Innovation Session: My Fantasy Football Auction Draft – Retrospective Part 2

Back in December I took a look at my football season to see how my fantasy football strategy performed. I had a few other thoughts that I’ll share now.

The Importance of the Draft

Below are the positions each team ended in and the difference between their expected and actual results.

draft-skew-vs-end-result

We can see that in general, teams that predicted well on draft day performed well in the season. The r squared for the linear trend line here is .63 which means that for my seasons we can contribute about 63% of the final results to draft performance.

What accounts for the other 37%?

I would simplify the decision types in fantasy football by describing three.

  1. Draft day – who you predict will perform well
  2. In-season transactions; waiver wire, free agency & trades – the adjustments you make to your team
  3. Coaching – who you start and sit each week

Improper Optimization

Looking back at my draft I realize that I optimized for a scenario where the draft accounted for >90% of the final results. I assumed a greater level of predictability than was possible and minimized the importance of in-season transactions. I also created a coaching nightmare for myself.

In Season Transactions

Thinking about in-season transactions, it is important to understand how many players went undrafted but ended up being extremely valuable. In fact of the $1,945 of actual skill player value my league saw, only $1,553 was drafted. About 75%.

Knowing this we can see that trying to draft a team with a lot of mid level talent can actually be detrimental. Lets think back to my scenario where some teams drafted 10s & 1s, while I tried to draft only 6s & 7s. We now know that 25% of the value of the season had yet to be discovered. Many of those were 5-7s though Knowshon Moreno was arguably a 9. On my team of 6s & 7s I had a hard time acting on the emerging talent because it meant giving up an equal player from my team. Another teams with some 1s however would have easily given up those duds for a mid level prospect.

The pre-draft % of money spent I had allocated to starters was 90% of my budget. Next year I’m going to consider spending all of my money on 70-80% of my team, knowing that I’ll have a few duds in there for the first weeks, hopefully to be quickly dropped for emerging talent.

Final Thoughts

All of the above analysis optimized for regular season performance. Unfortunately, fantasy football, like real football isn’t all about the regular season. On Sunday we saw how a team with a great regular season performance could blow it in the championships. The same happened in our fantasy league. The team that crushed it all season lost in the finals.

So as I think about a strategy for next season, that is one more factor to take into account.

Innovation Session: My Fantasy Football Auction Draft – Retrospective

Last August, before fantasy football season started, I came up with a strategy to approach the auction draft my work league was having. My season is now over, I didn’t make the playoffs, so I want to take a look back at that strategy to see what I can learn. The important part of this analysis is figuring out how much of my poor performance I should attribute to my draft strategy and how much to other factors.

Streaming Defenses & Kickers

The first thing I want to evaluate is my decision to ignore defenses & kickers in the draft. I instead focused my draft strategy around skill players; QB, RB, WR & TE. I did this because I planned to employ a method called streaming. This involves picking up and playing people based on their match-up each week instead of relying on one team.

Over the 13 week season I played 8 different defenses. My total score for defenses was 281.6, an average of 21.6 points per week. (FYI – We have crazy defensive scoring) That would be the #10 ranking defense in the league – after accounting for bye weeks. The #2 defense averaged 24.97 points per week though, so the difference is negligible.

Going forward, I’ll continue to stream defenses. As I get better at it I might even be able to beat single team scores, I noticed that most weeks one of the top three highest scoring teams was available. The maximum possible streaming score was much higher than the maximum possible single team score.

Over the same 13 weeks I played 6 kickers. My total score was 85 which would be the #28 ranking kicker. There were only 6 that did worse. This clearly wasn’t the right way to go. However, the difference between my score and the first place kicker was 4.5 points per week so this isn’t horrible, but certainly didn’t help.

I think next year, I’ll avoid streaming and instead focus on grabbing a kicker from a high scoring team and sticking with them. That seems to pay off more and offer more predictability.

Auction Draft Strategy

Now that I have some insight into my decision about drafting for the D & K positions I can evaluate my approach to drafting skill players.

The strategy I employed was to optimize for value. I wanted to get the most points for each fake dollar I spent. I based this strategy on the idea that players are interchangeable commodities and that it was better to avoid hyped and price inflated stars and to instead grab people that were undervalued. I had hoped that most teams would draft a few stars and then only have enough money remaining to scrape the bottom of the barrel, leaving me to grab a team full of upper-middle tier players.

To state this mathematically, I thought most teams would consist of 10s & 1s, for an average around 5-6, while I’d have a lot of 6s & 7s, for an average of 6-7, thus a slightly better team overall.

Predicting Production

To figure out value I used some projections that football experts had put together about how many points each player would score during the season.

After the draft I evaluated my team based on the projections I used. I compared what was paid in the auction with the pre-draft valuations I was working off of. It looked like I had crushed it. In the table below, positive numbers represent overpaying and negative numbers represent underpaying.

pre-season-evaluation

I had gotten 25% (~$50 of $200) more team than I should have and if my numbers were right that should have resulted in an awesome team.

The major flaw in this system is that it is heavily dependent on the accuracy of the projections I used. In a world where those were mostly correct, I would have fared well. Reality however is very hard to predict.

Actual Production

Now that the regular season is over and I have actual point values, I reevaluated the draft using the actual production of players rather than their projected stats. The second column compares the price paid by each team with their actual season production.

post-season-evaluation

It turns out that my draft was basically a waste – $150 of the $200 fake money I spent did not help me. I of course generally knew this, having suffered through the season, but it is interesting to see the exact figures.

What Went Wrong?

I would love a simple explanation.  To be able to say that based on those results, my draft strategy didn’t work and I should not try it again. Unfortunately, a single season of football doesn’t have enough data to evaluate a strategy to an acceptable level of significance.

Fantasy football has the rare ability combine a low sample size with high variability. Football is contact sport that creates often unpredictable injuries & this season was particularly injury heavy, especially for high profile skill players. Injuries can and do happen to anyone.

Thinking About Risk

This leaves me speculating whether the players I drafted were available for value because people knew they would get injured or if I just got a run of bad luck.

Qualitatively I can see in retrospect that I had a risk heavy team:

  • Rob Gronkowski – Started the season injured and missed the first half
  • Darren McFadden – Has been injured every year of his career
  • Steven Jackson – A RB over the age of 30
  • Roddy White – Missed pre-season games due to an ankle injury
  • Dwayne Bowe – New QB & coach & no pre-season indications of heavy use

Often predictions will take this into account, but the consensus stats I used were only concerned with averages, not standard deviation. In the future I would be wise to account for that as well, and probably to come up with a few additional risk factors to account for. When drafting, risk is a fine thing, as long as it is balanced with some stability.

Risk By Position

As I think about risk, one factor that I have data on now is risk by position. We can take a look at this season and see how each position played out.

The chart below shows skill positions and how the drafted players in my league on average lived up to pre-season expectations.

skew-by-position

We can see that RBs & QBs really dropped the ball this year. Of course, this won’t come as any surprise to anyone that drafted CJ Spiller, Ray Rice, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson or Arian Foster. In fact, Matt Forte & Demarco Murray were the only RBs, of the 24 with the highest draft price in my league, that performed better than their draft price would indicate.

Meanwhile TE was a gold mine. On average every dollar spent there paid handsomely. Especially Jimmy Graham.

I need a few more seasons of data to see if these are conclusive results. But, common fantasy football knowledge defends that RBs are more injury prone though which turned out to be true this year. If that remains true, what it means for future seasons is that drafting high on WRs will have more lasting value on average. RBs will always be available on the waiver wire as the season progresses and injuries occur.

Risk by Team

I also plotted the difference in actual to expected performance by team to see if there were any trends there.

skew-by-team

The two that panned out the worst were Buffalo & Atlanta. Buffalo because of CJ Spiller who was the only drafted player. Atlanta because of the complete meltdown that team saw including injuries of Roddy White, Julio Jones & Steven Jackson (which resulted in a poor season for Matt Ryan).

From what I can tell, looking at a player’s team isn’t a great indicator of success. Neither the team’s win/loss record or their improvement over expectations seems strongly correlated with the success of the fantasy players on the team. Examples include Denver who was an early favorite, but has done even better than expected, Cleveland who is 4-8, but has had a few players pan out, and finally Kansas City who has turned their team from #32 to #2, but not to the benefit of many fantasy owners.

Methodology Criticisms

The methodology I used to do this analysis has some flaws that are worth noting. I made the trade off of using a less rich analysis so that I could complete it faster.

The figures I analyzed are based off of the total points a player scored during the season. I have not taken into account the week to week scores. This creates a few edge cases and masks the true value of certain individuals. For example, players that performed well up until an injury will appear undervalued and players that were inconsistent might appear overvalued.

Thinking about injuries, Aaron Rodgers for example had a great season through week 8. He sustained an injury in week 9 and hasn’t played since. In reality he would have been a fine QB with high value during the first 8 games. I have yet to take this into account and it is worth noting in future analysis.

Looking at consistency, a player like Dwane Bowe who was likely overvalued in my analysis. In Bowe’s first five weeks he scored; 3, 11.6, 0.4, 11.8, 3.5. That level of variance was incredibly frustrating for a fantasy player. In my analysis I would have valued him the same as a player that got 6 points every week. In reality they are much different. In the future I would like to take this into account. (This might value RBs a bit higher as they tend to be more consistent where as WRs can see high variance due to big plays and TDs.

This year I based my projected values strictly off of projected points, optimizing for maximum points throughout the season. Knowing what I know now, next year I want to incorporate more with consistency ratings. I have realized that the worst thing is not a low scoring player, but a player who brings high and low scores at unpredictable times.

Innovation Session: Recycling A Broken Surfboard – Part 3

I stripped down the old broken board, shaped the foam into something new & now I’m ready to put the finishing touches on my recycled surfboard.

Surfboard artwork has always been a place for expression an individuality. From back when islanders would carve artwork into their giant wooden plans, to the pre-war era surfboards with paint to contemporary sticks graffitid with spray paint and Sharpie.

How a board looks shouldn’t affect how it rides – but I defend that it does. So much of how a session goes is built on momentum that the good vibes from the parking lot compliment to a paddle out conversation can all contribute to which waves a surfer paddles for and how they ride them.

I love having surfboards the get me stoked. Sometimes that is classic gems from another era I’ve refurbished. Sometimes it is bold colors. For this board I’m feeling excitable.

Inspiration

When I think about the surfboard I have in front of me I realize that it transcends decades.

Originally shaped in the 2000’s by Bill Stewart, a shaper & artist who’s work brought him fame in the 1980’s and who created the gift surfboard that was presented to Mikhail Gorbachev to celebrate the end of the Cold War in 1990.

The new shape is a Mini Simmons, a contemporary design modeled after the shaping principles of Bob Simmons who innovated in late 1940’s and 1950’s.

This foam tells a story 70+ years in the making.

Nothing is more appropriate to inspire the artwork on this new board than another board who’s story spanned 70+ years.

I am of course talking about the bright pink Hover Board of Back to the Future: Part II fame.

back-to-the-future-hoverboard

Looking at my rails, the shape isn’t too far off either. Lets get to work.

Taping & Painting

I’m using acrylic paint to do the artwork. I’ve used it before to color match ding repairs but I’ve never done a whole board. I’ve been warned that if there is too much paint, the glass won’t stick to the foam and the board will be ruined.

Traditionally, most boards are either airbrushed with color or pigment is added to the glass. I am hand painting this though so I’m going to dilute the paint with water to get a pretty light stain.

 


hoverboard-paints

The first step is taping everything. Where the tape is, paint will not go, so I can create nice borders.

hoverboard-bottom-taped

 

I’ve decided to take a few artistic liberties. The first one is the background color of the board. The ‘read’ one has a texture, which I don’t feel like doing, so I’m going to go for an average color of that section. It is notably darker as less bold than the pink in the stripes so I’ve mixed in a bit of grey.

hoverboard-paint-in-cup

hoverboard-bottom-base

 

You can see the pinks are slightly different. A second coat should help even more.

hoverboard-bottom-pink

 

Here I peeled some of the initial tape and created new borders to paint the Green.

hoverbaord-bottom-green

 

Unfortunately, I painted the green before the pink had fully dried so it bled a bit. Notice how clean the lines are where pink is bordered by white – the tape really keeps the paint out.

hoverboard-bottom-clean-lines

hoverboard-bottom-grey

 

I didn’t want the black to bleed everywhere so I painted using a sponge instead of a brush. It actually worked pretty darn well though the color isn’t as quite as flat across the space and the lines aren’t as clean.

hoverboard-bottom-detail

 

Here is the finished bottom.

hoverboard-bottom-complete

 

Another area of artistic liberty. The top of the movie prop had some additional items including a Mattel logo & foot hold. I don’t care too much about those and like the flat design of the colors a bit more. I think the magnetic plates on the bottom are essential to sell the story, but the top details aren’t.

hoverbaord-top-taped

hoverboard-top-base

hoverboard-top-base-and-pink

hoverbaord-top-final-coat

hoverboard-top-all-colors

hoverboard-top-clean-lines

 

hoverboard-top-green

The final steps from my part are writing Hover Board in the yellow space & deciding what to do with the rails. The prop board had pink rails, but there is already a lot of pink on this board. I’m debating using the green or even leaving it white.

I’ll take the board to get glassed by a professional – glassing isn’t my favorite – it’s messy, toxic and mistakes are disastrous – that is one part I’d rather delegate.

I should have it back in a few weeks for a final update and test drive!