Last week, I said that I had solicited questions from our Discord channel and my Twitter account for a potential mailbag column. I wrote last week that an overwhelming majority of the questions were about the QB position, so I addressed that. But one other question really intrigued me: who are the best and worst values by round ADP so far this year?
We’re basically halfway through the 2020 fantasy regular season, but it’s never too soon to start trying to learn some lessons to apply to next year.
For this piece, I’ve established a couple of ground rules for myself — I’m not going to call someone a “bad value” if that player suffered an injury (of course Saquon Barkley ruined your season, but not because of something we could predict). And I will be using ADP from the NFFC for all 12-team non-auction drafts in the two weeks prior to the 2020 NFL season. I’ve cut off the analysis at eight rounds, since trying to find “bad values” beyond that point is really an exercise in futility.
The section on “What We Said” will come from our 2020 Preseason Player Profiles, which were published in July and were used as the basis for our main off-season analysis.
Best Value: Derrick Henry (RB, Ten) — ADP 1.8
What We Said: “But make no mistake: Henry is the best bet in the entire league to receive 300 carries this season … Henry in 2020 is going to cost a top-10 pick, but given his huge role and ability to carry fantasy teams, especially in the second half of the season, his cost is fair. The Titans' financial commitment to him makes it obvious their identity is going to be the same.”
What Went Right: Well, basically everything we said there. Henry has 123 carries in five games this year, which leads the league despite his playing only five games so far. In fact, that’s a 394-carry pace! Only two other backs — Joe Mixon and Josh Jacobs — are currently on pace for 300 carries. Henry would be the first back since DeMarco Murray in 2014 to carry the ball even 350 times. At his current pace, he could miss a game and still reach that mark. Moreover, Henry has 15 targets in five games, a 48-target pace. That is double his previous career-high of 24, set last season (he had only 74 targets in four NFL seasons heading into 2020). When someone carries the ball as much as Henry does, targets are a bonus. He’s doing more than enough in that department to please us.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: A no-doubt, slam-dunk RB1.
Worst Value: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, KC) — ADP 1.7
What We Said: “We’ve certainly been out in front of the CEH hype, and we’ve probably helped drive up his cost, which had settled into the 15-20 overall range before [Damien] Williams' stunning opt out made him a slam-dunk 1st-round pick. He may be a little slow off the mark, but Williams is now not a factor, and CEH is simply too talented not to see significant snaps and to produce in such a great spot. If healthy, the absolute worst-case scenario for CEH should be that he produces like an excellent RB2. The upside is that he’s a top-5 PPR RB and is quickly cemented as a top-3 pick in 2021. Following Williams' opt out, you have to pay up for CEH. But everything is in place for him to explode as a rookie.”
What Went Wrong: Well, not a ton. I had to pick someone here since I was letting an injury dictate a bad value. CEH is currently the RB11 in total fantasy points, which is still an RB1. He’s second only to Henry in rushing yards. But not only is he having awful touchdown luck — both by getting stuffed in goal-to-go situations and by having TDs called back — but we had the unexpected circumstance of the Chiefs being able to add Le’Veon Bell to the mix. CEH has had a very good rookie season, but if Bell is going to play on third downs, CEH needs some of that TD luck to turn in his favor.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: A tenuous RB1, depending on how much Bell plays. It could be as low as a mediocre RB2.
Best Value: Aaron Jones (RB, GB) — ADP 2.3
What We Said: “We’ve always been a fan of Jones’ talent, which is undeniable, and if he slips to the 2nd round for you, he’s not easy to pass up. His numbers suggest he should be a slam-dunk 1st-round pick, but fantasy owners are expecting some serious TD regression, and LaFleur has made it clear he prefers to use a committee of backs as opposed to one bellcow (enter [AJ] Dillon). In theory, a Jones-Dillon combo could be a devastating 1-2 punch, but there’s also some more uncertainty in the backfield with Jamaal Williams coming off a solid 2019 season and offering a lot in the passing game. Ultimately, he's fine at his ADP of around 12-14, which means he's a 1st-round pick in many drafts. But he's a really hard guy to pass up if he slips to the 2nd round, whether you go RB/RB or WR/RB to start your draft.”
What Went Right: So, uh, that TD regression? Jones led the NFL with 19 TD in 2019. He currently has 7 in five games in 2020 — a pace of 22 TD. He’s continued to be a huge asset as a receiver (nearly 6 targets per game), and the resurgence of Aaron Rodgers as an elite QB has the Packers operating as one of the NFL’s most effective offenses. So Jones hasn’t had the TD regression that would tank his fantasy standing, nor has the rookie AJ Dillon played much. On top of everything else, the Packers’ offense has been better than we anticipated, thanks to Rodgers. Ergo, Jones is currently the RB3 overall, and the RB2 in FPG among RBs who have played three or more games. (Side note: DeAndre Hopkins made this a tough choice, but Jones has produced like a top overall pick, and given the values we’ll highlight at WR later in this piece, I had to give the edge to the RB.)
Fantasy Role Going Forward: Slam-dunk RB1.
Worst Value: Lamar Jackson (QB, Bal) — ADP 2.11
What We Said: “Lamar should seriously challenge for the top spot as fantasy’s top producer again this year, but we find it hard to advocate drafting him at his cost, which is an early 2nd-round pick in a 12-team league. Some TD regression is almost certain to occur, but more importantly, those who take Lamar around his ADP will be passing on some extremely appealing RBs/WRs and there are quality options at QB who will be available 70-100 picks later.”
What Went Wrong: We wrote the above in July, and sharper drafters in the NFFC pushed Lamar to the end of the second round. I already wrote about him extensively last week — since that article, Lamar had another mediocre day throwing the ball, but he did what he is always capable of doing in running for over 100 yards and a TD against Philly. Lamar is currently the QB7 in total scoring and QB11 in FPG. He ain’t killing you, but you paid up for him to be a difference-maker. He surely hasn’t been that through six weeks, and now he’s on bye.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: High-end QB1, but maybe not the one you paid for.
Best Value: Chris Carson (RB, Sea) — ADP 3.7
What We Said: “It’s hard to say Carson is a brilliant fantasy pick this summer, given his injury concerns and the presence of Hyde, who is a comparable runner. If Hyde gets a decent amount of early-down work, it could show in Carson’s production, since, as stated above, Carson’s volume was better than his production last year. He’s going off the board around 40 picks into a draft, which isn’t terribly expensive for a back who otherwise has a lot going for him in terms of his team’s commitment to the run and his strong showing the last few years. But Carson’s ADP is still a little pricey, and his schedule isn’t great, so the best advice we can give is to consider him if he slips to the 4th and you’ve already used two of your three picks on a non-RB.”
What Went Right: I could absolutely kick my own ass right now. I’ve said multiple times in print, on podcasts, and on the radio that I have a blind spot for Carson, who is kind of a “boring” player who didn’t have a ton of draft capital, and whom the Seahawks have tried multiple times to replace. And every single time he gets an opportunity, he owns it. Carson is currently the RB9 in overall scoring and RB7 in FPG. And though Seattle is “letting Russ cook,” Carson’s also on pace to be a fantastic receiving option in the backfield — he’s on pace for 74 targets, after 47 a season ago was his career-high. He’s just a good football player and I really wish I would acknowledge that in August, when it matters!
Fantasy Role Going Forward: RB1.
Worst Value: JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, Pit) — ADP 3.12
What We Said: “If the vibes are good for him and Big Ben in August, then it makes a lot of sense to back JuJu, especially since he’s more affordable this year with an ADP of 38 in July. Thanks to their depth at WR, they should be able to continue to play JuJu in the slot often, which is ideal. They do have several intriguing guys in the mix like [Diontae] Johnson, new TE Eric Ebron, the rookie [Chase] Claypool, and James Washington, so JuJu may not get overloaded with targets. But since he’s a proven player in a big-time “prove it” year with a future HOF QB, we’d have to expect no worse than a solid top-20 WR year for Smith-Schuster.”
What Went Wrong: Roethlisberger is healthy. The Steelers are 5-0. And JuJu is the WR37 in PPR total scoring. Yikes. Ben’s throwing the ball 33 times per game, so it’s not a total lack of volume, and Diontae Johnson has been hurt. The Steelers have also been getting the ball out quickly! Those things should all be good for JuJu. But Chase Claypool has been a revelation, and Ben is specifically not throwing to the middle of the field, which is hurting a slot man like JuJu, who is averaging just 5.6 targets per game this season (he was at 10.4 in Ben’s last healthy season in 2018). You do have to wonder if he’s playing hurt, because he’s popped up on the injury report this year and has missed early-week practices with a knee injury. I’ve been surprised by things before, but at this stage, it doesn’t look likely that the Steelers will be re-signing Smith-Schuster after this year.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: WR3 and hope for a TD.
Best Value: Calvin Ridley (WR, Atl) — ADP 4.1
What We Said: “There’s a really nice group of WRs going off the board in the 30-50 range this year. They all represent great options for any fantasy team, but particularly those that hammer RB the first two rounds, since guys like Ridley could easily produce like a WR1 at a more affordable cost. On a team that should throw it a ton yet again this year -- we project Matt Ryan to lead the league in pass attempts -- Ridley should get some pristine opportunities because he can work well off their go-to guy in Julio, and entering his third season he should be equipped to take full advantage when he receives favorable matchups.”
What Went Right: With the exception of Ryan playing poorly in the three games Julio has missed so far this year, pretty much everything. Ridley is currently the WR1 overall in total PPR fantasy points. He is 6th in targets. Ryan is second in pass attempts (just 2 behind Joe Burrow). And Ridley is the WR1 overall despite being held catchless against Green Bay in Week 4… when he caught a tough shadow from Jaire Alexander with Julio out. As long as Julio is in the lineup, Ridley should cook inferior corners.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: Weekly WR1.
Worst Value: Leonard Fournette (RB, Jax/TB) — ADP 4.11
What We Said: “It’s certainly possible that Fournett’s bad luck in the TD department reverses this year and he delivers on his pricey ADP of around 25-30 overall. But do you feel lucky? The Jags found no takers when they tried to trade him in the off-season, and if there’s another incident on or off the field this year, it’s not inconceivable they release him. They are quite high on [Ryquell] Armstead, who is strong in pass protection, and as long as [Chris] Thompson is healthy, Gruden will use him as a receiving back, so Fournette’s target number is likely going way down. They do have a nice schedule in 2020, and you’d think Fournette will be highly motivated in the final year of his rookie deal, but we can’t in good conscience recommend a player with his issues -- and with his best football already behind him -- in the 3rd round. He's gone in the 2nd round in some drafts we've seen, which is absolutely bananas.”
What Went Wrong: Everything. Even though Ryquell Armstead didn’t get the opportunity that James Robinson has gotten with Armstead’s COVID struggles, and Chris Thompson has been a non-factor, the Jags up and released Fournette just briefly before the NFL season, which is why his ADP (which was once in the 3rd round) completely tanked. I broke my own rule here and wrote up a player who got injured, but the reason I’m writing Fournette now is for a warning for the future. “Volume” backs on bad teams who have the obvious issues that Fournette had coming into 2020 should be completely off your draft boards. If you didn’t see the writing on the wall here (as with Le’Veon Bell), it’s your fault.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: Bench fodder.
Best Value: Keenan Allen (WR, LAC) — ADP 5.5
What We Said: “It’s no secret that Allen is a baller, but in addition to (or perhaps because of) having to transition away from the future Hall-of-Famer in [Philip] Rivers, the Chargers want to be a run-heavy team this year, so it’s hard to see much upside with Allen at his ADP. Allen’s average draft position has dropped from where it’s been in recent years, at least, but if you take him around 55 overall (WR23), you’re passing on some young, ascending players who might be a little more exciting and who might actually have less downside.”
What Went Right: All the above might have been true… if the Chargers’ team trainer hadn’t accidentally stabbed starting QB Tyrod Taylor in the lung when administering a pain-killing injection, leading to rookie Justin Herbert taking over in Week 2 and taking the NFL by storm. While I would like to take my full fade of Allen back — he’s the WR22 in FPG, but that includes Week 1 with Taylor and Week 5 when he left with back spasms — I have to admit my analysis wouldn’t have been any different if Herbert were the starter from Week 1. I simply didn’t expect Herbert to be as advanced a passer as he has been so far this year (I presume few did). It was one of those situations I was probably destined to get wrong, unfortunately.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: In Weeks 2-4, when Herbert was the starting QB and Allen was healthy, Allen was the overall WR5. For your team, he should be a rock-solid #2 WR going forward, and I fear I’m underselling him, as I did all off-season.
Worst Value: TY Hilton (WR, Ind) — ADP 5.11
What We Said: “You’d have to think that Hilton will be the first receiver [Philip] Rivers gravitates toward as he acclimates himself to his new surrounding, but we have concerns about Hilton’s body breaking down at the age of 30 (31 in November), given he already ended up on the PUP list with an apparently minor hamstring injury. We’ve been told that he’s not exactly a guy who is diligent in terms of how he takes care of himself and his diet, which doesn’t help. Fortunately, his ADP of 65 (WR26) accounts for a lot of this.”
What Went Wrong: Let’s start with one thing that has gone right for Hilton: the Colts aren’t as run-heavy as we thought — Philip Rivers is averaging 33 pass attempts per game, the same number as Ben Roethlisberger. But that makes Hilton’s season look even worse. He has finished as a top-36 receiver just once in six games this year. He has gone over 10.0 FP in a PPR league just twice in his last 11 games. And in Week 6, with Rivers throwing 44 times in a brilliant comeback victory for the future Hall-of-Fame QB, Hilton caught just 1 pass for 11 yards. He looks utterly cooked. He looks so bad that it was a pretty easy decision to include him — and not Zach Ertz, about whom I’ve written plenty — here.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: Bench fodder, with the hope he can “develop” into a WR3.
Best Value: Stefon Diggs (WR, Buf) — ADP 6.4
What We Said: “There is absolutely no doubt that Diggs is one of the best wideouts in the game, and the guy can consistently get open with savvy and superior route running. The question is, can [Josh] Allen get him the ball consistently? This is also going to be a low-volume passing game that also features three other prominent receivers and a duo of RBs who figure to be involved, so there seems to be multiple possibilities that Diggs is unhappy, as he was in Minnesota last year. Diggs’ ADP has at least taken a major hit due to the move, as he’s going off the board around 65 overall (WR27). A 6th-round pick for someone with Diggs’ talent doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all, but you have to factor in the volatility and potential for a headache when debating whether to start him every week.”
What Went Right: Josh Allen. That’s what went right for Diggs. The wideout’s talent was never in question, but the strides Allen has made as a passer — and the Bills’ surprising decision to put a lot more on Allen’s plate (he is 8th in the NFL in pass attempts) — has meant big-time numbers for Diggs, who is the overall WR4 this year. Even in Weeks 5 and 6, in which Allen resembled more of the 2019 Allen than the MVP candidate Allen from the first two weeks of this season, Diggs has 16/152/1 receiving on 24 targets (WR10 in total FP). If he’s putting up those numbers when Allen is struggling, he’s a locked-in stud.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: Locked-in WR1.
Worst Value: JK Dobbins (RB, Bal) — ADP 6.2
What We Said: “We have few doubts about Dobbins’ ability to produce in this offense. In fact, we would not be stunned, if Ingram were out of the mix next year, if Dobbins was a 1st-round fantasy pick in 2021. The problem is that there’s no guarantee Dobbins even has a role this year… Dobbins’ fantasy value obviously changes if [Mark] Ingram is out, but otherwise it really comes down to whether or not he can pass [Gus] Edwards on the depth chart, which is hard to say given the abbreviated off-season program. What’s easy to say as of this writing in July, is that Dobbins is costly, with an ADP around 65-70, which is a sixth round pick in a 12-team league. We can’t even say Dobbins is a lock to be Ingram’s handcuff, so he’s a pick with some downside.”
What Went Wrong: Pretty much everything outlined above, with the added caveat that no RB has been productive in Baltimore’s offense, which is an utter shock — Dobbins is actually their most productive RB so far, and he’s just RB39 in total PPR points. I’m pretty sure if you told me that Ingram would be Baltimore’s most productive fantasy RB through six weeks, I’d have drafted him in the 3rd round — and maybe the 2nd. Hopefully, with Mark Ingram (ankle) dinged up, the Ravens figure out how to get their stagnated backfield going over their Week 7 bye.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: A bench hold with the hope and prayer that the Ravens self-scout over the bye to get Dobbins more involved, much like the Lions did with D’Andre Swift.
Best Value: Ronald Jones (RB, TB) — ADP 7.4
What We Said: “The shortened off-season program should work in Jones' favor, and he could always continue to improve, so if the vibes with him and the Bucs are good in August, we will probably endorse him as a decent pick around 80 picks into a draft ([Bruce] Arians called him "the lead" guy in this backfield, for what it's worth). He should at least be a solid RB3 or flex early in the season, and he’s still entering just his age 23 season, so he may continue to improve. One area we will watch closely is his role in the passing game, since he’s been a work in progress in that regard. If he can stay on the field on third down, that would be a boon to his fantasy fortunes, but we’re not holding our breath on that given the [LeSean] McCoy signing.”
What Went Right: If there’s an opposite of a “truther” (a “falser”?), I’m that with RoJo. I didn’t like him coming out of USC, I didn’t like him in April this year (when the Bucs drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn), I didn’t like him when they signed LeSean McCoy, and I sure as hell didn’t like him when they signed Leonard Fournette basically on the eve of the NFL season. I’ve declared the movement dead multiple times. Well, RoJo has proven me wrong. He is the RB13 overall, and had his first RB1 (top-12) week with Fournette inactive in Week 6. RoJo has taken his opportunity the last three weeks and produced with it, running for over 100 yards in each of the last three games.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: Jones has earned more touches going forward. He’s an RB2 until further notice.
Worst Value: Marvin Jones (WR, Det) — ADP 7.12
What We Said: “If you’re looking for the best value pick at WR for the Lions, it’s clearly Jones, since there’s about a 50-pick difference between him and [Kenny] Golladay. Jones has never been a ‘sexy’ pick, and he does have availability issues that may not go away now that he’s hit his age 30 season (March).”
What Went Wrong: Well, so much for that value declaration! Kenny Golladay has played three games this season after returning from a hamstring injury. In those three games, Jones has 6/68 receiving on 10 targets… total. He has more than 10 FP in a PPR just once in five games this season. His lack of production has Lions fans on Twitter absolutely blowing up about cutting Travis Fulgham this summer.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: He’s droppable in 12-team leagues, fringy bench guy in 14-teamers.
Best Value: CeeDee Lamb (WR, Dal) — ADP 8.1
What We Said: “Lamb strikes us as a player who could be a little feast or famine this year because he’ll face a steep learning curve and they don’t necessarily need him to move the ball, yet if he’s set to line up mainly in the slot, he should get favorable matchups. He’s also a player whose value likely depends on how often he can score. That’s tough to predict, but he should be their best option on certain types of routes, where he can use his incredible hands and body control to haul in end-zone passes. His ADP is a tad high, though, as 100 overall and WR40.”
What Went Right: Well, one thing we did predict was that Lamb would be a slot receiver, where he’s been arguably the best player at his position in the NFL this year. What we didn’t predict was that Dallas’ defense would be historically awful, and Lamb would be peppered with targets because the Cowboys were in desperate need of throwing the ball to just keep pace in games. Of course, his ceiling takes a huge hit after Dak Prescott’s injury, though backup QB Andy Dalton filtered him 10 targets — his second-most this year — in Week 6’s blowout loss to the Cardinals. The Cowboys might stink, but at least they’ll continue to play from behind. Lamb is currently the WR10 in PPR.
Fantasy Role Going Forward: WR2. I trust Dalton to get him the ball more than I trust him to get it to the inconsistent Michael Gallup.
Worst Value: Jordan Howard (RB, Mia) — ADP 8.10
What We Said: “Howard is about as boring a fantasy pick as they come, but although it seems like he’s been in the league a decade already, he’s still only 25 years old (26 in November), and on the heels of a strong showing last year, he’s poised to lead this backfield on early downs. The offense isn’t exactly ready for prime time, and they will likely transition in-season to the rookie Tua Tagovailoa, plus their schedule stacks up poorly against the run, which could slow Howard down, but other than [Matt] Breida, there’s literally no competition in this backfield unless they sign someone else.”
What Went Wrong: I’d like to think Myles Gaskin is a subscriber to our site and used that “literally no competition” line to his advantage, because Gaskin has been the lead back by far in Miami. Meanwhile, Howard has found himself a healthy scratch after plodding himself to a Jerome Bettis-like 18-carry, 14-yard, 3-TD line through four games. Hey, at least Howard made history this year!
Fantasy Role Going Forward: Full drop.