Labor Day weekend is in our sights, and the start of the NFL season is right behind it. With one week left in the 2016 fantasy football draft season, the sands of the draft landscape are still shifting. For all the late drafters out there, here is SI.com’s final ADP watch of the summer, featuring nine players with the most interesting trends in draft-day price.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts
Moncrief has been a popular breakout selection all summer, and that’s reflected in his ADP. Going back to July, he has never been worse than a mid-fifth round pick, so no matter when you’ve drafted, Moncrief has required significant draft capital to secure. The price, however, is rising.
As we prepare to turn the calendar to September, Moncrief’s ADP is now in the fourth round. His 44.3 ADP at the start of this week is nearly half a round higher than it was at the end of last week. Moncrief has eight catches for 83 yards this preseason, though he did most of that damage in the team’s most recent game—last week he hauled in six targets, racking up 58 yards. The yards per catch and target numbers left a bit to be desired, and were largely functions of the offensive line not giving Andrew Luck enough time to let deeper routes develop. That was a major issue last year, and bears watching early in the season. Even with those concerns, Moncrief has what it takes to be a WR2 this year. Understand, though, that grabbing him could mean passing on receivers like Jeremy Maclin and Eric Decker.
Eric Decker, WR, Jets
Speaking of Decker, his stock also continues to climb as we progress into the final stages of draft season. In fact, his entire summer on the fantasy landscape has been characterized by a steady ADP ascent, which now sits at an even 47, placing him at the tail end of the typical fourth round.
If you’ve been following along with us at SI.com this summer, you know we’re strong Decker supporters. Despite turning in top-10 seasons in three of the last four years, he remains one of the most underrated fantasy receivers in the league, with his remarkable consistency roundly overlooked. Decker’s most impressive season over the last four may have been the one in which he didn’t finish in the top 10. Despite playing for a Jets team that finished 4–12, ranked 28th in scoring, and featured Geno Smith and Michael Vick as starting quarterbacks, Decker caught 74 passes for 962 yards and five touchdowns. In other words, Decker has always found a way to get the very most out of his circumstances, whether playing with an MVP in Peyton Manning, or an uninspiring duo like Smith and Vick.
All Decker does is produce and deliver for his fantasy owners. I’d rather have him than Moncrief, and expect to see him among the top-20 receivers at the end of the year.
Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks
The question isn’t, “Has Michael’s draft-day price increased?” but rather, “How much will it cost to get Michael now that Pete Carroll can’t stop singing his praises?” The answer is more than you might expect.
Michael’s ADP rests at 93.2, which slots him at the end of the eighth round in a typical 12-team draft. That’s not the insignificant late-round flier price you had to pay for Michael in the past if you wanted to take a shot on his identifiable-yet-elusive upside. No, if you take Michael this year, you’re doing so over players such as Stefon Diggs and Charles Sims.
It’s easy to see why the Michael Hype Train has at least one trip left in it. He has rushed for 157 yards on 24 carries this preseason, leading the league with an average of 6.54 yards per carry. Seattle’s offense has been fertile ground for its rushers during the Carroll and Russell Wilson era, and while Marshawn Lynch was a unique talent, Thomas Rawls showed us last year that you don’t need to be a first-round pick to succeed as a back with the Seahawks.
At the very least, Michael’s role in the offense is expected to net him somewhere in the neighborhood of seven or eight carries per game at the start of the season. We’re cobbling that number together based entirely on his preseason performance and Carroll’s comments, meaning we can’t exactly etch it in stone. It’s possible that Michael’s greatest contribution to the fantasy community this season is a curb on Rawls’s values, and the former’s increasing profile makes it cost prohibitive to handcuff the position. A Rawls owner needs him to reach his ceiling, while that would be a luxury for a Michael owner. That’s why I’d rather have the latter.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
Fitzgerald revived his career in 2015, catching 109 passes for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. While he turned in his best season in four years, he also slowed down considerably over the back half of the season, topping 90 yards or scoring a touchdown in four of his final eight games, which isn’t necessarily a surprise for a 32-year-old in his 12th year in the league. Now one year older and dealing with a crowded Arizona offense, Fitzgerald is starting to slip down draft boards.
The long-time fantasy star and one-time threat to be the top overall receiver has an ADP of 69.5, which has him coming off the board toward the end of the sixth round in a typical draft. He was in the middle of the round a week ago, and on top of it the week before that. By comparison, Michael Floyd is about 15 picks higher, while John Brown, who has been dealing with concussion-related headaches this summer, is just behind him. Fitzgerald unquestionably still has attractive fantasy value and a strong role in what should be a great offense. Still, it’s likely Floyd is now the team’s No. 1 receiver, not just in ADP, but also in ability. Fitzgerald’s ADP makes him the 31st receiver taken, on average, and that’s appropriate given his expected production and team environment.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
For most of the summer, Roethlisberger was the one player about whom the expert and civilian branches of the fantasy community most diverged. The latter was far more bullish on him than the former, driving his ADP higher than that of Drew Brees. There has been a course correction over the last week or so, and it has not been in Roethilsberger’s favor.
The Steelers quarterback is now coming off the board at an ADP of 64.6, right in the middle of the sixth round. He has fallen nearly a full round behind Brees, though he remains the sixth quarterback taken in a typical draft. It’s hard to say what has worked against Roethlisberger recently, given that his circumstances haven’t changed all that much. We knew about Martavis Bryant’s suspension before even the earliest drafts this summer, and the league handed down Le’Veon Bell’s punishment in July. In fact, Roethlisberger’s prospects have only improved since then, with Bell getting a game shaved off his suspension. Still, Roethlisberger has given back about half a round’s worth of ADP over the last two weeks.
In a traditional one-quarterback league, Roethlisberger is still too expensive, with players like Eli Manning and Philip Rivers coming off the board about 30 picks later. He’s more palatable at his superflex ADP, but you can’t count on him to play a full 16-game season.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots
Let’s take a look at Blount’s ADP line graph, courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator. The timeline begins on August 15, about a week before the Patriots announced that Dion Lewis needed a second surgery on his knee, and would be out for the foreseeable future. See if you can guess when that announcement came, based solely on the graph.
Blount’s ADP took off when Lewis officially hit the shelf, even though the two inhabit completely different roles in the New England offense. Lewis’s role still exists, though it will be manned by James White. The logic behind Blount’s rise doesn’t make a ton of sense, but it has resulted in him being more in line with where he belongs in fantasy drafts at an ADP of 81.9. Blount ran for 703 yards and six touchdowns on 165 carries last season. He was mostly productive in the games in which the script unfolded in his favor, and there’s still no one in New England to rival him for carries. He’s a solid target for a zero-RB drafter, even if he isn’t someone you want in your lineup every week. If you’ve invested significant resources in the running back position through the first five rounds, he’s now likely too expensive for your roster composition.
Kevin White, WR, Bears
There was plenty of optimism surrounding White, the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, at the start of the summer. After losing all of 2015 to a shin injury, we were finally going to see the 6' 3", 215-pound receiver, who routinely made Big 12 defensive backs look silly while at West Virginia, in action. With Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett off to new teams, the Bears are desperate for new playmakers to step up alongside Alshon Jeffery. White seemed the logical player to do just that.
Then the preseason started. White’s most consistent receptions have come on screens. He has had a few bad drops, which have drawn Jay Cutler’s unfeeling glare. White has all of three receptions for 12 yards this preseason, and that hasn’t inspired much confidence in the fantasy community. After a high ADP point in early August that placed him in the backend of the seventh round of a typical draft, White’s ADP now sits at 96.4.
White has been a disappointment this summer, but he still has the talent and, just as importantly, unbounded opportunity to develop into a top-30 fantasy receiver this season. His declining draft-day price is justified, but it also creates increased profit potential. I’d rather buy into him at this ADP after a bad preseason than his earlier ADP after a good one.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
One month ago, it seemed we were going to be blessed with one of the deepest pools of tight ends in the history of the fantasy game. Coby Fleener was set for a career year with the Saints. Ladarius Green found a perfect new home in Pittsburgh. Tyler Eifert was set to follow up on last year’s 13-touchdown campaign, even if he missed a game or two early because of an ankle injury. Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins projected as late-round fliers with TE1 upside. It looked impossible to whiff at the position.
Fast forward to the present day. Fleener is still a work in progress, by both his and Sean Payton’s admission, in the New Orleans offense. Green missed the entire preseason due to an ankle injury. Eifert’s surgically repaired ankle will cost him at least four weeks of the regular season. Ebron hasn’t seen the field since early August because of an ankle injury of his own, while Seferian-Jenkins still seems to be in Dirk Koetter’s doghouse in Tampa Bay.
As uncertainty has struck the position, fantasy owners are rallying to the Gates standard. His 103.9 ADP is up about half a round from one week ago, and more than a full round over the last 15 days. Gates may seem a TE1 emeritus at this point of his career, but he was 11th in points and seventh in points per game at the position last season. He has the unceasing trust of Philip Rivers in an offense that is still going to throw the ball a ton this year, even with the arrow on Melvin Gordon pointing upward. You could do a whole lot worse at tight end than grabbing Gates in the ninth or 10th round.
Tajae Sharpe, WR, Titans
Sharpe, the rookie out of Massachusetts, was the obvious winner of the Dorial Green-Beckham trade in Tennessee. With Kendall Wright in the slot, Sharpe became the clear starter opposite Rishard Matthews outside the numbers. He has taken advantage of his opportunity, and that’s starting to show up on the ADP charts.
Sharpe is now being selected at an ADP of 131.6, which places him at the end of the 11th round in a typical draft. One week ago, he was at the end of the 13th round, on average. Even before last weekend, he was stuck at the end of the 12th round. Sharpe caught a 60-yard pass, his only reception, in the Titans’ preseason win over the Raiders on Saturday, but that was a fluky play on which the defender in position to make the tackle thought his teammate intercepted the pass and started running the other way to block. Still, Sharpe has impressed this preseason and he will be in the starting lineup when the Titans first take the field against the Vikings in Week 1.
Marcus Mariota captains what should be an improving offense this season. While the Titans have made no mystery of their run-first ways, being tied to a young, ascending quarterback is never a bad thing. Even with his ADP rising, Sharpe is a great late-round target in all fantasy formats.