Fantasy Football: What Are the Odds a Specific Player Will Fall to You in Your Draft?
As someone with the courage of a small bag of flour, I've never been one to play chicken. The thought of driving my car at another car, hoping they eventually divert off the path, is not overly attractive. I'll happily be the one backing off, guiding my rusty Toyota Corolla to safety at the blazing rate of five under the speed limit.
There, the risk (getting my face smashed by a speeding ball of tin) outweighs the reward (literally nothing). But in a fantasy football draft, the equation is a bit different.
Let's say there's a player you really want on your roster. We'll use Stefon Diggs as an example. You love Diggs and need to own him no matter what.
In theory, you could burn your first-round pick on Diggs. He's a third-round pick, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, so he'd definitely be available to you there. That is something you could do.
But why would you? You clearly don't need to take Diggs there, no matter where you're drafting in the first round. You might not need to take him in the second, either.
If you wait until the third round to take Diggs, you get him plus a first-round pick and a second-round pick of your choosing. If you pull the trigger on Diggs earlier, the quality of player you get in those other slots will go down, all while Diggs' output remains unchanged.
This is a super obvious theory, and you know you don't have to go with Diggs in the first round, no matter how badly you want him. But there's value in knowing just how long you can wait on each player before making that dive.
That's where math can come into play. The fine folks at the aforementioned Fantasy Football Calculator publish both the average pick and standard deviation for each player throughout the draft. Just using those two tools alone can tell you the exact odds that a player is available at a certain pick in the draft.
Once you know this, you can better assess how long you can wait before picking the player you want. Waiting as long as humanly possible allows you to maximize the value of that player and bolster your roster elsewhere. There is some risk in this game of chicken, but the upside is a fantasy football championship.
Let's go back to the Diggs example. Based on Fantasy Football Calculator's data, his average pick in a 12-team, half-PPR draft is 27.6 with a standard deviation of 3.1 picks. If you have the 2nd overall pick in that draft (meaning you would then pick 23rd overall in the 2nd round and 26th overall in the 3rd), there's a 69.71% chance that Diggs is still available when you pick in the 3rd round. Those aren't bad odds at all.
Conversely, someone like T.Y. Hilton would have just a 48.58% chance of being there for you in the 3rd. So if you wanted both, you could snag Hilton in the second and Diggs in the third, but flipping those two around likely would not work. That's the advantage to knowing the odds a player will be available when you pick.
As such, below you will find links to spreadsheets that show these pick odds based on what type of league you're in. Unfortunately, because these are for the public, you won't be able to edit them as they are.
Instead, what's recommended is that you download the sheets for yourself. After going to the league size and format you want, click "File" in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Scroll down to "Download As" and select "Microsoft Excel."
Once you do this, you'll be able to tailor the sheet to your specific draft slots. Instead of having the pick probabilities in increments of five on the top, you can edit them to reflect your picks (i.e. 2nd, 23rd, 26th, etc). This will be the more actionable data for your draft. You can also use the filters on the sheet to see just one specific position if you would like.
These sheets will be updated again the next two weeks to reflect changes in ADP after the next few preseason games. But Fantasy Football Calculator -- the true MVP here -- updates each day and is a great resource for your drafts.
Without further ado, here are the league-specific spreadsheets with pick probability odds.
These can be your guide to playing that delicate game of chicken appropriately. "Guide" is the key word there.
At the end of the day, each draft is going to be different. If your league is snatching up wide receivers like nobody's business, you're probably not getting A.J. Green in the third round. It's moreso a broad look at what to expect.
Additionally, some players are going to be good enough values where you don't want to wait until their availability odds approach 50%. If you really want John Brown and have him well above everybody else in that tier, it's okay to reach a bit more there. That's a harder sell early in the draft, but the later you get, the more acceptable it becomes to reach.
The most volatile positions will be quarterback and tight end because they depend so much on the tendencies of your leaguemates. This is baked into the probabilities (those positions will have higher standard deviations than the others), but it's something to keep in mind as you're drafting.
Getting proper value on every player is not necessary to win a championship. There are so many other things that go into a successful fantasy football team, and a lot of them happen after the draft is over. But if you can squeeze extra value out of each pick you make, you are making your team better, and you are increasing the odds that you hit paydirt. That's something that should be alluring for each and every one of us.