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Third Round Reversal of Fortune - 12 Teams

  Posted 8/4 by Jeff Pasquino, Exclusive to Footballguys.com

Not every redraft league is created equal. If you've played fantasy football for a couple of years or longer, you probably have realized that there are advantages to getting the first pick. In the past few years, the first two or three draft picks have provided many fantasy teams with a competitive advantage. Just take a look at most teams that made the playoffs or even won their leagues with LaDainian Tomlinson last season and you will know exactly what we are talking about. Everyone wants the #1 RB every year, and this year is no different.

What are leagues doing to try and strike a competitive balance? Some leagues are going to an auction format where everyone can buy whomever they like as long as they are willing to spend for him, but not every league can manage to get all the owners together or even agree to do an auction. Still others are looking at a different way to set up the draft order to assist the teams drafting near the end of Round 1 that go beyond the traditional normal "serpentine" or "snake" draft format.

In this series of articles we will take a look at how these draft orders differ from one another, and just how much they do to creating better balance and make the draft fairer for each owner. However, before we get into each format, we need to set a baseline for values so that we can have a frame of reference.

May I Take Your Order?

Before we go too far, we need to define the different draft approaches that are out there:

  1. Normal Serpentine ("Snake") Draft Order - This is the one that everyone has seen and is the most common draft style. The even rounds are the reverse order of the odd, meaning that if you pick first overall you go last in Round 2 and then first again in Round 3. That order continues back and forth as the draft "snakes" down the draft board, hence the name.

  2. Third Round Reversal - Often abbreviated "3RR", this alternative draft method has gained popularity in recent years, mostly because two national contests (NFFC and Rotobowl) have adopted this format. Third Round Reversal looks exactly like a snake draft except that the first two rounds are reversed. The person who drafts first in Round 1 goes last in Round 2 AND Round 3, meaning that the person going last in Round 1 goes first in Round 2 and Round 3 - hence the "flip". After that change in Round 3, it continues to snake down the draft board, just like before, so the twist occurs between Rounds 2 and 3.

  3. Third Round Serpentine or "Banzai" - "Banzai" is an alternative draft method has gained popularity in recent years. This style is often confused with Third Round Reversal (See #2), but it is actually a much simpler draft format. Only Round 3 is reversed from the original "snake" draft order, so the person going last in Round 1 gets to go first in Rounds 2, 3 and 4. The owner who has the first overall pick doesn't start a round again until Round 5.

  4. Double Serpentine or "Double Snake" - This is yet another alternative to drafting where the owner who goes last in Round 1 leads off Rounds 2 and 3, but then the owner who started Round 1 gets to start Rounds 4 and 5. This continues for the remainder of the draft (two rounds match each other in order, then they switch for two) and the draft board looks like a snake draft except it twists back every two rounds instead of one.

If you didn't follow all of that, don't worry. I'll add some pictures to illustrate each type in a minute.

What is "Fair"?

In order to see how balanced each of these approaches are, we first need to define a value for each pick. There's no better way around that I've found than just plugging each pick into a Pick Value Calculator, such as the one found at Footballguys. Of course everyone's opinion on what each pick is really worth can vary from year to year, but the calculator value method at least gives us an idea of a typical value for each pick. Even better news is that we will use these values to evaluate each method, so it will be more of an "apples to apples" comparison.

Now that we have a value basis, we can jump right in and evaluate each of these different draft orders and see how this all shapes up. Below you will find four tables, one for each format, for a 12-team, 16-round draft (beyond 16 rounds the value is insignificant). To make it easier to follow, I've color-coded the rounds. Those that are highlighted in yellow are the rounds where the order is reversed.

Table 1 - Normal "Snake" / Serpentine Draft

Rnd
Team Number
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
1889
1823
1759
1699
1642
1587
1535
1485
1438
1393
1351
1310
2
952
975
998
1023
1049
1076
1105
1135
1167
1200
1235
1272
3
931
910
890
872
853
836
820
804
788
773
759
745
4
606
616
627
638
648
660
671
682
694
707
719
732
5
596
586
576
566
557
547
538
528
519
510
500
491
6
384
393
402
410
419
428
437
446
455
464
473
482
7
375
367
358
350
341
333
325
316
308
300
292
284
8
197
204
211
217
224
231
239
246
253
261
268
276
9
191
185
179
173
167
161
156
151
146
141
136
131
10
88
91
94
97
100
103
107
111
114
118
122
127
11
86
83
81
79
77
75
73
72
70
69
67
66
12
57
57
58
59
59
60
61
61
62
63
64
65
13
56
56
55
55
54
53
53
52
52
51
50
49
14
34
36
37
39
40
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
15
32
31
29
27
25
23
21
20
18
16
14
12
16
0
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Table 2 - Third Round Reversal ("3RR")

Rnd
Team Number
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
1889
1823
1759
1699
1642
1587
1535
1485
1438
1393
1351
1310
2
952
975
998
1023
1049
1076
1105
1135
1167
1200
1235
1272
3
745
759
773
788
804
820
836
853
872
890
910
931
4
732
719
707
694
682
671
660
648
638
627
616
606
5
491
500
510
519
528
538
547
557
566
576
586
596
6
482
473
464
455
446
437
428
419
410
402
393
384
7
284
292
300
308
316
325
333
341
350
358
367
375
8
276
268
261
253
246
239
231
224
217
211
204
197
9
131
136
141
146
151
156
161
167
173
179
185
191
10
127
122
118
114
111
107
103
100
97
94
91
88
11
66
67
69
70
72
73
75
77
79
81
83
86
12
65
64
63
62
61
61
60
59
59
58
57
57
13
49
50
51
52
52
53
53
54
55
55
56
56
14
48
47
46
45
44
43
42
40
39
37
36
34
15
12
14
16
18
20
21
23
25
27
29
31
32
16
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
0

Table 3 - Third Round Flip / "Banzai"

Rnd
Team Number
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
1889
1823
1759
1699
1642
1587
1535
1485
1438
1393
1351
1310
2
952
975
998
1023
1049
1076
1105
1135
1167
1200
1235
1272
3
745
759
773
788
804
820
836
853
872
890
910
931
4
606
616
627
638
648
660
671
682
694
707
719
732
5
596
586
576
566
557
547
538
528
519
510
500
491
6
384
393
402
410
419
428
437
446
455
464
473
482
7
375
367
358
350
341
333
325
316
308
300
292
284
8
197
204
211
217
224
231
239
246
253
261
268
276
9
191
185
179
173
167
161
156
151
146
141
136
131
10
88
91
94
97
100
103
107
111
114
118
122
127
11
86
83
81
79
77
75
73
72
70
69
67
66
12
57
57
58
59
59
60
61
61
62
63
64
65
13
56
56
55
55
54
53
53
52
52
51
50
49
14
34
36
37
39
40
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
15
32
31
29
27
25
23
21
20
18
16
14
12
16
0
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Table 4 - Double Serpentine / "Double Snake"

Rnd
Team Number
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
1889
1823
1759
1699
1642
1587
1535
1485
1438
1393
1351
1310
2
952
975
998
1023
1049
1076
1105
1135
1167
1200
1235
1272
3
745
759
773
788
804
820
836
853
872
890
910
931
4
732
719
707
694
682
671
660
648
638
627
616
606
5
596
586
576
566
557
547
538
528
519
510
500
491
6
384
393
402
410
419
428
437
446
455
464
473
482
7
284
292
300
308
316
325
333
341
350
358
367
375
8
276
268
261
253
246
239
231
224
217
211
204
197
9
191
185
179
173
167
161
156
151
146
141
136
131
10
88
91
94
97
100
103
107
111
114
118
122
127
11
66
67
69
70
72
73
75
77
79
81
83
86
12
65
64
63
62
61
61
60
59
59
58
57
57
13
56
56
55
55
54
53
53
52
52
51
50
49
14
34
36
37
39
40
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
15
12
14
16
18
20
21
23
25
27
29
31
32
16
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
0

Snakes are too Plain

So what does it all mean? What format is best, and which has the best distribution of value?

For that answer, we have to do a little bit of math. We are still putting faith in the values of the picks here, but again this is an apples-to-apples comparison across all four formats, so it should even itself out.

To determine what system appears to have the most equitable distribution of value, I will take a look at the overall totals for each Team's draft picks in each format as well as the first four, six, eight, ten and finally twelve picks. By taking this approach, we can see if the distribution of values is uniform throughout the draft(s) and if there is any favoritism towards any of the teams by choosing one method over another.

Here are the results:

Table 5: Value Distributions for All Formats - 12 Teams

Rnd
Snake
3RR
3RF
Double Snake
High
Low
%dif
High
Low
%dif
High
Low
%dif
High
Low
%dif
First 4
4378
4059
8%
4318
4110
5%
4245
4143
2%
4318
4110
5%
First 6
5358
5032
6%
5291
5088
4%
5218
5118
2%
5298
5084
4%
First 8
5930
5592
6%
5851
5657
3%
5778
5682
2%
5858
5653
4%
First 10
6209
5850
6%
6109
5928
3%
6036
5946
2%
6246
6055
3%
First 12
6352
5981
6%
6240
6065
3%
6167
6081
1%
6442
6283
3%
Total
6474
6100
6%
6359
6187
3%
6288
6203
1%
6662
6526
2%

So starting with the "Snake" version, we see that there is a bias at the early part of the draft towards the team that picks first, and it is pretty big (8% value difference). At every breakpoint, Team #1 is always the first in value and Team #12 is dead last.

The next best solution for a 12 team draft is the Third Round Reversal method, which has a 5% difference at the onset but tapers down to a 3% difference by the end of Round 8 and stays there for the rest of the draft. The interesting part about this method is not that the #1 Team has the highest value, but which team has the lowest value. For the first eight rounds it is Team #10, then after 10 rounds it is Team #9, and then for 12 rounds and beyond it is Team #8 that has the biggest disadvantage.

An even better distribution comes from the Double-Snake format, which closely resembles the results for the Third Round Reversal approach. That makes sense as the first four rounds for each are identical. Even the breakdown of which teams are the least advantageous match, with the same pattern occurring across Teams #10, #9 and #8 for the worst values. The slight difference in values reduces the net result by the end of the draft to closer to 2% than 3%, but the difference is very small.

Finally, the clear winner is Third Round Flip, or "Banzai" style of drafting. Right at the start after four rounds, the variation is just 2% in point values and it even gets smaller as the draft progresses, ultimately approaching just 1% difference. The best team is still #1, but the worst team is now Team #6, but again the separation between all teams is nearly gone.

After all this number-crunching, it seems rather safe to say that the Third Round Flip is the fairest approach to drafting for 12 teams.

KDS - One?

Some leagues are now using these advanced methods of distributing draft picks and rounds in combination with something called "Kentucky Derby Selection", or KDS. What is that, you ask? Well, as you may have guessed, this process is modeled after the famous horse race by the same name. The Kentucky Derby holds a lottery before the big race to determine who gets the first pick of starting gates. Some horses prefer to start on the inside or the outside, and some in the middle. The point is, since each owner has their own personal preferences, the lottery does not automatically give the first horse the first starting gate - but rather the choice of any starting gate available. This follows for the second, third and fourth horses, and so on until all gates are filled.

"KDS" is named after the Kentucky Derby, but it is not alone in using the process. KDS is viewed in the world of horse racing as a fair and equitable way to give out starting gates. Practically every major horse race uses the same or similar process. Fantasy football leagues using KDS adopt the same principle - since not every owner would want to pick first, the winner of the KDS-style lottery gets to decide which draft slot he or she prefers for their fantasy draft. Each owner submits their list of draft slots (1-12) in the order of most to least desirable.

Using that same principle, I will describe now the most desirable draft positions from a value perspective and what the ideal KDS order should be for a 12-team league:

Table 6: Ideal KDS Slot Rankings Based on Value for All Formats - 12 Teams

Rnds
Snake Ideal Order
3RR Ideal Order
First 4
1 to 12
1-8, 12, 9, 11, 10
First 6
1 to 12
1-7, 12, 8, 9 and 11 (tied), 10
First 8
1 to 12
1-7, 12, 8 and 11 (tied), 9, 10
First 10
1 to 12
1-6, 12, 7, 11, 10, 8, 9
First 12
1 to 12
1-5, 12, 6, 11, 7, 10, 9, 8
Total
1 to 12
1-5, 12, 6, 11, 7, 10, 9, 8
Rnds
3RF / "Banzai" Ideal Order
Double Snake Ideal Order
First 4
12, 11, 1, 10, 2, 9, 3, 8, 4, 10, 5 and 6 (tied)
1-8, 12, 9, 11, 10
First 6
12, 11, 1, 10, 2, 9, 3, 8, 4, 10, 5, 6
1-8, 12, 9, 11, 10
First 8
12, 11, 1, 10, 2, 9, 3, 4 and 8 (tied), 7, 5, 6
1-7, 12, 8, 9 and 11 (tied), 10
First 10
12, 1, 11, 2, 10, 3, 9, 4, 8, 5, 7, 6
1-6, 12, 7, 11, 8, 9 and 10 (tied)
First 12
12, 1, 2, 11, 3 and 10 (tied), 4, 9, 5, 8, 7, 6
1-4, 12, 5, 6 and 11 (tied), 10, 7, 9, 8
Total
1, 12,  2, 11, 3. 10, 4, 9, 5, 8, 7, 6
1-3, 12, 4, 11, 5, 10, 6, 9, 7, 8

As always, feedback is welcome at pasquino@footballguys.com.