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The Dynasty Draft Calculator - Rookie Picks

Since the dawn of trading draft picks, everyone has tried to determine the "fair value" for a particular selection. Calculators abound, including our very own David Dodds' Calculator found here. Unfortunately for leagues that span multiple years, these calculators have little or no value. So how can you adequately calculate what a draft pick is worth in these formats?

Dynasty vs. Redraft Leagues

First, you have to understand the difference between dynasty leagues and redraft leagues. In a redraft league, you are essentially posing the question of "how will Player X help me over the next few months?" In dynasty leagues, that question is in terms of years rather than months, as you keep players multiple seasons (perhaps their entire career). That is the essence of the problem - how do you quantify a multi-year value?

To attempt a solution to this problem, I sought out two different sources of information. The first was the only multi-year valuation chart that I know of that exists - the NFL Draft Pick Chart, which gives a numerical value to every pick in the NFL Draft. This chart is the most useful one to dynasty league players, since the NFL is in essence a dynasty league. The value of each pick factors in that the selected player is supposed to play for their club for years.

The second resource I needed was to answer the natural follow-up question, "how many years?" With the help of fellow Footballguys, I found a study performed at Dartmouth University regarding the average career length of an NFL player, both in aggregate and also broken down by position. Now, many would question the validity of using that data, as some would say that there is no way to predict the length of a selected player's career or that a first rounder may last longer than a fourth round selection, but that is precisely why I selected that chart. The chart is the length of an average NFL career regardless of the round they were drafted, or even if they were an undrafted player. The data may vary by round (and that would be an interesting study), but for the purposes of pick calculations I have assumed that all NFL rookies have the same expected length of career associated with their position.

Table 1 - Average Career Length of NFL Players

Position
Years
Quarterback
6.96
Running Back
4.35
Wide Receiver
4.54
Tight End
4.98
Defensive Lineman
5.05
Defensive Back
5.51
Linebacker
5.50
Place Kicker
8.33
Team Defense
n/a
All Positions
5.33

The Dynasty Factor

There are a few different variables that enter in to calculation of a pick value for a multi-year league. First is career length, but what about the league itself? How many teams are there? How big or small is the roster? How deep is the bench? How many starters? What matters, and by how much?

What I have done is rather complicated, but I have rolled all these numerous factors into a secret formula that produces a single number that I have labeled the "Dynasty Factor". The Dynasty Factor is the numerical value for your entire league, and it represents how valuable your draft picks are for your league. It can be used to compare different dynasty leagues with different rosters and starters, and gives an independent value to each league.

Rather than have everyone see the mathematical analysis and details of the "Secret Sauce", I will lay out some of the proportional relationships for the Dynasty Factor that you will see when you first start to use it. I will tell you that the following factors contribute to the Dynasty Factor in some way:

  1. Roster Size
  2. Number of Teams in the League
  3. Number of Starters
  4. Position(s) of Starters

The influence of each of these factors is complex, but I will attempt to give you a more intuitive feel for the tool as you start to take it for a test drive.

Roster Size - The pick values are indirectly proportional to your roster size. That is, as your roster size increases, the values decrease. To say it one more way, they are inversely related.

Why would that be? Well, if you have a deep bench, you can afford to put more rookies on your roster and wait for them to develop, so there is less pressure on you getting your picks right. You also have more room for veterans on your squad, so both factors reduce the pressure on getting the pick right (and right away), and thus the pick values go down accordingly. On the other hand, the Dynasty Factor goes up as your bench gets smaller. This makes sense - you have to "hit" on your rookies more often and they have to develop faster, else they will get cut in favor of other players. You don't have room to develop players over a period of years with a short bench.

Number of Teams in the League - As the number of teams increases, the value of the picks increase. Again, this passes the sanity check in that you have fewer draft picks and more teams are fighting for talent. Additionally, more players are rostered in the league and thus fewer talented players are available in free agency.

Number of Starters - As the number of starters increases (relative to your roster size), the bench gets shorter and the pressure on getting a good value in the draft goes up. This makes sense, as the rookie picks matter more when you start more players. Therefore, the value also goes up, and therefore Dynasty Factor is directly related to starters.

Position of Starters - This relationship is complicated, but suffice it to say that the more players that you have with shorter careers, the higher the Dynasty Factor for your league. This indicates the "rollover" of your roster, or how fast you have to churn talent through your team. If you are losing players every three or four years, you need a constant stream of young talent from the draft, increasing the value of your picks.

Note - The Dynasty Factor is NOT directly proportional to the ration of the number of starters divided my your team roster size. Why? Well, if you have 8 starters and 24 roster spots, finding starters is easier than if you have 16 starters and a bench of 48.

You Down With IDP? (Do You Know Me?)

Can the Dynasty Factor be used with IDP leagues? Absolutely. In fact, it shows something that many who play IDP probably already knew, but could not quantify. The addition of individual defensive players minimizes the impact of the offensive players, and also the typical influence of rookies.

Why would that be? Well, for one thing, many IDP leagues have roughly the same number of players on both sides of the ball. For example, that would mean eight IDPs for eight offensive players, minimizing any standout offensive player. In a regular league, Larry Johnson or Peyton Manning would be one out of only eight starters, but in the IDP example he is just one of out of 16, so his individual influence on the total team score is less in an IDP format than in a league that uses a team defense.

Examples

Let's go over the Dynasty Draft Pick Calculator and a few examples.

I have set up two typical leagues, a regular league with eight starters and a team defense, and another with 16 players, half IDP. Here are the respective Dynasty Factors (See Tables 2 and 3).

Table 2- Dynasty Typical League Starters and Roster Size

Dynasty - Typical
League Starters
QB
1
RB
2
WR
3
TE
1
PK
1
Team D
1
DL
0
LB
0
DB
0
Total
9
Roster Size
27
Dynasty Factor
3.466

Table 3 - Dynasty Typical IDP League Starters and Roster Size

Dynasty - Typical IDP
League Starters
QB
1
RB
2
WR
3
TE
1
PK
1
Team D
0
DL
2
LB
3
DB
3
Total
16
Roster Size
48
Dynasty Factor
2.663

As expected, the IDP league has a smaller Dynasty Factor.

We still need frames of reference to show how this really works. Let's compare the values of the first 100 Draft Picks for a Redraft League, the NFL Pick Chart, and the two leagues above (see Table 4).

Table 4 - Comparison of Pick Values

Pick
Footballguys
Redraft
Dynasty
Typical
Dynasty
Typical IDP
NFL
Chart
NFL Chart
Normalized
1
1889
1889.00
1889.00
3000
1889.00
2
1823
1669.93
1718.31
2600
1637.13
3
1759
1475.38
1562.32
2200
1385.27
4
1699
1308.16
1424.40
1800
1133.40
5
1642
1162.24
1300.66
1700
1070.43
6
1587
1032.79
1187.85
1600
1007.47
7
1535
920.16
1087.01
1500
944.50
8
1485
820.38
995.25
1400
881.53
9
1438
733.84
913.56
1350
850.05
10
1393
657.27
839.40
1300
818.57
11
1351
591.10
773.68
1250
787.08
12
1310
531.22
712.72
1200
755.60
13
1272
479.69
658.98
1150
724.12
14
1235
433.04
609.17
1100
692.63
15
1200
391.97
564.27
1050
661.15
16
1167
355.86
523.88
1000
629.67
17
1135
323.17
486.50
950
598.18
18
1105
294.51
453.00
900
566.70
19
1076
268.58
422.03
875
550.96
20
1049
245.93
394.41
850
535.22
21
1023
225.45
368.91
800
503.73
22
998
206.92
345.39
780
491.14
23
975
190.85
324.60
760
478.55
24
952
175.70
304.60
740
465.95
25
931
162.63
287.04
720
453.36
30
836
111.99
215.51
620
390.39
35
759
80.12
166.61
550
346.32
40
694
58.74
131.27
500
314.83
45
638
43.89
104.92
450
283.35
50
586
32.68
83.66
400
251.87
55
538
24.31
66.63
350
220.38
60
491
17.71
52.24
300
188.90
65
446
12.69
40.44
265
166.86
70
402
8.85
30.67
240
151.12
75
358
5.92
22.52
245
154.27
80
316
3.84
16.15
190
119.64
85
276
2.40
11.27
165
103.90
90
239
1.46
7.68
140
88.15
95
204
0.84
5.04
120
75.56
100
173
0.48
3.25
100
62.97

Lastly, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I agree based on the next chart. This is the graph of pick values for all four leagues, with the NFL pick chart normalized to the FBG chart (setting the #1 pick to the same value).

Figure 1 - Rookie Draft Pick Values

What can we take away from Figure 1? Well, The Normalized NFL Draft Chart (green) decreases in value far faster than the Footballguys Redraft Calculator (black and yellow), as we expected. The other two typical dynasty leagues are far steeper overall in the pick value. Is that expected? I would say without reservation that this is accurate, since the NFL chart includes non-skill position players such as offensive linemen and kickers, which last far longer. The skill position players (and their values) should decline rapidly, which is exactly what the graph shows. Looks like we have something here.

Let's Get It Started

Okay, enough already. What do I need to do to try this out?

First, here is the main screen for the Dynasty Draft Pick Calculator.

Figure 2 - The Dynasty Draft Pick Calculator - Rookie Values

You may download the calculator here. The screen above appears complicated, but it isn't as daunting as you may first think.

I have color-coded what you are expected to enter, starting with the orange, blue, and pink sections. In order:

  1. Orange - Enter the number of teams in your league and the starting positions, along with your total roster size.
  2. Blue - Enter the picks that you are considering trading away (the number of the pick in integer form, namely Pick 14, not 2.02 in a 12-team league).
  3. Pink - Enter the picks that you are looking to obtain in a trade (again in integer form)

That's it. The math works behind the scenes, as a Dynasty Factor is calculated for the league and the relative pick values are given to you as a result. You can enter up to eight picks on either side of the transaction, and the league size will adjust the selection to show it in the "round . pick" format (e.g. Pick 14 is 2.02).

The key sections to watch are your "% Diff." and the "Pick to Make Even" at the bottom of the screen. The color of the "% Difference" will change to reflect the calculator's opinion of the trade - red is a bad trade, green is a good one, and yellow indicates a fair trade (values are close enough).

A wrinkle I added is the "Pick to Make Even". If you enter the pick suggested here in the calculator on the suggested side (blue or pink), the suggested trade will result in close to equal value. This helps in trying to determine a fair trade.

Future Work

The Dynasty Factor is a brand new metric, and I hope it is revolutionary. I do know that it is evolutionary, and it will continue to be tweaked as I develop this calculation.

As far as I know, the Dynasty Calculator for Rookie Picks is a first of its kind. There may be some bugs to work out, but overall I am quite happy with how it turned out. Obviously further work can be done - there are other league variations (keepers, startup dynasty, veterans and rookies, etc.) to work on, as well as incorporating a few other wrinkles such as flex positions and other factors such as players already associated with teams in the league.

Reference:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/chance_news/recent_news/chance_news_11.02.html#item3

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