As we get closer to training caps starting up, mock drafts have begun to form how players will be drafted come time for the regular season. Every year there seems to be some players that go over drafted as well as others that are under drafted. I wanted to start looking at where players are going and give some thoughts on who I am watching and who I am avoiding. Using the ADP (average draft positions) from Fantasy Football Calculator, lets take a look at what the first round for a Standard League, 12 team draft would look like according to the players’ average draft positions:
Antonio Brown, WR – PIT (ADP: 1.6)
For the first time in as long as I have been playing fantasy football a WR is the top ranked overall player and is averaging out as the first overall pick in STANDARD drafts. After leading all non-QBs in fantasy scoring for the second year in a row, Brown has fortified himself as a top fantasy draft pick. If Ben Roethislberger can stay healthy this season, Brown could finish with the best statistical season we have ever seen out of wide receiver. In the 4 games that Big Ben missed in 2015, Brown averaged only 4 catches for 58 yards. In the 12 games WITH Ben, Antonio was on pace for 159 receptions, 2,133 yards and 13 TDs. 150 receptions, 2,000 yards and 12 touch downs is not outside the realm of possibility for Brown in 2016.
Le’Veon Bell, RB – PIT (ADP: 3.1)
To be honest, drafting Le’Veon in the first round of any draft scares me. The guy is a freak of a talent. In six games last season he was on pace for 1,482 rush yards, 363 receiving yards, 64 receptions and 8 touch downs. That is the kind of production you expect from a top running back. However, Bell is coming off an MCL tear that ended his season. His rookie year in 2013 got off to a slow start missing the first 3 games with a foot sprain. He also suffered a concussion towards the end of the season that, fortunately, did not cost him any games. The amount of injuries that he has faced in his 3 year career give me pause when thinking about drafting Bell this early. If he stays healthy, can will put up massive numbers in the Steelers’ high powered offense.
Todd Gurley, RB – LA (ADP: 3.7)
Coming off an ACL injury that ended his college career. Todd Gurley was eased into the Rams offense in 2015. Once he was given the starting role he exploded. Finishing with 1,106 rushing yards in just 13 games, he proved himself both healthy and force in the running game. Though the Rams’ lack of a passing game will allow defenses to load up in the box to try and stop Gurley, he should still put up great RB1 numbers for your fantasy team.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR – NYG (ADP 4.3)
In 2015, OBJ proved that his rookie campaign was no fluke. With 96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 TDs, Beckham has put himself into the elite category of WRs. He will continue to be Eli Manning’s top target and with another year in Ben McAdoo’s offense the two could become even more productive. Look for OBJ to have another extremely productive season and draft him this early with confidence.
Julio Jones, WR – ATL (ADP 4.8)
I had Julio Jones picked to compete with Antonio Brown to be the number one WR in 2015 and he did not disappoint. Though he was the number two receiver in terms of fantasy points in 2015, Jones tied with Brown for receptions (136), led in receiving yards (1,871) and had 8 touch downs. Julio had some injury issues in 2013 but came back with a great season in 2014, missing only one game late in the season. Julio played every game in 2015 and seemed to put the injury history behind him. In Kyle Shanahan’s offense that features its top WR as the main passing target, look at Julio having another monster year in 2016.
Adrian Peterson, RB – MIN (ADP: 5.7)
Father time seems to not have an answer for Peterson. After missing almost all of the 2014 season from suspension, the then 30 year old running back came back to lead the league in rushing yards (1,485) and finished with 11 TDs. Now 31, the Vikings’ coaching staff has indicated that they want to get Peterson more involved in the passing game to help reduce some of the wear he gets from rushing up the middle. It is hard to not take Peterson in the first round, even with his age. I can see the Vikings continuing to lean on the aging RB as Teddy Bridgewater continues to develop into a passer. He may not lead the league in rushing with so many young stud RBs coming into the league, but Peterson should continue to provide RB1 numbers this season, barring injury.
David Johnson, RB – ARI (ADP: 7.4)
In one of my articles on the Zero RB Draft Strategy last season I listed David Johnson as a sleeper candidate for the Cardinals. Though it took until week 13 for him to get his shot at being a lead back, he did a lot of damage during fantasy playoff season. The Cardinals are already saying that David Johnson will get the “lion’s share” of the carries in the backfield and he is a solid pass catcher out of the backfield, leaving a little bit of work for Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. It will be interesting to see how he can handle lead back duties for a full season, having to face both the Rams’ and Seahawks’ stout run defenses twice in 2016. While picking Johnson carries a little bit of risk due to a small sample size of work from 2015, his opportunity, upside and lack of injury history make him a strong candidate for a great 2016 season.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR – HOU (ADP: 7.9)
Hopkins put up elite WR numbers in 2015. One of the arguments on Hopkins production from last year was that “most” of his production came early in the year when the Houston defense was struggling and forcing the offense to play from behind. He only had more than 5 receptions in 3 of his final 8 games but had less than 50 yards only once. Many fear that Hopkins could suffer a drop in production this year with addition of Lamar Miller to the backfield. However, Hopkins finished with a 111/1,521/11 line while Houston finished 5th overall in rush attempts on the season. The Texans added some talented WRs in the draft but Hopkins will be the clear number one. Miller may also help take pressure off the passing game by forcing defenses to load the box a little more to stop him. Look for Hopkins to maybe have a slight dip in numbers for 2016 with a 95 reception, 1,400 yard, and 9 TD season.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL (ADP: 9.0)
I understand that Elliott has a ton of talent. I understand that he will be running behind what is pretty well accepted as the top offensive line in the NFL. I understand that Jerry Jones drafted Elliott with the #4 overall pick in the 2016 draft to be the next big RB in Dallas. I get it. What I do not get is how that automatically makes him a top 5 drafted RB in fantasy. In 2015 everyone seemed to think that Todd Gurley was going to be the rookie of the year in the preseason (which he did end up winning) and light up defenses with his downhill running style. His average draft position was still in the 5th Round. I would be much more comfortable drafting Elliott in the second round instead of the first, considering he has yet to play a single down in the NFL. Once the preseason comes along I may change my mind, but for now I am going to pass on the current price.
Rob Gronkowski, TE – NE (ADP: 10.5)
Gronk is another mystery to me when it comes to his ranking and ADP. Again, I am not trying to downplay his talent. The man is a freak and has shown to be the most consistent producer at the position. But looking at his end of season fantasy point totals for the last two seasons as a receiver he finishes as the #10 WR in standard scoring in both 2014 and 2015. While you may think that outs him light-years ahead of the rest of the TE in the league, the #2 TE last season would have finished as the #16 WR while the #3 TE finished as the #18 WR. The difference is that you could have gotten those players 4 or more rounds later than Gronk. If his draft position was in the mid-late 2nd round I would be all over Gronkowski. But the numbers do not justify taking him in the first round.
Dez Bryant, WR – DAL (ADP: 11.3)
Dez is another freak of an athlete. The thing that gives me pause about drafting Dez this early in the draft has less to do with his athleticism, or even him coming back from an ankle injury last season and more to do with the guy throwing him the ball. Tony Romo is a solid quarterback but is now 36 years old and has had an extensive injury history over the last few seasons including back surgery and a broken collarbone that Dallas tried to rush him back from last year. Dez will put up WR1 numbers as long as Romo is throwing him the ball. If Romo goes down again, I worry how well any of the Dallas backup Qbs can do throwing the ball.
A.J. Green, WR – CIN (ADP: 11.6)
I think Green is set up for a monster year in 2016. Former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson looked to emphasize the running game in Cincinnati. New offensive coordinator Ken Zampese has been the QB coach for the Bengals the last 13 years and his father was one of the originators of the Air Coryell passing offense. Secondary receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are now with different teams and Tyler Eifert may miss parts of the beginning of the season after injuring his ankle in last season’s Pro Bowl. The Bengals will be airing out the ball more in 2016 which provides a huge opportunity for Green. In a run oriented offense Green still finished with an 86/1,297/10 line in 2015. If you are near the end of round one in your 12 team draft and he is available, take him all the way to the bank. I can see a 95/1,400/12 season out of Green if he stays healthy.