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Using ADP to Find Overvalued Players

Is there a worse feeling in the world than drafting a fantasy football bust? Ok, yes, there is, but it definitely ranks highly up there as one of the worst. And that is because it doesn’t just happen all at once, especially if it is an early-round player. After a couple of weeks, you try to convince yourself it's just a slow start. As the season progresses, you start to worry, but a game or couple of plays continues to give you hope. You continue to start the player hoping for a turnaround, all to watch your season slowly sink. All because you drafted a player too highly!

It is hard for a player to be a bust in the later rounds. And even if those players don’t hit, that is expected with many later picks. I do not believe putting middle to late-round picks would be all that useful. I shoot high for some of the names I will write about here and there is a chance they could make me look silly, but they are all players that I have not been drafting at their ADP. 

To read about the players I think are values at their ADP, click here.

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George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

ADP: 26th Overall

Didn’t I say some of these would be spicy? George Kittle is easily the hottest take here and one that can definitely look silly. This is not a knock on Kittle and his abilities. He may be the best all-around tight end in the league when you factor in his blocking abilities. But, while he is the third tight end off the board, he goes in the same range as Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. But both of those tight ends averaged over nine targets per game last season, a feat Kittle has never done. In fact, Kittle has been below eight targets per game the past two seasons.

His fantasy PPG has decreased in each of those two seasons. Plus, this offense is not going to be one that throws a ton. In 2020, the Niners threw on 58 percent of plays, which ranked 18th in the NFL. Their 35.6 pass attempts per game ranked 16th. In 2019 when they went to the Super Bowl that number was 29.9 times per game, which ranked 29th. That season they passed on just 51 percent of their plays, only Baltimore was less. Not only is Kittle on a team that will not pass a ton, but he has more target competition than ever in Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel

Niners reporter Ryan Covay joined Scott Engel and myself on RotoBaller Radio a couple of weeks ago and said Kittle will be the top target, but that it could be an up-and-down season week to week for the three top options, with them sharing off big weeks. Ryan even said Kittle should not be drafted in the same tier as Kelce and Waller. Then there is also the fact that we could see a change to a rookie QB in Trey Lance, that will clearly run a ton. Lance has a lot of upside, but not a lot of seasoning. That uncertainty just makes Kittle even more volatile. We all know his upside, but the risk is higher than it's been, and there is not much of an ADP discount. 

 

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

ADP: 35th overall

I was fading Mike Evans last season and he went out and finished as the WR11 - making me look silly in the process. But that doesn’t stop me from going back for more! Evans was fully reliant on touchdowns last year, scoring a career-high 13 of them. It equated to 31 percent of his fantasy points coming from TDs, only Adam Thielen (33%) was higher.

Last season, Mike Evans posted a career-low in targets (109), target share (18 percent), targets per game (6.8), receptions per game (4.4), receiving yards per game (62.9) and air yards per game (83 - previous low was 122). The Bucs also have a ton of options in the passing game with Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and the running backs. If Evans touchdown total takes a hit, he will struggle to repay that high-end WR2 price you have to pay to draft him. 

 

Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

ADP: 65th overall 

Let me start out by saying this has nothing to do with Chase’s ability and everything to do with cost. Chase is an amazing talent and was my top rookie receiver heading into the NFL Draft. But he is going off the board in the early fifth round as a low-end WR2 in many cases. On the FFPC specifically, he has an ADP of 51.45 as the 20th WR drafted. It has to be one of the highest ADPs for a rookie and so much of it is trying to chase what Justin Jefferson did last season.

I went back and looked at the last 10 years and found the average points needed to be a top-12 and top-24 WR. In that 10-year span, there were just three rookie receivers to surpass the Top-12 threshold (four did it in PPG). In that same span, there were 15 rookie receivers that qualified as a WR2 (11 met the PPG threshold). With rookies having a slim chance of finishing as a WR1, paying this price for Chase is either betting on a historic rookie season (like Jefferson last year) or paying for the ceiling. Either way, I do not like that bet. Add in that there is plenty of target competition with Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon, and it makes it more difficult to draft Chase at this cost. 

 

Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

ADP: 56th overall

Etienne is going off the board as a late fourth-round pick, on average, but he has been climbing as of late. He is going as a low-end RB2 on basically every site but could continue to climb if the preseason hype gets louder. Just like with the rookie receivers, I looked back at what a running back needed to score to finish as an RB1 and RB2 over the last decade and the number of rookies to do so. There have been 18 rookies to finish as an RB1 and 30 that finished as an RB2. Of those that finished as an RB1 they averaged 281 touches, with none having less than 225. Of those that finished as an RB2, they averaged 252 touches, with all having at least 150 touches. That seems like a tall order with James Robinson still on the roster.

What makes it tougher is they all averaged over nine touchdowns. The belief, at least from Jaguars beat reporter Tony Smith who joined us on RotoBaller Radio, is that “most, if not all, the goal line touches will go to Etienne.” Even if he handles the bulk of the passing downs, it will be tough to finish much higher than you draft him if Robinson is seeing early downs and goal-line touches. He has upside, but the weekly floor is low if those valuable touches go to Robinson.

 

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals 

ADP: 66th overall

Edmonds is going off the board in the fifth round as a borderline RB2 in a lot of drafts. He is a great pass-catching back, but last season he had a career-high 97 carries for 448 yards. Last season there were clear cut roles in the Cards backfield as Kenyan Drake was the early-down and goal-line back, while Edmonds was the change of pace and pass-catching back. Edmonds should run more this season than last year, but are we expecting 200 carries? I wouldn’t be.

It is very possible that Conner slides into the Drake role and is used on early downs and in the red zone. Plus, Kyler Murray was the Cards' goal-line runner before he suffered that shoulder injury. He will take a lot of the rushing numbers for himself. Edmonds has some upside in PPR, but he will not pay off unless he has a larger-than-expected rushing role. I would rather take the discount and get Conner a couple of rounds later. 

 

Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

ADP: 97th overall

Shenault on average is going in the seventh round, but he has been climbing and goes a full round earlier on some sites. The hype continues to grow as many fantasy analysts project a big breakout season for Shenault. I won’t lie, this is one of my riskier calls as he could make me look foolish. There have been a number of things this offseason that has worried me.

First, the Jags had their eyes on Kadarius Toney in the draft, before selecting Etienne, who they view as a dangerous pass-catcher out of the backfield. That should take away some chances for Shenault out of the backfield. He is a good enough receiver to thrive on the outside or in the slot, but the Jags do have other options in DJ Chark Jr. and Marvin Jones Jr. Chark has already established himself as a legit weapon and Jones is always better than expected. With Urban Meyer emphasizing running the ball, the Jags will likely throw less than last season, albeit still a good amount due to their defense.

Shenault has the upside of being this team's top target, but the downside of being number three in the pecking order. I liked Sheanault when he was going in the ninth or tenth round in early drafts, but with his ADP climbing and showing no signs of stopping, I just do not leave many drafts with him anymore. Marvin Jones a couple of rounds later is the pick I end up taking more. 

 

Robert Tonyan (TE, GB) 

ADP: 96th overall 

This is not just about the overall cost, but the fact that you have to draft Tonyan as a Top-10 tight end. I know what many of you will say: that is a fair price for a player that just finished as the TE4 in 2020. But, Tonyan did so purely off of touchdowns. He scored 37 percent of his fantasy points off of his 11 touchdowns. But, he averaged just 3.7 targets per game and had five targets or fewer in 14 of 16 games. In the games without a touchdown, he averaged just 4.9 fantasy points per game.

It's hard to anticipate a big boost in targets as the Packers brought back all the same pieces, plus added Amari Rodgers and Randall Cobb. Tonyan should project to be a TD reliant tight end once again, but asking for 11 touchdowns is asking a lot. I would much rather wait and draft Adam Trautman, Gerald Everett, Irv Smith Jr. or Jonnu Smith

 

Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

ADP: 86th overall

Noah Fant finished as the TE8 last season, but that says more about the tight end position than Fant. He topped 10 fantasy points just five times and finishes as a Top-10 tight end only four times. That was also with Courtland Sutton out for basically the season and Jerry Jeudy struggling to find his footing as a rookie. Sutton will be back and Jeudy should be better. The expectation is they will be the top two targets for the Broncos this season. In fact, Broncos beat reporter Ryan O’Halloran believes there will be a big gap in targets between the top two receivers and Fant, who will serve as the number three target.

However, there could also be a QB change from Drew Lock to Teddy Bridgewater. Personnel definitely impacts this, but last season Bridgewater threw just seven percent of his passes to tight ends, while Lock was at 27 percent. I would anticipate that number settling in the middle of those two, regardless of who the QB is this season. To me, there is too much volatility with the targets Fant could see this summer to invest in him as a top-10 tight end. The approach continues to be an elite tight end or wait and target upside (like the names listed under Tonyan) in most cases. 

 

Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team

ADP: 89th overall

Thomas is another player going off the board as a Top-10 tight end. That may seem fair for the player who scored the third-most fantasy points at the position last season, but, Washington went and brought in new pieces. Mainly, they brought in Curtis Samuel to give them what they sorely missed last season: a number two receiver. Last year Thomas saw 110 targets because the second receiver Cam Sims saw just 48. Terry McLaurin is the clear cut top option, but this season Samuel should slide in and see over 100 targets, potentially well over.

Fitzpatrick is a gun slinger who has always preferred throwing down the field and out wide. Thomas and the running backs will have to fight to be the third option on a weekly basis. Plus, it's never wise to pay for a career season. I would much rather wait at the position and target tight ends with upside in the double-digit rounds.

 

Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills

ADP: 97th overall

Moss is going off the board as a RB3, but the problem is, that feels like his ceiling in this offense. In the games where Moss and Devin Singletary were healthy last season, Singletary actually played more snaps (54% to 46%), while they split ground work and Singletary was more involved in the passing game. Singletary actually scored more fantasy points in those games as well.

The big thing for Moss is that he will be used in the red zone. But, even that upside is capped as Josh Allen is the only QB in NFL history to score at least eight rushing TDs in his first three seasons. Even if you think that number decreases, it won’t be by much. Allen is the goal-line runner for the Bills. The Bills ran the ball just 40 percent of the time last season but that number decreased as the season went on and they completely abandoned the run game in the playoffs. Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll continues to talk up how passing is simply more valuable than running on a per touch basis.

Do not expect the offense to shy away from that approach this season. Plus, Singletary has worked with an independent coach to work on adding more burst and speed. Who knows if it will work, but it's just more competition for Moss. Oh, and the Bills front office has already indicated they will take a hot-hand approach. I just can’t get excited for drafting Moss this season and will let others chase his hype. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio



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