ADP Mining



As you’re no doubt aware, every month our own Ryan McDowell does a great job of running a series of mock dynasty drafts, and compiling the ADP data to get a convenient snapshot of where players are going in a startup session. After reviewing the ADP data for July, I’ve identified some potential trade targets who I think are worth an inquiry in your existing dynasty leagues.

Before we jump into player discussion, I think it’s worth taking a moment to discuss how to properly apply ADP data to your already existing dynasty league. The fact is, at any given moment, more people tend to be playing in existing dynasty leagues than participating in, or planning to participate in, a dynasty startup. Since the average draft position is sourced from leagues that are just beginning (or in the case of the DLF data, mock leagues that are just beginning) I think it’s important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of ADP data as it applies to existing dynasty leagues.

The first thing to keep in mind is that we’re dealing with averages here, so do not rely too heavily on what the specific ranking of a player is. Tavon Austin’s July ADP was 56.5 and the twenty-first receiver taken. When you look at the specific data points that went into calculating the 56.5 position, however, you’ll see that Austin went as high as 43 (the #15 receiver taken) and 74 (the #13 receiver taken). The overall takeaway is just a disclaimer that the feelings of the Austin owner in your league may vary, and have little or no correlation with what the ADP data says. A player’s ADP gives you an indication of a possible price range, nothing more.

We also need to recognize that ADP data is from draft setting, and therefore trying to “translate” that data into a player’s price or value in an existing league is a little complex. In a draft, by definition, a player will be drafted by whoever is willing to take that player highest. That is to say, in theory, whoever drafts Shane Vereen probably likes him more than anyone else in the league.  In practice, this may not be true 100% of the time as there might be someone else who is higher on Vereen, but was gambling that he would drop another round or simply had other players ranked even higher than Vereen, so he was never the top option.  But, at the very least, we can safely assume immediately following a draft, Vereen will belong to an owner who values him more than the majority of the league.

The same assumption cannot be made in an existing dynasty league. The Vereen owner may have been very high on him when he was entering the league as a rookie, high enough to spend an early first round pick on him, but feels differently now. That owner has now had to sit through a couple seasons without getting much return on his investment, while Stevan Ridley  zoomed right past Vereen on the New England depth chart. That can leave a bad taste in an owner’s mouth, and if that owner is the impatient type, the emotional relationship with Vereen might be souring.

The point is it’s very possible (maybe even likely) the average owner of Vereen immediately after a startup is higher on Vereen’s average owner who’s held him since 2011 and not received much production from him over that time. Because of that history with Vereen, the ADP generated by a bunch of new, enthusiastic Vereen owners isn’t necessarily relevant. The same is possible for every player because the history of an owner’s relationship with a player can have a significant impact.

Really, ADP data should more be used as a check on your own feelings about a player. If you think Vereen is going to be a top 15 running back this year, you can easily see from the ADP data that you’re higher on him than most people. Therefore, it might be worth getting in touch with the Vereen owner, and seeing if you can buy him for a price more befitting his ADP of RB #27. He might agree with you and not want to sell Vereen, but if he’s closer to the valuation implied by his ADP, you can probably get a deal done that you will feel great about.

Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at some quarterbacks and running backs who I think may be undervalued based on their recent ADP. I’ll do an examination of WR and TE in a separate article.

Josh Freeman, QB TB (QB #21)

Freeman had an inconsistent 2012 campaign, which is a microcosm of his career so far. After his breakout season in 2010 in which he completed over 61% of his passes and threw 25 TDs against just six interceptions, Freeman has had problems with turnovers and just generally being a volatile player. The Bucs went out and took Mike Glennon in the third round of the draft this off-season, which many have taken as an indication that Freeman may be in the hot seat.

Personally, I’m not buying it.

Freeman has performed at a high level, has excellent physical tools and is still only 25 years old. He certainly needs to mature more as a player and possibly as a person as well, but I don’t think the Buccaneers are giving up on him; he’s simply shown too much ability. It’s easy to forget that for most of the regular fantasy season last year, Freeman was in the 7-9 quarterback range, and was putting up some big weeks. He also has an excellent, young supporting offensive cast around him.

You don’t want to have to rely on him as a starter right now, but his ADP of QB #21 implies that he’s being thought of as a mid-level backup. The Freeman owner in your league very likely has a more reliable starter, so casting a net out to see if you can grab him as your backup is a great move. When possible (meaning when it’s not cost-prohibitive) I always aim to have high upside backups, and Freeman is exactly that. The fact he’s being valued in the ADP market behind guys like Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler, who are the definition of a low-ceiling QB2, is crazy to me.

Jake Locker, QB TEN (QB #25)

There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about Locker, but it is way too early to be writing him off, and the QB #25 is clearly “write off” territory. Everyone knows what Locker’s main issue is – accuracy. It was a problem in college, and so far, it’s been one in the NFL as well. If he can’t get that completion percentage up to around 60%, he may not have a long window as an NFL starter.

I think it’s easy to forget, however, that due to an injury and being behind Matt Hasselbeck for a time, Locker only has 16 games under his belt. Like Freeman, he has all of the physical tools and has shown flashes at times. I remember watching a Titans game where Locker had to come in and relieve an injured Matt Hasselbeck, and the difference was night and day. It was like the Titans had opened up one of those trick peanut cans with the coiled up toy snake that comes popping out when you open it. He was wild and inconsistent, but he produced instant offense.

It remains to be seen if Locker’s potential can be harnessed and his accuracy and decision-making refined, but if the Locker owner in your league values him anywhere close to this range, he’s an easy buy. Again, like Freeman, you want aim to have high-upside backups where possible and cost effective.

Philip Rivers, QB SD (QB #28)

I feel like I hear Rivers’ name a lot tossed around as a bounce-back candidate, but so far, that feeling has not been expressed in ADP data, so I’m going to mention him here. You probably don’t need yet another person telling you that Rivers has had a poor offensive line and surrounding cast, etc., etc., but it is the truth. I’m not sure how much of that will be improved in 2013, but I don’t think the offense is going to be as bad as many people are saying. Rivers has some potentially emerging targets at receiver, a nice complimentary player in Danny Woodhead in case Mathews is a disaster again, and whatever kind of Antonio Gates impersonation that Antonio Gates can muster this year.

He’s older than the other guys on this list, so his contributions may be shorter, but 32 (once the season starts) is not too old for a quarterback. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Rivers can return to be a decent fantasy starter. Remember, he’s just two years away from throwing for 4,710 yards and 30 touchdowns. It’s certainly possible Rivers has just “lost it,” which is the alternative explanation other than the offensive line, but I don’t think we have a definite answer yet. Depending on which narrative the Rivers owner in your league believes, he could be a nice, relatively cheap player to target as a decent backup with some nice upside.

For the discussion about some running back targets, I’m going to break them down into a couple of different categories:


These players might cost you some scratch to acquire, but I still believe they may be under-valued by their current owners, so they’re worth looking into.

DeMarco Murray, RB DAL (RB #13)

I’m someone who is less liberal with the “injury prone” label than most, and Murray is a player who I’m not sold deserves it. Murray suffered a fractured ankle to bring his stellar rookie campaign to an early finish, and a foot sprain in the middle of 2012 that made him unavailable during the fantasy stretch run. Because of his missed time, Murray has been flagged as an “injury prone” player, and generally made people downgrade him. Some of this pessimism has fuelled enthusiasm about Joseph Randle, who is being lauded by some as the next Emmitt Smith.

Lost in all of these issues is the most important piece of information about Murray – he is extremely talented. He had an explosive rookie year once he took the job away from Felix Jones, the highlight of which was putting up 253 yards against the Rams in week seven of that season. He’s young (just turned 25), in a high octane offense, and is a capable receiver (35 receptions in 2012 despite it being a shortened season).

This guy ticks all of the boxes of an elite dynasty running back, but his stock is being dragged down by a strained and rapidly growing hype about a completely unspectacular fifth round running back supposedly waiting in the wings.

Now being drafted as the RB13 doesn’t make him cheap, but you get the distinct impression people almost shrug when they take him, like it’s out of obligation. It’s very possible Murray’s missed time along with the Randle-train is making the Murray owner in your league twitchy, and in my opinion, it’s a great time to pounce and get yourself a #1 RB.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB JAX (RB #21)

This recommendation is window-specific – if you’re a competitive team, I think going out and buying MJD as your RB2 is a great idea. If you’re younger, or attempting the dreaded “rebuild,” you can skip own down this list.

Unlike Murray, there are legitimate reasons why Jones-Drew’s stock is down right now. Take your pick really – his age, workload, contract, team situation, health, his cartilage in his knee (or lack thereof). Anyone who is still holding him is probably thinking the “sell before he collapses” window has passed, and they’re probably right.

But yes, I think you should swoop in at least for a price check. It’s true that Jones-Drew just turned 28, and thus in running back terms is in the twilight of his career, but keep in mind that for the first few years in the league, he was splitting carries, mostly with Fred Taylor. Jones-Drew didn’t even break 200 carries until 2009, although since then he’s logged around 300 carries per year, along with a pile of receptions.

The main appeal Jones-Drew has is that he’s one of the few all-purpose, bellcow backs. Or at least, he will be if he’s healthy. The Jaguars don’t even have anyone as promising as the aforementioned Joseph Randle behind MJD, so if healthy, he’s going to get all of the carries and targets he can handle.

I love his short-term upside and his dropping price, and think he has two more “ride him into the ground” fantasy years to give us. Take advantage of his currently stinky name, and buy.

Chris Ivory, RB NYJ (RB #28)

Ivory might be someone I am willing to give the “prone” tag too, but I still think he’s great value in this range. Ivory is an absolutely ferocious runner – in short, it’s a pleasure to watch him run. Yes, he’s on the Jets, which is not great, but Shonn Greene put up a top 20 season on this offense last year and, as much as I might laugh at this statement a year from now, I don’t see how the Jets offense can get worse than it was in 2012.

If you’re in a non-PPR league, I think Ivory could be a solid RB2. Check in on his owner and see if he’s looking to get out of this “injury prone” player on a terrible New York Jet offense.


These are guys that may not be starting for you right now, but I like their upside relative to their price enough to make them targets.

Bryce Brown, RB PHI (RB #35)

This is a somewhat odd choice because Brown is a backup who’s being drafted pretty high, but I think his upside warrants an even higher price. Brown was an elite prospect out of high school, but after an odd, abbreviated college career, his stock fell drastically and he went in the seventh round of the draft. Brown showed us that he has the ability last year with his two huge games with over 170 rushing yards against the Panthers and Cowboys near the end of 2012. Of course he also showed us that he has a fumbling problem, but that can be fixed.

This is a “gut feeling” player call here. I’m connecting the dots on the hype he generated as a college prospect and the flashes he’s already shown in the NFL. I don’t know how much work he’s going to get immediately behind LeSean McCoy in the Chip Kelly offense, I don’t know how he gets on the field, but I do know that he’s a player I want on my team.

Daryl Richardson, RB STL (RB #44)

Richardson is currently the cheapest St. Louis running back and I think that’s a little nuts. He’s the only player of the three to show anything yet at the NFL-level. Somehow, Isaiah Pead has cruised by him without doing anything on the field, and Zac Stacy, well, refer to my earlier comments on Joseph Randle. It’s certainly not unheard of for late-round running backs to make an impact, but it is unlikely.

I like Richardson because even if he loses out on the “starting” role, I think he’ll still have a nice role carved out for him as a receiver out of the backfield, and thus may retain some low-flex usability, even in that limited capacity. His upside is that he could be the #1 back in a platoon. Not bad for the forty-forth running back being drafted right now.

Ryan Williams, RB ARI (RB #49)

I’m not giving up yet. I was really high on him coming into the league and I actually was impressed with some of his touches in the 2012 pre-season. Yes, I know, the pre-season. Still, you can do a lot worse for late-round fliers. Williams has suffered major injuries, but he’s only 23 years old, and I’m going to give him one more year.

Robert Turbin, RB SEA (RB #56)

This is a counter-move to the Christine Michael hype. I am actually on board with Michael and like him a lot, but that doesn’t mean Turbin isn’t a talented player in his own right. The short-term picture is muddy, but Turbin was considered a high upside handcuff just a few months ago. I don’t think his long-term outlook should change much just because of the Michael pick. Gamble on the talent, especially if you can get him near this price.

DeAngelo Williams, RB CAR (RB #59)

Yes, he’s 30, but I’m sorry, it’s absolutely insane that DeAngello Williams is being drafted as the fifty-ninth running back. Like MJD, this is a “window specific” recommendation, but Williams is ultra-talented, his low tread on his tires because of how much he’s played in a platoon, and apparently is almost free to acquire. Get him as your RB4 or 5 and he could come up big for you if Jonathan Stewart gets injured, which is the most liberal use of the word “if” imaginable.

Deep Leagues Only

These are end of the bench players in deep leagues with available roster spots.

Shonn Greene, RB TEN (RB #70)

Greene was never quite talented enough to be a starting running back, but he actually might be a little under-valued as a backup. I can’t remember the last time Chris Johnson had a backup worth mentioning, so this could be a sign that he’s going to be giving up a certain percentage of his carries, maybe even the high value ones near the end zone. Greene is going pretty late in drafts, and isn’t a bad stash.

Daniel Thomas, RB MIA (RB #83)

He’s been a bust so far, no doubt about it. But Thomas still has an intriguing power/speed combination, and although Lamar Miller is being crowned as the next breakout player, he is also yet unproven. Thomas could possibly play himself into a platoon with Miller, be Miller’s backup, or be the third stringer behind Miller and Mike Gillislee. I’m willing to find out if I have an open roster spot.

Jonathan Dwyer/Isaac Redman (RBs #77 & #109)

Again, I like counter-hype moves. Everyone has anointed Le’Veon Bell as the bellcow back for the Steelers (and they might be right), but in deep leagues, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are more or less free. Stick one of them, preferably Dwyer, on your roster as a wager against the rookie hype. You’ll know quickly enough whether or not it’s a good move, so it won’t be hard to jettison these players if it doesn’t work out.