It is now prime draft season for fantasy football. With the start of the NFL season only days away now, every day is draft day. Heading into the preseason’s final slate of games taking place on Thursday, let’s look at some players whose ADPs are at a trending value, as well as some who are being drafted far above their projections:
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills: RB16 (Round 3/Pick 5)
Okay, let’s start with the pros:
- Since his 2009 rookie year, in the six seasons McCoy has played at least 15 games he has averaged:
- 1,686 total yards (1,286 rushing, 400 receiving)
- 5 yards per carry
- 5 receptions (4-of-6 with 50-plus)
- 1 total touchdowns (9.5 rushing, 1.6 receiving)
- Average fantasy finish of RB5.5 (5-of-6 seasons as Top 7 RB)
- Dealing with a groin injury (could linger few first weeks)
- Possible suspension from NFL in response to domestic violence allegation from July
- Averaged career-low 4.0 yards per carry in 2017
- Buffalo’s offense could be worse than 2017’s bottom-third unit
- He just turned 30 (historically, the age of decline in RBs)
With that said, let’s get speculative for a minute. Assuming McCoy does receive some sort of decision from the NFL, his groin injury lingers, or his efficiency dips further due to age and the state of the Buffalo offense, here are the average stats from the two seasons in which McCoy played just 12 games:
- 1,200 total yards (867 rushing, 332 receiving)
- 3 yards per carry
- 43 receptions
- 5 total touchdowns (2.5 rushing, 2.5 receiving)
- RB16 and RB19 fantasy finishes
After all things baked in, risk of suspension, injury, bad offense and all, I would take McCoy at his career floor of RB16 in return for the chance to get a Top 10 RB in the 3rd Round.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams: RB1 (Round 1/Pick 1)
This take won’t win you any points on the forums and is probably going to be met with some pushback, but just hear me out as I ask you just one question: are you really a believer in Jared Goff?
No, but really. Yes, Todd Gurley was great last year. Yes, the Los Angeles Rams had one of the best offenses in the league in 2017. And yes, Sean McVay showed that he might be the next great coach in the NFL. But just how much of that was in spite of Goff being under center? Let’s look back at Todd Gurley’s stats from last year:
- 1,305 rushing yards on 4.7 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns
- 788 receiving yards on 64 receptions and six touchdowns
It is how he produced that last stat line that has me doubting Gurley repeating as the top overall player and RB in fantasy in 2018. Of those 64 receptions, 37 of them (58%) were behind the line of scrimmage where Gurley produced 491 (62%) of his season’s receiving yards while taking 25 (39%) of them 10-plus yards for an average of 13.3 yards per reception and 36.8% for a first down. He also scored 50% (3-of-6) of his receiving touchdowns from behind the LOS with them coming from 18, 14, and seven yards, the latter two on third down conversions. When correlating Gurley’s receiving stats to Goff’s passing stats, we can see:
- 46% of his completions behind the line of scrimmage (LOS) went to Gurley
- 60% of passing yards behind LOS were produced by Gurley
- 13% of all pass yards to Gurley
- 30% of touchdowns behind LOS to Gurley
The takeaway here being that Gurley (and Sean McVay’s playcalling) made Goff look very good in 2017 because Gurley produced most of his receiving production on his own after the catch, rather than Goff getting him the ball already down the field. With another year of NFL defenses adjusting to McVay’s offense and the Rams offensive line (and team as a whole) sure to regress health-wise after leading the league in AGL (adjusted games lost), Gurley is bound for regression. Expect a solid RB1 season from Gurley, just not near 2017’s level of production.
Randall Cobb, Packers: WR37/Round 8, Pick 7
No, Cobb likely won’t ever perform close to his Top 10 WR finish in 2014 again. However, with an upcoming healthy season with a complete season of Aaron Rodgers back at QB, Cobb should finish as a solid WR2. Going around players like Sammy Watkins, Jordy Nelson, and Devin Funchess in drafts, don’t get cute here. You chase volume in re-draft, and Cobb is set to have plenty of it going as a low-end WR3.
Mike Evans, Buccaneers: WR9/Round 3, Pick 1
This is more a qualm with his positional ADP, than overall ADP. Here are his fantasy finishes over his first four seasons:
WR13 -> WR24 -> WR2 -> WR17
Over those four seasons Evans has averaged a 53% catch rate with over 120 targets each season. Some of this lackluster production falls on quarterback play, but at 6-5 with 4.5 speed Evans should be able to do more. The other knock on Evan has been his scoring numbers. With two seasons of 12 touchdowns and two with five or less, Evans has proven to be just as volatile in this area as well. Deemed a prime red zone target, his career RZ touchdown totals are lack luster and inconsistent as well:
3 -> 7 -> 2 -> 6
Something just isn’t happening for Evans to be efficient enough to be a sure-fire WR1. Pair his career production with an improving offense filled with plenty of worthy target options, and Evans is in line to see a reduced target total also standing in the way of a WR1 season in 2018.
Deshaun Watson, Texans: QB2/Round 5, Pick 3
The trendy early QB pick all summer, perception has clearly not changed much among drafters. Going ahead of players like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees – all historically Top 5 fantasy quarterbacks. There is no denying how great Watson was in his six starts in 2017, but a few factors are going against him repeating this year: his touchdown rate, PFF’s worst offensive live in 2017, and a healthy Houston defensive unit.
- TD Rate – If you are following the Watson hype, you have likely heard all about his 9.3% touchdown rate and how it is a clear point of regression. There are plenty of articles out there regarding the historical evidence to support this, but to summarize each of those seasons prior to Watson’s 2107 six-game span were truly historical and none of the quarterbacks were able to repeat the following season. Put simply, expectations need to be tempered for the second-year starter.
- O-Line – Over the course of a full season, Watson will need to endure playing with what should still be one of the worst units in football. This will affect not just Watson, but the effectiveness of the offense as a whole. It isn’t beyond Watson to play above the talent around him, but it will be hard to do so on a consistent basis
- Healthy Defense – The return of J.J. Watt is huge here. After being a Top 10 unit in 2016, Houston should return close to that level in 2017. In return, this will mean less shootout and “catch-up” opportunity for Watson and the Houston offense to be dealt fantasy-wise.
Watson will likely be great QB1 in 2018, but not as great as his six-game sample from last season suggests.
Alex Smith, Redskins: QB18/Round 12, Pick 5
Last season’s QB4, a change of scenery for Smith could still mean similar fantasy success in Washington for 2018. One of the biggest pluses for Smith is that QBs under Jay Gruden have finished as Top 5 fantasy quarterbacks in 3-of-5 seasons with 4-of-5 in the Top 10. In 2017, Smith showed that he is more than just a game-manager and has the tools to produce a top NFL offense. With the biggest questions surrounding how the supporting cast will play around him, Smith is still set up to outperform his QB2 ADP.
Zach Ertz, Eagles: TE3/Round 4, Pick 7
Despite a career and team-high 8 TDs in 2017, the only other red zone and 10-zone stat Ertz led Philly in was yards. Ertz had the same number of total RZ/10-zone targets as 2016 despite an INCREASE in actual target share percentage. All of his TDs were from 20-plus yards out with 4-of-8 coming from 10-plus yards. He looks to be due for a bit of negative TD regression after a career average of 3.2 TDPG prior to 2018. I don’t think his TD numbers will be easily sustainable without overtaking the lead in Philly’s RZ/10Z receiving categories. Despite a career year, Ertz was not dominant enough on his own team to truly be in the same TE tier with Gronk and Kelce in my opinion. . Since 2013, every 100-point scoring TE has finished in the Top 10, with the average number of 100-point scoring TEs to the 125-plus point scoring TEs being FIVE players with the average point gap from 125+ scorers to next highest-scoring TE being 16 points which averaged out to the rank of TE4. In other words, there will be other TEs you can draft in the later rounds who will finish with similar production to Ertz.Still a top option at the position, but I'll pass at on Ertz at TE3 ADP.
Ben Watson, Saints: TE25/ADP 215
Here are Watson’s last three seasons:
- In 2015 with the Saints, Watson finished as the TE7 scoring 100-plus fantasy points and six touchdowns. He finished second on the team in targets, receptions, receiving touchdowns, and third in receiving yards.
- In 2016, a torn Achilles resulted in a lost season in Baltimore.
- In 2017 with the Ravens, Watson finished as the TE15. He led the team in receptions, tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns, and was second on the team in receiving yards and targets.
Even at age 37, Watson has been getting great feedback since re-joining the Saints and he showed he could still play at a high level after coming back from injury in 2017. As the TE1 for a team that is looking to make a Super Bowl run, Watson’s current ADP provides nothing but value for a player you could draft in the final few rounds or pick up off the waiver wire.