Antonio Brown was not the best draft pick in fantasy football last year.
He scored the most fantasy points by a wide receiver in 2015, and was the best overall player in fantasy football in terms of value. Everyone would have loved him on their roster.
But when it comes to evaluating draft picks in fantasy football, you have to consider when each player was drafted, and Antonio Brown’s pre-season average draft position was #2 overall in PPR leagues.
So if you drafted him, congratulations. You had a solid first round draft pick that you could build the rest of your team around. However, you received about as much value out of your first round pick as you should have.
To truly evaluate draft picks, we should compare the actual value received as compared to the player’s projected value before the season started.
We’ll use the archived pre-season average draft position data here at Fantasy Football Calculator as the source of pre-season rankings. That data was generated from 844 fantasy football mock drafts from the three days before the NFL season started.
By making that comparison, we’ll be able to answer these questions:
Defining Value: Value Based Drafting
The general objective in a fantasy football draft is to accumulate as much value as possible at each draft position.
Value can be calculated with a Value Based Drafting (VBD) approach, which says:
“How many more fantasy points did this player score than a baseline player at his position?”
For example, if you start 3 wide receivers in a 12-team league, the question becomes:
“How many more fantasy points did Antonio Brown score than the 36th best wide receiver?”
In points-per-reception (PPR) leagues, Antonio Brown’s total fantasy points was 386.2. If we take that and subtract the 36th best wide receiver’s (Marvin Jones) total fantasy points (173.9), we get 212.3 points of value.
Brown’s 212.3 value was the highest in the league this year.
As the #2 overall player drafted in leagues last August, he was projected to generate 197.2 points of value based on his draft position. If you drafted him at #2 overall, you were expecting him to provide that much value to your team.
When his league-best 212 value is compared to his expectation of 197, he actually only outperformed his projected value by by about 15 points.
Now that we have a method of calculating the difference between pre-season expected value and actual value, let’s apply it to every player (ignoring kickers and defense).
Pre-season Average Draft Position Data
For reference, below is a draftboard-view of the archive of 12-team PPR average draft position data from the day before the NFL season kicked off:
Average Draft Position Data - 12-team PPR leagues; 2015 archived data. From Fantasy Football Calculator
You can surely find some overachievers and duds yourself just by scanning the table. We’ll continue below with the cold-hard numbers to help identify objectively who the best and worst draft picks were.
Actual Fantasy Points and Value
To review the top performers of 2015 regardless of draft position, below is a table of the top 30 players who generated the most value:
Scroll left-to-right on mobile for full table.
|#||Name||Pos||Team||Draft Position||Proj. Value||Actual Value|
|6||Odell Beckham Jr||WR||NYG||11.4||102.4||145.4|
Table of players sorted by total value generated for 12-team PPR leagues in 2015. Assumes starting rosters of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE and uses the worst starting player at each position for the baseline.
Before we move on, there are some interesting facts here.
In the top 30 value generating players last year, there were:
By round, there were:
Side Note: Undrafted Players
For undrafted players, they were given a rank of 156 (13 rounds * 12 teams) and the projected value 3 points lower than the last drafted player of that position. That was used as a general estimate of the free-agent’s pre-draft value.
Who Was The Best Draft Pick?
Now for the question of the day, who was the best draft pick of 2015?
To answer that, we’ll simply subtract the projected value for each player from their actual value. That will tell us who outperformed their draft position the most.
|#||Name||Pos||Team||Overall||Proj. Value||Actual Points||Actual Value||Value Diff|
|17||Ted Ginn Jr||WR||CAR||156.0||-119.6||183.9||10||129.6|
Jordan Reed and Gary Barnidge scored the highest on this list of players who outperformed their pre-season projected value. However, technically, they were undrafted.
Therefore, the “Best Draft Pick of 2015” distinction goes to Doug Baldwin, while Jordan Reed receives the “Best Waiver Wire Pick Up of 2015” award.
Who Was The Worst Draft Pick?
Now we’ll take that same data and sort it by the worst difference between actual and expected value.
This table also includes a new column, “G”, which is the number of games played this year. We’ll dig into that more soon, since injuries impact these results.
|#||Name||Pos||Team||G||Overall||Proj. Value||Total Points||Actual Value||Value Diff|
This list is clearly dominated by injured players. So we should first break up the “Worst Draft Pick” distinction into two categories: “Worst Draft Pick Due To Injury” and “Worst Draft Pick Due To Performance.”
By total value, Tony Romo wins the “Worst Draft Pick Due to Injury” award.
Injuries are a way of life in the NFL, and the 2015 season was no exception.
Since the table of worst draft picks was dominated by injured players, let’s look at that data on a per-game basis instead. That will remove from the equation how many games the player didn’t play due to injury.
You’ll see guys like Le’Veon Bell and Jamaal Charles don’t appear on this list since they performed well before they were injured.
|#||Name||Pos||Team||G||Overall||Proj. VBD Per Game||Actual PPG||Actual VBD Per Game||VBD Diff Per Game|
The table shows that Eddie Lacy and Peyton Manning tied for the worst per-game performance. They each receive the distinction of “Worst Draft Pick of 2015.”
Did Anyone Match Their Projected VBD exactly?
Yes. Brandin Cooks. He was projected to generate 79.7 points of value, and he finished the year with exactly that much value.
In addition to highlighting the best and worst players, there are some general trends in the data.
First, a lot has been written about the running back and quarterback busts this past year. The data here supports both the Zero-RB and Late-Round QB strategies. A lot of running backs and quarterbacks disappointed this year. And besides Dez Bryant, there weren’t any highly drafted wide receivers that greatly underperformed.
The story is a bit more complex though. There were quite a few late-round or undrafted wide receivers who greatly outperformed their expectations. So while the top tier WRs were worth their price, you could have also found solid wide receiver production from the extremely late rounds if you were lucky.
That closes the book on 2015. Hopefully you can use these results to improve your draft strategies for next season.
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