Game Theory, Draft Strategy, Equilibrium and the 4for4 Advantage

Aug 19, 2014
Game Theory, Draft Strategy, Equilibrium and the 4for4 Advantage

Drafting is one of the most exciting parts of fantasy football and also one of the most challenging. Unlike the weekly task of choosing which players to start, where each manager can make an optimal decision in isolation, the fantasy draft pits managers directly against one another.

Weekly projections from 4for4 make it easy to know which players to start and even the best streaming options. When it comes to drafting, though, player projections unfortunately aren't enough. Simply choosing the available player with the highest projection is unlikely to get you the best possible team. To make the best decisions, you need to consider not just who is available in the current round but also who will be available later. And that depends on the decisions made by your opponents.

You could assume players will be taken at their average draft position (ADP) from recent drafts. But since you are not planning to simply take the player with the highest ADP for each pick, why should you assume your opponents will?

Perhaps your opponents all plan to take running backs early (say, RBx3). In that case, your best response might be to wait on RBs (the "Zero RB" strategy). But what if your opponents all plan to take receivers early? In that case, your best response might actually be RBx3. And what about quarterback and tight end and defense? How should you respond if your opponents take the elite options early? How should you respond if they don't?

These sorts of questions demonstrate the challenges of the fantasy draft. Your best choice in early rounds depends on who will be available in later rounds, which depends on the choices made by your opponents. If you knew your opponents' strategies, then you could determine your best response. Likewise, if they knew your strategy (and each others), then they could determine their best response. Unfortunately, none of us knows our opponents' strategies.

How can we untangle this knot? Fortunately for us, some of the cleverest people who lived in the 20th century, like the mathematicians John von Neumann and John Nash, wrestled with these questions and came up with solutions. (Sadly, von Neumann passed away long ago, but Nash is still with us. I strongly suggest you avoid him in MFL10s.) Below, we will discuss some of their insights.

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