With only one week until the 2016 NFL season kicks off, fantasy drafts are now in full swing. For those who have yet to draft, you can use your league’s tardiness to your advantage by analyzing the mountain of data that the premature drafters have generated.
Below are six players whose average draft position (ADP) raise some eyebrows. Don’t be a sheep; take a closer look at the numbers and expose the absurdity of where some of these players are being snagged.
Going way too early
1. Jamaal Charles – RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Going 18th overall, 8th among running backs
This might be a tough pill to swallow for longtime fantasy fanatics, but Jamaal Charles will have to fall off sometime. This year is as good as ever to predict a steep decline.
The 29-year-old suffered an ACL tear last October. Whether he can bounce back from his second major knee injury is uncertain, and the fact he had to be held out of preseason is not a good sign. Mix in the fact that when Charles did go down last year, his Chiefs went on a 10-game win streak with the help of Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, both of which were resigned for multi-year deals this off season. The team obviously believe in the success that their committee brought them, and I see no reason why they would give Jamaal his typical workload after investing so much into the depth of their backfield.
Charles is going ahead of Eddie Lacy, LeSean McCoy and Mark Ingram. Those are three backs with a higher production floor, something you desperately need when drafting in the first two rounds.
2. Thomas Rawls – RB, Seattle Seahawks
Going 36th overall, 15th among running backs
The fantasy darling of the waiver wire last year, Thomas Rawls is going far too soon in most drafts.
Do not pay for last years production; the Seahawks drafted three running backs this year, including the promising C.J. Prosise. The Notre Dame product has shown poise in the passing game, something neither Rawls or Christine Michael have done. This will keep Rawls off for critical third-downs and eat into his production.
The aforementioned Michael will also be a thorn in Rawls’ side. Michael was brought back by the team after a messy exit last year; an unusual move, but one that shows great faith from the organization. He has been their most productive back during camp, and has recieved heaps of praise from coaches.
There is no doubt that the Seahawks backfield will be a committee. Rawls may get the more carries than his peers, but I suspect it won’t be a lion’s share and the talented backs behind him may usurp him for the starting gig.
Jeremy Hill, Latavius Murray and DeMarco Murray are all going after Rawls, and these are talents you could wait another round on while addressing a need elsewhere.
3. Eric Decker – WR, New York Jets
Going 52nd overall, 23rd among wide receivers
Eric Decker was a beast last year, and credit can be given to his ability to find the endzone consistently.
In fact, 41% of Decker’s fantasy points came from his 10 touchdown grabs, which was sixth best in the NFL. Though 2015 will be a memorable year for the Jet, touchdowns are hard to replicate, and counting on them in fantasy is a mistake.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a franchise record 31 touchdowns last year, but that was his ceiling and that number will come back down to earth. The addition of Matt Forte in the backfield will add a new redzone threat, and Decker’s scoring touch will be cannibalized by the talent around him, including Brandon Marshall.
Larry Fitzgerald, Golden Tate, Kelvin Benjamin and Michael Floyd are all below Decker in ADP; with this many receivers of similar or superior talent around him, do not bite the bullet and draft Decker before the sixth round.
Don’t sleep on these guys
1. Melvin Gordon – RB, San Diego Chargers
Going 65th overall, 23rd among running backs
Melvin Gordon left a bad taste in the mouth of many fantasy owners in 2015. But this is 2016, and this is the exact type of player you should be targeting for a steal.
Branden Oliver took some of Gordon’s carries, but a torn Achilles’ will keep him out for the season. Danny Woodhead is Danny Woodhead, just a year older. There is not a lot of competition in this backfield, and Gordon is an undeniable talent as proven in his college days.
The Chargers, when healthy, put up monster offensive numbers a year ago. A soft defense will only put them in position to score even more whether they are coming from behind or in a shoot out. Gordon has looked comfortable in preseason, averaging 6.2 yards on 13 carries, including a electric 39 yard touchdown.
Ryan Matthews and Jeremy Langford are being drafted before Gordon. At this point in your draft, pick the better talent, not the cleaner situation.
2. Larry Fitzgerald – WR, Arizona Cardinals
Going 59th overall, 27th among wide receivers
The trend the last couple years has been to sleep on Larry Fitzgerald, and every year he has been counted out he has performed.
The veteran caught 109 passes for 1,215 yards and 9 touchdowns a year ago. Nothing in that offense or in his game has changed significantly to suggest he won’t put up similar number this year. Skeptics will point to Michael Floyd and John Brown demanding touches as a reason to be cautious, but these talents will only leave Fitzgerald in favorable situations. Fitz will often be positioned away from top corners and double coverage.
ADP suggest that most owners are drafting Donte Moncrief and Eric Decker before Fitzgerald. Do not be one of those owners.
3. Julius Thomas – TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Going 108th overall, 11th among tight ends
It is hard to draft any tight end other than Gronk before the 10th round when Julius Thomas is not going in the top 100.
Thomas is only two seasons removed from a 12 touchdowns season in Denver, and last year was an anomaly bouncing back from an injury and learning a new playbook. Everyone is high on the Jaguars offense this year, but that has not translated to Thomas’ perceived fantasy value. The 6-foot-5, 260 pound beast passes the eye test, and could have a monster season in an offense that will need to play catch up and operates through the air.
Thomas is regularly falling down the board below Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert. How many years are we going to wait for Ertz to be productive, and when is Tyler Eifert even coming back? These are two questions that should draw fantasy owner’s attention to Thomas.
Hopefully these players can be recognized for what they truly are, and fantasy users can dominate their league (or five leagues)
*ADP gathered from ESPN Live Draft Results at time of post
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Follow author: @MarkStaniusz