Early ADP Musings: Wide Receivers
July 17, 2016 | Ian Goldsmith
While most people—myself included—will not be drafting in their main leagues until late August or even Labor Day weekend, plenty of leagues have already been filled. Whether people are drafting for practice or playing for money, we are beginning to get a glimpse of where people are being drafted. You can always go into your draft blind if you are the masochistic type. I, on the other hand, save my masochism strictly for things outside of the fantasy football arena. Thus, I find it extremely important to follow the ADP trends to get an idea of where players I am targeting are being drafted by the hive mind.
What you don’t see, however, in ADP numbers are comparisons to where the players in question finished last season. Most of us are probably aware of the dramatic climbs in position for guys like Sammie Coates, who is jumping from being a small-time player into, perhaps, a starting role for one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, but how about guys like Willie Snead or Golden Tate, who have also seen changes to their rosters, but were already staples on most rosters?
I’ll be covering other positions as well, but will start with wide receivers today. A few notes: 1) When working on comparisons to last season, I obviously cannot include those that didn’t play. I’m not going to mention guys like Jordy Nelson or rookie Sterling Shepard, because there is no frame of reference (obviously Jordy has past relevant history, but I’m looking strictly at last year’s rankings for comparisons); 2) The rankings I worked on excluded guys who retired (e.g. Calvin), but not those who are in limbo (e.g. Boldin); 3) The comparisons are based on average scoring per game in 2015, not total points scored, which gives a more reflective ranking of where a player’s true fantasy ability lies; 4) The players included below are those that are included on both the standard and PPR ADP lists on Fantasy Pros. The top ten risers and fallers are included.
Opportunity and uncertainty are the two words that best described this group. Before getting to the bulk of the group, let’s take a very brief look at Dez, the obvious outlier amongst these 10 players. He is, rightfully so, being drafted as the WR1 that we all know he is. Injured early in 2015, he was forced to come back and play with a carousel of some of the worst backups in the league. The Cowboys were an absolute mess, but a healthy Romo and a promising ground game in Ezekiel Elliott should help him climb back to the top. Fantasy footballers are realizing that his poor showing was merely circumstance and are drafting him where he belongs.
Coates and Janis are, head and shoulders, above the rest of the crowd in the jump they have taken in draft position relative to their 2015 performance. Though, considering that they combined for 3 catches for 90 yards last season, this is not all that surprising. Both are young—Coates is in his second year, while Janis is in his third—and have been given a huge chance to be big parts of the offenses, albeit due to differing reasons. Coates’ fantasy stock has benefited from Martavis Bryant’s drug issues. He will instantly benefit from being involved in an offense that gained the third most yards and fourth most points in the NFL last season. However, we don’t know for certain where he will be on the depth chart. I would assume at this point that he is likely to pass Darrius Heyward-Bay (and so do early drafters), but that is not a given. At the same time, the Steelers are going to have Bell back and are welcoming an elite TE in Ladarius Green, not to mention AB and Wheaton. As exciting as this offense will be to watch, are there going to be enough touches to justify Coates’ current draft position? He is being drafted as a WR7 in standard leagues, which seems fair to me at this point, but he is being drafted as a WR5 in PPR leagues, which I think is much too high.
Janis’ ascension on the ADP charts is due to a number of factors. Unlike Coates, who has a team full of playmakers to contend with for touches, Janis is in a much better position to establish himself as a go to option. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will obviously get the first looks, but Lacy, while a decent pass catcher, is not going to take away receptions from Janis like Bell will from Coates, nor will Jared Cook likely be as prolific as Ladarius Green. Still, Janis needs to earn Aaron Rodgers’ trust, but that is easier said than done. He is currently being drafted as a WR6 in standard leagues and a WR7 in PPR. If he wins the WR3 spot for the Packers outright, then his current ADP numbers could be a bargain.
DeVante Parker and Dorial Green-Beckham are in similar positions. Both had solid, if not spectacular, rookie seasons in 2015, and both have been given the opportunity to start and be heavily involved in their offenses. What is especially exciting is the amount of production we saw from both at the end of last season. DGB had 60% of his total yardage and two of his four TDs in his last six games of 2015, while Parker had 90% of his receiving yardage and all of his TDs in that same period. Early drafters are recognizing Parker’s incredibly strong finish and are drafting him a full round earlier than DBG, which makes sense considering that DGB also has to contend with the Tennessee decision makers.
Wallace, Sanu, and Hogan are all entering new situations with the Ravens, Falcons, and Patriots, respectively. All three of these situations are better from a fantasy standpoint, which is one reason why all three have jumped so much higher than last season. Wallace had an uncharacteristically bad season last year, but there is no reason he cannot bounce back to being a 60-catch, 800-yard receiver. With Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman recovering from injury, there is a clear path for him to be, at worst, a WR3 option in Baltimore. Flacco’s deep-ball ability should benefit from Wallace’s speed.
Even though Mohamed Sanu is being drafted 30 to 40 spots higher relative to his per game performance last season, I actually think he is still being undervalued by early drafters. His ADP of 59 in standard and 52 in PPR makes him a solid WR5 currently. Unlike most of the guys I’ve mentioned above, Sanu is the clear-cut WR2 option in Atlanta. At long as he stays healthy, I see no reason why he finishes any worse than a WR4 this season. Hogan has a chance to become the new face of reliability in New England. With Edelman and Amendola’s health uncertain at this point, Hogan could realistically be the Pats’ #1 WR option in Week 1. Unfortunately, Goodell has singlehandedly decided that Brady is the devil incarnate. The four weeks that he is out will give both Edelman and Amendola plenty of time to heal, should they start the season on the sidelines. While it is possible that Hogan plays so well with Garoppolo that Brady will be forced to keep him heavily involved in the offense, it is by no means a given. Still, Amendola reliably breaks down at some point during every season, so Hogan’s WR5/6 ADP status may not be as much of a gamble as it seems on the surface.
Surpassed expectations largely define this group of veterans. Frankly, for the most part, this group of players deserves to be drafted where they are. In many instances, I think this group is even being drafted at too high a level. This is exemplified by one Ted Ginn Jr. While Ginn won a number of DFS players tournaments last season, he left season-long players pulling out their hair by getting them to the championship game, only to reward them with a 1-catch, 9-yard performance in Week 16. Ouch. In my opinion, a WR5 standard ADP is much too high for Ginn this season, especially with Kelvin Benjamin coming back to play a major role. While I like to root for people in general, there is no fathomable scenario to me that lets Ginn come anywhere close to replicating his numbers from 2015.
Rishard Matthews is intriguing to me at his current ADP. Early drafters seem to have soured on him for some reason, but I see no reason why he can’t at least match him numbers from last season. He finished last season averaging roughly 12 FP/game, good for a WR4 in terms of points per game. His TDs came disproportionately early last season, but he was actually relatively consistent in PPR leagues until he got injured and Parker took over for him. He enters the season with an upgrade at QB (sorry Tannehill lovers) and an arguably more stable coaching situation (I think everyone can admit how much of a hot mess Miami’s decision makers were last season). If he can stay healthy, I see no reason why he can’t become a 60/800 player or better and be, at least, a solid WR4.
James Jones is being drafted too high for a guy currently without a team. I don’t think he’s as ineffective as his lack of interest in the market dictates, but it’s pretty telling that there have been few bites from teams. He’s a durable body that a number of teams could use, but should he really be being drafted higher than Janie, Coates, and Rishard Matthews in standard leagues? No way. That could change given the right team environment, but I still don’t think he is worth his current ADP, especially not in standard leagues. His current PPR ADP of WR95 is fair given his current situation.
I’m a little surprised with Robert Woods’ current draft position. While Sammy Watkins is the clear #1 in Buffalo, Woods should easily establish himself as the #2. I don’t know if people are scared by Woods’ groin injury last year or are uninspired by TyGod (is that possible?), but he clearly does not elicit excitement. This is a guy that has had at least 40 catches and 550 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons. He has clearly established himself a floor, and should be given more credit than being drafted as a WR 8 and 7 in standard and PPR leagues, respectively.
The other guys in this list look to be roughly where they should be. If Steve Smith gets back to being healthy, I could easily see him being a WR4. He could even be a bargain at that point. While an Achilles tear is not east to recover from, if anyone can overcome it it would be Smith. He is as determined a player as anybody in the league. Stevie Johnson never really gets much love, but is a very reliable player. Nate Washington, Pierre Garcon, and Dwayne Harris are altogether an uninspiring bunch.
There is just one other player whom I want to point out for the discrepancy in their draft positions in standard and PPR leagues: Anquan Boldin. He is currently being drafted as the WR60 in standard leagues, but is being drafted as the WR82 in PPR leagues. This is pretty confounding. Toss aside the obvious question mark that is his lack of a team at the moment, Boldin is a guy that excels because of his great hands and catching the ball, not because he has to rely on touchdowns. He consistently finishes higher in PPR leagues than in standard leagues, but he is being drafted 22 spots lower in PPR leagues as of the 14th? Odd. He may not be worth drafting as a WR5 as his standard ADP indicates, but the gap between that and his PPR position defies reason.
What are your thoughts on where players are being drafted? Leave me a note below or connect with me @ianrgold on Twitter.