Ranking No More: Building your Big Board

I have never been a fan of rankings, whether it is using them or creating them. The ranking system is perhaps one of the oldest and still most used tool in preparing fantasy owners for their drafts. I was asked to participate in creating a dynasty ranking list several times, this was about 2 years ago and I still haven’t finished that project. To my fortune, I stumbled across a strange new way of setting up a “cheatsheet” to help me prepare for my fantasy draft. Dr. Jene Bramel of Footballguys, often release his big board that he updates only once per year. His big board is mainly for rookie drafts, and if you know Dr. Bramel you know he loves his IDP. After relying on his rookie big boards for a year or so, I came up with the idea to create a full big board for my redraft/keeper leagues. Seemed like a good idea, since NFL GMs use their big board (though later I found out theirs look nothing like the one I have in mind).

I would be lying to you if I said that building a big board is leaps and bounds easier and more enjoyable than putting together a ranking. It was actually just more painstaking to put together than a ranking…the first time around. As I continue to practice this art of Big Board Building, it became much easier and I kept finding ways to improve my draft every time. There are some advantages I found Big Boards to have over traditional ranking system. First, a big board provides a visual representation of how players are valued against one another. Sometimes you may feel that several players of different positions carry the same value. In a big board, you have the ability to reflect that, whereas in a ranking it is not shown. Second, a big board has a lot of flexibility and you can easily move players around (especially if you use excel). This is very useful in case of injuries or suspensions before your actual draft happens; you can just remove player from your board. Third, while ADP still influences the way you construct a big board, you will find that you are less compelled to be tempted by the site’s ADP and you can follow your personal value more closely. For example, don’t like John Doe in round 5? With big board, you can place John Doe in round 7. If he for any reason falls to the 7th round, now you know he’s right on value. If he doesn’t? You know you didn’t unnecessarily reached. Lastly, the process of making a big board is just more fun overall. These are only some of the advantages I can think of for now.

Before I tell you how to start building one, let me say that there is NO such thing as a perfect cheatsheet. Any tools is subject to human opinions and personal values, so this is no guarantee that you will have the strongest team or that it will insulate your players from any season-ending injury (that would just be silly). From personal experience, I can say I have found more success relying on a big board than the traditional ranking system. If the ranking system works for you, then I suppose you can stop reading, and go to the website’s rankings that is already published for you to use. For others who want to be adventurous, let’s dig in!

  1. Start with a Tier System

The first step is an optional, yet useful, step in building your big board. I say optional, because I was able to build a big board without doing a tiering system. Still, I think as a novice tiering can prove to be useful and enhance your big board in a big way. Tiering, as I just learned on the IDP playbook podcast, is a more useful in IDP types of draft preparations. Below is an example of a rookie cornerback IDP tier system:

Tier 1 (Instant Starters)
Marcus Peters
Eric Rowe
Kevin Johnson
Trae Waynes
Tier 2 (Potential Starters)
Ronald Darby
PJ Williams
Jalen Collins
Alex Carter
Craig Mager

A tier system does not take into account draft rounds, which makes it ideal for you to know which player will be worth letting fall or which ones is worth reaching for before you assign a draft pick value to the players. Tiering is also very useful for auction draft leagues, because you can assign a max amount to designate to a certain tier and ensure you don’t overpay.

Here is a sample of my tier system that you are free to use and modify as you see fit.

Dynasty QB tier:
Elite tier – Andrew Luck; Aaron Rodgers
Great tier – Cam Newton; Russel Wilson; Matt Ryan ; Ben Roethlisberger
Tier jumpers – Ryan Tannehill; Teddy Bridgewater; Jameis Winston
Good tier – Tony Romo; Tom Brady; Philip Rivers; Drew Brees; Matthew Stafford
Young upside tier – Jameis Winston; Marcus Mariota; Derek Carr; Blake Bortles; Jimmy Garrapolo
Short term tier – Peyton Manning; Carson Palmer; Sam Bradford; Jay Cutler; RG3
Average tier – Andy Dalton; Joe Flacco; Eli Manning
Below average tier – Nick Foles; Alex Smith; Ryan Mallet/Brian Hoyer
Stash and Wait tier – Brock Osweiler; Brett Hundley; Garrett Grayson; Sean Mannion
Desperate tier – Geno Smith; Josh McCown; Buffalo QB; Johnny Manziel

Without the influence of ADP, this tier system actually gives me a good sense of which players I want to target and which players I am okay losing out on. Additionally, you can even change the names of each tier to make it fun and unique to yourself. For example,

Dynasty QB tier (according to Steak):
Wagyu tier – Andrew Luck; Aaron Rodgers
Filet Mignon tier – Cam Newton; Russel Wilson; Matt Ryan ; Ben Roethlisberger
T-Bone tier – Ryan Tannehill; Teddy Bridgewater; Jameis Winston
Sirloin tier – Tony Romo; Tom Brady; Philip Rivers; Drew Brees; Matthew Stafford
Your first assignment is to design a tier system for every position relevant to your league, even DST (you can skip the kickers but if you have time on your hand do that, and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two).

In the next part you will start constructing the outline of your Big Board


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