Updated: Aug. 11 at 7:40 p.m. EDT
Average draft position (ADP) is an informative tool for gaining general understanding of how fantasy football owners currently view players. Quality ADP data providers painstakingly calculate the results by weeding out computer selections and wild outliers — we all know that guy who drafts a kicker in Round 3.
The elite ADP services allow gamers to sort by specific details, such as how many teams drafted, the scoring system, whether the leagues were casual or advanced, small or large, etc. Some even show ranges of a player’s highest and lowest placement over X amount of drafts, as well as display individual player trends.
The most important aspect of utilizing ADP data is knowing it is merely a piece of the puzzle. Fantasy owners tend to get hung up on specific numbers, which is natural considering this is a game of, well, numbers. Do not fall into this trap.
ADP data must be viewed as a general range, and just like they say in the comedy business, “Know your audience!” In fantasy, this mantra applies well to draft evaluation in relation to ADP: Understanding if the data used is based on more casual leagues or advanced in comparison to your draft is crucial. An example is if you play in a 14-teamer with complex scoring but use ADP intel from a 10-team format with standard scoring, chances are you’ll be led astray.
Another way to be deceived by data sets is to use outdated ranges. Tremendous change occurs from, say, March or May through August or the first week of September. The later in the draft season we get before drafting, naturally the data will be more robust. Like most other data sets, the bigger the better for drawing conclusions. However, it can be skewed if it doesn’t remove earlier entries. Most quality providers of ADP information purge old draft results to keep the averages fresh.
While this aspect is tougher to track, knowing where the data comes from can be immensely valuable. An illustration would be if the data included free leagues from mainstream sources, like Yahoo! Sports or CBS Sports, and mixed that data in with complex offerings from niche sites.
A general rule of thumb is for the first three rounds of ADP data, use a plus-minus range of roughly six choices. Once entering the span of Round 4 through the midway point, treat data with progressive flexibility of approximately 12-18 picks. In the second half of drafts, ADP largely becomes meaningless. Beyond about the ninth or 10th rounds, players become fliers and roster-fillers — owners become far more willing to gamble.
ADP can be especially useful in visualizing positional trends. Expansive providers color-code the results, which allows for positions to jump off the page. For example, it is particularly handy to notice early in drafts when quarterbacks and tight ends begin to come off of the board en masse. Reviewing these color-branded charts show bunches of players — look at how many running backs tend to go in the first 20 picks in standard scoring versus how many wideouts are drafted in the following 20. Also, the same can be done for comparative purposes in point-per-reception scoring.
- Even in non-PPR, five of the top 12 picks are wide receivers.
- The first tight end (Rob Gronkowski) is a late second-round choice. Aaron Rodgers joins him a few picks later as the top quarterback pick.
- The third round is generally dominated by wideouts in non-PPR and PPR scoring.
- Denver’s defense has the highest ADP of 9:08, which is several rounds earlier than necessary for a selection of the position. KC comes off almost a full round later as the next defense chosen.
- Wideouts tend to dominate again once drafts enter the 11th and 12th rounds, whereas running backs reemerge as the preferred gamble from Rounds 13-14. As expected, most drafts close out with defensive teams and kickers controlling the board over the final two rounds.
To reiterate, ADP is a tool and not the be-all, end-all means to drafting. Understand how the utility can be applied to draft preparation, but do not give in to it being a strict blueprint to drafting. Do not wait to select targeted sleepers and fliers because of their ADP data. The average placement is, as mentioned, a general guideline and should not prohibit gamers from “reaching” a round or two.
Nothing beats experience. Get out there and tinker with mock drafts. Test different formats and get a real feel for how drafts often play out.