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Analyzing WR & TE Pre and Post-Draft ADPs

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Like much of the fantasy football community, I too am a fan of early fantasy football drafts. For some, there is truly no offseason in fantasy football. Even if you aren’t constantly reworking your dynasty rosters, the season-long sweat kicks off just days after the Super Bowl.

While these early drafts are a ton of fun, they also leave the door open for a lot of chaos. Taking stances on players who have yet to sign in free agency or yet to be drafted can torpedo a player’s value just as quickly as it can send it to the moon.

Knowing this, I dove into early draft ADP of seasons past in hopes of learning a bit about how well we’ve been drafting these players early on and what positions offer the most value post-NFL Draft.

I first looked at quarterback and running back ADP. That article can be found at the link below.

With two of the four positions covered, this article will explore wide receiver and tight end ADP. This year’s NFL Draft features a particularly deep tight end class, which could make this historical data all the more interesting. Knowing this, let’s dive into some early ADP with the draft a little over three weeks away.

Notes: Advanced stats and metrics courtesy of Pro Football Reference, RotoViz, and This article is based on full-PPR scoring.

Wide Receivers

In last week’s article, I pointed out the rise running backs see in ADP after the draft. The running back position as a whole sees an ADP rise by 16.1 spots -- nearly a full round in a half.

The same can be said of wide receivers, who see the biggest post-draft rise in ADP among the four fantasy-relevant positions, jumping an average of 18.6 spots in ADP. Despite the overall rise in ADP, we see plenty of players fall once their NFL landing spot has been determined. Of the 94 wide receivers in our sample, the receiver who saw the second-most drastic fall in ADP was Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown.

During the pre-draft portion of the fantasy season, drafters were drafting Brown as a fringe top-200 player (204.1 ADP), but slightly soured on him after the draft. His ADP after the draft dropped down to 257.4, but those who faded him quickly regretted it.

As a rookie, Brown totaled 194.7 fantasy points -- the eighth-most of any player in the sample and is just one of 24 players who averaged 10+ fantasy points per game as a rookie.

Below is a look at rookie wide receivers by points per game sorted by the round they were drafted in. Round 8 represents players who entered the league as undrafted rookie free agents.

Rookie WRs PPR/gm (2019-2022)

Rookie WRs PPR/gm (2019-2022)

Much like running backs in fantasy, wide receivers with Round 3 draft capital or better are producing at the highest levels as rookies. Of the 24 rookie receivers to averaged 10+ fantasy points per game as a rookie, only three were taken on Day 3 or later (Amon-Ra St. Brown, Darius Slayton, Preston Williams).

Looking exclusively at receivers with third-round draft capital or better for a moment, we see them boasting an ADP differential of 24.8 -- getting little more than a full two-round boost in ADP.

WR ADP Differential Rounds 1-3 (2019-2022)

WR ADP Differential Rounds 1-3 (2019-2022)

In the same way early fantasy drafters are capitalizing on uncertainty when drafting running backs, they’re also securing great value at wide receiver. Since 2019, wide receivers who wound up going in the first round had an average pre-draft ADP of 149.1, but if we divide our four years’ worth of data in half, we see that drafters could be getting sharper when it comes to how they should view these rookies.

From 2019 to 2020, these future first-round receivers had a pre-draft ADP of 176.2, while first-round receivers in the last two classes have seen a pre-draft ADP of 135.6. While there’s a case to be made the last two draft classes had much stronger receivers than the 2019 and 2020 classes did, a jump of nearly four full rounds in ADP suggests there’s more to it. The top-four ADPs for wide receivers in the 2023 class currently sit at 108.1. That group includes Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, and Zay Flowers.

Again, it would appear drafters are getting bolder when it comes to taking the plunge on potential first-round talent in these drafts as rookies at the position continue to offer strong early returns.

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Tight Ends

NOTE: Due to the FFPC ADP being used, tight end scoring is referenced with TE premium (1.5 PPR) in mind unless noted otherwise.

Tight end is arguably the most difficult position to adjust to when making the leap from college to the pros. Even in a league that’s become more geared toward throwing to the tight end, we’ve seen just six tight ends surpass 500 receiving yards as a rookie over the last 10 years. We’ve had 17 tight ends account for 400+ yards as a rookie.

Kyle Pitts gave us arguably the best receiving season in rookie tight end history when he went for 66-1018-1 in 2021, which had been the most productive season since Evan Engram went for 64-722-6 as a rookie in 2017.

Of the rookie tight ends in our sample size, only four have averaged double-digit fantasy points per game since 2019 in TE premium scoring -- only one (Pitts) averaged double-digit fantasy PPG in a normal PPR format.

Rookie TEs Tight End Premium PPG (2019-2022)

Rookie TEs Tight End Premium PPG (2019-2022)

Fantasy managers know the risk that comes with these rookie tight ends, and temper expectations in the draft lobbies -- except for the year Pitts turned everyone nuts.

The 36 tight ends in the sample have seen an ADP differential of 6.9 when comparing pre-draft to post-draft ADP. This is just a slight difference from the 6.4 differential quarterbacks see. If not for the 107.8-point rise we saw from Isaiah Likely last season, the tight end position would undoubtedly be the one to see the smallest ADP adjustment of the four fantasy-relevant positions.

Fantasy drafters know to temper expectations when it comes to rookie tight ends, but ADP jumps we saw after last year’s draft are interesting when considering the tight end depth of the 2023 class.

Of the 10 tight ends to see the largest differential in ADPs, seven were drafted in 2022. This feels all the more important when some have speculated that as many as four tight ends could be drafted in the first round this season, which would set a record for the modern draft era.

Should this materialize, we’ll undoubtedly see a jump in rookie tight end ADP after the draft. For now, Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer has an ADP of 137.7. While that could remain largely unchanged, Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid (196.0) could stand to see a nice rise if his name is called in Round 1. The same can be said of Georgia tight end and athletic freak Darnell Washington (224.6).

Darnell Washington RAS

Darnell Washington RAS

When it comes to rookie tight ends, the biggest takeaway seems to be to know what you’re getting. I’d argue, for the most part, drafters do. We seldom see inflated ADPs for rookie tight ends during the pre-draft process, and drafters aren’t often dying to throw them in their starting lineup Week 1.

When considering best ball drafts some of these rookies with higher draft capital can offer a nice floor in a three-tight-end build. But an elite tight end paired with a just single rookie tight end feels like a risky proposition when you consider the lack of fantasy production and overall injury risk that comes with the position.