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Fantasy Football Links: Which Draft Slot Is Best?

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In my “According to the Data” column at RotoWire, I took a look at which draft spots have returned the most value over the past five seasons:

A few points of interest:

  • No. 1 picks – all running backs – have provided 82.7 percent of the production of the top player at their position. The low was Chris Johnson in 2010, who scored 70.7 percent as many points as top-scorer Arian Foster. Amazingly, three of the top four backs from 2010 – Foster, Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles – weren’t drafted in the top 20.

  • No. 2 selections – again all running backs – have returned 80.3 percent of the production of the top-scoring back. The high was Foster last season, who led the league in fantasy points, and the low was Michael Turner in 2009 at 63.3 percent.

  • After the top two picks in fantasy drafts, there has been a significant drop in production. No. 3 picks have provided 71.4 percent of peak production, and No. 4 selections check in at just 65.0 percent.

  • Taking first-round selections in isolation, it appears superior to have a top-two pick over any other. After No. 2, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between picks No. 3 and No. 12.

  • Another article on draft slots over at RotoWire with a slightly different approach:

    The No. 1 overall pick in a fantasy football draft has been almost six times as productive as the No. 24 overall pick in the draft. On average taking Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy (the top three in ADP this year according to MockDraftCentral.com) will yield three to five times more value than the players you can take at the end of the second round (Steven Jackson, Jimmy Graham, Ahmad Bradshaw). Of course, that’s on average. That’s no guarantee that will be the case this year. Still, you should be very reluctant to part with a pick at the top of the draft given this historical trend.

    Another sample section from my book Fantasy Football for Smart People, this time posted at 4for4:

    In a study on the effect of 370-plus carries on running backs, the number seems to be chosen after the fact because it makes the numbers more extreme. You can see the abundance of running backs that actually improved their yards-per-carry, yet came just a few carries short of 370. Are we really to believe a running back who carried the ball 365 times in a season is to be trusted in the subsequent season, but those with 370 are doomed?

    In reality, though, running backs who garner a large number of carries in a season are generally more likely to see a drop in production and health in the following year, but this information is both insignificant and irrelevant.

    Using advanced dropbacks as a fantasy football metric:

    A Quick Primer on the Metrics

    Drop backs – Drop backs give a better look at a team’s intention to pass than attempts. All numbers in this column will be in terms of ‘per drop back’ instead of ‘per attempt’.

    True Air Yards Per Drop Back (TAY/DB) – While yards per drop back is the most important stat, Air Yards can help illustrate the quarterback’s ability to challenge the defense vertically. True Air Yards includes the air yards on dropped passes.

    Accuracy % – PFF charts drops and throwaways. The accuracy percentage tells you the percentage of aimed passes that should be caught, a number which gives you a better idea of a quarterback’s actual accuracy.

    Deep % – This is the percentage of passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air.

    Pressure % – The percentage of drop backs on which the quarterback faces pressure. Some of this is on the offensive line, but quarterbacks who repeatedly face a high level of pressure are likely holding the ball too long.

    Accuracy Under Pressure (Acc. UP %) – This stat shows which quarterbacks were able to maintain their accuracy in the face of the pass rush.

    Passing Fantasy Points Per Drop Back (PFP/DB) – Although traditionalists may hate it, if you’re going to use a single number for quarterback efficiency, passing fantasy points per drop back might be the best. It’s certainly the most salient for our purposes.

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