Fantasy Football Strategy: Introduction to Roster Construction-Based Rankings

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The number one thing that fantasy football players search is rankings. No other topic comes remotely close to the search volume of rankings, especially here on, where Andy, Mike, and Jason have been consistently rated as some of the most accurate rankers in the industry. Fantasy players just cannot get enough and the beauty of rankings is in their simplicity. We can all quickly recognize that the players at the top of the perceived best (according to that ranker) and the farther we go down the list, the worse the player is for our fantasy team. We can then also quickly compare rankings across sites and analysts; Site A has this player ranked 6th, while Site B has him 9th.

Tier-based drafting has been around for a long time, but it has received a lot more exposure over the past few seasons as a way to better breakdown player rankings into tiers, or groups of players. When comparing tiered rankings, it often becomes obvious that certain players always fall into the same tier (or ranking range) across ranking sites, with their specific ranking varying slightly within a common tier. You can find an article I wrote two years ago for the core aspects of Tier-based drafting and how it works. If you’ve never heard of or used tier-based drafting, I would recommend checking that article out as a starting point. Some of the names and rankings will be an entertaining flashback, but the core concept is evergreen.

In this article, I want to present a different way to use rankings and tiers when building your pre-draft rankings for 2019. One of the problems that still remain when using tiers is the true value difference between tiers. The gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 may be very close, while the gap between Tier 4 and Tier 5 could represent a massive drop in player value. I suggest a horizontal visual to show the depth of the roster positions and, additionally, the types of players. Roster construction strategy is the most overlooked aspect of commonly found traditional rankings. The position that player fills on your roster is an extremely important part of the roster construction process.

How to Use a Roster Construction Strategy

In this horizontal visualization process, the headlines will be focused on the fantasy roster position you would feel comfortable rostering that player or a roster role they will fill on your team. Instead of Tier 1, Tier 2, etc, you’ll first start by listing players you’d feel comfortable in that starting position. The desired outcome for this plan is to give you a better visualization into the roster construction you think is best to start the season. Everyone has different thresholds for who they would prefer to have in their starting lineups and bench, and this plan will allow you to quickly tailor published rankings into your own custom-made draft guide. In the sample chart below, I listed nine QBs who I would consider as my plug-and-play QBs. You may only have 6, or conversely, 16. It doesn’t matter; our roster construction process is different. Someone who is set to lock-in a top QB like Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers for their team may have a shorter list, while someone who’s open to streaming QBs may have nearly the entire list of starters.

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In traditional rankings, player categories are focused on linear, vertical rankings. Assuming a 12-team league, QB1 represents the first 12 QBs in the rankings, QB2 is QBs 13-24. The same holds true across the other positions. This gives the perception that the 13th ranked player is significantly less valuable than the 12th ranked player because of this delineation between position level one and position level two. When all lumped together, fantasy players are presented with a chart that shows vertical lists of the four key player positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) with the visual perception that each player at the top is the best. This also presents the perception that the players, horizontally are similarly valuable within their position group. Visually, when 25 RBs have been drafted and the 18th ranked WR is still available, your subconscious may be tricking you into thinking that the WR is a draft value, while they may not be the best fit for your roster construction. This visual presentation may have a negative psychological effect in the heat of the draft.

For this introductory article, I’m going to focus on the starting line-up in the sample. In subsequent follow-ups, I will dig deeper into the individual positions.

[lptw_table id=”159572″ style=”default”]

As you can see, we have the Starting Roster Requirements listed across the top of the board, then the traditional vertical listing of players down below it. In this process, you will only list the players that you would feel comfortable rostering for that starting lineup position. Your list should not mirror mine; everyone’s should be different. This is how you will differentiate your roster construction from your league mates.

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The result of this process is to easily identify the most impactful player to your roster for each draft pick. Classic tier-based drafting is better than nothing, but it’s often hard to compare across the positions in the heat of the moment. With this plan, you can quickly identify which positions are being drafted faster than others, where the value lies, and which player is projected to have the biggest impact on your roster construction.

During the draft, as players are taken off the board, it should be clear which position and player are most impactful to your roster at that moment. When combining traditional linear rankings with ADP data, fantasy owners often make this biggest mistake of their draft. Too many players rely too heavily on ADP data during their draft, leading them to forgo the best player for their team to avoid the perception of “reaching” for a player. However, if that player is your last available player for a key roster position, while multiple players still exist for another position, it may be best to “reach”.

In the upcoming additions to this strategy series, I’ll dig deeper into the four key fantasy positions and break them down beyond the starting line-up.


Ian Johnson says:

Above paragraph 4 in the ‘How to Use a Roster Construction Strategy’ section, there is a reference to a table I cannot see! Otherwise, this is really helpful.

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