Adam Levitan

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ADP Watch: The Undervalued

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You think you’re sneaky, right? You’re going to stack a team with Ryan Mathews, Julio Jones, Trent Richardson and Demaryius Thomas while nobody is looking, thus coasting to the title. Think again.

By taking an early look at the average draft position (ADP) tool in our Draft Guide, we can see that those “buzz” players aren’t as undervalued as you might think. Mathews (5.6) and Richardson (12.8) are both first-round picks, while Jones’ ADP is currently at 36.9. Thomas is at 58.2, a number that is sure to rise once the general public sees Peyton Manning actually throwing passes again.

In order to find true “undervalued” guys, we’re going to have to dig deeper.

* Editor's Note: The full Draft Guide will be available on July 5 and will be constantly updated until Week 1.

These ADP numbers are sure to fluctuate significantly once training camp and drafting season kicks into high gear. But initial impressions are hard to shake, so we can gain a lot by evaluating the report. Some guys currently flying under the public’s radar:

1. Brandon Lloyd – ADP 64.1
Where he went in Rotoworld’s June 11 expert mock: 53rd overall

Perhaps Lloyd is slipping because owners have bad memories of failed Patriots wideout experiments such as Joey Galloway and Chad Ochocinco. But this one feels different. Lloyd is a personal favorite of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and his strength lies in the deep, vertical passing game. Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez can’t say that.

The last time McDaniels was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator with a healthy Tom Brady (2007), they led the league in overall offense and passing offense. That year, vertical threat Randy Moss had 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns. That might sound crazy, until you recall that Lloyd had 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow as his quarterbacks -- and McDaniels calling the plays.

2. Michael Vick – ADP 51.6
Where he went in Rotoworld’s June 11 expert mock: 20th overall

Stars coming off bad years are often going to be undervalued. And Vick certainly fits that criterion. He sustained a concussion in Week 2 last season and also fractured two ribs in Week 10. Even when Vick was on the field for 13 games, he threw a career-high 14 interceptions and flukily ran for just one score.

By all accounts, Vick has rededicated himself as he goes through his first full offseason as a starter since 2006. The Eagles’ offense is just as potent as it was last year when Vick was a consensus first-round fantasy pick. If there’s any kind of bounce-back here – and there should be – Vick is a great bet to regain top-10 status.

3. Brandon LaFell – ADP 159.1
Where he went in Rotoworld’s June 11 expert mock: 110th overall

LaFell curiously played behind Legedu Naanee for much of last season. Coach Ron Rivera says that was to keep a “carrot” in front of him. Regardless, it’s obvious that the 6’2/211 LaFell is locked in as the No. 2 wideout opposite Smith heading into this season. Naanee is in Miami and David Gettis is coming off a torn ACL.

Those around the Panthers have speculated strongly that the organization believes LaFell is in for a breakout year. He’s in his third season, has Cam Newton throwing him the ball and has highly aggressive Rob Chudzinski calling the plays. Value LaFell as a strong bench player with upside rather than the mere flier his current ADP suggests.

4. James Starks – ADP 80.1
Where he went in Rotoworld’s June 11 expert mock: 80th overall

Unquestioned starting running backs don’t usually last into the seventh round. Some guesses as to why Starks’ ADP is so low:

A) There’s a perception that the Packers throw on every play: Well, this one just isn’t true. The Pack attempted 34.5 passes per game last season, 14th in the league.

B) There’s a perception that Starks won’t get the bulk of the carries: The depth chart behind Starks currently includes Alex Green (coming off an ACL tear), middling talent Brandon Saine and fullback John Kuhn. That shouldn’t scare anyone.

C) Starks isn’t durable: There’s some validity here. Starks hasn’t played a full season since 2008, when he was at the University of Buffalo.

Add this up and we don’t have a mid-round "yawn" pick. Considering the ever-present need for depth at the running back spot, Starks projects to give a lot of value if his ADP sticks around 80.

5. Titus Young – ADP 117.3
Where he went in Rotoworld’s June 11 expert mock: 97th overall

We can often find value where there’s young talent blocked by a less explosive veteran. That’s what we have here as Young figures to be pushing Nate Burleson for snaps in two-wide sets come training camp. Thanks to this article from Mike Clay, we already know that Young will see plenty of action regardless. The Lions ran three-wide sets 58 percent of the time last season.

Young has had a buzzworthy offseason, and I’m not talking about his fight with teammate Louis Delmas. He’s ripped apart offseason workouts, drawing rave reviews from his coaches and the media. Young fits perfectly with Matthew Stafford’s rocket arm as a burner opposite Calvin Johnson

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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