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  • Writer's pictureAaron Clanton


Every avid fantasy football player has been caught in a situation during a draft where they are deciding between two players that are ranked the same at their positions. The decision, usually between a wide receiver and running back, often comes down to roster construction at that point in the draft, but should it? If you always go with the player that fills out your roster “better,” you may be missing out on value. The value of the best player at every position can be debated as to whether or not they are equal to each other. That argument fades, however, as you get deeper into the positional depth charts. This is where tier-based rankings come into play and can give you an advantage in your leagues.

The general idea of placing players into tiers is to establish a value independent of their positional rankings. As I alluded to before, the difference between QB-10 and RB-10 is a huge difference. The 10th best running back is an every week starter, no questions asked, while the 10th best quarterback could be a fringe guy who has had a couple good weeks but isn’t consistent. The investment in these players is different as well, as the 10th best running back will likely cost a 1st round pick and the 10th best quarterback could be an 8th round selection. While this may be an obvious point to make, it becomes more difficult as you go deeper in the draft.

Constructing your tier list consists of a few steps. The first thing you need to do is select a set of rankings you like, whether that is your own rankings, or a compiled list based on a few of the experts such as, maybe, the Fantasy DayDreamers. Then go through that list and divide the players into sections of where you think there is a value drop-off. For example, if you believe that the only running back worthy of the number one pick in your draft is Christian McCaffrey and there is no one else you’d take in that spot, then he is in a tier of his own. Now, while that situation is not the norm, you don’t want to have 10-15 players in a tier because that's the other end of the spectrum. The average tier should have around 4-8 players. There also needs to be distinguishing factors that separate players in your tiers, whether that’s an injury risk that knocks a player to a lower-than-expected tier or even just a disbelief in a player in general. Having tiers allows you to know when you need to address specific roster spots, such as whether taking a running back in tier 3 is better than selecting a tier 2 wide receiver. These are ways to give you an idea of where you feel comfortable taking players and whether you need to address a position before you have a tier drop-off.

The main takeaway from tier-based rankings is that you want to establish a way to distinguish the value of players from different positions and make sure you are taking advantage of the value presented. While it isn’t always plain and simple as taking a player you have in the highest remaining tier level, it can allow you to visualize what you need to address based on your team needs. The easiest way to get a feel for how this works is to compile your tiers and then try it out on some mock drafts. If you find that you are reaching for players or don’t like the way your team is looking, you can go back and adjust what needs to be fixed. It’s not an exact science, but it will definitely improve your drafting skills and take some of the pressure off when you’re on the clock. Use this strategy to your advantage and as always, stay dreamin’!

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