If you are like me and love IDP, you are probably thirsting for knowledge on how to value Defensive Players. Conventional wisdom and “common sense” leads us to value Offense over Defense. When choosing between a Day 1 wide receiver and a Day 1 linebacker, most would choose the wide receiver and feel pretty confident that they were doing the right thing. But, as my wife would tell you, I don’t believe in common sense.
“All true knowledge contradicts common sense”Mandell Creighton
I believe in knowledge. And I want to find it. So let’s go on a quest for learning together. Like Indiana Jones looking for some magical stones or Jean-Luc Picard seeking out new civilizations, let’s find a way to define IDP value in our leagues so we can make informed draft selections and trade decisions.
Prelude to Foundation
Learn to find Value Over Replacement
In every league we play, we need to understand players’ value over replacement, aka VORP. The concept of VORP is not new, and I am not presenting it to you as such. I want to offer a “how-to” on using standard spreadsheet programs to calculate VORP in your leagues. WAIT! Don’t run away! It is not hard, and once you have it built, it will be easy to update with different scoring systems! Some of you are still on board, but I know that some of you are thinking, “Isn’t it YOUR job to figure this stuff out and tell ME about it?” Yes! But if you stick with me through this journey, I promise to show you side-by-side comparisons of IDP value versus offensive value using the hidden power of math. This is a must-have skill to dominate any league.
Using Spreadsheets to Find Average
Open your spreadsheet program (Excel, Numbers, etc…) and pick your first position to analyze. In our example, we will choose Linebacker. In this league, we have 12 teams and have to start 2 Linebackers. That means we will enter the fantasy points scored by LB1 through LB24 over the past three or more years. (I use 6, but I’m a nerd). Remember, names do not matter at this moment. Just the points. Should look something like this:
I like to label the sheet as you can see at the bottom, this is the LB sheet.
We will get the averages for each of the positions by using the formula: =AVERAGE(B3:D3)
Once we press enter the box will show:
Copy and Paste your formula
Once you have the formula entered once, you can drag that formula to all of the boxes below it by placing your cursor on the lower right-hand corner and “dragging” it down. It will populate all of the E column boxes with your AVERAGE formula. Or you can copy/paste whichever is more comfortable for you.
Finding Baseline Value
Now to the second step of finding IDP value. In the cell to the right of Ave Fant Pts, we will build a column called BaseLine. The formula for the BaseLine average is similar to average with one subtle difference. We will use a $ to create a constant term. The formula will be:
After pressing enter, your spreadsheet will look like this.
Copy and paste your formula
Again, drag from the right lower corner to the rest of the squares below to copy/paste the formula down to LB24’s BaseLine average. What we have done here requires a little explanation. We know the average fantasy points that the 24 Linebackers averaged in the past three years. Those were the first numbers in the “Ave Fan Pts” column. With the “BaseLine” column, we will now calculate the overall average of the 24 top Linebackers in our league. The difference is to determine that average for each player as if he were the top-scoring player. In the above picture, we see that LB1 scored about 249 points, which is 55 points above the average. When we drag the formula down, we get the following:
Each player’s Average falls
We see a “falling” average in the BaseLine as we remove higher linebackers from the equation. LB2’s BaseLine is the average points of the LB’s when we remove LB1 from the equation. We have calculated LB3’s BaseLine with both LB1 and LB2 removed from the equation. And so on. We have determined the true IDP value of an LB over his possible replacements. The above calculations tell us that LB2 and LB3 both score 36 points higher than the average of replacements. LB4 scores about 31 points above the average. Now you can see the falling value in each of the LBs. LB1 – 55 pts, LB2/3 – 36 pts, LB4 – 31 pts…
The last player is the BaseLine
If you’ve followed along on your spreadsheet, you might have noticed that LB24’s BaseLine equals his Ave Fant Pts. That is because he is the last starter, and there is no one to replace him except for (if we are perfect with our projections) bench players. I have shown this below:
How different positions are compared
That equation looks like this:
You have calculated your first VORP, and in this case, it is for LB1. Drag the VORP value down just like you have copy/pasted earlier. You will notice that LB24 has a VORP of 0.000. This is not a mistake! LB24 is the last starter. He and everyone below him are replaceable. If you are still here, then I’m glad you took the challenge. Copy this sheet, label them for each position (QB, RB, DE…). All you will need to do is update the Fantasy Points for each position in the following years. All else will update automatically.
Adjust each position according to number of starters
Make the necessary positional changes required by your league’s rules:
1. You will need to update formulas based on the number of possible starters at each position. For instance, if you are a single QB league, then you only start 12 QBs. You will need to delete 13-24.
2. If you have flex spots, then you have a larger starting number for certain positions. Let’s say you start 3 WR and have 2 Flex spots. In a 12 team league, you have 60 possible WR starters, make your calculations should for WR1 – WR60. You will have to drag the 24th spot down to include the WR27 – WR60. You will also have to edit the BaseLine formula. After the $, you will need to change 26 to whatever the last cell is in the positions. For example, if we have a WR60 spot, the new BaseLine equation will look like this:
VORP will automatically update when you drag the new formula down.
Comparing all of the positions
Now that each position has its Value broken down by position rank, we are ready to combine everything and see the big picture of Value. Open a new sheet in your document; I like to call this one Value Calc. Copy all of your positions and their VORPS to the sheet to make something that looks like this:
HINT: when you paste the VORP’s over to you will want to use the Paste Values option. You find this tool by clicking under the “paste special” menu -> Paste values only.
Your values may look different from mine. To give you some context, the league you see to the left is a 14 team, Single QB. We start 1-RB, 1-WR, 1-TE, and 3-O-Flex. The defense is 2-LB, 2-DL, 2-DB, and 1-D-Flex. So don’t panic if your numbers are coming out different for your specific league’s rules. The point of this exercise is to find the IDP value in each league.
Fill in the names!
Our hard work pays off, and now we compare actual players.
Now is the time to fill in the player column. Use the rankings on Dynastynerds.com, your rankings, or your favorite redraft rankings (if you are in win-now mode) and input them into the Player spots. Who is your QB1, or who you think will score as the QB1? Well, put his name in the Player spot for QB1.
Hint: at this point, if you select row 1, press View -> Freeze -> 1 Row, then all of the sorting you are about to do will not move your headers. Not necessary, but nice.
Now the final and most fun part. The point of creating this table in the first place. We sort the entire sheet by VORP and see where the value falls!
Select a box in Column C, press Data -> Sort sheet by column C, Z to A:
Interpret the results
Using our example league, let’s interpret some of the information.
The first 14 players are unsurprisingly RBs and WRs. The vast difference between RB1 and RB28 is enormous, and because of the raw numbers, CMC has almost twice the weight as Michael Thomas, our WR1. As you can also see, RB11 is in our top 16 spots leaving room for only 5 WR’s in the top 16, implying that we should target our potential Top 5 RB’s before our Top 5 WR’s. The next 16 players fall out like this:
I hope, as an IDP fan, you are as excited about this chart as I am! To see IDP Value equal to top offensive value is encouraging. But remember, this is a foundational part of the valuation of a player. We are not close to done. But this is still exciting to see!
How do we use this information?
LB1 and DL1 have made their debut in our VORP rankings! And they are equal to (slightly ahead of) QB1 and ahead of TE1 and TE2! That’s right fellow voyagers, LB1’s and DL1’s are worth something, at least in this league! My rankings to the right are also based on the 2019 season results. I didn’t know Shaq Barrett was going to be the LB1, but if I had, I would have prioritized selecting him over Lamar Jackson!
The information is also valuable during trade decisions. Imagine being offered Danielle Hunter and a pick or player for Lamar Jackson. According to math and ignoring roster construction, of course, the VORP calc indicates that this trade should be pursued. The value of the possible DL1 and a player will be worth much more than the potential QB1. Surprised? Excited? Me too!
This is not the end of the adventure
Remember, this is only the foundation of the story, and there is a lot more work before we have our real answer. However, I do hope that the calculations you have built for your specific league will help you find the potential value of all of your positions. Mostly I hope you find the hidden IDP value inherent in IDP leagues. I have a quick reference spreadsheet like this for all of my leagues, which allows me to look up the value of a position before making a trade. I saved them all to one Google doc spreadsheet and can reference them on my phone.
Trade decision made with data
In my 32 team IDP league, where 32 QB’s start every week, I was offered: the 2.08 pick, a 3rd rounder, a 4th rounder, and Tua Tagovailoa (drafted at 1.14) for Calvin Ridley during our Rookie Draft this year. It sounds like an easy, yes!
But wait, in this league 128 WR’s start every week! A quick look at my value calculations for that league showed that if Calvin were the WR24 in this league, he’d be the 61st most valuable player in the league using VORP. If Tua were the QB1, he’d be the 135th most valuable player in the league. I am not saying that this was the only factor I looked at to make my decision, but it did help tip the scales and ease my conscience.
Looking at data helps us overcome the raw emotion that tends to attack us during a trade decision or draft. If we use real data to help us make our decisions, we can look past the conventional knowledge that most of our league is probably relying on. We then find out that knowledge is the destroyer of common sense.
Thank you to Dynastynerds for giving me the chance to embark on this journey to become an analyst and a writer, especially Dennis and Jon, who are taking a chance on a Rookie. The most gratitude goes to my wife, Lynn, for being patient with my obsession but also encouraging me to apply for this writing gig and celebrating with me when I got it. Thank you to my league mates and friends of Another Stupid League. An intelligent group of Nuclear Operators who are smarter than me and push me to analyze further. Last but not least, thank you for making it to the end. Please, provide me with your feedback and comments so that I may become a better writer and analyst. Without your critique of the product, it will not improve!
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