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Man vs. ADP: The Perfect Draft?

I recently took part in a draft here on Fantrax with a different primary goal than normal. This time, my objective was to “beat” ADP with every pick. The purpose was to determine how players are valued through the lens of ADP. After all, shouldn’t getting a player later than his ADP make that player a bargain? And if so, wouldn’t getting a bargain in each round equate to a highly successful draft?

This is a 12-team standard scoring league with 10 starters and eight bench spots. Each team will start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one Flex, one defense/special teams, and one kicker. Below are my picks with each player’s ADP as well as some personal reflection and commentary regarding each pick.

Remember, the goal here is to draft based solely on ADP. So each round (if possible) I had to draft a player whose ADP was higher than my pick for that round.

Drafting to Beat ADP

Round 1: Ezekiel Elliott, RB

ADP 2.88, picked at #3

Ezekiel Elliott was my only possible choice here, as Todd Gurley was the only player with a higher ADP and he was already off the board. I like Zeke more in standard than PPR leagues, so I’m fine with this pick.

Round 2: Michael Thomas, WR

ADP 17.63, picked at #22

This league went heavy on running backs early, which is to be expected in standard leagues. Running backs were taken with 14 of the first 21 picks. This gave me my choice between Michael Thomas and A.J. Green. I chose the younger player with the better quarterback. I was very happy to snag Thomas here. He will rarely fall this late in drafts, regardless of format.

Round 3: Rob Gronkowski, TE

ADP 27.96, picked at #27

As we transitioned from the second to third round, I was positive I was going to be forced to draft LeSean McCoy here, which I was dreading. But he was picked one spot ahead of me. As it turned out, I literally had no players to choose from based on my criteria. Rob Gronkowski, Joe Mixon, and Adam Thielen All had an ADP between 27 and 28 at the time of this draft. I went with Gronk here based on his massive upside compared to his contemporaries.

Round 4: Brandin Cooks, WR

ADP 39.86, picked at #46
My other choices here were Doug Baldwin, Rashaad Penny, and Josh Gordon. If this draft took place three weeks ago or three weeks from now, I might have gone in another direction. But I’m perfectly fine with getting Brandin Cooks here. Cooks has finished as a WR1 in consecutive years and now joins the highest-scoring offense in the NFL. He’s at minimum a rock solid WR2.

Round 5: Allen Robinson, WR

ADP 47.3, picked at #51
I probably would have picked Allen Robinson here even if I wasn’t conducting this experiment. I was tempted by Gordon and teammate Jarvis Landry, but I love Robinson at his current ADP. The former Jacksonville Jaguar is coming off a torn ACL but leads a revamped Chicago Bears’ receiving corps. Robinson has a chance to return to WR1 territory in 2018.

Round 6: Dion Lewis, RB

ADP: 62.14, picked at #70
Running backs were being selected at a frenetic pace, so I was pleased to see Dion Lewis here. There were already 29 running backs drafted by this point, so I definitely did not want to go another round without selecting my RB2. I prefer Lewis to Carlos Hyde, who was the only other back eligible who fit the criteria.

Round 7: Devin Funchess, WR

ADP: 63.4, picked at #75
Devin Funchess and Robert Woods were the only players available to me in this spot. This was the point of the draft where I realized this team would look different than my others. There are a ton of wide receivers I like late, and Funchess was already my fourth drafted through seven rounds. I knew following this pick that my exposure to the late-round fliers I usually look to target at wideout would be extremely limited.

Round 8: Nick Chubb, RB

ADP 91.25, picked at #94
After passing on Carlos Hyde two rounds earlier, I decided to take his teammate Nick Chubb here. I personally prefer Rex Burkhead and C.J. Anderson, but they curiously have a lower ADP than Chubb and thus were not eligible for me to select.

Round 9: Kirk Cousins, QB

ADP 86.34, picked at #99
Kirk Cousins is a player I seem to have very little exposure to. I usually find myself taking an elite quarterback or, more often, waiting until Rounds 10-12 to select my starting quarterback. However, I really don’t mind Cousins in this spot. He’s finished in the top-six in Fantasy scoring in two straight years and now has a more potent group of weapons around him in Minnesota. He was the ninth quarterback selected, which could make him a nice value.

Round 10: Aaron Jones, RB

ADP 110.81, picked at #118
This was the first round where I had more than five or six players to choose from based on my self-imposed parameters. The only problem was that Aaron Jones and Chris Thompson were the only running backs available. The rest were all quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. I wanted to avoid those positions with this pick if at all possible. Jones is currently in a committee in Green Bay but has the potential to be a starting Fantasy running back if things break right.

Round 11: Kelvin Benjamin, WR

ADP 114.35, picked at #123
I have other players I personally prefer in this range, but I kind of talked myself into Kelvin Benjamin here. He is the primary target in the Buffalo Bills’ passing game, so he figures to be a source of pretty bankable volume. He should not start many weeks for me, but he could be a nice season-long value at his current ADP.

Round 12: D’Onta Foreman, RB

ADP 117.77, picked at #142
D’Onta Foreman is no sure thing to start the season, but as handcuffs go, he’s in a favorable position. Lamar Miller has been a disappointment in Houston so far. We saw Alfred Blue out-touch Miller 50-30 over the final three weeks last year, and I’m not convinced Miller has the complete trust of the Texans’ brass. If Miller gets off to a slow start, I believe Foreman could make some noise this season. He would likely be fully healed by that point and should be able to leapfrog Blue if Miller falters.

Round 13: David Njoku, TE

ADP 138.48, picked at #147
I have to admit that right before it came to my turn to pick, I had to take a call for work and failed to notice that David Njoku has the same bye week as my other tight end, Rob Gronkowski. (Guess I should add “distracted drafting” to my list of draft mistakes.) It’s really not the world’s worst blunder. If Gronk and Njoku are healthy and productive come Week 11, I’ll just have to pick up a tight end that week.

Round 14: Nyheim Hines, RB

ADP 154.95, picked at #166
I took Jones and Foreman several rounds earlier than Nyheim Hines, but Hines arguably has the easiest path of the three to a starting gig. If Hines can separate himself from Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins, he will be a steal at his ADP. Hines has more than a puncher’s chance to be the lead back in what will be an improved Indianapolis offense.

Round 15: Alex Smith, QB

ADP 156.69, picked at #171
I came to regret my Njoku pick a little when I saw O.J. Howard eligible here. I could have taken Marcus Mariota in Round 13 and gotten Howard here. I think I like that combination better than Alex Smith and Njoku but we shall see how it plays out. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

Round 16: Green Bay Packers D/ST

ADP: 187.5, picked at #190
I would have waited an extra round to take a defense, but there were already 13 defenses selected (keep in mind that there are only 11 other owners) by the time I took Green Bay here. The only other defense that would fit the plan was Seattle, and I want zero shares of the Legion of Gloom this season.

Round 17: Robbie Gould, K

ADP 181.48, picked at #195
Most of the other players I could have drafted here based on ADP were quarterbacks and tight ends, and taking a third player at either position is just a waste. Two is bad enough. I expect Robbie Gould to be a top-five kicker this year, as he was in 2017.

Round 18: Tyrell Williams, WR

ADP 198.44, picked at #214
If this were a Best Score league, I probably would have passed over Alex Smith in Round 15 and selected Lamar Jackson here. But as it stands. I could do a lot worse than Tyrell Williams with my final pick. He was a WR2 just two years ago and may pick up a few extra targets in Los Angeles this season following the season-ending injury to Hunter Henry.


This team does not look like most of the teams I have drafted or intend to draft in the coming weeks, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It feels odd to only select one running back through five rounds in a standard scoring league. Then again, as long as Elliott stays healthy, I can rotate my other backs in and out of my RB2 and Flex positions. If Lewis can remain productive and one of the young backs I drafted can hit, I will be in good shape. I truly feel I have three potential WR1s, and Thomas falling that late was a gift. Given Gronkowski and my trio of wideouts, I’d probably feel better about this team in a PPR league. But I still think my team should be highly competitive.

At the same time, this team feels a little lackluster considering the fact that I beat ADP with each pick, save for the third round where I had no choice. You would think my roster would be loaded with steals and bargains. But none of my mid to late-round picks felt like obvious values to me. In fact, I was forced to pass on several players I like because they did not fit the parameters of this experiment. For example, I would have rather grabbed Emmanuel Sanders and Rex Burkhead over Devin Funchess and Nick Chubb. There are a couple of wideouts I would have preferred over Benjamin, including Cameron Meredith and Rishard Matthews.

In my opinion, this confirms what I have said all along about ADP – it is just a number and should definitely not be looked at as some magical tipping point where a player gains or loses value. ADP is simply where a player happens to be selected on average in drafts. The lesson here is simple – do not use ADP as a barometer for when you should draft a player. If your valuation method cranks out a number way above or below a given player’s ADP, use that to your advantage, draft accordingly, and reap the rewards while all of the sheep meander mindlessly to the slaughterhouse.

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