2014 Late-Risers: Where to Target Them?
Average Draft Position (ADP) data is a great tool, but it can be misleading this late in the draft season. There are players who are – for one reason or another – surging in the draft, and since ADP is historical, it may not accurately capture a player’s current stock. These players merit extra discussion, especially if we’re trying to target them on draft day.
Even identifying them takes some work. To that end, I compared My Fantasy League ADP from drafts starting after July 15 to ADP from drafts starting after August 15.
I found that just about every quarterback was rising in the draft, which makes sense since the average fantasy owner who’s starting to draft in mid-August is less likely to wait on a passer. So, for the purposes of this article, I’m not going to discuss any quarterbacks, save for one handsome devil.
Below you’ll find several players who have seen their ADP jump at least a half-round in the last month. I’ll mention PPR ADP from MFL and from Fantasy Football Calculator (FFC), but when targeting a player, owners should always be aware of where the player is ranked at the site that hosts their league or draft. Many owners rely on site rankings to draft, so if a player is ranked a round higher at ESPN than his ADP at MFL or FFC, then he’s not likely to last that long.
TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
Davis’s stock has risen since mid-July since he ended his brief holdout and reported to camp. I loved his upside last year with Michael Crabtree out, but his targets take a nosedive with Crabtree in the lineup, so I’m not buying Davis at his 6th round price. Heck, MFL shows him going in the 5th. No thanks.
RB Frank Gore, 49ers
Gore is creeping up as owners seek stability in the middle rounds. Carlos Hyde is a concern, but Gore offers a guaranteed workload, and that’s tough to pass up in the late-5th. PPR owners need to remember that he's not very active in the passing game.
TE Zach Ertz, Eagles
Ertz seems destined to breakout this season after a strong finish last year leading into a great summer. I’m not sold that he'll get heavy early season snaps, but if the injury bug bites any of the Eagles’ pass-catchers, Ertz will likely step into a starter’s workload. MFL is showing an ADP of 8.04, while FFC has him going in the early 9th. For perspective, Jordan Cameron was going in the 11th last year. The 8th seems too rich for Ertz, but the 9th is palatable if TE is a team need.
RB LeGarrette Blount, Steelers
Blunt/Blount jokes aside, the backup RB in Pittsburgh was having a pretty good offseason before that now infamous traffic stop. Still, it doesn’t look like it will have any impact on his availability this season, so Blount is expected to get some carries behind LeVeon Bell. According to Bell, Blount may see goal line work as well. He’s going in the 13th round and is a good part-time/attrition pick at that point in the draft, maybe even the 12th for a RB-needy team.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
According to MFL, Benjamin is going right at the 7th/8th turn, while FFC has him going in the mid-8th. We have him ranked #40 in PPR, so while that doesn’t quite justify an early 8th-round pick, it’s reasonable due to Benjamin’s considerable upside as the de facto WR1 in the Panthers’ offense.
RB Mark Ingram, Saints
Guess who’s back? Back again. Ingram’s back. Tell a friend. Last month, Ingram was typically available in the 13th/14th round, but he has had a good camp and sits atop the Saints’ depth chart, which means he’s first in line for carries. He ran pretty well down the stretch in 2013 and that momentum has carried over to this season. We can envision a 10- to 15-touch role in the Saints’ high-octane offense, but Khiry Robinson looms as a potential spoiler. The 10th/11th round seems reasonable.
RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Guess who’s back? Back again. Ah, screw it. All it takes to get people excited about J-Stew is a two-TD preseason game in which – wait, he did look pretty good carrying would-be tacklers into the endzone. He’s still going in the 13th (FFC) or 14th (MFL) round, which means many owners are rightfully dubious. But remember for a guy who seems five years older, he’s just 27, and DeAngelo Williams is no spring chicken at 31-years-old. Stewart is worth a late-round flier, but I wouldn’t want to draft him before the 13th round if I can help it.
RB James White, Patriots
White is currently going in the 12th round after being mired in the 15th or 16th (or going undrafted) for much of the summer. But it appears that he’s the primary backup to both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, so he has some upside of Ridley’s butterfingers continue. But don’t forget about Brandon Bolden, who has ruined many a fantasy owner’s plans to take advantage of attrition in the New England backfield. A 12th is justified for White, but prepare yourself for disappointment.
RB Andre Williams, Giants
Williams’ ADP has risen from the late 11th to the late 10th after a strong preseason running the ball. (FFC has him going 9.11, ahead of Jeremy Hill.) I don’t think he’s much of a threat to Rashad Jennings’ lead back duties, but he will rotate in on early downs and see some goal line work. I'm not really buying at this price, though Jennings owners may want to cover themselves.
TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs
MFL (13.06), FFC (13.09) and our own ADP (13.02) place Kelce squarely in the 13th round. He has looked great in the preseason after catching a couple of touchdowns. He looks to have his speed back after undergoing microfracture surgery last summer. He’s been running with the backups, but the Chiefs are desperate for playmakers in the passing game, so it should only be a matter of time before he’s seeing starter’s snaps. Talent is key in fantasy football, but so is opportunity.
WR Marqise Lee, Jaguars
It looks like Lee will start for Jacksonville opposite Cecil Shorts. This could lead to a lot of targets if the Jaguars find themselves trailing in games, which has been the case for... the last few years. MFL has him going in the mid-11th since mid-August, while FFC still has him going in the early 13th. I like him well enough, but I’d rather have a certain Seattle receiver named...
WR Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
Baldwin’s ADP has risen from the mid-14th to the mid-13th at MFL, though 4for4 still shows him available in the 15th. I’m guessing that my taking him in the 12th/13th in virtually every MFL10 I’ve drafted in has had some effect. In a sharp league, I’d target him in the 12th, but in a typical friends and family league, he’ll probably last until the 14th. I love him anywhere in that range.
WR Markus Wheaton, Steelers
Wheaton’s ADP is 11.10 at FFC and 11.03 at MFL, and that’s a good spot for him. We have him at #47 in PPR, which makes him a reasonable pick in the 10th round. Despite a short resume, Wheaton is a breakout candidate if he sees big snaps in his second year. In the last four seasons, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown (x2) and Sanders have averaged 65-848-4.5 in the Steelers’ WR2 role.
WR Kenny Britt, Rams
Britt’s ADP is in the mid-12th at MFL, but FFC shows him going in the mid-11th. I saw him go in the 8th in a recent MFL10, but that’s purely anecdotal. If you’re not afraid to go down the Britt Rabbit Hole again, you should target him in the 11th-12th range. I won’t look at you funny. Maybe he can recapture the magic.
The July MFL ADP is heavier in dynasty startups, and that might be why a few players below didn’t make the cut. (In other words, their ADPs were already pretty high from the dynasty drafts in the summer, so recent surges didn’t register when I filtered the data.)
TE Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
Rudolph just missed the list since his ADP has risen 5.7 spots in the last month, but I feel that he merits discussion. MFL is showing 7.09 while FFC has 7.11, so the days of getting him in the late-8th appear to be over. He has had a great preseason and fantasy owners are justifiably bullish on his prospects in Norv Turner’s TE-friendly offense. Mid-7th to early-8th looks like a realistic range for Rudolph at this point.
WR Justin Hunter, Titans
Hunter has been going in the 9th at MFL for most of the summer, but FFC shows a 12th round ADP for much of July. Regardless, he has settled in the 9th round at both sites. We have him ranked #40 in standard and #46 in PPR, but his upside makes him an interesting pick when the solid wideouts fall off the board in the 8th round.
WR Brandin Cooks, Saints
Cooks has an ADP in the early 7th at MFL, while FFC (and our own ADP) show him going in the late 6th. While Cooks looks like a great prospect, this price seems steep, especially since the Saints spread the ball around so well. Cooks is even going ahead of perennial top 25 WR Marques Colston, who was actually better last year than people think.
QB Jay Cutler, Bears
At MFL, Cutler’s ADP hasn’t risen that much relative to his position, but FFC is showing a substantial 12-pick rise from the mid-9th to the mid-8th. I like his upside this year – after all, he and Josh McCown combined to post #3 QB numbers in 2013 – but he has had trouble staying healthy recently, and there are good values like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson available later in the draft. Owners who want Cutler are likely going to have to burn a 7th- or 8th-rounder on him. If I can get him in the 9th/10th, great, but a 7th/8th seems steep given the other options available.