ADP Check: Five Fantasy Fades
We have officially crossed into Fantasyland‘s fluff-piece avalanche zone. While it is invigorating to have positivity rain down upon our degenerate heads – and hope summers eternal in the NFL – what goes up must push another player down the fantasy rankings. Or something like that.
As valuable as it is to uncover players who outperform their cost, it is equally useful to identify value traps before they can suck equity from your draft. Below are two high-profile running backs who will not find their way onto any of my redraft teams, at or near their current ADP*, followed by three players who are best left for someone else to draft.
LeSean McCoy (ADP: 16; No. 10 RB)
After enjoying lanes plowed by PFF’s top run blocking unit of 2014 (and 2013), McCoy will transition to last year’s 31st-ranked squad. While rushing volume will not be an issue in a Rex Ryan and Greg Roman-led offense, McCoy turned the fourth-most running back touches (343) into the 12th-most PPR points last year. McCoy earned a -1.4 rushing grade (36th-“best”). A 25-target drop from 2013 is often cited to explain his tumble from high-end fantasy RB1 status to borderline RB2, but ask Frank Gore how much Roman throws it to his backs.
Speaking of Gore, while playing under Roman, he faced fewer than five defensive backs (“base” fronts or heavier) on 95 percent of his attempts (most in NFL) during the 2013 season, and 83 percent (fourth-most) last season.That is what Roman’s formations will have McCoy dealing with – especially since Buffalo’s clown car of quarterbacks won’t give defensive coordinators much pause. McCoy averaged 3.2 yards per carry against base defenses last year as an Eagle (45th out of 52 backs). Now he’s a Buffalo Bill.
Arian Foster, C.J. Anderson, Jeremy Hill
Frank Gore (ADP: 30; No. 14 RB)
Gore’s ADP is approaching top-12 running back status. Unfortunately this equity-draining climb has left little in its wake but downside risk. Just once in the PFF era has a running back with more than 2,400 career touches attained RB1 status, and only five age-32-or-older running backs in NFL history have scored three or more total touchdowns, with per-game averages of 50-plus rushing yards and two-plus catches. And receptions are the foundation upon which his case is being built.
Escaping Greg Roman’s offense does not mean Gore again sees the 75 targets of his mid-20s. He pass blocked 145 times per year under Roman because he’s good at it, and surprisingly, he hasn’t graded positively in the passing game since 2009. The Colts have plenty of weapons and a poor offensive line protecting a valuable passer. Indy might be an improved “overall situation,” yet Gore’s efficiency flagged while playing behind a better line and with a mobile quarterback. He doesn’t need to be a purple unicorn to outperform ADP but does have to be a significant outlier. There’s a time and place to take shots. The early/middle third round (and rising) isn’t Gore’s place.
Justin Forsett, Mark Ingram, Lamar Miller
“Every player is valuable at some price point” is a mantra that is repeated ad nauseum. While it’s true in most cases, it loses luster as we descend the rankings list. Depending on league structure – and roster size, especially – there are players who are useless, at best. On occasion their presence can actually reduce your odds of winning a championship. If you can’t realistically see yourself starting a player at any point, they are just wasting a roster spot.
Here are a few players who, when they get drafted by someone else, you should give a quiet fist pump since more useful players got pushed down the board.
David Cobb (ADP: 116; No. 48 RB)
One of the byproducts of the outsized hate that Bishop Sankey generated in Fantasyland is Cobb has already been anointed in the minds of many. Let’s forget for a second that Sankey wasn’t the second coming of J.J. Arrington and actually earned the 10th-highest yards-after-contact-per-attempt rate of any runner with at least 150 carries. Is Cobb – a fifth round pick – definitely better than Antonio Andrews?
Does Cobb or Sankey (or Dexter McCluster) best fit a shotgun-heavy offense designed around Marcus Mariota’s skill set? Cobb allowed the most quarterback pressures in the FBS when asked to pass block. Maybe he is a better power back than Andrews, can make fantasy-worthy hay behind a flawed offensive line, Ken Whisenhunt winds up sticking with him, and the Titans hang in games long enough for it to even matter. It will be a while before we find all of that out for sure.
Eli Manning, Jason Witten, Roy Helu (two rounds later)
Victor Cruz (ADP: 117; No. 51 WR)
Everyone would like to see Cruz recover completely from his torn patellar tendon. Realistically, however, it won’t happen this season. He almost certainly won’t be back to full strength by Week 1, and starting the season on the PUP list is a strong possibility. Carrying Cruz on your bench during that time is impractical. Simply hoping he becomes usable in fantasy at some point this year is foolish.
Cruz was the 32nd-highest scoring PPR wideout through five full games. In more than a game and a half while playing with Odell Beckham Jr., Cruz had five catches on eight targets for 38 yards. Rueben Randle emerged late last year, and has had a strong offseason. Shane Vereen will eat up short targets. Even if Cruz defies long odds to play a full 2015 season, what does that get fantasy owners? Whatever it is, it won’t be worth the draft pick and clogged roster.
Pierre Garcon, Marques Colston, Brian Quick
Percy Harvin (ADP: 135; No. 55 WR)
If it seems like I’m picking on the Bills, it’s probably because I am. At least this isn’t another shot at Sammy Watkins’ fantasy value. However, unlike Watkins, it’s fairly doubtful that Harvin even sniffs 100 targets. Considering who will be throwing those passes, hoping he exceeds a career catch rate of 68 percent is a stretch. Sure, we can expect him to get the occasional handoff, but good luck projecting those.
Harvin hasn’t scored more than four times since 2011, and it’s tough to see that changing in this crowded, low-volume, run-based offense. There are probably less painful things to do on a Sunday than root for Ryan and Roman to creatively scheme Harvin to fantasy relevancy during defensive slugfests, but none come to mind. Save yourself the hurt, a draft pick, and that roster spot. Let Harvin be someone else’s headache.
Rueben Randle, Dwayne Bowe, Seahawks Defense (at least you’ll use them)
*- ADP data courtesy of the RotoViz Best Ball App, filtered by the last two weeks of MFL10 drafts (PPR). It will differ slightly from seasonal league ADPs, but the “skin in the game” aspect ($10 to win $100) makes it more authentic than early-preseason mock draft data. The points raised (other than MFL10-relevant “Draft Instead”s) would remain unchanged by minor ADP discrepancies.
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman