It’s never too early to start taking a look at fantasy football ADP and mock drafts. And, as the calendar turns to June in the coming days, the NFL takes and opinions will start pouring in. So allow me to pose a question to you. Have you ever posted a “hot take” about fantasy football, knew you were going to get crushed for it but said it anyway? I have, most recently, with a comment about the consensus top-five quarterback in redraft leagues, Patrick Mahomes…
However, despite the backlash, questioning consensus rankings and looking for possible ADP busts is what can set you apart from the masses and win you a fantasy championship. Cooper Kupp was a great example of this in the 2021 fantasy season. While he ended up as the 2021 WR1 by a mile, especially in PPR leagues, Kupp was being drafted in between the sixth and eighth rounds, providing extreme value for those who rolled the dice on him. Patrick Mahomes, on the other hand, was drafted as QB1 at an ADP of 18.8 overall, and finished as QB4, behind Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Tom Brady. Despite these sub-par finishes relative to his ADP, Mahomes is still being drafted as QB2 in 2022.
Drafting your fantasy football teams is always somewhat of a gamble, but there are things you can do as a savvy fantasy manager to mitigate those risks and recognize the ADP traps. I’ll use Mahomes as an example since he is one of the most recognizable players in the league and show you how his historical stat line puts him in the bust category at his ADP this season. This is not to say that Mahomes won’t be “good,” but if you’re drafting him as QB2, you’re taking him at his ceiling, something that we have seen less and less of throughout the years. So how can you learn to recognize these potential busts at ADP? Let’s dive into some metrics to use.
Using and Analyzing Historical Data
The easy argument in favor of drafting Patrick Mahomes is that, outside of 2019 when he was injured, he has finished as a top-five quarterback every single year. However, these numbers are a little misleading. Sure, Mahomes has upside in any given week, but unless you’re in a points-only league, you’re looking for a consistent starter. In 2018, Mahomes was exactly this, finishing as the overall QB1 in four out of his 16 games and only finishing outside the top 12 three weeks, with his lowest finish being QB17. Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen the number of ceiling weeks decrease, as well as his number of outright terrible weeks increase. In 2021, Mahomes only finished as overall QB1 once and finished outside the top 12 six times, with his lowest week sitting at an appalling QB26. His touchdown-to-interception ratio has also declined, putting a cap on his once high ceiling. In 2018, he had 50 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions, while in 2021, his touchdown number decreased to 37 and his interceptions increased to 13.
Mahomes also suffered some extreme down weeks in the middle of the season last year. From Week 7 to Week 13, he was QB17 finishing below Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke, and rookie Mac Jones. During that stretch, he only had one game over 300 yards with multiple touchdowns and he only averaged 15.41 fantasy points per game. If you look at his year-end numbers, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that Mahomes was an elite option in 2021, but this stretch says otherwise. We don’t want total season points; we want to win every week, and consistent numbers are what you need your late-second or early-third round pick to deliver.
Analyzing Current Personnel
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the Tyreek Hill trade shocked the majority of us (unless you’re my colleague, Andrew Cooper, who predicted it last season). In addition to losing Hill, we saw Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and even pass-catching running back Darrel Williams depart in free agency. Hill’s departure alone leaves 159 vacated targets in Andy Reid’s complicated system, and, if you factor in the rest of the group, it amounts to a total of 307 vacated targets. The Chiefs added veterans JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling, as well as adding rookies Skyy Moore and Justyn Ross, but can they equal the production Hill and company provide? Well, that remains to be seen. MVS has not been a volume guy, seeing an average of only 62 targets in his first four years. Juju had a very up-and-down target share during his tenure in Pittsburgh.
This is where the risk analysis comes in. If you believe that these new receivers are truly elite in the way Hill was, then you can maybe take the risk on Mahomes at his ADP. However, paired with the statistical analysis discussed above and the amount of time it can take for new receivers to develop rapport with a quarterback, Mahomes could very well be outside of the top 12 during the first few weeks, and I don’t feel comfortable taking that gamble when there are other quarterbacks going in later rounds with just as much or more upside.
Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule
The NFL has seen its share of parity over the last few seasons, and this year is no different. While the Chiefs have been contenders in each of Mahomes’ seasons, other teams have made massive improvements, especially in the AFC West. The Broncos added several defensive pieces, including pass-rusher Randy Gregory, the Chargers added shutdown corner J.C. Jackson and pass-rusher Khalil Mack, and the Raiders added pass-rusher Chandler Jones and star wide receiver Davante Adams. When you have to play in these dogfight games six times over the course of the season, the interception risk increases, as does the risk of injury.
In addition to their divisional opponents, the Chiefs have the fifth-toughest strength of schedule in the entire NFL over their first eight games, with each opponent having a +.500 record in 2021. While some may say that tougher games equal shoot-outs, I’m not willing to risk that. We saw Mahomes make two terrible mistakes against the Cincinnati Bengals, resulting in interceptions and which inevitably cost the Chiefs the game in the 2021 AFC Championship. While playing from behind can increase a quarterback’s attempts, there’s also an inherent risk of interceptions, or just not getting the ball at all if you’re racing against the game clock.
Recognizing Fantasy Football ADP Value
Let me be clear; the point of this article is not to say that you shouldn’t take Mahomes at all. If he falls into a QB4-QB8 range, he’s absolutely a value there; however, we all know that most likely won’t happen. To avoid blowing your valuable draft capital on players who likely won’t exceed their ADP, use these above factors to look at other players who may have the odds in their favor. My current favorite to use as a counter to Mahomes is Jalen Hurts. Despite starting in two fewer games than Mahomes in 2021, he still had the same number of QB1 weeks, and his average fantasy points per game was only 0.6 fewer than Mahomes’ average. Hurts does this with rushing upside, which is especially valuable in four-point passing touchdown leagues. If Mahomes has a bad game with only one or no touchdowns, like the Tennessee game last season, his upside is capped. The Eagles also added AJ Brown to bolster their receiving corps, and they play one of the easiest schedules in the league. Hurts is currently going at an ADP of 65.1, a full two-and-a-half round after Mahomes’ ADP of 38.8, providing a much greater value in Hurts. While the two players will likely end up very close in the season-long rankings, your overall roster will be better by saving draft capital and building up other skill positions.
My final piece of advice is this; don’t look at everything in a vacuum. Use a totality of the circumstances when building your roster. Could I be wrong about Mahomes? Absolutely. However, adding in layers of analysis almost always wins out as a strategy. Don’t fall into the trap of consensus ADP.
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