The inception of NFL training camps is steadily approaching. Leading many fantasy owners to actively participate in both mock drafts and authentic drafts, as part of the overall process toward building the best possible rosters for their 2013 fantasy teams. That provides an excellent opportunity to scrutinize where players are being selected during the voluminous amount of drafts that have already occurred, in the form of their Average Draft Positions (ADPs). This knowledge supplies a critical roadmap that should help each of you prepare in multiple ways. Including a firsthand understanding of precisely where other owners are valuing each player. And a realization of how your upcoming drafts are likely to unfold. With that in mind, here are some trends that have become apparent in my analysis of the current ADPs.
Running Backs Are Dominating Round 1
The thorough preponderance of RBs being selected at the onset of drafts should not represent a huge surprise. Because any owner who has undertaken even minor preparations for the upcoming season should be acutely aware that it is critical to secure at least one back extremely early in this year’s draft process. And that utilizing the initial two draft choices on RBs is also a very sensible approach. There is limited depth at the position, as the number of workhorse backs continues to dwindle. Most runners possess at least one teammate that poses a potential threat to siphon off carries. Plus, teams that possess mobile QBs will enhance the number of scripted plays, in order to maximize their rushing ability. That has narrowed the number of legitimate candidates to generate outstanding yardage totals, particularly when compared to the options at WR and QB. As a result, anyone who eschews the opportunity to address their RB situation will encounter an arduous task when trying to matchup with opponents who made sure to select highly productive backs early. Most owners fully comprehend this, as the prevalence of RBs in Round 1 clearly demonstrates. It also represents a massive change from just one year ago. At that time, Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy were mainstays atop most fantasy drafts. But beyond that, at least one legitimate question existed regarding every other back. And that was reflected in the composition of the remaining slots in that initial round, as only six RBs were chosen before the beginning of Round 2. But this summer, owners have no such reservations, as 10 backs are departing the draft board in Round 1. Plus, even though Round 2 delivers an even split between RBs and WRs, the unquestioned starters at RB have essentially evaporated before the conclusion of Round 3. If you somehow have not been convinced that you should build your RB tandem early in your drafts, this is yet another firm recommendation that you do. At a minimum you should grab your first back in Round 1. Then if you want to gamble on one of the rookies as your RB2, you can address other positions in Rounds 2-5. But that is a dangerous plan, and one that you could easily regret once the games begin.
Quarterbacks Remain Available Much Longer This Season
Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady were among the first nine players selected in the 2012 fantasy drafts, with Rodgers being chosen third overall. The trio was joined in Round 2 by Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford, who were drafted within the top 16. But this summer, there are no QBs being selected in the first round. And while Rodgers remains the first signal caller being drafted, his ADP has declined to just 21st overall. Plus, the initial five signal callers as a group have remained available much longer this season. As Peyton Manning is currently the fifth QB to depart the draft board with an ADP of just 54. Ironically, his ADP is identical to last year’s number… although eight of his peers had already been selected in the same amount of time that it currently is taking owners to only draft four this summer. This development has occurred as a result of the tremendous depth that now exists at the position, as an infusion of young playmakers - RG3, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck - have blended with Matt Ryan and the collection of proven veterans mentioned earlier to supply a large assortment of proficient point producers for owners to choose from. As I mentioned in my recent article on QB draft strategy, there are 11 signal callers who should provide excellent results this season. This affords owners the luxury of focusing upon reinforcing their roster at RB and WR before addressing their QB position. Therefore, owners should be commended for exercising patience when selecting their QBs, because it is the most feasible approach to embrace.
Most Owners Have Become Enamored With David Wilson
His rookie season began inauspiciously, with a fumble on the first possession of his NFL career, followed by a dropped pass on his next opportunity. Those ominous miscues incurred Tom Coughlin's wrath, and Wilson was quickly jettisoned into prolonged irrelevance. He did not fully resurface from the outermost depths of Coughlin’s dog house until the final four weeks of the season. At that point, he garnered 43 of his 71 rushing attempts for the year, and bolted for 247 yards during that span. Despite the small sample size, owners have become smitten with Wilson, who nevertheless remains a largely unproven back. He is currently being selected 31st overall, and 15th among all RBs. That places him ahead of such notables as Steven Jackson, Stevan Ridley, Frank Gore, Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush. The intent is not to denigrate Wilson, who possesses the combination of speed and power to develop into a highly productive rusher, and could become a game breaking star. But some perspective is warranted, because he has yet to demonstrate that he can handle the responsibilities of being an every down back. He is virtually untested as a receiver, having collected just four receptions in 2012. It is also unwise to completely discount the possibility of a time share with Andre Brown, which could force Wilson into the role of spectator on various downs. That would hardly be the scenario that many owners are planning on, when they invest a third round pick on the second-year back.
Too Many Owners Are Missing Out On Ahmad Bradshaw
The former Giant has rushed for over 1,000 yards twice in his career, is going to operate as a feature back, and will be performing in a potent offense. Not only is Bradshaw a proven yardage producer, but he is a dependable and productive receiver, and is very proficient in pass protection. These are attributes that will keep him on the field with much greater regularity than backup Vick Ballard. And they should enhance his value with owners. Plus, if those are somehow not enough reasons to target him in your drafts, then here is a reminder that Bradshaw is just 27 years old. Yet, his ADP is an amazingly uninspired 102, as an astounding 35 other RBs are departing the draft boards prior to Bradshaw. As outlandish as that appears, the fact that (Andre) Brown and Mark Ingram are two of the backs who are being drafted before Bradshaw is completely indefensible. Brown and Ingram clearly possess inferior talent, and should have smaller roles on their own teams. If you are concerned with his history of foot issues, that is understandable. But there is extensive assortment of reasons for you to seize Bradshaw for your roster. Particularly since other owners have failed to grasp the advantages of doing so.
Cecil Shorts Is Being Dramatically Undervalued
Those of you who have been reading my material for the past year are likely thinking “again with Cecil Shorts Phil? “ to which my answer is… yes. Until more fantasy owners take advantage of the opportunity to secure Shorts for their rosters. And that certainly is not taking place to the degree that it should. His current ADP is an underwhelming 82, and he is only the 34th WR being selected. There is sufficient evidence that he is worthy of far more confidence, as he led the Jaguars in receiving yardage (979) and TDs (seven) last season, despite waiting until Week 7 to garner his initial start. He established himself as a big play receiver by collecting five receptions in excess of 40 yards, which tied for fifth at his position. Plus, he tied for ninth with 17 catches of 20+ yards. He also averaged 17.8 YPC, and generated at least 100 yards in four different contests. As I detailed in my recent AFC Predictions, I believe that Shorts could easily attain top 10 numbers among all WRs. He proved to be a difference maker while performing in only 14 games by finishing 22nd in fantasy points, 21st in yardage (979), and tying for 17th in TDs. He should deliver a significant statistical rise in each major category, because he will be Jacksonville’s primary target by a sizable margin. Shorts is an explosive playmaker, who will repay owners for their investments.
Graham, Gronk, And The Great Gap At Tight End
Owners have established definitive lines of demarcation in preferences for their TEs. Some owners are inclined to utilize a second round draft pick on Jimmy Graham, or an early third round selection on Rob Gronkowski. Others are content to employ a mid-round pick on a cluster of alternatives. And the remaining owners are waiting until the late rounds before finally choosing their TE. Gronkowski and Graham certainly redefined the fantasy landscape with their immense production in 2011. And their performances have been so thoroughly explosive, that some owners have been compelled to select the record setting tandem near the onset of drafts last season, and are adopting that strategy once again in 2013. Graham’s ADP of 13, and Gronkowski’s equally lofty 15 represented uncharted territory for the perceived value of TEs last season. And considering that Graham’s current ADP is 17, while Gronkowski’s is 27, it is easy to determine that the process is being duplicated this summer. But many owners are uncomfortable with the thought of using such a lofty pick on a TE, and are waiting to make their choices. That results in a sizable gap between Gronkowski’s ADP and the selection of Jason Witten as the 52nd player overall. Then, the draft proceeds until the bottom of Round 6 before Vernon Davis becomes just the fourth TE chosen, after 70 other players have been added to rosters. Tony Gonzalez then emerges with an ADP of 76, followed by Kyle Rudolph at 84, Dennis Pitta at 88. These five TEs who are being chosen between rounds five and eight supply owners with excellent alternatives to Graham and Gronk, because they have the potential to outscore the remaining TE options by a comfortable margin, yet do not require the heavy commitment that owners have undertaken when utilizing a pick at TE near the beginning of the draft process. Still, there other owners who have decided to implement even more patience, which creates another lull in activity until Greg Olsen is chosen with the 104th pick. He is followed by Jared Cook, Jermichael Finley, Owen Daniels, and Jermaine Gresham, who becomes the 12th TE chosen, with an ADP of 132. There are even some owners who wait until round 12 to seize Brandon Pettigrew, Antonio Gates or Martellus Bennett. The cavernous gap that currently exists between the ADPs of Graham and Bennett exhibits the wide disparity in philosophy among fantasy owners, concerning where they should secure their TEs. The recommendation from here, is to focus upon the quartet of Witten, Davis, Gonzalez and Pitta. Because they provide the most efficient value among their peers, when their current ADPs are matched up with their potential for sizable production this season.