You can do some sort of cold weather rain dance, hoping the Weather Gods spare your body, but really, hypothermia may be the result on Black Friday. You can put on as many layers as you want. Sometimes it won’t make a difference.
Still, each year, millions of people push their bodies to the limit just to stand outside big box stores the day after Thanksgiving. And at the first opportunity, these millions will push and shove their way into the store to get their favorite wish-list products at a large discount. They want to bring home that 55-inch television for just one minimum wage paycheck. They want to see a smile on their child’s face on Christmas morning.
They want a deal.
A significant majority of these products have been available for months. So why do all of these people stand in the cold and fight against massive crowds to purchase said product on Black Friday? Does it even make sense?
The answer is simple. People put up with the long lines and awful weather because they are trying to get the products at a larger discount than they normally would be able to. I know that this is very basic, but this theme becomes much more complicated when we look at it in the context of fantasy football drafts.
Before we dive in, let me explain a few terms that I’m going to use in this article. I will be talking a lot about draft value. Draft value is the value that a certain player carries in a draft. This can be a player’s ADP, but it can also refer to how the other owners in your draft value each player. For example, if you’re drafting with owners that all hate quarterbacks, you can expect that the value of any given quarterback will be less than it would be in other drafts you may partake in. When I mention the term “reach”, I’m referring to drafting a player far ahead of what his ADP says.
During fantasy football drafts, each player has value. It’s easy to think that this value only depends on how you think that player will perform in the subsequent season. However, I would argue that valuing players in this way neglects a vital component of draft strategy: draft value.
As I mentioned above, draft value can have a different meaning in each draft. For example, in a mock draft, there isn’t much to determine draft value besides ADP. This is mostly because it’s a lot harder to determine the preferences of the other participants in your draft. But in your regular leagues, it is a little easier to determine draft value. Since draft value is a combination of your predictions and other owner’s predictions, knowing the other owners in your league allows you to determine specific players’ draft value.
Draft value can also be thought of as market value. The definition of market value is “The current quoted price at which investors buy or sell a share of common stock or a bond at a given time.” Obviously, this definition pertains specifically to market value in a money investment scenario, but it applies to fantasy football too. After all, each of our players and draft picks are individual investments.
Draft Picks as Investments
If we look at each draft pick as an investment, we can use a very basic version of stock trading theory to make our draft picks worthwhile. When a company is publicly traded, that means that there are third party individuals who have bought shares of ownership in the company. Shares of ownership are bought and sold on the stock market by stockbrokers.
Stockbrokers assign a dollar amount to each share of stock in the market. That dollar amount is what each stockbroker thinks the individual shares are worth. Each company’s shares also have a dollar amount assigned to them, dependent on what the entire stock market thinks the shares are worth. This is the market value.
The market value is constantly changing. When the market value for a stock falls below the dollar amount that a stockbroker assigns to the shares, that stockbroker wants to buy the stock. The reason the stockbroker wants to buy the shares is because, at that market value, the broker is able to acquire them at a discount. Conversely, when a stockbroker owns shares and the market value for those shares rise above what the stockbroker believes the shares are worth, then the stockbroker wants to sell those shares.
There are so many more aspects of stock trading, but this is the basic idea behind it. Each broker assigns a value to each share and the broker buys and sells shares dependent on where the market value is for the stocks that he is interested in.
In fantasy football, we can draw parallels between drafting players and buying shares of stock. During drafts, early draft picks are more valuable than later draft picks. So when you draft a player with an early draft pick, you are putting a large investment in that player. It is expected that a first round pick will consistently score high point totals. As the draft progresses, each pick is less valuable and you are no longer investing as much value in each player that you draft.
In this comparison, we have to think of each player as having a value that is derived from how you think they will perform during the season. For example, if you think Doug Martin will finish the season as a top 5 running back, then the value that you assign to him would be a first round pick. Following me so far?
The Benefit of a Discount
Keeping with this comparison, the market value of a player can be obtained by knowing the preferences and strategies of the other people participating in the draft. While this isn’t an exact science, it is always beneficial to know how other drafters are valuing each player.
Once you have a good understanding of where the market value of a player is within a draft, you then need to compare that value to your own value of the player that you are targeting. When you execute this comparison, you can figure out where and when to draft a player in order to get the most value out of your draft picks. The way to get the most value out of your draft is to draft players at a discount. Let’s look at some examples.
Let’s say you are part of a 12-team, standard scoring draft with 15 rounds. In this case, you have 15 investments that you need to make. Now let’s say that you have valued AJ Green as a top-3 receiver. According to myfantasyleague.com, his ADP is hovering around 9th overall. His market value is worth a first round pick.
However, in a lot of drafts, I’m seeing Green slip into the early 2nd round. If you have a late 1st round pick, you could theoretically draft another player in the first round and use your second round pick on Green. In this situation, you were able to make a less valuable investment in a player that was really worth more. Ergo, you were able to get Green at a discount relative to his market value. It is precisely these situations that you need to look for.
You need to find players that are less valuable to the market than they are to you.
The Detriment of Reaching
I would also argue that it can really hurt your draft results if you reach for players. Reaching for players causes you to overspend and, more often than not, you will finish the draft with a team that you’re unhappy with. When you overspend, you are wasting valuable investments that could have been spent on other players.
To get some perspective, I asked my followers on Twitter why people reach during drafts. There was one thing that I learned almost immediately after asking that question. Opinions vary greatly from person to person on this topic and people seemed very passionate about their reasoning. Let’s look through some of the responses:
“Personally, I do it to prove I am right about a player” – Davis Mattek
I feel like this is something that everyone has done, but I suggest you try to avoid it. While it can be gratifying to brag about your accurate sleeper choices, it’s also important to leave your emotions out of drafts. Emotions have the tendency to cloud your reasoning and can potentially lead to poor decision-making.
“I am set to a specific draft ‘strategy’ each draft. I know what position I’m drafting each round and will take my BPA from my list, regardless” – Regan Yant
This is a perfectly valid reason to reach for a player, but I think it’s important to track how league mates are drafting and valuing players and then adapt your strategy accordingly.
I also got responses that spoke about position scarcity and position runs. These are elements that are apart of every draft. While it can be detrimental to completely ignore position runs, I encourage you to do your best to hold strong. Stay patient. Chances are, there is still value out there.
All of the responses were incredibly valid. And to be honest, I found more people advocating for reaching than I did for waiting on value. If you have a firm belief that a player when perform at a specific level, it makes a lot of sense to draft them at the value that you foresee them providing next year. But this article is meant to get you to think about drafts a little differently. Think of picks as investments and do everything you can to make those investments worthwhile.
At the end of the day, it’s about separating reality and perception. It might be the reality that a player finishes a season in the top 5 at his position, but other players in your draft could perceive a player’s value as lower than that. Sometimes it helps to forgo what you think the reality will be and focus in on what people’s perception is. In instances where you believe peoples’ perception is wrong, you have an opportunity to take advantage.
There are a lot of dichotomies presented here, but that’s because fantasy football can be really complicated. You’ve got to draft a good team, search for good sleepers, and sometimes just get plain lucky. But when you have the opportunity to gain an advantage, you have to take it.
Comparing your player values to their market value, watching for discounts, and separating perception and reality will give you those opportunities. And in fantasy football, that’s about as much as you can ask for.