Third Round Reversal of Fortune (16 Teams)
By Jeff Pasquino
July 12th, 2011

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

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

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

Table 4 - Double Serpentine / "Double Snake"

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

Rnd
Snake
3RR
3RF
Double Snake
High
Low
%dif
High
Low
%dif
High
Low
%dif
High
Low
%dif
First 4
3936
3504
12%
3895
3542
10%
3754
3612
4%
3895
3542
10%
First 6
4579
4128
11%
4519
4182
8%
4397
4240
4%
4538
4167
9%
First 8
4842
4353
11%
4744
4434
7%
4660
4471
4%
4763
4422
8%
First 10
4957
4466
11%
4857
4548
7%
4775
4584
4%
4878
4535
8%
Total
5001
4504
11%
4895
4590
7%
4819
4622
4%
4916
4578
7%

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 (12% value difference). At every breakpoint, Team #1 is always the first in value and Team #16 is dead last.

The next best solution for a 16 team draft is the Double Snake format, which has a 10% difference at the onset but tapers down to a 7% difference by the end of Round 12. 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 six rounds in the Double Snake, Team #15 (not the last team, Teams #16) was last. After eight rounds and for the remainder of the draft, Team #14 had the biggest draft disadvantage.

An even better distribution comes from the Third Round Reversal method, which has a 10% difference at the onset but tapers down to a 7% 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 four rounds it is Team #15, then after six rounds it is Team #14, and then for eight rounds and beyond it is Team #13 that has the biggest disadvantage.

Finally, the clear winner is Third Round Flip, or "Banzai" style of drafting. Right at the start after four rounds, the variation is just 4% in point values and it remains at 4% as the draft progresses. The best team is still #1, but the worst team is now Team #9 for the first six rounds. After eight rounds have passed, Team #11 becomes the least advantageous team and remains in last place for the rest of the draft.

After all this number-crunching, it seems rather safe to say that the Third Round Flip is the fairest approach to drafting for 16 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 (1-16) 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 16-team league:

Table 6: Ideal KDS Slot Rankings Based on Value for All Formats - 16 Teams

Rnds
Snake Ideal Order
3RR Ideal Order
First 4
1 to 16
1-13, 16, 14, 15
First 6
1 to 16
1-12, 16, 13, 15, 14
First 8
1 to 16
1-10, 16, 11, 15, 12 and 14 (tied), 13
First 10
1 to 16
1-10, 16, 11, 15, 12 and 14 (tied), 13
First 12
1 to 16
1-10, 16, 15, 11, 14, 12, 13
Total
1 to 16
1-10, 16, 15, 11, 14, 12, 13
Rnds
3RF / "Banzai" Ideal Order
Double Snake Ideal Order
First 4
1-3, 16, 4, 15, 5, 14, 6, 13, 7, 12, 8, 11-9
1-13, 16, 14, 15
First 6
1-3, 16, 4, 15, 5, 14, 6, 7, 13, 12, 8, 10 and 11 (tied), 9
1-13, 16, 14, 15
First 8
1-4, 16, 5, 15, 6, 7, 15, 8 and 11 (tied), 12, 9, 10, 11
1-11, 16, 12, 15, 13, 14
First 10
1-4, 16, 5, 15, 6, 7, 15, 8 and 11 (tied), 12, 9 and 10 (tied), 11tied)
1-11, 16, 12, 15, 13, 14
First 12
1-5, 16, 6, 15, 7, 14, 8, 13, 9 and 10 and 12 (tied), 11
1-11, 16, 12, 15, 13, 14
Total
1-5, 16, 6, 15, 7, 14, 8, 13, 9 and 10 and 12 (tied), 11
1-11, 16, 12, 15, 13, 14

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

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