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ADP Arbitrage - Maximizing Draft Value Early

While the draft isn't the only key to success in fantasy football, the early rounds can make a big difference. You want to maximize the value you get from those first few picks as much as possible.

Many rankings and mock drafts have the same players in the same order early on. That doesn't mean you need to stay within the confines of ADP, as there are often comparable values available later on.

In this article, I will identify some players at each position that could be worth the wait in comparison to other higher-ranked players.

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Marlon Mack vs Kenyan Drake

The first two guys I'm looking at have a very similar outlook are both running backs. The Indianapolis Colts starting running back is clear at this point, and Marlon Mack is someone that many fantasy owners are looking at for a nice breakout season in 2019.

Mack is currently the 35th player off the board in PPR formats, making him the 17th running back being selected. Going off the board roughly two rounds later is Kenyan Drake of the Miami Dolphins as the RB25 and the 53rd player off the board. Both of these backs have the potential to breakout in 2019, and while Mack may be the more popular pick, I see a similar outlook with Drake, with the potential to be the better of the two running backs.

Mack has been gaining some steam this past offseason, as the Colts have shown their commitment to him by not drafting another running back. That being said, there is another piece of that backfield named Nyheim Hines, who is a nice pass-catching back that got some decent usage as a rookie in 2018. Mack's usage was great and during his 12 games he played last year, he totaled 908 yards on 195 carries with nine touchdowns. That was good for a solid 4.7 yards per carry.

The biggest thing that's standing in the way of Mack is his limited upside. This day in age, running backs need to be versatile and catch enough balls out of the backfield to really have that high upside in fantasy. Mack was targetted 26 times last year and caught 17 passes for 6.1 yards per reception. Hines on the other hand, caught 63 of 81 targets last year for 425 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Mack has a safe floor, but his upside will be limited with Hines in that backfield.

While you could draft Mack at the end of the third round of your fantasy drafts, I'd prefer to grab another high-end wide receiver, and wait a couple of rounds and grab Drake. Drake is more than capable of being the lead back in Miami, but for whatever reason, Adam Gase chose to give him just eight starts in his first three seasons, despite being healthy in all 16 games each year. The Dolphins have used Frank Gore, Damien Williams, and Jay Ajayi since 2016 when Drake entered the league, but this should finally be the year to draft Drake. His only real competition for touches is Kalen Ballage, who hasn't shown much yet.

Drake's clear path to a starting role, the new offense, the likely involvement in the passing game, and most importantly, Gase is gone. Load up on another stud wide receiver in the third round and grab Drake later instead of Mack earlier. Neither of these guys should be your RB1, and I'd feel just as comfortable, if not more so, with Drake as my RB2 than Mack.


T.Y. Hilton vs Tyler Lockett

Heading into the 2019 season, T.Y. Hilton is once again being viewed as a borderline WR1, and rightfully so. With a healthy Andrew Luck and that high-powered passing offense, the only thing standing in front of him putting up another WR1 season is his health. Hilton is someone that I don't mind at all for the 2019 season, but he's not someone I want as my team's WR1.

I'd feel much more comfortable with Hilton as the number two wide receiver on my fantasy team, which is why I'm comparing him to someone with a much later ADP who I'd also be comfortable with as my team's WR2. Tyler Lockett is currently the WR22 and is going off the board as the 54th player, making him an early fifth-round pick.

At 5'10" and roughly 180 pounds, both Hilton and Lockett profile extremely similar and have a history of being more of a one-trick pony than a polished WR1. Lockett runs excellent routes and while his production has come from a lot of deep touchdowns and big plays, in 2019 he has a great deal of upside and should be more than what he's been in the past. 13 of Lockett's 19 career touchdowns have come from 20+ yards. Per ProFootballFocus, Lockett recorded a perfect passer rating, which is the first time this has been done in the past 13 years of the NFL. Lockett also runs good routes and has been efficient in the red zone, which is an area that Seattle needs someone to step up in.

Waiting on your second receiver for a guy like Lockett will allow you to load up on a few solid running backs and potentially an elite tight end. He's currently being drafted as a low-end WR2 and with the available targets thanks to Doug Baldwin's retirement along with the continual improvement we've seen, Lockett is primed to take a step forward in 2019. While Hilton is definitely the guy I'd prefer of these two, you can get someone with a great opportunity and upside by waiting a couple of rounds and taking Lockett.


Patrick Mahomes vs Baker Mayfield

Coming off of his ridiculous 2018 season, it is tough to make a case against Patrick Mahomes being the first quarterback off the board in fantasy football leagues this year. That being said, we are talking about fantasy football here, and we all know about the value of waiting on quarterback.

Mahomes is currently the 23rd player off the board in PPR scoring leagues and is the first quarterback being drafted. While I do believe he should be the first one taken this year, there is no chance in hell that I'm going to be owning any shares at his current price.

With Baker Mayfield heading into his second season in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns look to have one of the most high-powered and entertaining offenses in the league. With the addition of Odell Beckham, the Browns now have two very capable options along with an exciting young running back in Nick Chubb as well as Kareem Hunt and Duke Johnson. David Njoku is also a quality pass-catcher and will still have a role in this offense.

Mayfield started in 13 games last year and put up 3,725 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. With the addition of Beckham on top of the rest of that offense, Mayfield should easily surpass 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and has as much upside as just about any fantasy quarterback.

Whether you're buying into Mayfield or not, this argument can be used for just about any quarterback not named Mahomes. The idea of waiting on your quarterback in fantasy football has been around for long enough, but unfortunately still needs to be said. Don't pass up on an elite running back, tight end, or wide receiver to draft Mahomes. If you want a high-end quarterback, at least wait a few rounds and grab Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, or Baker Mayfield if you really, really, want one of those studs. Personally, I'll stick with waiting until the late rounds and grabbing Philip Rivers or Dak Prescott.

More ADP Values and Sleepers

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.