By: Zach Haugen (Twitter: @zhaugenfootball)
Find Value in Summer ADP Shifts: Running Backs
Every summer, once the dust settles on the NFL draft, I start doing best ball drafts to prepare for the upcoming season. Despite no actual games happening, I see draft boards changing drastically from the June to August after optimistic camp reports, injuries, and signings. Sometimes the move in ADP seems obvious and justified, other times I disagree with them completely. Those unjustified shifts in ADP are where you can find value. Often bigger shifts occur following preseason action, when guys make flashy plays or see large portions of first team reps. I will likely do another article similar to this profiling those ADP changes occurring over the month of August, but for now I want to check out the changes that have happened from June to August, and I will start with the running back position.
Using the MFL ADP tool from @fantasyADHD which can be seen at fantasyADHD.com/mfl10_live, I pulled up running back ADP from June 10th to June 30th, and compared it to the ADP data we have so far from the month of August. Although most players stayed relatively steady, the first thing I noticed was that running backs as a whole seemed to be drafted a couple spots ahead of where they were in June. People see the running back scarcity this year, and they are reacting to the supply and demand, which is creating the worst running back value we have seen in years in fantasy football.
The ADP Shift
This leads me to the first group of running backs for which I noticed a big change in ADP. Early in the summer there was no clarity to who would step into strong Rb2 roles after the first 15 or so backs were off the board. This led to a big gap in running backs in or around the 4th and 5th round. In my June data only 2 running backs had ADP’s between 36 and 48, in August there are 5, thanks to a few newcomers. Ty Montgomery has been showered with praises on fantasy twitter over the last few weeks, and it has caused his June ADP of 50 to jump to 38, where he is starting to sneak into the back of the 3rd round. Dalvin Cook is looking more and more likely for a lead role in Minnesota, which has pushed his ADP from 54 to 41. The Gilislee hype train in New England has seen an ADP jump from 70 to 57, and is likely still rising as he goes in the 4th round of most home league type drafts.
I am never a fan of players rising just to fill a positional void in drafts, and that’s what I see here. I like Montgomery but a guy who may not see 10 carries every game doesn’t have any business being in the 3rd round. Gilislee is a strictly 2-down back on a team where one mistake can result in you never being heard from again (see Jonas Gray). Cook is a risky pick in that offense with a bad offensive line but his upside makes him the only guy of these three I will likely touch at his ADP.
The Ravens Backfield
The next situation that led to big jumps in ADP, came courtesy of Kenneth Dixon and Baltimore. After news broke that Dixon would miss the entire season with a torn meniscus, Woodhead and West both saw increases to their ADP. Dixon jumped from an ADP of 76 to 62, while West saw his ADP jump from basically free (136) to the beginning of the 9th (99). I think both are still good values on a team desperate for offensive weapons. In PPR leagues Woodhead could easily return Rb2 value and see around 70 catches. The early 6th round seems about right for him. Meanwhile West is just now passing where I thought he should be when Dixon was healthy, and is still being drafted outside of the top 36 running backs. Continue to draft him in the 8th round and enjoy weekly Rb2 potential.
Rookies tend to be overhyped immediately following the draft, and as we get closer to the season, people are finally starting to get scared, and hedge a bit on the rookies. This is seen in the ADP’s of both the rookies themselves, and the veterans behind them. Samaje Perine, has seen his ADP drop from 88 to 100, while Rob Kelley’ ADP has risen the same amount of spots from 130 to 118. I expect this trend to continue, but ultimately neither of them interests me in what should be a messy situation in that backfield. Alvin Kamara has fallen from 128 to 146, and while I still love the player, this was bound to happen when you are stuck behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson.
Higher drafted rookies like Mixon and McCaffrey have only seen slight movements in ADP, but the veterans behind them have risen to hedge the risk. Stewart has seen his ADP jump from 143 to 121. Bernard has jumped from 161 to 143, and Hill from 176 to 163. While these veterans probably were too low, I am still not buying into them. Their upside seems almost non-existent behind talented rookies, and upside is what I aim for in the later rounds of drafts.
The Value of Handcuffs
One of the toughest draft values to evaluate is the handcuff for a starter you know is going to miss time to start the year. It’s not fun drafting a guy with a built in expiration date, but the truth is that they have value, and people are starting to catch on. Jacquizz Rodgers was barely being drafted in the top 200 players in June (193). I hope you grabbed him at that screaming bargain, because he has jumped to an ADP of 133 in August, and that’s an area I am still willing to take him with the assumption that he will be a weekly starter for the first few weeks while Doug Martin is out, and a valuable handcuff afterward.
In June, before suspension rumors began to swirl regarding Ezekiel Elliot, McFadden was quite literally going undrafted with an ADP of 226. In August, that has already jumped to an ADP of 173. With the news coming out about Elliot missing 6 games, that number is about to be almost cut in half. While he probably won’t be a true workhorse, he is still in a great situation behind a great offensive line.
There is one running back that has seen a big jump in ADP who doesn’t fit neatly in a category, but can be classified as the 2017 camp hype guy. All the coaches and players are talking him up, saying he can be and will be used in so many ways, and his ADP rise is reflecting that praise. That player this year is Duke Johnson. Generally, this ADP jump is the one I try to completely avoid, because camp hype means literally nothing. But the thing is, I already had Duke Johnson around this value before this entire thing started happening. He is a PPR asset as a guy who could catch 60 balls, and see 100 carries behind a good offensive line. That being said, if his ADP continues to rise, I am out.
There will be a lot of players whose ADP will fall or rise drastically in the next few weeks. Just remember this…No player is a different talent 3 weeks from now despite, how many flashy plays he makes against 2nd stringers or how many compliments he receives from his coaches. The only thing that should change your view on a player is a clear jump in opportunity from injuries ahead of them, or a different portion of first team reps than you previously expected.