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When Do Rankings & ADP Really Start to Matter? (Fantasy Football)

by Jason Katz | @jasonkatz13 | Featured Writer
Feb 25, 2020

For the hardcore fantasy gamer, the preparation/play/review process is a continuous cycle. Fantasy football content exists year round. January-April is largely reserved for looking back on the previous year and studying the upcoming rookie class. May and June is mostly a “dead zone” where fantasy analysts aren’t sure whether to review more of last year’s data, talk more about the current rookie class, or start looking ahead to the upcoming draft season. July and August are the heart of the pre-draft process. And obviously September-December is when it all plays out.

You will see “way too early” mock drafts all throughout the offseason. We know that mock drafts conducted in February are meaningless. We know that mock drafts conducted in August are useful. But when do rankings and ADP actually start to matter? When does that shift begin to occur?

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I firmly believe that prior to the NFL Draft, rankings and ADP have literally zero value. Absolutely none. They don’t even have the value of gauging how things are changing going forward. They are completely and utterly meaningless. Free agency takes place in early March and the NFL Draft in late April. There is no value in ranking players or studying ADP prior to those two events because team rosters and depth charts are going to change. I never understood ranking rookies based upon expected fantasy utility prior to the NFL Draft. Landing spot and draft capital are two very important factors. If the wide receiver I perceive as the most talented in the class goes in the third round to a team with two locked in starters, he goes from my WR1 pre-draft to buried post-draft.

The real challenge for fantasy gamers preparing for the upcoming season comes in that May/June “dead zone.” The majority of fantasy analysts will start releasing their rankings and draft kits in early June. The release of rankings naturally impacts ADP. Prior to June, ADP is largely based on a small sample of mock drafters drafting on limited information. Throughout June, ADP changes are more significant because now people have actual rankings to go on.

While rankings begin to matter in June, ADP is still very much in flux. July is when you will start to see mock drafts on consistently fill up, but you won’t have to deal with longer wait times to find an empty spot until late July/early August. By early August, just about everyone interested in fantasy football is doing some sort of preparation. Training camp has also begun, and the preseason is around the corner. Seeing these players on an actual field and getting reports from practices and games will impact rankings and ADP. Player ADPs aren’t going to move much from May-July, but in August, you can see players move multiple rounds in ADP.

I will create my own set of rankings in early June before I look at anyone else’s so as to not be influenced by thoughts that aren’t my own. I adjust my rankings based upon new information, and I will absolutely move players based on what I see from other well respected analysts, but I don’t want to be primed beforehand. I also try and refrain from really doing mock drafts until July because not only is ADP unreliable, I find it detrimental. We all have our desired later-round targets. If I truly believe in a couple guys, it affects my early-round draft strategy. I will select players knowing I am going to take one or more of my guys in the later rounds. Often times, the ADPs of those players move such that I can no longer get as many of them as I previously thought. If I mock draft too soon, I can be lulled into a false sense of security with who will be available and when. I can also feel like I’m losing out on value when a 10th-round target jumps into the eighth round and be turned off from a player that may very well still be a value.

Rankings become relevant before ADP does. Once team rosters are largely set following the NFL Draft, we have all the information we need to rank players. Rankings will change as new information reveals itself, but early May is the point at which rankings start to matter, increasing in value as we get closer to the season. ADP does not matter at the same point because the sample of drafters is too small. I’ve found July to be the point where ADP starts to matter, and it is not until mid August that you can be confident ADP will accurately reflect how things might go in your real draft.

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Jason Katz is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jason, check out his archive follow him @jasonkatz13.

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