University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor Michael Fry and student Andrew Lundberg have an interesting approach to the fantasy football draft: all you really need to know is what set of players is not going to be available when your turn comes up.
Fry and Lundberg published their results in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports with co-author Jeffrey Ohlmann from the University of Iowa.
Fantasy sports drafts have a sequential order in which owners choose players from the available remaining pool of players. Football presented a good opportunity for this research because, unlike a sport such as basketball, players have one position, while sports like baseball often have players in the minors for too long to tell how a player drafted now will affect a team in the future.
So using their principle of exclusion, what advice do they have?
Given their analysis of the rosters they recommend a different strategy than what is considered traditional. Rather than draft two running backs in the first two rounds they recommend taking a RB first, then taking a top QB or WR next and coming back for your 2nd RB later.
Additionally, if you can't draft one of the top two defenses you might as well wait until the very end of the draft because there is too much uncertainty in the remaining teams to waste a high draft choice. That same strategy applies to kickers.
Scouting is still key, of course. If you overvalue a player any heuristic model and tractable deterministic dynamic program will still give you bad answers.
Me? I am predicting the Steelers to win it all. For the 27th consecutive year.