Adam Levitan

Draft Analysis

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Abusing the Default Rankings

Monday, August 27, 2012

A lot of factors go into where a player is selected during an online fantasy draft. Health, buzz, last year’s stats, position scarcity and preseason performance all play a part. But nothing holds more weight than the pre-draft rankings provided by a site running the league, and that’s really unfortunate.

As I wrote last year, in a perfect world every fantasy draft would be live (yes, actual face-to-face interaction). It would force owners to come with their own lists instead of relying on these default rankings.
However, we don’t live in a perfect world. 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 who to shy away from. Chris Wesseling has released sleepers and busts. I’ve analyzed a snake draft, an auction draft and given out some late-round fliers to take a risk on. Mike Clay has talked handcuffs. We've also discussed camp winners, camp losers and much more.
Now, we’re preparing for the actual act of 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:

* These rankings were found within draft applets as of Monday, August 27. 

Players listed higher overall than expected:
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
11. Andre Johnson
13. Matthew Stafford
14. Roddy White
19. Mike Wallace
27. Eli Manning
44. Willis McGahee
62. Roy Helu
67. Ben Tate
75. Michael Bush
86. Matt Schaub
Strategy: There’s a lot to chew on here. Even if you like Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Mike Wallace or Eli Manning, you’re not going to get him. An unprepared owner or auto-drafter is going to scoop them up based on these ranks. Move on. … If you take Arian Foster, you’re going to have to reach for Ben Tate. Don’t let him get to the top of the “available players” in the applet. The same can be said for Matt Forte owners in search of the Michael Bush handcuff … Let someone else get fooled by Matt Schaub this high. He was featured in Chris Wesseling’s busts list.

Players listed lower overall than expected:
28. Darren McFadden
70. Doug Martin
87. Aaron Hernandez
96. Kenny Britt
105. Jason Witten
Strategy: Know your opponents. If they’re relying on the default ranks, we can wait an extra round or two on Doug Martin, Aaron Hernandez and Kenny Britt. I wouldn’t wait on Darren McFadden since so many other sites (including us) have him as a top-5 option. … ESPN did adjust their rankings to reflect the Jason Witten injury. Just be aware.

Where the buzz guys are ranked:
33. Julio Jones
47. Brandon Lloyd
54. Stevan Ridley
68. Eric Decker
73. Matt Ryan
78. Kevin Smith
80. Torrey Smith
95. David Wilson
101. Cedric Benson
113. Titus Young
Strategy: Pretty standard across the board here. We obviously have Julio Jones much higher, but that’s personal preference. … If you want Stevan Ridley, you’re going to have to pay through the nose. … We’re not getting any bargains on Matt Ryan, Kevin Smith, Titus Young or David Wilson either. Disappointing.

Who to scroll down for:
144. Greg Little
163. Ryan Williams
166. Brandon LaFell
170. Evan Royster
174. Kendall Wright
182. Kendall Hunter
192. Jacquizz Rodgers
194. Randall Cobb
198. Greg Olsen
199. Jake Locker
203. Rashad Jennings
207. Kyle Rudolph
232. Santana Moss
235. Austin Collie
276. Alfred Morris
Strategy: Lots of goodies in here. We can start plucking off our favorite fliers in Round 10 or so and gain a ton of high-upside bench players. … Make special note of Austin Collie’s ranking. It doesn’t reflect the latest news regarding his status. … Santana Moss is ranked as if he didn’t make the team.

Players listed higher overall than expected:
7. Tom Brady
9. Drew Brees
15. A.J. Green
16. Matthew Stafford
21. Victor Cruz
66. Philip Rivers
85. Rashad Jennings
Strategy: Like all the sites, quarterbacks are ranked really high. It’s a question of raw stats vs. value-based drafting, something we’ve discussed plenty. Let someone else reach at QB. … A.J. Green and Victor Cruz are really nice players, but they’ll be hard to get with this kind of default rank. … Yahoo has adjusted to the Maurice Jones-Drew situation. Rashard Jennings isn’t going to be a steal.

Players listed lower overall than expected:
27. Andre Johnson
46. Michael Turner
47. Ahmad Bradshaw
53. Dez Bryant
57. Frank Gore
101. Kenny Britt
Strategy: Yahoo did a good job of downgrading the older running backs we’d avoid. It’s a shame because those big names would come off the board right away if they were higher in the default ranks. … Kenny Britt’s ADP and default rank hasn’t caught up to his situation. His knees are almost there and the suspension is going to be short.

Where the buzz guys are ranked:
20. Julio Jones
40. Doug Martin
41. Matt Ryan
42. Brandon Lloyd
51. Eric Decker
75. Kevin Smith
77. Torrey Smith
79. Stevan Ridley
95. Titus Young
102. David Wilson
116. Jake Locker
Strategy: Certainly no bargains on some of your favorite upside plays. Julio Jones is going to be a second-round pick and we’ll have to pay for Matt Ryan as well. … Doug Martin, Brandon Lloyd, Eric Decker and Kevin Smith have all been adjusted to reflect preseason developments. … Titus Young is officially no longer a flier and the same can be said for David Wilson.

Who to scroll down for:
132. Kendall Wright
140. Austin Collie
151. Kyle Rudolph
182. Brandon LaFell
217. Leonard Hankerson
Strategy: The best value here is Austin Collie, but I fear that he’ll be moved back up the ranks soon. … Your opponents aren’t likely to see Brandon LaFell and Leonard Hankerson buried on their lists. We can wait to pounce on them.

Players listed higher overall than expected:
12. Matthew Stafford
13. Trent Richardson
17. Fred Jackson
20. Ahmad Bradshaw
23. Michael Turner
33. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
39. Shonn Greene
42. Eli Manning
46. Donald Brown
52. Philip Rivers
57. Tony Romo
62. Isaac Redman
65. Ryan Williams
88. Cedric Benson
Strategy: CBS’ default ranks are weighted heavily toward running backs. We need to attack the position early, but be aware of how much value there could be at other spots if your entire league starts off RB-RB. … Hope and pray that your opponents get sucked in here and overpay for the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Turner, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Shonn Greene, Isaac Redman and Ryan Williams. … Think Cedric Benson is your sleeper? Think again. … Quarterbacks are going to fly off the board, but don’t get tricked into this Eli/Rivers/Romo tier. Wait a long while, then gain some value by getting the Ben Roethlisberger/Luck/RG3/Cutlers of the world.

Players listed lower overall than expected:
25. Rob Gronkowski
59. Antonio Gates
63. Brandon Lloyd
77. Antonio Brown
97. Mark Ingram
123. Ben Tate
147. David Wilson
Strategy: Considering the lack of elite players at tight end, it’s a little strange to see Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates so low. Pounce on them. … Brandon Lloyd and Antonio Brown are two of my favorite WR2s, but they are ranked as WR3s. … Looking to handcuff Ben Tate? Be aware that you might be able to wait a round or two later than usual. … David Wilson’s rank hasn’t been adjusted to reflect his impressive charge up the depth chart.

Where the buzz guys are ranked:
27. Julio Jones
28. Doug Martin
31. Matt Ryan
48. Stevan Ridley
56. Kevin Smith
67. Eric Decker
72. Torrey Smith
92. Titus Young
Strategy: No bargains here. If we want some of the preseason’s biggest movers, we are going to have to reach for them. Out of this entire group, only Eric Decker is ranked lower than I’d expect. Get aggressive.

Who to scroll down for:
136. Denarius Moore
139. Jake Locker
151. Sidney Rice
157. Kendall Wright
160. Brandon LaFell
161. Kenny Britt
164. Michael Crabtree
170. Kyle Rudolph
173. Jacquizz Rodgers
190. Alfred Morris
201. Leonard Hankerson
242. Kendall Hunter
278. Austin Collie
Strategy: There’s a lot to like here, but they are all clumped together. Once an owner sees Kenny Britt at an outrageous 161, he’s going to see Brandon LaFell, Michael Crabtree and Sidney Rice as well. … Kendall Hunter is worth a standalone selection, so Frank Gore owners should scroll down and get him in queue. … Sidney Rice is healthy for now and a No. 1 receiver. He’s at least worth a flier.

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.
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