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Draft Analysis - Using WAR To Measure Success

Draft season is well and truly upon us and we have kindly been provided a recently completed draft from the International Genie League, which is a super competitive draft community league hosted by our very own Draft Genie. This should hopefully give us a great insight into how things could play out for you on draft day! Just note the draft started on the 22nd July so any new signings, such as Scamacca and McNeil, will not have been included here. Click here for details on how you can access our 22/23 Draft Kit.


Check out our 22/23 Draft Kit for all the pre-season information you would ever need. Draft Rankings, Team Previews, Strategy, Draft 101. We've got it all!!!


Draft Board


You can review the draft results in the screenshot above, but for this article we'll be doing something a bit different that should help provide a bit more perspective to the draft board in a more visually accessible format. To do this, I've pulled DraftLad's Season Player Projections with expected season WAR values for each player onto the draft board. If you've not heard of WAR before, please go and check out Overthinking Football's WAR rankings and explanation on what the numbers mean. Put simply, this metric defines how much one player contributes to a win compared to a typically available streamer. The WAR projections are based on our best estimate of player performance and number of starts for the upcoming season converted into WAR values, which is probably the most useful single metric to assess a player's value over a whole season.


The table below gives us a good feel for expected value through each round of the draft based on projected WAR. This allows us to assess each round for the sum of the projected WAR, which could help in evaluating trade offers involving draft picks, and also for evaluating pick positions to see what is available for teams. The obvious caveat is that teams will change massively over the season through waivers and trades. However, a good draft and a hot start can be a great foundation to go on and win your league!


Round 1 (25.87 combined WAR)

One name stands out in Round 1, and that's Kevin de Bruyne with a whopping 3.42 projected Total WAR (projTotWAR). If he manages to start at least the 28 games he's projected for, he should be the definitive number 1 pick. However, the manager picking first here has opted for the potentially less risky option of going with Salah's 33 projected Games Started (projGS) at 2.46 projTotWAR.


It's interesting that the perceived shallow forward pool is making managers reach for the likes of Nunez (1.03) and Jesus (1.18) when there were players with higher WAR values left on the board dropping to Round 2. Now, why are thier numbers so low? Let's take Jesus, who has been creeping up draft boards and being consistently taken at the end of Round 1. He has 28 projGS and 12.7 projected Points Per Start (projPPS), which makes drafting Jesus this high seem a bit of a reach, but what managers are seeing is his potential (especially in pre-season) and hoping for is his output from his time at Man City to remain similar across 30+ starts for Arsenal.


Round 2 (20.44)


Considering the super high WAR values of the elite players to go off the board in Round 1, it's very interesting to see that Round 2 only drops off by just over 5 WAR in total (21%). Looking at this round there is barely any drop off in player value throughout, with WAR values fluctuating between 1.4 and 2.1. At this point it's personal preference based on riskier playing time, but higher upside picks like Grealish (1.48) and Foden (1.69) or more nailed, safer bets like JWP (1.6), VVD (1.82) and Bowen (1.62). The standout pick of the round is Robertson (2.13) who I have ranked in 9th. I think he is one of the safest bets for playing time and has the potential to exceed 15 PPS this season.


Round 3 (13.36)


We see our first big drop off in Round 3, plummeting a huge 7 WAR in total (35%) from the previous round. It's interesting to note that, based on their WAR values, the first 4 picks of Round 3 appear much closer to Round 2 value than the rest. This seems to back up the hypothesis that drafting in the early picks seems to gain you an advantage. Kulusevski (1.58) and Mahrez (1.43) have the most upside here, but depending on how it works out at Man United, Eriksen (1.36) could be a steal at the end of the round. Jota (0.95) starting the season injured appears to have been drafted a tad early here, as was Watkins (0.66). He'll have to see an amazing upturn in form to be worthy of this spot, but by this point managers are really scrambling to get themselves the remaining decent forwards for roster construction purposes.


Round 4 (11.34)


The fourth round is probably the most interesting round in terms of value, as we don't see much of a drop off from the previous round; just 2 WAR (15%). This again plays into the hands of those drafting in the earlier slots, with good value players such as Trossard (0.96) and Perisic (0.98) falling to the end of the round. We have seen our first big reach with Rashford (0.33) being taken at the start of the round, with the huge potential from the likes of Trippier (1.65), Barnes (1.26) and Digne (1.43) taken after the United forward.


Round 5 (7.75 ) & Round 6 (8.88)


Round 5 sees a huge drop off in value by 3.5 WAR (32%), but we actually see an increase in Round 6 by 1 WAR in total. This is really interesting as for the first time we're seeing managers really starting to reach for players, in general and for roster construction purposes. For example, taking Mitrovic (0.44) at the start of Round 5 wasn't a value move, but was reaching for one of the last decent forwards available. Olise (1.13) really stands out as a value pick here; he has the potential to have a huge season if he can get more starts than last season. The likes of McGinn (0.76), Harrison (0.75), Bruno G (0.77) and Eze (0.74) offer great value in Round 5. We had one unlucky manager drafting Jimenez (0.16) who, despite his low WAR score, was looking sharp in pre-season and could have been decent value here. Sadly, he's picked up an injury which could see him miss the first couple of months of the season.


Round 6 is kicked off with by far the biggest reach of the entire draft with Dewsbury-Hall (0.08)! KDH is a great prospect in real life, but unless we see his role changing drastically, he's more of a set-and-forget, 7-ish PPS kind of guy, which you can easily wait until the later rounds to pick up. Benrahma (0.98) might seem the pick of the round, but with Scamacca coming in at West Ham, a reshuffle in the attacking positions could see him first on the chopping block for playing time. Solid defensive options like Dias (0.96) and Cash (0.99) were available here, and represent good value as nailed-on starters, but they don't offer much upside.


Round 7 (5.42) & Round 8 (6.49)


Rounds 7 & 8 see a drop off again compared to 5 & 6. However, there is little difference in value between the two rounds, with the latter round again having a higher total WAR than its predecessor. We're starting to get to the point in the draft where high upside players with low probability of playing time start to be considered. Case in point, Bailey has zero WAR, but the manager in question will have been watching pre-season thinking this guy could actually start. However, Round 7 is way too early to be taking him. The manager could have waited until Round 9 at the very earliest given the other options left on the board. Martial (0.18) and Firmino (0.28) are in a similar vein where pre-season is showing they could potentially get more minutes than expected, and we all know their upside when they're in the team.


By the eighth round, we have our first negative WAR score! Round 8 seems early for Johnson (-0.19) which his WAR reinforces, projecting the typical difficulties in translating from the Championship with a promoted team. We also have another big reach in Gallagher (0.06), who will likely need a transfer for him to be remotely worth picking up here. Round 7 also sees our first Goalkeeper off the board in Alisson (0.53). Some may scoff at taking a keeper so early but looking at his WAR value, this point in the draft actually looks about the right value for him. Targett (0.8) and Doherty (1.1) are particularly great pick ups in the 8th round here offering big upside!


Round 9 (4.28) & Round 10 (4.83)


We're getting into full roster building territory here with a drop off of 25% in total WAR from the previous 2 rounds. Pick 10 has either panicked to get in a forward or got swept up in Solanke's (-0.09) Championship form, but his negative ADP should tell you everything you need to know about the typical adaptation rate to the Premier League, particularly for those reliant on returns and facing an awful fixture run to start the season. Gibbs-White (0.46) has been creeping up draft boards as well. Round 9 feels a bit early but his WAR value tells us otherwise, particularly with Jimenez's injury meaning his projected starts should go up. Dalot (0.63) and Armstrong (0.45) are real value picks in these rounds. Dalot appears to be Ten Hag's favoured right back and has been getting forward a lot in pre-season matches. Armstrong has been going under the radar after a difficult campaign last season through injuries, but he's looked sharp in pre-season and has even played up top in a 3-5-2 system, which could see his attacking returns increase. It was interesting to see Adama go in the 9th round as well given his lack of participation in pre-season training so far. It feels a little bit early to take him, but again given Jimenez's injury it's probably about right as he appears to be staying at Wolves for the upcoming season.


Round 11 (3.63) & Round 12 (3.26)


There is actually some nice value to be had in this round amongst the dross, with Romero (0.57), Thiago Silva (0.75) and Maguire (0.42) proving to be great, nailed-on additions to their managers' respective rosters. However, we truly have some wasted picks here. There will always be a Dele Alli (0) truther in every league; don't let it be you. And if you decide to go for a keeper early-ish, you better make sure it's worth it. With Ederson (0), however, we have plenty of seasons of evidence that it isn't. He gets clean sheets but barely ever has a save to make. Don't expect more than 7 PPS; I'd much rather stream a keeper all season.


Rounds 13 (2.63), 14 (2.15), 15 (1.15) & 16 (2.97)


It's officially dart throwing time! Usually these rounds are reserved for going for high upside guys who are unlikely to see much playing time, but if for whatever reason they do are an absolute steal. You should have your team well set up by this point, so as Joe mentioned on the recent Key Pass Collective Pod, don't waste your time on "WAR duds!" The pick I particularly like in Round 13 is Stones (0.65), who performs really well when he plays, but seems below Laporte in the pecking order. During the draft, more concrete news of Laporte's injury came out which makes Stones an amazing option for the start of the season, especially given City's favourable run of fixtures.


I also really like the Alonso (0.7) pick in the last round. With Chilwell coming back from the long injury layoff, we could easily see Alonso start the first few fixtures. The first keeper off the board in these rounds was Lloris (0.43), who could be a shrewd pick up given Spurs' defensive improvement under Conte, potentially providing a set-and-forget keeper option for the whole season at a much lower price than Alisson. Short of Sa (0.36), Pope (0.39) and Raya (0.36), the other keepers really aren't worth drafting, with close to zero or even negative WAR scores. The worst pick of this group has got to be everyone's favourite DND, Kyle Walker (0.23), who should never be rostered, let alone wasting a potentially useful Round 13 pick on!


Strategy


Clearly all drafts will be different, with managers of varying experience, abilities and preferences. However, if we were to infer anything from the total projected WAR scores, it's clear that the early slots of the draft order (picks 1-4) could really offer a sweet spot, particularly for the first 4 rounds of the draft. The late slots (picks 10-12) also look good for overall value (short of the aberration at Pick 12, who made huge reaches on nearly every pick).

After the first quarter of the draft, it takes 2 rounds before we see any real drop off in value with similar total WAR values between rounds 5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9 & 10 and 11 & 12. By the time we get to rounds 13-16, it's an absolute dart throwing exercise.


So how can you use this information for your own draft purposes? Typically, if you were looking to trade draft picks and you're finding it tough to get a deal over the line, to sweeten the deal you could offer your Round 5 pick for their Round 6 pick. This looks to them like you've given them more value, but in reality the value available should be similar. Think about where you can find similar value to avoid reaching, as well. Additionally, when drafting in the middle rounds, reaching for a player you want becomes a much more viable strategy. For example if you're in Round 7 but you want a player that's a a good 10 positions lower in your ranks, you shouldn't worry too much about taking them as the difference in value is likely to be negligible.


Check out The Draft Society's 22/23 Draft Kit for all the draft prep you would ever need! Draft Rankings, Team Previews, Strategy, Draft 101, and so much more!!


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