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Finding 2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers by Using ADP
There's an old saying that goes something along the lines of "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
I'm sure I butchered the famous Steinbeck quote, so forgive me, and while there may be truth in that statement, it's also true that nowhere in that statement does it say a person should not have a plan. It is very useful to plan things out in whatever you do, but a plan needs to be flexible. A plan needs to be able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. A plan should never, ever be a strict, blind set of rules, especially when it comes to fantasy sports.
For example, let's say I have the fifth pick in my upcoming fantasy football draft. My plan would be to take Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. That does not mean that if the four boneheads in front of me all pass on Adrian Peterson, I'm going to be bonehead number five, and still take Johnson. I'm grabbing Peterson, and probably my league's championship.
I went into my draft with a plan, but my plan adapted to the circumstances of my draft, and because it was flexible, I put myself in a great position to win my league. This does not mean that you should go into your fantasy football draft expecting Adrian Peterson to fall to you at the fifth pick, but it does mean you should make a plan to target certain players, or positions, in certain rounds, and then adapt, and a great way to do that is by using ADP.
For those of you who don't know what ADP is, the initials stand for "average draft position," or the average spot at which a player has been selected in all fantasy drafts. Many of the online services such as ESPN and Yahoo! keep track of their own ADP, and it's readily available to view during your draft.
If you plan on doing research prior to your draft, (and if you're serious about winning, you should,) there are third-party websites out there like FFToolbox.com and fantasyfootballcalculator.com that track ADP for both standard and PPR formats.
So what's the point of using ADP to plan your draft strategy?
Well, by using ADP, and not just your league's preset rankings, it's easy to target players in the later rounds who, for one reason or another, are being drafted way later than they should be. Maybe a player is coming off of an injury, or has switched teams, or plays a position that is deep with talent. Players fall in drafts for all sorts of reasons, and every year there are plenty of guys who greatly outplay their draft positions.
I'm a firm believer that a league is not won in the first couple of rounds, but rather in the later rounds. In my experience, the fantasy owner who ends up getting the most bang for his buck out of the tail end of the draft, usually has one of the better teams.
I wait as late as possible to have my fantasy football draft, and lean heavily on ADP in my research. This year there seems to be a ton of guys I really like late in drafts. Here are four guys you can probably wait on based on their ADP, and get enormous value from. (All ADP numbers are from FFToolbox.com, and are based on 12-team, 15-round drafts).
2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers - ADP Draft Targets
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers (ADP: 106)
Yes, Antonio Gates is old, and seems to always get banged up, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to like here. Gates's catches and yards were down in 2012, but he still managed to get in the end zone seven times, the fourth most among all TEs. Injuries will always be a concern for Gates, but at an ADP of 106 (round 8), he can be had five rounds later than Rob Gronkowski, who comes with just as much injury risk. The TE position is deep, but if you plan on waiting, Gates could be more than serviceable.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals (ADP: 145)
Fantasy football players learned three things from the Oakland Raiders in 2012: one, that team really stinks; two, Darren McFadden is made of glass; and finally, Carson Palmer can still chuck the rock. The former Raider managed to throw for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns with receivers who could barely catch a cold last year. Palmer's numbers were quite comparable to Matthew Stafford's, who is currently being drafted seven rounds earlier than Palmer, who now gets to throw to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Palmer should easily be able to match his 2012 production. Every fantasy football expert would tell you it's wise to wait on quarterbacks, especially if you play in a one QB league, and getting Carson Palmer with the 145th pick could pay big dividends.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers (ADP: 58)
Running backs rule the fantasy football world, so your best bet is to try to get two early in your draft. Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn't work out, and if you find yourself still needing a starting RB by the late-fourth or early-fifth round, San Diego's Ryan Mathews may be your best bet. Mathews's final 2012 stats are not that impressive: 707 yards, only one touchdown, and 3.8 yards per carry, but that was in an injury-plagued 12 games. What you may forget about Mathews is that he was being drafted in the first or second rounds of most drafts last year, and there has to be something to that. If Mathews can stay healthy, there's no reason why he can't rush for over 1,000 yards and five scores. Those numbers may not be great, but he could end up being a nice flex player for you. Either way, you won't find a better starting RB in your draft where Mathews is currently being selected.
Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings (ADP: 82)
Greg Jennings is not that far removed from being the number one receiver on a Super Bowl winning team, and while nobody will ever confuse his new QB Christian Ponder with his former QB Aaron Rodgers, it's very possible that Jennings returns to "elite" receiver status in 2013. Injuries limited Jennings to only eight games in 2012, but he was still able to manage a healthy 36 receptions for 366 yards and four scores. Doubles those numbers for 16 games, and you got a very solid 72 catches, 732 yards, and eight touchdowns, all very reachable numbers for a guy with the talent of Jennings, and very good numbers for a receiver being selected in the late-sixth round. The Vikings are going to run the ball a ton, and Christian Ponder isn't exactly the next Joe Montana, but remember the huge numbers Percy Harvin was able to put up in Minnesota. Now that he's gone, his numbers have to go somewhere, and my bet is most of it will go to Jennings. He's Minnesota's number one wideout, and even with the tremendous depth at the WR position this year, you'd be hard pressed to find a number one receiver as late as Jennings can be had.
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