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Supply and Demand

Applying Supply and Demand Concepts to Tier-Based Drafting

The concept of supply and demand is not brand new – it goes way back when you look at basic economics.  If there is too much of something (excess supply), the price will go down, reflecting lower demand.  The opposite is very true, and we have seen “runs” on items when supply is cut off or short – look no further than basic human needs whenever a bad storm hits an area.  But when it comes to fantasy football, basic economics and drafting usually are not mixed.  I think that they should be, and I will attempt here to prove to you that supply and demand has a big, big impact on how you should build the best fantasy team possible.

I just mentioned “runs” in the opening of this article, which gives you one item where both supply and demand and fantasy football are intertwined.  Whether it is the last loaves of bread on the shelf at the supermarket before the next Sharknado is about to hit or the last few top running backs in your fantasy draft, a run can happen.  Everyone will make a play for the last few available, and may even “reach” for the next best thing for fear of not having anything of value left when they get their next chance.  The questions are this – can you both anticipate when the runs will happen, and can you avoid being caught with nothing left at the market when your chance comes up?

Before I answer those questions – and I will – we need to look at another approach that is used quite often in fantasy football draft preparation, which is called “Tiering”.  This is where you look at a list of players and sort them not just by projected fantasy points, but you go one step further and start to break down that list into groups of players, ranging from the elite group all the way down to deep sleepers, and several groups in between.  The idea here is to identify what groups of players are roughly interchangeable from a value standpoint, and which ones are a cut above (or below) their peers at that position.  Drafting strategy here is to avoid picking in a deep tier when your turn comes up and to pick one of the last few at a tier that is just about to dry up (such as taking the last elite running back and avoiding selecting from 10-15 wide receivers all available with roughly the same value). 

The problem with basic tiering is that you need to add a second dimension to your list, and I found that this is often not done.  It is one thing to say that there are 10 elite running backs, or that Jimmy Graham is in a league of his own at tight end, but when will these players likely be drafted and unavailable?  If you decide to take Graham with your top pick, is there any chance that your first tier of running backs will still be there?  What about wide receiver and quarterback – are those deep positions, and who can I expect to get if I wait at those positions?

This is where a picture is worth a thousand words.  I could go on and on about the tiers at each position and who should be in each one, but ultimately that is your call.  I want to create a simple method for you to use on draft day that can be done on one piece of paper (or printed spreadsheet, if you will) that can be your cheat sheet to help you dominate your draft.  As they say, give a man a fish and he can eat today, but teach him how to fish and he will eat forever.  So here I am, teaching you how to fish.

First, let’s start by defining tiers for each group of players – quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end.  Define the tiers however you like, but get started and use real projections to help you out.  The Footballguys’ VBD Excel App is a great option here.  I like it for starting this process, and you can cut and paste your list into my version of your own Supply and Demand List like the example I will give below.  Let’s start discussing the tiers that I used for this example (defining just the tiers, not who is in them), assuming a basic league setup of 12 teams:


Tier 1 – Elite QBs – These guys are a cut above the rest.

Tier 2 – Solid QB1 options – These are startable fantasy QB1s, and between this group and the Elite QBs you should have a number equal to the number of teams in your league. 

Tier 3 – Startable / committee QBs  – These are the guys you can use on a weekly basis, but it depends on the matchups. 

Tier 4 – QB2 / backups – Guys you can use for a bye week or an injury, but probably would be a questionable starter otherwise.

Running backs

Tier 1 – Elite RBs – These guys are a cut above the rest.

Tier 2 – Solid RB1 options – These are possible or probable RB1s, but at worst a solid RB2 option.

Tier 3 – Solid RB2 options – These are probable RB2s, and between the Top 3 groups you should have a number equal to the number of starting RBs in your league. 

Tier 4 – RB2 / Flex options – Guys you can use for a bye week or an injury, but probably would be a questionable starter otherwise.  If your league uses a flex option, a possible starter.

Tier 5 – RB3 / Flex options – A cut below Tier 4, but likely only of value for flex considerations.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1 – Elite WRs – These guys are a cut above the rest.

Tier 2 – Solid WR1 options – These are possible or probable WR1s, but at worst a solid WR2 option.

Tier 3 – Solid WR2 options – These are probable WR2s that are cut below Tier 2.

Tier 4 – WR3 options – Players with some WR2 upside, but most likely a WR3.  This tier will likely round out the total number of starting WRs in your league. 

Tier 5 – Flex position / bye week coverage – This tier covers the wide receivers with some WR3 upside to them, but more than likely they will only start on a bye week.  If your league uses a flex option, a possible starter.

Tight Ends

Tier 1 – Jimmy Graham - Far and away the best tight end this year.

Tier 2 – Elite TEs – These guys are a cut above the rest.

Tier 3 – Solid TE1 options – These are startable fantasy TE1s, with not too much downside risk.  High end starters at the tight end position.

Tier 4 – Startable / committee TEs  – These are the guys you can use on a weekly basis, but it depends on the matchups. 

Tier 5 – TE2 / backups – Guys you can use for a bye week or an injury, but probably would be a questionable starter otherwise.

For the purpose of my example today, I will use the following numbers of players in each tier:

  Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends
Tier 1 5 9 5 1
Tier 2 7 8 7 4
Tier 3 8 7 15 4
Tier 4 5 4 9 6
Tier 5   14 12 6

Table 1:  Example of 2012 Skill Position Players by Tier

So there’s the general grouping lesson in a nutshell, but we need a little more information to put this all together.  What you need to do next after you have defined your tiers is to look up the ADP for the last player on each tier.  That will give you an idea of what round that tier will run out.  Combine that ADP information with the tiers in a simple chart like the one below, with easy color coding to define each tier: 

Rnd Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends

Table 2:  A Combination View of Tiers vs. Rounds

Let’s take a quick look at Table 2.  By putting each tier on a chart, I can see when each tier is likely to run out.  That will help when making a decision on what player to pick when your turn is up.  Obviously you will take a player from a Tier 1 with your first pick, but that may be influenced by what will likely be available when your next turn comes up.  From a planning perspective you may want to think about taking a quarterback in Round 5, since that is the biggest Tier 1 on the chart.  Similarly, if you want to get three top running backs and the second tier is still very full at wide receiver, you may want to start with three running backs in your draft. 

A few interesting decisions jump off of the page.  Odds are that you will take a feature running back if available, but if they are all gone by your first pick, wide receiver is likely the best plan.  The first three picks should be running back or wide receiver, but that will very much depend on your draft spot and your league scoring rules.  Rounds 4 and 5 look like the best place to get a Tier 1 quarterback and a Tier 2 tight end, which should solidify those starters.  Starting off with 5 players from the top two tiers of each of their respective positions sounds like a great plan.  Now, if you decide that tight end is deeper than I project here, you could wait and grab more running back or wide receiver help.  Similarly, if you feel that a Tier 2 quarterback is just as good as a Tier 1 this year, waiting there is likely the best plan.  That is exactly why you need to look at your own particular league and set up your own chart.

Lastly, I will provide a chart that I would use for this approach on draft day, including the names of the players in each tier.  Note that I have removed Percy Harvin from Tier 4 for the wide receivers, reducing that group to eight players. Your version may look very different depending on starting lineup and scoring system, so plan accordingly.

Rnd Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends
1     Peterson Martin      
    Foster Charles Calvin Johnson   J. Graham
    Rice Spiller      
    McCoy T. Richardson A.J. Green Dez Bryant  
Rodgers Brees Lynch        
2     Forte A. Morris B. Marshall Julio Jones  
P. Manning Newton S. Jackson C. Johnson     Gronkowski
    R. Bush M. Jones-Drew      
3 Ryan   Sproles D. Murray D. Thomas Fitzgerald Witten
        A. Johnson Roddy White  
    Ridley McFadden R. Cobb V. Cruz Gonzalez
4     Gore D. Wilson V. Jackson    
    L. Miller L. Bell J. Nelson W. Welker V. Davis
    R. Mathews   Colston Bowe  
5         Amendola Wayne  
    Ivory M. Ball Nicks Decker  
Brady Stafford Bradshaw Vereen Garcon A. Brown  
6 Griffin III Luck     Wallace Torrey Smith  
Kaepernick Romo     Steve Smith Tavon Austin Greg Olsen
R. Wilson   Lacy G. Bernard James Jones    
7     Mendenhall A. Brown Greg Jennings Cecil Shorts K. Rudolph
    B. Green-Ellis D. Richardson Steve Johnson T.Y. Hilton  
E. Manning Andy Dalton Ingram J. Stewart Mike Williams DeSean Jackson Jared Cook
8     Bryce Brown Ben Tate Kenny Britt Miles Austin  
Roethlisberger Cutler D. Williams Woodhead      J. Finley
    B. Pierce R. Hillman Boldin J. Gordon  
9 Freeman Rivers     D. Alexander L. Moore  
        D. Moore Blackmon  
Flacco Bradford     Michael Floyd D. Hopkins  
10         E. Sanders V. Brown A. Gates
        K. Wright Sidney Rice O. Daniels
            M. Bennett
11             B. Myers
            B. Pettigrew
            J. Cameron
Vick Palmer         J. Gresham
            E. Dickson
14 Schaub Tannehill         D. Keller
            H. Miller
Alex Smith           F. Davis
15             D. Allen

Table 3:  Example of a Tier-Round Draft Sheet

However you approach your drafts, having one “Big Picture” reference during your draft can prove to be invaluable.  By having a list of all the names you want to draft in a tiered list with a view of what round each tier will likely drop off is one of the better methods I have used, and I highly recommend that you build one for yourself before Draft Day for your league.  You will be glad you did.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to