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Draft Strategies

Draft strategies are a common argument these days. It seems everywhere you look; someone has found a new draft process that will guarantee success. The Stud RB theory, the QB-WR Combo, Value Based Drafting, the Stud WR theory; is one strategy really superior to another? Depends who you are asking. I personally have tried each of the aforementioned theories; and let me tell you…they all work. But, let me also say…they have all failed me. It depends on the year, the talent pool at each position and the league you are in. Scoring system, league size, starting lineup requirements, etc…will all affect what strategy will be successful for you. If your league awards the quarterback twice the amount of points as running backs, then obviously the Stud RB theory probably wouldn’t be the best strategy to utilize. But that is not to say that it doesn’t work for somebody else and their league. Which approach will you use on draft day? Let’s break down the basics of a few of the more popular strategies and find out what is best for you in 2007.

The Stud RB Theory (SRBT)
This is probably the most popular and oldest strategy out there and has been hammered into the heads of almost every fantasy football player for decades. The idea is simple. Take two running backs with your first two picks, no matter what. The reason? Running backs are utilized more than any other position and the “dominant” running back is an increasingly rare commodity. Most leagues require 2 starting running backs, so if you are in a 10, 12, or even a 14-team league, a minimum of 20 running backs will need to be started. Once you get beyond the first 15 running backs, the talent pool becomes extremely thin. After 24 are gone, it’s likely you’ll be selecting rookies and sleepers, and beyond 28, a running back worth starting is almost non-existent.

Based solely on rushing statistics, although we all know what players like Steven Jackson and Reggie Bush can bring to your team in the receiving categories, especially PPR leagues; in 2006, of the top 15 running backs in terms of attempts per game, that played at least 14 games, averaged approximately 317 attempts, 1360 yards and 10 touchdowns for the season. Of the next 15 players, the average falls to just 211 attempts, 891 yards and 5.5 touchdowns (This TD average includes the spectacular seasons of Maurice Jones-Drew and Corey Dillon with 13 each) Why the drop-off? Last year, injuries and awful supporting casts were the reasons there was an RBBC approach, which made the feature back even more important.

Following the SRBT is a way to ensure that you will get two solid starters at a position lacking great depth. However, for those owners who are drafting near the end of a 14-team league the SRBT may not seem so appealing and need may outweigh the value at that point.

The argument to this theory is that you may be passing on premier players at other position just to guarantee getting running backs. Do you bypass Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Marvin Harrison or Chad Johnson for a second or third tier running back like Ronnie Brown, Thomas Jones or Ahman Green? Some SRBT fanatics may raise their hand here, arguing YES, that even the “stud” players at the QB and WR position can not only be inconsistent, but their depth and availability are far greater than that of the running back. So when exactly does value outweigh the need? This leads us to our next topic…

VBD (Value Based Drafting)
Value Based Drafting is a tactic largely based on a statistical grading. Rank every player from the most valuable to the least and drafting according to those rankings regardless of position. It is a numbers game that can be incredibly time consuming but some owners swear by this method. Take the best player on your list, based on value. Seems shaky, but let’s take a look into how this theory works.

  1. Projections
  2. Calculate Fantasy Points
  3. Establish the Baseline
  4. Determine the Value Number
  5. Compile your Results
  6. Draft

To begin you need to make stat projections for each draftable player. If you simply do not wish to devote this kind of time, I suggest the Cheatsheet Compiler/Draft Buddy. This will save you some trouble and FFToday’s Rankings and Projections have been proven to be some of the best around. After you have your list of projections, you need to calculate the estimated number of fantasy points each player will end with based on your leagues scoring system. The number of players you start at each position determines a baseline player for each position. For example, in a 10-team league that requires a starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB’s, 2 WR’s, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 D/ST, the baseline for QB would be 10, RB would be 20, same for WR’s, etc. Subtract the projected fantasy point total of the baseline player from each players expected total fantasy points to determine the “value” number. Example, if you projected your 20th ranked wide receiver to finish with 100 fantasy points, simply subtract 100 from all of the other wide receivers total projected fantasy points to obtain your “value” number for each player at that position. Clearly all of the wide receivers you ranked below 20th will have a negative value number. This does not mean they are invaluable or not draft worthy, it is just a ranking compared to the other players at that position.

After you have determined a value number for each player, compile your cheat sheets for your draft. The theory is that when drafting, you can easily choose based on the drop off in value from one player to the next. For instance, it’s round 3 and you are trying to determine whom to select. Will it be the WR or a RB? You would look at the value number and the drop off to the next available player at that position. Let’s say the wide receiver you are considering has a value of 100 and the running back a value of 95. This does not mean the wide receiver is more valuable. You need to consider the next few players at each position. If the next two wide receivers have a value of 94 and 93 and the next two running backs have a value of 71 and 69, the drop-off is much greater at the running back position thus making that position the greater value pick.

Seemingly this strategy allows you to quickly make decisions on draft day. Acquiring a very strong overall team is the objective without an emphasis on any one position. Now the argument. This strategy is completely based on your pre-draft projections, so accuracy is extremely important, and doesn’t seem to allow you much flexibility. You may find yourself drafting bench or second tier starters based on value rather than need and passing on quality players at other positions. However, some owners who follow this strategy choose to begin their draft with a “starting lineup first” plan before strictly drafting for value from their list.

The Stud WR Theory
This strategy is one that I have been forced to follow the past two seasons. Shockingly enough, although wildly inconsistent and lacking confidence, I have won back-to-back division titles. I know, unbelievable isn’t it? I was forced into this approach by having the misfortune of selecting near the end of our serpentine draft, and had to find a way to keep up with the Tomlinson’s.

The theory of this strategy is that instead of picking from the scrapings of running backs your fellow owners have left you with your top two picks; you instead take the top two wide receivers on the board. Starting out with players such as Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens can give you an advantage over all of your opponents at this position on any given week. Seeing these top two receivers go may also spark a run on the position, thus leaving you more attractive options at running backs in the rounds to follow.

One other highlight to this strategy is that the top wide receivers in the league are usually consistent in their production from season to season, and every year there are running backs drafted before them that don’t live up to the hype. See Cadillac Williams, Lamont Jordan and Ronnie Brown from 2006, all of which went before I selected Harrison.

The problem with this strategy is that wide receivers can be extremely erratic and you are now forced to draft even lesser talented running backs with your next two or three picks. Most also agree that the talent pool at wide receiver is much deeper than at the running back position, so how much of an advantage are you really going to have?

Like I said in the beginning, I have been forced to use this strategy two years in a row and have been fortunate enough to see success, but I was probably the most prepared owner going into the draft knowing that this was my fate. With your 3rd-5th round picks certain to be running backs, make sure you do your homework on the players that will be available to you in those rounds. Research and preparation such as Mock Drafting will help immensely and if you are lucky enough to uncover a diamond in the rough or find that rookie that outperforms expectations, it will make your season much less stressful when the LaDainian’s and LJ’s are scoring at will, knowing you still have a chance.

Championships have been won with numerous strategies and tactics on draft day. Weather you chose to follow the SRBT, VBD, the Stud WR Theory, make sure you have A plan. Do your research, study hard and find what will work best for you based on your league, and take that plan to the draft with confidence.