Since the preseason is now underway, and owners are participating in a voluminous amount of drafts, we now possess an exceptional road-map toward knowing exactly where owners value each player, simply by perusing their latest average draft positions (ADPs). As you are aware, these results can combine with your own participation in mock drafts, and your ongoing accumulation of information to supply critical insight into how your upcoming drafts will unfold. All of which makes this an appropriate time to examine some of the players that I believe are being overvalued, or conversely undervalued, based upon the aforementioned ADPs.
This particular piece will focus upon RBs, which is the position that astute owners are addressing immediately within their drafts. Not only have many of you correctly ascertained that it is crucial to select at least one back very early in this year's draft process, but many of you are utilizing your first two picks on RBs. It is hardly a secret at this point that this is also a practical strategy, since your options degenerate rapidly soon after the draft process commences. Any owners who fail to quickly build a stable of backs, place themselves at risk of facing an arduous task when trying to matchup with opponents who captured the highly productive backs. But as previously mentioned, most owners comprehend this, which is reflected in the ADPs that you will see. All material is based upon the presumption that the drafts will occur in 12-team leagues. For my analysis of QBs just click here
Owners Are Not Concerned About Trent Richardson’s Health
Trent Richardson’s blend of power and elusiveness supply the potential for him to be an elite back, which is why Cleveland drafted him with the third overall pick in 2012. Fantasy owners have also recognized his potential to generate enormous numbers, as only five other RBs are currently being selected before him. His ADP (7) firmly positions him in the middle Round 1, as owners are drafting him before LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris. I can build a passionate and logical case that the entire quartet should be selected before Richardson, even though he still should be drafted as an RB1. His selection should occur at the bottom of Round 1, due to his history of injuries, and the continuing punishment that his running style is likely to create. Health issues were a consistent part of Richardson’s rookie year, beginning with knee surgery that sidelined him throughout the entire preseason. During the regular season, he suffered broken ribs, and also missed the season finale with a high ankle sprain. That contributed to his 3.6 YPC, and his yardage total of 950, which was exceeded by 17 other backs. And it occurred even though he received the NFL’s 11th most rushing attempts (267). However, he did tie for fifth among all backs with 11 TDs, while collecting 51 passes for 367 yards. Richardson will be allotted a mammoth workload by Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner, which should enable him to find the end zone with frequency, while expanding his yardage total in rushing and receiving. Provided that he can perform at full strength. Owners should seize him if he is available near the close of Round 1. But monitor the right leg problem that has forced him to miss all of Cleveland’s offseason programs.
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Why Isn’t Alfred Morris A First Round Choice?
The initial rounds of most mock drafts are bursting with RBs, as exactly nine currently possess an ADP under 12. However, Morris is not included within that collection of first round selections, and he absolutely should be. His ADP of 15 is respectable, but owners should have more confidence in the second year back, based upon his accomplishments last season, and the opportunity that he will have to generate excellent numbers once again. Only Adrian Peterson accumulated more rushing yards than the 1,613 that Morris amassed, and his 13 TDs were second only to Arian Foster. Morris delivered double digit fantasy points in 12 regular season contests, and should continue to provide consistent performances, rather than a mixture of productive games interspersed with disappointing point totals. Plus, he proved to be far more than simply a "system back", by consistently accruing additional yardage after contact. Considering the degree to which high quality RBs are at a premium this summer, owners should not abstain from grabbing Morris before Round 1 draws to a close. Even though he is not heavily involved as a receiver, Morris will still garner an enormous number of touches. He ran the ball 335 times in 2012, which was the NFL's third highest total. If the concern is that Mike Shanahan will resort to his traditionally villainous ways and inflict surprise lineup changes at RB, he is far more likely to realize how vital Morris is to Washington’s offense, and will make sure that his offensive coordinator/son Kyle will deployed him extensively. If you are picking in the 10th, 11th or 12 slots, there is no reason to let Morris slip into Round 2. Right now, he is being drafted after Richardson, A.J. Green and Dez Bryant. But you should not make the same mistake.
Owners Have Not Completely Give Up On Darren McFadden
At some point during your draft preparations, you arrive at the annual question of where to slot Darren McFadden. There have been periods during his career in which he has delivered impressive displays of explosiveness, and appeared primed to finally justify all discussion concerning his potential for greatness. Unfortunately, those have been followed by a prompt return to massive disappointment for those who had drafted him. Primarily due to a well-chronicled history of injuries that have sidelined him for 23 games in five seasons. His most prolific year occurred in 2010, when Oakland transitioned from zone blocking schemes to integrated gap and power schemes that better suited his ability. McFadden responded by bolting for 1,157 rushing yards in 13 games, along with 507 receiving yards, and 10 TDs. He also led the NFL in rushing after six contests in 2011, before a Lisfranc injury abruptly concluded his season. But McFadden struggled last year after the Raiders inexplicably returned to a zone blocking scheme. Plus, a high ankle sprain forced him to miss four games, and also contributed to his disappointing numbers. Considering his track record of recurrent setbacks, it would be understandable for owners to choose alternative RB options. However, his frustrating NFL tenure has been sprinkled with impressive performances, and proven yardage generators at RB are in short supply. Which explains his ADP of 31, placing him ahead of Stevan Ridley, Frank Gore, Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush. McFadden is Oakland’s most dangerous runner, and will be reacquainted with the blocking scheme that is most conducive to his strengths. If you decide to select him, make sure that you stockpile RBs on draft day. That will protect you if another malady impedes him over the course of multiple games, or causes him to miss them completely.
Chris Ivory Is Being Undervalued
In my recent article on ADPs, I discussed the lofty regard that many owners have for David Wilson. Despite his potential to deliver big plays, he has yet to demonstrate that he can handle the responsibilities of being an every down back. Yet he is currently being selected before a massive number of proven backs. Meanwhile, New York's other team also possesses a runner who has opened eyes with his combination of speed and power. However, owners are not demonstrating the same degree of confidence in Chris Ivory that they have exhibited with Wilson. Ivory burst into prominence with a series of impressive performances in 2010, but was then embedded within the New Orleans depth chart until the Jets acquired him in March. Now, the path is cleared for Ivory to display his considerable ability on a consistent basis for the first time in his professional career. But his ADP of 83 places him in Round 7, which I believe is ridiculously late in the draft process. Unproven rookies Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell and Giovani Bernard, and the chronically disappointing Ryan Mathews are all departing the draft board before Ivory. Considering the lack of depth that exists at RB this season, owners should be taking advantage of the opportunity to seize Ivory much sooner. He offers a 5.1 career YPC, and is among a select group of backs who should garner extensive workloads this season. Not only does Ivory lack a genuine competitor on the Jets’ roster to pilfer his touches, but it is not in Gang Green’s best interests to build their offensive approach around a passing attack that will rely upon Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and an underwhelming collection of WRs. Ivory is worthy of selection three rounds earlier than what is currently taking place.
Ryan Mathews In The Fifth Round... Why?
Even though his perpetually disheartening career has yet to completely jettison him from San Diego’s backfield mix, what was once a massive legion of Mathews apologists within the fantasy community has largely dispersed. Or so it appeared, because his current ADP of 52 is surprising. The somewhat incomprehensible development places him 23rd among all backs, and results in Mathews being selected before Shane Vereen and Ahmad Bradshaw. Which simply should not be happening. Since entering the league in 2010, questions about his toughness have been prevalent as a result of his various injuries. Plus, his seven lost fumbles, and his shortcomings in pass protection have further accelerated a steep decline in expectations over the past three years. His career began with great promise, after former G.M. A. J. Smith chose him with the 12th overall pick in 2010. He was in position for an extensive workload, which compelled fantasy owners to select him 14th overall, and first in the majority of rookie drafts. But since that time, he has manufactured a grand total of 14 TDs, averaging 825 yards and missed 10 contests. Now that the Chargers have secured Danny Woodhead, the former Patriot’s presence will reduce Mathews’ chances for success even further. It appears that the best case scenario for the incumbent back is that he will remain a factor in the team’s offensive approach on first and second downs. But for that to occur, he needs to remain healthy, and reduce his propensity for substandard performances. For those who believe that his current standing as a fifth round pick elevates him to bargain status, I understand the logic. But still recommend that it is best to utilize your critical draft selections on players who are more likely to reward your faith.
Shane Vereen Should Be Drafted Much Sooner
While owners have been immersed in securing RBs during the initial stages of this year's drafts, many have managed to overlook Vereen. He has somehow remained available until Round 8, despite the likelihood that he will be a valuable and productive weapon for his team. In my recent breakdown on ADPs of QBs, I discussed Tom Brady's depleted receiving options. While New England’s passing game will undoubtedly remain prevalent within their offensive strategy, RBs Stevan Ridley and Vereen will also undertake significant roles. It is important to recall that even though New England led the NFL in total offense last season (428 YPG), the team accomplished that both by passing and running the ball. Not only did Brady and the aerial attack rank fourth (291 YPG), but the Patriots were also seventh in rushing, while averaging 136.5 YPG. Plus, they led the NFL with 25 rushing TDs. And nothing has occurred during the offseason to suggest that a reduced emphasis on their ground game is imminent. Owners should be selecting both Patriot backs sooner than what is currently taking place, although Ridley's ADP of 33 hardly qualifies him as the afterthought that Vereen has become. His ADP is merely 88, as 32 backs are being chosen before him. That includes Jonathan Stewart and Vick Ballard, even though Vereen is significantly healthier than Stewart, and will seize a larger role in his team’s offense than Ballard. He will be asked to fulfill the responsibilities that Danny Woodhead executed for the past three seasons, and should easily surpass the 301 rushing yards that Woodhead attained last year. He should also exceed the 40 receptions that Woodhead garnered in his role as a backfield target for Brady. Plus, he will be utilized when the Patriots opt for a no huddle approach. That further solidifies him as an excellent flex/RB3 , who should be drafted at least 25 slots earlier.
Owners Exercising Patience Before Drafting St. Louis Backs
You must descend into Round 9 before eventually locating the first of three backs who will compete for touches in St. Louis. Daryl Richardson is the first member of the trio to depart the board, with an ADP of 103. Isaiah Pead follows at 121, with Zac Stacy finally being chosen at 131. They are staging a compelling battle, and if any of them ultimately capture a sizable percentage of carries, any owners who selected that back will suddenly have a viable starting option, that was chosen well into the drafts. That justifies the intrigue of a situation that currently has various potential outcomes. The Rams selected Pead with the 50th overall pick in 2012, in hopes that his speed could result in big plays. But seventh round pick Richardson catapulted beyond his fellow rookie, and performed far more extensively. Richardson amassed 475 yards on 98 attempts, while collecting 163 yards as a receiver and did exhibit some explosiveness that had originally been expected from Pead. Meanwhile, Pead’s disappointing season ended with just 10 carries for 54 yards. He will miss the season opener due to suspension, which certainly won’t promote his chances to garner a sizable role. Stacy is an interesting addition to the competition, as he runs with purpose and toughness, yet has solid vision, and his own level of elusiveness. This situation is very fluid, and it would be reckless to forecast how the workload will ultimately be distributed. While it would appear that Richardson will capture the majority of touches, Pead could still challenge him in that area. Plus, Stacy could surprise both backs, and carve out a sizable role of his own. For now, it is best to monitor their competition, and avoid reaching for any member of this trio.