2014 Fantasy Football Strategy: Permutation Drafting Advantageous

By Sean Cordy
nfl draft fantasy football 2014
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Though there’s no draft strategy that can ensure with 100 percent certainty that you’ll win your league, fantasy football enthusiasts seem to think there is some magical answer. We can only approximate what will come of the NFL season, never knowing who will be the stud no one saw coming and who will tear their ACL after a week. But as magicians and illusionists have been doing for centuries, we can use science and raw data to make the most of the said unstable NFL environment.

As fantasy owners, we often times take a look at team and player stats to make assumptions of what the upcoming season has in store. That’s fine; it’s the beauty of predicting in fantasy sports. But there’s really no use in predicting anything if you can’t apply it correctly during your draft. That’s where many GMs go wrong: They don’t make selections as scientifically as when predicting player stats.

We can talk around a table for hours about who will likely go where and who’s a steal at certain average-draft-positions, but you never truly know if your selection in a given round is truly worth your selection. You go in with a set idea of taking a RB first, followed by a pair of WRs and holding off on your QB until the 9th round because that’s where players like Tony Romo can be drafted. The list goes on. This is a very misguided interpretation of a draft. That’s where permutation drafting comes into play.

Stripping it down its core, permutation drafting is a system that takes into account every possible pick you can make in your draft. The system will look at every possible combination of picking positions (i.e. RB, WR, RB, TE, QB) and then cross reference each of the possible positional picks with players drafted in a given round.

In my example, I have  the system looking at the RBs first. That means the computer will only recognize players drafted within the range of players in the first round until your next pick. So if you have the sixth pick in a league of ten, then the system will tell you which RB is your optimal selection based on their ADP and projected points.  The system will do this for all of your picks and then calculate which combination of players/positions will be the most valuable.

This video does a good job of visually explaining the system:


As the draft continues, the system will automatically recognize which players are most valuable at any given time (and which positions can be waited on due to players being selected before your pick). Using this system, you no longer need to worry about a player you really liked being taken, because even if he is selected, the system will automatically give you the best replacement pick. You might think this is essentially manually operating an autopick draft, but it’s a system that can be tailored to your player projections.

While it can’t guarantee fantasy league domination (due to many unknown variables in football), it takes out the need to “read the room” anymore and replaces it with a much more complex and efficient process, providing the a basis for a championship season. The rest of the season is in your hands with transactions and replacing players on your team.

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