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According to the Data: Looking at Early-Year ADP to Determine Value

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.

Looking at Early-Year ADP to Determine Value

There aren't many tools in the fantasy owner's arsenal more valuable than Average Draft Position (ADP). Mock drafts are fun, but they can actually be harmful to owners. In any draft, certain players have a range in which they could potentially get drafted based on how the draft unfolds. Fantasy football drafts often create a butterfly effect of sorts; change a single selection or replace just one owner, and the results of any particular draft can be drastically altered.

When you participate in or view a mock draft, the majority of players will be selected comfortably within their "range of possible outcomes," i.e. they'll be at or near their "average" spot. Some players, however, will be in outlying positions near the high or low end of their pre-draft ranges. If you participate in a draft in which Aaron Rodgers drops into the third round, for example, you'll likely be an unhappy owner if you expect to wait to grab Rodgers in the same round of your next draft.

Because of that, ADP is the most useful way to determine players' value. In effect, ADP limits the randomness of individual drafts to provide you with a more accurate depiction of reality. If you see that LeSean McCoy's current ADP is No. 13 overall, you can expect that, in most drafts, McCoy will get selected anywhere from the late-first to the mid-second. Of course, if you're a member of RotoWire, you're probably already very familiar with ADP.

Using ADP to Judge Rankings

I'm a big believer in creating your own projections and rankings. You can and should collect as much data as possible from as many legitimate sources as you can, but at the end of the day, your rankings should be drafted independently of public opinion.

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider the views of others. After you make your initial rankings, it can be helpful to view ADP to learn where you stand in relation to others. In no way should your original rankings simply mirror public opinion, but when you have a player ranked wildly differently than the masses, he's worth a second look.

The reason for this is a phenomenon known as "wisdom of the crowds" whereby the aggregate of expert opinions is often superior to the majority of those individual opinions taken in isolation. If you bet on football games using the consensus picks from professional sports bettors, for example, the results are typically superior to those from most of the bettors themselves.

Early-Season ADP

Of course, ADP in late-August is hardly a collection of expert opinions. By that time, you've had just about every type of owner participate in drafts, and there's a whole lot of "groupthink" that has taken place. In many cases, a previously quality expert opinion on a sleeper may have catapulted him so far up boards that he no longer offers value. Similarly, some players fly under the radar simply because they haven't received a ton of publicity.

In the beginning of the year, however, there aren't many first-year fantasy owners participating in drafts. Instead, it's more advanced players who are fresh off of the 2012 season. Without consensus rankings published yet, they're working off of their own research and analysis. Most important, they typically haven't let the opinions of others cloud their own judgments.

Thus, looking at early-season ADP can give us a really strong indication of market value for the upcoming season. Below, I've pasted the current standard scoring ADP for the top 30 players in 2013:

1. RB Adrian Peterson
2. RB Arian Foster
3. RB Doug Martin
4. RB Ray Rice
5. WR Calvin Johnson
6. RB Marshawn Lynch
7. RB Trent Richardson
8. RB C.J. Spiller
9. QB Aaron Rodgers
10. RB Jamaal Charles
11. QB Drew Brees
12. WR Demaryius Thomas
13. RB LeSean McCoy
14. QB Tom Brady
15. WR A.J. Green
16. RB Alfred Morris
17. WR Brandon Marshall
18. TE Rob Gronkowski
19. WR Dez Bryant
20. WR Julio Jones
21. RB Matt Forte
22. TE Jimmy Graham
23. QB Peyton Manning
24. WR Percy Harvin
25. WR Victor Cruz
26. RB Chris Johnson
27. QB Cam Newton
28. RB Stevan Ridley
29. RB David Wilson
30. RB Darren McFadden

Using Early-Season ADP in August

It would obviously be unwise to use the ADP above when you draft later this year. Your board can and should change quite a bit leading up to your draft. However, it's still valuable to understand the opinions of the most advanced owners out there, and early-season ADP can allow for that.

The most useful way to use the above numbers, perhaps, is to seek players who have dropped without much reason to fall. If Drew Brees falls from his current No. 11 draft slot because he hurt his elbow in the preseason, for example, you may or may not find value at his new draft slot. You have to adjust for any and all new information.

However, if Alfred Morris falls from being the 10th overall running back selected in the middle of the second round to the 13th running back in the back of the third, and you can't uncover any reason to explain the decline, chances are it was because the advanced owners have a higher opinion of Morris than the general public. If that coincides with your own projections for Morris, you can rest easier knowing you might have found true value.

Jonathan Bales is the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft. He also runs the "Running the Numbers" blog at DallasCowboys.com and writes for the New York Times.