At the risk of sounding like the old man people avoid at picnics, you kids have no idea how good you have it. In the days before the explosion of stellar online fantasy football publications like the Rotoworld Draft Guide, fantasy players had to rely on the often out-of-date advice found in a magical tome known as a fantasy football magazine. Sometimes printed as early as May, these magazines were hopelessly out of date by the time draft season rolled around, meaning cheat sheets were full of people who were long-ago injured, players cut in training camp still sat atop “projected” depth charts and sleepers lists were chock-full of players whose average draft position had risen well past the point of value.
The internet boom has made most of these problems obsolete, but the sleeper issue still haunts fantasy players today. A great sleeper quickly becomes an overvalued bust in the echo chamber known as Twitter, but once a player is labeled a value early in the draft season, owners searching for the trendy pick cannot help themselves no matter how high the “sleeper’s” ADP climbs. To avoid this common mistake, it is important to note the fluctuations of ADP and make value judgments based on where a player is being drafted right now instead where he was drafted at the beginning of June.
Note: Average Draft Position information is taken from FantasyFootballCalculator.com and is based on a 12-team, standard fantasy football league.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears – June 1 ADP 9.12 – Current ADP 9.01
A tenth-round pick at one point this summer, Cutler’s ADP has been steadily rising over the last two months. Fortunately, Cutler was so undervalued from jump street the rise in draft position has done nothing to dampen his sleeper appeal. He is still being drafted one round outside the top-12 at the position, and he still possess top-5 upside in Marc Trestman’s offense. After all, Cutler and the departed Josh McCown combined to score 296.7 fantasy points last season, which would have been good enough for fourth overall.
With another year in the system and perhaps even better weapons surrounding him, the only real question for Cutler is health. The injury issue, however, is almost completely mitigated by his draft position. He is so cheap it is relatively painless to pair Cutler with other high-upside options like Tony Romo or Colin Kaepernick, almost assuring a starting option will be available all season.
Cutler is still the best value around at the quarterback position, and he is a player to target in every draft.
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Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars – June 1 ADP 5.02 – Current ADP 3.11
Gerhart’s current ADP is probably about right, but the concern is about where his ADP is headed. It has plateaued somewhat in recent weeks, but as the draft season gets into full swing and the average fantasy player begins to read piece after piece espousing the virtues of Gerhart, his ADP will climb. How high it goes will determine if he retains any value.
At this point, he does. Gerhart’s floor is among the highest of the RB2 group. He is a three-down back on a team which should be committed to running the football. If he stays healthy, 300 touches are well within the realm of possibility.
The real question is how effective will he be with the work? He only has 137 first-down carries in his career, and though he sports a very impressive 5.01 YPC on those attempts, digging deeper into the carries reveals he was not quite that effective. 23 of the 137 first-down runs went for no gain or worse, 91 of the runs went for four yards or less and his average plummets to only 4.28 yards per carry if we remove his two 40-plus yard runs, which seems like a more accurate average when looking at the results as a whole.
Add in that all these carries came behind an offensive line that was far superior to the bottom-ten outfit he will be running behind in Jacksonville, and we have the makings for a sub-4 YPC season. Pure volume will keep Gerhart as a mid-level RB2 even at that efficiency level, but drafting him any higher than that, especially if it means passing up on a top-12 wide receiver, is a mistake.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants – June 1 ADP 5.07 – Current ADP 4.07
Another player knocking on the ceiling of his value is Rashad Jennings, who is up a full round over the last two months.
At 29, Jennings is a journeyman back that botched his first chance at a starting gig in Jacksonville in 2012, though he was dealing with a knee ailment at the time. He made up for the disappointing showing last season, posting a 163-733-6 rushing line and adding 36 catches for 292 yards in eight starts for the Raiders. The Giants signed him to a four-year, $10 million contract on the back of that performance.
That is starter money in today’s NFL, but it may not be that simple for Jennings. Fourth-round pick Andre Williams was already spotted working with the Giants’ goal-line unit, and the conductor of last season’s hype train David Wilson has been practicing with the team after being cleared for all football activities.
Both pieces of information should muddy the backfield situation and take carries away from Jennings, but that rain cloud carries a silver lining for Jennings’ supporters. Every piece of positive news for Wilson or Williams should help to lower Jennings’ ADP. It would not be surprising if his ADP falls back into the late-fifth round, which would move him back into the value-pick conversation.
Jennings is not a special player, but he is a quality back with the talent to take the opportunity New York should offer. He should see the majority of the work and has a decent shot at 250 touches this season. That number would make his current ADP just about right, and make him a value pick in the fifth round and beyond.