Early ADP Trends
By Jeff Brubach
Fantasy football drafts are full of split-second decisions that can create season-long joy or painful totals in the “loss” column. Each season, various players receive incredible amounts of preseason hype that vaults their average draft position* (ADP) to unreasonable levels. On the other side of the coin, there are players that slip to later stages of drafts due to concerns about age, playing time, or performance, among other things. The key to maximizing the talent on a fantasy roster is to identify which players will provide value at their current draft slot and which players to avoid. As we discussed in our snake draft strategy piece, knowing the ADP of players can help guide your hand away from uneccesary reaches during a draft and toward the profit-producing players who will make fantasy owners celebrate in Week 16. Let’s check out some players who are currently being drafted too low or too high in fantasy drafts.
Too Low: Steve Smith – 6.08
Sure, Steve Smith isn’t the young buck he once was, but please don’t let the fact that he is 34 years old blind you from his excellence in the fantasy football world. In 2012, at the age of 33, Smith piled up 73 catches for 1,174 yards and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. The performance of Smith is not the only benefit of adding him to your fantasy squad in 2013, as his ADP is the real icing on the cake. For example, you could draft three running backs and two wide receivers in the first five rounds and then add Steve Smith as your THIRD receiver! A No. 3 fantasy receiver who is a virtual lock to haul in 70 catches and over 1,000 yards is a mighty fine asset. In addition, Smith’s ADP is neck and neck with rookie Tavon Austin, who has caught exactly zero NFL passes, and after Eric Decker, who now has Wes Welker in addition to Demaryius Thomas competing for catches in Denver. Snag Smith in the sixth round and enjoy the profit.
Too High: Maurice Jones-Drew: 2.07
My skepticism of MJD has been well documented here at football.com, and his current ADP does nothing to change that opinion. Although he has been cleared to practice in training camp, his recent foot troubles and extremely high usage over the past few years are two very good reasons to look elsewhere in the second round. I would much rather select DeMarco Murray, Lamar Miller, or Darren McFadden instead of Jones-Drew, and all of those backs are being drafted after the Jacksonville work horse. After the Top 10-12 running backs, every option comes with its own set of warts, but MJD’s are too large to ignore.
Too Low: Pierre Thomas – 11.04
When fantasy drafts hit the 11th round, teams are primarily in the business of adding depth. Starters at running back and wide receiver have been secured in the early rounds, so these mid to late rounds are where fantasy owners need to pack as much value into their bench as possible. One running back who accomplishes that feat is Pierre Thomas. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Head coach Sean Payton has declared his desire to get the Saints ground game back on track in 2013, and without Chris Ivory in the mix this season, there will be more carries to split between Thomas and Mark Ingram. Thomas may not see a huge increase to his 105 carries of 2012, but he should come in somewhere in the 115 or 120 carry range. The other underrated aspect of Thomas’ game may come as a bit of a surprise to fantasy owners. While Darren Sproles is thought of as the Saints’ pass catching back, did you know Pierre Thomas was 17th among NFL running backs in catches in 2012 and caught more balls than Reggie Bush and Jamaal Charles? Thomas’ total package of receptions, a small boost in carries and some regression to his career touchdown average (only two in 2012) make Thomas an ideal value target.
Too High: Aaron Rodgers – 2.06
It has been preached high and low, and from all corners of the internet: do not draft your quarterback early! Aaron Rodgers is awesome. Please do not get this twisted. Rodgers is the lead dog in a fantastic offense and will throw boat loads of touchdowns in 2013. However, there are far better uses of a second round pick (like securing a second running back) than draftin Rodgers. While selecting Rodgers may make fantasy owners feel warm and secure at their QB position, how do we even know Rodgers will finish as the top fantasy scoring quarterback? Would it shock you if Cam Newton went bonkers and scored 12 rushing touchdowns this season? What if long time fantasy beasts Drew Brees or Peyton Manning have banner years and claim the top spot? The issue here is that there are tons of great quarterback options this season, so do not blow an early round pick on one in your draft.
Too Low: Ryan Broyles – 11.07
Broyles probably deserves his own sleeper article, but he is included in this piece to alert the masses that he has a great season on the horizon. Matthew Stafford threw the ball 663 and 727 times in the last two seasons. That is enough passing to make a normal human’s arm fall completely off their body. Luckily, Stafford is quite comfortable chucking the ball 50 times a game, which means there is plenty of work to go around in Motown. After the great Megatron receives his looks, who is going to be on the other end of the aerial attack for the Lions in 2013? The answer is slot man Ryan Broyles. With Nate Burleson being stalked by father time and Titus Young no longer with the organization, Broyles will be able to reap the rewards of the high octane Detroit offense. The glaring issue for Broyles is his return after ACL surgery, but let that be the factor that scares away fellow drafters. This is a fantastic bargain in the 11th round.
Too High: BenJarvus Green-Ellis – 7.02
Join a mock draft this summer and select BGE in the seventh round and tell me how it feels. Trust me, the feeling is similar to opening your lunch box in fourth grade and finding a crusty bologna sandwich for the 72nd consecutive day. Green-Ellis had himself a solid fantasy football stretch run last season, but his sluggish days are numbered in Cincinnati after the drafting of running back Giovani Bernard. Once the seventh round begins, you likely won’t be (or shouldn’t be) drafting starting fantasy running backs at that point, so why fill your bench with a player possessing minimal upside and a very realistic chance of losing his job? BGE hasn’t averaged over four yards per carry since 2010, and the Bengals will look for every excuse possible to give the rock to their shiny new rookie weapon. Be sure to make your bench players full of upside and avoid players like Green-Ellis.
* All ADP data courtesy of fantasyfootballcalculator.com