The month of July is an interesting time to participate in fantasy football drafts. The NFL draft is a distant memory, and we’re all stuck counting down the hours until the first day of training camp, so why not knock out a few fantasy drafts to pass the time? Because of this lull in the NFL news cycle, even the most minor reports can affect a player’s average draft position. Over the last month, we’ve seen significant spikes - both positive and negative - for various players.
I’ve taken a look at the players with the most notable ADP increases since June 1, and I’ve scanned the news wires to determine what drove the change in perception for these players. Generally, we see the ADP of rookies climb after they show flashes during OTAs without the pads on. And aside from Kelvin Benjamin, every player is “in the best shape of their life” and these fluff reports drive the majority of July ADP inefficiencies.
On the other side, now could be a good time to invest in these players before they show off their off-season progress in the preseason. For example, all it will take is Tevin Coleman busting off just one 60-yard run in an exhibition game before we see him crash the 4th round of fantasy drafts.
I’ve labeled each of the players below as a BUY or SELL, based on whether or not their recent ADP increases are justified.
June 1 ADP: 99 (9.03)
Current ADP: 66 (6.06)
The biggest mover at the wide receiver position, Allen Robinson has jumped 33 spots and will not make it out of the sixth round in most drafts now. Seemingly every day a new report surfaces on how great Robinson looks and given the other talents on Jacksonville’s depth chart (here’s a look at Gridiron Experts' full NFL Depth Charts), people are realizing that he will be a target-hog in this Jaguars’ offense.
After missing the final six games of 2014 with a stress fracture in his foot, fantasy drafters were unsure of Robinson’s rehabilitation after surgery. However, when he worked out with no restrictions at the first OTA on June 1, his ADP began to climb.
Even QB Blake Bortles has been impressed:
"He's been unbelievable. He's definitely a threat now in the red zone. ... He's physical. He can run and do everything out in the open field, so he's been fun to throw to."
Robinson also attended the Larry Fitzgerald WR camp last month, which is usually a great indicator of WR success for the upcoming season.
Right now, Robinson’s ADP is WR29. Last year’s WR29, Torrey Smith, finished with 191.70 PPR points. If Robinson maintains the following:
He would need just five touchdowns to reach 191.70 fantasy points.
At WR29 and 6.06, I’m buying Robinson due to the massive amount of targets he will receive in 2015. His ADP is starting to catch up to his opportunity and because of my doubt in his talent to be an NFL WR1, I will be passing if his ADP starts to creep into the fifth round.
BUY John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals
June 1 ADP: 134 (12.02)
Current ADP: 107 (9.11)
While his ADP difference from last month isn’t nearly as pronounced as Allen Robinson’s spike, John Brown has an opportunity cost that remains relatively low. Lost in the mix of stellar rookie wideouts last season, Brown notched a very successful rookie campaign when you consider that he was a small school prospect playing as the number three wide receiver on an offense that missed its starting QB for a portion of the season. But why the sudden increase in ADP?
For one, QB Carson Palmer is already back from ACL surgery and taking reps at OTAs. Palmer is reportedly developing chemistry with Brown, and the veteran QB expects “huge things” from Brown this season.
Brown also changed his diet this off-season and has added 10 pounds of muscle to his upper body to help beat press coverage and to build his stamina for a 16-game season.
On the surface, it may seem tough for Brown to top last year’s target number of 6.4 per game, but Larry Fitzgerald isn’t getting younger and Michael Floyd isn’t getting any more consistent. In addition, Brown’s quality of targets should increase if we see Carson Palmer under center for a full 16-game season.
Bruce Arians has a history of developing similar-sized players in Antonio Brown and T.Y. Hilton, and both of those players made jumps into the top 25 in year two despite the presence of other quality WRs on the roster. I’m willing to bet John Brown makes a similar jump in 2015.
SELL Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
June 1 ADP: 143 (12.11)
Current ADP: 100 (9.04)
Duke Johnson has seen the biggest jump in ADP at the RB position over the last month. With his receiving skills on a team that is devoid of receiving talent out of the backfield, Johnson landed in a great situation and his ADP is starting to build after his OTA performances.
In addition to getting snaps at RB, Johnson was seen lining up at WR during OTAs. As a result, fantasy owners are becoming increasingly aware of Johnson’s PPR potential.
NFL reporter Adam Caplan is betting on Johnson emerging as a three-down back this season after deeming the rookie as the most impressive runner during Browns’ OTAs.
However, while reporters are speculating, the Browns coaching staff is coming out and saying that Johnson will not be an every-down back this year:
“It’s hard to have an every-down back in this league. There’s too much punishment going on out there on the field. We’ve got to carve out a role for Duke. It wouldn’t be fair [when] we have never put the pads on yet to say, ‘He’s our starter.’ We don’t know how he’s going to recover from practice to practice yet. It’s totally different from college to here. He wasn’t utilized that way at Miami a lot.
So with Duke, we’ve just got to find a way how we’re going to utilize him. Like Le’Veon Bell, his first year [with the Pittsburgh Steelers], he wasn’t the guy, but you kind of like working him into being the guy. Duke, I’m not saying he’s not going to be the guy. But I don’t know the workload he can handle right now.”
Wilbert Montgomery, Browns RB coach
It is far more likely for Johnson to “carve out a role” rather than to become the primary ball carrier during his rookie year. If his ADP stays in round 9, he’ll likely outperform his draft position just by virtue of accumulating receptions. However, his upside is capped as a RB3 and his week-to-week consistency will be non-existent as his role changes with the Browns’ gameplan.
I’m looking to win my league, so I’m willing to take more talented backup RBs that can post RB1 numbers when called upon rather than a role player who will never see the majority of touches in his backfield.
BUY Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions
June 1 ADP: 97 (9.01)
Current ADP: 65 (6.05)
Another rookie RB making ADP waves this off-season is Lions’ RB Ameer Abdullah. Thought to be entering a crowded backfield in Detroit with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, fantasy owners have begun to take notice after Abdullah received first team reps at OTAs while Bell remained sidelined from off-season Achilles’ and knee surgeries.
“I think as a runner he has great balance. He’s obviously a low-to-the-ground guy. He seems to hide pretty well behind there and he’s got good vision. Out of the backfield, catching the ball, he’s great. He’s got great hands. He has a good feel for route running.”
Beat reporters have noted the desire for the Lions’ staff to get Abdullah involved in the offense and they believe it’s “evident that the rookie will play significant minutes this fall.”
More than just a gadget player, Abdullah has the ability to be a three-down back for the Lions. For a RB whose role is unclear, a sixth round fantasy pick is pretty steep. However, these are the types of picks that win championships when Abdullah is getting 20-plus touches a game in November and December,
SELL Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys
June 1 ADP: 65 (6.05)
Current ADP: 43 (4.07)
There are actually other RBs with a greater increase in ADP than Joseph Randle, but none come at a greater cost. Now being selected in the fourth round of fantasy drafts, owners are fully expecting Randle to be the lead back behind the Cowboys’ dominant offensive line.
With free agent RBs Darren McFadden and Ryan Williams unavailable in OTAs due to injury (surprising, right?), Randle received the majority of the first-team reps. Randle has had a tremendous off-season, and Cowboys’ reporters believe that Randle is the “clear leader” and it is his job to lose in training camp. After seeing what former Cowboys’ RB DeMarco Murray did behind this dominant offensive line a season ago, fantasy owners are rushing to draft Randle with the belief that he can do similar damage.
Randle was famously quoted this off-season for saying Murray “had a great season, but there was a lot of meat left on the bone.” However, the meat will likely be distributed to three different runners this season.
Despite what fantasy owners think, the Cowboys’ staff has said multiple times this off-season that they will feature a rotation at the RB position.
“We’re very confident in what we have. We got some very good football players. With the addition of Darren it’s going to be a nice group. I can’t say who is going to be the lead dog right now, but those guys are going to compete and we’re going to do what’s necessary to win games. I think we have three capable guys who can go out and do what we need to do. I’m not concerned about it at all.”
Gary Brown, Cowboys RB coach
“I just think that we have a complementary backfield. They’re going to spread out the carries. Some games are going to be different than others. Maybe one guy is going to have more in one game than the other or maybe sometimes two guys are going to split the carries, sometimes it’s going to be three. Again, it’s to be determined. It is a bit rare to have the one guy carry all the load. I tip my hat to DeMarco for being able to do it. But these other guys have different roles now that he’s gone. We’re going to have someone step up, and I know they’re excited about it.”
Scott Linehan, Cowboys offensive coordinator
Without selecting a RB in the draft or bringing in a big-name free agent, it’s clear that the Cowboys are comfortable with their RB stable and they believe the sum of their RBs’ skills can come close to matching Murray’s 2014 production. Lance Dunbar will receive a majority of the passing down snaps, leaving Randle to handle a two-down role, at best. For someone whose ADP is steadily climbing and now sits at RB21, there’s a lot of downside to this pick and I’ll gladly let another owner draft Joseph Randle.
SELL Josh Hill, TE, New Orleans Saints
June 1 ADP: 128 (11.08)
Current ADP: 112 (10.04)
After the shocking trade of TE Jimmy Graham to Seattle in March, the Saints were left with a massive void at the tight end position. After scoring five touchdowns in limited playing time last year, Josh Hill has now been anointed by fantasy drafters as the 2015 leader of Saints’ TE fantasy production.
Hill garnered tremendous buzz during OTAs, causing the spike in his ADP. Head coach Sean Payton revealed that Josh Hill will play the Jimmy Graham role in this offense. TE Ben Watson will continue his role as the “Y” in-line tight end, while Hill will become the primary “F” move tight end.
Payton has also not stopped gushing about Hill’s measurables this off-season:
“This Josh Hill is another player that I love. I love. When you look at his runs, jumps, height, weight, speed, you look at his measurables -- and he didn’t go to the combine, thank God. We were doing this study last year with the draft class, and they were talking about some of the top picks at tight end. So the scouts had the board, and this is human nature, but the scout would see [Hill as a] free-agent tight end, and kinda say, 'Well, he'll come in Year 1 and probably beat out Josh Hill.' And I'm like, 'He will?' I said, 'Well, let’s throw the numbers up on the board with their measurables.' And all of a sudden, Josh Hill, you look at a 38-inch vertical jump, he's an 11 broad (jump), three-cone, whatever. And the comparables to the top tight ends in the draft a year ago, I said, 'In every category this guy's better.'”
On June 19, Hill’s ADP peaked at 9.08 but has steadily been declining since. Saints reporter Mike Triplett has suggested that Ben Watson could actually lead the TEs in fantasy production this season, as he was the most involved TE during OTAs. Payton has also recently scaled back his enthusiasm for Hill, suggesting that Hill is important on special teams, will only be involved in sub packages, and can’t guarantee that his playing time will increase by more than 25 percent.
A 25 percent increase would leave Josh Hill at just 360 snaps this season, and that’s not enough to make him a consistent fantasy option worth drafting in the ninth round.
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