It had been half a decade since the last time a running back failed to come off the board in Round 1 of the NFL Draft (2014, Bishop Sankey), but all signs pointed to the counter resetting in April. The odds suggested as much, squeezing bettors to lay -167 up-to-the-minute on ‘D’Andre Swift Over 26.5’ as the only legitimate threat to everyone’s favorite ‘Under 0.5 Running Backs Drafted in the First Round’ prop (+215) to close the first night.
You know the rest. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, fresh off a collegiate-high 55 catches under OC Joe Brady during the Tigers’ National Championship run, had his name called out of nowhere with the No. 32 overall pick, suddenly ensuring a smooth transition (and countless ripped up tickets) alongside Patrick Mahomes and offensive guru Andy Reid for the foreseeable future. (Swift meanwhile landed with the Lions on day two.)
And within 48 hours, the Fresh Prince of Helaire skyrocketed from an intriguing 6th/7th-round selection to a perceived second-round homerun.
“His FFPC Average Draft Position is out of control,” Darren Armani, better known as Fantasy Mojo on Twitter, said.
The Fantasy Football Players Championship (commonly referred to as the FFPC) is relevant of course because it hosts a number of mid- to high-stakes Best-Ball, Dynasty, SuperFlex, and Re-draft leagues year-round including the $350 Footballguys Players Championship and Mecca $1,800 FFPC Main Event featuring a $500,000 grand prize to first. Armani would know, as he’s universally considered the gatekeeper of the FFPC’s coveted ADP data.
“The presence of Damien Williams in the backfield and the expectation that [Edwards-Helaire’s] assumed capture of the majority of touches will be gradual...he’s an early-to-mid second-round pick, with a few drafts where he’s gone in Round 1,” Armani noted. He’s journaled as much on social media, chronicling CEH’s rise from the 4th/5th-round turn immediately following night one of April’s draft all the way to the rookie’s stint as a first-round pick in some circles.
“My concern isn’t CEH … it’s Damien Williams that scares me,” Broto Fantasy’s Jake Venuti said. “Do I think CEH will be a stud? Yes. Is he getting over drafted? Yes. Whether people want to admit it or not, Williams is still going to touch the ball.” Chiefs GM Brett Veach obviously feels the same, suggesting the team’s backfield will be a “shared load” with “Williams [coming in] as the starting running back” out the gates.
With that being said, it should come as no surprise that my polling of 12 high-stakes fantasy players over the past week resulted in Edwards-Helaire’s name atop three separate lists as the No. 1 overall fade of the 2020 season.
Each participant was asked to rank their Top 10 Fades/Overrated Players on a 1-10 basis, with a first-place vote worth 10 points, a second worth 9, and so on.
CEH (36 points) won by a nose over Browns TE Austin Hooper (34) and Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette (33) as the only three to total 30 points among 52 nominations. Edwards-Helaire himself is in special standing as the next closest rookie, D’Andre Swift, finished with nine total points, 27 fewer than his day-one classmate. Hooper actually led the way with an appearance on eight individual ballots, but it was Clyde who inevitably took the cake with three first-place votes.
“If you knew you were getting Kareem Hunt's rookie season, the price is right,” Andrew Schellenberg emphasized. “At the 2.01 though, you are drafting near the top of [Edwards-Helaire’s] ceiling, and he'd have to have the Hunt season (325/1,782/11) to return value.”
1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
Unsurprisingly, the phrase “out of control” was often used to describe CEH’s mid-second ADP — the primary reason behind his unanimous fade. “I don’t see the upside,” Kyle Leith, one of the trio that definitively labeled Edwards-Helaire their top fade, succinctly affirmed. “Last season Williams had the backfield mostly to himself before the McCoy signing, and he was going at about a late 2nd/early 3rd-round pick. Now CEH enters the same offense, in what will much more likely be a timeshare with Williams, and is getting picked inside the Top 15?” Fake Pigskin’s Shane Hallam reiterated that point with a “hard pass,” noting “rookies will be behind with little to no offseason” to speak of, too. Reid infamously called Edwards-Helaire a “better” Brian Westbrook during the pre-draft process, but that doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest to those polled. “Reid loves his veterans, and there are too many possible outcomes where CEH gets 13-15 touches at a draft position where I’d want 18-plus,” Leith explained.
2. Austin Hooper, Browns
Hooper didn’t check in atop any lists, finishing with multiple second-place votes in particular, but his poll-leading eight mentions speak volumes on his perceived outlook in coach Kevin Stefanski’s stacked Browns’ attack. “He’s being drafted as if he’s still in Atlanta,” Run to Daylight’s Tod Burros said. Bryan Holzgen outlined a different strategy, firmly “fading tight ends in their first year with a new team” altogether. “I’m ok taking Mike Gesicki over him or waiting and grabbing Jared Cook, T.J. Hockenson, Dallas Goedert, and/or Jack Doyle after.” Venuti also made it clear that he’s “concerned about Hooper’s volume in this offense,” citing Baker Mayfield’s 66 total targets to Cleveland’s tight ends all of last year. “Just to put that into perspective, Travis Kelce alone saw 136 targets in 2019. Last year’s TE14 was Kyle Rudolph and he saw 49 targets for 39/367/6. In reality, I expect Hooper’s numbers to look somewhat similar to that.”
3. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
Ask any high-stakes player this time of year and they’d tell you it’s the annual ‘Genesis’ draft, complete with roster management and TE premium scoring (1.5 PPR), that sets the bar for the ADP fantasy players hinge their debates on during the summer months. “Looking at the Genesis draft board, Leonard Fournette went at 2.09, and that is not a price I can get behind,” Noah Ruddell said. “Gone are the days of forcing passing game volume to him to justify [the team] drafting him over CMC. The GM that made that mistake is gone, and the new staff is already telling you they don't want to do that anymore. Chris Thompson has been signed, they've drafted Laviska Shenault...those receptions will be going elsewhere in the future.” Hallam, who also ranked the 25-year-old as his No. 1 overall fade this year, had a similar opinion, stating “there is no upside to taking Fournette in the first four rounds of any Best-Ball draft.”
4. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Prime for regression following a league-high (and unsustainable) 9.0 percent touchdown rate in his runaway MVP campaign, it was still shocking to see Jackson listed on five separate polls, including one first-place vote. “This is a commentary on the QB position in general in May,“ Schellenberg, who scored Jackson with 10 points, prefaced. “You will notice sharper drafts won't even begin drafting QB until the teens.” Rudell had the same outlook, citing the outlandish difference between his own projections and Jackson’s final numbers last year. “In my 2019 model, I projected Jackson for 3,641 passing yards, 24.6 TDs, 781 rushing yards, and 4.7 rushing scores. The biggest difference between my numbers and his results were the 36 passing TDs (!!!) on only 401 attempts. I projected a TD on 5% of attempts, and he managed to score a TD on 9% of his throws, which will NOT happen again. If people are taking him in the 2nd round, I will stay away.” Leith joined him in that regard, confirming he would “take [Jackson] in late 3rd or early 4th, but the better play is to snag Josh Allen in the 15th round or later.”
5. Mike Evans, Buccaneers
“1000 yards in every season as a pro, that’s tough to bet against, but the fact of the matter is you’re paying a premium for both Buccaneers WRs when in all likelihood only one will pay off at their ADP,” Mark Garcia said. It’s no secret that Chris Godwin (WR2) and Evans (WR8) were afforded top-eight finishes behind Jameis Winston’s aerial propensity last year, but common ground among voters was that Tampa Bay’s revamped offense wouldn’t allow for all to succeed with Tom Brady under center. “Evans, as talented as he is, now has Rob Gronkowski/O.J. Howard/Godwin and perhaps even Tyler Johnson to deal with,” Burros emphasized. “[Evans] lived off of three huge games last year, and it’s hard to see him repeating those numbers.” Consider that elephant in the room the overarching theme as the Buccaneers actually had six different players mentioned throughout polls.
6. Aaron Jones, Packers
“Unless something drastic happens with his ADP, I could honestly see not having a single share of Jones this year,” Holzgen confirmed, “especially with Jamaal Williams still there and Green Bay investing a second-round pick in A.J. Dillon.” Jones infamously scored the second-most touchdowns (19) in the Packers’ franchise history behind a career-high 285 touches (with Williams constantly banged up) last year, but his overall touch count and scores undoubtedly project to subside with No. 62 overall pick Dillon now in the mix. “[Jones’] ADP has come down some after Dillon was added, but he was historically efficient in rushing TDs last season — one of the least sticky stats year-to-year,” Burros added. Jones only made the cut on three polls, but those choosing to fade him clearly feel strongly about that approach.
7. Darren Waller, Raiders
Waller didn’t receive nearly the amount of vitriol that Hooper did, being listed on just four polls among voters, but the 27-year-old’s second year under coach Jon Gruden is being chalked up as one to avoid for a variety of reasons. “I love [Waller] as a player, I really do,” Venuti gushed, “but for this year I think he will be better in real life and not in fantasy football, especially at his TE5 ADP. The Raiders not only added Nelson Agholor and Jason Witten via free agency but also spent a first-round pick on Henry Ruggs and a fourth-rounder on WR Bryan Edwards. I just don’t see enough volume for Waller to meet those TE5 expectations.” Garcia agreed, stating “Las Vegas’ pass-catching corps went from Tyrell Williams/Hunter Renfrow/Waller to Williams/Renfrow/Ruggs/Edwards/Witten/Waller” overnight. “To say I don’t expect a repeat of his 117 target performance is an understatement.”
8. Courtland Sutton, Broncos
“Love the player, hate the situation,” Ruddell so eloquently put it. No one can deny that Sutton was a true breakout player in his second year, finishing as the overall WR19 behind 72/1,112/6 and 2.08 yards per route run (12th-overall among 101 qualifiers) with the Broncos, but the 24-year-old’s pedestrian marks in Drew Lock’s five starts bring to light a number of concerns. “When Lock became the starting QB in week 13, Sutton’s average 13.4 fantasy points from weeks 1-12 suddenly turned into 9.6 during the final 4 games of the season,” Venuti said. (For what it’s worth, Sutton did spike an overall WR4 finish in Lock’s first career start against the Chargers in Week 13.) “I get that Lock was a rookie, don’t get me wrong, but with the additions of Jerry Jeudy along with WR K.J. Hamler and second-year rising star Noah Fant, is it a guarantee that Lock will favor Sutton over any of them? Give me Robert Woods, Calvin Ridley, or Adam Thielen all day in that WR17 ADP.” Note that Sutton also averaged 7.0 yards per target in Denver’s last five games of the season.
9. A.J. Brown, Titans
“In games Tannehill started in 2019, the Titans averaged just under 24 pass attempts per game,” Garcia, who listed Brown as his top fade, lamented. “The efficiency is there, but that kind of volume is going to be hard to provide more than 2-3 WR1 weeks [for Brown] in 2020. Currently going ahead of Adam Thielen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Calvin Ridley, and Robert Woods, I’ll just let others draft [Brown] based on draft capital.” Brown of course bucked his limited 6.1 targets per game from Ryan Tannehill in becoming one of only 18 receivers in the last decade to average over 2.0 yards per route run (2.67) in his rookie year. Reminder Tennessee’s ground-and-pound blueprint still ethered its own stud receiver for a total 5/64/0 across three postseason contests. “Too much risk for a sophomore wide receiver at his WR15 ADP,” Hallam added.
10A. Devin Singletary, Bills
“Singletary's main problem is that he's moved from having to fend off an ancient Frank Gore to the freshly drafted Zack Moss, who is basically a bigger Singletary with better receiving skills,” Dan Williamson said. “Oh, and Josh Allen continues to siphon off goal-line touches to boot.” Singletary was quietly passed the torch from Week 16 on, handling 35 of Buffalo's 43 backfield touches over his last two games, but that clearly doesn’t account for No. 86 overall pick Moss’ addition as the team’s preferred goal-line thumper. Note that Gore’s absence does vacate an additional 166 carries and team-high 11 rushes inside the five-yard line for further opportunity.
10B. DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals
“New WR on a new team is generally a no go for me,” Holzgen stated. “Beware the WR changing teams, especially this year with no minicamps and (possible) very limited training camps,” Williamson added. The only Cardinals player to sniff double-digit points (17), it was made clear that Hopkins’ place among this list wasn’t for his outlying talent, but his fit following a questionable offseason. “Nuk is still going to get targets, but more (and better) receiving options [around him] with the Cardinals are going to turn Hopkins into a back-end WR1. You would be much better off taking a RB at that point of the draft instead.” To put a bow on Williamson’s thoughts, Hopkins’ monopolized target share over the last three seasons (30.3% < 32.2 < 34.8%) does seem threatened in his move to Arizona.
San Francisco’s defense was the only unit at their position that received even a single vote ... and they were specifically mentioned twice.
Aaron Rodgers (10) and Jackson were the only quarterbacks to total double-digit points.
Out of 52 nominated players, only Michael Thomas (4) and Chubb are currently garnering first-round ADPs.