Your fantasy football draft is as much about finding value as it is nailing the picks. As we enter into the last week of drafts leading up to the 2015 season, here’s a rundown of some players who are unlikely to return value on your investment if selected at their current ADP.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (ADP 12)
There’s not a set-in-stone dozen players who belong in the first round, but of the logical top picks the one that doesn’t fit is Rodgers. He’s still the second-best fantasy option on the quarterback board, but his home/road splits (if you extrapolate his eight road games last year over a full season he was essentially the 2014 version of Ryan Tannehill), the loss of Jordy Nelson, and the availability of quality quarterback play throughout the first 10 rounds make him the biggest read among the top 12 ADPers.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears (ADP 17)
The second-tier running backs all have their question marks, none more so than Forte. He won’t catch nearly as many passes as last season, and the Bears in general seem to be in rebuilding mode as opposed to star-making mode. Forte’s not an awful second-round selection, but when there are several alternatives with greater upside still on the board he qualifies as a reach.
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers (ADP 36)
The third round is a land mine of risky picks—especially if you’re locked into the running back position. Melvin Gordon (ADP 33) is slated to share carries and Mark Ingram (ADP 35) is anything but a sure thing, but it’s Hyde who is the most troubling of the third round backs. He flashed little in relief of Frank Gore last year, and the Niners got worse over the offseason—most notably on the offensive line, where they lost two starters, and on defense, which means they won’t have the luxury of playing ball-control football this season. In fact, Gore (ADP 37) is a significantly better option here.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills (ADP 47)
Another round where you need to tread lightly, but there’s no question Watkins is the riskiest of the bunch. Not that Watkins lacks talent, but he’s stuck in a run-first offense with serious quarterback questions. It’s unfortunate that much of Watkins’ fantasy prime looks to be wasted by his circumstances; right now his biggest fantasy value is as a dynasty guy you don’t have to bank on until the Bills upgrade at quarterback or Watkins leaves via free agency.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals (ADP 53)
Half this round is running backs, and none of them are sure things. But Ellington has the highest ADP of the group, and if Bruce Arians continues to overwork him like he did last year he’ll play fewer games than Arian Foster (ADP 59). In best ball formats a home run hitter like Ellington has some value, but in the fifth you should be looking for a guy who can handle more than 12-15 touches a game—or can hold up for more than half a season.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers (ADP 73)
Newton’s residual fantasy value remains high from the pre-Kelvin Benjamin injury days, and given the recent Deflategate developments it’s ludicrous he’s three ADP slots ahead of Tom Brady (ADP 76). But if you’re taking a quarterback in Round 6 Mathew Stafford (ADP 70) is a significantly better option; so are Ryan Tannehill (ADP 77), Eli Manning (ADP 94), and Philip Rivers (ADP 100).
Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars (ADP 75)
The next two rounds are loaded with injured talent—enough so that even stretching for the Seattle team defense (ADP 85) looks rational by comparison. Thomas sits atop this round of ADP, and with the latest news on his finger injury adding to the drop-off in offense—not to mention the bevy of tight end talent 30-plus picks lower on the ADP board—he’s definitely the riskiest pick of the round.
Torrey Smith, WR, 49ers (ADP 96)
After leaning on the injury crutch last round we’ll bypass softball stretches like Victor Cruz (ADP 87) and Zach Ertz (ADP 92) here. Smith, on the other hand, is at least healthy; he’s also switching teams and downgrading offenses. In other words, no more stout offensive line to give his quarterback time to go deep—cutting the legs out from under Smith’s fantasy value. John Brown (ADP 99) and Steve Smith (ADP 104) are better options in the immediate ADP vicinity.
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins (ADP 109)
This may have been the toughest round in which to peg a reach. Ultimately we returned to the injury card for Parker, who has been denied the opportunity to develop much if any chemistry with Ryan Tannehill because of his foot injury. The Dolphins are holding out hope for a contribution later this season, but odds are you’ll want to churn this roster spot before that happens so why saddle yourself with the dead weight?
Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans (ADP 114)
There’s something to be said for throwing darts at running backs in double-digit rounds and hoping to find a gem. But with Sankey slated to be a committee member at best, in a backfield likely to lose goal line looks to its mobile quarterback, you’d be far better served directing those darts at Darren McFadden (ADP 117), Alfred Blue (ADP 118), or Sankey’s running mate David Cobb (ADP 128).
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers (ADP 133)
Stephen Gostkowski (ADP 123) leads off this round, but seeing as he’s rock-solid consistent and you may be entering the last two rounds of your draft here we won’t play the kicker card. Instead, barring a Brady-esque reversal Gates will miss the first four games—or 30 percent of your fantasy season. Then it’s no guarantee he returns to anything resembling his previous level of play, so why waste the roster spot? Kyle Rudolph (ADP 129), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ADP 132) and Owen Daniels (ADP 134) are alternatives who aren’t taking the first month off.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins (ADP 144)
Ajayi’s real draft stock plummeted due to chronic knee issues, dropping him into the fifth round. He was expected to be a contender for carries in Miami, but his inadequacies in pass protection may cost him not only touches but also an active roster spot on game days. That’s too far away from a fantasy contribution to warrant anything other than a dynasty league stash; redrafters would be wise to look for David Johnson (ADP 138) instead.