“Player A is being severely undervalued in drafts!”
“Player X is being ridiculously overvalued at his current ADP!”
“You can get better value later in your draft.”
“He’s a great value at that draft spot.”

Fantasy football owners and analysts talk about “value” a whole lot during the draft season. We read statements like those above in all the articles and hear them on all the podcasts. But what does it really mean?

In fantasy football terms, value is used to measure where a player is being drafted in relation to the other players of a similar ranking. This is most evident when comparing players in “tiered” rankings. QB-A and QB-B are both in tier 3 of the FFBallers’ tiered QB rankings. However, QB-A has an average draft position at the end of the 4th Round, while QB-B has an ADP in the middle of the 7th Round. Some would say QB-A is being “overvalued” if he’s being selected that far ahead of QB-B. Others will say, QB-B is being “undervalued” if he’s being selected three rounds later than QB-A.

Overvalued or undervalued?

The answer really depends on your chosen draft platform. Each of the major draft platforms uses their own rankings in their draft rooms. On top of those rankings, the sites all use their default settings, regardless of your league’s settings. For example, ESPN’s draft room rankings are based on their standard scoring rankings, even if your league is using half or full PPR scoring. Since rankings can drastically vary across sites and platforms, you will see significant variations in when players will show up on the “best player available” (BPA) lists.

These variations can be exploited during your draft if you identify them ahead of time. While your league mates are making spur-of-the-moment draft picks from the site’s list of best players available, you’ll know if you need to reach for your guy or if you can wait until the next round to draft your targeted player. I’m going to go over a few of the most dramatic variances across ESPN, Yahoo! and NFL.com compared to the FFBallers rankings.

Quarterbacks

The QB position currently sees the most dramatic ranking variances in the game, with a large group of players capable of putting up similar stat lines. There are compelling arguments on why the same QB can be ranked 10th or 20th, and both are feasible outcomes. This is very evident when comparing the rankings across the major draft sites:

NAME ESPN RANK ESPN ADP RD YAHOO! RANK YAHOO! ADP RD NFL.COM RANK NFL.COM ADP RD FFBALLERS RANK
Andrew Luck QB4 6TH QB4 4TH QB8 5TH QB5
Drew Brees QB5 6TH QB6 4TH QB7 5TH QB3
Ben Roethlisberger QB6 6TH QB5 4TH QB4 4TH QB9
Jameis Winston QB19 14TH QB25 13TH QB17 10TH QB11
Andy Dalton QB18 13TH QB13 8TH QB14 9TH QB12
Tyrod Taylor QB12 11TH QB27 13TH QB18 11TH QB16
Tom Brady QB8 7TH QB9 6TH QB5 4TH QB17
Matt Ryan QB22 16TH QB28 13TH QB20 12TH QB19
Kirk Cousins QB14 12TH QB15 9TH QB15 10TH QB21
Teddy Bridgewater QB26 17TH QB18 10TH QB21 12TH QB32
Jared Goff QB28 18TH QB17 10TH QB26 14TH QB33

Andrew Luck
Starting at the top, one of the biggest names at the QB position finds himself as a top 5 ranked QB on ESPN, Yahoo! and by the FFBallers, while NFL.com is ranking him as QB8! However, not all rankings are created equal. Even though Andrew Luck is the QB4 for both ESPN and Yahoo!, we see that his ADP is two rounds different between the sites. On ESPN, Luck will not appear on the best player available (BPA) list until the 6th Round, while you will start to see him appear in the 4th Round on Yahoo! and, even as QB8, he’ll still show up in the 5th Round on NFL.com. This also a great example of how a draft program can influence overall drafting philosophies.

Jameis Winston
One of the biggest variations comes from Yahoo! ranking Jameis Winston as QB25 with an ADP in the 13th Round. Even ESPN has Winston down at QB19 being drafted in the 14th Round. Both of these sites are showing Winston as one of the last QBs being drafted. But if you’re following the FFBallers’ rankings, you’d be getting a great value by drafting their 11th ranked QB well after other owners start drafting their backup QBs!

Other QB observations

Andy Dalton was a top 5 QB last year before his injury. In ESPN leagues, you won’t see his name come up on the BPA list until the very end of the draft as QB18. The Yahoo! staff needs to re-evaluate their position on Teddy Bridgewater (QB18) and rookie Jared Goff (QB17), both of which are significantly higher on Yahoo! than any other site.

A big observation that jumped out at me was recognizing the different sites position on when to draft QBs. ESPN is waiting on QBs, with Cam Newton QB1 off the board at the end of the 3rd Round and Aaron Rodgers QB2 off the board at the start of the 5th Round. Both Yahoo! and NFL.com are pushing QBs earlier, with both Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers having mid-to-late 2nd Round ADPs. Further down the list, QB12 is coming off the board in the 11th Round of ESPN drafts, while the QB12 on Yahoo! and NFL.com is being drafted in the 9th Round.

Running Backs

Much like the QB position, 2016 RB rankings have a lot of uncertainty in them. Injuries, unsettled backfield platoons and a general lack of clarity create some very diverse rankings.

NAME ESPN RANK ESPN ADP RD YAHOO! RANK YAHOO! ADP RD NFL.COM RANK NFL.COM ADP RD FFBALLERS RANK
LeSean McCoy RB13 3RD RB12 3RD RB12 3RD RB6
Thomas Rawls RB10 2ND RB16 4TH RB21 5TH RB13
DeMarco Murray RB23 5TH RB17 5TH RB22 6TH RB18
Carlos Hyde RB15 3TH RB13 3RD RB15 3RD RB20
Dion Lewis RB18 4TH RB25 7TH RB18 5TH RB21
Danny Woodhead RB29 6TH RB39 10TH RB24 6TH RB22
Matt Forte RB17 4TH RB15 4TH RB13 3RD RB23
Rashad Jennings RB31 7TH RB41 10TH RB41 10TH RB29
Charles Sims RB43 9TH RB52 13TH RB37 9TH RB36
Bilal Powell RB39 9TH RBX 16TH RB57 15TH RB38

Thomas Rawls
Thomas Rawls is the epitome of the RB ranking conundrum. Regardless of where you stand on his projections for 2016, he’s going to cost you significantly more on ESPN (RB10, 2nd Round) than he will on NFL.com (RB21, 5th Round). If you’re following the FFBallers rankings, you’ll probably have to reach to get him on ESPN, while you can wait for him on NFL.com. Is he overvalued or undervalued?

Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead is a perennial draft day value in all formats. After finishing as an RB1 in both standard and PPR leagues, we find him regularly available in the 6th Round on ESPN and NFL.com, But as RB39 on Yahoo!, you might not even see his name on the BPA list until the 9th Round, with a 10th Round ADP! Savvy owners will seek him out, so you can’t always wait that long, but even if you can wait one more round to draft him in the 7th Round, you’re still winning the value game.

Matt Forte & Bilal Powell
Many drafters fall victim to “name value”, and that may be the case with the New York Jets RB tandem in 2016. There are many signs pointing towards a shared backfield between the aging veteran and the passing down specialist. All of the major draft platforms seem to overvalue Forte, however, ranking him as a borderline RB1. The FFBallers ranking of Bilal Powell at RB38 should see him come off the board in the 10th Round, just as he is on ESPN. However, both Yahoo! and NFL.com are completely ignoring Powell. That is a great example of how to exploit draft software to gain value!

Wide Receivers

The WR position is receiving more attention in 2016 than any previous season. Surprisingly, the major draft platforms are often pretty similar in their WR ranks. Below are a few of the biggest discrepancies:

NAME ESPN RANK ESPN ADP RD YAHOO! RANK YAHOO! ADP RD NFL.COM RANK NFL.COM ADP RD FFBALLERS RANK
Keenan Allen WR16 3RD WR12 3RD WR13 3RD WR11
Sammy Watkins WR10 2ND WR17 3RD WR16 3RD WR13
T.Y. Hilton WR17 3RD WR16 3RD WR22 4TH WR17
Jeremy Maclin WR22 4TH WR25 5TH WR19 4TH WR19
Golden Tate WR25 4TH WR23 4TH WR28 6TH WR20
Jordan Matthews WR32 6TH WR28 6TH WR33 7TH WR22
Jarvis Landry WR21 4TH WR24 5TH WR17 3RD WR24
Kelvin Benjamin WR18 4TH WR19 4TH WR24 5TH WR26
Doug Baldwin WR20 4TH WR21 4TH WR20 4TH WR29
Willie Snead WR43 9TH WR44 9TH WR49 11TH WR33
DeVante Parker WR29 5TH WR30 6TH WR41 9TH WR34
Kamar Aiken WR81 16TH WR70 15TH WR46 10TH WR40
Mohamed Sanu WR62 13TH WR63 14TH WR58 14TH WR47

Keenan Allen
We all know how much ‘The Fantasy Hitman’ loves Keenan Allen in 2016. Apparently, the ranking staff over at ESPN wasn’t listening to him when they ranked him at WR16 with a late 3rd Round ADP. If your league mates are slaves to the default rankings, you might just land Keenan Allen in the 3rd Round. Did you feel that? That tingle down your spine was the thought of Keenan Allen being your 2nd or even 3rd WR on your team.

Golden Tate & Jarvis Landry
While these two are similarly ranked across ESPN, Yahoo! and the FFBallers, I felt the need to show the huge disparity on NFL.com. Jarvis Landry is WR17 with a 3rd Round ADP and Golden Tate is WR28 with a 6th Round ADP. Everyone else has them both ranked in the 20-24 range as a 4th Round type pick, but NFL.com seems to over-value Jarvis Landry while under-valuing Golden Tate.

Kamar Aiken
I was shocked to see how low Kamar Aiken is ranked on ESPN and Yahoo!. If you’re like many people who believe Aiken is the primary WR target for the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, you can feel confident that the only league mates that would draft him are those that are specifically going out to draft him. As a WR in the 70+ zone, you may not even see his name appear in the BPA list at the end of most drafts.

Tight Ends

The top of the TE position was extremely similar between all the draft platforms. There are a few surprises in the middle rankings and my general feel was that “names” got more attention than production in 2015.

NAME ESPN RANK ESPN ADP RD YAHOO! RANK YAHOO! ADP RD NFL.COM RANK NFL.COM ADP RD FFBALLERS RANK
Coby Fleener TE7 8TH TE7 6TH TE12 9TH TE4
Zach Ertz TE9 10TH TE8 6TH TE14 10TH TE7
Delanie Walker TE4 5TH TE5 5TH TE7 5TH TE9
Will Tye TE26 17TH TEX 18TH TE29 17TH TE15
Vance McDonald TE27 17TH TEX 18TH TEX 18TH TE16
Zach Miller TE13 12TH TE26 16TH TE18 12TH TE18

Coby Fleener
Did the staff at NFL.com miss the news that Fleener signed with the New Orleans Saints? No longer sharing targets with Dwayne Allen and now the primary TE for Drew Brees, Coby Fleener should see a significant uptick in consistent targets. As TE12 on the NFL.com draft program, you may be able to sneak him into your draft a round later than if you were drafting on ESPN or Yahoo!.

Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz finished the 2015 season with a strong string of games and his being highly touted by many analysts, especially the FFBallers as TE7. While he’s only one spot different between ESPN (TE9) and Yahoo! (TE8), we see a 4 round ADP variation. Over on NFL.com, Zach Ertz is TE12 but holds the same 10th Round ADP he has on ESPN.

Will Tye, Vance McDonald & Zach Miller
I previously wrote about waiting to draft your TE until the end of your draft and targeting one of three TEs to have strong finishes to 2015. Here is more evidence that one of them would definitely be available for you. Will Tye and Vance McDonald are both typically going undrafted in most leagues across all three draft platforms. On Yahoo!, Will Tye and Vance McDonald don’t even make an appearance in their top 225 players (and that’s excluding kickers and defenses!). Most 12 team leagues will draft 160-165 non-kicker, non-defense players, which means these two TEs won’t even appear on the BPA list at the end of your draft. Zach Miller is getting a bit of attention amongst the draft programs, but only at the very end of the drafts.

Final Thoughts

Draft value is highly subjective, based on the league draft platform. As you can see above, some players are both overvalued and undervalued, depending on the draft site. The most important thing to take away from this article is to always compare your own rankings that are based on your league’s settings to the league’s draft program rankings. Each of these platforms offers mock drafts and I highly suggest your run a few on your leagues chosen site to see how the site’s default rankings influence the draft patterns and philosophy.

Keep in mind that casual drafters will often be influenced by the default rankings and will cave into the pressure of the clock, making a spur-of-the-moment selection from the best player available list. It’s also highly important to make sure you don’t do that. Knowing where players are being drafted on each platform and in relation to your rankings can dramatically improve your chances of building a stronger, deeper fantasy football team and winning your #footclantitle!



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