Kay Adams: Surprise Top 5 fantasy football sleepers
0:38 | Fantasy
Kay Adams: Surprise Top 5 fantasy football sleepers
Friday August 28th, 2015

Draft season has finally begun in earnest. If you are indeed drafting this weekend, you’ll want to know how the player-value sands have shifted over the last week. Below are the most interesting average draft position risers and fallers since our last update one week ago.

We will continue the ADP Watch through the first week of September.

All ADP data is courtesy of


Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins

As my pal Scott Pianowski pointed out on Twitter earlier this week, one positive to drafting early is that the lack of certainty in the pricing market can lead you to huge steals in drafts. If you wait to draft until after the third preseason game (like most people do, and I highly recommend), the market typically corrects itself. Such is the case with Miller.

2015 Fantasy Football Top 300

The Dolphins starting running back never should have been available late in the third round of a 12-team draft, but that’s exactly where he was going one month ago. Now that people have had time to realize that he was one of the best backs in the league last year, racking up nearly 1,400 total yards and nine touchdowns, and that he has no competition in the Miami backfield, the masses seem to understand that he can be an RB1 this year.

After all, Miller was an RB1 last year, finishing the season ranked ninth at the position in standard-scoring leagues. I’d be shocked if he didn’t, at the very least, match last year’s numbers. He’s no longer a steal now that his ADP is at 24.1, but he’s still well worth the price. I have zero doubts about Miller.

PLAYER PROFILES: Miller lacks excitement, but is huge fantasy asset

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles

Matthews’s draft-day price started creeping up slowly about a month ago, but it didn’t really take off until just about a week ago. Since then, he has climbed about one full spot every day. If you’re drafting this weekend, you’ll have to use a pick in the middle of the third round to secure the second-year wideout’s services, given his 30.6 ADP. In late July, his ADP was down in the middle of the fourth round. He’s unlikely to get much pricier since he’s already the 13th receiver by ADP, but you’re already betting that he can be a WR1 if you take pay up for the Vanderbilt product.

The logic behind the Matthews boomlet is easy to follow. He’s the top receiver in Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense, and is coming off a rookie year in which he caught 67 passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. The top receiver in Philadelphia during the Kelly Era (DeSean Jackson in 2013, Jeremy Maclin last season) has averaged 83.5 receptions, 1,325 yards and 9.5 touchdowns. Both were top 10 receivers in their respective seasons atop Philadelphia’s depth chart. Matthews showed all the tools to be able to take the baton this season, and it’s not like Jackson or Maclin had a superlative quarterback under center. Like Miller, Matthews isn’t a steal, but he can still provide surplus value at his draft-day price.

Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

Olsen has long been viewed as the No. 4 tight end, trailing Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce, but his draft-day price remained flat in the early-sixth round for much of the summer. That all changed when Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL. Olsen’s stock has been climbed steadily for about a week, and seems to have leveled off at an ADP of 57.6, which typically makes him one of the last four or five picks in the fifth round. Olsen was already in a great position to follow up on his 84-catch, 1,008-yard, six-touchdown season from a year ago.

• SI’s Fantasy Football Preview: Everything you need to know for 2015

Even with Benjamin in the fold, Olsen would be, at worst, Cam Newton’s No. 2 option in the passing game. Now that Benjamin is out for the year, however, Olsen will almost certainly lead this team in targets. He had 122 targets last season and that’s bound to increase this year. Benjamin got 146 looks from Newton, and while Devin Funchess may gobble up most of those, I’d be shocked if Olsen got fewer than 140 targets in 2015. Benjamin’s absence does bring the ceiling for the Panthers’ offense down, but Olsen should still thrive as Newton’s primary pass-catcher. His late-fifth ADP is appropriate.

Charles Johnson, WR, Vikings

One month ago, Johnson’s draft-day stock was mired in the eighth round. The logic there was hard to follow. It seems that everyone loves Teddy Bridgewater this year. If Bridgewater’s going to break out, wouldn’t it make sense that his nominal No. 2—but likely No. 1—receiver would follow? Of course it does. That’s realization is in part responsible for Johnson’s ascent on draft boards in August. His ADP now sits at a healthy 73.5 overall, which makes him an early seventh-round selection.

Best, worst scenarios for top 30 players in SI's fantasy rankings

Johnson showed what could make him a special receiver in the Vikings’ 20–12 win over the Raiders last week. He caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with a corner draped all over his shoulders. At 6’2” and 217 pounds, Johnson is going to be Bridgewater’s top target in the red zone, and he proved why with that touchdown catch. At the same time, he can be a significant deep threat. He had just 55 targets last season, but 13 traveled at least 20 yards in the air. While he caught only two of those, both went for touchdowns. Bridgewater may not throw the best deep ball in the league, but a full season with Johnson in the starting lineup could certainly help him in that facet of the game. Remember, Johnson didn’t get significant playing time until Week 11 last year, but he made an immediate impact once the Vikings inserted him in the starting lineup. He may be No. 2 on the depth chart, but he’s going to be the team’s best receiver. If you own one Minnesota receiver this season, make it Johnson, not Mike Wallace.

John Brown, WR, Cardinals

There was bound to be some natural increase in Brown’s draft stock after he started off the summer in the ninth round. He had a strong rookie season, catching 48 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns, while showing that he could be one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league. With Carson Palmer fully healthy, it only made sense that the fantasy community would eventually start to come around on the second-year receiver out of tiny Pittsburg State.

Then, Michael Floyd dislocated three fingers and Brown’s stock exploded. His ADP is now right behind Johnson’s, checking in at 75.7 overall. That may ultimately prove a bit ambitious.

• ​BELLER: Fantasy football five-minute guide: Basic tips you need to know

Even when Floyd went down with his injury, the Cardinals knew he was only going to miss a couple of games, at most. He had the stitches removed from his fingers earlier this week, and could still play in the Cardinals’ season opener against the Saints. Even if he misses that game, it seems almost certain that he’ll be back in Week 2. That means the Cardinals will again have three receivers with significant roles in the offense.

For the unit as a whole, and Palmer specifically, that’s a good thing. It might, however, preclude Brown from turning a profit at his draft-day price, especially since he and Floyd are at their best when they’re making plays deep down the field. Meanwhile, Floyd’s disappointing 2014 season, coupled with his injury this summer, has his ADP down at 126.5. You’re probably not going to own both, and I shouldn’t have to tell you which one is the better value at their respective ADPs.


Brett Carlson/Getty Images

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

For the better part of the summer, McCoy’s draft stock held steady right between 11 and 13 overall. Over the last two weeks, however, he has experienced a precipitous drop, which coincides with the hamstring injury he suffered in practice on Aug. 18. The Bills expect him to be ready for Week 1 against the Colts, but he’s now coming off the board at an average pick of 19.1, which places him in the back half of the second round. Even if he were fully healthy all preseason, his current ADP still would have been a more appropriate price. We know that a handful of early-round backs are going to go bust, and McCoy just has the look of one of those season-ruining players.

Fantasy football 2015 draft preview: AFC busts

McCoy’s backers seem to hold onto this specious claim that he’ll get more work in an offense led by Rex Ryan and Greg Roman than he did in Philadelphia. The only problem is that it’d be pretty much impossible for McCoy to carry the ball more often than he did in Chip Kelly’s offense. He had 314 carries in ‘13 and 312 last year, making him the only back to post consecutive 300-rush seasons.

That much work in back-to-back years is also a red flag for a running back. Most recently, Arian Foster had 629 carries between 2011–12. He missed eight games in ‘13 due to injury. Yes, that’s anecdotal, but it’s also the quickest way to illustrate that it isn’t just workload in the most recent season that can hurt a running back. A prolonged high usage rate will almost always catch up with a back eventually. This could be the year it drags down McCoy.

Finally, the opportunity cost associated with McCoy is high, and you have to be absolutely sure about a player on the Bills to invest in this offense with a top-20 pick. McCoy is the kind of player who could easily go either way. That’s not someone I want to target in the second round.


Joique Bell, RB, Lions

Everyone is excited about Ameer Abdullah. No one is excited about Bell. Last week, we discussed Abdullah’s rapid rise up draft boards. This week, let’s take a look at Bell’s tumble and explain why it’s still hard to buy in, even at the discount.

Bell is now coming off the board at pick No. 77.3 on average, placing him in the middle of the seventh round of a 12-team draft. That’s just in front of Giovani Bernard and Ryan Mathews, two backs I’d take ahead of him without a second thought. Here’s a smattering of the top headlines you’ll see when you search Bell’s name:

Detroit Lions RB Joique Bell confident knee injury won’t lead to another slow start.

Detroit Lions RB Joique Bell’s main goal right now is to get healthy.

Lions will use backfield by committee when Bell returns.

None of those inspires much confidence in Bell’s fantasy value this year. Now, to be fair, he has topped 1,100 total yards with eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, and he has always been part of a committee during his time in Detroit. Even though Abdullah has taken the league by storm, Bell will likely get the team’s goal-line carries. Still, it’s easy to see what Abdullah can do for this offense, and he’s likely to have more of a role than any of Bell’s backfield mates did in ‘13 or ‘14. Bell is just one of those players that it’s almost impossible to feel good about from a fantasy perspective. I’ll take him if the price is right, but that’s still at least a round or so off from his current ADP.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

Wondering why Bernard’s ADP has slipped to 77.3 from 67 over the last month. Perhaps this chart will clarify what is happening.

​As Jeremy Hill has slowly but surely moved into the back end of the first round, Bernard has dipped into the middle of the seventh. That may seem intuitive, but it fails to appreciate what Bernard does and how these two backs can work in tandem. In my opinion, they might be the only players in the league who share a backfield, yet have fantasy values that operate independently of one another. Most backfield situations are a zero-sum game. That is not so in Cincinnati.

• MORE FANTASY: Keys to a zero-RB approach | Two-QB draft strategies

Let’s take a trip back to ‘13, when Bernard was a rookie, Hill was still at LSU, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the starting running back in Cincinnati. That season, Green-Ellis had 220 largely ineffective carries. Bernard, meanwhile, racked up 695 yards on 170 totes and, just as importantly, caught 56 of his 71 targets for 514 yards and three scores. That’s the same sort of role he’s going to be in this season, and we’ve already seen it work for him and Hill. The pair played six games together last season with Hill as the starter. They both reached double-digit fantasy points in three of those games. In the final two games of the regular season, Bernard had 12 catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while Hill ran for 247 yards and a score on 45 carries. The latter is going to run the ball more than Green-Ellis did in ‘13, but Bernard is better cast in the role he will inhabit this season. He’s not a bargain at this ADP, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this price, either.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Newton’s fantasy value took a significant hit when Benjamin tore his ACL. Just two weeks ago, he was holding steady as the first pick in the seventh round of a typical 12-team draft. Now he’s at an overall ADP of 109, and the 15th quarterback off the board, behind Sam Bradford and Philip Rivers. That’s simply too far a fall for a quarterback whose floor is relatively safe.

Beller's Specials: Why you should draft these under-the-radar players

The main impact of Benjamin’s injury on Newton is a ceiling limitation. If Newton was going to make a major statistical leap this year, it was going to be thanks to Benjamin doing the same in his second season out of Florida State. Without Benjamin, Newton’s passing numbers aren’t going to get much, if any, better. More likely than not, they’ll take a small downturn with Funchess and uninspiring veterans like Jerricho Cotchery, Stephen Hill and Jarrett Boykin comprising the wide receiver corps.

Still, Newton makes his fantasy money with his legs, and his rushing production isn’t going anywhere. Even though it has trended in the wrong direction every year of his career, he still ran for 539 yards and five touchdowns last season. Those seem to be floors for him, given that he’s going to run the ball more than 100 times for the fifth consecutive season. With that sort of rushing production, he’s nearly guaranteed to outperform his draft-day price. Even with Benjamin last season, he had just 3,127 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. It’s not like his numbers can fall that far with Benjamin on the shelf, because they weren’t exceptionally high at the outset. I wouldn’t want him as my regular starter, but his floor and upside indicate that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.

2:33 | The MMQB
Fantasy Check: Week 5

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.