Game Theory #1: Position Scarcity Across All Platforms

One of the most important aspects of a fantasy draft, in my opinion, is position scarcity. Position scarcity is a principle that spans across all forms of fantasy sports, and it is one that I believe requires much consideration before and during fantasy drafts. In daily leagues, position scarcity is demonstrated in the exorbitant prices of some of the game’s top players compared to the rest of the players at their respective positions for that slate of games. Position scarcity essentially refers to the number of top players at a position compared to those positioned around the average production number at that same position – the less elite options there are (essentially, the less players that are located farther ahead of the average of the point production of the position,) the scarcer the position is. Across the four major sports leagues, the tight end (NFL,) the catcher (MLB,) the guard (NBA) and the goaltender (NHL) are the scarcest positions in the game, as these four positions show the highest total of points from the top producer to the 12th ranked producer during the current season (NBA and NHL) or at the completion of the most recent fantasy season (MLB and NFL.)

Sport Position Player #1 in scoring Player #12 in scoring Point Differential Weekly average ahead of #12
Baseball Catcher Gary Sanchez (412) Travis d’Arnaud (245) 167 points 7.95 points/week
Football Tight End Travis Kelce (242) Jared Cook (124) 118 points 7.375 points/week
Basketball Guard Russell Westbrook (2252) C.J. McCollum (1311) 941 points 78.41 points/week
Hockey Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (287 points) Devan Dubnyk (194 points) 93 points 6.64 points/week

The reason that I place such a huge amount of importance on position scarcity and paying attention to it is because by having a top-performing player at a scarce position, you automatically put yourself in a dominant position every week. As an example, I will use fantasy football. As I enter a draft, I aggressively target a player such as Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski, who routinely end up as the top two producers at the position over recent seasons. Having a player such as Kelce or Gronkowski in my lineup will usually put me at a huge advantage over whoever my opponent has plugged in their own tight end slot – usually a less-stellar option like Hunter Henry, Delanie Walker, or Kyle Rudolph. Having a player such as Kelce or Gronkowski automatically puts me ahead of my opponent before the games even start. In fact, having one of these players will usually put you ahead by about a touchdown before the game even begins, based on 2017 statistics.

Chiefs Texans Football

Rob Gronkowski averaged 13.78 fantasy points per game in PPR formats, while Jack Doyle (who occupied position 6 by average points per game) averaged 8.6 points per game. This means that, simply by drafting a player such as Gronkowski or Kelce (who averaged 12.87 per week on his own,) you will start the week ahead by a field goal (3 points) every single time, as tight end #4 Evan Engram averaged 9.44 points per game on his own. This advantage is huge. The farther ahead your tight end is than your opponent’s tight end, the farther ahead of them you start. If you run into an opponent that waited too long to select a tight end and perhaps ended up with an option in the 10-12 range, you’re starting the week ahead of them by a touchdown. This is without the games even starting.

I am a fierce advocate for attacking scarce positions since sports are changing, and many positions are becoming deeper. To use a football example again, in the late 90s and early 2000s, it was imperative that you draft a running back with your early picks. The drop-off between a top running back and a later option was much like what we see in modern times with tight ends. Since these days, the game has changed to feature multiple runners, different packages, and a variety of offensive schemes that celebrate all types of running backs. The same can be said tenfold for wide receivers.

The NFL game has really opened over the past ten years or so, and passing the ball has become imperative to win games consistently. As a result, many teams employ three or even four wide receivers on their own that can achieve fantasy relevance over the course of a season. It’s no longer difficult to find a waiver wire gem at positions like running back or wide receiver; it’s somewhat easy, and a strategy I’d recommend. History tells us it’s much more difficult to find a reliable starter at tight end or defense, which are the scarcest positions in the game and why it pays to invest a high pick in a great player at these positions. The combination of putting yourself far ahead of your opponent and being able to find options at other positions easier on the waiver wire is why attacking scarce positions will always leave you with a more well-rounded team overall.

Of course, this principle crosses over into the other sports as well. Drafting a catcher early and waiting on a middle infield option allows you to secure the top option at a position and catch up on your middle infield or pitching staff when other teams are scrambling later on to find their options at scarce positions like C and 1B/3B. Drafting Russell Westbrook fills your team out in many categories and allows you to zero in on flier picks later on who can help shore up your weaknesses. An elite goaltending option like Andrei Vasilevskiy lets you forget about the position for the entire draft, knowing you have the best option between the pipes. Draft offensive defensemen and scoring threats on first and second lines all draft long and swing trades with your offensive depth during the season if you sense a weakness somewhere.

Being on top of the best a position has to offer affords you the opportunity to load up on depth and sleepers you want at other positions, which helps you build a more solid team overall. You will, of course, need to hit on some of these other picks to contend, but this is not the hardest thing to do. In sum, targeting a top player at a weak position allows you to focus on every other position on the roster by giving you one less position to worry about filling, which helps add depth. Depth is what wins leagues. You want depth at a variety of positions.

I hope you found this article informative and even consider deploying this strategy when your baseball or football draft comes around. Please like, share, and subscribe to and spread the love to your friends. Drop a comment if you want to talk more about this subject or have a friendly debate. Thanks for reading and see you soon!