Rookie Rankings vs ADP

John DiBari

As we head into week 11 of the NFL season, players’ roles are (for the most part) becoming solidified, and fantasy football’s year-one breakouts and busts are becoming apparent. Yes, there will be some late-season sleepers who have not yet emerged that will lead many owners to championship glory. On the other hand, we will see talented rookies who shine in year one fall off the map as their careers progress.

For dynasty owners, the incoming rookie class can be a considerable part of the current season’s success or failure. Looking back at DLF’s ADP data from the preseason and comparing it to current rookie rankings, we can see who is helping and hurting fantasy teams. Obviously, injuries have ruined the start to a few careers, and a few players haven’t gotten an opportunity to fully showcase their skills yet. Many rookies don’t “pop” until year two or three, so the book isn’t closed on them all yet.

Standard? PPR? Superflex?

I wanted to take a look at ADP from both early and late rookie drafts in the off-season and compare that with current rookie fantasy point totals. With so many different scoring options and league settings, for the sake of keeping it simple, I used standard scoring and one QB draft results.

It should go without saying, superflex bumps up quarterbacks, and their ADP is affected dramatically. PPR scoring drives up high-volume receivers and pass-catching backs. When filtering the rankings through PPR scoring as well, there were not multiple players who were severely impacted. Both superflex and PPR are very popular, but again, using 1QB and standard scoring was the easiest way to take a balanced look at this information.

There is no way to account for TE premium, point-per-carry, point-per-first-down, and all the other fun scoring systems. More often than not, the top players are more or less the top players regardless of scoring and tend to be relatively close in ranking at season’s end.

Early ADP

Looking back at very early rookie ADP from February, we see some wild-looking data. Before the combine and draft, we were relying heavily on college film and perceived skill sets, while we had very little information regarding measurable athletic ability and what NFL teams, coaches, and general managers thought about the incoming rookie class.

Kelvin Harmon and Hakeem Butler were both consensus top-five picks in rookie drafts. Rodney Anderson was a top-ten pick. Elijah Holyfield was a mid-second round pick. Greg Dortch was going at the two-three turn while Mecole Hardman was going undrafted. One of my biggest takeaways way that despite how early the ADP data was collected, only one of the top-30 players in February’s ADP fell outside of the top-60 in late rookie drafts. So, although we did have a lot of movement, the perceived “top” of the draft class early on held onto their value well, I suspect a large part of that has to do with people refusing to believe they could be so wrong on players they were so high on, but the cause isn’t significant.

Going forward, the helpful thing to remember might be to watch the ADP “fallers” in future draft classes. If you’re on the clock, and an early draft season darling is still on the board that you aren’t interested in, you might be able to extract a king’s ransom from a trading partner who can’t let go of the recent past.

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Late ADP

Comparing the pre-combine and pre-draft ADP from February with the post-combine and post-draft ADP from May, we can see some wild moves. In only three months’ time, we saw 17 players out of 60 (28 percent!) fall out of, or climb into the top 60 in ADP. The combine always has a huge impact, but draft day is even more important. Ten of the 17 players who fell completely outside of the top-60 were undrafted, 11 if you count Mr. Irrelevant too.


The biggest risers were Kyler Murray (up 18 spots in ADP), Miles Sanders (16), Ryquell Armstead (16), Parris Campbell (15), Jalen Hurd (12), Andy Isabella (11), and Travis Homer (11). Not included were Mecole Hardman and Miles Boykin, who were going undrafted in February but saw them meteorically rise to 16th and 24th in ADP, respectively.

Other notable members of February’s undrafted group who climbed into the May ADP included Diontae Johnson, Jace Sternberger, Alexander Mattison, Darwin Thompson, Kahale Warring, Will Grier, and Alex Barnes.


On the other hand, the biggest fallers from February to May were Elijah Holyfield (down 40, four-zero, F-O-R-T-Y spots in ADP), Myles Gaskin (21), Rodney Anderson (21), Kelvin Harmon (20), Preston Williams (17), Trayveon Williams (15), KeeSean Johnson (14), and Devine Ozigbo (13).

Other notable players who fell entirely outside of five-round rookie drafts include Greg Dortch, Anthony Johnson, DaMarkus Lodge, LJ Scott, Jordan Scarlett, and Drew Sample. Sample is interesting because he was selected in the second round of the NFL draft and fell entirely out of fantasy rookie drafts, Although maybe it was an anti-Bengals thing, as Anderson and Williams all saw their fantasy stock collapse after landing in Cincinnati.

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(Un)Fulfilled Promises

With the gift of hindsight, ADP data is fun to look at, but how have those early picks fared ten weeks into the season? What sleepers have emerged? Who hasn’t lived up to the hype? Truth be told, ten games into their rookie campaign this group as a whole hasn’t been too impressive. Only Kyler Murray and Josh Jacobs are within the top 12 at their respective positions, and just nine rookies are within the top 24.

Wide Receivers

With N’Keal Harry out on injured reserve, DK Metcalf has emerged as the top wide receiver in this class so far, and he was being drafted as such. Surprisingly (to some, not to others), Washington’s Terry McLaurin has been the second-best wide receiver in this class. With a third-round ADP, his owners are reaping the rewards of a high-upside WR2 on a weekly basis. Mecole Hardman and Marquise Brown are both high upside, high-volatility types who have had some monster games mixed in with some stinkers, but have proven to be best-ball studs and a fine option as your WR3 or flex.

At the position, the Giants’ Darius Slayton is the highest-scoring player who went undrafted in most leagues. Currently sitting at WR34 on the year, he missed some time to start the season, and on a per-game basis, he is now averaging the third-most points per game among rookie receivers. Aside from Slayton, The Dolphins’ Preston Williams showed flashes in the early going before recently being placed on IR and seems to be a steal with the 5.09 pick back in May. Other players who have done enough to quell any concerns include Deebo Samuel, Diontae Johnson, and AJ Brown.

On the flip side, quite a few players have let owners down early in their careers, and if you still believe in them, there may be a great buy-low opportunity emerging over the off-season. The biggest apparent flop is the Eagles’ JJ Arcega-Whiteside. He was taken with the 1.09 pick, and even on a Philly team that is desperate for help at receiver, JJAW has amassed an astonishingly bad 1.4 fantasy points, good enough for an entirely irrelevant WR175 on the year. As a rookie wide receiver, this isn’t usually a huge concern, but given the Eagles need for production at the position, it’s a little concerning thus far. Early in the off-season,

Kelvin Harmon was the third-ranked receiver in this class, and many analysts had him ranked 1st overall in this class, yet as the calendar heads towards December, Harmon is WR142. Even though he fell towards the end of the second round as draft season wore on, that’s still not the return on investment many fantasy owners were hoping for. Parris Campbell has also been a relative disappointment. With an ADP of 1.08 in rookie drafts, nobody thought he wouldn’t even have 20 points by November 15th. Granted, losing Andrew Luck was catastrophic for his fantasy future.

Running Backs

Josh Jacobs has lived up to everything many thought he could be. He was the first running back taken in the NFL draft, rose to an ADP of 1.02, and is a legit RB1 on the season. David Montgomery and Miles Sanders have been sufficient RB2s after both being first-round picks in rookie drafts. Despite missing time, Devin Singletary is currently RB42 and has flashed plenty of upside when he’s been on the field. The only other running back from the 2019 class who is living up to, or exceeding expectations is Alexander Mattison. Even with Dalvin Cook clearly in the lead-back role, Mattison has managed respectable RB4 numbers on limited touches in mop-up duty.

As far as letdowns go, there are quite a few at running back so far. The biggest has to be Darrell Henderson. After the hype train left the station, with rumors swirling regarding the conditions of Todd Gurley‘s knees, Henderson has done next to nothing. Currently RB75, he wasn’t even flex-worthy during the six-team bye week hell. Damien Harris was another round two selection who has vanished into thin air, but if you thought you could trust a Patriot running back, that’s on you. Baltimore’s Justice Hill was expected to do more, especially as a receiver, but the Ravens have been cruising along offensively, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I still think we’ll see Hill emerge over the next year or two, but his current position as RB84 is uninspiring.

Quarterbacks and Tight Ends

Kyler Murray has done everything that has been asked of him and has lived up to your draft day hopes and dreams. Gardner Minshew came out of nowhere to be the second-best fantasy signal-caller thus far, but he has been relegated to the bench again with the return of a healthy Nick Foles. Daniel Jones was falling like a stone in many drafts I was in, and I took advantage of what I perceived to be a great value pick. Jones has been good enough since he’s taken over the starting job and is a very serviceable QB2. Everyone else gets an “incomplete” grade at this point. They have not been on the field enough to make a judgment yet. The only exception might be Will Grier, who has been unable to see any reps over Kyle Allen even with Cam Newton out of the picture.

At tight end, the top two options of TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant have both played to TE2 levels, even though both have mainly been buoyed by one massive performance. After the Iowa guys, Dawson Knox, Foster Moreau, and Irv Smith, Jr. have all been floating around in the TE3 range and seem to have bright futures. The only tight ends who have genuinely disappointed based on real, and fantasy ADP, have been Jace Sternberger and Drew Sample.

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Nobody knows what the future holds or what players are destined for fantasy stardom. I showcased several players who have lived up to or surpassed their draft-day expectations and also took a look at a few players who seem to be headed into bust territory. Especially at wide receiver and tight end, it can sometimes take players two or three years to really learn all of the nuances of playing in the NFL, so don’t hit the panic button just yet. One of the best parts of dynasty leagues is playing the long game, speculating, and making predictions.

I hope this information gives you a little insight into players who might be buy-low candidates, and who you may want to sell high based on name value if you still can. Good luck on your push to the fantasy playoffs, and if you’re already eliminated… it’s never too early to start prepping for the 2020 draft.

john dibari