You might be thinking that it’s still too early to be discussing fantasy football, but with free agent signings, team OTA’s coming and going, reports of other off-season workouts and important keeper league decisions needing to be made, we’re here to tell you that it’s never too early. As with any successful championship run, knowledge and research are paramount. You don’t want to be the guy who walks into your draft sounding like an owl – always asking “who?” with every pick that goes by – and you certainly don’t want to be the guy who reaches too early for players or waits too long only to see them get scooped by your competitors. The who’s who of players is up to you as you look through our rankings and team pages to get yourself familiar, but where to take a particular player is something that I can help you with right here as I begin another series of Average Draft Position (ADP) trend analysis.
For those familiar with this bi-annual series (we do it for both football and baseball), bear with me while I catch everyone else up. For those who aren’t, here’s the gist of it: mock drafts can be one of the most helpful tools you can use as you prepare for your upcoming fantasy football draft. Not only do you get to practice for your actual draft and see which players you might be taking at a particular draft position, but it’s also a great way to follow which players are gaining in popularity and being taken higher and higher and which players are falling out of favor with the general public. In this series we look at the draft trends for each position as well as for the individual players. Do enough mock drafts, study enough of the trend analysis, and you’ll not only be able to adjust your strategy and picks on the fly with ease, but you’ll likely end up with one of the most formidable squads at the end of the day.
The draft data that we will be using can all be found on Mock Draft Central. We’ll be looking at all of the ADP rankings from both public and expert mocks and we’ll be doing plenty of work with the ADP Trend Report. Here in June, the sample size of data is obviously small as few people are doing mocks right now, but in an effort to jump start things, you’ll start seeing more from something called the Mock Draft Army which is a rotating group of fantasy writers who have committed to do a series of experts drafts in order to provide you with as much and as accurate ADP data as we can. In addition to that, I’m also going to be opening up a series of mock drafts to the general public because your thoughts and opinions are also integral to the accuracy of the ADP rankings.
Why so early in the year? Well for a few reasons. Number one is that the earlier we start, the more data we will begin to accumulate. By the time mini-camps roll around we should have enough data that there will be no complaints of small samples or data skewed by the site’s default rankings. Number two is that keeper league owners need to see where a number of players are going as they prepare to submit their protect list. When making the decision as to protect one player or another, this will help you see just where each player is going this season and help you decide whether he’s worth holding onto or if maybe you can get him at a more bargain rate by throwing him back into the player pool. And third, it’s fun and the last time I checked, fantasy football was still a game. There’s nothing more entertaining, or helpful mind you, than being a part of a worthwhile mock draft filled with people who are both knowledgeable and prepared. Sure, the data is helpful but so is the banter between the writers as players are constantly critiqued.
To get things started this week, we’re going to take a look at the ADP base line. Between the initial Rotowire/Mock Draft Central rankings which are used for the site and the Mock Draft Army’s first draft of the 2013 season, we have a pretty good starting point to use. Today, I’m going to take you through the first five rounds of a standard 12-team league and over the next few days, we’ll start looking at each position and some of the trends you may be seeing. So without further ado, it’s time to begin your prep work for the season.
There should be little or no surprise here in the first round as it is, once again dominated by running backs. A general rule of thumb is that the guys who touch the ball the most are the ones who produce the most fantasy points. Hence, having a solid, first-tier back who sees roughly 30 touches per game is going to be huge for your team. Now with the use of running back committees, as so many teams have gone to, the number of top tier backs is rapidly dwindling which is why there is such a sense of urgency to cover the position with your first pick. However, there are obviously exceptions to the rule as Calvin Johnson not only sees a ton of targets, but his ability to pick up yardage and find his way into the endzone is uncanny. Some folks go for the high-end quarterbacks, and while I don’t endorse that move, it’s obviously important to take notice of who is doing it and when.
This round takes an interesting turn away from what we are used to seeing in past years. Only four of the 12 picks were running backs as most people turned to the wide receiver position. With the NFL becoming a more pass-happy world and with a lack of elite running backs, top-tier receivers like Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green, players who see the most targets, both in and out of the red zone, are becoming much more valuable. While Rob Gronkowski finds his way into Round 2, you’ll likely see that change dramatically over the coming weeks given the fact that another offseason surgery has actually put his Week 1 status in doubt.
Round 3 has a much more even distribution amongst the positions which is, again, a deviation from what we’re used to seeing in this round. Because the first two rounds were normally dominated by running backs, the third round was usually where you were able to start grabbing some of the more elite wide receivers. Now, with a heavy presence of receivers in the second round, you’re actually able to find a few decent running back options here such as Matt Forte and Frank Gore. An important thing to notice here though is that another three quarterbacks have come off the board. In past years, with so much early round focus on running backs and receivers, coupled with the incredible depth at the quarterback position, you were actually able to wait until the fifth round. Now, with six of the top 10 off the board by the end of the third round, you just might have to make a move quicker than you originally thought.
Another round and another pair of quarterbacks off the board. While neither are considered elite, both are easily considered top 10. Colin Kaepernick may have lost his top receiver, Michael Crabtree, to an injury, but with the way he racks ups rushing yardage and poaches touchdown runs, his value is definitely up there. Russell Wilson lands a major target in Percy Harvin this offseason, so expectations have easily gone up. Whether that makes him a worthy pick in this round, however, is yet to be determined. The rest of this round was dominated with second and third tier wideouts with a splash of some injury prone and some hopefully up-and-coming running backs. The receivers are all about proven talent while the backs are all upside-laden.
And finally, the fifth round here, once dominated by a mad-rush of quarterbacks, is all about the receivers. While the position may be incredibly deep, an interesting trend we are seeing is that, overall, receivers have become a much more desired early target for owners. Twenty-four of the first 60 picks were receivers and in comparison to the 25 running back picks and trends from years past, that’s pretty substantial. Given the comparison between the backs and the receivers in this round, it would appear that receiver is the way to go. Better to grab yourself a wideout like Harvin, Eric Decker or Wes Welker than to worry about another disastrous season from someone like Rashard Mendenhall.
We’ll be back to take a look at the next few rounds as well as individual position trends over the coming days and by the time your draft rolls around, we’ll have covered so much that you won’t be able to do anything but dominate your league. And if you’d like to be a part of the upcoming mock drafts throughout the summer, just give me a follow on Twitter (@rotobuzzguy), maybe drop me 140 character message and we’ll see about setting up things to accommodate as many of you as possible.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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