ADP: If you don’t know it this time of year, you really don’t know anything. Our own Adam Levitan lays it out in his Undervalued and Overvalued articles. The short of it? If you walk into a store ready to buy something, you better know the price. If you don’t, you’re either going to pay double, or come away empty handed.
Drafting isn’t a perfect science. There are times to reach, and times to pray someone falls. But making a living by deviating from ADP is an easy way not to make a living at all. Going by current ADP, here are 12 players from the first 12 rounds going either too high or too low. For the sake of this article, assume one round equals 12 picks. ADP is via the Rotoworld Draft Guide. The first number is true draft order. As in, Peyton Manning is currently the 11th player off the board. The second number is actual average draft position.
Current ADP: 11 (10.27)
Waiting on signal callers has become one of fantasy’s great clichés, but there’s a reason everyone does it. In an era of unprecedented quarterback depth, it’s almost always the right call to let the Mannings and Newtons of the world slide as you stock up on high-end talent at thinner positions. Which positions are thinner right now? Every position. Which brings us to Manning. If you’re dead set on spending your first-rounder on a player coming off the greatest statistical season in NFL history, it’s kind of hard to blame you. Quarterback may be deeper than ever, but there’s still a clear line of delineation between Manning and everyone else. But if you’re buying Manning at 10.27, you’re buying him at 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. You’re gambling he’s a sequel ready to win Best Picture, something that’s only happened three times in history. For Manning to repeat his historic age-37 campaign in his age-38 campaign, it would take a level of football that hasn’t been invented yet. None of this is to suggest that Manning won’t be great. He will be. But it should be on a plane much closer to his career norm. That’s still a Hall-of-Fame level, but one rarely worth taking over an RB1 or Jimmy Graham.
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Current ADP: 16 (18.18)
Lynch’s workload has been one of the summer’s main scuttlebutts. It appears he’s going to lose some carries. But enough to knock him down to 18.18? That’s a lot of pessimism for a player who has finished Nos. 5, 4 and 4 in running back fantasy points over the past three seasons. It’s true that Lynch has taken a beating, and that Christine Michael is one of the league’s most-talented backups. But should a player who’s managed at least 1,200 yards rushing and 13 total touchdowns in each of the past three seasons really fall past Le’Veon Bell and Brandon Marshall? There’s no such thing as a sure thing in fantasy, but Lynch has been as close as it gets the past three years. Let him slide by you at No. 16 and 17 at your own peril.
Current ADP: 31 (31.76)
Bush’s 2013 numbers suggest he’s worthy of a third-round pick. Everything else does not. Bush’s chief concern is the rise of Joique Bell, a player who received more guaranteed money this spring ($4.3 million) than Bush did in 2013 ($4 million). New OC Joe Lombardi has said he envisions a “split” backfield between his two versatile runners. That would be a running-back corps where Bell continues to get the first shot at goal-line work, and matches Bush in receiving targets. That doesn’t even take into account the rise of Theo Riddick, a player some believe could be ticketed for a Darren Sproles-like role in Lombardi’s Saints-like offense. Now 29, Bush had serious ball-security issues last season, even earning a December benching. He missed two games with injury, and sat out parts of others. Of Bush’s 1,512 yards from scrimmage, only 505 came on the road. Bush should remain a useful fantasy asset, an RB2/3, but it’s very hard to see him producing like the No. 31 overall player.
Current ADP: 45 (49.11)
The man formerly known as CJ2K is a 29-year-old (in September) committee back coming off a season where he averaged 3.86 yards per carry. In other words, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the fourth round. The Jets have made it known that Johnson will be splitting touches with Chris Ivory, and perhaps even Bilal Powell. That’s bad news for a player whose biggest fantasy draw over the past three seasons has been his volume. Johnson simply has no business going ahead of the likes of Ryan Mathews and Toby Gerhart, names falling to 50.51 and 56.62, respectively. A fourth-round investment in CJ2K is an investment in name over game, pure and simple.
Current ADP: 55 (56.62)
Ticketed for a work-horse, three-down role, Gerhart is being painfully under-drafted. Whatever you think about Gerhart’s skill level, the all-purpose back has become an endangered species in the NFL. It would be a real shame to let one languish until No. 55 while players like DeSean Jackson and Rashad Jennings come off the board ahead of him. You don’t have to believe Gerhart is a superstar, but you do have to believe that role often trumps skill in this silly game of ours. Gerhart may not have the latter in spades, but he has the former on lockdown.
Current ADP: 66 (66.56)
We get it. Sanders will be catching passes from Peyton Manning. But this isn’t Sanders’ first golden opportunity. He had plenty of them in Pittsburgh, playing pitch and catch with a pretty good quarterback in his own right, Ben Roethlisberger. Sanders could never turn his good fortune into more than 67 receptions or 740 yards, even in the absence of Mike Wallace. Now he’ll be fighting for targets with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, and have Cody Latimer nipping at his heels in three-receiver sets. Sanders is a good bet to have a career year, but a rather poor one to live up to his sixth-round pedigree.
Current ADP: 74 (77.73)
This is Lynch’s situation on steroids. Now 31, Gore is slowing down. There’s no two ways about it. He’s also still the lead back for one of the league’s run-heaviest teams, and hasn’t missed a game since 2010. We know Gore is going to lose work. His slow finish last season (3.65 YPC over his final 10 games) and the 49ers’ second-round selection of Carlos Hyde make that a given. But barring injury, Gore should easily lead his team in carries, and is a strong bet for 6-8 touchdowns. That kind of floor is foolish to pass up at this stage of the draft.
Current ADP: 96 (98.00)
There are no guarantees with Shorts, a player who has missed time with head, calf, shoulder and groin injuries over the past two seasons. A concussion ended his 2012 campaign, while his 2013 was cut short by sports-hernia surgery. Shorts is a brittle guy. He’s also still only 27, and just two years removed from a 55/979/7 breakout where he averaged 17.8 yards per catch. Yes, second-rounders Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are going to siphon targets. But their presence is arguably a positive after the absence of Justin Blackmon allowed opposing defenses to key in on Shorts as Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver last season. That’s a role Shorts is unsuited for, but he can be an electrifying YAC dynamo when given space. He should have much more of it in 2014 with Robinson and Lee drawing defenders of their own.
Current ADP: 105 (110.22)
It’s too early to write Austin’s NFL obituary, but this is an absurd reach. Austin’s rookie tape was that of a player who had to be given space instead of creating it. That’s a major problem, as Austin’s college reputation — and subsequent selection at No. 8 overall — was built on the fact that he could explode for big plays out of small areas. It’s true that he had a lot working against him as a rookie, particularly OC Brian Schottenheimer’s uncreative play-calling and Sam Bradford’s injury. But there’s been nothing to suggest he’ll flip the switch as a sophomore. There are many more reasons to believe Austin is ready to settle in as a gadget player instead of a fantasy WR3/4. From DeAndre Hopkins to Marvin Jones to even James Jones, there is no shortage of safer and more appealing wideout options falling farther down the ranks than Austin.
Current ADP: 116 (118.47)
There are a host of bargains in the 108-120 range, but Miller takes the cake. An extremely-talented player poised to get a second chance in an offense that’s expected to recommit to the run under new OC Bill Lazor, Miller spent the entire offseason ahead of Knowshon Moreno on the depth chart. Now Moreno is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, leaving the door open for Miller to run away with No. 1 duties in camp. Miller’s 2013 was a major disappointment, but film review revealed a player let down more by his coaching and offensive line than own running ability. A young back with three-down upside, Miller is perhaps this summer’s most under-drafted player.
Current ADP: 129 (132.67)
You could argue Green is being over-drafted after catching just 17 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns last season, but that would be to ignore both his ability and opportunity. Antonio Gates has been one of the standard bearers at tight end for over a decade, but is in the twilight of his career. Green is in the dawn of his, and in position to emerge as the Bolts’ No. 2 pass catcher behind Keenan Allen. Standing in at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds with 4.45 wheels, Green has LeBron James-like athleticism, and it shows up on film when he’s utilized as a pass catcher instead of a blocker. Particularly with tight end riddled with question marks beyond Jimmy Graham, Green is the kind of player you should pounce on if he somehow falls into your lap at No. 129.
Current ADP: 141 (148.00)
Miller has given more to fantasy than his limited physical skill-set would have suggested, but his time has come and gone. Now 32 (in October) and coming off his worst statistical season since 2008, there is no reason for Miller to be going ahead of players like Dwayne Allen or Tyler Eifert. It’s true that Miller is now a full year and a half removed from blowing out his knee, while the departures of Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders will free up targets, particularly in the red zone. But why bet on a 30-something tight end rediscovering his low-end TE1 form when there’s still so much upside to be found in Round 12? Miller is a reach, and an uninspiring one at that.