Positional Replacement Value by Draft Round in Fantasy Football

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It’s draft day and you’re on the clock in the fifth round. So far, you’ve scooped up three solid running backs and a stud wide receiver. You realize that Marlon Mack is still on the board but you’re worried that if you take him, you’ll hurt your team. He’s by far the best value left on the board, but you already have three running backs to fill your RB1, RB2, and flex spots on your roster. Should you go for a wide receiver just to fill out your starting roster? Or should you draft Mack, the best player available?

The Fantasy Footballers recommend staying fluid and letting value fall to you. But when you’re in real-life draft situations (like above), it can be difficult to make a decision under pressure. Tier-based drafting allows fantasy owners to make smart decisions (download the Ultimate Draft Kit today!). That being said, it’s also important to look at player replacement value in future rounds. In other words, if you take Marlon Mack instead of a WR, how much of a dropoff is there for the wide receiver position in the sixth round (compared to the fifth)?


Using the Fantasy Footballers’ projections, I went through and analyzed the expected production by draft round for each skill position (RB, WR, TE, QB). For example, how many points per game should you expect from a wide receiver with a fifth-round average draft position (ADP)? How does this compare to the sixth-round? This is a macro-level approach that you should add to your draft day toolbox. The downside here is that individual outliers (breakouts, sleepers, busts) get lost in the mix. I recommend combining the replacement value approach with tier-based drafting (micro-level) in order to capitalize on your draft day.

Now back to the original question about Marlon Mack…The ballers project that the average fifth-round wide receiver (11) will only produce 0.2 points per game more than the average sixth-round receiver (10.8). Conversely, there is a 2.1 point per game dropoff from a fifth-round RB to a sixth-round RB. In this scenario, draft Marlon Mack (ADP 3.08) and then target a wide receiver in the sixth round. Yes, I know that Mack would start the season on your bench – but depth is important because every year there are players who get injured or underwhelm. Also, you could use him or another RB as a trade piece down the road. By looking at player replacement value, you can visualize the magnitude of tier drops and use this to your advantage.

The graph below shows the expected fantasy player production (pts per game) by draft round. It’s broken up by position: RB, WR, TE, and QB. Note that this data is based on a 12-team league (0.5 PPR, 4pt QB passing TD).

The graph illustrates that running backs drafted in the early rounds typically outproduce the wide receivers. However, late-round wide receivers typically produce more than running backs on a weekly basis. Additionally, the graph shows the extreme depth at the quarterback position this year. You can also look at the tight end trendline and see why many experts like Jason plan to punt the tight end position if they don’t get one of the top options.

Similar to the graph, the table below outlines the average projected points per game, broken down by draft round.

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My Takeaways

While there are many ways to approach a fantasy draft, here are my personal takeaways from analyzing player replacement value. I typically draft the best player available, so these are just “penciled in” guidelines that I will be keeping in mind. All of these strategies assume that value presents itself in each of these scenarios.

  1. RB Goal: Draft two or three RBs by the fifth round. The average production for an RB is projected to be similar from Round 8 onward. After Round 7, I won’t hesitate to take my shot a little bit early on an upside RB such as Matt Breida (more on late-round RB targets here). That being said, I don’t plan to overpay more than one or two rounds.
  2. WR Goal: Draft two WRs by the sixth round.
  3. TE Goal: Draft a top-five TE OR punt on the position and grab one in double-digit rounds.
  4. QB Goal: Draft a QB in the double-digit rounds unless a top-5 option falls (≥ 2 rounds or so).

I recommend keeping the graph and chart in this article closeby on draft day. It may come in handy when you’re making a difficult situation and the clock is ticking!

REMINDER: The downside here is that individual outliers (breakouts, sleepers, busts) get lost in the mix. So use this information along with the UDK’s tiered cheat sheet and you’ll have everything you need to draft a great team!  Don’t’ forget to grab the best draft kit as well.

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