Adam Levitan

Draft Analysis

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Abusing the Pre-Draft Rankings

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A couple years ago, my longest-running fantasy league had a live draft for the first time. Someone called out "Bernie” Wells. Comedy ensued.
In a perfect world, every fantasy draft would be live. It would force owners to come with their own lists instead of relying on the default rankings that the online sites provide.
However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Therefore, these default rankings provided online have become a major part of the drafting process in most leagues. Some unprepared – or even prepared -- owners use these rankings as a crutch. That means they may be afraid to pull the trigger on X guy in the second round because they are listed a fifth-round guy in the draft room. Or maybe they take Y guy early just because his name is on top of those default rankings. And if there are auto drafters, being aware of who is on top of the list is crucial.
Regardless, we have given you tons of tools so you can simply ignore those rankings that pop up when you open your draft applet. In the Draft Guide, you’ll find complete rankings and projections for all different formats. Evan Silva has told you who to target and who to shy away from. Chris Wesseling has examined Average Draft Position across the board. I’ve analyzed industry drafts for you here, here and here and given you some late-round fliers to take a risk on.
Now, we’re preparing for the draft. And, unfortunately, taking advantage of the default rankings are a part of that. Here is a look at what to keep an eye on as you draft on each of the major sites:

Players listed higher overall than expected:

14. Greg Jennings
16. Drew Brees
20. Tom Brady
22. Philip Rivers
35. Knowshon Moreno
44. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Strategy: Make sure not to fall for the Greg Jennings bait here. He is listed ahead of Calvin Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson etc. … The quarterbacks stick out on the list this early. The running back and receiver positions thin out too quickly for me to stomach taking a signal-caller here. … We can safely let someone else reach for Knowshon Moreno and BenJarvus Green-Ellis as they hit the queue very early here.

Players listed lower overall than expected:
23. Larry Fitzgerald
65. Shonn Greene
66. Brandon Marshall
70. Mark Ingram
92. Reggie Bush
107. Matthew Stafford
112. Julio Jones

Strategy: We can run wild here. ESPN has neglected to bump up a lot of the players that have gained steam in the preseason, such as Mark Ingram, Reggie Bush and Julio Jones. Against unprepared opponents using this list, there is going to be a ton of value n the middle rounds. … Matthew Stafford is ranked as the No. 17 quarterback. Wowzers. ... Shonn Greene deserves special notice as well. No reason to reach if your opponents put stock in this pre-draft ranking.

Who to scroll down for:
144. Mike Sims-Walker
161. Rashad Jennings
165. Ben Tate
186. Danny Amendola
187. Jared Cook
193. Emmanuel Sanders
198. Aaron Hernandez
288. Denarius Moore
291. Lance Kendricks

Strategy: Nothing great here, but plenty of good fliers for those willing to look down in the queue. Mike Sims-Walker sticks out as one that everyone may forget about due to his low ranking.

Where the buzz guys are ranked:
45. Felix Jones
60. Mario Manningham
76. Tim Hightower

Strategy: About where we would expect here. The big ones are Stafford and Greene, as mentioned above.  

Editor's Note:
For constantly updating rankings, projections, exclusive columns, ADP reports, mock drafts, sleepers, busts and much more, check out the 2011 Draft Guide!

Players listed higher overall than expected:

6. Michael Turner
16. Tom Brady
19. Drew Brees
20. Ahmad Bradshaw
27. Knowshon Moreno
38. Cedric Benson
39. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
100. Antonio Brown
Strategy: Again, notice the quarterbacks. Most likely, your scoring system and roster format is not conducive to using an early or mid second-round pick on the position. … We have discussed the problems with each of the five running backs listed above. When drafting, don’t let these rankings fool you. … If you believe in Antonio Brown, you’ll have to reach. He is ranked above guys like A.J. Green, Lee Evans, Robert Meachem, Michael Crabtree etc.
Players listed lower overall than expected:
15. Michael Vick
23. Rashard Mendenhall
58. Peyton Hillis
92. Reggie Bush
Strategy: Even the most unprepared owners are ready for the first round. Michael Vick and Rashard Mendenhall would only slip a hair, if at all. … Make sure you’re aware of where Peyton Hillis and Reggie Bush are ranked. Against weaker opponents, they will slip much further than they should.
Who to scroll down for:
149. Ben Tate
164. Mike Sims-Walker
177. Jordy Nelson
180. Roy Helu
201. Derrick Ward
232. Emmanuel Sanders
383. Lance Kendricks
Strategy: Here is where we can really start to take advantage. Most owners won’t even realize these guys are the board thanks to their extremely low rankings. We can afford to wait a little longer than usual to pounce on these undervalued players.
Where the buzz guys are ranked:
66. Tim Hightower
73. Matthew Stafford
83. Lance Moore
Strategy: CBS isn’t doing us any favors here. They have adjusted their rankings to reflect all the buzz these three are getting, so we’ll have to reach. These names will get to the top of the “queue” list quickly.  

Editor's Note:
You can now get the Rotoworld Draft guide on your iPhone and iPad!

Players listed higher overall than expected:

18. Drew Brees
19. Shonn Greene
21. Philip Rivers
22. Tom Brady
30. Ahmad Bradshaw
37. Ryan Grant
46. Matt Schaub
47. Ben Roethlisberger
51. Matt Ryan
72. Eli Manning

Strategy: Yahoo has a ton of quarterbacks up high in their rankings. In a 10-team draft I was in last night, nine quarterbacks went before Round 6 was over. I then waited until 9.03 and took Matthew Stafford. … Ryan Grant has not been moved down despite bad vibes during training camp. Make sure you are aware. … This is the highest I have seen Shonn Greene listed anywhere. You will have to reach if you want him. The disparity between his ADP in Yahoo drafts vs. ESPN is severe.

Players listed lower overall than expected:
15. Michael Vick

Strategy: Not much to see here. Yahoo has moved a lot of the buzz worthy guys from the preseason up, as seen below

Who to scroll down for:
111. James Starks
140. Ben Tate
143. Rob Gronkowski
188. Javon Ringer
1913: Derrick Ward Strategy: Make note of Ryan Grant at 37 and James Starks at 111. ... Arian Foster owners will want to queue up Ben Tate and Derrick Ward way before they show up on lists.

Where the buzz guys are ranked:
39. Felix Jones
41. Mark Ingram
53. Mario Manningham
74. Matthew Stafford
75. Tim Hightower
99. Lance Moore

Strategy: As mentioned, Yahoo has adjusted to preseason developments here. No bargains, everyone is going to see these guys in the range I would consider them normally.  

Adam Levitan is in his seventh season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan

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