Value Based Drafting: Part IIFriday, June 15, 2012
Jordy Nelson 2011 Similar Receivers – Year 2
Overall, the group performed extremely well on the year after they were similar to Nelson 2011. But one glaring difference is that their touchdowns were down fairly dramatically. When we're thinking of drafting Nelson this year, it might be helpful to remember that he could be in for the same sort of mean reversion that affected Dwayne Bowe and Miles Austin in recent years. They were still decent receivers, they just didn't put in back to back years of really high touchdown totals. This is the kind of information that using similarity based comparisons in our forecasts yields.
I've spent a lot of time talking about forecasting because it's at least as important as creating a VBD baseline. But let's move on to actually applying those forecasts so that we have some actionable fantasy intelligence.
I went ahead and ran projections for the top 44 WRs and RBs, along with the top 15 QBs and TEs. Then I matched up those projections with ADP to see what ranges of positions offered relative value. Here are the broad stroke takeaways from that exercise:
- My similarity based projections don't assign a lot of value to the top QBs this year. They don't project for a high enough value over the baseline 15th QB, in order to justify their draft position. Instead, the highest relative value for QB is in the QB7 range. I could actually see a draft strategy that focuses on trying to pick up Tony Romo in that range in lieu of spending an early pick on one of last year's top QBs. Romo actually shares a number of traits with the top tier of QBs, including a completion percentage over 65%. But with Romo you get the "bad luck" discount based on the numerous injuries that affected the Cowboys' offense last year. Another reasonable strategy would be to try to get Michael Vick in this range as he was actually essentially equal to Cam Newton last year except for rushing touchdowns.
- Most of the top players at a position do not offer excess value because they are projected highly, and also cost a high pick. Perhaps the only exception is Rob Gronkowski, who I have recently called a reasonable approximation of Calvin Johnson (Gronk is also a few years younger). This is an area where changing the TE baseline from TE8 to TE 15 is meaningful. That means that Gronk is worth relatively more.
- On a relative basis, the range of WRs that offer the highest value compared to where they're being drafted are between WR10 and WR20. Wide receiver is a position that I think will be fairly flat this year, which is to say that there won't be a huge difference between the very top WRs and the starter level WRs. The NFL is now a "spread it around" league. But at the WR position, the WR10-WR20 range does appear to offer the most relative value. This is the range of WRs that includes Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, Victor Cruz, Demaryius Thomas and Hakeem Nicks. That's a pretty attractive group and I could see bypassing the WRs in the top 10 and taking two guys from the WR10-WR20 group.
- Despite the relative devaluing of the RB position, my similarity projections still favor going RB early. This is not so much of a vote of confidence for the early RBs. Outside of the top four guys, there are a lot of question marks. This is a comment on how terrifying the guys at the back end of the RB position are. Remember that we know that the approximate demand for RBs is equal to about the top 44 players at that position. The guys who are currently going in the RB35-RB44 range are guys who if they got lucky and someone got injured, might still be in timeshare backfields. It might be scary to go RB early this year, but it might be a lot scarier to wait.
- You now have the baselines needed to calculate your own values based on whatever projections you might favor. I also realize that some people play in leagues that don't follow the standard scoring that my baselines were created from. I'll try to work on putting together a spreadsheet or a form that will allow people to calculate baselines for leagues that might have different roster requirements. When I have that done I'll update this post with a link and also send it out through Twitter.
If you're still awake after going through a lot of material on the topic of Value Based Drafting, I do think it's important to note that a fantasy draft shouldn't be boiled down to one number. Ideally you want to use the information that VBD gives you to go through various alternatives for your draft. You want it to tell you what the relative costs of waiting on a position are. If you decide that you're in love with Aaron Rodgers, you can still consult VBD to see what kind of values will be available at the other positions later. Use Value Based Drafting as another tool in your arsenal. Don't completely farm out your fantasy draft to one idea.