Know your history: Best position values based on ADP

Fantasy football draft season is coming ... can you feel it? Mock drafts are heating up, rankings are being updated and fantasy owners are starting to develop their draft strategies. One of the most popular of those strategies is based on waiting to pick a quarterback, and instead focusing on running backs and wide receivers in the earlier rounds. It's a formula that has its fans and detractors, but the information does detail a trend that supports it.

What information, you might ask?

Well, it's all about looking at the average draft position (ADP) and fantasy point finishers for the season. For those who don't know, ADP is the average round and position that a player is selected. For example, Eddie Lacy has a current ADP of 1.48 (Round 1) in NFL.com fantasy drafts, the highest among all players. LeSean McCoy, who has an ADP of 10.97, is coming off the board in Round 2. This data is a good indication of what position(s) are the best values, have the most depth or should be targeted earlier in drafts.

To further examine how ADP can help build your strategies for the upcoming campaign, I went back and looked at what happened (per position) in 2014. The results are interesting to say the least ...

Quarterbacks

Unless you're in a two-quarterback league, most fantasy fans need just one starter from this position. As a result, we'll be looking at the top 10 finishers from 2014 first. Among the top stars, just four quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck) were drafted in the first four rounds. Of the remaining six, all but one (Tom Brady, Round 6) was still on the board entering Round 8. One of those players was Russell Wilson, who finished third in fantasy points.

The No. 10 quarterback, Eli Manning (Round 15), finished with 269.50 fantasy points. The next four players, Tony Romo (Round 11), Philip Rivers (Round 11), Joe Flacco (Round 15) and Jay Cutler (Round 12), all finished within 13 points of Eli's total. Romo, who missed one game last season, projected to finish with 284.05 points based on his average (17.7 PPG) in the 15 games he started. That would have put him in the top 10, one spot ahead of Tannehill.

That's an amazing value for his 11th-round price.

Owners should also keep in mind that while the No. 1 quarterback (Rodgers) scored 84.64 more points than the No. 10 (Eli), the Giants' field general still averaged almost 17 fantasy points per game. That's the same as Marshawn Lynch, and he was a first-round pick based on our ADP totals. You can also argue that owners who had Manning didn't start him week-to-week and utilized the matchups, so their quarterback point total could be higher than what he produced alone.

Running backs

Here's where I put my money where my mouth is, fantasy friends. Of the top-10 fantasy running backs in 2014, seven (DeMarco Murray, Le'Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, Arian Foster, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles) were drafted in one of the first three rounds. Furthermore, six were first- or second-round picks. Since owners have to start a minimum of two running backs each week, let's expand our research to the top 20. Of the players ranked 11-20, four (LeSean McCoy, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard, Andre Ellington) were drafted in the first four rounds.

A fifth, Frank Gore, was selected in Round 5.

I do realize that an argument can be made for players drafted late who emerged into fantasy starters, such as Justin Forsett or Jeremy Hill. However, we need to be honest ... there was a lot of luck involved in both situations. Forsett wasn't on the fantasy radar when most drafts occurred because the Ray Rice situation was fluid and most "experts" projected Bernard Pierce to start. Well, Forsett wound up as the No. 8 fantasy runner.

The draft stock of Lamar Miller (Round 11) floundered due to a disappointing 2013 campaign and the addition of Knowshon Moreno to the Miami backfield, and Hill (Round 14) didn't make a major impact until after Bernard was injured.

Stuff happens.

C.J. Anderson, who ranked at No. 11, didn't make much noise until Montee BallandRonnie Hillman went down with injuries. Matt Asiata (Round 15), who finished 16th, was not on the radar until Adrian Peterson was suspended. So, three (Forsett, Miller, Hill) of the top 10 fantasy runners based on points either emerged late in the preseason or due to injuries. Talk about impossible to predict! The same went for Anderson and Asiata, who ranked in the second half of the top 20.

The point of the research at this position is simple. Most of the runners who were drafted in the first round produced acceptable (and in some cases) exceptional totals based on their final ranks. Even McCoy, who was considered a bust, finished in the top 12. And for those who defend the Forsett, Miller or Hill scenarios as reasons to wait on runners, well, you can't use luck as your argument.

Wide receivers

I found some interesting data at the wideout position, starting with the fact that six (Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, Julio Jones) of the top eight players at the position were selected in one of the first four rounds. That's reason enough to focus on the elite players earlier. None of the remaining four (Odell Beckham Jr., Emmanuel Sanders, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Evans) were drafted before Round 8, however, and three were picked beyond the 10th round.

What do those four players have in common? Opportunities. OBJ went off upon his return from an injured hamstring and with Victor Cruz (knee) out of action. Sanders went to an offense led by Peyton Manning. Enough said. Maclin picked up targets with DeSean Jackson out of the mix, and Evans started right out of the gate for a Buccaneers team in desperate need of wideouts.

Since NFL.com standard leagues require a minimum of two starting wideouts, let's move on to No. 11-20. It's here where you'll see just how much value was still on the board later in most drafts. Aside from Alshon Jeffery (Round 3) and Calvin Johnson (Round 1), no receiver in this range was picked before the sixth round. Furthermore, seven (T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate, DeAndre Hopkins, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr.) were still available into Round 9.

While that list does include a few veterans, it's also an indicator that taking a chance on younger wideouts with upside makes a lot of sense. You'll see that in 2015 drafts with the likes of Brandin Cooks, Amari Cooper and Jordan Matthews (to name just a few) coming off the board within the first five rounds.

Tight ends

To put it in simple terms, the tight end position is a fantasy train wreck. Out of the top 10 players last season, three (Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas) were drafted in one of the first four rounds. Aside from Jason Witten (Round 6), none of the remaining seven were picked before Round 8 (Greg Olsen). Overall, 50 percent of the top 10 were drafted in Rounds 12-15.

If you want to go deeper, take a look at No. 11-20. Of those 10 tight ends, none were drafted before Round 13 (Zach Ertz). Furthermore, 80 percent of those players were either 15th-round selections or left undrafted.

This serves as a reminder that unless you go after Gronkowski or Graham, there's no reason to pick a tight end before the fifth round. If you're unable to land one of those two players or Olsen, Travis Kelce or Martellus Bennett (Rounds 6-8 in most drafts), well, there's no real need to target a tight end until Round 10 or beyond.

Review

So, what have we learned?

Well, good quarterbacks are at an abundance and should be drafted in the middle to late rounds based on simple supply and demand. I'll take Romo in Rounds 9-11 over Rodgers in Round 1 because I'll be able to build strength and depth at running back and wide receiver while still landing a top-10 field general. For those of you that argue points over relative value, well, I expect you to draft Tannehill (278.50 points) over Marshawn Lynch (265.30 points) and Antonio Brown (251.90 points).

Come on now.

So when it comes time to hold your fantasy football draft, do the right thing ... wait on a quarterback. You'll thank me when you're holding that league trophy in January. The data doesn't lie.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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