One of the trickiest things to navigate as you approach your draft is how much -- or how little -- to react to training camp scuttlebutt, preseason highlights, and the resulting swings in Average Draft Position (ADP). Sometimes when a player’s ADP peaks this time of year, it’s warranted. But oftentimes, preseason surges in ADP are the results of groupthink and confirmation bias within the fantasy football community, which create landmines Fantasy GMs must carefully avoid.
Below you’ll find a list of players whose ADP has increased dramatically in PPR leagues since August 1st per Fantasy Football Calculator. Should you buy the hype on these guys or zig while the fantasy football hive mind zags?
Where we started: Pick 161 (14.05). Barber was expected to be the clear second-stringer in Tampa Bay after Ronald Jones was picked in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Where are we now: Pick 97 (9.01). Jones has struggled in camp and preseason games to the point his position coach is openly pointing at him and laughing in the media.
Are we sure we have it right? Unequivocally, yes. In fact, Barber’s ADP hasn’t risen high enough. Barber has run with Tampa Bay’s starters on 25-of-34 preseason snaps, compared to just 3-of-34 for Jones. So far, Jones has rushed for 11 yards on 12 carries, while Barber has totaled 53 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against mostly first-string defenders.
Even if Jones improves enough as the regular season progresses to force a split of Tampa Bay’s rushing workload, Barber can still return RB3 value in a committee. Jones’ struggles with dropped passes and fumbles in camp make it likely Barber will remain the top option for goal-line work and pass-catching duties for the Buccaneers all season. Don’t be afraid to reach into Round 7 (Isaiah Crowell territory) to acquire his services.
Where we started: Pick 140 (12.09). Most considered Njoku a raw but intriguing physical talent on a bad team with a crowded group of pass-catchers.
Where are we now: Pick 104 (9.08). Njoku caught two touchdowns in the Browns preseason opener.
Are we sure we have it right? No. A three-round jump for Njoku after one splashy preseason game screams overreaction, especially when you consider his opponent. The Giants gave up more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than any team last season and the addition of linebacker Alec Ogletree may have actually made them worse in coverage. Njoku’s preseason usage suggests he will be an every-down player this year, which makes him a priority streaming option in premium matchups. But he shouldn’t be drafted a full round ahead of reliable starters like Jack Doyle while competing for targets with a pair of Alpha Dog wide receivers (Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon) and one of the NFL’s premier pass-catching backs (Duke Johnson Jr).
Where we started: Pick 104 (9.08). Carson -- a former seventh-round draft pick coming off a broken leg -- was written off after the Seahawks drafted Rashad Penny in Round 1 of the NFL Draft.
Where are we now: Pick 74 (7.02). Carson has run as the starter in OTAs, training camp practices, and preseason games (and looked great doing it). Penny is questionable for Week 1 with a broken finger and put on 16 pounds since the Scouting Combine.
Are we sure we have it right? No. By all accounts, Carson has been fantastic in training camp. He’s also passed the eye-test in preseason action, rushing for 60 yards on 13 attempts while starting both of Seattle's exhibition games. Still, there are more reasons to be leery of Carson than Barber once you get to Round 7.
- Never a workhorse - Carson exceeded 20 carries in a game once in two seasons at Oklahoma State and missed time both years with injuries. He lasted three starts and 43 carries for the Seahawks before breaking his leg in 2017.
- Small sample - Carson’s brief stint as an NFL starter is remembered fondly due more to the failures of his replacements (Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls) than anything he actually accomplished. From Weeks 2-4, he was the cumulative RB27 and never finished as a top-12 weekly option.
- Beware the committee - Unlike in Tampa, where Jones is actively playing himself out of a job, Seattle still has plans on using Penny once he’s cleared to return. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer expressed as much recently with his, “It takes more than one” comments. And according to team beat writers, part of Seattle’s playbook is specially devoted to C.J. Prosise.
Throw in Carson’s lack of elusiveness as a runner, a poor offensive line, and the possibility the Seahawks diminished defense will cause their offense to skew pass-heavy, and this reeks of a backfield to avoid.
Where we started: Pick 75 (7.03). Dion Lewis departed via free-agency but was replaced by Sony Michel. Bill Belichick investing a first-round pick in a running back had the collective fantasy football world’s head on a swivel.
Where we are now: Pick 61 (6.01). Michel has what sounds like a chronic knee injury and was given a murky timetable to return.
Are we sure we have it right? Yes, with an asterisk. Burkhead still offers plenty of profit potential as the RB27, provided the slight tear reported in his knee is truly minor. In his healthiest stretch of 2017 (Weeks 8-14), Burkhead scored between 15 and 25 fantasy points in six out of seven games while handling 75% of New England’s carries from inside the five-yard line. This was all while Dion Lewis was active. As the odds-on favorite to resume goal-line duties for the Patriots, Burkhead may possess the most lucrative role in fantasy football. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach, New England leads the league in touchdowns from inside the 5-yard line by 13% over the next closest team. Burkhead will also benefit from Julian Edelman’s suspension by absorbing vacated slot targets.
We never want the words "knee tear" attached to our running backs in fantasy football, but Burkhead’s upside is still worth the risk at his elevated price.
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