Average draft position (ADP) can be a valuable tool to consult when constructing your fantasy teams. Sure, identifying and capitalizing on players you value is the most important distinction behind a successful fantasy season, but recognizing and adjusting to how a draft board may break remains an integral part of the strategy in fantasy football. This series will look to identify interesting tidbits that can be gleaned from ADP, starting first with some of better values out there during the opening stages of the 2018 fantasy season. For the purpose of this exercise, we'll use the NFFC's ADP although I'll acknowledge some of the other prominent ADP's in future articles.
ADP: 49 / RB23
At this point last year, the former Miami tailback was just beginning to skyrocket up fantasy player's draft boards, imbued with the promise that head coach Adam Gase's quarterback-friendly offense would once again create enough space for Ajayi to take advantage of his deceptive speed and vision in the open field. For many fantasy players, selecting Ajayi early in fantasy drafts was a chance to rectify wrongs. After all, the Boise State product became a fantasy "sleeper" darling in 2016, blowing through the remains of Arian Foster's corpse to grab a stranglehold on the starting RB position, finishing his second year in the NFL with 1,272 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to go along with a healthy 4.9 yards-per-carry average. By the time September rolled around, Ajayi was comfortable getting taken in the opening portions of the second round in most leagues, as even a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill couldn't dispel the ever-growing enthusiasm surrounding the RB.
In hindsight, Jay Cutler's insertion into the lineup was a curse rather than a blessing, as the should-have-been-retired signal caller never threatened defenses enough to let Ajayi breathe. By the end of his tenure with Miami, Ajayi was averaging a ghastly 3.4 yards-per-carry while ceding snaps to the likes of Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. Nevermind that Ajayi flourished after being traded to Philadelphia in Week 9 – by that point he was already deemed a lost cause in the minds of fantasy owners. Fast forward to this year, and many of the same intriguing fantasy elements remain. Situated in an explosive and creative offense lead by a rising QB Carson Wentz, Ajayi should absorb the bulk of the work left behind from the departed LeGarrette Blount, as he figures to be the only goalline back currently on the roster. Wendall Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement will likely cannibalize any chance at receiving opportunities for Ajayi, but similar receiving concerns never dissuaded anyone last year according to his ADP. And the well-documented injury concerns remain, but given the 25-year-old has only missed three games in the two seasons he's started, it's not as if he's brittle. Considering how high Ajayi was going last year and the relatively cushy home he's found in Philadelphia, this figures to be one of the better "no-brainer" values out there at the moment.
ADP: 65/ WR26
With all the love Patrick Mahomes has been receiving, it's surprising Watkins hasn't climbed further up the ADP hierarchy. Yes, injuries and inconsistent play have vaulted the once generational prospect to a bit of an afterthought, but there's reason to believe the Chiefs are the best offense Watkins has ever played in. That being said, I'm not entirely sold on Watkins in PPR leagues simply because I'm not convinced he'll see a ton of targets. After all, Travis Kelce (122) and Hill (105) commanded the majority share of targets while the next closest receiver, Albert Wilson, netted a paltry 62 targets. But at least in standard scoring leagues, Watkins explosiveness (when healthy) figures to draw enough attention to warrant more usage than the perennially disappointing Wilson. That coupled with the introduction of cannon-turned-quarterback, Mahomes, is enough for me to consider Watkins a buy-low candidate for fantasy owners unable to scoop up a strong No. 2 WR in the first four rounds of drafts.
ADP: 67/ WR27
Crabtree and Watkins might be underpriced in terms of ADP, but that's about the only thing in common between the two receivers. I'm not normally one to base a player's worth to a team solely on how much they make, but it's difficult not to raise an eyebrow at Crabtree's contract (three years, $21 million), considering the Ravens passed over Dez Bryant in order to sign the former Raiders starter. And with the former No. 1 option out the door in Mike Wallace, Crabtree should have command over the lion's share of receiving options. That doesn't mean all that much since 26 teams had a higher leading WR target than the Ravens, but for at best a WR 2 on your fantasy team, the consistency is what we are looking for here. It's unlikely Flacco will reprise anything resembling a quality quarterback despite the reworked receiving core, which sees Crabtree join John Brown and Willie Snead atop the depth chart, but there's still some value to be had in a team's top option regardless of how poor the signal caller/offense might be. At the very worst, Crabtree's 2018 numbers should resemble his final season in Oakland (58 catches, 618 receiving yards, eight touchdowns) which placed the Texas Tech product 30th among WRs in ESPN PPR-standard scoring leagues.
ADP: 108/ QB16
Goff's low ADP is representative of the immense amount of depth at the quarterback position this year, as the 12th leading QB scorer by most metrics in 2017 slipped thanks to studs such as Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson returning from injury. Even if you assume Goff's impeccable 28/7 TD:INT ratio is unlikely to be replicated again, a better command of an offense that appears to be growing with its young quarterback should put Goff in a position to rack up higher touchdown numbers. And while the addition of Brandin Cooks in replace of Sammy Watkins might not be as positive as some fantasy prognosticators might lead you to believe, Todd Gurley's historic levels of production scream outlier which could force the No. 1 overall pick to air the ball out more this season.
ADP: 130/ WR48
The fantasy world appears to be catching up to this disservice as Hurns has jumped up six spots in the ADP since last week. I expect that number will continue to rise as the preseason progresses if only because the Cowboys have few – if any – legitimate receiving weapons on their roster after both Jason Witten and Dez Bryant vacated Jerryworld in the offseason. The concerns about Dak Prescott's ability to command an offense are warranted, but there's little to no risk gambling this late in the draft on a team's No. 1 option. And while Prescott struggled mightily in his sophomore season, he's likely still an upgrade over Blake Bortles, who Hurns did earn a 1,000-yard season with back in 2015.