The Importance of Draft Order in Fantasy Football

Many team owners feel they can achieve a competitive advantage if they are able to get one of the first three picks of a fantasy football draft. But does draft order actually have a significant effect on the final standings in fantasy football? To answer this question, one needs to find empirical evidence from which to draw a conclusion.

In another article at Fantasy Football Impact entitled, “The Fantasy Football Playoffs: You Can Make It, So Never Give Up !” I discussed how participating in 46 public fantasy football leagues in one season provided insight on fantasy success based on regular season wins and playoff seeding. Of those 46 leagues, 39 were standard draft leagues and seven were auction leagues. Data gathered from these 10-team standard draft leagues, displayed in the table below, revealed information that most team owners would not normally be able to find – final standings by draft pick.

Final Standings by Draft Pick

Draft
Pick
1st
Place
2nd
Place
3rd
Place
4th
Place
5th
Place
6th
Place
7th
Place
8th
Place
9th
Place
10th
Place
Total39393939393939393939
13835234731
23175354452
33657241254
44561737321
54355834034
66344434524
74523434527
83223354179
95122274754
104534433553

Draft Order Doesn’t Matter?

Upon closer examination of the table above, it is fairly obvious that draft order had little effect as no particular draft pick experienced success more than any other. In fact, teams that had the #1 draft pick tended to finish in either 2nd or 8th place more than twice as often as 1st place. Teams with the #2 draft pick were more likely to finish in 3rd, 4th, 6th or 9th place than in 1st place. The teams with the #6 draft pick, however, finished in 1st place twice as often as those teams with the #1, #2 or #3 draft pick. Even though the sample size is relatively small (39 leagues), those teams who finished in first place are fairly well distributed among all ten draft pick positions.

The only draft pick to have a negative result with regard to final standings was the #8 draft pick. The teams with the #8 draft pick finished in 9th or 10th place in 41% of the leagues (16/39).

The fact that the table above shows no apparent correlation between draft order and final standings intuitively makes sense because there are so many other factors that can affect the final standings besides draft order. One factor is that Yahoo! public drafts (the internet service I use) incorporate a serpentine path. The purpose of the serpentine path is to balance out the player talent across all teams by reversing the draft order at the end of each round as shown in the table below. Notice how “Team J” gets two picks in a row – pick #10 at the end of Round 1 and pick #11 to start Round 2. The same occurs for “Team A” at the end of Round 2 and the beginning of Round 3 with picks #20 and #21.

RoundTeam
A
Team
B
Team
C
Team
D
Team
E
Team
F
Team
G
Team
H
Team
I
Team
J
1Pick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8Pick 9PIck 10
220191817161514131211
321222324252627282930
440393837363534333231

Another factor is that fantasy football teams are made up more than just one player. Yahoo! public league teams are comprised of 15 players – nine starters (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, K and DEF) and six bench/reserve spots. The fact that rosters include 15 players dilutes the importance of any one position, even if one of them was the overall #1 pick of the draft.

Other factors that can affect final standings include player performance and level of consistency, player injuries, in-season roster management and quality of league opponents.

Considering all these factors, a team owner should not feel advantaged or disadvantaged based solely on their placement in the draft order. Team owners can be successful from any draft position by making wise decisions with each pick and by shrewdly managing their teams throughout the season.

Related articles at Fantasy Football Impact:

Return to the Drafting Strategies overview page

The Importance of Draft Order in Fantasy Football

Disclaimer: Fantasy football is a game of speculation; therefore, Fantasy Football Impact disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, regarding player performance or results associated with its opinions or advice.