Draft Preparation: Sam Hendricks talks about QB/WR combos, tier systems and the "third round reversal"
Posted Aug. 25 at 08:49 AM
Sam Hendricks was born and raised in Lynchburg, Virginia and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1986. He joined the Air Force and flew fighter jets in Germany during the Cold War. He is the author of several fantasy sports books, including Fantasy Football Tips and Fantasy Football Guidebook (a 2008 USA Best Books finalist in the sports category). He is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA).
You are among a growing legion dedicated to the “third round reversal” draft format. Why do you believe that this method is superior to more traditional ones like the serpentine draft?
I believe that the serpentine draft (format where the order reverses every round) is flawed and favors the early picks. If I draft from the first spot and pick first in the first round but draft last in the next round it only compensates so much because the quality of players will decrease as the draft progresses. In effect, the “catch up” of reversing the draft order only partially makes up for drafting first in the previous round. My research indicates that there can be as much as a 5% advantage to drafting 1st versus last (12th). Third round reversal negates some of this advantage by making the second and third rounds reversed from the first round. Therefore, instead of getting picks 1, 24 and 25 in a 12-team league, now the first draft spot gets picks 1, 24 and 36. I think it makes the playing field closer to even.
How do you prepare for a draft?
I use Average Value Theory (AVT) for determining position projections and Value Based Drafting (VBD) for determining which positions are more valuable during the draft. I am a big believer in tiering positions; I group together players that I think have the same value. In essence, I don’t care which player I draft in a tier, as long as I get one of them. This helps me focus on the big picture and not get caught in position runs. I highlight my sleepers, and use stars to delineate the players within tiers that have favorable playoff matches. The fantasy season has three parts. There is the regular season, the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Each player has advantages/disadvantages in each section based on their schedule.
What draft strategy do you use?
It really depends on how the draft unfolds. Flexibility really is the key to maximizing your potential in any draft. If a high value WR falls to you in the 4th round you have to be able to draft him and then adapt your strategy because you have an abundance of WRs now, and not RBs or whatever.
What type of drafter are you?
I accumulate RBs early and then stockpile WRs to compensate for the RB heavy tendencies. My plan is to grab 3-4 sleeper WRs in the middle to late rounds and hope I hit on one. I wait on QBs and TEs. This year both positions are very deep. I have about 14 TEs that could legitimately compete to be in the Top 5. I like to watch my opponents and then try to draft the 12th or 13th QB of the draft. Usually these two QBs can produce a like a Top 7 QB if their matchups are played well.
Must have and must avoid players for 2010?
I found myself taking all of these players late in the draft and loving it: Alex Smith, Clinton Portis, Johnny Knox and Tony Scheffler. Bet on them as sleepers. As for busts, I am avoiding Kyle Orton, Dwayne Bowe and Greg Olsen.
Are you a big devotee of Average Draft Position (ADP)?
No, ADP is not something I use to determine when to pick a player, but I do use it as a guide to when others are likely to grab my sleepers or handcuffs.
The following draft advice is excerpted from Sam Hendricks’ Fantasy Football Tips
Many know about tiers but few use them or use them well. Tiering, or “bucketing”, is when you group players that you think will score about the same fantasy points (FP) together. As an example, you may have five QBs in the 2nd tier. You should not care which of those five you draft since they are all predicted to score the same FPs. Tiering helps prevent becoming caught in runs on positions because you see how many similar players are left in positions.
Even if you do not play in an auction league, you can still use the concept of auctions to assist in planning and playing fantasy football. Auction values are based on imaginary monetary amounts. But if the auction league has the same scoring rules and starters, then the auction values will be a great representation of where each player is ranked. Auction values are the perfect tool to use in tiering. If you are in doubt about five players and where they should go tier-wise, look at their auction values. Use the values to rank within tiers and to determine which tier a player should go into.
If you have to evaluate a trade, look at their auction values from before the draft. Sure, their values may have gone up or down since then, but it can give you a baseline to start evaluating. Acquiring players through free agency can also utilize auction values. But instead of using the $1 value for the player coming off waivers, think about where he would rank based on his projected value. If he is a RB who will now start due to an injury and you think he is likely to be a RB25 equivalent, then look at what the 25th RB had for an auction value. If he was worth $30 of a $200 budget, then he would be worth $150 in a $1000 FAAB. But remember that was when you had to draft other players. So now, depending on which week of free agency you are in (week 1 versus the last week), the amount of your budget should be prorated.
Finally, use auction values in general (overall player rankings) to evaluate draft spots as far as trades are concerned. If someone wants to trade you for the 10th and 20th overall picks, add up their auction values and compare them to the relative auction values of the spots you are offered.
If there are three WRs to choose from, all in the same tier, do not draft one from the same team as your QB. Also avoid if possible players with the same bye week. All of this is because I want consistent points. The points lost are negated somewhat by the backup. Say I lose 15 points and my backup is good for 10 points. In effect, I see a decrease of 5 points at that slot when my WR is on his bye. If I combine that loss with another letdown at QB (because both have the same bye week) then my loss may be another 3 points. Now I am down 8 points because of the combination. If I combine that 8-point loss with RB1 or RB2 on the same bye week, that is about a 15-20 point reduction. Losing 20 points is a guaranteed loss that cannot be made up. If I spread those point reductions over six games (QB1, RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, W3) then my team is only losing a few points every week and I have a better chance of overcoming each reduction.
Another reason for avoiding the combo is if the QB gets hurt then the WR will lose some productivity and vice versa. You are not diversified. One injury brings double the loss. Think back to what happened to Steve Smith when Jake Delhomme went down with an injury for a few weeks in 2006 and Randy Moss in 2008 when Tom Brady was lost to injury. Don’t use any combos and do not get starters on the same bye week. It also goes without saying that you should not draft more than two players from the same team (not counting kickers). This can mean that if the QB or RB is hurt, the others may suffer too. There is an exception to this rule and that is if you are intentionally trying to front load the bye weeks and have as many starters as possible on the same bye week. Then by all means draft the combos. In a league that awards playoff spots based on total points or has a long season this can give you an advantage if you are strong all season long but give up one week with bye week fill-ins.
Always start your studs. Check. Now what, how do you decide which of the other players should start? I suggest you use the Las Vegas bookies to help you out, especially for the lesser player (WR, K, and DEF) decisions. If you have a choice between two kickers, who do you take? First look at the Las Vegas odds for both games they are playing. Jason Elam is one kicker, as ATL plays Oakland. The other kicker is David Akers, as Philadelphia plays Washington. Look at the over/under and then who is favored in both games.
ATL -3 Oak +3 O/U 37
Phil -7 Wash +7 O/U 47
For those unfamiliar with these terms, Atlanta is favored to win by 3 points. Philadelphia is favored to win by 7 points. The over/under refers to how many total points (TPs) both teams are expected to score in the game. The higher the over/under, the higher scoring is expected. If a player’s team is in a higher scoring game and they are favored by a large margin, then Las Vegas expects their team to score a lot.
The bookies expect Atlanta to win 20-17 and expect Philadelphia to win 27-20. David Akers should have one more extra point than Jason Elam. Obviously, the bookies do not know exactly what will happen, but they do odds for a living, and thus the over/under should be quite accurate. The over/under says that they expect Philadelphia to score more points than Denver because Philadelphia is favored by more points and the over/under is higher for their game. All else being equal, go with Akers today. If you need to decide between two equal players who will just be a bye week fill-in, choose the player scheduled to play in the higher scoring game (higher over/under score). Be sure to look at the amount a favored team is predicted to win by. There may be instances when a lower over/under game will provide a higher team score because of the lopsidedness of the predicted victory margin.
Another feature to assist you in whom to start is the bookies NFL Propositions (also known as Props) on individual players and their statistics for the game. This usually comes in the form of an over/under on performance factors such as receptions, rushing yards, receiving yards, passing yards or TDs or the likelihood thereof. If Vegas has the over/under for Eli Manning at 219.5 yards passing, that is a great place to start your expectations. Realize that props come out and the odds will change as more information becomes available. So the closer you are to game time, the more accurate the prop. Weather cannot be adequately predicted 5 days out so that is usually the biggest wildcard, especially in December. Look at several sites and compare the odds, as there is some movement in both directions between sites.
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