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Where Does 2019 Rank Historically Among ADP Movers?

I have worked on a season-review series of articles in which I have analyzed the biggest winners and losers in terms of ADP entering draft season compared to the end of the year final results. It was plenty of fun looking back at the gambles most of us took which ultimately paid off, but also learning about the mistakes we made back in August and September.

While I was working with this season's data I got something in my mind that I wanted to explore once I was done with the series. Was 2019 a year of true winners in ADP? How does this past season rank all-time (since 2000, as that's the first season I have data from) in terms of ROI from every ADP-ranked player?

Here is what the data has to tell us about this.

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The Data and the Process

In order to tackle those questions posed in the introduction I got my dataset (which spans 20 years from the 2000 season to the current 2019 one) and did some digging. The data I used contains a total of 4,951 players of which I know their ADP and the final fantasy-point tally they ended with that year. That information allows us to know where a player was deemed a viable draft pick (let's call that his price) and where a player finished the year (where did he rank among all fantasy players that season). Combining those two values (price and rank) we can get a ROI (Return On Investment) value for each player, which I simply calculated by dividing price/rank.

The ROI of a player, for the purposes of this article, goes from the lowest mark of 0.1 to the highest mark of 95.8. In theory, there is no upper-bound for the ROI value as the best rank is 1.0 (best player in fantasy football) while the ADP can be as high as many players we have data for each season. Just in case, the 95.8-mark comes from a 191.7 ADP who finished second in the overall ranks.


ADP Biggest Winning/Losing Classes

The first thing I wanted to look at was the 2019 class of players as a whole in a historical context. In order to do that I just grouped every player in the dataset by season and calculated the average ROI of all of them. Remember, the higher the ROI, the more sleepers-turned-winners in that season. These are the year-to-year results:

As you can see, the 2019 season has the fourth-highest ROI since the 2000 season and is the highest of the last four going back to 2016. While still low compared to the years 2008 and most of all 2010, 2019 can be definitely considered a one-of-a-kind season in which a lot of late-round draftees and sleepers outperformed the expectations and rewarded those who gambled on them the most.


ADP Stud/Sleepers Season-End Results Comparison

While that was the overall trend and considered all 4,951 players in the dataset, I wanted to narrow things down a bit to actually see what happened with both the top players in terms of price and the top players in terms of rank. That would allow me to see what happened to the most hyped/coveted players each year (ADPs of 48 or lower and their ROIs) and where owners drafted the best players of the season (top-50 season-end ranked players and their ROIs).

Here is the average rank (at season's end) for players with an ADP of 48 or lower from each of the past 20 seasons:

Although this doesn't prove last season to a great extent (don't worry, the next chart will do so), it shows how the preseason draft ranks of 2019 weren't so accurate, as the average finish of those with an ADP under 48 ended at an average of the 64th-best player in the league, a considerable drop.

It was always going to be impossible to reach the levels of the 2016 season, in which the average player with an ADP inside the 48 first picks ended the year as the 98th-best performer. The main reason for that huge drop was the upsets caused by Todd Gurley (5.6 ADP, 45th-most FP), A.J. Green (from 10.6 to 101), DeAndre Hopkins (11.4 to 103), and Adrian Peterson (11.7 to 438) among others.

Now, here is the average ADP (pre-season values) for players to finish the year as top-50 performers in each of the past 20 seasons:

Although the top-50 players make the 2019 season not look as good as the overall data, it still ranks as middle-of-the-pack in terms of the higher ADP. That means that only nine seasons had more "sleepers" or players with a higher ADP on average. The higher ADP in the chart above, the more "unpredictable" and full of unexpected high-performing players the season was, as those drafted later were the ones putting on better performances.

Looking at the historic line, the 2002 season was the most predictable when it came to the top-50 performers and where they were drafted with an average ADP of 50 among those top-50 performers. It makes sense, as only five of the top-50 players from the 2002 season were drafted with an ADP over 100, and 26 players of the top-50 had an ADP under 48. The worst ROI was provided by Marshall Faulk (0.1), and even he and his 2.4 ADP finished the year as the 19th-best player in 2002!

At the other end, the 2015 and 2016 fantasy seasons were super wild regarding the top-50 season-end performers.

In 2015, only four players drafted inside the first round finished as top-50 players (Adrian Peterson, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr.) while 15 players with ADPs over 100 finished also inside that top 50. Devonta Freeman provided the highest ROI (57.2) after finishing 2015 as the second-best fantasy player with a pre-season ADP of 114.3.

In 2016, just six players from the first round were top-50 performers (Brown, Beckham, Jones, Gurley, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott) while a staggering 17 players with ADPs over 100 finished inside the top-50. In this case, LeGarrette Blount was the one providing the highest ROI (a much lower 14.3, though) after finishing as the eight-best player in fantasy with a pre-season ADP of 114.1.


One Final Curiosity

In case you haven't noticed, you should always try to draft the guy in the 114th spot. That is the sixth pick of the 10th round. Both Freeman and Blount were somehow drafted in that spot and provided the highest ROI values in back to back seasons.

Does this make any historical sense? Not really. Here are the rest of the players with the 114th ADP from 2000 to 2019 and where did they rank at the end of each season (in the case of multiple players with a decimal ADP between 114.0 and 114.9 I have only included the player with the lowest value):

To save you the time: players with an ADP of 114 historically provide a 7.2 ROI on average, ranking as the 88th-best players in fantasy football. Surely not a bad investment.

More Fantasy Football Analysis

Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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