The follow is an excerpt from my new book Fantasy Football for Smart People: How Fantasy Football Pros Game Plan to Win.
THE NUMBERS ON DRAFT SLOTS
I imported league draft and season results from the NFFC (National Fantasy Football Championship). I chose their results because, as a high-stakes fantasy service, the types of owners who compete know what the hell they’re doing. Drafts aren’t completely efficient, but they’re about as close as you’ll find. Who would have thought that people with $10,000 riding on a single fantasy league would know more about what they’re doing than my Uncle Bruce playing in a free ESPN league with strangers?
Now here’s the unique thing about the NFFC: they use a third-round reversal draft. So instead of a 1-12, 12-1, 1-12 format, it goes 1-12, 12-1, 12-1, 1-12…
That idea is to increase the value of late picks. Normally, the owner selecting 12th would get two of the top 13 players and three of the top 36, while the owners drafting from the top spot would get two of the top 24 players, but three of the top 25.
In the NFFC, the owner picking last gets two of the top 13 players, but also three of the top 25. Meanwhile, the owner in the No. 1 slot gets the top player, but only two of the top 24 and three of the top 36. That seems like an advantage for owners picking late in the round.
When I ran the numbers, though, that’s not what I found. Taking three years of data from the top 500 teams in the NFFC, here’s the frequency of top teams in each draft slot.
There’s a pretty distinct rise in the middle area. Here’s how the results shape up if we split the draft slots into four quarters.
Again, pretty clear that the middle draft slots have been the most fruitful over the past few years in the NFFC. While top half vs. bottom half hasn’t mattered much, it’s been highly advantageous to pick away from the perimeter.
Overall, the chances that a random top 500 team selected in the middle of their draft (4 through 9) are 57 percent, compared to 43 percent for the six draft slots near the edges (1 through 3 or 10 through 12).
You can read more similar analysis in Fantasy Football for Smart People: How Fantasy Football Pros Game Plan to Win.