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As the internet grew and caught on, websites began publishing their own draft cheatsheets. Because the internet moved so fast, data could quickly be updated and statistics changed. When Ricky Williams retires, magazines may not reflect that changes for another month, whereas, a website could immediately adjust the cheatsheets to reflect the change.
Today, fantasy managers prep by downloading the latest projections and suggestions and printing cheatsheets to use on draft day. Fifteen years ago, you separated yourself from the competition by bringing in magazines. Today, the best managers bring in internet cheatsheets. So what can you do now to become a better competitor?
In the last five years, we have seen the development of many software titles that help you analyze draft picks, manage drafts, and help you in the decision-making for picks. Some of the software titles are nothing more than very complicated Excel spreadsheets with projections and complex macros that run the program. While other programs are stand alone software that you install and run on your system, not requiring Microsft Excel to function.
The software titles were analyzed in terms of their usability, ease of use, simplicity, overall utility and functionality. Basically, we wanted to answer the question; Which software title can do the most for the manager, with the least amount of work, and at the lowest cost.
The software titles we decided to analyze were among the most popular fantasy drafting softwares; DraftDominator from http://www.footballguys.com/ ($22.95 or free version), Draft Dynamix from http://www.draftdynamix.com/ ($29.95), and DraftBuddy from www.FFToday.com ($14.95). None of the software titles cost more than $30, and one was free. All three titles must be downloaded again next year for next year’s draft in order to have accurate projections and players. You don’t have to, but it’s useless not to get an update next year.
The setup and installation of DDominator and DDynamix was straight forward and easy. Both are stand alone programs that do not require any other software to function. DDominator seems to be based on Excel, but it does not require it. DBuddy needs Excel to be installed in order to work. DDynamix does require an activation through an internet connection. All in all, it does not matter in terms of installation which program you choose, they were all pretty easy and everyone has Excel.
All three programs quickly allow you to setup your league in terms of inputting your managers, custom league scoring, number of starters and team names. All allow for keepers and modifying the projections to your liking. DBuddy allows a little more flexibility in the offensive flex positions. You can choose which positions are included in flex and whether or not to include them in the overall draft. DBuddy is very customizable in this regard. DDominator now includes a feature for flex position and is pretty customizable. DDynamix did not include a separate flex position and allows you to decide based on your scoring system. But overall, the flex position option did not seem to affect the program’s usability significantly.
All three programs allow for modifying and or changing projections for any player. You can easily exclude any RB that has retired, either by deleting him completely or lowering his scores and giving him negative values. We did not have any preference with regards to the three programs in how they handled modifying the projections.
DBuddy allows you to modify the scoring fully. You can modify almost all settings and have full control. Unfortunately, DDynamix and DDominator did not allow changes to the defensive scoring and points system. DDominator had unusual scoring for defensive teams, and hence, made it difficult to really follow the advice on defense. DDynamix however, had a Yahoo friendly defensive scoring system.
For example, DDominator allows you to set the amount of points that you earn if your team holds the other team to less than 0 points and then 2-5 points. On Yahoo and other internet based fantasy football sites, there is no scoring bracket for defenses that hold you to less than 2-5 points. So this complicates the defensive scoring system. If you could edit the scoring brackets, it would be more usable. With some tweaking, however, you can make DDominator resemble your defensive scoring scheme.
On draft day all three programs handle the drafting process equally well. DDominator also allows you to add a timer function to keep track of picks. Both DDominator and DDynamix tell you explicitly how far away your next pick is; ex: Your Next Pick is 12 picks away. On the other hand, DBuddy does not have a timer nor a place that tells you how many picks away is your next pick. It just highlights your picks in a different color so you get a basic idea by looking at the sheet. But DBuddy does handle picking very well. You just choose the position, then assign the player to each manager. All three programs do this very easily.
Trading draft picks:
Here is where things get sticky. All three programs allow for pick trading, but handle trading picks in very different ways. In DDynamix, when you reach that pick, you can assign it to another manager. In DDominator you can edit the overall draft order during the draft or before the draft. So DDominator allows for both options. DBuddy has an area where you can input the traded picks next to the original picker. DBuddy ends up assigning the right players to the right managers. Because it is an Excel spreadsheet, you can alter the draft order before, during, or after. All in all, each of the programs handles traded picks pretty adequately, but differently.
The projections that these three programs provide are very useful. We used a standard Yahoo league setup and entered our scoring system. Then we analyzed the projections and suggested draft picks that were being suggested to us during each mock draft. All three programs gave useful projections and varied slightly. You can adjust and manipulate the projections to your liking. Unless you purchase the paid version of DDominator, you do not get the most up to date projections and may need to tweak them yourself.
Tiering is the latest fad in fantasy sports. Would you draft a 3rd tier WR when only one 2nd tier QB is left? Tiering allows you to make more intelligent decisions on draft day and draft the best overall team, rather than the best overall player. DBuddy allows you to “create” your own tiers and adjust the tiers. DDominator does not seem to use a tiering method, while DDynamix decides the tiers for you; so you don’t have much control in which RBs are in which tier. But the DDynamix tiers matched tiers that I had set up in my own mind.
DBuddy and DDynamix show you how many players are left at each position in each tier in an automated fashion. DDominator and DDynamix even show you a supply and demand of available players in each tier. Very fancy features. However, DBuddy only puts a red dotted line on the draft cheatsheets to separate one tier from the other. Hence this shows you, by taking a quick glance back at the cheatsheets, how many players in each position are remaining in each tier.
So why draft a 3rd tier WR if there are seven of them left, while only one 2nd tier QB is left?
Do these programs run well? We tested the software titles on an older Pentium III 833 Mhz computer running Windows XP Professional. DBuddy was a little sluggish between draft picks. You had to slightly pause for it to update the remaining player lists and draft picks. DDominator ran pretty quickly and did not slow down. DDynamix ran a little sluggish at times between switching from the setup view and draft view. But none were considered unusable due to sluggish performance.
DBuddy had the simplest update process. You simply click on “update player projections,” and all of a sudden that running back that retired is gone. A week later, the running back that sprained his ankle is gone too. With DDominator you have to go to the website and download a new update and install it. It installs similar to a windows program. If you don’t have the paid version, you don’t get the latest updates other than bug fixes. DDynamix also needs a separate update to update its player lists and projections. The advantage in this category goes to DBuddy.
All three programs allow you to easily assign players to managers. With DBuddy you choose a position from dropdown menu, then choose the player name from the next dropdown menu next to each manager’s name. In DDynamix, you simply double click the player name from a list. The 4 most popular player positions are grouped together, while K, and Def, are available from a more detailed view. DDominator allows you to highlight a player then click to assign the player to a manager. DBuddy was a little sluggish during this process because all the spreadsheet cells had to recalculate. Hence, if you don’t allow enough time for recalculation, two people can end up with Peyton Manning. Just be patient.
DBuddy seems to have the most flexibility in drafting and projecting defense performance. Not only can you modify the scoring system used, but you can manipulate individual players statistics and projections. You can decide whether or not to use IDP or just a team defense. Extremely flexible.
DDominator also has the ability to handle IDP and team defense. Unfortunately, the scoring system used for team defense was non-traditional, and if you use Yahoo or other commercial internet based fantasy leagues, you will have trouble adjusting the scoring system to match yours.
DDynamix only handles team defense, but plans to add IDP in a future version of the software. The team defense was handled very well and allowed nice team defense projections to be made.
Here is where the three programs part ways. We will discuss each program individually starting from the simplest to the most complicated. All programs allowed custom printing, exporting and saving of cheatsheets and projections.
DBuddy takes your league’s scoring into consideration and compiles cheatsheets and draft orders for you to use. Simple mathematical formulas are used to dynamically calculate which players will score the most for you based on last year’s statistics, or projections, or the second half of last year, or any custom projections you may have or from any third party website. As players are drafted, the program updates its list of available players and you can decide whom to draft next. An overall draft sheet is available, as well as draft sheets for each position. It is complicated to switch back and forth from the cheatsheets view to the draft input view. But in terms of overall usefulness, it provides very simple tools to help you pick the best available player in the position that you want. It does not suggest for you to pick players based on what you need or how many good players are left at each position. However, if you keep glancing back at your cheatsheets you will see what players are available at the various positions and tiers. But this is not automated. With regards to bye-weeks, it displays them next to each player’s name on the cheatsheets. But you have to make the ultimate decision yourself. This program also has a complete list of players. You can easily add more players or names.
DDominator takes your league’s scoring system into consideration and compiles draft orders and player values. Of course, the projections and player values don’t match the other two programs, but why should they? As with DBuddy, it’s up to you to choose which position you want to draft first, but DDominator does give you changing player value data based on the players that remain. Also you can run mock drafts that choose the optimum team for every player in your league to see what you may end up with. Something that DDominator excelled at was providing numbers and figures that allowed you to make the better decision on which player from which category to choose.
For example, DDominator will point out that you may want to choose a QB now, because there is a huge drop-off in QB value after this next QB is chosen. It uses “secret algorithms” to help you make decisions. Further, it helps you assess your team’s current needs with its proprietary formulas. You can also ask DDominator to suggest a complimentary player for you. For example, if you already have one RB and want to draft another, you can ask it which RB will be the best compliment to your first one. Very interesting.
Further, the new version allows you to input your fantasy schedule and helps you make picks based on your schedule versus the other guy’s schedule. It also includes features that take into account strength of schedule in its suggested draft picks. It is very complex, but the formulas are “secret”.
Another unique feature is the ability to create a Palm Pilot version of your projections and rankings. Exporting to your PDA creates a scaled down version of the program to put on your Palm Pilot, this was a very neat feature.
One problem we had with the program is a lack of a consolidated manual to explain what all the settings do. For example, in mock drafts we ran, the team that drafts 9th ended up drafting 6 place kickers. It took a trip to the FAQ to find out how to adjust these settings. Some of the features are only explained in articles on the website, which is rather annoying.
We highly recommend reading all the articles and information that come with this software so you can take full advantage of its formulas and powerful tools.
This is a whole other beast. I have an honors degree in Economics, have studied statistics both as a part of my economics degree and as a part of my medical education, and love the documentation that comes with this program. Imagine fantasy football on steroids.
DDynamix includes features known as Advanced Analytics. These are extremely complex tables, graphs, charts, formulas, and algorithms that you can read about in their owners manual. But here is what you need to know.
Dynamic Player Value is a feature that allows you to create player valuations based on your leagues scoring system and which weeks of the season are most important to you. If your playoff weeks are 14,15,16 it will give you suggested picks based on players that play weaker defenses during those weeks. So the suggested WR maybe one that plays against week defenses in the final fantasy playoff weeks. Also it can take into account player durability and consistency if you ask it to. You can also draft team defenses that play against a lot of low-scoring teams.
Dynamic Draft Value is a feature that continually adjusts player’s valuation as players are selected. It adjusts the remaining players’ values in relation to not only what your team needs, but what will be available by the time your next pick comes up or the very next pick, or two picks from now, six picks, or ten. The lack of being able to adjust the draft order prior to drafting, makes this feature slightly less useful. But the statistics and information is very useful.
Also it adjusts for bye-weeks. If you draft a RB with a bye in the 4th week, it will lower the ranking for all RBs with a bye in the 4th week. You can also set it to draft players that have the same bye week, so you can just tank once during the season and preserve your team the rest of the games.
The manual that comes with the program does an excellent job of explaining the calculations, setup, and how to use the program. It was very thorough. We only wish there was a section on decision-making. For example, you have the 73rd pick overall, you glance down at the screen and you see tons and tons of numbers and statistics, how do you decide based on these numbers what to do? Or what position to draft next? The amount of info seems overwhelming.
DDynamix offers some unique calculations that are explained appropriately and not “secret”. By using the statistics and numbers, you can easily draft the best overall team, rather than the best overall player with each pick. Having a balanced overall team that is consistent, will do well in the later weeks, and produces at every position is better than having a bunch of studs at random.
Be sure to read the manual that comes with the program and practice using it.
If you want a simple, cheap solution that is not hard to learn, we highly recommend Draft Buddy by http://www.fftoday.com/ ($14.95). It’s simple interface, updateability, and cheat sheets are fantastic. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to use it, and allows for more human intellect usage during picks. You actually get to use your own brain to make some decisions.
If you want a program that will help you make draft decisions, suggest players, assess your team’s weakneses, then you should look into Draft Dominator by http://www.footballguys.com/ ($22.95 or free). Download and try the free version, it is the same as the full version, minus the updated projections. It has some useful analytics that may come in handy after the first 4 rounds to help you improve your overall team.
If you are looking for a program that will essentially take all the guesswork out of drafting, make calculated decisions for you, allow you to view all important data on a single screen, and individual defensive players are not important in your league, then Draft Dynamix by http://www.draftdynamix.com/ is definitely the program for you.
Overall, we were really impressed with the breadth, depth, and functionality of these three programs. They all offered something unique and desirable. Which program is right for you? It all depends on what you want out of a program. Do you want to just be able to input scoring and projections and follow the draft, or do you want extremely high tech analytics to help you decide which player to pick based on strength of schedule, playoff schedules, and remaining value of players.
You will not go wrong with any of these programs.
Note: Draft Dominator and many of these programs have evolved over the years, and now in 2006 are far more advanced than their previous incarnations. They have incorporated many of our suggestions.