Position scarcity has been a buzz phrase in this industry for as long as I’ve been playing.
In this case scarcity refers to a drop-off in talent. There will be plenty of wide receivers on an NFL field this season, but many of them won’t be worth rostering.
Figuring out which position has the widest gap in talent gives you a considerable edge on draft and/or auction day.
For years, fantasy owners have touted the wait-on-quarterbacks mentality. It works, plain and simple. We like to zig when everyone else zags here at Chinstrap Ninjas. But don’t ever zig too soon in this case. It’s not worth it. There are just too many quarterbacks available to make picking one early a good investment
The Zero RB strategy is relatively new, compared to the quarterback plan above anyway, but it follows the same concept. In zero RB, you wait on running backs, instead focusing on wide receivers and top tight ends for a large portion of your draft. There are too many starter-caliber — i.e. good but not great — running backs around to go RB-RB-RB to start your draft these days.
2016 ADP rankings: Overall 1-20 | 21-40 | 41-60 | 61-80 | 81-100 | 101-120
All the wide receivers
To answer the question posed in the title, just take all of the wide receivers.
No, literally all of them.
Well, you do have to get players to fill out a full lineup at some point, but don’t pass up on a stud wide receiver or a receiver you think will have a big year to do it. And, yes, there becomes a point where you must draft Aaron Rodgers or Le’Veon Bell because they’ve fallen so far.
But in general, you want to think wide receiver-first. I haven’t seen too many people really explain the wide receiver fever spreading across the land beyond Antonio Brown and friends living at the top of preseason rankings. Allow me to try.
Value Based Drafting isn’t all bad
Value based drafting is something I’ve gotten away from in recent years. I prefer having a compass rather than a map on draft day. When I put a lot of effort into VBD, I put on blinders and follow the map. But this year — this week actually — I’m preparing for an auction draft for a new dynasty league.
I’ve done a handful of auction leagues but I’ve never calculated my own dollar values. So I got some VBD going, calculated some auction values and started building some cheatsheets. I can’t wait until they’re ready for you Ninjas. Soon.
The nice thing about VBD is it gives you a few more variables to look at when ranking players. One of the things I looked at was position scarcity. Part of the reason was because my league was going to include individual defensive players and kicking stats are part of the special teams position, which also includes punters.
So I’m looking at a unique scoring system with unique settings. I wanted to walk into the auction knowing exactly why I should focus on wide receivers and further back up some long-held and successful tactics I use just about every year.
Scarcity by position
Here’s a scarcity chart I put together using a value-based model. The first column is the difference between the last starter and the last top reserve player at the position. The second column is the difference between the last elite player and the last starter at the position. The third column is the difference between the last elite player and the top reserve. The larger the number, the larger the difference between the players in that sample:
Before we go too much further, this was created for a league that starts 1 QB, 2RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE and 2 Flex players, which is a pretty standard league setup. Offensive scoring is pretty standard PPR except QBs get 6 points per touchdown pass and there is no penalty for turnovers. IDP scoring has been modified so those players score nearly as many points as the top offensive players.
As you can see from the chart, wide receivers have a wider range of scoring depth than any other position by a significant margin across nearly the entire board. They are only slightly better than running backs in the last starter vs. top reserve category. The elite vs. last starter category is the one that really stands out for wide receivers. You get nearly 80 points — almost five points per game (4.94) — more from an elite receiver than you do the worst starter. The next highest is quarterback, with 28.81 points, or 1.8 points per game.
What this chart tells me
The chart reveals a few things to me, things I’m going to take into every draft this year.
- Don’t get clever or cocky, just take the darn wide receivers.
- Wait on running backs, but make sure to get at least one of starter caliber. Try to get two.
- Wait, wait, wait on quarterbacks. Then draft another wide receiver or running back. Then wait a little while longer. The difference between the final quarterback starter (Matthew Stafford, 12th) and the last good reserve (Ryan Fitzpatrick, 18th-ish — some teams probably won’t even draft or bid on a backup quarterback) is only 7.53 total points, less than half a point a game.
- Even in a league that has sweeping changes to special teams, there’s minimal advantage to paying for an elite performer.
- There’s no sense picking Rob Gronkowski when you can get this year’s Delanie Walker or Jordan Reed or Gary Barnidge or Tyler Eifert late in your draft or even off the waiver wire.
- IDP numbers aren’t as low as special teams, but they’re close. My motto, for a few years now has been to never overpay for the top IDPs, like J.J. Watt and Luke Kuechly, in most leagues which also includes offensive players. I’ll talk more about his in a future post.
I hope this information helps you pick a winner in upcoming weekends. I know it’ll help me.
Good luck and happy drafting.