Rankings No More: Building Your Big Board Part 3

Vontae Mack No Matter What

Draft Day

Finally, the big day is here. After many tiery nights and being mocked, you have finally arrived to your draft day. You can do a last minute check to make sure you can see all the rounds are covered and know which rounds you will dedicate to DST, K, or sleepers. Write a small note to yourself: “Vontae Mack no matter What,” put on your suit and tie, walk out with a swag into your draft room … we’re ready.

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Staring at his ranking, Chris was full of confidence that this will help him through the draft. Having been slotted in the 1.09 spot, he figures that he has some breathing room to slowly think about grabbing value in the mid-rounds. He imagines himself scoffing at his “less than prepared” league mates who will probably be relying on Fantasy Magazines which were published in June, but the info are written in May. Chris strongly believes that Steve is obediently following the ESPN site’s ADP and picking up players with safe floor but low ceiling. HA! With a smirk in his face, he confidently selects Julio Jones at the 1.09 spot and waits for the turn around to select his second stud …

Fast forward to Round 8.

Chris’ mood as noticeably changed. He seems a bit panicky. “What just happened? Cam Newton was supposed to be there at round 5, and why did Dave take Matty Ice? Shouldn’t he have taken Stafford first? Why are the QBs disappearing so fast? I thought I had choices when it comes back to me?” As the panic set in, Chris stared at his ranking, and saw that the next highest ranked player should be Pierre Thomas. But he already drafted 2 solid RBs in Trent Richardson, and David Wilson. Scanning down his list of QBs, he sees the name Colin Kaepernick who was probably a 10th round pick. He used his next pick to take Kaepernick just so he can secure a QB before they all disappear. This runs counter to his “wait on QB” approach, because the draft didn’t line up with the expectations he read so often on Twitter. So, now Chris decides to focus on the rookies before it is too late …

Well, spoiler alert, the 2013 season was a major disaster for Chris. The rankings is a tool to be used but not relied on as a predictor of how the draft will flow. Every league, even with the same scoring setting, has a lot of unpredictable components to it. By designing a cheatsheet of any kind, you may be better prepared than the slub who is going in blind, but very few league mates go in blind.

As mentioned in part 1 of this big board building process, an advantage of big board over ranking is it’s placement of players. In a ranking system, players are set in a ordinal sequence and ordered in a static form; i.e. without any indication how close or how far player A truly is from player B, when A is ranked next to B. There is also no room in rankings to show how you like Player A equally to Player B.

Last year, I used the big board again while learning from my mistake in 2013. Instead of using the Big Board as a predictor of value, you can make adjustments on the fly in the middle of the draft. You begin to see trends forming, and can react appropriately with a big board. Say your league mates are taking WRs early and often because of the PPR scoring. Initially you listed the same WRs you liked early in your board. Well, because your league mates were thinking the same, quickly scan your board and find out where you have the heaviest concentration of RBs. Anticipate that your league mates will start looking to RBs the same round that you would too if you had followed your big board religiously. But instead, you take the RBs a little earlier which will end up being some of the top ones, and noting that your league mates are trying to hoard WR. By the time your league mates are fighting one another for the middling RBs later, you can slowly pluck away the WRs with high upside.

Jameis Winston is a rookie to avoid in redraft in 2015.

Jameis Winston

I’ll use an example to illustrate this:

Going into the 2014 draft (*It is important to note that some of these names were more hyped during the 2014 off season than now). Chris was prepared to attack the WRs early and often, because traditionally his league mates were RB-centric. After taking Jordy and Alshon Jeffery, Chris was quite happy, and was fully intending to take Michael Floyd or CPatt in his next round. But something doesn’t seem right. The league mates aren’t biting on Gio Bernard or Andre Ellington. One by one the WRs kept coming off the board with the occasional RBs and TEs mixed in but not by a lot. Chris had planned to settle with a collection of Rashad Jennings, Pierre Thomas, and Carlos Hyde to get him through, thinking of getting them in the 8h-10th round. Looking at the trend, Chris calls an audible, and made sure when his turn comes up he takes the top value he didn’t think he would get based on mock draft ADP. After taking Andre Ellington in the 3rd round (Gio Bernard went 2 picks before Chris’ turn), he comes back and takes Luck in the 4th. In the 5th round, he was quite surprised to find Joique Bell still available, and despite his low-ish ceiling, Chris was not about to reach for the next available WR, Eric Decker, because he was the highest remaining WR that is slotted in the same round as Joqiue (albeit Joique was about 2 spots higher on the big board). Now Chris feels that he has a good collection of RBs and WRs, there is more flexibility to move around in the rounds where his league mates were fighting for Pierre or Rashad Jennings. Each round thereafter, Chris was able to change his strategy as needed.

While going into the draft, I was hoping that the RB craze would’ve helped me start off the draft with Julio, Alshon, and Michael Floyd, and then pick up a TE and QB, before turning my attention to RB. At the time I was extremely high on Michael Floyd, and thought that he would put up WR1 numbers based on opportunities, camp news, and perceived talent. If I had kept to that plan, I think I would be battling my league mates just to get my starting RB among the low-end tier 3 group. While it is not the perfect draft, using the board in such a way has given me more piece of mind than any other type of tools I have used in the past. The manner players are slotted, rarely made me feel like I reached, as opposed to a ranking where I always feel like I’m reaching if I’m considering players 12+ spots away from the top of the ADP.

A Big Board blends ADP, personal preference, tiering, positional ranking, and draft philosophy together, while giving you more room to be flexible. In the future, I hope to illustrate a big board that incorporates some of the well-known team building strategies.

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