The First Four Rounds

| 4 years ago

The First Four Rounds


When a season ends, before I begin any research or speculation, I like to look back at the full schedule of results and compare them to those of the previous few seasons. I did much the same this time last year. This time, I wanted to cut back on the volume of presented data to make it a bit easier to digest, and so I will focus on the first four rounds of a typical fantasy draft.

For the sake of consistency, my valuations will follow the same league format I have previously used. It has typical scoring and 10 teams with 16-man rosters. Here is the breakdown:

Position Starters/Team Total Starters VBD Total
QB 1 10 16
RB 2 20 36
WR 3 30 60
TE 1 10 12
DST 1 10 10
K 1 10 10
BE 7 70 16
160 160

The VBD Total column represents the number of players at each position one expects to be owned by all the teams in the league. In other words, it establishes the replacement level of every position. I reallocated the 70 bench players to the four major positions and assumed no team would own a spare defense or kicker. The 16 bench players that remain unallocated are for handcuffs or other speculative holds that do not affect the replacement level. For example, if I owned Ray Rice, I would also want to own Bernard Pierce because he provides me with insurance. Without an injury to Rice, Pierce would not be expected to out-produce other backs available on the waiver wire.

Pretend that everyone in the league knew how many points every player would score in 2012 when they drafted. If they all drafted teams according to value-based drafting principles, the first four rounds of a standard draft would have been as follows.

Position Player Standard Points PPR Points Standard VBD PPR VBD Standard Price PPR Price
RB Adrian L. Peterson 307.4 347.4 219 206 $60 $50
RB Arian Foster 264.6 304.6 176.2 163.2 $48 $39
RB Doug Martin 264.1 313.1 175.7 171.7 $48 $41
RB Marshawn Lynch 248.6 271.6 160.2 130.2 $44 $31
RB Alfred Morris 245 256 156.6 114.6 $43 $28
WR Calvin Johnson 224.9 346.9 143.4 220.4 $39 $53
WR Brandon Marshall 215.8 333.8 134.3 207.3 $37 $50
RB Ray Rice 221.6 282.6 133.2 141.2 $36 $34
RB C.J. Spiller 218.7 261.7 130.3 120.3 $35 $29
WR Dez Bryant 208.8 300.8 127.3 174.3 $35 $42
WR A.J. Green 203.8 300.8 122.3 174.3 $33 $42
QB Drew Brees 366.6 366.6 121.3 121.3 $33 $29
RB Jamaal Charles 208.9 243.9 120.5 102.5 $33 $25
WR Demaryius Thomas 201.5 295.5 120 169 $33 $41
RB Trent Richardson 204.4 255.4 116 114 $32 $27
RB Stevan Ridley 201.6 207.6 113.2 66.2 $31 $16
QB Aaron Rodgers 357.7 357.7 112.4 112.4 $31 $27
RB Frank Gore 197.1 225.1 108.7 83.7 $30 $20
WR Vincent Jackson 186.4 258.4 104.9 131.9 $29 $32
QB Tom Brady 348.3 348.3 103 103 $28 $25
WR Eric Decker 184.4 269.4 102.9 142.9 $28 $34
WR Andre Johnson 183.8 295.8 102.3 169.3 $28 $41
WR Julio Jones 182.8 261.8 101.3 135.3 $28 $33
QB Cam Newton 341.2 341.2 95.9 95.9 $26 $23
WR Roddy White 176.6 268.6 95.1 142.1 $26 $34
RB Chris D. Johnson 182.4 218.4 94 77 $26 $19
WR Marques Colston 173.9 256.9 92.4 130.4 $25 $31
WR Wes Welker 172.4 290.4 90.9 163.9 $25 $40
RB Matt Forte 178.4 222.4 90 81 $24 $20
WR Victor Cruz 169.2 255.2 87.7 128.7 $24 $31
RB Reggie Bush 173.5 208.5 85.1 67.1 $23 $16
WR Michael Crabtree 165.3 250.3 83.8 123.8 $23 $30
WR Reggie Wayne 164.5 270.5 83 144 $23 $35
QB Robert Griffin III 327.5 327.5 82.2 82.2 $22 $20
WR James Jones 162.3 226.3 80.8 99.8 $22 $24
RB Shonn Greene 167.4 186.4 79 45 $21 $11
QB Peyton Manning 323.8 323.8 78.5 78.5 $21 $19
QB Matt Ryan 322.9 322.9 77.6 77.6 $21 $19
WR Randall Cobb 156.6 236.6 75.1 110.1 $20 $27
RB Steven Jackson 160.6 198.6 72.2 57.2 $20 $14

Unsurprisingly, Adrian Peterson created substantial separation from the field. He scored 25 percent more points over replacement than the No. 2 overall player, Arian Foster. He and Alfred Morris, the No. 5 overall player, are the clear-cut most valuable fantasy players when you consider where they were drafted in typical leagues.

A year removed from a 2011 season in which four quarterbacks were inside the top-10 in points over replacement, no quarterbacks managed the same distinction in 2012. Some of that is drop off of absolute production. Drew Brees, the top quarterback this season, scored 367 standard points this year, which would have placed him fifth in 2011.

However, more of that difference can be explained by the improved production nearer the replacement level. From 2009-2011, the sixteenth-best fantasy quarterbacks scored between 215 and 220 points. In 2012, the sixteenth-best fantasy quarterback, Carson Palmer, scored 245 points. That is a tremendous decrease in separation between the elite quarterbacks and the ones available on the wire.

After a historically great 2012 draft class that introduced Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck to the player pool, I expect the next few seasons to feature similar quality depth at the position, which decreases the value of the traditionally elite options. That point is better explained visually.

  2010 2011 2012
Pick QB RB WR TE QB RB WR TE QB RB WR TE
1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
2 0 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 0
3 0 3 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 3 0 0
4 0 3 1 0 1 2 1 0 0 4 0 0
5 0 4 1 0 2 2 1 0 0 5 0 0
6 0 4 2 0 2 3 1 0 0 5 1 0
7 0 4 3 0 2 4 1 0 0 5 2 0
8 0 4 4 0 3 4 1 0 0 6 2 0
9 0 5 4 0 4 4 1 0 0 7 2 0
10 0 6 4 0 4 4 2 0 0 7 3 0
11 0 7 4 0 4 4 2 1 0 7 4 0
12 0 8 4 0 4 4 3 1 1 7 4 0
13 0 9 4 0 4 4 4 1 1 8 4 0
14 0 10 4 0 5 4 4 1 1 8 5 0
15 0 10 5 0 5 5 4 1 1 9 5 0
16 0 10 6 0 5 6 4 1 1 10 5 0
17 0 11 6 0 5 6 5 1 2 10 5 0
18 0 12 6 0 5 6 6 1 2 11 5 0
19 0 13 6 0 5 6 7 1 2 11 6 0
20 1 13 6 0 5 6 7 2 3 11 6 0
21 1 13 7 0 5 6 8 2 3 11 7 0
22 1 13 8 0 5 6 9 2 3 11 8 0
23 1 13 9 0 5 7 9 2 3 11 9 0
24 1 14 9 0 5 8 9 2 4 11 9 0
25 1 14 10 0 5 8 10 2 4 11 10 0
26 2 14 10 0 5 9 10 2 4 12 10 0
27 2 14 11 0 5 9 11 2 4 12 11 0
28 2 15 11 0 5 10 11 2 4 12 12 0
29 2 15 12 0 5 10 12 2 4 13 12 0
30 3 15 12 0 5 11 12 2 4 13 13 0
31 3 15 13 0 5 12 12 2 4 14 13 0
32 3 15 14 0 5 12 13 2 4 14 14 0
33 3 15 15 0 5 13 13 2 4 14 15 0
34 3 15 16 0 5 13 14 2 5 14 15 0
35 3 16 16 0 6 13 14 2 5 14 16 0
36 3 16 17 0 6 13 15 2 5 15 16 0
37 4 16 17 0 6 14 15 2 6 15 16 0
38 4 16 18 0 6 14 16 2 7 15 16 0
39 5 16 18 0 6 15 16 2 7 15 17 0
40 5 16 19 0 6 15 17 2 7 16 17 0

The chart shows how many players at each position should have been taken by each draft slot. In 2010, the best quarterback was only the twentieth-most-valuable player overall. Then in 2011, elite quarterbacks climbed into the first round. In absolute terms, things did not fall back into the same place in 2012, but, from a fantasy perspective, they did. Both in 2010 and 2012, seven running backs, four wide receivers, and no quarterbacks or tight ends were first-round values.

Throughout the first four rounds, 2012 looks very similar to 2010. A few more quarterbacks enter the second round where the depth of quality running back options has really dried up. Jimmy Graham, the most valuable tight end by season totals in 2012, does not come off the board until the sixth round, which is actually a round later than Jason Witten’s 2010 season justified his selection. Of course, injuries limited both Graham and Rob Gronkowski this season, and both should belong in the top-40 next season.

Looking forward, 2012 value is only one part of the equation. Even though no quarterbacks qualified for the top-10 this season, I would not dismiss Aaron Rodgers from consideration for the first overall pick next season. The old adage that I would apply is that you cannot win your fantasy season in the first four rounds, but you can certainly lose it. Part of the appeal of elite quarterbacks is their consistency. If you take Rodgers first overall, he probably will not return that full value, but he probably will not completely bust, either. In fact, Rodgers is one of six players to appear in the top-40 in each of the previous four seasons. You might be surprised to know he is the only quarterback.

Here is the full list of the top-40 from this season and the years each player has made it into the first four rounds:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2009-2012
Adrian L. Peterson 1 1 1 1 4
Ray Rice 1 1 1 1 4
Aaron Rodgers 1 1 1 1 4
Roddy White 1 1 1 1 4
Marques Colston 1 1 1 1 4
Steven Jackson 1 1 1 1 4
Arian Foster 0 1 1 1 3
Calvin Johnson 0 1 1 1 3
Brandon Marshall 1 0 1 1 3
Drew Brees 1 0 1 1 3
Jamaal Charles 1 1 0 1 3
Frank Gore 1 0 1 1 3
Vincent Jackson 1 0 1 1 3
Tom Brady 0 1 1 1 3
Andre Johnson 1 1 0 1 3
Chris D. Johnson 1 1 0 1 3
Wes Welker 1 0 1 1 3
Matt Forte 0 1 1 1 3
Reggie Wayne 1 1 0 1 3
Marshawn Lynch 0 0 1 1 2
Dez Bryant 0 0 1 1 2
A.J. Green 0 0 1 1 2
Cam Newton 0 0 1 1 2
Victor Cruz 0 0 1 1 2
Reggie Bush 0 0 1 1 2
Peyton Manning 0 1 0 1 2
Doug Martin 0 0 0 1 1
Alfred Morris 0 0 0 1 1
C.J. Spiller 0 0 0 1 1
Demaryius Thomas 0 0 0 1 1
Trent Richardson 0 0 0 1 1
Stevan Ridley 0 0 0 1 1
Eric Decker 0 0 0 1 1
Julio Jones 0 0 0 1 1
Michael Crabtree 0 0 0 1 1
Robert Griffin III 0 0 0 1 1
James Jones 0 0 0 1 1
Shonn Greene 0 0 0 1 1
Matt Ryan 0 0 0 1 1
Randall Cobb 0 0 0 1 1

Scott Spratt also works for Baseball Info Solutions and writes for The Hardball Times.  Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt

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