Unicorns. Bigfoot. The perfect fantasy football draft. That’s the trifecta of “things we wish were real but aren’t.” But no longer! Here is what a perfect fantasy football draft looks like in a 12-team standard-scoring league, with points based on the NFL’s default fantasy scoring system using the following starting lineup: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, Flex (RB/WR/TE), Defense, PK and six bench players.
For the first three rounds, players were assigned based on the value based drafting principle, using projections from FantasyPros.com. VBD is a player’s fantasy points minus the fantasy points of the baseline player, which is the lowest-ranked starter at the position:
- 12th-ranked QB
- 24th-ranked RB
- 24th-ranked WR
- 12th-ranked TE
You can only draft the best player available for so many rounds before having to switch your focus to the rest of your roster, so after Round 3 I filled in roster holes based on a mixture of best player available, positional scarcity, sleepers and overall roster balance.
Here is the full draft board from the perfect fantasy draft (click to enlarge). The number after the player’s name is his VBD based on projections:
As expected, there was a steady stream of running backs taken in the first five rounds, and the wide receiver position picked up steam almost immediately after Round 1. The Big Three quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers) were all gone by the middle of Round 2 followed by a lull, but then the position saw a big push in Round 6.
Back-to-back picks offer chance at tremendous value
The most advantageous position in terms of surplus value (total value above the worst starter at the position) was the team drafting first, second and fourth, showing that getting one of the top running backs can really get your draft off to a good start. But so can having back-to-back picks at the end of the draft (Team 12). Team 3, on the other hand, struggled to get a high amount of projected value despite getting one of the three best running backs available.
The positions with the least? The 10th and 11th overall pick.
This isn’t to say those teams didn’t end up with good players, but they were assigned a team largely relying on upside. This is why the Zero Running Back strategy could be useful if picking late in the draft: you can stockpile top wide receivers plus a tight end and still rely on running backs currently in time shares later on.
Half of the value picks went to teams picking late in the draft (rounds nine or later). Here is a round-by-round breakdown of the skill-position players (no defenses or kickers) projected to score the most points as calculated by VBD:
- Round 1: Jamaal Charles, RB, Team 1
- Round 2: DeMarco Murray, RB, Team 11
- Round 3: Alfred Morris, RB, Team 2
- Round 4: Ryan Mathews, RB, Team 12
- Round 5: Vernon Davis, TE, Team 9
- Round 6: Nick Foles, QB, Team 12
- Round 7: Ben Tate, RB, Team 1
- Round 8: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Team 6
- Round 9: Jordan Reed, TE, Team 1
- Round 10: Russell Wilson, QB, Team 5
- Round 11: Ladarius Green, TE, Team 12
- Round 12: Antonio Gates, TE, Team 9
- Round 13: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Team 10
- Round 14: no skill position players
- Round 15: Brandin Cooks, WR, Team 6
There appears to be value in the tight end position throughout, with Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed and Antonio Gates all solid picks toward the second half of the draft. That’s because tight ends tend to clump together in terms of value and don’t see a steep drop-off after the first two or three picks are made. Running backs, however, fall off a cliff after Round 7 (labeled G on the chart), which is why you should target running backs in time shares who have a good shot at assuming the No. 1 role in these slots.
The decline in wide receiver value mimics that of the running back position through the first half. However, it is more difficult to find a wide receiver who will get a lion’s share of the targets later in the season, which gives even more credibility to the Zero RB strategy. For example, let’s assume you have the ninth pick or later to start the draft. Nearly one third of all the surplus value among running backs projected to be taken in the first six picks is gone but the wide receiver position will be virtually untouched. And if need be you could always look to trade one of those receivers you stockpile later for help at running back.
Don’t be shy taking a defense in the middle rounds
You are better off going with one of the top defensive teams before taking a flyer on picks with question marks. For example, the Seattle defense is a more reliable fantasy option than Eric Decker (no longer has Peyton Manning as his quarterback), Devonta Freeman (backup running back) or Darren McFadden (injury prone).
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