Use this sports strategy during the fantasy football drafts to get an edge over your opponents. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
The hidden secret of fantasy football
For many NFL fans across the country, drafting a fantasy football team is an obligatory prelude to the final kick-off of the 17-game season.
There are many different strategies for crafting lists, such as taking only the most valuable positions and trading later for other need positions, going through each position one by one, and avoiding beginners altogether, to name a few.
A mathematical approach fantasy GMs should take when crafting their rosters
Without exchanging too much of the entertainment value of fantasy football for pragmatism, there is a sporting approach that fantasy managers should take when crafting their rosters – let’s talk about why.
Crafting Fantasy Football 101
Fantasy sports encourage team owners to put as much distance between themselves and their competitors as possible. The goal is always to score the most points and win each week, but being the second best player will still put players in favorable positions against the majority of their opponents. Pay-per-entry leagues also frequently delegate prize money to the top three winners, which will still put the runner-up GM on the podium.
Let’s boil this idea down to the essential: If a player can’t finish first, finishing as soon as possible is the next best option. Sounds easy right? mistake!
Suppose you control a fictional team that has the next option in the draft. You desperately want to take Joe Mixon on with your next pick because you feel he’ll be a solid early addition to your list.
To your horror, the person with the option in front of you takes Mixon off the board. I resigned myself to the fact that you would have to go back to the next order in the first place and submit the selection.
Players want to reduce gaps
This decision could ultimately be a huge mistake. While it is true that players want to reduce the gaps between themselves and their opponents, this is not achieved by following a planned arrangement of locations, considering the order, or following the direction of the rest of the choices.
Gain the advantage
Here’s what the fantasy football player in the above position should, and really do, with almost every choice he makes, should do: find the differences.
Using the 2022 rankings, let’s say the top ten receivers and running backs are off the plate, and the top picks from each of those positions are now Dalvin Cook and Ja’Marr Chase. Cook scored only 11.7 more points than the second closest returner, while Chase scored only 0.5 more points than the next wide receiver.
Travis Kelce produced 100.9 more points than TE2
Now, look at our quarterbacks and tight ends — Patrick Mahomes scored 21.88 more points than the second-best QB, and Travis Kelsey produced 100.9 more points than TE2. In this case, drafting Kelce would result in the largest scoring break, meaning opponents would have the least chance of calculating the difference between him and the starters.
|The next highest points are in the center
Think of it like shopping online at sports betting or researching prices to see which grocery store charges the least for a gallon of milk. It’s a simple concept, but fantasy football players often lose sight of the main objective when crafting their rosters.
The risk of going this way is that the other players will also walk off the board before the GM makes their next pick, which is why it is important that they consider not only the immediate variance, but the variance that is likely to be present the next time they make their pick. So, instead of considering the next best receiver or running back, they should look closer to the 15-20 mark.
This approach can and should be used in all rounds in all situations.
Analysis of past results shows the implicit bias of hindsight, and the simple fact is that drafting fantasy players is a gamble. However, there are some considerations players can make before making their choice that can reduce the risk.
The two most important qualities in fantasy football are availability (health) and size. Players cannot score if they do not enter the field and if they do not receive the football.
Another factor in determining a player’s probability of producing is its consistency. A player who took a career year out of nowhere and was unreliable in previous years is not a safe pick, especially for an early round pick.
Target players who think they are going to rack up huge numbers every Sunday
First round selections do not necessarily have to be made on the principle of limiting/increasing point spreads. Instead, GMs should target players who they think will put up huge numbers every Sunday and be the catalyst for their team.
Beyond that, there is no reason why fantasy football players should not use the above approach. It’s the most efficient way to strip margins and gain a scoring advantage each week.
Keep that in mind as the NFL season approaches.