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Joe Bryant | Archive | Email |
Guest Writer

Principles Of VBD
8/22/00

The surest way to dominate your leagueÖ

Öis to dominate your draft. In this article, Iím going to show you my drafting system that will put you in control of your league. This is not fluffy, light reading for the casual fan. This is serious and valuable information for the hardcore owner whoís playing for keeps and willing to trade his girlfriend for an edge. This article is for Fantasy Sharks. If thatís you, címon in.

Interested? I thought so. This method is something I began evangelizing to the public way back in 1996 when guys like Keyshawn Johnson, Eddie George and Marvin Harrison had yet to play an NFL down. Itís called the Value Based Draft System (or VBD for short) and today, youíll find itís the hot ticket among serious FF Owners. Even among other writers. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Lets just say Iím flattered and leave it at that. But my system has gained wide popularity for one reason: It works.

I brought these ideas to the Football World after being immersed for many years in the statistical gymnastics known as Rotisserie Baseball. There I learned from the Roto masters like John Benson, Bill James, Alex Patton and Pete Palmer the basics of these ideas. Over the last 4 years, Iíve been continually updating and rethinking these concepts and how they apply to football. Youíre reading the latest.

Imagine yourself in the following scenario:

Draft night. Round 6. Tick tock, tick tock. The walls in the smoke filled room are slowly closing in on you. Youíre well aware that youíve entered the crucial phase of the draft where the men are quickly separated from the boys. The adrenaline rush of the first two rounds is a distant memory while you run on nothing more than caffeine and raw nerves. Your stomach is now questioning the wisdom of accepting that last slab of pizza when your situation worsens considerably. The owner selecting in front of you steals the budding star you covet but passed on last round because you were certain heíd hang for another 12 picks. All the guys in the Usenet Group said you just had to have the #2 RB by round 5 and Mr. Sleeper Star would stick around for at least another round. You just knew it. Tick tockÖ

Yeats was right when he said, "we have no enemy but time". With your "steal of the draft" sleeper now sitting smugly on your rivalís roster, you have to make a decisionÖfast. Suddenly youíre sifting through QBís in the Blake / Culpepper / Chandler range, RBís in the Wheatley / Watters / Dayne neighborhood, WRís in the Mathis / Toomer / Dwight mold, and TEís along the lines of Reimersma and Jones. Do you even dare think about a Kicker yet? Surely not a Defense. Sheesh. Whaddya do?

If youíre like 95% of the Fantasy Owners out there, you do what youíve always done: Consult your old friend, the "Gut", and grab whoever he tells you. Ah, good Ďol Gut. Live and die with the Gut. Unlike your rival, who claimed heíd never heard of your star sleeper 2 hours ago, the Gut never lies and heís never let you down before. Has he? OK, you werenít the only guy in the world to snag Joey Galloway in round one last year so you canít blame that all on the Gut. But there WERE those couple (dozen?) instances last season where the "hunch" didnít quite play out as you plannedÖ and youíre pretty darn sure you remember saying the Rams would never go farÖ and now that you think of it, Mr. Gut had a pretty sizable hand in helping you pull the trigger on that last piece of pizza a few minutes ago. Whatís up with that?

Youíre thinking there must be a better way.

And Iím telling you there is.

With my VBD System youíll be able to finally place a tangible value on these players that makes sense to you. Always before, no one really knew if a QB throwing 22 TDís / 3000 yards is more valuable than a RB scoring 9 TDs / 1000 yards or a WR posting 7 TDís / 1100 yards. Now youíll know.

Iím here to tell you that success in your Fantasy Football Draft is all about understanding Peer Pressure. And Iím not talking about being the last guy on the planet to lose the goatee (that was last year) What Iím talking about is the surest way I know of to accurately place a value on Fantasy Football Players for your draft.

In itís simplest form: The value of a player is determined not by the number of points he scores, but by how much he outscores his peers at his particular position.

Think about it for a moment. The goal is not to score a ton of points. You can score a ton of points and still lose. The goal is to outscore your competition. In other words, the goal is to distance yourself ahead of the competition. How do you best do that? You do that by selecting players who outscore their peers, not necessarily the players who score a ton of points as you fill a roster with a specified number of players at specified positions. This is extremely important. Copy this and paste it somewhere prominent. Itís the key to success in this game.

For example, letís say you had a perfect crystal ball and knew the points players would post. If you select a Mike Hollis, at say, 145 points, your competition can counter that move with an Al Del Greco at 143. Youíre up 2 points, big deal. Your opponent takes a McNair at 115 points. You can effectively counter with a Brunell at 100 only giving up 15 points. You select a Tony Gonzalez at 75 points and if your opponent counters that with Kyle Brady at 35, youíre suddenly up a whopping 40 points. The team that wins will be the team that can most distance themselves from the pack at each position. It makes no difference from which position the advantage in points come from. All youíre looking for are the points themselves. You can gain the advantage from being just a little better at each position, or you may gain the exact same advantage by being incredibly strong at one position and just a little weaker at all the others.

People sometimes have a hard time seeing this. (Assuming a mandatory TE) Theyíll say "how can a TE (Walls) scoring 75 points be more valuable than a #1 WR (Moulds) scoring 95 points?" The answer is that itís not a game of TE vs. #1 WR. Just like the real thing, itís a team game. The Walls owner gets to draft a #1 WR to team with Walls and the Moulds owner must draft a TE to go with Mr. Moulds. The Walls owner will likely be able to draft a #1 WR fairly close to Mouldsí numbers. The Moulds ownerís TE will probably post numbers much lower than Walls. When the owner combines the numbers of Walls and his #1 WR, they will probably be more than the numbers posted by Moulds and the available TE. Does this make sense? If it doesnít, read it again. It is the cornerstone of the Value Principle.

Think about it like this. We are NOT trying to assemble a group of the highest scoring players with no regard to position. If that were the case, the best team would be full of kickers. We are bound by our starting lineups as to the positions we must fill. Our team, consisting of a specified number of players from the specified positions will compete against the other teams consisting of the same number of players from the same positions. Therefore, the object of the game changes from assembling a group of high scoring players (with no regard to position) to assembling a starting roster with the highest scoring players at each position. Think of it in terms of individual matchups pitting your team against another team, position by position. For simplicityís sake, letís just say your starting roster is 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 WR and 1 PK. In a one game matchup, your QB outscores his QB 20 to 18 (+2 points). Youíre up 2. Your RB is outscored by his RB 0 to 5 (-5 points). Now youíre down by 3. Your WR outscores his WR 20 to 5 (+15 points). Now youíre back up by 12. Your kicker outscores his kicker 21 to 20 (+1 points) This puts you up 13. You win the matchup 61 to 48.

Y O U  W I N !
YOUR TEAM HIS TEAM PTS ADV. CUMULATIVE TOTAL
Your QB 20 pts His QB 18 pts +2 for you +2
Your RB 0 pts His RB 5 pts -5 for you -3
Your WR 20 pts His WR 5 pts +15 for you +12
Your PK 21 pts His PK 20 pts +1 for you +13
Total Pts: 61 Total Pts: 48

Listen up now. The point differences at each position, when totaled, will determine the winner. In this case it was a total team difference of 13 points. Hereís the important question. Letís say you and the owner above are going to throw all 8 players back into the pool, have a draft, fill your 4 man roster and play a 1 game season. For the sake of argument, these are the only 8 players available to draft ( 2 QBís, 2 RBís, 2 WRís and 2 PKís ) and you already know theyíre going to post the points Iíve stated. You must draft 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 WR, and 1 PK. Who would you draft first? Tick, tock, tick tockÖ

Itís an absolute no brainer. The WR who scores 20 points MUST be the #1 draft pick. The 20 point WR is by far the most valuable player even though he scored the same as the QB and 1 point less than the kicker. He gives you a 15 point advantage at WR while the better QB only gives a 2 point advantage, the better PK gives a 1 point advantage and the better RB gives a 5 point advantage. The WRís 20 points were much more valuable than the QBís 20 points and the PKís 21 points because of how the player relates to his peers. Itís like tic-tac-toe. If it doesnít make sense, actually do the draft and see it yourself.

Because you must fill each position, the owner who drafts the 20 point WR cannot lose. The draft is over once the WR is taken. You give me the 20 point WR and my dog, Zeus, can draft the rest of my team and still beat you. Re read this and make sure you understand it. Itís vital that you see all points do not have equal VALUE.

When you think about it, this is something youíre probably already doing at some level already. For example, itís generally accepted that owners wait until the later rounds to draft a kicker. Why? Itís certainly not because they donít score enough points. They usually lead the league in most scoring systems. The reason that most kickers are drafted late is that they have low value. They have low value because there are many kickers who will produce a similar number of high points. Even though theyíre high scorers, most owners feel that they can wait until later and still pick a nice kicker.

Kickers earn a low value because there are just so many good ones available. Theyíre a "dime a dozen" as they say. On the other hand, an Edgerrin James has few peers. RBís who can post his type of numbers are considerably more "rare". Therefore, his value goes up. Make sense? Elementary, I know, but itís important to understand the concept behind the principle.

With me this far? Iíll assume weíre on the same page as to how value is determined. Now weíre faced with the task of building a draft list based upon those principles.

In five easy steps, here it is:
  1. Project Stats for Each Player you think will be drafted in your league.
  2. Determine projected Fantasy Points based on your scoring system.
  3. Determine your baseline.
  4. Using your baseline, determine a Value Number (V#) for each player.
  5. Sort your list by Value Numbers overall and by position.

If youíd like to bypass all the work, collect your $200 and go straight to GO, Iíve got a solution for you. Weíve created an VBD Excel App that lets you just input your league information and itíll do all the work for you. Still, though, you should read the information below so you understand whatís happening. By the way, the App is Free.

Each one of these steps could easily merit itís own article but for now, hereís the summary version for each step.

Projecting Stats
The hardest part is the first part. In order for the Value System to work, it requires a firm set of projected stats for every player in your draft pool. Donít give me grumbling about how unpredictable football players are or the whining that usually follows player projection discussion. If youíre going to dominate this draft (that IS your goal, isnít it?), itís absolutely essential that you have all the pertinent stats for your league projected for every player for the entire season. Project these numbers for every player that you expect to be drafted, not just starters.

Itís not really that much work though. If youíll think about it, youíre probably doing these projections already, just not this specifically and probably not formally. Everyone thinks that James will score more TDís than Dunn. We all think Manning will throw more TDís than McNown (although itíll be closer than you think). Everyone expects John Hall to boot some 50+ yarders. Those things we know. What you must do with your projections is get a handle on exactly how many more TDís you expect James to post than Dunn. Itís not enough to say "heís better". You must decide how much better. This becomes critical later because in a real draft, youíre not comparing Dunn to James only. Youíre comparing Warrick Dunn to Tim Couch, Jerry Rice and Shannon Sharpe perhaps. To see how Dunn compares to them, you must understand exactly how he compares to James first. Youíll see why in a moment.

Projecting Fantasy Points
OK, stats are projected, now what? Now you must run these raw stats through your scoring system and come up with a projected number of fantasy points you expect each player to produce from the raw stats you projected. Rank each player BY POSITION from highest to lowest number of projected fantasy points. For right now, keep them separated by position.

Determining Baseline
The next step is determining your "Baseline". What youíre looking for in the baseline is a player (or number) that youíll compare all the players at that position against. The simplest way to set a baseline is to use the worst starter at each position. In other words, for a 12 team league that starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, and 1 PK, the worst starters will be the 12th best QB, the 24th RB, the 36th WR, the 12th TE and the 12th PK.

This
is where the number of teams in your league and starting requirements are such a huge factor. Everyone wants to talk about scoring systems but the truth of the matter is that the league size and starting lineups are much more important. Do you think Marvin Harrison has a different value in a 16 team league starting 3 WRs every week than he does in an 8 team league starting 2 WRs? You bet he does.

For demonstration principles, the baseline of worst starter works fine. As you become more familiar with the system, the baseline will be area youíll want to spend the most time with. I also like using a baseline of the last player selected at each position. This gives you a truer sense of the overall depth at a position. You can also begin to implement averages into the baseline using the average starter or even the average of all players selected at that position.

But for right now, lets assume the baseline is your worst starter.

Value Numbers
If the #12 QB on my list is my baseline and he is expected to post 75 points, I would subtract 75 points from each QB on the list. That would give the worst starter (#12) a value of zero. All QBís who are not expected to start would have a negative value. This number will be called your "Value Number" or V#. Do this for every position so that the worst starter at each position has a value of zero. Lets say you expect Favre to post 200 points. Subtracting the points scored by the worst starter would give Favre a V# of 125. What youíll then have is a V # for every player that shows how many points you expect them to score more than the worst starter at that position. This is the number that determines value.

Sorting your Value Numbers
Once the V#ís are determined, itís a very simple matter of throwing them all in one heap and ranking by the Value Number. What youíll see will likely surprise you. Depending on your league, donít be shocked to see some players sort out much higher than "conventional wisdom" says. Youíll most likely find that your kickers all have V #ís fairly low and fairly close together. This reinforces what you already know. Even though they score a ton, theyíre all just about the same and you can afford to wait and snag a good one later. Youíll probably be surprised when you look at the other positions. QBís are probably deeper than you think. After Warner / Manning / Favre, there is a drop, but the group of Johnson, Beuerlein, McNair, Gannon, Bledsoe etc. is pretty strong. In yardage leagues, youíll probably be surprised at the depth of RBís. Players like Duce Staley quietly pile up the yardage without much fanfare. TEís will probably shock you. When you start to see the benefit that a Walls / Gonzalez can give you over a Ken Dilger / David Sloan, you may be surprised. WRís may not as deep as you think, especially in yardage leagues, and therefore the value of the top players are increased.

A key point is to understand what the list is telling you. Itís ranking the players by their VALUE. This is not necessarily the order in which you should draft them. You must understand the value your fellow owners place upon players and couple that with your rankings. In other words, donít draft a player any earlier than your fellow owners force you to.

In Summary, if you only remember two things, remember this:

S U M M A R Y
» The object of the game is not to score a ton of points, but to outscore the opponent. You must fill a roster with a specified number of players at specified positions. The surest way to outscore your opponent is to build a team of players that outscore their peers. The players who most distance themselves from the other players at their respective positions are therefore the most valuable. Remember the 8 player draft example where I canít lose after drafting the 20 point WR.
» Factors such as the specific number of teams, starting lineup requirements, frozen players, and scoring system for your league dramatically effect the values of each player. These factors can cause the same player in two different leagues to have dramatically different values.

Remember, if youíd like to have a custom Value Based Draft cheatsheet built for you based on my projections and be up and running in minutes, weíve created a VBD Excel App that lets you simply input your league information and itíll do all the work for you. Of course, you can also use your own projections if you prefer. You need Microsoft Excel to view the App but thatís it. Itís 100% Free.

Think about these principles. Play around with them and see how they work for yourself. Once you understand the concepts behind the Value Based Draft System, youíll be well on your way to Dominating Your League. Then when the smoke gets heavy in round six, you can relax and tell your "gut" you have this one under control. Make the killer pick and then reward yourself with another slice of pizza...

Joe Bryant is the owner of footballguys.com. More of his work can be found there along with all the information and tools youíll need to Dominate Your Draft.