It’s fantasy football draft time again, and a sports analytics expert from the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business has a few tips that might help fantasy GMs build a better roster.
Jeffrey Ohlmann, a professor of business analytics, studies sequential decision-making problems with uncertainty, which is a technial way of saying deciding what to do when we don’t know what’s going to happen. Much of his research is about things like optimized truck routing or supply chain logistics, but as a sports fan, he also uses it to help develop sports draft strategies.
He also teaches a class, “Sports Analytics,” to introduce analytical tools by leveraging a topic that many students are naturally interested in.
“My goal is to show students how to formulate sports-related questions and then use data and math to try to answer them rather than just qualitatively debating them,” he says.
So what are his tips for building the best fantasy football team?
–Do your homework. Don’t just rely on last year’s statistics. Instead note things that have changed since. Which players will have different circumstances that may impact their performance? In particular, players with new coaches or teammates may see a spike or dive in performance.
–Play chess. Go into a draft with the awareness that you will not land every player you’ve earmarked. Your competition does research too! As your selection nears in each round, have a Plan B, C, D, and E so you don’t panic when your competition scoops up your player. Make contingency plans by keeping an eye on who might still be available in later rounds.
–In the early rounds, be a Warren Buffett and pick players whose “stock price” is justified by solid fundamentals and not speculation. Championships are not often won in the first two rounds, but they are often lost. After getting a solid foundation, then select the high-risk, high-reward players that may provide league-winning differentials – but select them where they are frosting, not cake.
–Draft defenses and kickers in the final rounds. While an elite defensive player or kicker may emerge, these positions are historically more difficult for even experts to project so it’s better to roll the dice with players at other positions. The difference between the best defensive player or kicker and the 10th best defensive player or kicker is typically smaller than for other positions.