You've spent countless hours and many late nights reading the preseason camp news, surfing the net for all the NFL news and fantasy insight, and hanging out in the fantasy football message boards. You've determined who you think the sleepers will be this season, who's going to be a stud, a bust, and all the guys in between. You've written down your list of players, you're geeked, and ready for the draft. Well, I'm here to tell you, NO YOU'RE NOT. Success in the draft will require more work than that, actually a lot more. Anyone who tells you different, probably has never had long term success at fantasy football.
After you've processed all the player and team information, it's time to apply one of my most "valued" concepts, the Player Valuation Principle, or PVP as I like to call it. You can use the PVP throughout the season but my focus here will be on using it for your draft. The PVP is not new or earth shattering, it's based on the principle that the value of a player rises when there are fewer good players at his position. It's basic supply and demand.
The first step in applying the PVP is to prepare a set of projected player stats for the upcoming season. Okay, quit your whining. I know it sounds like a ton of work, but I believe I mentioned something about the relationship between hard work and success earlier. If you don't have what it takes to prepare these stats then you might as well stop reading now because it's what everything else is based on. If you do, then what you need are projections for all the stats your league tracks, such as rushing, passing, and receiving TD's, interceptions, rushing, passing, and receiving yardage, field goals, etc. I project these stats for at least all the players that I expect to be drafted. So for a twelve team league that carries 5 wide receivers, that's 60 players for that position.
These player projections are not as much work as you might think. Most of you are probably doing it already, just not in the way needed for the PVP. You may think that Favre will throw more TD's than Blake and that Sanders will gain more yards than Warren, but what these projections do is take it a step further. You must determine exactly how many more TD's you think Favre will throw and how many more yards you think Sanders will get. For this to work, simply saying "he's better" isn't enough. Deciding how much better allows you to compare between positions. This is important because unless your in a really strange league, you don't draft by position, you draft all players at once. You must be able to compare Bledsoe to Freeman, Faulk to Walls, and so on.
To help in your effort to come up with the projected player stats you need, The Huddle offers some great insight into player assessment. Check out The Science of the Draft which covers such topics as player opportunity, consistency, team dynamics, and schedule strength. Also be sure to check out the rookie evaluations to help determine where the young talent falls into the mix.
Okay, you have taken the time and given it some thought and have come up with projected stats for at least all the players that will be drafted in your league. Now apply your league's scoring system to calculate the projected fantasy points these players will score. These projected stats work great for owners in multiple leagues because they are independent of a scoring system. So you can easily come up with player rankings for each of your leagues. Once you have determined the fantasy points for these players, rank them in descending order by position. You have just created your own player list which in my opinion is better than any "cheat sheet" you will get out of a fantasy publication because it is based on YOUR player assessment and, most importantly, YOUR league's scoring system.
Hold on, were not there yet. Now that we have projected fantasy points to work with, it's time to calculate each players "value". This is where the rubber hits the road. Since leagues draft all the players at once it is imperative that you are able to compare between positions. The PVP says that Elway's 175 points may not be better than Pickens' 125, that you possibly should draft Walls and his 80 points over the 115 you will get from Bettis. The object is not to score a lot of points but rather to outscore your competition. You win by distancing yourself from the pack at each position, and it makes no difference which position your advantage comes from. So your objective is not to assemble a group of high scoring players with no regard to position, but rather assembling a starting roster with the highest scoring players possible at each position.
If you think about it most owners apply this principle already. It is a widespread practice to wait until the later rounds of the draft to pick a kicker. Ask yourself why. Kickers usually score a lot of points, but the reason owners wait is because kickers have a low "value". Owners know that even though the top kicker may score 180 points, the number ten kicker may score 160 points. Not much of a difference. Conventional wisdom says that as long as you get a top ten kicker your okay, so why throw away a high draft pick on one? If this is how you approach kicker evaluation, then congratulations, you are applying the PVP, and if the PVP applies to kickers, then it should not be ignored when evaluating other positions. But a majority of owners out there, do just that.
Now back to your player projections. In order to arrive at each player's value it is necessary to determine a standard baseline from which to compare. I do this by comparing each player to the worst starter at each position. Let's take QB's as an example. Your league has 12 teams and starts one QB. That means the twelfth QB on your player projections list is the worst starting QB in your league. He is your baseline. If you have projected the twelfth QB to score 80 points in your league, then subtract 80 points from each QB on your projection list. This gives you the players "value" above, or below, the baseline. Repeat this process for each position, making sure to use the same baseline criteria of worst starter at each position. Meaning, if your 12 team league starts two RB's, then your baseline player is the 24th on your list, and so on for the other positions.
The result of this exercise is your PVP List, a powerful tool on draft night. Take a look at the player values you have calculated and you will probably notice a few things right off the bat. First, kickers have values that are fairly low and close together. This reinforces what we already know about kickers. They score a lot of points, but they are all about the same. Second, you will notice at the other positions a single player, or small group of players, that distance themselves from the pack. Examples of this would be Favre, the top 4 to 5 RB's, the top 3 or 4 WR's, and the top 2 or 3 TE's. The distance will be greater at some positions than others, but it is usually there. Third, after these top performers you will probably be surprised at the depth at QB and RB, especially in yardage leagues. Also, you will find there is not a lot of depth at WR, again especially in yardage leagues, and the TE's will cause a double-take. You will see the benefit that a Sharpe, Walls, or Coates gives you.
As you play around with this system, you will see how the baseline you choose will greatly effect the player's value. For instance, the value of Pickens in a 12 team league that starts three WR's will be much greater than Pickens' value in an 8 team league that starts only two WR's. He is compared against a pool of 36 WR's in the first league, and a pool of only 16 WR's in the other. The more average WR's you add to the pool, the more valuable Pickens becomes. This is something that many owners fail to realize.
I have found that the PVP List is essential when trying to choose between players in different positions. Should I take Elway over Sanders? Should I go for one of the top TE's? When will be the best time to take my kicker? Sometimes the list will not produce a definite answer when choosing between players, you will still have to rely on your gut instinct at times. But other times, it will point to obvious moves that will give you immediate advantages over your competition. If you are looking at a RB with a value advantage of 10 points over the next 2 or 3 RB's on your list and a WR with a value advantage of only 2 points over the next couple of WR's on your list, the PVP would say take the RB. There are, of course, other factors that you must consider during the draft, how the other owners are filling out their rosters comes to mind, but the PVP List is a powerful tool that I believe cannot be ignored.
A few final notes. You will notice that I haven't mentioned defenses. I know a few brave souls that actually predict defensive stats in order to apply the Player Valuation Principle. Well, I'm not one of them. Defenses are way too unpredictable for me to spend my time trying to come up with an accurate value ranking. There will be a handful of good defenses that you can rely on from season to season. After that, it's a crap shoot. If you are ambitious and want to give it a try, go for it. Also, you will find that my partner in crime places a good amount of emphasis on "Dorey's Rule", which states "draft as if the season only lasted the first six weeks". Combining this rule with the PVP could prove to be so powerful, it's scary. You simply adjust your player performance projections to account for only the first six weeks of the season, taking into consideration the schedule strength of each player.
Oh no, I'm hearing that whining again, "that's way too much work". Remember, dominating your league is the goal, and the price paid for that dominance is hard work. So get busy, you have a lot of work to do. And may the PVP be with you.