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According to the Data: Don't Worry About Bye Weeks

Jonathan Bales

Jonathan Bales

Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Football for Smart People book series. In addition to RotoWire, Jonathan also provides content to the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, DallasCowboys.com, and NBC.

Should You Worry About Bye Weeks During Your Draft?

I have a confession to make: I don't care when my players have their bye weeks. I don't even look at them, actually. I take a minimalistic approach to drafting, equipping myself solely with my rankings and final point projections. I don't want to see schedules, I don't want to have to sift through advanced stats, and I don't want to check a player's bye week before I take him.

It's not that I think the bye weeks have no effect on one another. They might, but I'm primarily concerned with grabbing the best values at each spot, so I'm not going to bypass my top-rated guy because he has the same bye week as a player already on my roster. Unless having two players with the same bye week is more than mildly detrimental, you should be able to make up for it by just acquiring the most projected points with each pick.

But, BUT, I've never actually done any research on the topic. Until now.

I'm not really sure how we'd test the bye-weeks-should-be-split-up theory other than just using examples. So that's what I'm doing to do. Let's assume the first nine rounds of your draft look something like this, with a wide receiver decision in Round 3 and a running back decision in Round 4.

Rd Player Projected Points
1: RB 320
2: WR 256
3: WR 208 (same bye) or WR 200 (different bye)?
4: RB 232 (same bye) or RB 224 (different bye)?
5. RB 216
6: WR 184
7: RB 184
8: WR 168
9: WR 152

To know if the bye weeks should be split up, we also need to break things down on a per-game basis:

1: RB 20 PPG
2: WR 16 PPG
3: WR 13 PPG or 12.5 PPG?
4: RB 14.5 PPG or 14 PPG?
5. RB 13.5 PPG
6. WR 11.5 PPG
7. RB 11.5 PPG
8: WR 10.5 PPG
9: WR 9.5 PPG

The worry when drafting players with the same bye week is that, during that week, you'll have to reach down deep into your bench and play guys you wouldn't normally have to play. So let's see how much of a difference that makes, starting with the wide receivers (and assuming you must start three).

WR Byes

Starting WR production drafting third-round WR with same bye: 31.5 points
Starting WR production drafting third-round WR with different bye: 34.5 points

If you selected the third-round receiver with the same bye as your top receiver, you'd score (roughly) 31.5 points during that week. If you went with the receiver with a different bye week, you'd score 34.5 points - a small three-point difference.

But we also need to remember that, if you draft the non-bye receiver in the third round, you'd still need to deal with his bye week at a later time. During that week, you'd score 38 points, whereas a team with the top two receivers on the same bye would score 40 points. That makes the total net effect of diversifying your bye weeks exactly one point. It seems like it's optimal to side with your top-rated player who is projected eight points ahead of the next receiver, giving you an average of +0.5 per week all year (as opposed to +1.0 for only a one-week advantage).

RB Byes

We should see the same effect with the running backs. We'll assume two starters. If we double up on the bye weeks, we'd need to start our third and fourth options for one matchup. We could expect to score 25 points during that week. Meanwhile, the more diversified lineup would check in at 27.5 - a 2.5-point advantage.

But remember, the team with the same bye weeks can "catch up" by having fewer actual matchups with bye weeks. During the week when the fourth-round running back with a different bye week from our top runner has his bye, that team would score 33.5 points. Meanwhile, the same-bye team would score 34.5 points. So the total net effect on diversifying the byes for the running backs is +1.5 points (2.5 1).

Conclusion

If you follow a relatively normal draft pattern, you can field a team with both your top two running backs and your top two receivers having the same bye, and the net effect would be just -2.5 points. But you'd be "gaining" 16 projected points in selecting your top players, meaning there's absolutely no reason to skip on a higher-rated player just so your bye weeks don't match up. Only when you have two players ranked exactly the same in every way - something that rarely happens - should you consider diversifying your bye weeks.

Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Football for Smart People book series. He also runs the "Running the Numbers" blog at DallasCowboys.com and writes for the New York Times.