Monday, October 9, 2023

Utilizing Crowd Prediction Methodologies to Draft the Optimal Fantasy Football Team

To win your league in Fantasy Football, or at least qualify for the playoffs, you don’t need to buy magazines, study tape, or watch ESPN. All that is required, is a general understanding of crowd psychology.

What is ADP?

ADP represents the average draft position for players in fantasy drafts. Each league, for each fantasy sport, typically displays this player value during the drafting process. This value, as the name suggests, is derived from where a particular player was selected by other “fantasy team owners”, during prior drafts.

As was discussed within a previous article demonstrating draft order and its impact on a fantasy team’s final placement, if each fantasy team owner drafted optimally within their respective position, we would expect the final standings to directly reflect the initial draft order.

However, how can an individual be sure that he is drafting optimally? The answer is simpler than one might assume. To achieve optimal drafting potential, one must adhere to drafting players with the best available ADP value throughout the drafting process.

Why does it Work?

Following the crowd consensus, should provide a fantasy participant with their best opportunity for victory. The strictest adherent to this methodology, will benefit most from the number non-adherents within their league. Let’s consider why this is the case.

While pundit, or site rankings of players are often determined by a single individual, or a group of informed individuals, ADP rankings are determined by draft consensus. Meaning, that there are more minds at work as it pertains to determining a player’s draft value. These ranks are also assigned through the drafting process. This differs from other ranking processes, in that, the act of drafting establishes the value. This is similar as to how market participants set prices through buying and selling assets. Whereas, the ranking process is more akin to the way in which planned economies function.   

We’ll assume that ADP perfectly correlates with the eventual points scored by each player within the league. Therefore, with this assumption in place, and also assuming that each league participant drafts optimally, we should expect to see point distributions resemble something like the graphic below. 

(In our example scenario, each subsequent player is valued at one point less than the previous player.)

Therefore, all things being equal, we would expect the final point totals for each league participant to be:

Gaining the Edge

In every instance, the largest advantage belongs to the team which drafts first, with diminishing advantage being assessed sequentially throughout the remaining draft order. To attempt to compensate for this diminishment, or to expand one’s edge regardless of draft position, a league participant should strongly adhere to the ADP value ranking system while drafting. By not attempting to gain an edge through self perceived insight, opportunities will arise as a result of opponents who attempt otherwise.

Every draft misstep is the micro-process of reallocating points from your team to another team within your league. In the example below, the teams highlighted in green are adhering to a strict ADP drafting strategy. The teams highlighted in red, instead are going for a less strict approach.

As is shown in the graphic, the ADP adhering teams were able to benefit from the mistakes made by their opponents. In each instance, the green teams were able to draft the players which were passed upon by their red counterparts. Thus, the ADP adhering teams increased their edge at the expense of the non-adhering teams.

I Know that I Know Nothing

The above strategy, functions on the foundation of two re-enforcing cognitive biases. One being the overestimation of one’s own abilities and talents, and the other being the discounting of the abilities and talents of others.

As far as football is concerned, I have personally witnessed friends who watch far more football than I do, who know far more about the players than I do, blow out their drafts, and fail to make their league’s playoffs in complex and interesting ways. In almost every case, the culprit tends to be impatience and exotic maneuvering. What’s also strange about this cohort of individuals, is that they tend to quickly abandon the strange individualized strategies which initially required a high level of conviction to attempt. This phenomenon itself might warrant an article in the future. 

Be sure to watch the waiver wire, as further edge can be gained from managers who prematurely release underperforming players. Also, it should be noted, that ADP rankings as a drafting criteria, are only applicable in leagues which do not utilize custom rule sets.