Using numberFire’s Fantasy Football Draft Kit to Beat Single-Season ADP

According to our models, Jamaal Charles is a nice bargain in the second round. What other players can provide value, and what would a perfect draft look like using our FireFactor tool as a guide?

I have always been a board game enthusiast. In grade school, my dad and I got up early every morning to play chess before I went to class. In high school, I got even more into strategy games like Risk and Axis and Allies.

The game that hooked me, however, was Diplomacy. It’s a game about controlling territories (like the others), but Diplomacy isn’t about brute force; it’s about prediction, negotiation, and subtlety. It’s a tough game to master, because you’re not just playing the game -- you have to play the players themselves. This forces you to get inside your opponents’ heads in order to be three steps ahead of them and manipulate them to do what you want.

In your fantasy football leagues, the process of winning your league begins on draft day. You have to outthink, outmaneuver, and outsmart your leaguemates in order to get the best players possible onto your team. Doing so certainly takes some luck -- and sometimes involves a bit of negotiation -- but the best way to win your draft is with a strong strategy.

That’s what we at numberFire provide you with every year in our Fantasy Football Draft Kit. Here’s how to use it -- and specifically our FireFactor metric -- to win your league on draft day.

The Process

The most important thing to know about fantasy football is that it isn’t all about the points. “Wait,” you might be saying. “If you win by scoring points, shouldn’t I try to draft players who will score the most points?” You should -- but not all the time.

That’s where the concept of value over replacement (VORP) comes in, which is what the FireFactor metric embodies. FireFactor is our own internal ranking mechanism that factors in a player's projected fantasy points and compares against the value of the lowest player for that position who has value on your roster. The score itself indicates the value this player has on your roster, and helps you compare the relative worth of players.

Below, you can see how this plays out in practice. I examined the Average Draft Position (ADP) of players in a standard 10-team league and created a team of the players in each round who FireFactor values the most, listing their ADP, FireFactor Rank, and difference between the two.

No one ever has a perfect draft, but if you could, what would it look like?

The Perfect Draft

Round 1 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Antonio Brown, WR, PIT 1 1 Even

They always say you can never win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. If you have the top pick of the draft, you choice is easy: both ADP and FireFactor peg Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver Antonio Brown as the top dog in fantasy this year. Our own Sam Hauss said it best in his piece on Brown earlier this month: “Given his insane consistency, lack of competition for targets and overall talent, Brown possess the rare combination of a high floor and massive upside you are looking for with the first overall selection on draft day.” ‘Nuff said.

Round 2 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Jamaal Charles, RB, KC 12 4 +8

Kansas City Chiefs' running back Jamaal Charles fills the “best” and “most undervalued” spots for us in Round 2, which should indicate to you that he’s your main target on the turn. The Chiefs’ offense has gone through Charles since he took over the team backfield in 2009, and there shouldn’t be much of a change in 2016, despite this being Charles’s age-30 season. Our own Jason Schandl explained why Charles is worthy of a first-round selection.

Round 3 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
LeSean McCoy, RB, BUF 26 16 +10

It seems crazy to think that Buffalo Bills' running back Lesean McCoy is going as a third-rounder by ADP, but sure enough, we find him here. He’s undervalued by 10 spots, according to FireFactor, which would actually put him as a mid-second round selection. The biggest benefit to Shady is that Buffalo ran the ball a league-high 50% of the time in 2015 (1.00 pass-to-run ratio). Our algorithms project Shady for another 300 touches and almost 1,500 combined yards next season. He’s a great value if you get him this late.

Round 4 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Matt Forte, RB, NYJ 36 15 +21

Noticing a pattern yet? Most of the undervalued assets in ADP this year are running backs, likely because people are trying to zag in response to last season’s catastrophic bust rate for running backs. Our own JJ Zachariason detailed that strategy earlier in the offseason. New York Jets' running back Matt Forte might have a fourth-round ADP, but he is still a top-20 overall player, according to our algorithms. That kind of upside at this value is incredible, making a great value play if you opt to load up on wide receivers in your first few rounds.

Round 5 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Andrew Luck, QB, IND 41 33 +8

Now, I fudged this one a bit. Oakland Raiders' running back Latavius Murray is the highest projected player in this round by FireFactor, but if we’re assembling a whole team, we want to have some balance in our positions. With three running backs already in tow, it’s time to go to a different position, and Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck was the next-highest ranked player going in this round. The passer had his worst season -- by far -- in 2015, but with a return to health and an improved offensive line, he could easily regain our fantasy trust in the fifth round.

Round 6 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Eric Decker, WR, NYJ 54 48 +6

Here’s another one where you might have to reach a little bit to get who you want. Jets' wide receiver Eric Decker is perpetually undervalued, and then perpetually overperforms his ADP. Let your leaguemates worry about whether or not the quarterback situation in New York is a problem; don’t forget that Decker still produced with the likes of Tim Tebow under center when he was with the Denver Broncos. If that’s not convincing enough, our own Matt Blair recently made the case for Decker.

Rounds 7/8/9 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, DEN 63 56 +7
Ameer Abdullah, RB, DET 77 31 +46
Marvin Jones, WR, DET 88 82 +6

Each of these players is being drastically undervalued, despite big-time potential in their situations. Denver wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is still a strong second option in the Denver offense, and with the limited quarterbacks they have in Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian, the short passing game could be a big focus for the team. Detroit Lions' running back Ameer Abdullah is likely to get a bell cow’s workload at a fraction of the price, because people see the timeshare usage last season -- our own Jim Sannes sees more than that. Wide receiver Marvin Jones was never used to his full extent in the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense, but he now has a lot of upside with Detroit.

Rounds 10/11/12 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Rashad Jennings, RB, NYG 98 73 +25
Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN 102 77 +25
Isaiah Crowell, RB, CLE 117 72 +45

Here is another slew of undervalued players just waiting for you to draft them in your last few rounds. New York Giants' running back Rashad Jennings would be much higher if we were drafting based on his talent alone, but fantasy owners see an age over 30 and panic. Our own Austan Kas reminds you not to be afraid; he’s got solid volume. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs is actually going in the same round as his rookie teammate Laquon Treadwell. With the connection Diggs had with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, it would be silly to let him fall this far. Cleveland Browns' running back Isaiah Crowell may be in a full-blown timeshare, but that doesn’t mean he can’t produce decent numbers. He’s still the lead back in Cleveland, and there is no better upside this late.

Rounds 13/14 ADP FireFactor Rank +/-
Vincent Jackson, WR, TB 127 83 +44
Jason Witten, TE, DAL 134 106 +28

Old man Vincent Jackson may not be as flashy as the other wide receiver in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense, but he’s a strong pick, even at this age. In the last few rounds of your draft, upside is the name of the game. If you hadn’t drafted a tight end until the last two turns, you could still get an insanely great value with our fourth-best player at the position in the Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Witten. Witten is another continuously unheralded player in the fantasy community, but we’re pegging him once again for more than 80 catches.

Comparing FireFactor to ADP can allow you to see great values dropping into your lap and helps you know when to capitalize on them. Use our Fantasy Football Draft Kit for your season-long leagues, and you’ll be able to outmaneuver your league on draft day.