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.
- Only four RBs are going off the board in the first round this early this year and three going off the board in the second, which is worth noting because the downside to taking a RB in the first is a great one still being available in the first or 3rd round.
- The early round with the most RBs going off the board is the third round, which is another reason to be wary of taking a RB in the first two rounds.
- You can still likely find quality RBs in the fourth and fifth rounds, which wasn’t always the case.
Current ADP Analysis:
These are the players whose Average Draft Positions intrigue us most in 2015.
Ezekiel Elliott (Dal, TBD) – If he blows up it’ll be expected, but if he underwhelms, then we’ll be blamed for overhyping Elliot. But we’re going to hype up Elliot as much as anyone because it’s the right thing to do. There are no weaknesses in his game, and Dallas obviously plans to control the ball to help their defense and minimize Tony Romo’s exposure by leaning heavily on Elliot, and everyone knows how good their OL is. We’ll see about a potential role on third down for Darren McFadden or Lance Dunbar if healthy, but we can pencil the durable Elliot in for 300+ touches, and we’re okay with his being a top-10 pick, which he should officially be by August. As for his ADP, it’s still a little early to get a feel for it with pre-NFL draft data considered, but we expect Elliot to be one of the first five backs drafted (if he’s not already).
Todd Gurley (Stl, 1st RB drafted) – Just one year ago, Gurley was a 5th- or 6th-round pick due to the uncertainty coming back from an ACL, but now he’ll quite possibly be the first back off the board in your league. I took him third overall in a magazine mock draft, so I’m obviously fine with it. Believe it or not, I actually considered Ezekiel Elliot, which speaks to some of the issues the other top backs have (Bell and injuries, Peterson with age, Freeman with competition, etc.).
Le’Veon Bell (Pit, 2nd RB drafted) – You know you’re good when you have a serious injury in your first three seasons, yet people are still willing to draft you in the top-10. That’s Bell, who in May said he’s still going to be physical but will try to protect himself more at the same time. He’s expected to be 100% healthy by training camp after participating in individual drills during OTAs, including running and cutting coming off his torn medial collateral ligament. Bell’s a truly special player, and the key to drafting him is DeAngelo Williams. Williams is really getting up there at 34, but as I discussed with him nearly a decade ago, his lack of heavy volume has preserved his skills, as he clearly showed last year. Those who draft Bell will have to worry about getting Williams in the mid-to-late rounds because he’ll be an attractive stash-and-hope for anyone, but I don’t think Williams’ cost will be problematic, and those who get both should have a great chance to lock in high-end production.
David Johnson (Ari, 3rd RB drafted) – We all saw what he could do with minimal touches in 2015, as Johnson’s 0.51 FP/snap was nearly double the league average of 0.29, and most among RBs with 150 or more touches. Almost everyone is sold on him already, and he’s quickly settled in as not only a top-5 RB, but also likely a first round pick. If the cream-of-the-crop WRs are off the board in the second half of the first round, I can’t argue with it. I do think he could be somewhat underwhelming as such a high pick because I’m not sure he’s a lock for 20+ touches every week, but I simply cannot envision a scenario in which those who use a #1 pick on Johnson will be seriously disappointed. It’s worth noting that Bruce Arians and the Cardinals have talked about Chris Johnson remaining the “starter,” which is something that could push David down a little in the coming weeks/months.
Devonta Freeman (Atl, 5th RB drafted) – Freeman carried fantasy teams earlier in the season last year, but he’s also a guy who averaged only 3.0 YPC on his final 100 carries of the season, and he did not eclipse the century mark rushing after Week 7. Those facts, coupled with the presence of Tevin Coleman, a talented runner drafted by the current regime in 2015, is giving owners some pause when it comes to Freeman. But in PPR formats, I do think he’ll be fine, and that’s what we focus on (PPR). I’m not convinced he’s a first-round pick, but any time in the second is very fair for fantasy’s #1 RB last year. Speaking of #1, he was actually also #1 in non-PPR formats in both total points and points per game on the strength of his 14 TDs but also the 578 receiving yards he racked up.
Jamaal Charles (KC, 6th RB drafted) – There’s more skepticism with Charles this year than we’ve seen in a while, and that’s due to his advancing age, his two ACLs, and the production and play of backups Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware last year. I’m sure the Chiefs would love to cap Charles’ touch total at around 250, as they did in 2014. That’s a lower number for a true lead back, but Charles scored 14 TDs that year and was still a top-7 back in terms of total points and points-per-game. If I used my first pick on a WR and then had a crack at Charles in the second, I’d seriously consider it. Ideally, I’d get a stud like Odell Beckham and then Charles late in the second, which looks doable per the early ADP.
Lamar Miller (Hou, 7th RB drafted) –The public has spoken on Miller this year, and as the seventh RB off the board with an ADP in the 15-20 overall range, they’re sold. That’s a little rich for Miller on a new team and with a new QB, but the Texans do look good on paper this year. My opinion on Miller as a second round pick depends on who I take in the first. If I go with a wideout, that makes Miller a lot more palatable in the second. If I went RB in the first, I won’t likely take Miller in the next round.
Thomas Rawls (Sea, 8th RB drafted) – Rawls looked like a monster at times last year, and had I studied his ADP (it’s around 25-30) before the draft I would have been okay with it. The data will likely be corrected in the coming months, as it might be a tad high still from before the draft, but for now Rawls is a very risky pick at that ADP. As good as he looked, he did suffer a season-ending ankle injury, and it’s dangerous to use such a high pick (top-50, let’s say) on a back with only 156 career touches. Seattle’s OL is being revamped, and that’s a concern, but the biggest issue is the added competition in the Seahawk backfield. Pete Carroll is all about competition, which is good for Seattle but could be an issue in this backfield because they drafted two quality RBs in C.J. Procise and Alex Collins, plus mega-talented Christine Michael is still hanging in there and ran with the starters in the May OTAs with Rawls still on the shelve. It’s ideal to be totally sold on your first 4-5 picks at least, but it’s impossible to be that with Rawls.
Eddie Lacy (GB, 10th RB drafted) – Lacy burned some bridges in 2015, and it looks like those who hold grudges are suppressing his ADP, as the early data has him as barely being drafted as a top-10 RB. But Lacy’s been working hard all off-season, and he looked good in their May workouts. He was actually at his reported weight of 240 in late-May, but he did lose a lot of weight (we think he might have been 270 last year). Everything is set up for him to have a great season in the final year of his rookie deal, so if I could get him in the third round, I’d have to pull the trigger. It’ll be interesting to see how high his ADP rises to in August if we’re still seeing a lot of “skinny pics” of Lacy. At this point, the key will be how he looks coming into training camp because that will be on the heels of 6-7 weeks of this summer. If he’s in good shape, he’ll likely wind up being a 2nd round pick. That’s not great value and would increase his downside, but I’d still inclined to take him in the 12-24 range, especially if I used my first pick on a stud WR.
Doug Martin (TB, 11th RB drafted) – Based on his impressive 2015 showing, I have no qualms with Martin’s ADP around 30 overall and the fact that he’s the 9th-11th RB off the board. However, with Charles Sims emerging as a strong threat in the passing game, Martin’s a little too reliant on TDs and/or major volume running for my tastes. He posted 13 or fewer fantasy points in eight games last year, and if you take away his 7 catches in Week 17 (fluky), then he had only 24 grabs on the season. I might still be willing to take Martin in the third round if I really needed a RB, but unlike last year, he feels a little overvalued.
LeSean McCoy (Buf, 14th RB drafted) – We were not high on McCoy in 2015, which wasn’t a terrible call because he did miss four games, including the final two games of the season, and he killed people the week he got hurt (Week 15) with only 4.7 points in a PPR. However, McCoy posted strong numbers when he did play, including 4.4 YPC and 9.1 YPR. On film, McCoy looked quicker and stronger than he did in his final year in Philadelphia, and the Bill OL was better than we (or anyone) thought it would be, as their outside zone game worked well.
Availability is an issue for sure, but his downside is seemingly built into his ADP, which sits at about 35-40 overall. It’s worth noting that, for the second straight year, someone on his own team was better in short yardage than he was, but overall McCoy played well and had a huge volume of snaps – 73.4% when active. McCoy has a lot of mileage on him now, but he’s going to get the ball on a team that tied for first in the league with a 50% rush percentage. With a lowered ADP, we like McCoy a lot more this year and look at him as a RB target in the fourth round.
Jeremy Langford (Chi, 15th RB drafted) – Langford showed some nice potential as a rookie in 2015, so much so that the team let veteran Matt Forte walk. But there are lot of issues here and too many for a guy with an ADP around 40 overall (that number will rise with more 2016 data). In his three weeks as the Bears’ top RB from Weeks 9-11 (with Forte inactive), Langford averaged 24.5 FPG, which ranked him #1 among all RBs over that stretch, and that’s probably what’s influencing this high ADP. We likely need some more data correction as pre-NFL draft fantasy drafts are likely still propping Langford up, so we’ll see. But it’s setting up to be a 2-man backfield with rookie Jordan Howard, a nasty interior runner who can drag would-be defenders for positive yardage. That’s a big problem for Langford, who was actually very TD-dependent last year, despite having questionable power and averaging only 3.6 YPC. To be fair, Langford’s a former college WR, but he also suffered badly with drops and had a poor 52% catch rate. He can certainly improve and stave off the rookie, but under HC John Fox, who usually loves a 2-man backfield, he probably won’t dominate touches in this backfield. Langford’s ADP should be in the 70-80 range.
DeMarco Murray (Ten, 16st RB drafted) – Murray has a chance to go down as small value this year, due in large part to the presence of rookie Derrick Henry, who’ll push Murray down draft boards. It’s certainly possible that Murray misses some time and Henry takes over as a 20-carry a game back, but if Murray’s in the mix we don’t see it happening. And since we’re not big on Henry playing alongside a bell-cow type in Murray, and because he’s unlikely to make a big impact in the passing game, we’re okay with Murray as about the 15th RB off the board at around 45 overall. If he slips to the 5th round, he’s a good pick there, especially in a PPR league (our default scoring system).
Dion Lewis (NE, 18th RB drafted) – Lewis was a revelation for New England this past year. In seven games, he posted 49/234/2 rushing (4.8 YPC) and 36/388/2 receiving on 50 targets (72%, 10.8 YPR). He averaged 17.5 FPG, which if averaged out for a full season, would have ranked him 5th among all RBs. Lewis was a rare Patriot RB, in that he did everything and didn’t have a segmented role (like the LeGarrette Blount/Shane Vereen dynamic from 2014). Were he coming off a break-out season that saw him miss only a game or two, his ADP of around 45 overall would be very acceptable, but Lewis’ ability to stay on the field is a major question, so he’s a risky pick in the 4th round.
C.J. Anderson (Den, 19th RB drafted) – No one who spent a first- or second-round pick on Anderson in August of 2015 was happy about it, so this year there’s more skepticism. However, there are reasons to believe that we should all be confident in Anderson. Anderson last year essentially split down the middle with Ronnie Hillman – he played 48.5% of Denver’s offensive snaps to Hillman’s 47.3%. That clearly wasn’t Gary Kubiak’s intention, as Anderson played 74% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps in Week One. But he was totally ineffective, dealing with toe and ankle injuries and averaged fewer than 4.0 YPC in each of his first six games of the year. Anderson rested up over the Broncos’ Week 7 bye, and over the final nine games of his season (he sat out Week 14 with an ankle injury), no back in football averaged more than Anderson’s 6.4 YPC, and Kubiak figured out Anderson was his best back in the Super Bowl, using him almost exclusively over Hillman in the big game. Hillman did re-sign with the club in 2016, but he’s not much of a threat to Anderson and could be third on the depth chart behind Anderson and Devontae Booker. Booker’s talented, but we didn’t like his tape nearly as much as others did, and he’s a rookie with fumbling and pass-protection issues, so we don’t view him as a major threat, either. Anderson will have to stay healthy handling a large workload, but if he does, he’ll be a nice value with an ADP in the 40s.
Latavius Murray (Oak, 20th RB drafted) – Murray’s ADP last year was in the 40s, so coming off his first season as the starter, it’s not a good sign to see it drop to the 50s, even though he’s presumably still in line for a huge role, since the team didn’t bring in a higher-profile back. It is possible that he’ll improve measurably in his second year as the guy, and you have to love the addition of road-grading G Kelechi Osemele being paired next to Rodney Hudson, a strong option at C. But more likely than not, what we saw from Murray last year is what he is, and we do love 5th rounder DeAndre Washington and think he can challenge Murray for snaps and touches. Murray’s going to command a 5th-round pick this year for most, which isn’t terrible, but it’s also not good value.
Matt Jones (Was, 21st RB drafted) – The early ADP data has Jones going off the board as about the 20th RB taken, and I’m definitely down with that. Jones has a lot of prove after averaging only 3.4 YPC and fumbling five times as a rookie last year, but he’s talented enough to be a major difference-maker, and this looks like a terrific situation. The Redskins are building up their OL nicely, and with Kirk Cousins coming off a break-out season with myriad weapons in the passing game, there’s a ton of upside for Jones. It’s not unrealistic to believe he can be afforded 325 touches this year if he does reasonably well and stays healthy. That said, while I still think he’ll be a value, I’d expect the masses to catch up to his potential this summer and for his ADP to rise.
Jeremy Hill (Cin, 24th RB drafted) – I liked Hill quite a bit last year, and while he wasn’t worthless for fantasy with 12 TDs, he didn’t run nearly as well as he did in 2014 as a rookie (5.1 YPC versus 3.6). But I like Hill again because his pedigree and talent remains, and his ADP is down from about 20 to about 60 overall. That’s a big drop for a 23-year-old RB with 21 TDs in 32 career games. Cincy has lost two key WRs, and now Tyler Eifert’s status is in question for Week 1, which should prompt them to lean
more on their running game. In addition, with Hue Jackson gone, we have some questions about their ability to call plays as effectively as they did last year (Hue’s known as a great play-caller). The easy solution will be to pound the rock more this year with Hill and Gio Bernard.
Ryan Mathews (Phi, 25th RB drafted) – We know he’s going to get hurt this year, so the question is whether or not his ADP in the 65-70 range is affordable enough to take the plunge. I’d be inclined to say yes, since his talent remains and he did post solid digits last year (5.0 YPC, a 71.4% catch rate, and 7.3 YPR). He’s also in line for a huge role as a runner and receiver, and the Philly OL upgraded their problematic interior with the free agency signing of former Texan Brandon Brooks (G). The other good thing about Mathews is we see on the roster a very intriguing handcuff in rookie Wendell Smallwood, who got off to a good start with a lot of reps in the off-season and the showcasing of his explosiveness and shiftiness. The hype on Smallwood will likely grow this summer (we won’t forget about Kenjon Barner), which could be a little bit of a monkey wrench in the plan to draft Mathews and handcuff him with Smallwood. But it still looks like a fine plan considering the value and upside of the lead back for the Eagles.
Jay Ajayi (Mia, 26th RB drafted) – Fantasy owners aren’t just anointing Ajayi as the workhorse in the Dolphin backfield yet, so he’s only the 25th-30th RB drafted around 70 overall. That’s not bad for a guy who’s presumably a three-down back for them this year and who has the tools and skills to be a difference-maker. But I can’t say I love it because they could implement a little more of a committee approach than expected, or they could still bring in another back of note like Arian Foster. In short, it’s hard to get a handle on Ajayi at this early stage.
Melvin Gordon (SD, 27th RB drafted) – On the surface, Gordon’s ADP of around 75 is too high (it was around 40 last year). He was dreadful as a rookie, in part because his OL was a mess and in part because he seemingly lost confidence. His problems were in line with our analysis of him coming out of college – track runner who doesn’t create on his own and needs a lane cleared for him to be effective – so it looks like Gordon could need to be in an ideal situation to excel. We can’t call his situation “ideal,” but the Chargers don’t seem to be worried about him and are also looking to cater their running game to his strengths. Gordon ran behind a FB a lot in college, but like most NFL teams, the Chargers didn’t use one much last year. Not only did they draft a FB this year, but they drafted Gordon’s FB from Wisconsin, Derek Watt (JJ’s brother). Gordon did also have microfracture knee surgery in January, which is also a concern, but he was participating in the OTAs. He was very limited, but he’s expected to be ready for training camp. In theory, Gordon could be a strong value as a 6th-round pick this year, but we’ll need a lot of positively and evidence of that surrounding him this summer to truly push him.
Ameer Abdullah (Det, 29th RB drafted) – Abdullah is a tough call for a couple of reasons. The presence of receiving specialist Theo Riddick is a real killer, since it caps Abdullah’s potential in the passing game. That’s a problem because he may not be big and strong enough to be the team’s feature runner. On the other hand, he’s a very dynamic runner with big-play potential, and we got a glimpse of his doing positive things last year, once the offense starting taking off under OC Jim-Bob Cooter. Abdullah was actually 9th in the NFL among all RBs with 50 or more carries the final eight games of the season, with 4.7 yards per carry. He was a bad pick in 2014 with an ADP around 45, but he stands out as a nice post-hype value this year, since his ADP has dropped considerably to 80-85 range.
Frank Gore (Ind, 34th RB drafted) – As I’ve mentioned a lot this off-season, I did like Gore last summer and he was a disappointment. But considering he was actually 14th in RB scoring (we had him 10th) in a season that was a catastrophe in Indianapolis, I’m convinced he would have been a very valuable and consistent asset had they not been a train wreck. Gore’s really pushing the age limit at 33, but he’s gone five years in a row now without missing a game. The Colts didn’t bring in a single back of note (they did sign Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman, plus they drafted Josh Ferguson), so Gore’s once again in line for a large role. His 3.7 YPC wasn’t exactly indicative of how well he ran, and Indy has upgraded its OL in the draft. Most encouragingly, Gore’s ADP is down about 40-50 spots, which really helps offset concerns that stem from his age. Hopefully, for Gore’s sake, Ahmad Bradshaw isn’t still lurking.
Derrick Henry (Ten, 35th RB drafted) – His ADP could be a function of data that needs some correction, but his ADP around 90 and as around the 35th RB off the board, that’s not too bad for Henry. However, if DeMarco Murray is healthy, then Henry could get only 10-12 carries and 0-1 catches a game for most of the season if he’s lucky, so I’m not in love with Henry as even the 35th RB taken (which is very fair) because 90 overall is still a tad high for a guy who’s fantasy impact for at least half the season could be negligible.
Rashad Jennings (NYG, 39th RB drafted) – You’re not going to see Jennings complain about a lack of touches – I tried to get him to do it on TV midseason last year but he would not – and unless rookie Paul Perkins blows up quickly, Jennings probably won’t have to worry about four different guys getting consistent touches in the Giant backfield. Jennings’ 38.2% snap share in the backfield was an uninspiring number, but Jennings’ four highest snap totals of the year came in the final four weeks, when he also had between 14 and 27 carries each game. Over that four-week span, Jennings was fantasy’s #7 RB with 17.8 FPG, showing that maybe the old vet just needed to play more (as we had argued all year). Overall, many of his final numbers were quite good, including a 4.4 YPC, 74.4% catch rate, and 10.2 YPR. He’s probably the least sexy pick among all “starting” RBs, but with an (early) ADP of around 125, he’s also the most affordable.
Best RB Values:
These are the players whose Average Draft Positions intrigue us most in 2016.
- Eddie Lacy (GB, 27 ADP)
- LeSean McCoy (Buf, 37 ADP)
- C.J. Anderson (Den, 46 ADP)
- Matt Jones (Was, 54 ADP)
- Jeremy Hill (Cin, 64 ADP)
Super Value Alert:
These players aren’t in our ADP top-120, but they have a chance to surprise
Note: I’m trying to avoid rookies for these lists because it usually takes until early-August for their ADPs to settle into an accurate place.
- Isaiah Crowell (Cle, 123 ADP)
- Rashad Jennings (NYG, 114 ADP)
- Tevin Coleman (Atl, 124 ADP)
- Bilal Powell (NYJ, 142 ADP)
- Shane Vereen (NYG, 152 ADP)
Source: Fantasy Guru
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