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Value-Based Drafting Review: 2021 Results (Fantasy Football)

Jan 18, 2022
Value-Based Drafting Review: 2021 Results

The term “value-based drafting” (VBD) is often thrown around in fantasy circles and its meaning is sometimes ambiguous. At its core, “value-based drafting” is assigning fantasy value to players based on the position they play, not just how many points they score.

It’s essentially fantasy football’s “Wins Above Replacement.” Yes, quarterbacks score the most points, but how much more valuable is the average QB1 than a waiver wire QB? 

I dove into the 2021 season’s VBD results for each position, pulling statistics from weeks 1-17 because who plays their fantasy championship in Week 18?

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For quarterbacks and tight ends, I calculated VBD by subtracting each of the top-twelve players’ (in standard leagues there’s only one QB/TE position per team) point totals from the point total of the QB/TE20. This was a judgment call, I went with player #20 because some teams do roster more than one QB/TE, but usually not every team does. Player #20 at their respective position represents what most people in a 12-team league could find on the waiver wire. 

For running backs and wide receivers, I went with the top 30 because you’re starting at least two of each position and often an extra in your flex. From their point totals, I subtracted the #55-ranked players at their respective positions. 

For kickers and defenses, I went with top-twelve and pulled player #15 as the “replacement player.” 

For QB/RB/WR/TE I also tallied average VBD without the top three players, to see how eliminating the gangbusters scoring impacts the average. 

Here’s a link to the results!

Conclusions

  • WR-heavy drafts CAN work. As expected, RB and WR were the most valuable positions in fantasy football. However, I did not expect them to be so close. Even without Cooper Kupp and the top-three receivers, the starting WR VBD (109.81) was fewer than three points lower than the starting RB (112.24). I will be less hesitant to draft WR-heavy with my first five picks next season. 
  • Draft a QB early or WAIT. Here’s where Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson finished in points per game this season: QB5, QB1, QB4, QB8. On the contrary, late-round QBs such as Jalen Hurts, Matthew Stafford, and Joe Burrow also popped off. Is it really worth selecting Russell Wilson in the sixth round for the fifth year in a row? 
  • Don’t be that guy to draft a kicker or a defense before anyone else. Well, sure, do it for the laughs because fantasy football is fun. Strategically, however, their VBD is negligible and no matter how badly you want to yell “BIG TRUSS” and go with Justin Tucker in the 10th, just don’t.
  • Wait on TE…or don’t. Per FantasyPros Average Draft Position statistics, of the top-12 TEs, seven of them finished top-12. That’s pretty solid considering T.J. Hockenson and Darren Waller would also be in there if it weren’t for injury. However, Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce put this position on their back. When eliminating their scores from VBD, this position’s average VBD fell more than any other. This showcases the value of a top-tier TE. However, who will be those TEs next year? It feels as though any combination of Kelce, Andrews, Kyle Pitts, T.J. Hockenson, George Kittle, and Darren Waller is in the mix. Given Pitts’ performance as a rookie, I wouldn’t call you crazy if he were your TE1 heading into this year’s draft season. That being said, solid performances from Dalton Schultz (ADP TE33) Zach Ertz (ADP TE17), and Dawson Knox (ADP TE34) reinforce the value in waiting on TE, grabbing your sleeper then playing the waiver wire.

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