Fantasy's Most Dominant PlayerSaturday, June 28, 2014
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This time last season the fantasy community was in the throes of a debate about the relative draft value of an injured Rob Gronkowski. Some argued Gronkowski was such a dominant fantasy force that even 12 games of him was worth an early-round pick. Others disagreed, saying his injury situation and risk of further injury even when he returned should sink his value.
I weighed in on this topic, as I am one to do, saying that I did not think Gronkowski was worthy of the fourth-round ADP he carried into 2013. I was correct as it turned out, but more important than my manifest fantasy football genius is what I found while researching the Gronk topic, and how that information pertains to another brewing fantasy argument:
Whether or not Jimmy Graham deserves to be the first non-running back off the board this draft season.
For me, the answer is unequivocally yes.
While researching Gronk last season I compiled the fantasy point totals of the weekly top scorers at each position for 2012, and used that information to derive the relative standard deviation of “starting” fantasy options. In layman’s terms, the relative standard deviation attempts to show the spread of a given set of data. In this case, the RSD would show how far week-to-week fantasy scores deviated from an average fantasy score at each position.
The data showed the tight end position had the largest spread between the average player and the players at the extremes of the starting options, indicating that an elite tight end was relatively more valuable than an elite player at any position outside of running back. The data also showed elite quarterbacks are -- by far -- the least valuable of all the other important fantasy football positions.
The 2013 data mirrored the 2012 data fairly closely, with the top-ten weekly tight ends clearly showing the most variance. Quarterbacks still lagged well behind tight ends and wide receivers, though the gap had closed.
This RSD analysis is important as it pertains to the first round of fantasy drafts. The goal in the first round should always be to draft a player that is a weekly difference maker. This means you need a player that will win his head-to-head matchup almost every week. The RSD analysis would indicate an elite tight end is the most likely to be that weekly difference maker, and therefore should be the first non-running back position drafted.
The analysis is flawed, however, because the weekly top scorer at a position is very rarely the “No. 1” player at the position. Peyton Manning was only the top scoring quarterback three times last season. Josh Gordon was only the top scorer twice. Graham was more dominant with five first-place finishes, but even so that means there were 11 weeks where Graham was playing and was not the top tight end option.
If trying to decide which non-running back needs to be drafted first, then, it is important to look at how the player's people are actually considering in the first round performed against replacement level.