Fantasy football season is finally here! The casual fantasy football fans are coming out of hibernation while the degenerates like myself have been emersed in football since the day after the Superbowl. My league mates are finally responding to the trade offers I sent in March. Life is good.
As we prep for fantasy football drafts, it’s important to look not only at player value but also trends over time. Average draft position (ADP) is a number that describes the average position in which a fantasy player is drafted. For example, an ADP of 4.08 means that the player is drafted with the eighth pick of the fourth round on average. ADP data assumes 12-team leagues.
Oftentimes, ADP swings indicate changes to the player, team, or situation. However, sometimes a player’s ADP changes without any notable news about the player. Both scenarios are important to understand if you want to be knowledgeable on draft day.
I looked through some of the ADP risers over the past couple months and picked 1 QB, 1 RB, and 1 WR to analyze. Let’s dive in!
Kyler Murray was taken with the first overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL draft. He joined forces with an offensive-minded head coach, a stud running back, and a handful of talented wide receivers – one of which being a veteran (future) Hall-of-Famer in Larry Fitzgerald. Kyler Murray will be given the keys to the offense. Murray threw for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in the 2018 college regular season and was awarded the Heisman Trophy. He’s an excellent runner and an accurate passer. He was being drafted at 12.11 in May but has risen to pick 8.01 as of this writing.
Many fantasy experts are all-in on Kyler Murray. He truly has the opportunity to shine in fantasy football, especially if he’s able to establish a safe baseline through rushing. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury wants to run 90 to 95 plays per game (nearly impossible), which would boost Murray’s fantasy value.
If Murray can capitalize on his opportunity, he could easily outperform expectations. But what if he can’t?
He is a rookie playing in the quarterback position, which has a steep learning curve. He has a brand new head coach who has never coached in the NFL before. He is undersized at 5’-10”. His three best receivers outside of Larry Fitzgerald have a COMBINED one year of experience in the NFL. The Cardinals were the worst offense in the NFL in 2018 (no team in the NFL has thrown for fewer passing yards since 2011). The Cardinals have one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
Kyler Murray has a very wide range of potential outcomes in 2019. He has the potential to be a top fantasy QB, but he’s too risky for my taste. While I couldn’t be more excited to see him on the field in 2019, he won’t be on any of my fantasy leagues this year at his 8.01 ADP. Since the talent at quarterback is so deep, I’d rather wait and draft someone like Josh Allen (current ADP 12.12). Instead, I’ll use my 8th round pick on someone like Royce Freeman or Marvin Jones.
Will I draft him at his current ADP (8.01)? No.
Rashaad Penny has been rising up draft boards, jumping from an ADP of 7.09 in May to his current 6.09 spot as of this writing. Last year he rushed for 419 yards (4.9 ypc) and caught nine receptions for 75 yards. When he played, he was great. In fact, he was ranked in the top ten for breakaway (>15 yds) run rate at 8.2% among all running backs. He’s explosive and would be a great fantasy option if he was the clear starter in Seattle, but he’s not. In order to understand Penny’s value, we need to dig deeper.
Penny was selected by the Seahawks in the first round of the 2018 draft. Most teams do everything they can to utilize players drafted in the first round. However, the Seahawks do not follow this line of thinking. The perfect example is when Russell Wilson won the starting QB job as a rookie, beating Matt Flynn who had recently been signed to a four-year contract to be the starter. The Seahawks ignore player cost and put the best players on the field. This is an important distinction because Penny has to compete with Chris Carson, who’s a stud.
Chris Carson ranked 5th in total rushing yards among all NFL players in 2018. He was an efficient runner, averaging 4.7 yards per carry last season. Last season, Carson posted 90+ yards and a touchdown in every game from week 13 on. As fellow TFFB writer Rob Wilson pointed out in his article, Carson ranked inside the top ten in evaded tackles, breakaway runs, and yards created. Carson is a freak runner who deserves more recognition for his talent.
Penny has an opportunity to break out if he can win the starting job or if Carson gets injured…but Carson has already proven himself as a top talent. I think Penny is going to get more work in 2019 but I expect it to be sporadic. He’ll probably have a handful of big games. However, I think it’s going to be difficult to predict which weeks he’ll get a big workload. No one likes playing the game of “should I start player A or player B?”. For that reason, I won’t spend a 6th round pick on Penny. I’d rather have players like Dante Pettis (ADP 6.10) or Lamar Miller (ADP 6.03) that will have more guaranteed production.
Will I draft him at his current ADP (6.09)? No.
Tyler Boyd is another player who has been moving up draft boards. His ADP is interesting because it’s tied to AJ Green, who is expected to miss the first few games of the season due to injury. His ADP jumped from 6.07 to 6.01 just in the past two weeks! I expect him to be an early to mid fifth-round pick by the end of the summer.
Boyd broke out with a 1,028-yard season last year and just signed a four-year $43 million dollar contract with the Bengals. It’s worth noting that the Bengals have not yet extended AJ Green, who will be a free agent in 2020. The Bengals are all-in on Boyd, and you should be too. According to Player Profiler, Boyd is ranked in the top ten WR for QB rating when targeted. In other words, he makes Andy Dalton look like an elite quarterback. Note: he is not. Boyd also ranked sixteenth in yards after the catch.
Tyler Boyd now has a brand new head coach in Zac Taylor. Taylor was the receivers and quarterback coach for the Rams for the past two seasons. If the Rams QB and WR success had anything to do with Taylor, he will be a huge upgrade for Tyler Boyd.
Boyd is a talented, young (24) receiver who has every opportunity to take another step forward regardless of AJ Green’s status. Although he actually scored more fantasy points with AJ Green on the field (14.6 pts/g) than off the field (11.1 pts/g) last season, the Bengals have the entire offseason to design plays with Boyd as the alpha for the first few games of the season. Also, if Green is out, Boyd’s touchdown potential skyrockets. Boyd should take another step forward in 2019, and he has the potential to be a top-12 receiver if Green misses a significant amount of time.
Will I draft him at his current ADP (6.01)? Yes (and I’d take him in the middle of the 5th round if his ADP continues to rise).