I analyzed our league’s championship-winning drafts going back 14 years (2003-2016). Our league is called WAFFL, though the name is unrelated to that tasty breakfast food.
We are the Washington Area Fantasy Football League. It’s been at least a decade since we all lived in Washington, D.C. But we still compete like mad every year through the magic of the Internet.
Speaking of the Internet, I am geeking out on data stored in our league’s online archive, courtesy of CBS Sports Fantasy. My mission is to solve the riddle of why my team consistently loses every year.
Here are a few nuggets gleaned from the WAFFL archives. We use a 12-team snake draft with a standard scoring system based on TD’s and yardage.
WAFFL Draft Trivia
Q: What position do future WAFFL champs overwhelmingly select with their first round pick?
A: Running Back. Eleven of the last 14 teams (79%) that went on to win a WAFFL Bowl chose a RB with their first pick.
Q: Is this trend changing?
A: Maybe. Rich, the fearless Irishman, broke the mold in our most-recent draft. In 2016, Rich drafted Odell Beckham with his first round pick. It’s the first time, going back to 2003, that a future WAFFL champ drafted a WR in round 1.
Q: True or False: A WAFFL champion once drafted a kicker in the fourth round.
A: True! In 2004, en route to a WAFFL Bowl victory, “The Gods” drafted Mike Vanderjagt in Round 4.
Q: Which QB was drafted most frequently by future WAFFL champs: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady?
A: Manning. Manning was drafted by 4 future WAFFL champs. Brady was drafted twice. Rodgers was never drafted by a WAFFL Bowl winner. More on this later.
Q: Which TE was drafted most frequently by future WAFFL champs: Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey or Jimmy Graham?
A: Shockey. Shockey was drafted by 3 future WAFFL Bowl winners. Gates and Graham were each selected once. Gonzalez was never drafted by a WAFFL winner. More on this later.
Draft Tactics of the WAFFL Winners
#1: They usually draft a running back first
Of the 14 WAFFL champs since 2003, 11 drafted a RB with their first-round pick, 2 took a QB and 1 took a WR.
Rich shook things up this year by taking a wide receiver, Beckham, with his first pick en route to winning the WAFFL Bowl. Does this mean that Rich initiated a new trend in 2016?
It’s hard to say, but consider this: Rich also won a WAFFL Bowl in 2015. He took a RB (Marshawn Lynch) in Round 1. He took a WR in Round 2: Odell Beckham.
#2: They are patient when drafting a QB
Among WAFFL champs, the most-popular round for taking a QB was round #5: 36% of WAFFL winners drafted their QB in the fifth round.
The next most-popular round for taking a QB? It’s tied at Round #1 (14%) and Round #7 (14%).
Teams that won multiple WAFFL Bowls have a special knack for patience when it comes to drafting a QB. In each of his three WAFFL Bowl wins since 2003, Brett drafted his QB in the 5th round. Those 5th-round picks were: Favre (2003); Favre again (2010); and Manning (2012).
The same goes for Rich. He drafted a QB in round 5, en route to winning the past two WAFFL Bowls. Those 5th-round picks were: Russell Wilson (2015) and Drew Brees (2016).
Sweet Lou is the riverboat gambler of WAFFL champs. He once waited until round 9 to take a QB! In his five WAFFL Bowl wins, Lou took a QB in the following rounds: 7th (Brady in ‘05), 6th (Matt Hasselbeck in ‘06) 4th (Brady again in ‘07), 3rd (Manning in ‘13) and 9th (Newton in ‘14).
There were five instances (out of 14 drafts) when a WAFFL champ drafted a QB earlier than round 5:
1. Daunte Culpepper was a first round pick in 2004;
2. Brady was a fourth-rounder in ’07;
3. Manning was first-rounder in ‘08;
4. Manning was a second-rounder in ’09;
5. Manning was a third-rounder in ’13.
#3: They prefer a WR3 over a TE1
WAFFL champs aren’t particularly anxious to draft a Tight End. The most-common draft position for a TE among WAFFL Bowl winners is round #9.
WAFFL champs frequently draft their third WR before drafting their first TE. This happened 71% of the time between 2003-2016.
There were three instances (out of 14) where a WAFFL champ drafted a TE1 before drafting a WR3:
1. Jeremy Shockey in ’04 (he was drafted in Round 8);
2. Shockey in ’06 (drafted in Round 5);
3. Jimmy Graham in ’11 (drafted in Round 6).
#4 WAFFL champs make their own draft rules
I thought I might find a consistent drafting pattern among WAFFL champs. But no pattern exists. WAFFL winners certainly have a draft plan each year, but it varies by team and by year.
For example, here’s a list of Lou’s first five draft picks from each of his championship seasons:
2005: RB; WR; RB; WR; WR
2006: RB; WR; RB; WR; TE
2007: RB; RB; WR; QB; WR
2013: RB; WR; QB; WR; RB
2014: RB; WR; WR; WR; RB
There’s no discernible “magic formula” here.
Also, sometimes “best practices” – like waiting until the late rounds to draft a kicker and defense – don’t apply. In 2004, “The Gods” won the WAFFL Bowl in a season where they drafted a D in round 3 and a K in round 4.
#5: Parting shot: Are there any “must-draft” players?
Among the WAFFL champs, six players and one Defense were drafted three or more times between 2003-2016. Manning was drafted four times. Lynch was drafted three times. So was Alshon Jeffrey.
Here’s the full list of players that were drafted three or more times by future WAFFL champs. You can decide whether or not they are difference makers.
QB: Manning (selected in 4 WAFFL-winning drafts).
RB: Lynch (3)
RB: Jerious Norwood (3)
WR: Alshon Jeffrey (3)
TE: Shockey (3)
K: Adam Vinatierri (3)
D: Steelers (4)
What does any of this mean for your fantasy team?
WAFFL is one league of 12 teams, in a fantasy universe with 53 million players. So, of course, your league’s result may vary.
A lot of fantasy content is short-term advice on who to draft, who to start, who to sit, etc. My goal is to provide data-driven examples that your team (and mine!) can use for long-term success.