Fantasy Football and Wins Above Replacement Pt. 3

As I found in my most recent research, if we look at players in a given fantasy football position, we can see the approximate value of each player at the end of the year. If you follow that link you’ll find the historical average of each quarterback’s value over the past 10 years. In this post, we’ll take a look at the rest of the traditional positions in fantasy football.

Let’s look at the running back position.

This graph shows us every single value for RBs over the past 10 years, given in terms of Weekly Wins Above Replacement:wWAR, 2002-11The top three RB seasons of the past 10 years, according to this league’s WAR scoring:

    1. Ladanian Tomlinson, 2006
    2. Priest Holmes, 2002
    3. Priest Holmes, 2003

What does this mean for drafting? On average, the biggest drop-off is from the first to the second-ranked RB. It’s a comparable drop off from the second-ranked RB to the fifth. That same drop off level will then get you to RB10, and then RB18. Consider that the ‘long tail’ of RBs still gains considerable value if you don’t get the top player that year.

wWAR for WRs, 2002-11

The top three WR seasons of the past 10 years, according to this league’s WAR scoring:

    1. Randy Moss, 2007
    2. Randy Moss, 2003
    3. Marvin Harrison, 2002

For drafting purposes, it’s important to consider that historically there is much less of a drop off in the WR position. The harshest drops are only around 14%, much smaller than the 30%+ drop in from RB1 to RB2. There isn’t so much a ‘long tail’ in the WR position historically as much as there has been good depth.

So, to conclude the summary of the historical data, there are three take-aways:

1. After the top 3 QBs, there is a considerable drop off in value. If you have a good idea who the top players are in the position, you should target them with your first pick.

2. After the top RB, the position generally gives average value. Consider passing on the position with your first pick if you aren’t sure you can get the top player.

3. Value is spread relatively evenly across the WR position, making those players less valuable in drafts.

So, what’s next? I’ll go a little more in-depth to each position. Last, I’ll go through some draft strategy that gives me VERY different results from conventional wisdom, yet makes sense.

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