Original Post: June 1, 2016
One of my takeaways from the 2015 season, in terms of this job, is that getting a player’s projection right means nothing. I called Latavius Murray, for example, a top-10 back in 2015 and he was. But he was still a pretty lame producer, so this year I’m focusing more than ever on trying to pick the right players and at the right time.
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.
- Seven of the first 12 picks are WRs, which is a trend that’s been building up for a while. I do like taking a RB early, but the problem with this is that good backs will be slipping in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and even 5th round, so you’re not getting great value for most of the RBs early.
- The WRs are still flying off the board in the second round, which means going RB-RB just isn’t a good move. You need to get at least one stud WR, ideally one of the top guys in the first round.
- After the second round, there is a drop-off at WR and we don’t see them flying off the board as much, as fantasy owners are scarfing up the RBs and start to take some QBs.
Current ADP Analysis:
These are the players whose Average Draft Positions intrigue us most in 2016.
Dez Bryant (Dal, 5th WR drafted) – Bryant’s fallen down the ADP board a bit after his wretched 2015 season and is now the 4-5th wideout off the board. Bryant (foot) still isn’t 100% ready to go, and he said on 5/26 that he’ll have further X-rays on his injured right foot soon and hopes to participate more as the off-season progresses. Bryant did say he feels great and did participate on a limited basis in the organized team activities in May while also rehabbing. We know what he can do when he and Tony Romo are healthy, so it simply comes down to that for both. If he and Romo are relatively healthy, he’ll present a smidge of value as possibly a second round pick in 2016 (but more likely a late first rounder). However, since he’s more of an injury risk than your average WR, he also has more downside than the other top guys at the position.
Allen Robinson (Jac, 6th WR drafted) – We had very high expectations for A-Rob this past season, but we didn’t exactly expect him to turn into Dez Bryant, who he is now being drafted over. Robinson led the league with 19 catches of 25+ yards and also averaged an impressive 2.06 FP per target (league average was 1.66 FP/target for WRs). He was money in the red zone, which helped him haul in 14 TD passes. It’s now clear that he’s one of the more talented WRs in the league, but his ADP does feel a little rich as a first-round pick since we don’t expect them to lean quite as much on their passing game this year.
A.J. Green (Cin, 7th WR drafted) – Green’s fallen off a bit the last two years from his mega-productive 2012-2013 seasons, in part due to injury (to both Green and QB Andy Dalton) but also due in 2015 to the emergence of TE Tyler Eifert, who this past season was a major weapon on the field along with wideouts Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu. Eifert’s availability for Week 1 is in question, and Jones and Sanu are gone, so Green’s looking good. Green in 2015 averaged a stellar 2.15 FP per target (league average was 1.66 FP/target for WRs), and if we give him his average number of targets in 2012-2013 (168.5), that would give him 362 fantasy points, which would have been third in the league last year behind only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. He’s not a brilliant 1st round pick, but with an ADP of 10-12 overall, there’s a pretty good chance you can get him in the second round.
Jordy Nelson (GB, 8th WR drafted) – There will be trepidation with some for Jordy at 31 years old and coming off a serious knee injury, but his age isn’t an issue for me and his health won’t be, either, if he’s fine in training camp and in an exhibition game or two. He’s a truly elite player with a HOF QB slinging him the pill, so while his initial ADP in the mid-teens overall is pricey, it’s not a problem for me. I’d gladly take him in the second round, even early in the round, if things are fine with his knee in August.
Julian Edelman (NE, 14th WR taken) – Edelman’s ADP in May should be irrelevant until we know more about his foot injury and his status for Week 1. He was around the 15th-20th WR off the board in early drafts, but I’d guess that number will rise (and he’ll fall a little down draft boards) from now until the start of camp, unless we get an update before then (doubtful). Assuming he’s healthy, 14th WR taken is about as high as I’d go with Edelman, who’s 30 years old now and has played a full 16-game season only once in his career. We know he produces wonderfully when he’s on the field, but there are availability questions.
Sammy Watkins (Buf, 16th WR drafted) – The data on Watkins isn’t going to be reliable until sometime in July, most likely, since word just came down on his broken foot on 5/16, although looking at current NFFC data (as of late-May), he was about the 15th WR of the board, which is a little low, so perhaps their data is already reflecting the injury. For the record, until we know more, we only have Watkins 21st at WR.
Demaryius Thomas (Den, 18th WR drafted) – Just two years ago, we had Thomas #1 at WR, and he finished #2. But Thomas is not in the conversation in the first round this year, and I’ve seen him slip to the third round in some early expert mock drafts. In fact, I took him in the third round (27th overall) in a mock draft for Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Magazine in mid-May. He has another bad year with drops and surprisingly had a lot of problems scoring with only 6 TDs. Thomas had previously scored double-digit TDs three years in a row with 35 total, good for 11.6, so the 6 TDs looks like an outlier – and the guy was still seventh in the league with 105 catches. That said, his perceived value has dropped due to the QB situation. But if Mark Sanchez/Paxton Lynch can be serviceable, Thomas has a chance to be a solid value.
Kelvin Benjamin (Car, 19th WR drafted) – He’s coming off that ACL, but he was back at practice in organized team activities Thursday, May 26, for the first time since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in training camp last year. Carolina is likely to ease him back into work, but he’s on track for the 2016 season. He’s around the 19th WR off the board, which is fair but in all honestly the guys in the 20-30 range WR look very similar, so Benjamin isn’t standing out as a value, especially with second-year man Devin Funchess potentially seeing more targets and speedsters Ted Ginn and Corey Brown still in the mix. Keep in mind, when Benjamin broke out as a rookie in 2014, they had next to nothing at WR and that’s not the case this year.
T.Y. Hilton (Ind, 20th WR drafted) – Last year, Hilton was the 10th WR drafted, but early on this year he’s down to about the 20th. He’s down due to the off season they had on offense, but Andrew Luck is still an excellent QB, and there are fewer mouths to feed in the passing game. Hilton’s catch rate was down from 65% to 51%, but that’s due in large part to the shaky offense and QB play. I think they can turn things around quickly under Rob Chudzinski, and while there could be few deep drops for Luck, and fewer deep balls, Hilton can line up all over the field and should have excellent RAC opportunities, so he’s a nice option early in the third round, especially if you opt to get at least RB with one of your first two picks. If you do take a RB early, Hilton is an elite talent to target in the third round.
Randall Cobb (GB, 21st WR drafted) – Based on his strong body of work previously, it looks like we’ll have a small buying opportunity this year with Cobb, who’s being drafted as around the 20th wide receiver taken, down from the eighth in 2014. His 2015 season was distressing, as his catch rate was down 10 percentage points, his YPR down 4 yards, and his TDs down 50% from 12 to 6. However, he was dealing with bruised lung early on, which could have been an issue for most of the season. And, of course, the passing game was grounded with Jordy Nelson gone. Even Aaron Rodgers had his worst season (particularly on tape) possibly since his first year as the starter in 2008. If Cobb’s healthy and Jordy’s back, Cobb could quickly return to the 17-18 point per game range he was in 2013-2014.
Doug Baldwin (Sea, 24th WR drafted) – Perennially an afterthought in fantasy drafts, the verdict may already be in on Baldwin’s standing among his WR peers, and it looks like fantasy owners aren’t totally buying in. Baldwin was shockingly the #2 WR the final eight games of 2015, posting an absurd 47/724/12 and 15.4 YPR, yet he’s only going off the board as around the 25th WR taken. That’s logical, since last year should go down as an outlier season, and since the Seahawks will continue to be a run-heavy team with two other active WRs in the offense. Particularly unappealing is his overall ADP of 45, which means you may have to invest a 4th round pick on him to get him and I’m not even sure I love him in the 5th.
Emmanuel Sanders (Den, 25th WR drafted) – Sanders is still a terrific receiver in Denver, arguably more stable and consistent than Demaryius Thomas, and even though his catch rate plummeted from 71.5% to only 55.9%, he averaged 1.68 FP per target, which was right at the league average of 1.66 FP/target for WRs. The concern this year is obviously the QB situation, and fantasy owners have voiced some skepticism, as he’s down from the 15th WR taken in 2015 to about the 25th this year. He’ll be a small value if he’s healthy and the QB play is just decent, but his drop this year is understandable.
Eric Decker (NYJ, 27th WR drafted) – Decker’s a guy I pushed very hard when he was with Peyton in Denver, but I’ve undersold him two years running now, and it appears fantasy owners might be selling him short yet again, as his ADP in the low-20s at WR is low for a guy who was 13th in scoring on the season and 10th in the second half of the season. The contract impasse between the club and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is likely a small factor, but most everyone expects Fitz on the Jets in 2016, so Decker’s looking like a value yet again.
Larry Fitzgerald (Ari, 29th WR drafted) – Fitz’ catch rate shot up 14 percentage points in 2015 due to the stellar QB play, and after interviewing him on the radio mid-season along with my co-host Roddy White, Fitz was clearly energized by Bruce Arians’ offense with Carson Palmer on the field. Fitz told me mid-year that defenses were keeping their safeties back to guard against the big play, which was really helping him underneath, but defenses did adjust. Larry was a top-5 WR the first half of the season, putting up 55/706/7 at 12.8 YPR, but he slipped to 54/509/2 (9.4 YPR) in the second half and ranked only 25th at the position during that time. He’ll be 33 this year, so his early ADP in the late-20s at WR and around 60 overall seems about right.
DeVante Parker (Mia, 30th WR drafted) – He’s hardly a sure-thing, but he’s also easily one of the best breakout candidates at the position, and he’s about the 30th WR taken per the early ADP. That’s exactly in line with our early ranking. Parker’s ADP won’t likely go down unless he’s hurt, so if there’s any significant movement, it will likely be up draft boards due to a positive showing in training camp. His inconsistent tape does concern me a little, but he also did flash big-time ability on film in spots, and I do love the hiring of Adam Gase for Parker, who can be Gase’s new Alshon Jeffery.
Donte Moncrief (Ind, 34th WR drafted) – Moncrief somehow posted a 66.7% catch rate in the second half of the season, despite the ugly QB play, which was his exact number as a rookie in 2014 with a full season of Andrew Luck. He’s not exactly a “breakout candidate,” since it can be argued that he’s already broken out. But this could be the last year fantasy owners will be able to get him affordably in the 5th or 6th round. As about the 35th WR off the board, fantasy drafters are giving him a fair amount of love already, but I could see him going off the board as around the 20th wideout taken this time next year if he does as well as we think he may.
Kevin White (Chi, 35th WR drafted) – He’s still getting treatment on his fractured left shin as of late-May, but White’s 100% mentally and physically and was participating fully in their OTAs. White didn’t get on the field his rookie season, but it wasn’t a complete loss, since he was able to pick up a lot of things mentally. With an ADP of around 80, fantasy owners are already expecting a lot from the talented White. I’d probably want to get a little more value in the 8th round as opposed to the 7th, but White’s in a good spot working off Alshon Jeffery and with a very capable QB, so I get the appeal for upside with a potential impact player.
Dorial Green-Beckham (Ten, 37th WR drafted) – DGB is a specimen who’s entering his second season after being afforded valuable on-the-job training as a rookie in 2015 (he played 56% of their snaps). He showed flashes of his potential dominance against the Jaguars in Week Thirteen (5/119/1) and the Patriots in Week Fifteen (6/113). He actually led the league in catch percentage that resulted in first downs as 30 of his 32 catches (93.8%) moved the chains. DGB averaged an impressive 1.91 FP per target (league average was 1.66 FP/target for WRs). There’s been some buzz on him from the OTAs after his QB Marcus Mariota called him a “stud” in May, but Head coach Mike Mularkey said a bigger role for Green-Beckham hinges on his grasp of the playbook after the second-year receiver struggled with route-running last year. My sources tell me to remain skeptical of DGB, especially if the hype starts building this summer, because he’s still very much a work in progress, and despite his on-field success last year, his overall progress, I’m told, hasn’t been wonderful. He’s being drafted as around the 35-40th receiver off the board, which is fair due to his upside, but I’d be careful not to overvalue him and take him over an intriguing and productive guy like Willie Snead.
Steve Smith (Bal, 41st WR drafted) – Could Smith be criminally undervalued three years in a row? He was in 2014 and in 2015 until he got hurt, and now he’s once again very affordable around 100 overall. I actually got him 170th overall in a 12-team mock draft for Athlon Sports magazine, so I think he’s more affordable than what we have as his ADP. Smith’s coming off an Achilles injury, which could prevent him from playing at his usual level at 37 years old, but I wouldn’t bet against him. While the Ravens are much deeper at receiver this year, they still don’t have a better #1 than Smith for this year, so if he’s up to the task health-wise, he’ll likely be a value yet again in 2016.
Laquon Treadwell (Min, 42nd) – We’ve seen rookies dominate immediately lately, like Odell Beckham and Mike Evans, but more often than not the first-year wideouts don’t usually emerge as strong fantasy forces over the course of a full season. In Treadwell’s case, there’s probably a little too much optimism with an ADP of around 105. Treadwell should start and contribute immediately, but it’s hard to see much upside with Teddy Bridgewater and in a run-first offense, so Treadwell should be drafted at least a round later.
Corey Coleman (Cle, 43rd WR drafted) – I don’t see myself targeting Coleman on a bad Browns team with a questionable situation at QB. That said, when I’m in play-to-win mode, investing only a 9th round pick on a dynamic playmaker like Coleman isn’t a terrible idea, despite some potential roadblocks.
Willie Snead (NO, 44th WR drafted) – Snead had a really nice season last year, finishing with 70/990/3 receiving on 102 targets (a good 68.6% catch rate, 14.1 YPC). He played on 71% of the snaps this year and averaged 1.83 FP per target (league average was 1.66 FP/target for WRs). Injuries slowed him down midseason, but with 4+ catches in 11 games and 50+ yards 10 times, he proved he could play at a high level. Snead could take a big step forward this season with his experience and comfort level in the offense, according to head coach Sean Payton. Payton in late-May said Snead has great attention to detail, that he trains well, and that he has a good knack for finding holes in zone coverage. Peyton’s words are clear evidence that his relationship with Drew Brees will continue to grow, so he’s a very good value pick to target later in drafts with an ADP of around 110.
Vincent Jackson (TB, 48th WR drafted) – Jackson turned 33 in January and is coming off an injury-plagued season, so it’s fair to wonder if his best days are behind him. His numbers took a major hit due to time missed, but he did still average 16.5 YPR with 1.73 FP per target (league average was 1.66 FP/target for WRs), so he’s hardly done. The Bucs didn’t add a receiver of note and opted to keep Jackson around at his 12.2-million cap number, so with Jameis Winston quickly proving to be very capable, Jackson could certainly go down as a nice value with an ADP of only 130.
Mohamed Sanu (Atl, 50th WR drafted) – Sanu led the NFL in drops in 2014 and was phased out of the Bengal offense in 2015, but he does deserve some credit for eliminating the drops (0 this past season). But even with the drops, Sanu was very productive with a large role in 2014. From Weeks 3-9, he was actually the 9th-best fantasy wideout after seeing 56 targets those six games (16th most), putting up 32/508/3 with a solid 15.9 YPC. He was hand-picked by the team and paid a lot of money to replace Leonard Hankerson and Roddy White, and the situation might be perfect for the type of player Sanu is. I’m sure they have big plans for Sanu working off the beastly Julio Jones, and I’d expect Kyle Shanahan to take full advantage of his versatility as an inside/outside receiver, runner, and even QB (his career passer rating is still perfect). His ability to consistently win on the outside against man coverage is in question, but Sanu should be in a very good position to succeed in Atlanta, yet fantasy owners don’t seem very interested. With an early ADP of around 135, he’s a very affordable depth WR who might even produce at a WR3 level if all goes well.
Nelson Agholor (Phi, 51st WR drafted) – Agholor was thought of as one of the more NFL-ready WRs from the 2015 Draft, but the 20th overall pick was invisible the entire season despite playing 72.6% of the snaps this year. He finished the year with 23/283/1 receiving on 44 targets (52.3% catch rate, 12.3 YPC) for 4.4 FPG in 13 games, missing three games because of a high-ankle sprain. He averaged only 1.30 FP per target (league average was 1.66 FP/target for WRs). He showed limited flashes of explosiveness and he clearly needs to add muscle to his thin frame. He also needs to distance himself from the average WRs he was stuck rotating with on the outside. Agholor can only go up with new HC Doug Pederson after his lackluster first season.
Best WR Values:
These are the players whose Average Draft Positions intrigue us most in 2016.
- T.Y. Hilton (Ind, 33)
- Randall Cobb (GB, 36)
- Demaryius Thomas (Den, 27)
- Stefon Diggs (Min, 92)
- Willie Snead (NO, 102)
Super Value Alert:
These players aren’t in our ADP top-120, but they have a chance to surprise.
- Vincent Jackson (TB, 130)
- Mohamed Sanu (Atl, 135)
- Nelson Agholor (Phi, 140)
- Chris Hogan (NE, 157)
- Victor Cruz (NYG, 169)
Source: Fantasy Guru
As a non-profit entity, we do not have the staff to cover the NFL like other great websites. When we find great articles, we pass on the information and give credit where credit is due. The content on our website is provided for FREE and solely to assist the participants in the Fantasy Gives fantasy football fundraiser, where we utilize fantasy sports as a means to support non-profit groups.
This post was adapted from their premium service and WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND PAYING FOR A SUBSCRIPTION TO THEIR WEBSITE! Please visit Fantasy Guru for subscription details.