ADP (Average Draft Position) is a very powerful form of knowledge to inform us in our fantasy football decisions. It represents a distilling of the hive mind’s observations about a players outlook when weighed against the value of other players. When we take that calculation and put it next to the ADP right before the beginning of last season, we get an apples to apples comparison that can itself be evaluated. When ADP has changed, or even stayed the same, we can ask, “Does this make sense given what has changed (or not changed) since the beginning of the 2019 season? Has the hive mind over or underreacted to new information? Are the reactions consistent among players on the same team or in similar situations?”
2019 Final Preseason ADP: Mid 1st (RB5)
Current ADP: 4th round (RB21)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 6th round (RB28)
Current ADP: 11th-12th round (RB51)
David Johnson was seen as one of the short list of elite fantasy running backs going into the 2019 season. He came through as a receiver last year, but sputtered as a runner, and then appeared to run out of gas on the field. It was believed that Johnson wouldn’t be released because he was due about 10 million dollars, but also that the Cardinals would have to give draft compensation to move him because his salary didn’t match his expected contributions. Enter Bill O’Brien, who saw David Johnson as an asset and didn’t even ask Arizona to eat any of his salary to take him on, even though O’Brien did just that to move Jadeveon Clowney for a modest set of assets before last season.
Meanwhile, Duke Johnson Jr still looks as good as ever, but O’Brien won’t lean on him even though he gave up a third round pick for him last year. Fantasy drafters are wary of both David and Duke. With David, it’s watching him break down last year, and perhaps some hesitation about projecting workload to match capital spent even though the head coach and general manager are one in the same. That would be because after spending that third on Duke Johnson Jr last year, O’Brien’s usage didn’t match that somewhat steep trade cost, at least in running back terms. If we think David Johnson is going to break down or fizzle out, then Duke should have a high end range of outcomes that at least gives him a shot to achieve what we hoped for last year. Maybe someone like Karan Higdon or another back the Texans will sign closer to the season is the real play here if the pessimism represented in ADP deltas for both Duke and David Johnson is correct, but I’m inclined to think at least one of Duke or David will vastly outproduce ADP with so much fantasy pessimism baked into the Texans backfield. Either David Johnson will be Carlos Hyde with receiving benefits, or he’ll flame out and Duke Johnson Jr will get a lot of the high leverage snaps. I especially love Duke in Best Ball.
The DeAndre Hopkins Trade
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 3rd/4th (WR14)
Current ADP: 8th/9th (WR35)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 7th (WR33)
Current ADP: 8th (WR36)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: Mid 1st (WR1)
Current ADP: Early 2nd (WR4)
When none of Deshaun Watson’s receivers are going in the top 75 picks, fantasy players should be thinking there’s something to take advantage of here. Fuller may be the obvious answer if you believe he’ll become the alpha target in the offense without DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller was actually a fantasy non-factor last year except for a three touchdown outburst and a surprise big game when he was briefly able to return from injury. Fuller didn’t exactly prove he can stay healthy last year and he hasn’t yet eclipsed 700 yards in a season. Betting on him to even come close to fulfilling his potential has been a losing proposition. Cooks had a rough 2019 with multiple concussions and a Rams offense that relegated him to something like the decoy role Sammy Watkins played when he was with the team. Fantasy drafters might be fading him because it’s his first year with a new team/quarterback, which just happens to be one with no offseason and a less than ideal preseason/camp setup. Cooks has had 1000+ yard seasons in his first year with a new team twice, but that might not be as relevant this year. I’d still rather take Cooks than Fuller, although the right answer might be Randall Cobb at a ridiculously low end of the draft ADP, or Kenny Stills at an even lower ADP.
Deshaun Watson should create at least one fantasy overachiever in his wide receiver corps, and it could be a moving target. Be ready to pivot quickly once we see how this passing game organizes itself in the post-Nuk era.
What about Hopkins? He probably won’t be the target hog he was with Watson, but his ADP has only dropped slightly considering the risk introduced with changing teams. The fantasy hive mind is probably being too optimistic about this situation.
The New Look Browns
2019 Final Preseason ADP: late 1st (WR5)
Current ADP: late 3rd (WR15)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 6th (WR27)
Current ADP: 6th/7th (WR29)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 5th/6th (QB5)
Current ADP: 10th/11th (QB15)
Did any team/offense let us down more than Cleveland last year? Fantasy drafters are rationally bumping Baker Mayfield down to QB15 range, which might be too kind. High expectations supported Beckham staying in his first round penthouse apartment last year. While recalibrated expectations account for some of Beckham’s precipitous drop to the late third this year, it seems like fantasy drafters are either ignoring that he played hurt for the entire season, or that injuries/playing hurt will be the new normal for him. This one feels like one of the biggest overreactions to 2019, as Beckham was able to be a perennial top five receiver with Eli Manning and the Kevin Stefanski offense should set up a lot of deep play action shot plays with Beckham’s name on them.
Jarvis Landry’s current ADP seems to be an admission that he was underrated last year as a 6th round pick. With only a slight tick down despite having offseason hip surgery that could endanger his Week 1 status, fantasy drafters don’t seem worried about his ability to get back to 100% this year, and they aren’t dinging him for Cleveland’s disappointing season because he was able to post a career high in yardage last year despite also playing hurt. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs both carried third round ADPs last year, and while that didn’t exactly have a happy ending, fantasy players have lower expectations for Landry/Beckham this year than they had for Thielen/Diggs last year, despite still drafting 2020 Mayfield ahead of 2019 Cousins…
The Stefon Diggs Trade
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 3rd (WR13)
Current ADP: 5th/6th (WR26)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 13th (WR55)
Current ADP: 10th (WR43)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: Early 3rd (WR10)
Current ADP: Late 3rd (WR10)
Stefon Diggs drop from the third to 5-6 range reflects some skepticism about his effectiveness and consistency with a new team and quarterback that struggled with deep accuracy last year, but is it enough? Diggs is part of a crowded target tree in a low volume passing game with John Brown, Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox and a likely increased target share for Devin Singletary. John Brown was one of the best wide receiver picks in the second half of the draft, yet his ADP only had a modest bump to the 10th round this year. If Diggs hadn’t been acquired, where would Brown’s ADP be? Probably around the fifth or sixth round, where Diggs is now. So are fantasy drafters expecting Diggs to be as productive with Josh Allen this year as Brown would have been if the Bills hadn’t traded for him? That seems dubious. The best answer might be avoid the Bills wide receivers - remember Cole Beasley was coming on as a trusted target and he has been left for dead in fantasy drafts and he’s not going away.
In the wake of Diggs departure from Minnesota, fantasy drafters are somehow lower on Adam Thielen than they were when he was competing with Diggs for targets last year, although some of that is the push to draft running backs earlier and wide receivers later after the disappointing year across the board for wideouts - Thielen is still WR10, but WR10 is going off of the board about 8-10 picks later than last year. Perhaps some of that is the scar left from watching Thielen come back too quickly from a hamstring injury and basically lose the rest of the regular season, but that seems like an overreaction because it is the exception in Thielen’s career, not the rule. He is low-hanging fruit in PPR drafts and could easily be a top three fantasy receiver.
The Return of Roethlisberger
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 8th/9th (QB11)
Current ADP: 11th/12th (QB19)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: Late 1st (RB7)
Current ADP: Late 3rd (RB20)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: Early 2nd (WR7)
Current ADP: Early 4th (WR16)
Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow injury caused the Steelers offense to catastrophically collapse. Before the season both James Conner and Juju Smith-Schuster had the highest ADP of their careers with very little competition to be centerpieces of what should have been one of the better offenses in the league. There should be some hesitation in assuming that Roethlisberger will just return to form, which is reflected in a modest drop in ADP from being one of the last QB1’s to a mid QB2 status, but the drop in Conner and Smith-Schuster’s ADPs is much more steep. Conner does have a little more competition and carries the “can he stay healthy for a whole season” stigma, but he also has demonstrated strong RB1 upside and still produced through the muck of the worst quarterback play in the league before his injury. Smith-Schuster is going back to the slot and should be one of the most targeted receivers in the league as he is the only passcatcher with a significant history with Roethlisberger. Going Conner/Juju at the 1-2 turn looked viable last year and it ended up being a landmine. This year, you can do it at the 3-4 turn and it won’t ruin your season if Roethlisberger’s explodes again.
Many Rivers To Cross
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 10th/11th (QB17)
Current ADP: 13th/14th (QB23)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 3rd (WR11)
Current ADP: 5th (WR20)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 6th (WR24)
Current ADP: 11th-12th (WR49)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 6th (TE6)
Current ADP: 7th (TE8)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 4th/5th (WR17)
Current ADP: 5th/6th (WR22)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 13th (RB52)
Current ADP: 14th (RB53)
We all saw Philip Rivers look like a quarterback in his decline phase last year, including Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco, and it was enough to spur them to move on from their starting quarterback since 2006. Backup Tyrod Taylor will likely open the season as the starter, but give way to #6 overall pick Justin Herbert when (if?) the Chargers fall out of the playoff picture.
Fantasy players have expressed their displeasure for this development via the ADP of Keenan Allen, who has experienced a similar drop to the tumble that Stefon Diggs took, and Mike Williams, who has dropped about as much as Sammy Watkins has. Interestingly, Hunter Henry has only dropped one round. Maybe it’s the shallow nature of tight end for fantasy. Maybe folks are looking back at how Charles Clay did with Taylor, or relying on the canard about rookie quarterbacks relying on their tight ends. Whether intended or not, the fantasy hive mind seems to be making a stand that Hunter Henry will be less affected by the quarterback change(s) than Allen or Williams.
Rivers has dropped from the mid QB2 range to low QB2 (ie undrafted in many leagues), so you can see the pessimism that comes with changing teams and watching a quarterback not be able to make throws that he clearly thinks he can make. Will he be worse for fantasy values than Jacoby Brissett was last year? Either fantasy players think that, or they are spooked by the usually durable T.Y. Hilton’s injury problems last year. He is actually cheaper than his final 2019 ADP which had Andrew Luck’s retirement baked in. Nyheim Hines is also slightly cheaper than 2019 ADP even though he just gained the quarterback that helped make Austin Ekeler a thing.
The Dawning of the Joe Burrow Era in Cincinnati
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 5th (WR23)
Current ADP: 7th (WR32)
2019 Final Preaseason ADP: 6th (WR28)
Current ADP: 6th (WR28)
2019 Final Preseason ADP: Mid 2nd (RB10)
Current ADP: Early 2nd (RB8)
The ADP movement of important pieces of the Bengals offense paints a mixed picture. Joe Burrow won’t have the benefit of an offseason, but there’s still a reasonable chance that he’s better for fantasy values than Andy Dalton was in his lame duck season, and that doesn’t even factor in the potential improvement from a healthy A.J. Green and Jonah Williams (fingers crossed).
Tyler Boyd has been as good or better with Green in the lineup than without, and he was actually serviceable in fantasy leagues through the muck and mire of the 2019, and yet, his ADP has dropped two rounds. That don’t seem right. Green has roughly the same ADP as his post preseason injury 2019 cost and he’s healthy now (as far as we know). That don’t seem right. Joe Mixon has at least the scent of a holdout/opt out risk in the last year of his rookie draft with a big payday coming in 2021. His per game production dropped off a bit last year from 2018 levels. His ADP is actually higher than last year’s. Perhaps Mixon’s ADP jump has more to do with second round wide receiver quality dropping off. Maybe fantasy players think that he’ll have the biggest bump due to a better offense. Maybe they think he’ll have a huge season under the contract year theory. Whatever we think about this mixed bag of results, there’s some inconsistency to sort out here, which is probably resolved by taking a Bengals receiver.
The new Dolphins Backfield
2019 Final Preseason ADP: 9th (Howard RB36/Breida RB37)
Current ADP: 9th (Howard RB38/Breida RB42)
This one is a bit difficult to reconcile. Jordan Howard was in a much better running game last year with the Eagles, but with competition for touches from Miles Sanders and Darren Sproles. This year he is in a worse run game. His competition is Breida, and he also has the mysterious shoulder issue that seemed run off the mill when it happened, but actually ended his season in Week 9. Fantasy drafters are valuing him basically the same last year.
Breida came into last year as the perceived best talent in a crowded, but effective backfield. He fell out of favor after an ankle injury in Week 10 cost him three games, at least in part due to fumbling issues. The 49ers traded him away for less than the Bears got for Howard last year. Fantasy players see Breida as worth the same as last year, and the same as Howard.
This probably stands for the proposition that once you get out of the top 30-35 running backs it’s a crapshoot and any shot to be a team’s RB1 will push players up to the top of ragtag group, but it still deserves some examination. The best answer is probably to avoid both backs because of the likelihood of an RBBC in an inefficient running game.