Just How Crazy Was 2020? Insights from the Win the Flex App and Strategies for 2021 Drafts
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Image Credit: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Chase Claypool.

Drafting successfully means, at least in part, picking the right kinds of players and avoiding the wrong kinds. We provide a lot of guidance at RotoViz on who the right and wrong kind of players to draft are. Still, getting the player selection tactics down is only part of the solution for finding the game-changing win rates we know are possible. Shawn Siegele has detailed many advanced (but easy) strategies that can elevate your win rates well into the double-digits.

The final piece of the puzzle is the structural element — how do you construct your teams from a positional standpoint? That is, which positions should you be prioritizing, and in which rounds? The answers to these questions depend on your league settings and the values available to you in your draft, but one tool that can help you make more informed structural decisions is the Win the Flex app.

How Does the Win the Flex App Work?

To briefly explain what the Win the Flex app does, it creates extremely simple — but highly accurate — projections based on nothing more than ADP. The app asks how many points, say, the fifth RB off the board usually scores. To answer that question, it looks at all the RBs that were drafted in the same neighborhood. Under the hood it uses a K-nearest-neighbors algorithm to perform a local regression. In layman’s terms, that means it looks at what the fifth RB by ADP has done historically, as well as what other RBs in the same area of the draft have done, and uses all those data points together to create a projection for the current RB5 by ADP.

The advantage of this method is that it can readily account for underperformance and volatility. It doesn’t assume ADP is a perfect predictor of fantasy scoring, though it rightly recognizes that players drafted earlier tend to score more than those drafted later. Crucially, it can correctly account for differences in positional value at different parts of the draft. At the end of the day, the goal in fantasy is to score more points than your opponents, and usually this entails scoring as many points as you possibly can. So when you’re on the clock in the eighth round, it will help to know which position you should expect to score more points.

What Did Win the Flex Say to Do in 2020?

Going into 2020, the answer was clear in most formats, pretty much no matter where you were in the draft. At every single point, WRs were expected to score more than RBs.

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Unless you were in a league that had only flex positions, you obviously had to draft some running backs, but the key was to load up on them in the portions of the draft where the gap between WRs and RBs was the smallest — roughly between pick 75 and pick 150. You can clearly see the RB dead zone stretching from the about the end of the first round nearly through the end of Round 5. It’s not only that RBs in this range tend to underperform expectations, it’s that they tend to underperform the WRs you could have drafted instead, and to underperform them by so much.

But with the 2020 season behind us, the question is whether things have changed, and how we should react to new data. When we incorporate 2020 results into the tool, things look slightly different.

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Blair Andrews

Managing Editor, Author of The Wrong Read, Occasional Fantasy Football League Winner. All opinions are someone else's.

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