Preseason NFL Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Preseason NFL Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our NFL Barometer series.

We're back for the second edition of the preseason NFL Barometer. Instead of relying solely upon news, I used ADP from the Rotowire Online Championship at NFFC from two sets of dates to identify risers and fallers. The first range of dates spans June 11 to July 11, and the second spans July 11 to August 11. After identifying some of the biggest risers and fallers in that time, we'll analyze why the ADP change has occurred and whether the player is a good investment at his current price.

Risers

Deshaun Watson, Browns

Watson's ADP has risen nearly three rounds overall and two spots among quarterbacks. The reason is fairly obvious, given that he was suspended only six games after fear that he may be sidelined for the entire season. There's still a word of warning for those considering drafting Watson, however, as the NFL has appealed his six-game ban. Word emerged Thursday night that Watson would accept an eight-game ban.

As for his ability to produce on the field, Watson has averaged 22.0 fantasy points per game during his career. That came entirely with the Texans, who were regularly in the bottom half of the league in offensive plays per game while Watson was under center. That gives some assurance that Watson will still be productive as a Brown, as Cleveland has been in the bottom third of the league in plays per game and bottom five in pass attempts per game each of the last two seasons.

We're back for the second edition of the preseason NFL Barometer. Instead of relying solely upon news, I used ADP from the Rotowire Online Championship at NFFC from two sets of dates to identify risers and fallers. The first range of dates spans June 11 to July 11, and the second spans July 11 to August 11. After identifying some of the biggest risers and fallers in that time, we'll analyze why the ADP change has occurred and whether the player is a good investment at his current price.

Risers

Deshaun Watson, Browns

Watson's ADP has risen nearly three rounds overall and two spots among quarterbacks. The reason is fairly obvious, given that he was suspended only six games after fear that he may be sidelined for the entire season. There's still a word of warning for those considering drafting Watson, however, as the NFL has appealed his six-game ban. Word emerged Thursday night that Watson would accept an eight-game ban.

As for his ability to produce on the field, Watson has averaged 22.0 fantasy points per game during his career. That came entirely with the Texans, who were regularly in the bottom half of the league in offensive plays per game while Watson was under center. That gives some assurance that Watson will still be productive as a Brown, as Cleveland has been in the bottom third of the league in plays per game and bottom five in pass attempts per game each of the last two seasons.

Eno Benjamin, Cardinals

Benjamin has been a buzzy name throughout training camp, which explains why he has gone from undrafted to a late-round flyer as the summer has progressed. James Conner will retain the primary role in Arizona, but his injury history is no secret as he has yet to play a full slate of games during his NFL career. It's a safe bet that a second back will get involved in Arizona at some point this season, and Benjamin has put himself in the position to be that back. Coach Kliff Kingsbury recently had effusive praise for Benjamin, and the second running back job could be Benjamin's to lose. That makes him a strong target for zero running back options, or simply as a stash candidate.

DJ Moore, Panthers

Moore is one of the only significant movers among relatively high-end wide receiver options, shifting from an early fourth-round pick to a mid-third-round pick. That likely has to do with Carolina's acquisition of Baker Mayfield, who should offer at least some upgrade over Sam Darnold. Moore has consistently proven to be a WR2 for fantasy purposes, finishing 14th, 28th and 23rd in fantasy points per game at the position in his first three seasons as a pro. If Mayfield succeeds, Moore could be in for a big season. According to Player Profiler, Moore finished fourth in the league last season with 901 unrealized air yards and had 16.5 expected fantasy points per game — a 2.5 point difference from his actual mark.      

Austin Hooper, Titans

Hooper has gone from one of the more promising young tight ends in the league to an afterthought from a fantasy perspective. His move from Cleveland to Tennessee was hardly among the headlines this offseason, but he's moved up about 13 picks and three spots within the position. After topping 740 snaps in each of his final three seasons in Atlanta, he slipped to 684  snaps in each of his two seasons in Cleveland. While Tennessee has also cycled through tight ends in recent campaigns, the departure of A.J. Brown should open a significant number of targets in Tennessee. Rookie Treylon Burks is unproven, Robert Woods is trending up (as discussed last week), but his exact availability to begin the regular season remains unclear. Finally, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has praised Hooper throughout summer, which lines him up for a hot start to the season at the very least.  

Kenneth Walker, Seahawks

Obstacles to a three-down role for Walker in Seattle have dissipated in recent weeks. First, Chris Carson retired, and now Rashaad Penny has been slowed by a groin injury. For now, coach Pete Carroll has termed the injury as minor, but Carroll is notorious for being overly optimistic about injuries and Penny's own injury history suggests he doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Carroll followed the news about Penny by saying he had a comfort level with Walker as a three-down back. Specifically, Carroll noted Walker's improved work as a pass blocker. Walker was a break from the exercise laid out in the intro, but his ADP is sure to skyrocket in the coming weeks if Penny remains sidelined.  

Fallers

Justin Fields, Bears

Simply put, the Bears are a mess. The team failed to build around Fields in a meaningful way this offseason, adding middling at best skill players. Now, those additions aren't healthy as Velus Jones, Byron Pringle and N'Keal Harry are sidelined by injury. Even if Fields is ready to step forward from his rookie season, he doesn't have the requisite talent surrounding him. In the few games the Bears will win this season, it's likely to come primarily on the strength of their running game and defense. Fields has dipped 10 spots in the overall ADP, and the preseason trend in Chicago is not positive.

Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Jacobs has slipped eight picks in ADP and remains on the periphery of RB2 range as the 25th back off the board. Although rumors of a trade were quashed by coach Josh McDaniels, rookie Zamir White was impressive in the Hall of Fame game and could possibly force a timeshare in the backfield. However, White's profile doesn't appear all that dangerous to Jacobs. White showed little receiving ability in college, posting a 12th percentile target share. Meanwhile, Jacobs finished ninth in targets and fifth in receptions among running backs in 2021. He also finished 17th with 43 red zone touches (10 at the goal line), and White — who has a 30th percentile BMI — isn't likely to challenge Jacobs in that role. Given those factors, even if White cuts into Jacobs' touches, he's not likely to steal the highest value opportunity based on the skills each player has shown. This is an opportunity to buy the dip on Jacobs.  

Russell Gage, Buccaneers

Gage has seen his ADP drop 16 positions and 10 spots among wide receivers. The addition of Julio Jones is the most obvious reason, but Chris Godwin's accelerated recovery from a torn ACL means that Gage might not find himself on the field in three-receiver sets to begin the season. For a player as buried on the depth chart as Gage appears to be, he's still a mid-seventh-round pick. There's good reason for that. Although Godwin is trending positively, there's no guarantee he'll be ready to take a full role to begin the season. Meanwhile, Mike Evans is already dealing with a hamstring injury and has a history of similar injuries. Finally, Jones isn't the receiver he used to be. While Gage's role isn't secure, there's a reasonable way for drafters to talk themselves into selecting him — particularly with Tom Brady throwing him passes. 

Mid-Tier Tight Ends

The top-10 tight ends have remained stable in ADP, but past that point, players at the position have consistently slipped down the board. Pat Freiermuth, Irv Smith, Mike Gesicki, Albert Okwuegbunam, Tyler Higbee and Noah Fant are among those who have seen their ADP slip  eight to 10 positions. That can likely be attributed to a common strategy that has emerged this offseason to either grab an elite tight end or wait out the position as long as possible — something we used to commonly see at quarterback. For drafters that feel strongly about a player in the group mentioned above, now is a strong opportunity to jump ADP by a round to get your target at a discounted price.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Marcus
Dan started covering fantasy sports in 2015, joining Rotowire in 2018. In addition to Rotowire, Dan has written for Baseball HQ and Rotoballer.
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