johnson241110236105-6110720
11Adrian Peterson220952511027102115
12A.J. Green2299820068-30981634
13Eddie Lacy2169021464-2690628
14Antonio Brown2219018857-34902842
15Brandon Marshall2188719563-23872035
16Aaron Rodgers186-893488617586122
17DeMarco Murray2118619142-44861338
19Alshon Jeffery2158418957-27842440
20Chris Johnson206811577-74815770

And this ranking does seem consistent with reasonable draft strategy: RBs are generally the most important, you have to look at player tiers, kickers don't matter.

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