Original Post: June 1, 2016
We’ll have a ton of articles and our massive player previews (released in mid-to-late June) to help you pick the right players, but this article is about understanding when to pick your players.
ADP data can shift considerably, especially in June, July, and early August. This year, we’re going to have a unique feed of the ADPs in the NFFC, which is the largest national season-long fantasy contest out there. Their data is extremely up-to-date and as accurate as there is since it’s for high stakes, so this year our users will be able to monitor the ADP movement in real-time.
For now, though, this article serves as an introduction to the 2016 landscape.
Note: We’re never going to include every single player at each position in this article. We focus on the more intriguing options and those who are tough to get a handle on in terms of when they will be drafted. Also, note that we use a 12-team PPR league as our default setting for this analysis.
- It’s interesting to note that taking a QB in the first or second round has never been a worse idea. But while the top QBs are going off the board much later than usual this year, once the floodgates open, they do fly off the board fairly quickly.
- Cam Newton is the first QB off the board this year, typically at the end of the third round in a 12-team league, but after that, we can expect at least 1-2 QBs to be drafted in each of the next 3-4 rounds with ten QBs going off the board the top 100 picks.
Aaron Rodgers (GB, 2nd QB drafted) – Rodgers had settled into being a top 20-25 pick the last two years, but he’s now slipped to the fourth. He’s not a great value relative to the other top QBs, but we’re high on Rodgers’ upside this year, and it’s still pretty appealing if you draft three elite WRs/RBs. His ADP is close to Cam Newton’s, but we have Rodgers ranked over Newton this year, so Rodgers is a better value.
Andrew Luck (Ind, 3rd QB drafted) – With an ADP above 50 this year, there’s a chance Luck could slip to the fifth round in a 12-team league, which would make him a value. By the time we hit the 45-50 range, the elite options at the non-QB positions should be off the board, so while I’d prefer to get even more value for my QB, I can’t argue too much with taking Luck in the 5th round if you’re “stuck” and unsure about or not sold on the remaining non-QBs.
Russell Wilson (Sea, 4th QB drafted) – Despite his ballistic showing down the stretch (#2 QB final eight games at 29.8 PPG), Wilson’s ADP is basically unchanged from 2015, so people aren’t just assuming he’ll pick up where he left off in 2015. They will certainly be very committed to running the ball a ton again, so the masses are probably correct to not go overboard with Wilson’s ADP.
Tom Brady (NE, 5th QB drafted) – Brady’s ADP is around 60, which is very fair based on his great 2015 season and their personnel upgrades in 2016. We’re still waiting on a final conclusion to the DeflateGate scandal, but for now fantasy owners are (almost) proceeding as if Brady won’t miss any time. Until the situation is resolved, there will be some risk to taking Brady in the 5th or 6th round, but his ADP could rise to the 50s overall if he’s set to play all 16 games (assuming we’ll know for sure by season’s start).
Ben Roethlisberger (Pit, 6th QB drafted) and Drew Brees (NO, 8th QB drafted) – These two have been joined at the hip in terms of ADP the last two seasons, and last year Brees came out as the better pick. Brees has shockingly placed as a top-5 producer TEN years in a row, which is just insane. At some point he’ll fall off, but he remains a strong pick in the 6th-7th round. Big Ben is certainly appealing, but he’s had less availability than Brees and will have to go in 2016 without key receiver Martavis Bryant, so he’s not as attractive as Brees, who’s ADP is slightly higher and better.
Blake Bortles (Jac, 7th QB drafted) – Coming off a breakout and top-5 season in 2015, we figured Bortles would be overpriced this year, and while being the seventh QB off the board is very fair, he’s still a little too expensive for our tastes. We can’t yet say he’s arrived as an elite NFL and fantasy option, and given their upgrades at RB and on defense, we’d expect him to have fewer opportunities to post massive digits this year. It’s tempting to take a top-five guy in the sixth or seventh round, we think you can do better in terms of value for your QB.
Carson Palmer (Ari, 9th QB drafted) – Palmer’s ADP may be helped by his mini-meltdown in the playoffs last year (he was also dealing with a finger issues on his throwing hand), but despite posting the highest completion percentage in nearly 10 years in 2015 with a ridiculous 8.7 YPA in this downfield passing game, he’s just not a guy fantasy owners are going to jump all over. He’ll be 36 in December, but he was brilliant on tape last year, and this offense should continue to click very well with literally everyone back, so he’s pretty darn appealing in the 8th round or so. He’s not quite the value of some other options (Rivers, Eli, Stafford, etc.), but he’s also someone we have more confidence in compared to those guys.
Derek Carr (Oak, 10th QB drafted) – Carr showed a lot in his second season last year, but it’s a little surprising to see him drafted ahead of some quality guys who are more proven commodities like Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, etc. Carr’s numbers and efficiency improved across the board in 2015, but he did slump a bit in December and threw some bad INTs, and he continues to do very little on the ground. That said, if I had to be proactive about drafting Carr, as this ADP suggests I’ll need to be, I’d probably pass.
Philip Rivers (SD, 11th QB drafted) – By midseason the last two years, I was concerned about how we undersold Rivers – until his production dropped meaningfully in the second half of each season. From Weeks 1-8 in 2015, Rivers was actually the #2 scorer at QB at 26.2 PPG. But in his final eight games, Rivers dropped to only 28th with 18.6 PPG and 11 TDs vs. 6 INTs. The Chargers pass-play percentage (64.3) was way up this past year because of their overall struggles and the fact that they were playing from behind so much. He had the most drop backs since Matthew Stafford in 2012, and he led the league in passes (662) and completions (438). The Chargers are trying to get their running game going this year with more “22 personnel” with a FB on the field for Melvin Gordon, so Rivers’ attempts should drop. Their receiving corps is solid on paper, but their depth isn’t great and WRs Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson have injury issues. All things considered, we’re once again not thrilled with Rivers as the 11th QB off the board with strong options like Kirk Cousins, Tony Romo, and Matthew Stafford presenting better value later.
Eli Manning (NYG, 12th QB drafted) – He’ll command a 9th or 10th round pick, so he’s still not an incredible value, but Eli is a value just the same, since he has a legit chance to out-produce several QBs going off the board 1-3 rounds before him. Manning’s coming off one of the quietest 35 TD seasons (passing) I’ve ever seen, and in 2015 he was working with a really thin receiving corps (and a downright terrible one after Odell Beckham). This year, he’ll have a nice rookie contributor in Sterling Shepard, and he might even get some contributions from Victor Cruz, so he should once again be an affordable producer.
Andy Dalton (Cin, 13th QB drafted) – It’s easy to forget now just how good Dalton was through three quarters of the season before he fractured his throwing thumb and missed the rest of the year. He averaged an impressive 8.4 YPA and .76 FP per attempt (league average was .54 FP/attempt for QBs), which ranked fourth among QBs. Dalton threw for multiple TDs nine times and for 300+ yards four times, as the emergence of TE Tyler Eifert really helped to open up this entire passing game and Dalton took his performance to another level. His being drafted as a backup is very fair, though, given some concerns for 2016. Gone is OC Hue Jackson, who is a great play-caller and will be missed. Longtime QB coach Ken Zampese is taking over, but he’s unproven as a play-caller. They’ve also lost veterans Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu, plus Eifert’s availability in September is in question after late-May surgery on his ankle. Dalton remains a top fantasy backup, but there’s no real reason to actively target him with myriad comparable options available in the 10th or 11th round (or later), and with the Bengals likely leaning more on their running game in ’16.
Marcus Mariota (Ten, 14th QB drafted) – The Titans would probably like to run the ball 45 times a game with mostly DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry, which wouldn’t exactly be an optimal approach for Mariota, who was surprisingly tied with Tom Brady as the 16th most rushing attempts by a QB (34). Still, Mariota impressed us throughout the season with his willingness to play as a pocket passer, and his arrow is still pointing up. The receiving corps should be improved with Rishard Matthews added and a QB’s friend, and their other young receivers should be more effective players. Although we like some players being drafted below him just as much, if not more, Mariota does have some upside if he can take another step forward as a passer and run a little more.
Kirk Cousins (Was, 15th QB drafted) – In 16 games, Cousins posted a league-high 69.8% completion rate with a strong 7.67 YPA, with 29 TDs and only 11 INTs. He ran for only 48 yards, but his 5 rushing TDs were also a major boost. But despite posting impressive numbers, the masses don’t appear sold yet on Cousins, which should create a buying opportunity in 2016. It’s tough to count on 4-5 rushing TDs, but Cousins could have DeSean Jackson (who played only half the season last year) for more games this year, and they hit it out of the park with their first-round selection of WR Josh Doctson, so the Redskins are loaded at receiver. Drafting Cousins as your QB1 is still a bit of a leap of faith, but it’s viable for sure – especially since their schedule looks good – and he’s a guy to target no matter what because of the value vs the potential.
Tony Romo (Dal, 16th QB drafted) – Romo’s a tough guy to rank this year because of his serious availability issues and how his value is strongly-tied to just one player (Dez Bryant), but we do know how they want to play this year (minimal passing), and Romo did turn only 435 attempts into 34 TD passes back in 2014, and he’s been very consistent, scoring over 21.4 PPG eight straight seasons before last year’s injury-plagued campaign. There’s no strong need to actively target him, but with a strong body of work, supporting cast, and schedule, he’s still very appealing as a streaming or QB2 option.
Jameis Winston (TB, 17th QB drafted) – Winston last year turned in 20 or more FP in 11 of his 16 starts, and threw multiple INTs just four times, so it was a very positive rookie campaign for him. Winston looked like a player who had a strong command of the Bucs’ offense, and he improved throughout the year, which makes us glad that OC Dirk Koetter got promoted to head coach. Consider that Winston had a lot of injuries at receiver – beyond Mike Evans (who dropped a ton of passes), and his season was impressive. That said, Winston was still only 19th in PPG on the season, and his 6 rushing TDs will be hard to replicate (Russell Wilson, for example, had only two rushing TDs total in 2013 and 2015). I do like how he’s lost 18 pounds this off-season, but I don’t see a compelling reason to be proactive about selecting Winston in the 10th round or so with comparable options going off the board around the same time or later.
Matt Ryan (Atl, 18th QB drafted) – Ryan never really looked comfortable in OC Kyle Shanahan’s attack last year and had just four games of 20 or more FP the final 13 games of the season and throwing multiple TDs in just six games. With 21 turnovers (including 5 lost fumbles), Ryan actually matched his TD total for the year, providing even less production for those in leagues that dock for turnovers. Ryan was turnover-prone and made bad decisions, and his 0.52 FP/PA was below the league average of 0.54, and was worst among all 16-game starters in the NFL. Ryan’s still in his prime entering his age 31 season, but fantasy people are down on him and compared to the rest of the field he’s more of a JAG than a guy to target.
Matthew Stafford (Det, 19th QB drafted) – Excluding Week 8, when OC Jim-Bob Cooter took over on short notice on the way to a London game, Cooter’s offense was a smashing success in 2016 and Stafford – a huge Cooter supporter – completed 70% of his passes, the highest in Lions history over an 8-game span, and he had 19 TD passes versus only 2 INTs. So it’s a little surprising to see him as only the 19th QB off the board. Stafford’s history of burning fantasy owners periodically doesn’t help, but fantasy players are obviously concerned about the loss of Calvin Johnson. Calvin was a star who dictated coverages and he’s a big loss, but I have confidence in their ability to patch together a solid receiving corps as they spread the ball around to a very decent collection of weapons, including new hire Marvin Jones. Stafford should be a good value going off the board this late (11th round) because he has the potential to put up top-12 numbers.
Ryan Tannehill (Mia, 20th QB drafted) – As brutal of a year as it was for Tannehill and the Dolphins, who fired both their HC and OC during the season, Tannehill was still ninth in passing yards with 4210 and was still a respectable 15th in total scoring. One of the reasons is because he once again played all 16 games, as Tannehill has proven to be very durable. He’s a flawed QB, but I’m not ruling out some post-hype value under QB whisperer Adam Gase, and with a full season of DeVante Parker and maybe even some real contributions from TE Jordan Cameron. The biggest key could be their OL, which should be in good shape this year with LT Branden Albert fully healthy and stud Laremy Tunsil added in the draft.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (NYJ, 23rd QB drafted) – Even if Fitz didn’t have his contract impasse this year, he probably wouldn’t be going much higher than he’s been going, despite his magnificent 2015 season in Chan Gailey’s spread offense. On tape, he wasn’t as good as the numbers reflect, but most fantasy owners are fairly skeptical based on his career body of work, and the contract battle doesn’t help. He posted a career-high 33 TDs in 2015, but he’ll also be 33 this year, and his relatively low standing among his fellow QBs is mainly a function of the excellent depth at the position this year. Once signed his ADP should rise, but he’ll likely be just the 15-20th QB off the board.
Joe Flacco (Bal, 24th QB drafted) – Flacco’s coming off an ACL and won’t command much attention in drafts this summer, but if he’s healthy he could easily have his best fantasy season to date in his second year of Marc Trestman’s fantasy-friendly offense. Flacco’s depth at RB, WR, and TE is better than it’s been in two years now, and compared to what he was working with before going down last year, his supporting cast at receiver is significantly improved. With one of the best schedules again the pass this season, Flacco’s a name to keep in your back pocket late in drafts and especially in larger and 2-QB leagues.
Jay Cutler (Chi, 26th QB drafted) – Cutler is yet another viable target at the position late, as he played controlled football last year, with a career-low 2.3% INT rate. Cutler’s going into his age 33 season, and the loss of Adam Gase is a concern. But they’ve at least replaced Gase with Dowell Loggains, who was the QB coach last year and he been an OC in the past. There should be continuity, and while their OL is a bigger concern than it’s been lately, Cutler’s receiving corps looks very intriguing with 2015 #1 pick Kevin White teamed with Alshon Jeffery, and with talented TE Zach Miller showing flashes last year. The Bears will run a lot under John Fox, so Cutler’s upside isn’t through the roof, but the much-maligned veteran has a chance to exceed expectations as a useful streaming and QB2 option.
Best QB Values:
These are the players whose Average Draft Positions intrigue us most in 2016.
- Drew Brees (NO, 72 ADP)
- Kirk Cousins (Was, 110 ADP)
- Tony Romo (Dal, 111)
- Eli Manning (NYG, 101 ADP)
- Marcus Mariota (Ten, 106 ADP)
Super Value Alert:
These players aren’t in our ADP top-120, but they have a chance to greatly out-produce their draft positions.
- Matthew Stafford (DET, 121 ADP)
- Ryan Fitzpatrick (NYJ, 147 ADP)
- Jay Cutler (Chi, 153 ADP)
- Ryan Tannehill (Mia, 125 ADP)
- Joe Flacco (Bal, 148 ADP)
Source: Fantasy Guru
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