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If you want to dominate your drafts this weekend, you need the most up-to-date ADP and information available with a focus on interpreting the latest news and notes to gain an edge in your drafts.
In recent years, the daily ADP updates from Underdog fantasy (the preeminent best ball site) have added a tremendous resource to our tool belts. We get almost instantaneous wisdom of the crowd feedback from thousands of sharp and dialed-in fantasy drafters. While the Underdog best ball ADP may not be directly applicable to your non-best ball league, the recent changes in draft stock in reaction to the latest news provide a treasure trove of information you can use to dominate your non-best ball drafts this weekend. While the takeaways and player recommendations can be generalized to all drafts, all ADP mentions in this article refer specifically to Underdog drafts.
In this week’s article, we will look at the major recent storylines you need to account for heading into your drafts this weekend, including:
- The changing dynamics of the Rams, Patriots, and Jaguars backfields
- The rising stock of Najee Harris, Jerry Jeudy, and Mike Gesicki
- The top late-round targets based upon recent developments
The Patriots Backfield
Damien Harris is the beneficiary of two very recent developments. First, the Patriots traded one of his top backups, Sony Michel, to the Rams. One less back to compete with for touches is always a good thing. However, the trade does not move the needle that much in terms of usage. The critical piece of news is the strong play of Mac Jones. It feels like only a matter of time until he is starting. This is a huge boost to Harris’ fantasy stock due to what it does for his touchdown expectation. Cam Newton had 19 carries inside the 5-yard line last season, the fourth-most in the NFL. To put that in context, it was two more than Derrick Henry. When the Patriots get down around the goal line in 2021, Jones is not taking those carries. Harris will be. We knew the rushing yardage would probably be there. Now, we should be excited about the potential for 10+ rushing touchdowns as well. Harris should become a draft priority once the more exciting WR3 options (like Tyler Boyd and Laviska Shenault Jr) are off the board.
While Harris should be the fantasy headliner, the Michel trade makes Rhamondre Stevenson a strong target in the mid-to-late rounds (Round 12 or 13). He should get at least a few touches every week. More importantly, he is the obvious injury handcuff to Harris and would have weekly RB2 value should Harris miss any time. Stevenson has done nothing but impress this preseason.
Damien Harris took the first handoff of every 11-on-11 period, which has been the case throughout the summer. Rhamondre Stevenson took the second handoff each period today, so he got the biggest bump following the Sony Michel trade.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) August 25, 2021
The Rams Backfield
When Adam Schefter says Sony Michel “probably will be the lead back,” that is a source worth listening to.
ESPN Insider @AdamSchefter breaks down the Sony Michel trade to the #Rams and its impact on Darrell Henderson and the #Patriots backfield on #GuruInTheMorning!@Fantasy_Guru @PaulKellyTweets #FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/lVeLfo8oko— Fantasy Sports Radio (@SiriusXMFantasy) August 25, 2021
We probably do not want to get too aggressive with Michel early in drafts. However, he does slot in near the top of the running back tier, including A.J. Dillon, Ronald Jones II, Raheem Mostert, Zach Moss, and Co. Heading into the weekend, you can still get Sony Michel in the 10th round. The upside is well worth the risk in that part of the draft.
Based upon recent drafts, the impact of the trade has not been priced into Darrell Henderson’s draft stock nearly enough. He is still going in the fifth round, which is way too early given Schefter’s reporting. Avoid Henderson anywhere near his current ADP.
Travis Etienne Injury Fallout
Travis Etienne suffered a season-ending foot injury, which opens the door for James Robinson to have another big fantasy season. Based upon recent drafts, James Robinson is still making it to the fifth round of Underdog drafts. He is a massive bargain at that ADP and should be a priority target in the fifth round.
While the focus is rightly on the major boost to Robinson’s stock, don’t forget Laviska Shenault Jr is also a major fantasy beneficiary. Urban Meyer has always loved using the slash (RB/WR) guys like Percy Harvin and Curtis Samuel in his offenses and made clear in multiple post-draft press conferences that he viewed Travis Etienne as that type of player. Guess who else is also in that exact mold? Shenault is a wide receiver built like a running back and regularly played as a Wildcat quarterback in college at Colorado. He is likely to be even more heavily involved than he would have been otherwise. Shenault is a priority option in the sixth round of best ball drafts.
Prioritizing Najee Harris
It should not have been a surprise to see Najee Harris as the every-down, workhorse back with the Steelers offense in Week 2 of the preseason. I made an in-depth case for Harris back in early July because the Steelers gave every indication he would dominate the running back snaps and touches. That is exactly what we have seen so far.
While the usage was predictable, seeing it with our own eyes has caused Harris to really rise up draft boards in recent days. It did not hurt that on top of the workhorse usage, Harris also looked like a real playmaker.
Harris has become a popular pick in the late first round and seems to have moved ahead of players like Jonathan Taylor, Austin Ekeler, and Antonio Gibson on the draft boards of many of the top best-ball drafters. Make him your top target in the second round, and do not be afraid to reach for him at the bottom of the first round if you believe he will be an instant fantasy star.
Jerry Jeudy’s Stock on the Rise
One player who has seemed to rise slowly but steadily throughout the past month has been Jerry Jeudy. He has benefitted from Courtland Sutton’s slow return to form and a steady drumbeat of reports out of Denver about his training camp dominance. While Jeudy was a mild fantasy disappointment as a rookie, that was not all his fault.
Jerry Jeudy posted a 75% success rate vs. man coverage in #ReceptionPerception. That was 3rd best among rookies last year and falls at the 87th percentile in RP history. https://t.co/bnSlIKZR1S pic.twitter.com/0hpi5dGQca— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) August 25, 2021
The recent announcement that Teddy Bridgewater will be Denver’s starting quarterback adds further fuel to the fire when it comes to Jeudy’s breakout potential, given Bridgewater should be better than Drew Lock when it comes to getting the ball out on time and on target.
Jeudy is the top target in the early fifth-round of Underdog drafts going into this weekend.
Mike Gesicki Moving Up
Since returning to camp a couple of weeks ago, Gesicki has been far and away the favorite target of Tua Tagovailoa. While some of that may be due to the extended absences of Will Fuller V and DeVante Parker, the budding connection between Tagovailoa and Gesicki has blossomed. In contrast, others who have been sidelined are going to matter once the real games start. Gesicki’s stock is also buoyed by the fact that Tagovailoa has been looking more and more like the star he was at Alabama. Of the tight ends going outside the Top 100, Gesicki is the guy to target.
Late-Round Quarterback Values
Ben Roethlisberger The Steelers veteran looked more like the guy who led the NFL in passing yards in 2018 than the guy who struggled down the stretch of the 2020 season. In better shape and better health, Roethlisberger looks like a prime candidate for a bounce-back season. The trio of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the league's top starting wide receiver groups. Plus, rookies Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth look like they will be strong receiving options as well.
Zach Wilson Wilson has been a forgotten man amidst the Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Trevor Lawrence hype. Going 50 or so picks later in drafts than the other top rookies, Wilson may be the rookie passer who gives you the most bang for your buck.
Mac Jones Jones makes for an outstanding late-round QB3 target. While he does not have the rushing upside of the other rookie quarterbacks, Jones has more fantasy upside than he is getting credit for. He was more productive than Tua Tagovailoa was at Alabama and is currently going off the board 60 picks later than Tagovailoa.
Jameis Winston The quarterback competition between Winston and Taysom Hill continues, but Winston looks to have made a big move with a sterling performance in the second preseason game. Playing in a dome with Sean Payton calling plays gives Winston plenty of fantasy upside, even if New Orleans' weapons are a bit underwhelming. Grabbing Michael Thomas and Marquez Callaway in the 8th and 9th rounds and coming back with Winston in the 16th round is a low-cost, high-upside tournament stack on Underdog worth considering.
Late-Round Wide Receiver Targets
In the late rounds, there are two strategies that make sense and can often be used together to provide a combination of safety and upside.
First, take the obvious values with veterans who are going to be on the field. The two players who stand out in this regard are a pair of veteran slot receivers:
Jamison Crowder Should be one of the top three targets in a Jets passing offense with some upside.
Second, we can also take some swings on talented young players who have the potential to give us some spike weeks later in the season:
Josh Palmer Of the wide receivers taken outside the top two rounds, Palmer is the best bet for a breakout rookie season, given that he will be catching passes from Justin Herbert. He is one injury to Keenan Allen or Mike Williams away.
DWayne Eskridge He has been out of sight, out of mind due to an injury. However, the OTA reports on Seattle’s second-rounder were glowing. He will be a candidate for some long touchdowns once he gets up to speed. Expect Eskridge to start in three-WR sets and Russell Wilson to quickly develop a rapport with the speedy rookie.
Russell Wilson says every morning on the field at #Seahawks HQ, 5:45-6am, he and rookie WR D’Wayne Eskridge go over plays. Bobby Wagner is usually the other player on the field then, jumping rope or working out.— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) August 18, 2021
“There’s still dew on the ground,” Wilson says. pic.twitter.com/gdvkFD7jlQ
Kadarius Toney Toney made it into the first round of the NFL draft due to his knack for turning nothing into something and getting into the end zone. Give me his playmaking potential in the final round all day.
My Favorite Underdog Targets by Round
For something a little different to end things this week, I wanted to share a list of my personal top targets by round in 12-Team Underdog drafts:
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