Process Analysis: How to Go About Your Fantasy Football Draft Part 1

Kevin Rudy 05 August, 2011

Now that it looks like we’re going to have an NFL season, it’s time for Minitab to start thinking about Fantasy Football! Many businesses use process analysis to improve performance, so why can’t we do the same thing with the process of selecting a Fantasy Football team? The answer is, we can! I’ll use process analysis to show how you can improve the process of drafting your team.

In the Fantasy Football Draft War Room

Conventional wisdom says that you should draft a running back with your first pick. But as the NFL starts to be dominated by quarterbacks named Rodgers, Manning, Brady, Brees, and Vick, is this still the best strategy? Could quarterbacks and wide receivers be the better way to go early in the draft? Minitab can tell us the answer.

The Data

I went to, and collected fantasy points for the top 40 running backs and wide receivers, and the top 20 quarterbacks and tight ends over the last 3 years. I’ll use histograms with normal curves to look at the distribution of the scores at each position. The group that has the widest curve is the group you want to draft first because they will have the biggest drop off in fantasy points. I standardized the scores to make the distributions easier to compare.

Histrogram of the distribution of fantasy points for each position.

The Results

The normal curves show that you should still draft a running back first. The RB curve is the widest, so running backs have the biggest drop between great and average players. Compare this to the WR and TE distributions, which have a much smaller drop off between great and average players.

So what does this mean in terms of fantasy points?

Let’s say you have your choice of either picking the top running back, quarterback, wide receiver or tight end. If you don’t pick a top one, you get stuck with an average player (20th best for RBs and WRs, 10th best for QBs and TEs). How many points would you be giving up by passing on the top player?

Note: Top score is the average top score at each position over the last 3 years.

How much you give up at each position if you draft an average player instead of the top player.

RB: 283 (top score) – 151 (average score) = 132 points
QB: 338 (top score) – 257 (average score) = 81 points
WR: 193 (top score) – 128 (average score) = 65 points
TE: 147 (top score) – 88 (average score) = 59 points

So by saying “I don’t want to draft a top running back, I’ll just get an average one later in the draft” you’re giving up an average of 132 fantasy points. By doing the same with a wide receiver, you’re giving up half of that.

So I’ve shown that you should continue drafting running backs early in the draft. But I’ve only shown what happens if you can get a top running back. Should you still go for a RB first if you think the best ones are already drafted?  In my next post, I’ll break down the standard deviations of each position to see when you should stop drafting running backs and switch to other positions.