I finally had the opportunity to sit down and start my preliminary fantasy football research this year (latest by at least 2 months; I know I'm an addict :). I had some interesting observations when I looked at the values by position. The short answer is there is a LOT of parity in pricing and there's far less discrepancy in pricing, or more simply, there's fewer "deals" on contracts than just a few years ago, and presumably much less than a decade ago.
Running Back Position - there are a lower percentage of the top twenty backs open & available but the depth of players of fantasy value is nearly 50% larger today than it was a decade ago (when looking at 2004 RB values vs. projected 2014 values). And that means it's easier to fill this position with production however it's more difficult to project who will outperform their value and who will underperform. Only 4 (A. Peterson, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson & Frank Gore) of the top 11 are available, however if you go out to the top 50 RB's (all valued at approximately $20 or more), 24 of them are open/available in the auction. Basically Peterson & Forte are worth a premium b/c they are featured studs (who will get 300+ touches) but after that there are a lot of committee guys or studs nearing the end of their career (ie Gore).
Wide Receiver Position - this position as seen the most change over the past decade than any other, though it's a close competition with tight ends and quarterbacks. The biggest difference at receiver is the depth, it's commonplace for teams to start w/ three receiver formations, and the top offenses make good usage of 3 receivers and a tight end. Of the top 15 projected fantasy receivers, 9 of them are free/available. There's a lot of depth as well.
Tight End Position - a decade ago this position saw only a handful of players break $10 and essentially none over $20. This year there is one player with a $70 value (Jimmy Graham) who will be held over at $55, and another worth $55 (Gronkowski) and several others in the high $20's+ range in value. Interestingly only 4 of the top 10 are available, and the production/value drop off around #10 is steep.
Rookie Picks - there's a LOT of debate on this point, I get both sides. However where rookie pick values are underrated is it's the primary vehicle to get young players on the rise under contract at and/or below open market value. But the data says they are invaluable, ie
- All 7 of the top 15 QB's under contract were rookie picks AND currently under agreement tied to that rookie pick
- 9 of the top 15 RB's are under contact, were rookie picks AND are still currently tied to that original rookie pick
- 2 of the top 3 WR's are under contract, were rookie picks AND are still currently tied to that original rookie pick contract
So in short, rookie picks are the best chance to secure the next group of fantasy studs, it's a crapshoot but w/o taking a toss, you're limiting your chances of hitting a home run.
Looking forward to the auction.