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Buffettize Me: A Dollars-Based Approach To Quantifying Expected Player Value
Investoren-Legende Buffett will nicht in Rente gehen
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“Buffett’s goal is to select companies in which each dollar of earnings is translated into at least one dollar of market value.”
The Warren Buffett Way

You don’t need me to tell you that there are many aspects of Warren Buffett’s investment style that can be applied to fantasy football. Chief among them is the relationship between cost invested and value gathered. As a huge fan of auctions I personally feel that many of the exploitable gaps in drafting can be traced back to difficulties in quantifying the expected cost of snake draft picks. Taking inspiration from Buffett’s “One-Dollar Premise” and the concept of tracing the value of assets back to their cost per dollar in order to serve as a tool of comparison, I set out to create a positional points above average/$ metric using historical scoring and auction draft values. But first . . .

Get ready to RAVE

What if everything you ever wanted . . . came . . . in . . . a . . . ROCKET CAN!” Better yet, how about if a simple tool for determining player value compared to his peers came in a simple formula? Allow me to introduce Retroactive Average Value Expected (RAVE for short). The origins of RAVE can be traced back to a gloomy Tuesday morning as I shuffled around, licking my wounds after a shellacking at the hands of my Jimmy Graham-led opponent as an injured Rob Gronkowski festered away on my bench. With Gronk unavailable, the gap between Graham and the league average starter was substantially wider, while his Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) remained relatively unchanged.

As an elite tight end, the traditional VORP baseline drop with Gronk out (TE12 to TE13) was relatively small in comparison to the drop between Graham and the new TE2 with Gronk out of play. RAVE fills in by averaging the past three years of fantasy scoring at all positions to get an approximation of how valuable, for example, it is to own the WR10 in a PPR league starting two wide receivers and one flex. Using the Douche’s baselines described here, I created RAVE values for each position by averaging the last three years of scoring to develop an approximation for what kind of value each player can be expected to have.1 As an example, the WR1 in a PPR league has averaged 342.87 points over 16 games, using FFToday’s PPR scoring. Although it is hard to argue against the merits of picking the best player available I would contend that assessing the “best player available” (BPA) is an incredibly subjective process. Furthermore, if a quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers is the league MVP, is he the first guy off the board? With strong evidence to support the merits of late round QB, my answer is no. If one truly were to be a believer in BPA and had Rodgers as the best in the league, why isn’t he the number one overall pick in a fantasy draft as well?

If one picks Calvin Johnson as the No. 1 WR off the board, you are essentially paying for the expected performance of the player you think has the best chance to finish the season as the WR1. Wouldn’t it help to know just how valuable Johnson will be if he performs to your expectations? Over the past three years, the top 49 WRs2 have averaged 13.08 points per game while the WR1 has averaged 21.43 PPG for a RAVE of 8.35.

Next, in order to be able to standardize the opportunity cost of all picks, I used the 2011, 2012, and 2013 versions of the ESPN PPR auction value cheatsheet to generate prices for each snake draft position.3 For example, over the last three years the most expensive player was the top running back off the board. I averaged the cost in dollars of each of those players in those three years to make an estimation of the value of the top pick in re-draft as well.

To further explain, the cost of the fifth-most expensive player in each year was averaged to get an estimation of the cost of picking from the fifth spot in a snake draft and so on. The rationale for this methodology can be found by looking at how Graham’s ADP is the highest of any TE ever. It doesn’t particularly help to look at how much the average cost of acquiring the TE1 has been in the last few years if he is essentially being drafted as WR3. People are only just now catching on to how valuable having an elite TE can be. To make the numbers more readable, I multiplied the RAVE/$ figures by $200 to serve as a display of how many positional points above average you would be acquiring if you were to make, for example, all Graham-type investments with your budget. What follows are 200 (RAVE/$) metrics for QB, TE, RB, WR, and a composite table with all the numbers together, sorted by RAVE/$. Note that these numbers do not take into account bust rates or the proficiency of streaming positions such as QB or TE so take them with a grain of salt. Also, there are no RAVE/$ value metrics for players with a negative RAVE so in this case I suggest looking at the RAVE by Snake Spot graph.This is intended to serve as a frame of reference for evaluating how valuable players are within their own position relative to value and cost. However, I think there are definitely merits to comparing across positions if done thoughtfully.

Quarterback

Draft Slot Player Price Expected RAVE RAVE/$x200
58 Andrew Luck 9.33 2.11 45.23
49 Matthew Stafford 12.33 2.67 43.31
91 Cam Newton 3 0.61 40.67
23 Aaron Rodgers 31.66 6.4 40.43
13 Peyton Manning 41 5.04 24.59
21 Drew Brees 32.66 3.31 20.27
81 Robert Griffin III 4.66 0.21 9.01

Tight End

Draft Slot Player Price Expected RAVE RAVE/$x200 TE
77 Jordan Reed 5.33 1.67 62.66 62.66
88 Dennis Pitta 3.33 0.91 54.65 54.65
54 Jordan Cameron 10.66 1.84 34.52 34.52
27 Rob Gronkowski 28.66 4.36 30.43 30.43
8 Jimmy Graham 46 6.98 30.35 30.35
84 Greg Olsen 4.33 0.44 20.32 20.32
29 Julius Thomas 27.66 2.64 19.09 19.09
70 Jason Witten 6.66 0.07 2.1 2.1
95 Kyle Rudolph 2.66 0.02 0.01 0.01

Wide Receiver

Draft Slot Player Price Expected RAVE RAVE/$x200
36 Vincent Jackson 20 3.4 34
5 Calvin Johnson 49.33 8.35 33.85
6 D. Thomas 48.66 7.45 30.62
20 Jordy Nelson 33 4.76 28.85
14 Julio Jones 39.33 5.27 26.8
35 Victor Cruz 20 2.6 26
9 Dez Bryant 45 5.67 25.2
10 A.J. Green 44 5.52 25.1
22 Alshon Jeffery 32 4.01 25.06
12 Brandon Marshall 41.66 4.97 23.86
30 Keenan Allen 25.33 2.85 22.5
41 Andre Johnson 18 1.93 21.44
25 Randall Cobb 30.66 3.19 20.81
34 Pierre Garcon 21.66 2.15 19.85
46 Michael Crabtree 14.66 1.45 19.78
18 Antonio Brown 35.5 3.51 19.77
47 Michael Floyd 13.66 1.14 16.69
51 Percy Harvin 11.33 0.65 11.47
45 C. Patt 14.66 0.65 8.87
44 Larry Fitzgerald 15.33 0.45 5.87

Running Back

Draft Slot Player Price Expected RAVE RAVE/$x200
1 Jamaal Charles 60.33 10.03 33.25
2 LeSean McCoy 58.33 7.53 25.82
4 Matt Forte 53 6.73 25.4
3 Adrian Peterson 55.33 5.5 19.88
19 LeVeon Bell 35 3.04 17.37
7 Eddie Lacy 48.33 4.15 17.17
32 Zac Stacy 23.33 1.84 15.77
15 Montee Ball 38 2.29 12.05
11 D. Murray 44 2.54 11.55
16 M. Lynch 37.66 1.99 10.57
31 Alfred Morris 24.66 0.99 8.03
17 Giovani Bernard 36.66 1.44 7.86
28 Doug Martin 28 0.84 6
33 Reggie Bush 22.33 0.44 3.94
24 Arian Foster 31.33 0.28 1.79
26 Andre Ellington 30.33 0.04 0.26

Overall Values

ravea

raveb
What Does This All Mean?

The key thing to focus on here is not so much the shape of each graph but the relation of the positional declines in relation to other positions. Looking at the RAVE by Snake Spot graph, you can see that you can essentially get a RAVE average starter at both QB and TE up until about 100 picks into the draft. At WR, the last above average RAVE player you will find goes off the board at an ADP of 51. At RB, the values are expected to be negative starting around an ADP of just 33. Narrowing in on the RB position data points, you can see that the drop off in the first round is like going down the Kingda Ka roller coaster at my local Six Flags. Nailing the 2014 version of 2013 Jamaal Charles is hands down the easiest way to set yourself up for fantasy dominance. Even Mr. Zero RB himself had Charles on his two top performing teams last year. After the first three RBs,4 I think a very simple and effective approach is to take the highest-projected scoring player you have within your positional rankings at both RB and WR until you reach a point where you have jammed so much talent at those two positions onto your squad that it becomes time to consider taking advantage of elite athletic ability and efficiency at QB and TE.5 After all, given the reduced number of starters at TE and QB, the players worth the most at these positions need to absolutely blow up and this approach plays right into that. Additionally, knowing that the flex is the most important position in fantasy and given that there are bound to be injuries, shooting for points rather than to fill a specific positional slot maximizes the talent of your squad at RB and WR.6

With players in the later rounds singing their siren songs, it feels like a good time to take a shot at elite athletes with small opportunity barriers preventing them from reaching the ceilings of their more highly regarded peers. Barring a precipitous drop by early round QBs, it appears that the sweet spot for TE and QB value comes right around the time that players like Jordan Reed, Dennis Pitta, and Tony Romo are coming off the board according to the RAVE/$ graph. I would wait a bit longer to soak up as much RB and WR value is possible but players like these are certainly in the discussion in rounds eight and nine. Enough blathering. What follows below is my stab at taking a best-ranked player available approach for approximately 100 picks, combined with some later round flyers who all have the opportunity to finish in the top five at their respective positions if given the opportunity.

Picking from the third spot in the first round, using projections from Shawn Siegele’s work with the Projection Machine and using data from Fantasy Football calculator, here is the team that I came up with (cheating just a little to pick players like Eric Decker a little later even if they were tops on the board).

1. (3 overall) Matt Forte

2. (22 overall) Le’Veon Bell

3. (27 overall) Zac Stacy

4. (46 overall) Michael Floyd

5. (51 overall) TY Hilton

6. (70 overall) Fred Jackson

7. (75 overall) Eric Decker

8. (94 overall) Sammy Watkins

9. (99 overall) Reuben Randle

10. (118 overall) Russell Wilson

11. (123 overall) Ladarius Green

12. (142 overall) Knile Davis

13. (147 overall) Travis Kelce

14. (166 overall) Johnny Manziel

15. (171 overall) Saints Defense

16. (190 overall) Mason Crosby


Follow Daniel on Twitter.

  1. I realize this is not the most scientific way to generate projections but the important thing here is the methodology.  (back)
  2. WR baseline per the Douche for a 12-team PPR league with one flex  (back)
  3. I realize this is not the best source but I think it serves as a decent proxy for groupthink. If anyone has the equivalent of historical auction draft value ADP please let me know in the comments section.  (back)
  4. Charles, McCoy, or Forte in some order  (back)
  5. This is very much similar to what the Douche has proposed but where I will differ is shooting for upside above all else in the later rounds.  (back)
  6. In leagues with trading the benefits are even greater  (back)

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