Understanding ADP

During my three decades as a financial advisor, I have found myself in competition with stock brokers to win a client’s trust and business. The stock broker promises double-digit returns, and the client may believe him until he or she fails to deliver. After all, every investor wants the best return on their portfolio, and the stock broker promise to beat the market.

If a client chooses the stock broker over me, I simply tell the client to stay in touch. If the broker doesn’t deliver, he or she can give me a call. I sound confident, and I should because I know based on surveys that less than eight (8) percent of stock brokers or active managers beat the market. I am not a stock broker or active manager. I use stock indexes to build a portfolio.

If you are wondering what this has to do with fantasy football, let me tell you that picking stocks can be a lot like picking players for your fantasy football team. You may think that you know more than the next guy and can draft a team based on that knowledge. If you believe that, you will likely get beaten by someone like me who uses ADP to enhance his own limited knowledge. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own ideas about what fantasy players are going to break out and help win league championships. And there are some players I won’t draft at any price. But for the most part, I will roster almost any player if the price is right. But that’s the key. This column is a follow-up to my last post about my drafts and the critique I received from Yahoo.

Average draft position (ADP) is the most important metric that fantasy football managers need to understand. A player’s ADP is determined based on data from thousands of both mock and real drafts. Individual picks are compiled together to generate an average draft position for each player. Knowing when a player is being drafted in other drafts is valuable.

As more drafts were completed, accuracy improved because the sample size is larger.  Using ADP, fantasy managers attempt to predict when a player will be drafted. Even more important, the manager can know where that player has been drafted based on all of the collective research of managers. The manager then knows if he can get the player at a good value.  

While ADP tells you where each NFL player is being selected in fantasy football drafts, Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) represents a collection of rankings from industry experts that are mixed together to generate a consensus ranking. These consensus rankings depict how the experts feel about a player, compared to other players in the category, or overall.

While ECR is interesting to look at, I trust ADP above ECR because talk is cheap. I’ve done rankings before, and I will change them in a heartbeat. The other thing is that when the draft happens, I will frequently draft a player who is ranked below another player. I may do this because the situation dictates, or I may do it because of a gut feeling I have.

While ADP is the most valuable tool in your tool box, it’s important to know that ADP will vary from site to site. Let’s use a wide receiver I like as an example. The wideout is Courtland Sutton. At ESPN, Sutton’s ADP was 54. At Yahoo, Sutton’s ADP was 49. But at NFFC, Sutton’s ADP was 37. NFFC ADP is the gold standard because of who determines the NFFC ADP.

The National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) site is where the high stakes fantasy football competitions are held. All of these drafts are tracked by the NFFC and compiled to provide the ADP data. I consider it the gold standard because is determined by the best fantasy football players in the world. These are the guys that use Excel and other computer programs to analyze data.

The National Fantasy Football Championship site was created in 2004 and hosts a number of high stakes fantasy football competitions. In my opinion, there is nothing more valuable than tracking the ADP at NFFC, where players are investing thousands of dollars in entry fees. When you are playing for these kinds of stakes, you are going to spend the time doing a thorough analysis.

The opinions of these fantasy managers, who rank among the most successful in the world, can often differ substantially from the overall ADP rankings seen in lower stakes leagues like ESPN and Yahoo. For instance, based on Sutton’s ADP of 37 at NFC, he could have been drafted at a value at both ESPN and Yahoo if he fell to you late in the fourth or early in the fifth round.

But now let’s look at a player you likely overpaid for if you drafted him. That player is running back David Montgomery. At ESPN, Montgomery’s ADP was 42. At Yahoo, Montgomery’s ADP was 41. But at NFFC, Montgomery’s ADP was 51. The professionals determined Montgomery wasn’t a good value until the fifth round. But the amateurs were drafting him in the fourth round.

According to NFFC, there were a lot of running backs being drafted too early. However, there was one exception that I’ll point out – Saquon Barkley.  At ESPN, Barkley’s ADP was 27. At Yahoo, Barkley’s ADP was 19. But at NFFC, Barkley’s ADP was 14. I tested this theory at ESPN in a recent public league draft. Sure enough, I was able to get him at the end of the second round.

Barkley is an outlier. What I think is most top 20 running backs are being taken too early because many fantasy managers are convinced the success of the team hinges on having good running backs. The fact is that wide receivers are just as important since there are two starting roster spots for each. Some leagues even have three wide receiver spots in the starting lineup.

If running backs were being overvalued, the logical conclusion is that wide receivers were being undervalued. My conclusion was supported by my research, where I have found more than a dozen wide receivers that I like available at a good value. It’s noteworthy that most of these had a deeper discount at Yahoo then at ESPN, so if you are in Yahoo League, take note.

Okay, if you’ve read this far, I’m going to reward you because I buried the lead on this column. Here are a dozen wideouts who are undervalued at many sites and can be drafted with confident – Michael Pittman, D.J. Moore, Mike Williams, Sutton, Allen Robinson, Gabriel Davis, Brandin Cooks, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Darnell Mooney, Elijah Moore, Chris Godwin and Michael Thomas.

These twelve (12) wide receivers are being drafted between rounds three and eight in fantasy drafts. This is the kill zone for you to draft wide receivers that are undervalued and can help you win. Each draft is different, but typically I will draft running backs in the first two rounds and attempt to roster a stud tight end in the third round. Then, I will draft three to five wide receivers in a row.

In the above-referenced ESPN draft, I selected Jonathan Taylor, Barkley and Travis Kelce before my feeding frenzy began. I then rostered Mike Williams, Sutton and St. Brown before taking a break to draft Elijah Mitchell and Chase Edmonds because the price was right. Then I took Elijah Moore and DeAndre Hopkins to fill my stable of five wide receivers. Boy, do I like this team.

If you wonder what I do in the late rounds, know that this is where I draft my quarterback and key backup running backs. In this draft, I took Matthew Stafford in the 11th round and added Nyheim Hines in the 12th and Matt Breida in the 13th because they play behind Taylor and Barkley.       

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