The NFL season has officially entered the second half of the season and it is already hard enough to contend with injuries, long-term IR, short-term IR, COVID-19 with vaccination, COVID-19 without vaccination and all that on top of the normal roster reshuffling. Hopefully the rest of the season can at least focus on what happens on the field. It’s been a tough year for many but a select few fantasy teams missed the minefields and chose the right horses.
And then Derrick Henry gets hurt.
Rather than wait until the end of the year, this is a good spot in the season to take a brief look back at how the Average Draft Positions (ADP) for players compare with their current points-per-game (PPG). I’ve noted players that have incurred injury where I thought appropriate and then highlighted the more notable favorable and unfavorable performances.
This is more important than the end-of-year stats. This is how the top draft picks performed in the first half of the season to setup your playoffs (or not).
1.) Quarterbacks –
This still justifies waiting on quarterbacks in most leagues because they are very consistent and the only truly bad pick was Russell Wilson because he was injured (he is currently No. 13 in PPG). Aaron Rodgers fell but 2021 was a bit of a magic year for him anyway. If you picked your quarterback from the Top-6, you were fine but you paid a lot more for Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen when Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson typically were drafted a round or two later.
2.) Running Backs –
Well, ouch. And the season is only half over, so more running backs might crash and burn like Derrick Henry recently did. There have been so many injuries and COVID-19 absences that the landscape of running backs differs significantly from week to week. None of the Top-11 picks were bad, other than the injuries. The next grouping from twelve to twenty has been more disaster than reward. Only Joe Mixon and D’Andre Swift are performing ahead of expectations. Eight of the first twenty have missed significant time because of injury.
And yet, there we will be next year. Chasing running backs for the first three rounds like it’s Black Friday and Big-Screen TV’s are marked down 60%.
3.) Wide Receivers –
Fingers-crossed, but injuries haven’t hit the wideouts much so far. Calvin Ridley is taking some needed “me time,” and Michael Thomas never made it back from his 2020 injury. It is not unusual that almost all of the Top-15 wideouts either hold onto their expected production or they drop back. There’s always a shift of receivers from No. 15 to around No. 40 that exceed expectations and turn in a great year.
This is also an interesting look because wide receivers almost always produce less in the second half of the year when the weather gets worse and defenses get smarter.
4. Tight Ends
This is sort of the same phenomenon as quarterbacks. If you selected a Top-6 tight end looking for some advantage, you pretty much got the pick right. George Kittle was out but roared back in Week 9. Kyle Pitts started slowly but then caught fire. And don’t forget, after the Top-6, the decline in scoring is more significant with tight ends than any other position.
5.) Rookie Running Backs
Last season produced only one hotly contested rookie rusher and Najee Harris has repaid all who drafted him. The Travis Etienne injury stung those who drafted early in the summer. Javonte Williams is stuck in a committee, and Trey Sermon only wishes he could be stuck in a committee. Michael Carter started out in a committee, but has claimed a primary role for the Jets. None of the rookies have been difference-makers other than Harris and Elijah Mitchell when he is healthy because he was a free agent in most leagues.
6.) Rookie Wide Receivers
Ja’Marr Chase has been the only wideout that offered significant fantasy value every week. He lulled the fantasy world to sleep this summer by dropping passes and pointing out that there are no white lines on an NFL football. And then he exceeded all expectations.
Jaylen Waddle has provided WR3 stats in reception-point leagues but none of the others are anywhere near close to “plug and play.” Some of these wideouts will improve as the season progresses, but it is worth remembering you do not have time to last players develop when the fantasy season is over if your team struggled over the first two months of the season.