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How accurate is QB ADP based on QB finish?

By Zach Attack @FFChalupaBatman

I thought about how many years ago several fantasy experts would advise you to take a top QB really early in the draft.  Then over the last few years, fantasy experts have shifted to wait on QB* because there are so many you can get better value from other positions (i.e. RB or WR).  What do the numbers tell us?

*data based on a 1QB league 

Below is data I collected from FantasyPros from 2017-2020.  I pulled the ADP of the top 24 QBs each season, then I compared where that QB actually finished the season in total scoring.  I did not remove any QBs due to injuries.  Those outlier finishes just highlights the potential volatility of drafting a player at any position any season; that is fantasy football.  I excluded player names to avoid any possible narrative bias.

ADP RankQB Finish 2017QB Finish 2018QB Finish 2019QB Finish 2020AverageStandard DeviationDifference from ADP Rank

*QB11 in 2017 was drafted and had an ADP of QB11 before the season started, but never played a game in 2017 due to offseason surgery

Summary of the Data

  • If we drafted QBs in the exact order they would finish the season in scoring that we would see the top of the chart as dark green and it would transition to dark red at the bottom.  Obviously, that is an impossible task so this allows to see the biggest variances.
  • Let’s start at the top with pre-season QB1.  2017 skews the average and variance (standard deviation), but in the last four seasons the top drafted QB hasn’t finished better than QB4.  The average ADP for the pre-season QB1 during that time is 16.5 (2.04 in 12 team draft).  The average ADP of the actual QB1 based on total season scoring was 87.75 (8.04 in 12 team draft)!
  • Over the last 4 seasons, on average the top 12 QBs drafted do not finish at the same on better rank at the end of the season, with the exception of QB9.
  • Over the last 4 seasons, on average the drafted QB13-QB16 finish better at the end of the season and QB13-QB15 finish better than QB12 on average.
  • There is a lot of variance at all QB spots from year to year.
  • Based on how early you have to pick QB1 and the odds of them finishing QB1 are quite low, you are losing a lot of value on other positions.
  • Since there is so much variance between QBs, you are most likely best off waiting to select QB and hope to “hit the lottery” with the one that breaks out that season.  2018 QB16 finished QB1, 2019 QB14 finished QB1, 2020 QB11 finished QB ”“ combined average ADP of 99 (9.03 in 12 team draft).

This data analysis shows that it is better to wait on drafting your QB because there is a significant chance that your QB does not finish at the point he was drafted.  It is more prudent to find value at other positions in the earlier rounds and let your competition draft QBs early.  This is not an exact science, but part of fantasy football is playing the odds of possible outcomes.  I know the top QB from the prior season is always so tempting, Josh Allen going into 2021, but if you are playing the odds then he won’t be worth it at is expected ADP.  Good luck drafting!

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