The season is getting closer as we finish the second week of preseason games, and that means more leagues are doing their drafts. That's a good gauge for us in looking at Average Draft Position.
As we told you with the first column in this series, we're going to take a weekly look at the ADP as things change from what happened prior to preseason games heading into Labor Day Weekend. The idea is to highlight players who are moving up and down on Draft Day based on what happens on the field and in practice.
This weekend, we suffered a significant injury when Arizona rookie running back Ryan Williams was lost for the year when he hurt his knee Friday against Green Bay. That opens the door for Beanie Wells to become a popular player on Draft Day, and his ADP will be on the rise.
We've also seen Michael Vick move past Aaron Rodgers as the No. 1 quarterback, Reggie Bush get a boost based on his play in his preseason debut for the Dolphins on Friday against Carolina and Chris Johnson hold steady at the No. 3 overall spot despite still in a holdout. Roddy White also has moved past Calvin Johnson as the No. 2 wide receiver.
While I will highlight players moving up and down at certain positions and also look at the changes in Round 1, you should use our interactive visualization below for a complete look at the ADP. You can view the changes in standard and point per reception formats, as well as guys who are being undervalued and overvalued based on our rankings.
The first round looks like this ...
Michael Vick is now a Top 10 selection
There's a lot of debate over who is the No. 1 quarterback this year between Vick and Rodgers, and Rodgers was holding the top spot prior to this weekend. But Vick jumped into the Top 10 and is now being drafted at No. 6 overall, with Rodgers one spot behind him.
I'm not big on taking a quarterback in the first round, but I would definitely take Vick first if I changed my strategy. There's no quarterback who can produce at his level if he plays 14 or more games. Even following a disappointing preseason game against Pittsburgh, Vick's Fantasy value is going up.
The No. 4 overall spot is interesting because after Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Johnson, Fantasy owners are torn between Rice and Charles. For now, Rice has the edge as he moved into the No. 4 overall spot.
I lean toward Charles in this debate because I like what he did last year, he will get increased carries as Thomas Jones moves into even more of a secondary role and he should be more involved in the passing game. Rice is awesome also, but I'm not sold on his touchdowns increasing dramatically even with his potential to see more goal-line work.
Maurice Jones-Drew still in Round 1
Fantasy owners are concerned about Jones-Drew and his knee, especially since he has yet to play in the preseason, but he is still being drafted at No. 11 overall. He moved ahead of Darren McFadden, who is now at No. 12, but he remains behind Michael Turner.
Once LeSean McCoy comes off the board, and he should be drafted as the No. 6 running back behind Foster, Peterson, Johnson, Charles and Rice, then the questions creep in with Jones-Drew (knee), McFadden (durability) and Turner (wearing down). If Jones-Drew is healthy, and we should get more information this week, then he is the best Fantasy running back of this trio.
Quarterbacks on the rise
Tom Brady the new No. 3
Once Vick and Rodgers are drafted, Fantasy owners are then left with a tough decision of Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers. The ADP right now has them in that order, and all four are being drafted in Round 2.
I have them ranked that way also, and the player with the biggest concern is Manning based on his neck injury. If he's ready for Week 1 then he should still be drafted as a Top 5 quarterback in Round 2, but I wouldn't be surprised if he falls behind Rivers since some Fantasy owners are scared.
Matthew Stafford is a starter
Stafford has moved into the Top 12, and he is being drafted in Round 8. He is behind Josh Freeman, and he is being drafted ahead of Eli Manning. This is the right spot to take Stafford because if he plays 16 games then he could easily be a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback, if not higher, but there's still some risk based on his injury history.
Manning is now being considered a backup Fantasy quarterback, but that's OK. What we've suggested is if you take Stafford then try to land Manning one round later to have a solid backup in case Stafford gets hurt.
Quarterbacks on the decline
Jay Cutler is falling
I consider Cutler a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback also, but I'm not sure I would take Kolb ahead of him. Cutler remains another quarterback to target if you draft Stafford as a starter.
No one trusts Matt Cassel
Cassel is being drafted as the No. 18 quarterback in Round 11. He is being drafted right after Cutler and ahead of Mark Sanchez.
Cassel is the last quality No. 2 Fantasy quarterback that you would feel comfortable as a starter if your No. 1 option got hurt. But this is the right place to draft Cassel since he doesn't have the upside of Bradford or Kolb and is not as safe as Joe Flacco or Cutler.
Running backs on the rise
Reggie Bush looks better than expected
When the Dolphins traded for Bush, he was being viewed as a potential late-round flier in Fantasy leagues following the move. The expectation was Daniel Thomas would be the starter, and Bush would be used as a third-down option.
But Bush played well in the second preseason game against the Panthers, and he should share carries somewhat evenly with Thomas during the year. He is now being drafted in Round 9, and he is worth taking as your No. 4 Fantasy running back. Thomas is being drafted in Round 6, and while he still has more value, he is a No. 3 Fantasy option.
Jahvid Best now being drafted in Round 4
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Mathews is falling because of the excitement over Mike Tolbert, but Best should have a tremendous season if he stays healthy. He is a great No. 2 running back to draft in Round 4. Just continue to monitor his potential concussion situation, but Best said he should be fine for Week 1.
Running backs on the decline
Jonathan Stewart is being drafted in Round 7
When we first presented this story last week, Stewart was being drafted ahead of Williams based on all the drafts done prior to the start of the preseason. But now that more leagues are drafting, Williams has moved ahead of Stewart.
Stewart has fallen to Round 7, and he could drop a couple of more spots behind Tolbert and Wells. We would definitely take Tolbert and Wells ahead of Stewart, but he's still worth drafting as a key reserve based on how he's played throughout his career and Williams' recent injury history.
It's clear that Hightower is going to start for the Redskins this year, but this backfield could be a mess with Roy Helu and Torain also in the mix. Still, Hightower is being drafted as the best running back for the Redskins in Round 9. Torain is now after Hightower in Round 9 also, and Helu is not being drafted until Round 11.
We would draft Hightower as a No. 3 running back, and Torain is still worth taking as a No. 4 option considering he should play a prominent role following his hand injury. Helu is only worth drafting with a late-round flier in deep leagues.
Wide receivers on the rise
Chad Ochocinco is being drafted as a starter
We like Ochocinco in New England, but he should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver coming into the season and not a No. 2 option. He is being drafted ahead of Mario Manningham and Austin Collie in Round 6, and that's too high.
When it comes to the Patriots and their receivers, keep in mind that Brady will spread the ball around to Wes Welker, Ochocinco, Deion Branch, both tight ends and the running backs. While Ochocinco should improve from his performance with the Bengals last season, he should not be considered a Fantasy starter coming into the year.
Julio Jones is the top rookie receiver
Jones is the No. 30 receiver with the latest ADP, and he is being drafted in Round 7. By comparison, fellow rookie A.J. Green is the No. 34 receiver, and he is being drafted in Round 9.
We like Jones much better than Green because of his quarterback situation. Matt Ryan should be able to help Jones play well as a rookie, but Andy Dalton is not going to do much for Green since the Bengals should be a bad team in 2011.
Wide receivers on the decline
Illness hurts Jeremy Maclin
Maclin has been out with an illness, and he has gone from a potential Top 15 Fantasy receiver to No. 20 in the latest ADP in Round 5. Fantasy owners are scared to draft Maclin, and it's understandable why that has happened.
I would still draft Maclin as a starting Fantasy receiver, and Round 5 is good value. If you draft two running backs, a wide receiver and a quarterback with your first four picks then Maclin is a good starter for your roster. If he returns for Week 1 he will post quality stats for the season.
Jacoby Ford is losing steam
Ford has sleeper potential with the Raiders losing Zach Miller to Seattle and Louis Murphy (hamstring) out for Week 1, but his ADP is just at 130 overall in Round 11. Fantasy owners could be concerned about his hand injury and also the increased attention being paid to rookie Denarius Moore.
We still consider Ford a sleeper with a late-round pick since the Raiders need someone to catch the ball, and Ford played well as a rookie last year. If he continues to fall on Draft Day then consider him a steal with a pick after Round 10.
Tight ends on the rise
Jermichael Finley is the No. 4 tight end
Both tight ends should play well this season, but Finley has more upside. If he can play a full season then he could be the No. 1 Fantasy tight end. Of course that's a big if based on Finley's injury history, but I'm in agreement that Finley should be drafted ahead of Davis, who still has a mediocre quarterback in Alex Smith.
Greg Olsen is turning into a sleeper
The Panthers are going to feature their tight end this season, and Olsen has the chance to be a great sleeper. He is currently the No. 15 tight end, but he should be considered a starting option on Draft Day.
In Friday's preseason game against the Dolphins, rookie quarterback Cam Newton did not complete a pass to a wide receiver. He focused solely on tight ends Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, and that happens a lot with young quarterbacks. Now, Steve Smith didn't play in the game because of an injury, but Olsen will still thrive this year. He's a great pick in Round 8 or later.
Tight ends on the decline
Zach Miller is now a No. 2 tight end
Miller's move from Oakland to Seattle has hurt his Fantasy value. He is now the No. 13 Fantasy tight end, and he is being drafted as a backup option in Round 11. You can argue that Miller will still have a successful season, but I agree with his ADP because I don't want him starting on my team.
If I could choose between Miller and Olsen, and I would rather have Olsen. He moved to a team like the Panthers that will use the tight end, and Miller is in a system with the Seahawks that barely used John Carlson last year.
Chris Cooley continues to fall
Last week we told you that Cooley was being drafted as the No. 13 tight end. Now he is the No. 18 option at his position. Fantasy owners are scared by his knee injury, and it could be a difficult year for Cooley if he's not 100 percent.
Cooley said he expects to be ready for Week 1, but we're skeptical. And if he's out for any point in the regular season then put Fred Davis on your sleeper list. Davis has played well in place of Cooley as a starter, and we could see Davis posting quality stats if he gets the chance for increased playing time.