When preparing for the upcoming fantasy football season, you will undoubtedly see articles and fantasy football podcasts dedicated to tiers. What are tiers in fantasy football? They are groups of players who have similar talent levels or expected value. Hoarding as much value as possible on draft day is the key to putting yourself in the pole position for the season. So if you are glossing over the tiers articles and podcasts without paying too much attention, you will cost yourself significantly as you assemble your team.
What Are Tiers in Fantasy Football?
Fantasy players are ranked by the experts in sequential order, often from 1-200, but that doesn’t mean that the 30th ranked player is truly 20 spots better than the 50th ranked player. In reality, they could have similar expected value in the upcoming season, but there are 20 other players who share similar values ranked between them. This group of 20 players would be considered a “tier.”
Pay Close Attention to Tiers When You Draft
Tiers work for both traditional snake drafts and for auction drafts. Taking advantage of tiers can be simpler in snake drafts, as you try to take one of the last players left in a tier, but it’s potentially even more profitable to use tiers in auctions. The base strategy is the same in both formats: take a player near the end of the tier to maximize value.
How to Take Advantage of Tiers in Snake Drafts
The strategy for taking advantage of tiers in snake drafts is straightforward: you wait until a tier is nearing its end before selecting a player. For example, if Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson are in the same tier, but Deshaun goes pick 40 and Dak goes with pick 60, whoever selects Dak has gained an advantage on the team that selected Deshaun.
However, if you pick near the front or the back of a draft, there could be around 20 players selected until your next pick. To combat the uncertainty, it’s best to target the second or third to last player in a tier rather than the last player, as they could easily be taken before your next selection.
How to Take Advantage of Tiers in Auction Drafts
Taking advantage of tiers in auctions can be easier, as every player is freely available to you. In a snake draft, you have to gamble that a player will still be available with your next pick. In an auction, though, you have the ability to determine your own destiny.
One way to take advantage of tiers in auctions is to “price enforce.” The way price enforcing works is when you want a player in a certain tier, you bid up to a certain price—usually a few dollars below their expected price—to ensure that another team is not getting a great value on the player. If you end up being the high bidder, then you get the player for a discount. If not, you ensure that no one else gets the player for far below what they should have paid.
For example, let’s take the two quarterbacks from the previous example and add Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray. These four quarterbacks all go between $11 and $13 and can be considered in the same tier. If an auction is started for Kyler Murray and the price is just $5, by price enforcing, you would bid $6 and potentially bid up to around $10 to ensure that either you get a slight value or that someone else will outbid you and pay a fair price. By the time you get to the end of this tier, you may snag the last QB for a nice discount.
Make Your Own Tiers
If you truly want an edge over your competition—and who doesn’t want to be able to trash talk for a year? —you should make your own tiers. Making your own tiers will require you to be completely dialed in to the upcoming fantasy season. If you are a casual player that starts their research a few days before the draft, there is nothing wrong with that, but you will not be making your own tiers.
If this is you, find a fantasy analyst who you trust and follow their tiers closely. For everyone else, making your own tiers can give you an edge on your competition. The serious fantasy players in your league are likely paying attention to an expert’s tiers, most likely analysts from whatever site you are playing on.
To make your own tiers, you can start with the ones provided by your fantasy host site but then tweak them with your own personal touch. Creating your own tiers will require a higher level of research and insight, but if you want to win, that level of dedication should be the expectation.