Many fantasy managers make the mistake of relying too heavily on ADP when drafting. They view ADP as a guideline of when they should draft a certain player. In reality, ADP is simply that – average draft position. Meaning, the average of where a player has been drafted to this point.
One of the biggest problems with ADP is that in many cases it leaves little room for nuance or details. For example, I can go on and on about why you should host your leagues on Fantrax. We offer customization that’s second-to-none and have several cool features including multi-team trades. Fantrax also hosts drafts for about 364 days a year. This is a great feature for those who need a constant fix of drafting. The problem, however, is that this tends to skew ADP a bit. As fun as it is to draft in January or February, there are countless unknowns that we are dealing with during those months.
We were quick to drop Tim Patrick down to the bottom of our ADP when word hit that he suffered a season-ending injury (can your site say the same?), but ADP is still a very imperfect tool. It can also vary greatly based on scoring system, league size, and several other factors. And, of course, now that training camp has begun and preseason games are on the horizon, ADP will seemingly change with every circus catch, fumble, or a trip to the injury tent.
I recently took part in a 12-team mock draft to try to “beat” ADP. That is, to try to draft a player after their current ADP. This was in part to see if I could accomplish this and also to highlight some of the pitfalls you may run into when relying too much on ADP instead of your projections for each player. This was a PPR draft and I randomized the draft order. I ended up with the ninth pick, which sounds about right. I don’t think I’ve had a top-three pick in any real-life draft I’ve participated in this decade. This draft is 16 rounds and uses PPR scoring. Each team will start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, and a FLEX. We will also start a kicker and a D/ST because I’m classy like that. Each team has six bench spots.
Man v. ADP – The Results
Round 1, Pick 9 overall
As luck would have it, the first eight picks were chalk based on ADP. So, I’ve already “lost”, since the player I’m taking is currently going ninth. However, I have this player sixth in my rankings, so I am all too happy to grab him here.
The pick: Ja’Marr Chase, WR
Round 2, Pick 16 overall
Well, this is interesting. Team 10 was the first to take a tight end off the board right before my second-round pick. Except they took Mark Andrews. I don’t mind it, although after the last mock I participated in, I think there is an argument to be made on waiting on a tight end. However, in the interest of this experiment, I will also be taking a tight end, whose current ADP is 13 overall. He is the only player who fits the criteria. I have come to realize I do not necessarily want to take a top tight end if I can avoid it.
The pick: Travis Kelce, TE
Round 3, Pick 33 overall
My first real decision of the draft, at least theoretically. There are two players available to me here who fit the criteria. The first is Tee Higgins, who is currently going 30th overall. The other is James Conner, who is going 32nd. Considering that a) I do not yet have a running back and b) I already have one Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver, this is a relatively easy decision.
The pick: James Conner, RB
Quick thought – I have James Conner as my overall RB15, so in theory, having him as my RB1 is ok as long as I double up on a running back fairly quickly. My concern is that this experiment will not allow me to do that, as running backs are going quickly.
Round 4, Pick 40 overall
OK, this is my first real decision. Diontae Johnson is available, as is Breece Hall. I have Johnson ranked slightly higher than Hall, and I think he is in line for another big season. However, I think it will be easier to grab quality wideouts down the road than running backs. With that in mind, I am going to grab my second RB here. Time will tell if that is a sound strategy. (Ironically, I had this exact decision in the fourth round of my RazzBowl draft and went the same way. Fingers crossed.)
The pick: Breece Hall, RB
Round 5, Pick 57 overall
My immediate reaction when it came to making my fifth-round pick: “YES! Allen Robinson is available!” Then I realized that his ADP was 69th overall. This exercise is stupid. There’s virtually no way he makes it to pick 57, much less pick 69. I also noticed that I ranked him as my WR25 in my latest Flex rankings, which is probably too low. Lamar Jackson is available here, which is very interesting to me. I have him as my QB4, and his ADP is 56. I’m going to go WR here, however. There is one available who qualifies, and I don’t see any other options who are likely to be there in Round Six.
The pick: Brandin Cooks, WR
Round 6, Pick 64 overall
Well, Teams 10, 11, and 12 passed on a QB, so Jackson is still there. At the same time though, Elijah Mitchell and AJ Dillon are also still on the board. I had sort of conceded that they would be gone when I drafted Cooks. Since only three quarterbacks have come off the board, I think that I should be able to get better value at that position later in the draft. Mitchell averaged just over 110 yards from scrimmage over his final eight regular-season games last year. He also should have an easier path to a bulk workload. I think if this were a real draft I would be tantalized by Dillon’s potential upside. But for the sake of this experiment, I will take Mitchell here.
The pick: Elijah Mitchell, RB
Round 7, Pick 81 overall
The top players who fit the criteria here at their respective positions are Jalen Hurts, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and DeVonta Smith. I am intrigued by the potential to stack the Eagles here, although there is no guarantee the other will be available next round. None of the three teams drafting after me this round have a QB, so there is a good chance Hurts is gone if I pass on him. With that in mind, I will draft my quarterback in this spot.
The pick: Jalen Hurts, QB
Round 8, Pick 88 overall
Well, Smith did go at 8.2. On the bright side, all three teams drafted a quarterback, so I think I made the right call drafting Hurts when I did. Here’s where it gets interesting. There are several wideouts who I like here, including Treylon Burks and Brandon Aiyuk. However, both have ADPs in the 90s, and I am at pick 88. Therefore, I will bolster the running back position. Probably not the route I would go in a real draft, and another example of the potential pitfalls you can run into when chasing ADP data.
The pick: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
Round 9, Pick 105 overall
Two teams have selected D/ST in this round. That is way too early. In a 16-round draft, the earliest I am drafting a D/ST is the 14th round. So if these teams want to draft defenses this early, that should open up some spots for me to grab more potential Flex players. The keyword in that last sentence is, “should”. Once again, I am not finding wide receivers who fit the criteria. I am generally of the opinion that you can never have enough running backs. However, having only two WR through nine rounds (and likely 10 the way the board is unfolding) does not seem like an optimal use of draft capital.
The pick: Kareem Hunt, RB
Round 10, Pick 112 overall
Well, I finally found a wide receiver who fits the criteria. He is my overall WR47, so drafting him as my WR3 feels less than ideal. Let’s see if I can make this work by adding some more options to the mix in the next few rounds.
The pick: Chris Olave, WR
Round 11, Pick 129 overall
My two top wideouts here are Kenny Golladay and Rondale Moore. I believe both players are in potential bounce-back spots after disappointing fantasy managers a year ago. I would love to grab both, but I am not sure how realistic that is. Team 11 has drafted seven WR through 10 rounds, so I am assuming they look elsewhere this round. Teams 10 and 12 have each drafted four, so there is a decent chance one or both target a WR. I am probably in the minority in having Golladay ranked ahead of Moore. Truth be told, I may have to revisit that. Moore probably has a higher floor early in the year given the six-game suspension to DeAndre Hopkins. But I still think Golladay has something to prove and has plenty left in the tank.
The pick: Kenny Golladay, WR
Round 12, Pick 136 overall
I love it when a plan comes together. Well, relatively speaking in this case.
The pick: Rondale Moore, WR
Round 13, Pick 153 overall
I know many fantasy managers insist on drafting backups at all offensive positions. I do not subscribe to this theory. Travis Kelce is my overall TE1. With all due respect to Mike Gesicki and Albert Okwuegbunam, there is no scenario where I would ever start either of them over a healthy Kelce. Having said that, you can never have enough Flex options. And this is a spot where drafting a second tight end can make sense. I ranked Gesicki ahead of Moore in my most recent Flex rankings. That may change over the coming weeks, but I do expect Gesicki to have some standalone value in an improved Miami offense.
The pick: Mike Gesicki, TE
Round 14, Pick 160 overall
I have three picks left, and two are reserved for K and D/ST. That leaves me one pick for another Flex player or a quarterback. Again, I am not the type of fantasy manager who feels the need to draft two QB, especially if I have drafted one who I consider a top-six option, as I do with Hurts. However, as was the case earlier, wide receivers whose ADP is below 160 are seemingly non-existent here. Therefore, I am drafting a QB2 here. It does make me feel a little better knowing there is one available with massive upside in case Hurts cannot fulfill his potential.
The pick: Justin Fields, QB
Side Note: I took Fields at 14.9. Team 10 took Tim Patrick at 14.10. Hey, at least he “beat” Patrick’s ADP, am I right? (The message here, once again, is to not rely too heavily on such a flawed metric. Back to my draft.)
Round 15, Pick 177 overall
OK. D/ST and K time. I do not need to overthink these. The Rams are probably my preferred pick here, but their ADP is outside the top 200. That seems a bit odd to me. I wonder if the Aaron Donald retirement talk after the season scared fantasy managers away.
The pick: Miami Dolphins, D/ST
Round 16, Pick 184 overall
There are only three kickers who have a higher ADP than 184. That gives me a sliver of hope for our society.
The pick: Harrison Butker, K
QB – Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields
RB – James Conner, Breece Hall, Elijah Mitchell, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kareem Hunt
WR – Ja’Marr Chase, Brandin Cooks, Chris Olave, Kenny Golladay, Rondale Moore
TE – Travis Kelce, Mike Gesicki
K – Harrison Butker
D/ST – Miami Dolphins
Overall, this is not a build I would feel great about in a real draft. I prefer to draft more than five wide receivers in a league where I can start as many as four per week. I also felt like I was chasing running backs the whole time and never quite caught up. Under normal circumstances, I would have probably gone without a backup at both quarterback and tight end had I drafted Hurts and Kelce. Using the ADP parameters prohibited me from drafting a wide receiver in Rounds 6-9. The three wide receivers I drafted beginning in Round 10 have some upside. However, their collective floor is a little lower than I would like, especially considering I would be required to start at least one of the three each week.
There are some positives. I believe my running backs as a group are solid in the sense that I should not have much difficulty finding 2-3 to start each week. I do not think I can say that about my wideouts. Having to start at least one of Olave, Golladay, and Moore is not ideal. Gesicki could have standalone value as a Flex and provides decent insurance for Kelce. And I like my quarterback duo. I am very high on Hurts from a fantasy standpoint and think the sky is the limit. But he is also not as safe as Tom Brady, for example. Fields has incredible upside given his rushing and big play ability. Normally I would just plug in a QB2 off the wire, but Fields certainly has a higher ceiling than any quarterback available on waivers.