Thinking for yourself is always dangerous. People are nervous about being wrong. It’s pretty much human nature to want to follow versus lead, and nowhere is that more evident than in yearly Average Draft Position (ADP) numbers. Player X is hot so he moves up the ADP rankings. People then, thinking they are missing out on something, continue to support Player X. Relatively quickly that elevated ranking becomes a self perpetuating ranking that people eventually accept as fact. Should things be that way? Sometimes yes, but often times no. Some thoughts on the value of ADP follow.
ADP numbers are different depending on your source so make sure you use a reputable one. However, even if you use MockDraftCentral, the best source for the material in my opinion, there are a few substantial limitations.
First, who is doing these mock drafts that are leading to the ADP numbers? Are those doing the mocks experienced fantasy players or are they people that have just taken up the game? You might say ‘why does it matter?’ There’s a major reason why it does matter. An experienced fantasy player understands how a draft works, the ebb and flow of it, and how to target players etc. An inexperienced player will likely do what seems like a smart thing – they will follow a sites ADP list with the thinking being that if they aren’t sure about how to do something why not follow the recommendations provided by an ADP list? Therefore, inexperienced people are likely to perpetuate the current ADP rankings because they are more likely to closely follow the ADP lists, especially if their knowledge base isn’t substantial.
Second, is the draft filled entirely with actual people, or, is part of the draft being run by automatized managers? Obviously if there are eight live managers and four auto pick teams in your draft the ADP numbers will be skewed because the computer will pick exactly according to the ADP list that the site puts out further perpetuating the ADP rankings.
Third, even if there are real people doing the draft, are they going to draft an entire 30 man roster, or, as is more likely the case, will they draft the first 15 or 20 rounds before being pulled away from the draft to do something else? When this happens the selection of players in the later rounds will revert to auto-pick further perpetuating ADP numbers.
Fourth, what if someone is trying a “strategy” just to see how it will work out? I personally did exactly that a week or so ago when I drafted five outfielders in my first five picks and didn’t take my first pitcher until round 14. I wanted to see how my team would do if I waited to target pitching. I like how the team turn out but I would never do something so drastic if it was for an actual league. Clearly my “strategy draft” might skew the ADP rankings. It might not really matter if there are hundreds of drafts feeding into ADP, but I can’t be the only person who is experimenting during mock drafts lending yet another caution to the thought that you can use ADP as if it was gospel.
Finally, what about this thought. The folks over at Baseball HQ put out a study that showed the following: over the past eight years only 37 percent of the players selected in the first round of a draft returned first round value that year. In essence, almost two-thirds of the players selected in the first around according to ADP failed to live up to that level of expectation. Obviously that means that there is no answer to who the best choices are as the simply fact of the matter is that at least half of all of the players that we think will be first round performers fail to live up to that billing. The point being, that just cause someone is listed at #27 on the ADP chart doesn’t preclude him from being a top-5 overall performer. In fact, you have just as good a chance of your second round pick performing like a first rounder as your first rounder has of performing like a first rounder. To sum it up, ADP numbers simply aren’t infallible.
So the next time you’re doing a draft, don’t be slavishly tied to some ADP list. Not only are their some problems with how ADP numbers are put together, but you also have to consider the fact that we simply cannot predict with a high level of certitude who will be what in the coming campaign.
* Note: Here’s Lawr Michael’s take on ADP and how you should use/view those numbers.
By Ray Flowers