A Pre-NFL-Draft Look at Late Round Sleepers

By Jen Ryan
Jen Ryan I know it’s only April, but many people are actively drafting, some of us at a feverish rate. You can follow along with all of my best ball drafts on our homepage, and read up on some best ball basics here: (http://www.footballdiehards.com/fantasy-football-columns/html/There-is-No-Offseason-MFL10s-are-Opening-this-Week.cfm). Free Agency has already had an immense impact on a handful of players. The chart below reflects all players whose ADP has jumped at least two rounds since the start of free agency through this week.

reflects all players whose ADP has jumped at least two rounds

Movement creates an effect on draft position. ADP has the ability to shoot up and down at alarming rates depending on a player’s landing spot. If Rex Burkhead signed with any team other than the New England Patriots, he likely remains a double-digit draft pick. Garcon’s ADP suggests that many feel Kyle Shannahan is going to make a Julio Jones out of him. The idea of Drew Brees throwing deep passes to Ted Ginn Jr. is enough to move him from a late-teen to sometimes undrafted pick to 13th rounder. Once Dwayne Allen signed with the Patriots, Jack Doyle suddenly became the TE14 in ADP. Danny Woodhead, two seasons removed from an overall RB3 finish, continues to climb with his new deal in Baltimore combined with Kenneth Dixon’s suspension. As I mentioned, movement creates an effect and we can expect more movement once the NFL draft commences.
Once the draft dust settles this weekend, we can assume the average draft position of a handful of players will move both up and down. We will revisit that in a few weeks, but just looking at the chart above there is a lot to take away regarding movement. There is an opposite side to players who have jumped at least two rounds and that is players who’s ADP has fallen. The chart below reflects that, with players who went undrafted for a few weeks removed (Teddy Bridgewater, Benny Cunningham, Corey Grant), and using and ADP dip of at least three rounds as a bench mark.

ADP dip of at least three rounds

These are the types of players I am interested in drafting now, particularly the ones I will touch on below.

Thomas Rawls, RB – Seattle Seahawks
Currently, Rawls is my highest owned running back. That is not by design, he is just a player I cannot pass on in the later rounds, and I have a 31% stake in him as of today. I will lay off in the coming weeks to diversify a bit, but as long as his price continues to drop I will continue buying. The acquisition of Eddie Lacy in free agency has given Rawls the biggest discount of any player in MFL10’s. We can look at the contract of Lacy and his guaranteed figure of roughly $3 million and be scared off Rawls. If the Seahawks are going to pay Lacy that much money why would they even give Rawls the ball? Keep in mind, Rawls is dirt cheap in terms of NFL salary, and has just $615,000 coming his way this season. They essentially have two running backs on the books for the price of one.
We all know Lacy has not been himself in recent years. On top of injuries, his weight struggles may be fun for internet fodder but those struggles are no joke to his employer, who have worked weight bonuses into his salary. I am buying Rawls for all of these reasons, including the fact that the last time both of these players were on the field for at least 12 games in a season, Rawls out-performed Lacy:
lacy vs Rawls

Lacy’s current ADP is 6.06 whereas Rawls’ is 11.04. He is one of my top late-round picks, and at my last count I have gotten him as late as the 14th round.

Matt Forte, RB – New York Jets
Our Player Career Charts tool (http://www.footballdiehards.com/appls/PlayerCharts.cfm ) is one of my absolute favorites on the site. Matt Forte’s player career chart dating back to 2009:

Matt Forte history ranking chart

2016 is the clear outlier here. Prior to last season, Forte finished as an RB1 in PPR scoring in seven straight seasons. I am chalking last season up to the New York Jets being a complete disaster, rather than Forte finally falling off of his cliff. He averages as a late 11th pick at the moment, but I have seen him go much later than that (I have a share at 14.08). Bilal Powell, for comparison, will cost you the 8.04 pick as of this week.

Robert Woods, WR – Los Angeles Rams
Woods is one of those players who’s ADP has been on the rise since the start of free agency. With that said, his cost as a late 14th is still a steal in my opinion, and I expect him to out-perform his ADP by season’s end. Kenny Britt proved in 2015 that the Rams are capable of producing a 1,000 yard receiver. Britt is now a Cleveland Brown, and leaves 111 targets behind. Woods was never a top receiver for the Buffalo Bills and in his four year career only managed one full season. He did average over six targets per game with Buffalo has a second, and often third/fourth, option for the team. He is stepping into quite the opportunity in Los Angeles and could equate to free money when the season is all said and done, especially if he is on the field for 16 games.

Jason Witten, TE – Dallas Cowboys
I am not using this opportunity to wave my Cowboys pom poms. I am using it to remind you that Jason Witten has been the TE10 or better in fantasy football every season since 2009, except for last year when he disappointed his owners in finishing as the TE11. There isn’t a tight end in football with a higher floor or lower ceiling than Witten. He is not going to give you a few 20 point games here and there. He will, however, give you double-digit points week in and week out. He pairs perfectly with your boom-type tight ends in Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert, etc. Since MFL10’s opened, his ADP has consistently hovered around the area of a late-14th. If you spend on early pick on one of the top tight ends, keep your eyes out for Witten down in the late teens.

These are just a handful of players I perceive to have late-round value. Some of the aforementioned players even go undrafted in some of these best ball leagues. Once the weekend ends, there will be a new wave of drafters entering the MFL10 lobby. ADP fluctuation is imminent, and I am excited to not only track the movement, but report back to you some of my observations in the coming weeks. Drafting best ball leagues during the NFL draft is a lot of fun. Get in there and turn that $10 into $100. Good luck!