This article is part of our Best Ball Journal series.
The following is a short list of players who have seen notably sharp jump in their best ball ADP on DRAFT, with each blurb attempting to identify the cause of those changes as well as whether the identified market shifts are based on sound reasoning. Check the end of the article for two soon-to-be risers in the ADP to see what's next.
The ADP samples for the 'past' are from June 16 to June 30, while the recent sample is from July 12 (after the Melvin Gordon report broke) to July 21.
I wrote in an article Friday, regarding training camp competitions generally, about how Ekeler and Jackson might fare if Melvin Gordon should hold out or force an exit from the Chargers for the 2019 season. Now, we can't take anything for granted with Gordon to this point, good or bad-case scenario. But for this exercise, in our endless pursuit of cheap upside, I'll entertain the worst-case hypothetical for Gordon's owners, with the star runner sitting out the whole season.
In that scenario I projected 500 snaps for Ekeler and 400 for Jackson in that article. The resulting projection, based on the per-carry and per-target rates shown by the two in their NFL careers to this point, left Ekeler with 1,374 yards from scrimmage and Jackson with 911. Generous as it might be to either or both of Ekeler and Jackson, this projection would respectively leave them with from-scrimmage yardage totals that would rank 20th and 57th league-wide in 2018. If we more specifically place them by 0.5PPR scoring, as DRAFT uses in its contests, then Ekeler would get another 30.5 points on 61 receptions while Jackson gets 20 more points on 40 receptions. For a placeholder touchdown projection, let's distribute between Ekeler and Jackson the previous three-year per-year average of Chargers running back touchdowns multiplied by 0.8. With 52 running back touchdowns from scrimmage in the last three years, that leaves the Chargers with a yearly average of 17 and 1/3, which would leave Ekeler and Jackson with 14 touchdowns to split. Because we have reason to believe Ekeler is better and will get more usage, let's have him take eight and Jackson six.
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If we skip fumbles and two-point conversions, that projection would leave Ekeler with roughly 216 fantasy points (13.5 per game) and Jackson with 147 (9.2 per game). On a per-game basis that would put Ekeler just behind Phillip Lindsay (13.69) and ahead of Tarik Cohen (12.4). Jackson would place right ahead of Peyton Barber (8.77).
So if we accept these projections for the hypothetical, then would Ekeler or/and Jackson be worth their emerging market prices? At 86.2 Ekeler averages an early eighth-round selection in the recent sample, just behind Miles Sanders (85.1) and Derrius Guice (85.9). Ekeler seems to have a higher floor than both players even if Gordon doesn't hold out, so I'd lean Ekeler there. In tournament settings I'd otherwise probably prefer him over Latavius Murray (75.1) and Lamar Miller (73.9) up to a certain share percentage, too. Jackson slots near Kalen Ballage (156.9), Devin Singletary (162.7), and Chase Edmonds (165.5). It's a tougher call than with Ekeler, but out of that group I'll probably lean toward Jackson for now.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, GB (106.8 → 91.0)
Valdes-Scantling poses tempting upside as the fastest receiver and a potential starter in the Green Bay offense, so he's an easily defended fantasy pick in tournament settings. Without disputing his upside, the floor might be a bit more tenuous than prices imply at the moment. At 91.0 MVS has gone ahead of not only teammate and projected lead slot receiver Geronimo Allison (92.5), but also Curtis Samuel (92.2), Dede Westbrook (100.6), and Larry Fitzgerald (101.5).
At 6-foot-4, 206 pounds with a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, it's easy to dream on what Valdes-Scantling might do if he earns 800 snaps in a bounce-back Aaron Rodgers offense. The question is whether MVS and Allison can hold off Equanimeous St. Brown and Jake Kumerow well enough to accumulate that sort of workload. While their specific functions might remain unsettled as new coach Matt LaFleur tinkers with personnel groupings, the Packers opened minicamp with MVS as the lead outside wide receiver opposite Davante Adams while Allison played the slot in three-receiver sets. Rodgers regularly advocates for Kumerow in the press, and after primarily playing outside last year any gains for Kumerow might necessarily come at the expense of Valdes-Scantling. St. Brown played both inside and out last year and as a result might be more of a threat to Allison than Valdes-Scantling, but he's still a threat to Valdes-Scantling all the same.
Kumerow showed well in the final two games of last year, catching 6-of-7 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown on 104 snaps. St. Brown arguably remains the best prospect of the three after turning 36 targets into 21 catches for 328 yards (58.3 percent catch rate, 9.1 YPT) while turning 22 in September. It's encouraging for MVS that he earned 692 snaps, but his efficiency (8.0 YPT) was questionable given the catch rate (51.4 percent). He could also lose some YPT if he's hard-pressed to maintain a 1:2 ratio of 40-yard catches to 20-yard catches – the baseline for most standout receivers is 1:3 or worse. It's possible that the workload split between all of Valdes-Scantling, Allison, St. Brown, and Kumerow is more evenly distributed than any of their fantasy owners would like, because none is a dominant presence and each has their own unique selling points.
Mark Andrews, TE, BAL (145.6 → 116.0)
Nothing has changed in Baltimore in recent weeks, but Andrews' price is skyrocketing all the same. This would appear to be a case of media agenda setting, where some plurality of influential analysts took notice of Andrews and the audience responded accordingly. You'd ideally have already gotten your fill of Andrews shares at his earlier lower prices, but there's an argument to make that he's even worth the price after jumping nearly three rounds in the ADP.
The closest tight ends to Andrews are now Austin Hooper (106.2), Trey Burton (125.1), and Kyle Rudolph (131.0). Because Burton and Rudolph strike me as maxed-out in offenses where other pass catchers demand an overwhelming number of targets – Thielen/Diggs in Rudolph's case and an ensemble cast in Burton's – Andrews is the easy pick for me between the three. That he's now going ahead of them strikes me as an obvious market correction, because there was never a good reason for Burton or Rudolph to go earlier.
It's Hooper where the question becomes more serious. Hooper is a former third-round pick who has acquitted himself very well in three NFL seasons, including a 2018 season where he was incredibly efficient despite a 660-yard, four-touchdown box score that might otherwise appear modest. Hooper was better than those numbers imply at a glance, because he caught 71 of 88 targets last year, giving him a Michael Thomas-like catch rate of 80.7 at 7.5 YPT. Locked into an 800-snap role in one of the league's best passing games, I think Hooper is where I cut off Andrews in my own rankings.
If you accumulate decent league volume, though, then Andrews is absolutely worth diversification picks if nothing else. Andrews strikes me as the real deal. Indeed, he was the higher-graded prospect for me between himself and Hooper, and Andrews' rookie season was the better of the two also. That's particularly impressive given that Andrews had to displace a first-round pick selected ahead of him in the very same draft (Hayden Hurst) to get on the field, not to mention Nick Boyle and a veteran former second-round pick in Maxx Williams. As he turned 50 targets into 34 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns last year (68 percent catch rate, 11.0 YPT), Andrews functioned very similarly to how he did at Oklahoma, making the compelling case that the skill set that afforded him such dominance in college will indeed translate to the NFL level. He did all of that while turning 22 on Sept. 6, making his immediate impact that much more impressive in a league where even the good tight ends typically struggle as rookies.
The tie-breaker for me between Andrews and Hooper is the fact that Baltimore's passing game projects to be among the league's least prolific, while no one would so much as blink if Matt Ryan threw for 5,000 yards in 2019. With that said, there's a counterargument to make that Andrews is in position to earn a greater share of his offense than Hooper might in Atlanta. Jeff Zrebiec of the Athletic noted that Andrews made "a ton of plays" in minicamp, and with presumed WR1 Marquise Brown's availability looking uncertain, Andrews really could lead the team in receiving production this year.
Giovani Bernard, RB, CIN (193.6 → 174.1)
Like Andrews, Bernard's ascent is entirely a media creation. Nothing changed in Cincinnati – Joe Mixon is still the presumed workhorse and new coach Zac Taylor has said nothing otherwise to imply that Bernard will be accommodated any particular way, yet Bernard is approaching the 13th round after generally inhabiting the 17th-round range most of the offseason.
I think Bernard was going too late previously, so some market correction was in order, but I would probably wait until the drafters chasing him get their fill of shares so that the bubble can burst a bit and let his ADP settle back into the 15th to 16th-round range. That's what I expect to happen, anyway. At his emerging ADP you'd have to take Gio around Chase Edmonds (165.5), Duke Johnson (169.9), Jamaal Williams (175.9), and C.J. Anderson (182.9).
Bernard is a good player, but his floor is negligible and his upside in the case of a Mixon injury probably would fall short of the upside Edmonds would pose in the event of a David Johnson injury, or Duke Johnson's upside if he should be traded from Cleveland. I'd take both over Bernard until further notice. Williams is a tougher call, because Bernard is a much better player, but I think Aaron Jones' history of durability trouble leaves Williams closer to the field than Bernard. I'd probably lean Williams a tad, not that I'm targeting him in general. As a longtime Anderson hater and recently reformed believer in Kerryon Johnson, Gio over C.J. is an easy call for me otherwise.
COMING UP NEXT
It won't always be obvious whose ADPs are about to jump, but a couple news details in recent days give us a couple clear cases this week.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, DEN (159.4)
Sanders was going in the top 90 on DRAFT back during March, and as recently as May he was going in the top 120. In recent weeks he had fallen closer to the 170s as anxiety over his Achilles' tendon tear arbitrarily took hold, only for Sanders to surprisingly avoid the PUP list and make a showing on Denver's opening day of training camp.
I'm not sure where Sanders' ADP will jump to from this point – I'd generally guess the 110-to-120 range – but I'll remain out of the bidding. He's a very good player and it's great to see him return to training camp so early, but I don't want to bet on an aging player making a quick turnaround from an Achilles' tendon tear in a Joe Flacco offense. Perhaps that's a mistake, but in the 120 range I'd much rather have players like N'Keal Harry or Devin Funchess.
Albert Wilson, WR, MIA (179.8)
This is one guy I wish I had more shares of. Wilson's season-ending hip injury scared me away from picking him ahead of DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills for the most part, but there's a real chance Wilson is the best of the three if fully healthy. I am a truther in favor of all three players, to be transparent, and all three are cheap enough that they remain standout late-round options to me in best ball.
Wilson was an excellent player at Georgia State, and he deserved to be a Day 2 pick after running a 4.43-second 40 at a dense 5-foot-9, 202 pounds. He made the NFL look silly for overlooking him, earning a meaningful role with the Chiefs even as an undrafted small school guy, earning 198 targets in four years and converting them into 124 receptions for 1,544 yards and seven touchdowns (62.6 percent catch rate, 7.8 YPT). Don't marginalize Wilson because of his obscure background – he's a strong prospect and the NFL simply got it wrong with him.