It's pretty hard to find a real edge in Fantasy these days. The people working in the industry are too sharp, and the people playing are better than ever at knowing what to look for and what to ignore. Add in a true 24/7, 365-day NFL news cycle, and there just isn't much that slips by anyone anymore on Draft Day.
But that doesn't mean there aren't any edges to be found. There are rare spots where something manages to slip through the cracks in all of the research and wisdom of the crowds. You can spot it in Average Draft Position data, when a quarterback's cost just doesn't match up with what the expectations for the rest of the offense are. When a QB is ranked much higher than his teammates, that could mean the rest of the offense is undervalued, or it could mean the QB is a walking disappointment and nobody can tell.
I dove into the ADP data to see how you can take advantage of those situations in Thursday's edition of the Fantasy Football Today newsletter, plus we're covering the youth movement at wide receiver and the latest news from around training camps on some big-name running backs. Subscribe here to get the newsletter in your inbox every morning, with unique analysis, subscriber-only mailbags, and more.
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Another way to gain an edge in Fantasy is to zig when everyone else is zagging, and buying in on talented young players after the hype around them has died down is certainly one way. DeVante Parker, John Brown, Tyler Boyd, Davante Adams, Robert Woods ... it's not that hard to find examples of wide receivers who needed a bit of time to put it all together, and Fantasy players aren't necessarily the most patient group.
Heath Cummings set out to identify some post-hype breakout candidates for the 2020 season, and Mike Williams is probably my favorite out of the group. Williams hasn't totally lived up to expectations after being a top-10 overall pick in the 2017 draft, but it's not like he's been bad -- he had 1,000 yards last season and 10 touchdowns the year before. How often can you get a 25-year-old with that kind of pedigree and that kind of track record in the 12th or 13th round? Almost never. Williams could be one of the best picks you make.
The 2019 rookie class of wide receivers didn't quite surpass that historic 2014 class in terms of year-one greatness, but they weren't far off. The likes of A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, and DK Metcalf are being drafted as starters in all leagues, and you might see a dozen second-year receivers selected in your league. Ben Gretch breaks down what to expect from the sophomore wideouts, including five to look for in the later rounds:
- Preston Williams (ADP: 139.3) - "If he sees anything close to the 7.5 targets and 1.3 red zone targets per game he saw in 2019, there's plenty of reason for optimism in 2020."
- N'Keal Harry (ADP: 158.7) - "A new offense with Cam Newton under center could be reason to hope."
- Hunter Renfrow (ADP: 164.8) - "While the Raiders added a ton of receiving weapons this offseason, he seems likely to be a solid player at the NFL level for years to come."
- Parris Campbell (ADP: 183.8) - "Campbell is another who battled injuries in 2019, but if he earns the slot role in Indianapolis, there's reason to hope he could have a strong second season."
- Steven Sims (ADP: 217.4) - "He saw a target on a whopping 24.4% of routes run, and the opportunity should be there for Sims to take a step forward in 2020."
If you're looking for the players who are going to make the leap to superstardom, Jamey Eisenberg has always sworn by the third-year breakout wide receiver. Michael Thomas, Tyler Boyd, Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay all paid off in a big way over the last few seasons in Year 3, after all. And it makes sense — as Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Steve Smith and others have told Jamey, it can take a few years to truly figure the position out. For some guys, Year 3 is when the light clicks on and they make the leap to the next level.
D.J. Moore is an obvious candidate to make that kind of jump — and he's someone the CBS Fantasy crew as a whole is higher on than the industry — but he's not the only one. Jamey highlights nine other players at every range of the draft to look for.
Using ADP for an edge
The better the quarterback is, the better the offense is. And, the better the offense is, the better the quarterback is. That's how it's supposed to go, anyway. So, if Fantasy players are expecting big things from a quarterback, they should expect big things from the rest of the offense, too. And, where those expectations diverge, Fantasy value can be found.
I compared every quarterback's current ADP to the combined ADP of the skill position players on his team to identify where those divergences are. It won't always work out quite so neatly — running quarterbacks can rack up Fantasy points without helping the rest of the offense out, while uncertainty around playing time can cause a player's price to fall even in an obviously advantageous position. But still, there are a handful of situations around the league where a quarterback either looks like he's being undervalued relative to the weapons around him or a situation where a quarterback might be set to hold an otherwise elite offense back.
Let's look at the five spots where there is the biggest difference between QB and skill position ADP, and how you might be able to find value there.
Let's start with the quarterbacks ranked significantly lower than their skill players:
QB ADP rank vs. Skill player rank
- Nick Foles/Mitchell Trubisky: 32 vs. 6
- Baker Mayfield: 15 vs. 2
- Tyrod Taylor: 30 vs. 19
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 21 vs. 10
- Drew Lock: 20 vs. 9
I'm a strong believer in the "Well, things can't be worse for the Bears offense" theory, and I'm not sure the open QB competition in Chicago is the only reason this gap exists. Part of it is that the Bears just don't have many Fantasy options being considered overall — an early-round WR, two RB in the fifth through ninth round range, and a late-round WR sleeper. But part of it is just a general disinterest in both Foles and Trubisky. I get that, but this offense will almost certainly be better than it was last season, and if you can grab whoever ends up the starter in a 2QB league, there's profit to be had.
The most obvious potential value here lies with Mayfield. Sure, the ranking is somewhat skewed by the presence of two highly-ranked running backs, but Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were No. 3 and 4 on the team in targets last season, and new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski's Vikings threw 27.0% of their targets in 2019 to running backs, so those two won't necessarily take away from Mayfield. If Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham are healthy, Mayfield could have the breakout season we were all hoping to see last season.
On the other hand, I'm worried Drew Lock is going to hold the rest of the Broncos offense back. There's a lot of excitement about the young offense Lock is leading, but I'm not convinced he's ready for it. 53.3% of Lock's yards came after the catch, the seventh-highest rate in the league, and he was PFF's lowest graded QB on passes over 10 yards. If Lock doesn't take a step forward, I don't think this offense makes the leap some are hoping for. Add in that Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay may be splitting work a bit more evenly than we thought, and this could be a frustrating, inconsistent offense all season long. I'm not fading it entirely, but I'm not going out of my way to grab anyone here.
And here are the QB ranked significantly higher than their skill players:
QB ADP rank vs. Skill player rank
- Josh Allen: 8 vs. 29
- Deshaun Watson: 6 vs. 23
- Carson Wentz: 9 vs. 25
- Aaron Rodgers: 12 vs. 28
- Russell Wilson: 5 vs. 20
On the flip side of the equation, Allen, Watson, and Wilson get lots of points with their feet, so the gap here makes sense. However, Houston does look like one spot where Watson's lofty ranking still suggests there is significant value available in the offense, which makes perfect sense. Despite the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller's ADP is actually down 10 spots from last year. Brandin Cooks comes in around 95th too, while Randall Cobb sits outside of the top-200, and no tight ends are inside the top-250. Fuller and Cooks both look like good bets to dramatically outperform their current costs if health allows. The injury risk for both is real, but that just creates even more potential value if they stay healthy.
Philadelphia is also another place where there is obvious value available in the passing game, but it's a lot harder to say where it's going to come from. Jalen Reagor, Desean Jackson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Greg Ward are in a pretty much wide-open competition for the starting spots, so a late-round flier on any of the four makes sense — in that order.
News and Notes
Helmets went on around the NFL at training camp Wednesday, but there still isn't much in the way of news, and won't be until contact practices can begin after this weekend. That's when we'll start to get a sense for how some of the position battles are shaking out. For now, we've mostly just got quotes to go on, and that's always a dangerous thing for Fantasy. Coaches like to play games in the media, telling us one thing and doing another, so you need to know how to separate the noise from what matters. Here's what garnered buzz Wednesday, and whether it matters for Fantasy.
- Le'Veon Bell slimmed down — Bell told reporters he wants to play at 210-215 pounds in 2020, the lightest he's been since high school. He earned praise from Adam Gase, which might matter, if only because Gase didn't exactly seem to be Bell's biggest fan in their first year together. If Bell can be more effective, there's still considerable upside given his 300-plus touch potential, but I'm wary of buying into this coach speak. Let him fall to you in the third or fourth, ideally.
- Marlon Mack is the starting RB for Colts — File this one under "This isn't really news." Mack was never going to be phased out entirely, which means Jonathan Taylor is going to have to fight for every carry. The good news is, Frank Reich did say they'll go with the "hot hand," so if Taylor hits the ground running, touches should be there. He's a risk at his third-round price, but the combination of Taylor's skills and the Colts' line could make him an elite back if he runs away with the job eventually. It's a high-upside bet.
- Josh Jacobs wants to catch "at least 60 passes" — This quote started flying around Fantasy football Twitter, but I'm not sure it means anything. It doesn't really matter what Jacobs wants, what matters is how the coaches want to use him. And, given that the Raiders running back room is filled with pass catchers behind Jacobs, I'm still expecting something like his rookie year role, which limits the ultimate ceiling for Fantasy.
- Antonio Gibson will be part of the return team — Gibson is splitting his time between the running back and wide receiver groups in training camp, and it looks like he'll be back there on kick returns next to Steven Sims as well. Add in that J.D. McKissic is getting talked up as a passing down's option, and Gibson may not have much of a role on offense as a rookie. Beware the hype train getting out of control.