Fantasy Football: Using Tiers to Garner Maximum Value on Draft Day
Frequently forgotten or dismissed, the act of creating tiers on your fantasy football draft board is essential to your success. Many fantasy football owners simply rank players according to their positions, possibly intertwining these positional rankings into an all-inclusive big board. While this is the strategy we recommend, the additional implementation of tiers within each position is an absolute must.
Many naive football fans believe that, in the real NFL draft, teams have a big board of player rankings and always stick to that board. This is simply not the case. While teams often stray from their board because of positional needs, there are other reasons that these digressions may take place. The most important of these, and the one which can greatly help you succeed as a fantasy football owner, involves positional value.
The best way to illustrate this point is to use an example. Suppose you are entering round five of your fantasy draft, and you have already picked up two running backs and two wide receivers. The top players left on your draft board are Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, and Darren Sproles. You have all three quarterbacks rated ahead of Sproles, projecting each with right around 100 more fantasy points than the San Diego running back. However, after Sproles, there is a large drop-off at the running back position. You have the next running back after Sproles with 50 less projected points.
In this situation, a lack of tiers would lead you to pick your top-rated player–Matt Ryan. This decision, however, would be a huge mistake. The fact that Sproles is so far ahead of your next running back makes him the last running back left in his tier.
Meanwhile, Flacco and Cutler are of comparable value to Ryan. The fact that you can probably get one of these two quarterbacks a round or two later means that Sproles is the correct selection, even though he is listed lower on your draft board and projects to 100 less points than the QBs.
The math of the situation supports this decision. Suppose you have Ryan at 270 projected points, Flacco at 265, Cutler at 255, and Sproles at 155. This means that your next running back is projected at just 105 fantasy points. If you did not have your players ranked into tiers, you would end up with Ryan and, at least eventually, a running back who projects to around 105 fantasy points. This would leave you with 385 total points.
If you had your players ranked into tiers, however, you would end up with Sproles and, at worst, Jay Cutler in round six. This would give you 410 total points, a 25 point increase over the other combination and approximately a 5-10% better chance of making the playoffs. Combine a few of these sly maneuvers in one draft, and all of a sudden you’ve increased your chance of making the playoffs by 50% even before the season starts.
This situation is actually eerily similar to one we previously discussed involving trades, found here. In that post, we featured a chart displaying how to obtain maximum value during a trade (shown to the right). Drafting through tiers is similar in that you are simply trying to maximize value.
In the trade, you maximize value by yielding a few projected points at one position in order to gain a lot more at another. During the draft, you are temporarily passing on maximum points in round five, knowing it will allow you to ultimately attain the highest projected points later.
Thus, before your fantasy draft, be sure to project players’ points (according to your scoring system) and then rank the players within each position into tiers. In a way, you can imagine all the players within the same tier as equal, i.e. don’t worry about names–simply acquire as many players in as high of tiers as possible, and you will have maximized the value of your fantasy team.
This strategy will allow you to, in a way, “buy low and sell high”–the same methodology which maximizes value in the stock market, business transaction, and, yes, even fantasy football.
Sample Running Back Board With Tiers
Note: This is not our actual board and is simply for explanatory purposes.
1. Chris Johnson- 280 projected points
2. Adrian Peterson- 275 projected points
3. Ray Rice- 250 projected points
4. Steven Jackson- 245 projected points
5. Maurice Jones-Drew- 243 projected points
6. Jonathan Stewart- 218 projected points
7. Michael Turner- 216 projected points
8. Rashard Mendenhall- 214 projected points
9. DeAngelo Williams- 210 projected points
10. Jamaal Charles- 208 projected points