Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Aug 2013

Fantasy Drafting Strategy: Should you go with a stars-and-scrubs model (e.g., Miami Heat) or diversify your risk?

This is more of a theoretical drafting question although it does apply to my draft tonight:

Is it worth "reaching" for a player who is projected to be over-the-top dominant at one position and then settling for run-of-the-mill guys at another positions or would you rather have pretty good guys at every position (with no Jerry Rice-esque standout anywhere)? Would you rather diversify your risk or shoot for the moon?

Why I'm asking specifically:

I'm in a 10-team league that plays 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE and no flex. I ran projected numbers for every player, calculated the value-over-replacement for each player and Calvin Johnson was clearly projected to have the top value in the league, largely in part to the non-standard lineup requirements of the league. I think his average draft position is around 9-10; I'm drafting 3rd.

I'm torn as to whether I should reach and draft him first or whether I should go the safe route and draft one of the top RBs. There are other facts that are pertinent to my situation but I don't want to bog everyone down in the details, as this is more of a theoretical question.

I think it boils down to a couple key factors:

1. The likelihood that CJ reaches his projections (I think if he is healthy he should be fine; however, there is injury risk here)
2. The likelihood that whichever mid-tier RB I pick outperforms his projections and has a first-tier caliber season (I’m less bullish on this, as I’m not very high on any of the RBs that would be available after the top 10)
3. The ability to nail a late round/waiver wire RB/WR that has a monster year (think Victor Cruz/Arian Foster/Ryan Grant in their big sleeper years). Is it easier to pick up this sort of player if he is a RB or a WR? (I feel like it is easier to pick up a RB given the higher rate of attrition at the position but I’m not sure)

I’m leaning toward taking the RB, as the thought of watching Chris Johnson and Darren Mcfadden as my two RBs terrifies me but I was wondering what everyone else thought. Amongst your starters, I feel like lower player variance in fantasy football is desirable to higher player variance in a league with individual head-to-head matchups, as the primary goal in my mind is simply to make the playoffs.

Posted by: Torchlight13 on 29 Aug 2013

4 replies , Last at 24 Nov 2013, 1:45am by bingoboy

test of two teams
by mrt1212 :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:28pm

I've got two teams this year, one auction one snake that I hope will shine some light on this. They both have the same scoring setup but its way more complicated (basically it values efficiency by penalizing attempts at passes and rushing that don't exceed slightly below average play on field, defenses get more points to make them relevant)

Team 1 (12 Team Auction)

QB: Vick
RBs: McCoy, Lynch, Montee Ball, Jacquizz
WRs: Demariyus Thomas, Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks
TEs: Gresham
DEF: Houston

Team 2 (10 Team Snake, I was on the 10-11 end)
QB: Romo, Schaub
RBs: McCoy, Gore, Wilson, Ivory
WRs: Julio Jones, Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks
TE: Vernon Davis
DEF: By Committee, trying to play against the jets and jax.

Team 1 has more zazz and i think might put up the higher points but might have a hth worse season. Between the two teams I wanted some continuity so I can try and gauge how much better some players were. Is Julio Jones a better pick than thomas. Will have more even scoring with two WRs on the same team or TE and RB on the same team? Itll be fun to see but I think being more risky is better because even if you plan for a deep team, injuries are such a crapshoot.

by alien1rock :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 4:23pm

A few thoughts:

1. Why do you think a top RB would be a "safer" pick than Calvin Johnson? Out of Peterson, Martin, Foster, Lynch and Calvin, he's the only one with 32 games played over the last two regular seasons. He also has the most scrimmage yards out of that entire group over the two year period.

2. "Watching Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden as my two RB" is a little bit of hyperbole, right? If you're drafting at 3, you're also drafting at 18 and 23. If you take Calvin, and assuming the rest of your league places a small premium on WR because of the 3WR lineup, you could easily end up with a Richardson/Wilson or Wilson/Ridley combo.

3. In a snake draft format (as opposed to auction), I don't really think you're making a Studs/Duds vs Balanced decision. By nature of being forced to make one selection in each round, everyone is going to have a relatively balanced team. Obviously you can weight the positions however you want, but Studs/Duds is more of an auction concept. You can come out of an auction with 3 first round pick players, and the rest of your team 7th+ round guys. Will your team really be much more "balanced" if you come out of the first three rounds with something like Lynch/Wilson/Roddy White than if it was Calvin/Wilson/Ridley?

Summary - You might be overthinking this one. You've done the analysis and determined that CJ is just as valuable as those top RB. Pick whoever you're most confident in, who you want to root for the most, or possibly go with the position that you have less "sleepers" for waiting in your back pocket. At pick #3, you have very little information about how the draft will shake out, so it is probably best to not worry about how your pick will affect the later rounds. Just take the best value.

PS - This is why auctions are so much more fun. The Studs/Duds vs balance dilemma is very real.

by mrt1212 :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 5:34pm

Right on!

Re: Fantasy Drafting Strategy:
by bingoboy (not verified) :: Sun, 11/24/2013 - 1:45am

I've played in leagues that allowed trading draft picks before the draft started. Two seasons ago, in both of my leagues I traded into the first round twice. I drafted 1st overall, then traded 20 and 40 for 3rd overall and 21 and 41 for 4th overall. I ended up with Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and Tom Brady as a three-headed monster. I finished 7-7 and missed the playoffs. Last season, I traded out of the first round and got a 2nd and 3rd rounder. I won the league with the most points for. This season in two separate leagues I traded out of the first round. In one, I traded out of the first and second round for a 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 10th, and in the other I traded away 3rd overall for 8th and 28th. I'm winning both leagues.

I know there's a small sample size here and other factors (hitting right on Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy in the late 2nd-early 3rd area was enormous), but from my limited experience I've found that it's certainly better to load up on 2nd-4th round talent at every position.

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