Fantasy Football Economics: Supply and Demand

Trading in fantasy football is a part of the fun. For some people it’s a big part of the game, for others it’s an afterthought. One thing that should be understood, however, is that startup draft capital should not be used for determining value for players after the draft.

How is it that startup draft capital shouldn’t be used for setting player values? This may seem counterintuitive, but the answer is simple: supply and demand. There will never be another time in your league where supply is higher for any given position or need that a manager has for a roster.

Superflex QBs are never as cheap as during the startup draft

Before the draft, all players are available. The pool (available supply) is as large as it will ever be. Theoretically, all players are available to anyone. If a team needs a quarterback, they might miss out on Patrick Mahomes, but there are still 31 other starting quarterbacks available. The pool (available supply) dwindles as the draft continues. With each quarterback drafted, the available supply goes down, dynamically increasing demand thus increasing value.

In my most recent draft I selected Matthew Stafford with 11th pick in the 11th round. The manager drafting in the next spot after my pick was counting on getting Stafford to fill his superflex spot. While the draft was still going on that manager sent over a trade for Stafford that included Rashod Bateman and a 2024 third round pick. That manager had drafted Rashod Bateman with the first pick in the 10th round. With the quarterback supply dynamically reducing during the draft, Stafford’s value had already increased in relation to his draft capital the moment I drafted him.

Superflex league QBs value after the startup draft

After the draft is over, in most cases, all of the starting quarterbacks will be on a starting roster. The overall number of quarterbacks has not changed in the league, so some people argue that supply has not changed. This is a half-truth. The number of quarterbacks has remained the same, but you no longer have direct access to them.

As a manager, you must now work to acquire a quarterback. The scarcity created by all of the resources (players) being on rosters changes the value of players.

In a recent superflex league draft, a league where one of the flex roster spots allows you to start a second quarterback, I drafted Jimmy Garoppolo and Jordan Love in the 11th round of the startup draft. Players such as Dalton Schultz, Elijah Moore, and David Montgomery all went slightly ahead of my selection of these two.

Draft capital says that they are all more valuable than Garoppolo or Love. It is highly likely that both Garoppolo and Love end up being starters. I would not trade either of the quarterbacks for any of the aforementioned players. It no longer matters when the players were drafted.

The pool for quarterbacks is smaller than any other position in fantasy and further compounded in superflex leagues. There are only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. In a 12-man superflex league 24 of these quarterbacks should be starting on fantasy rosters.

The reason that the superflex slot should be filled with a quarterback is simple math. Points scored is the most important thing. In 0.5 points per reception leagues the QB24 in 2022 averaged 13.8 points per game. 13.8 points per game would have been the RB10 and the WR10 in 2022.

In 2021 the 24th quarterback in points per game averaged 13.6. The 13th running back averaged 13.6 and the 11th wide receiver averaged 13.7 points per game.

What this is showing us is that two thirds of the starting quarterbacks in the league are putting up points on a per game basis that are essentially equal to running back one and wide receiver one numbers.

Elite position players are never as a cheap as they are during the startup draft

In single QB and superflex leagues the elite positional players will also be at their cheapest during the draft. Each pick allows a manager to draft one player. This is obvious, but it controls the consumption of the available supply.

As the draft progresses the overall available supply is consumed, but more importantly the available supply of elite options is rapidly consumed. The lack of top flight options increases the value of these players the moment they are drafted.

After the elite, top 12, running backs and wide receivers there is less difference in value amongst players left in the pool. With the increase of spread offenses and running back by committee the supply is large.

In points per game the RB4 averaged 17.6 while the RB 12 averaged 12.8, a difference of 4.8 points per game. The difference in points per game from RB12 to RB36 overall is 3.8 points per game.

The WR4 overall in points per game averaged 16.7 points compared to 13.1 points, a difference of 3.6 points per game in 2022. The gap between WR12 and WR36 was 3.4 points per game.

Tight ends are the second most scarce position for fantasy football by number of players who play each week but are arguably the most scarce based on elite options. The TE1 in points per game averaged 15.4 points while the TE2 averaged 11.4 points, TE3 averaged 10.3 points, and the TE4 averaged 10.1 points. The TE12 averaged 7.6 points per game and the TE24 averaged 5.9 points.

The lack of elite options means that the value of the top tight ends inflates immediately after they are drafted.

Player value factors

Demand for specific players and positions does reduce after the draft. The supply reduces based on managers’ willingness to trade players. The supply also reduces as you enter trade negotiations. Once offering a trade to a manager you have effectively reduced the supply to a specific player or players on a manager’s roster.

Now, this does not mean a player is automatically more valuable or less valuable than their startup draft capital. There are multiple things that drive the startup draft capital of a player.

Each individual manager has their own unique views on a player’s value. You may feel that Player X is worth drafting in the sixth round. I may feel that Player X is worth drafting in the fourth round. If I draft Player X in the fourth round that does not change your valuation of them.

Roster construction or team needs also are a driver of startup draft capital for players. A manager who drafts Travis Kelce in the second round may not feel that TJ Hockenson is worth a fourth round pick.

Time of season and standings also change the value of players. A player making a championship push may suddenly value a player like TJ Hockenson as a second round startup draft pick. This is a big reason why there are a lot of trades in the last couple weeks before playoffs. In the words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game!” Managers are often willing to pay a higher price for a player if they feel that it will give them a better chance at winning a championship.

How to use this information

Understanding that available supply of players is altered during the draft and after the draft allows for a manager to maximize the trade value of players. In the league where I drafted Stafford, I had already drafted my starting quarterback and a quarterback to play in my superflex spot. I was able to look at the rosters of the other managers in my league and recognize that a few of them were still in need of a quarterback to play in their superflex spot.

Also knowing the clear advantage having a quarterback in the superflex spot provides, I realized that drafting Stafford at that time provided the highest value for that pick. I was able to seize the opportunity with the thought that later on I would look to trade Stafford.

Looking at the rosters of your league mates during the draft and after the draft you can identify positional needs of the various teams in your league. If your roster has a surplus of players at that position, there is potential for a trade. The need of the other manager will give you leverage in negotiations. Identifying these situations will provide opportunities to gain an edge on your competition.

Additional Information

Good luck to everyone nearing their start-up drafts! Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!

If you like our work and would like to support us, there are many ways you can help! The easiest is simply to spread the word. Follow us on Twitter and share this article and our site and content on social media, with your leagues, and with your friends. You’ll find a button to “Share This Post” below.

If you would like to contribute financially, first-and-foremost thank you, we’ve configured a PayPal button below to make financial support possible. Any support is greatly appreciated, and helps us to continue providing you with high quality content and utilities. Again, thank you.

During the season, we release Weekly Player Rankings, suggested Waiver Targets, and more. Be sure to check out all of our In-Season Content weekly!

We’re always releasing more Off-Season Content, including: Scouting Reports on the top college prospects year round, Player Research during draft season, and more!

Looking to learn more? Check out all of our Knowledge Base content where you’ll find everything from Information for Beginners, to more in-depth information and Fantasy Strategies!

Looking for utilities to assist your teams? Take a look at our Trade Calculator, Trade Architect, Team Evaluator, or League Analyzer! Want to know how we come up with our player values? Take a look at the Utilities page.

Our featured photo is brought to you by Sean Gardner / Getty Images.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *