Fantasy News & Analysis

Using past ADP trends to identify optimal targets in early 2022 fantasy football drafts

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs against Michigan defensive back R.J. Moten (6) during the second half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

There is no longer such thing as an offseason for fantasy football enthusiasts. With best ball formats already in full swing, drafters are plunging into the waters before the NFL draft has even occurred.

Establish The Run's Jack Miller recently analyzed the best times to draft in best ball and found that later drafters faired better. This analysis matches what I have found over the years in season-long redraft formats like the FFPC. In my experience, more information and softer draft rooms have led to a better return on investment in August and September.


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Knowing this, if fantasy managers want to continue to draft early, they have to consider how to maximize their edges on this portion of their portfolio. One way to do this is by drafting players who are likely to gain value in average draft position (ADP). Even if the player doesn't hit, we want to gain exposure when prices are low, providing more upside.

Based on the last two seasons of FFPC best ball data, this article will analyze a) when players are most likely to climb in ADP, b) the types of players that climb in ADP, and c) which players we should be targeting now at ADP in early drafts.

Note: Historic 2020 and 2021 ADP data is from FFPC best ball rather than Underdog due to data availability for drafts beginning in January.

WHEN PLAYERS CLIMBED THE MOST IN ADP

Last season in the FFPC's best ball leagues, 28 players drafted inside the top 150 in August had climbed two rounds or more in value since January. In 2020, that number was 23 from February (first data point available) to August, meaning in the past two seasons, 17% of the top 150 moved two rounds or more from the first month of drafts.

Last season, there were 38 total upward moves of 24 draft slots or more on a month-to-month basis for players finishing inside the top 150 in ADP by August. The three most significant months were March, April and May, coinciding with free agency, tightening mock-draft accuracy and the NFL draft.

Players drafted in the top-150 in August that moved 24 spots or more in ADP by month:

Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug
ADP increases of 24 or more 4 8 8 11 4 1 2

*28 players climbed two rounds or more, but some rose 24 spots multiple times during the offseason; a complete data set was not available for September

The large ADP movers stabilized in June and July, meaning those months may be the least ideal for drafting since the median scores and 90th percentile scores didn't differentiate in Miller's findings. Our data set is too small to make a definitive claim, but I will be light on June and July drafts this season.

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TYPES OF PLAYERS THAT CLIMBED THE MOST IN ADP

When studying the players who moved the most, some pervasive themes emerged:

  • Rookies
  • Second-year players
  • Free agents and players acquired via trade
  • Vacated opportunities (via free-agent departures, etc.)
Players drafted in top 150 in August and moved at least 12 ADP spots in 2020 and 2021
ADP Change Total Rookie 2nd Year 3rd Year Free Agent/Trade Vacated Opportunities % of Movers
12 to 24 43 5 7 4 4 3 53%
25 to 36 14 1 3 1 3 1 64%
37 to 48 11 0 2 2 2 1 64%
49 to 60 5 2 0 0 1 1 80%
61 to 72 0 0 0 0 0 0
73 to 84 7 3 1 0 3 0 100%
85+ 14 6 1 0 3 4 100%
Total 94 17 14 7 16 10 68%
Total % 18% 15% 7% 17% 11%

Rookies and free agents make sense, given that we see a higher frequency of large ADP jumps coinciding with free agency and the NFL draft. Likewise, vacated opportunities coincide with depth chart changes driven by free agency and the draft, so they also make sense. The second-year players were a surprise.

Antonio Gibson outperformed his expected draft position by 68 spots (per Grinding The Mocks) and posted the most significant ADP change (187). However, exceeding draft expectations position wasn't necessary to climb in ADP. 

Of the 17 rookies who moved up 12 or more ADP slots, seven were selected within four spots of their expected draft capital based on mock drafts. Rookies who started with ADPs under 60 didn't move as much, except for Najee Harris.

Michael Carter was the only running back not drafted in the first three rounds (pick 108) to make a 12-plus ADP jump, and Elijah Moore was the only wide receiver not drafted in the first round (Pick 49).

Using this information, we can focus on running backs currently mocking inside the top 100 and receivers inside the top 32 who still have mid- to later-round ADPs.

Rookies who rose 12+ ADP spots in 2020 and 2021
Season Player Pos Rd Pick Mock Draft vs. Mock Aug. ADP Tot ADP Chg
2020 Antonio Gibson  RB 3 66 134 68 91 187
2021 Elijah Moore WR 2 49 26 -23 131 152
2020 Brandon Aiyuk  WR 1 25 29 4 149 142
2020 Ke'Shawn Vaughn  RB 3 76 137 61 132 111
2021 Trey Lance QB 1 3 10 7 117 100
2020 Jalen Reagor  WR 1 21 37 16 119 97
2021 Trey Sermon RB 3 89 97 8 68 80
2021 Michael Carter RB 4 108 105 -3 80 76
2020 Clyde Edwards-Helaire  RB 1 32 51 19 7 73
2021 Kyle Pitts TE 1 4 4 0 33 59
2020 A.J. Dillon  RB 2 62 119 57 145 54
2020 Zack Moss  RB 3 86 92 6 98 30
2020 Henry Ruggs III  WR 1 12 14 2 127 23
2021 Ja'Marr Chase WR 1 5 5 0 59 22
2021 Najee Harris RB 1 24 24 0 17 19
2021 Jaylen Waddle WR 1 6 9 3 118 17
2020 Cam Akers  RB 2 52 67 15 52 16

Wide receivers were the predominant position drafted from the second-year player pool, representing eight out of 14 selections. Running backs finished second (4), and quarterback and tight end each had one.

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2022 ROOKIE TARGETS FOR MARCH, APRIL DRAFTS AT CURRENT ADP
Player Position FFPC ADP Underdog ADP Mock
Malik Willis QB 211 171 10
Kenneth Walker III RB 93 96 57
Isaiah Spiller RB 70 101 65
Kyren Williams RB 155 129 75
Tyler Allgeier RB 265 189 80
Brian Robinson RB 265 179 88
James Cook RB 293 226 89
Zamir White RB 284 222 99
Rachaad White RB 195 159 103
Drake London WR 124 91 17
Garrett Wilson WR 109 83 17
Treylon Burks WR 88 68 16
Chris Olave WR 135 107 25

QB Malik Willis 

Willis is making a push to be the No. 1 quarterback off the board. Add in his ability to run, and he becomes a likely candidate to climb into the top 18 among quarterbacks. Trey Lance climbed 71 fantasy draft spots last offseason. We probably won't see a lower price than this on Willis if he lands with a team where he can compete for a job.

RB Kenneth Walker III

Walker doesn't have the receiving profile we love, but he is the No. 1 back off the board in mocks and isn't getting love at FFPC or Underdog. As a result, he should be a vital component of any early-draft strategy.

RB Isaiah Spiller

Spiller projects as the No. 2 back in the draft and has receiving chops to boot. He isn't as appealing at FFPC, but his Underdog price tag is salacious.

RB Kyren Williams

Williams projects as a second-round draft selection and, like Spiller, provides help in the receiving game.

RB Tyler Allgeier

A strong performance from Allgeier at the combine this week could push him up boards. He is a solid all-around running back who currently slots inside the first three rounds.

WR Drake London

London isn't in my top receiver tier, but he is No. 1 on the PFF Big Board and climbing in mocks. If he gets inside the top 10, as some predict, his ADP will skyrocket. Ja'Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle climbed 22 and 17 spots, respectively, last season as the first two receivers off the board. London doesn't match their profiles, but draft capital could still significantly move the needle. His FFPC ADP is screaming “buy.”

WR Garrett Wilson

Wilson is in my top tier thanks to high marks across multiple vital criteria. He projects as a top-20 pick but is priced lower than the similarly mocked Treylon Burks.

WR Treylon Burks

Burks has the size and speed that NFL teams covet and is currently mocking as the No. 1 receiver off the board at Pick 16. He is tougher to extract value from on Underdog, but his FFPC ADP is still reasonable.

WR Chris Olave

Olave doesn't project to go as high as Burks, London and Wilson, but he still looks to be a first-round pick and is the cheapest on both sites.

You've got the first pick with your finances. Western Southern Financial Group.
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