Using ADP to Identify Running Back Values and Traps


Earlier this season I penned “Mind the Gap: Using ADP to Create a RB Typology.” August has arrived, and with it, fantasy draft season. Time to update our running back typology.

Value Screener

I encourage you to revisit the original Mind the Gap article for a full breakdown of the research and methodology used. Here’s a brief refresher: The gap between the ADP for each team’s first and second-drafted RB is their “ADP Gap.”  Some RBs have a bigger (B) than expected ADP Gap, and are referred to as B1 (higher drafted) or B2 (lower drafted) backs. Other backs have a smaller (S) than average ADP Gap, and are referred to as S1 (higher-drafted) or S2 (lower-drafted) backs. The four different types of backs can be briefly described.

Cohort Characteristic
B1 High scoring at a premium ADP
B2 Low scoring at the cheapest ADP
S1 Moderate scoring, with upside, at a moderate ADP
S2 Moderate scoring, with upside, at a cheap ADP

Looking at ADP Gaps is a way of screening RBs in a way that illuminates potential value traps or value opportunities. A player’s ADP Gap tells us which of the four cohorts the player belongs to. Once we know that, we can evaluate the player individually to see if they have the potential to outperform their cohort (value) or appear likely to under-perform their cohort (trap).


So how do we apply this to our fantasy drafts? We use it as a filter, or screener, to identify:

  • Cheap B1 RBs to target
  • Discounted S1 and S2 RBs to target
  • Over-valued B2 RBs to avoid

Here’s a color-coded table (followed by a sortable table at the end of the article) that shows the top two RBs for each team, their classification, and their ADP.


B1 backs are coded green, B2 red, S1 yellow, and S2 orange. ADP is for August 12-team PPR redraft leagues, and comes from My Fantasy League.

Case Studies

As mentioned, a RB’s typology is just a method for categorizing players; it’s not an evaluation of that specific player. But we can use this typology to reveal players that might present good (or bad) value opportunities. Here are a few that stick out to me:

Darren Sproles

Sproles is drafted ahead of several S1 and S2 backs which suggests that drafters think rather highly of him. On the other hand, by drafting him so much later than LeSean McCoy, drafters are sending a second signal: Sproles is being drafted as a B2 back- this group historically returns the least value. Is there any reason to believe that Sproles will break the mold and return a higher than expected value? My short answer is no. Last season Sproles garnered 14 percent of the Saints’ rushing attempts. The player he’s theoretically replacing, Bryce Brown, handled 16 percent of the Eagles’ attempts. Unless you expect Chip Kelly to take attempts away from McCoy (and potentially Chris Polk), there’s not a lot of room for Sproles to add volume to his rushing attempts.

On the other hand, Brown received only three percent of the Eagles’ pass targets, while Sproles received a full 15 percent of the Saints’ targets. So Sproles could have value as a pass-catcher in PPR leagues, right? Not so fast. First, Sproles’ target percentage was his lowest since 2010: he was already being phased out in New Orleans. If the pass happy Saints were gradually reducing his workload and content to let him go in the offseason, how confident should we be in his skills? Second, the Eagles attempted 143 fewer passes than the Saints last season. So even if Sproles gets the same percentage of targets, he’ll still have a reduced workload. Then you add in Sproles’ age (31), early rumors about his workload, and the plethora of other pass-catching options in Philadelphia, and it seems less likely that Sproles returns his ADP value. I’m avoiding.

Bishop Sankey

The message from drafters here is clear: Sankey is being drafted as part of the best-performing cohort, the B1 RBs. Other than Trent Richardson, he’s the cheapest B1 back in fantasy drafts. That in itself makes him an interesting target: he’s basically the cheapest option of the cohort that’s likeliest to produce the most points. Sankey’s ADP makes him an ideal target for two strategic reasons as well. If you’re going with a Zero(ish) RB approach, he represents the potential for RB1 production in the late fourth/early fifth round. On the other hand, if you’re going RB early and often, wouldn’t it be nice to have a potential RB1 on your bench, ready to fill in if a different RB disappoints, or to serve as trade bait?

Beyond that, Sankey is a RotoViz favorite, about whom there’s not much to say that hasn’t been said. As a prospect, he slots ahead of McCoy, in addition to many others.Tennessee has a decent offensive line, which should help. And are we really worried about Dexter McCluster or Shonn Greene? The draft community isn’t–neither is being drafted within 115 picks of Sankey.

What’s interesting is that Sankey’s ADP has actually fallen over the past month, even though coach Ken Whisenhunt has identified him as a standout, and plugged-in beat writer Jim Wyatt says

When the regular season arrives, however, it’s easy to envision him as the primary ball-carrier because his all-around skills will make it tough to keep him off the field. 

Although some are concerned by his first preseason game, I’m not. The weather conditions were pretty dicey, so judging his yards/carry seems dubious. I’m drafting.

Devonta Freeman and Steven Jackson

Could drafter ambivalence be any more obvious? Not only are they drafted with a smaller-than-average ADP gap, they have virtually identical ADPs. So neither represents a value relative to the other. Neither is particularly enticing in their own right. And Atlanta has one of the league’s worst offensive lines. The community of drafters has no idea which back is the preferable back in this situation. I don’t think there’s a compelling argument for either; they rank as our 32nd (Jackson) and 48th (Freeman) redraft RBs. I’m avoiding.

Chris Ivory

Other than Jonathan Stewart, he’s the cheapest S2 RB out there. But the S2 cohort not only outproduces the B2 cohort players drafted ahead of him, they produce similar results as the S1 cohort, and have a lot of upside of their team’s S1 back is injured. This means Ivory has potential to out-produce his ADP by more than nearly every other RB. Drafters are sending mixed signals: on the one hand, they give him little value in his own right; on the other hand, by drafting him closer to teammate Chris Johnson than average, they’re either expressing doubt about Johnson himself, or they’re thinking the Jets’ backfield will tilt towards a time share. Either way, they’re saying Ivory has a chance to provide fantasy value.

The Jets have been a run-heavy team throughout coach Rex Ryan’s tenure, as this graph from the Projection Machine demonstrates. So it seems like there will be volume available for the RBs.jets It’s also worth noting that Ivory is one of the better RBs in the league in obvious running situations, and Max Mulitz makes a good argument for why Ivory is as talented as Johnson. Ivory actually finished last season as the ninth-best RB on a fantasy points per snap basis,1 so any opportunity for increased volume (i.e. CJ?K is injured or underwhelms) will likely pay dividends. The concern with Ivory of course is injuries. But the injury risk seems priced into his ADP. The upside may not be. I’m drafting.


Hopefully this exercise helps with your pre-draft rankings. Here’s a sortable, but alas, not color-coded, table to help your research. Remember, use this RB Typology as a screener to find players whose ADP typology suggests they’re mis-priced. You’ll still need to do some leg work to make determinations on the individual players. But we’ve got you covered with our Apps, Rankings, and RB Content.

2014 RB Typology

B1McCoy, LeSean PHI RB2.1
B1Charles, Jamaal KCC RB2.7
B1Peterson, Adrian MIN RB5.2
B1Forte, Matt CHI RB6.3
B1Lacy, Eddie GBP RB8.6
B1Murray, DeMarco DAL RB17.9
B1Ball, Montee DEN RB17.9
B1Bernard, Giovani CIN RB18.2
B1Bell, Le'Veon PIT RB18.7
S1Lynch, Marshawn SEA RB20.6
B1Foster, Arian HOU RB27.4
B1Martin, Doug TBB RB28.4
B1Ellington, Andre ARI RB33.2
B1Stacy, Zac STL RB33.2
B1Morris, Alfred WAS RB36.2
S1Spiller, C.J. BUF RB38.0
S1Bush, Reggie DET RB42.1
S1Vereen, Shane NEP RB48.7
B1Gerhart, Toby JAC RB55.7
S1Mathews, Ryan SDC RB56.9
B1Sankey, Bishop TEN RB58.1
B1Richardson, Trent IND RB59.0
S1Rice, Ray BAL RB63.8
S1Jennings, Rashad NYG RB64.8
S2Bell, Joique DET RB67.7
S1Johnson, Chris NYJ RB70.4
S1Tate, Ben CLE RB70.9
S1Gore, Frank SFO RB73.4
S1Thomas, Pierre NOS RB84.7
S1Miller, Lamar MIA RB87.1
S2Ridley, Stevan NEP RB93.0
B2Sproles, Darren PHI RB99.7
S2Hyde, Carlos SFO RB100.2
S1Jones-Drew, Maurice OAK RB102.0
S1Freeman, Devonta ATL RB104.4
S2Jackson, Steven ATL RB105.5
S2West, Terrance CLE RB106.2
S2Michael, Christine SEA RB107.4
S2Woodhead, Danny SDC RB107.5
S2Pierce, Bernard BAL RB115.7
S2Moreno, Knowshon MIA RB117.6
B2Hill, Jeremy CIN RB118.9
S2Jackson, Fred BUF RB119.5
S2McFadden, Darren OAK RB130.3
S2Williams, Andre NYG RB130.5
S2Robinson, Khiry NOS RB139.2
S1Williams, DeAngelo CAR RB141.4
B2Mason, Tre STL RB142.3
B2Davis, Knile KCC RB152.4
B2Bradshaw, Ahmad IND RB158.5
B2Carey, Ka'Deem CHI RB160.5
B2Dunbar, Lance DAL RB161.8
S2Ivory, Chris NYJ RB163.7
B2Sims, Charles TBB RB165.7
B2Brown, Andre HOU RB168.4
B2McKinnon, Jerick MIN RB170.7
B2Blount, LeGarrette PIT RB171.3
S2Stewart, Jonathan CAR RB173.5
B2McCluster, Dexter TEN RB174.0
B2Hillman, Ronnie DEN RB175.0
B2Starks, James GBP RB183.6
B2Helu, Roy WAS RB184.1
B2Johnson, Storm JAC RB186.0
B2Taylor, Stepfan ARI RB194.9


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