August 29, 2022, 2:31 pm
*All data/analysis is from/for PPR formats
When we say “finding value” in the draft, we mean finding expected fantasy production that outweighs the cost of the draft position. Leagues are won by managers who can work their value magic with enough of their draft capital where the sum of its parts creates a winning team. With mere days before the regular season opener between the Bills and Rams, a great way to prepare for your drafts is to observe the trends in average draft position, or ADP. I’ll be referring to ADP in full-point PPR scoring as aggregated by FantasyPros across five different sites (ESPN, NFL.com, RTSports, Fantrax, Sleeper) for a larger sample size of data. Any reference to expert consensus ranks (or ECR) are also from FantasyPros. If you’re a Sports Ethos premium subscriber (great time to grab FantasyPass before the season starts), you can find JP Sticco’s positional draft rankings as another reference point with insightful blurbs on every single player. Below are players at each position who I think should be faded at their current ADP or “paraded” — ones you’ll want to celebrate for landing at or below their ADP who will hopefully help you bask in the fantasy title ticker-tape by season’s end.
QB to Parade
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (ADP: QB15 – 111th overall, ECR: QB14)
Captain Kirk has steered a steady fantasy ship for a while now but hasn’t really garnered the respect he deserves from drafters and rankers. Despite being ranked as a fantasy backup, Cousins has finished as a top-12 QB in six of his past seven seasons where he has also been a model of durability with 15-plus games played in all seven years. He also has the distinction of finishing with a QBR of 100-plus in three straight years, something none of the QBs ranked ahead of him can say. The most impressive part of that might be that he did this despite a lackluster pass blocking unit (read more on that in Stephen Vidovich’s offensive line ranks available for subscribers) that forced him to make the most pressured throws of any QB in 2021. If that unit can improve even slightly with the additions made in the draft and free agency, you have to like Cousins’ ceiling after he just posted the sixth-best clean pocket completion percentage (74%). His new head coach is Kevin O’Connell, a former quarterback himself who was most recently OC in LA and helped make Matthew Stafford a Super Bowl-winning QB. O’Connell was actually also Cousins’ position coach back in Washington, so that pre-existing rapport should inspire confidence. The optimism in this new coaching staff’s offensive scheme is also palpable with what we hear from some of the offensive players this preseason. Seriously, find someone who talks about you the way Justin Jefferson talks about this new offensive scheme that produced one of the biggest ADP smashers at WR last year in Cooper Kupp. Don’t forget that Adam Thielen also wasn’t totally right last year health-wise and ultimately got ankle surgery in December. Reports out of training camp say Thielen is healthy and “looks more like his previous self.” That’s a scary thought considering even while not fully healthy, this guy still scored 24 receiving TDs combined over the past two seasons. The Vikings seem bullish on KJ Osborn entering his third year and you already know how I feel about Irv Smith Jr. from my tight end breakouts article. If Dalvin Cook can also stay healthy, this offense has all the pieces in place to explode with the new, more offensively-aggressive coaching staff.
QB to Fade
Jalen Hurts, Eagles (ADP: QB7 – 61st overall, ECR: QB6)
Since it still feels like we’re in the dog days of summer, I’m going to go very contrarian here with a scorching hot take. Last year’s QB8 finisher has been projected to finish even higher this year after he just led all quarterbacks in rushing yards, TDs and fantasy points per dropback. The colossal addition of AJ Brown to one of the league’s barest receiver rooms is certainly a reason for optimism that his passing numbers could improve. That would need to happen for him to beat ADP since I think it’s a near certainty that his rushing will see some negative regression — the Eagles were the run-heaviest team in the league last season mainly because they had no other choice with arguably the worst wideout group that recently shed second-round bust JJ Arcega-Whiteside but are still stuck with the underwhelming former first-rounder Jalen Reagor. They are due to pass more this season with Brown, a year under former Heisman winner DeVonta Smith’s belt and tight end Dallas Goedert’s first full season without Zach Ertz. My main reason for fading Hurts is that people are drafting him almost with a Lamar Jackson floor, but I believe he’s realistically closer to Trey Lance due to accuracy concerns and only a borderline starter in 12-teamers. In Jackson’s MVP season, he completed 66% of his passes and even the past two years, he wasn’t much worse at 64%. Meanwhile, Hurts has completed just 59% of his passes in 30 career games and we can’t completely blame his receivers — his catchable pass rate ranked 30th in the league last year. He also has an elite Top-3 offensive line (again, see Steve Vidovich’s rankings for full analysis) and yet, his clean pocket completion rate (68%) ranked 23rd. Hurts still has a big leap to make in the passing department to earn this current ADP, and I’d prefer to take someone at a different position between the fifth and sixth rounds.
WR to Parade
Allen Lazard, Packers (ADP: WR42 – 104th overall, ECR: WR40)
Pretend you didn’t just read what was in the title for this player and let’s do this blindfold test: Player A is the clear-cut WR1 on his depth chart, who catches balls from a four-time defending MVP and whose All-Pro left tackle just got activated off the PUP list and happens to be one of the best pass blockers in all of football. If I told you Player A can likely be had after the first 100 picks in your draft, would you be interested? Those things are all true about Lazard, but it sure doesn’t feel that way given his current ADP. The post-Davante Adams era is just about done thawing now in the Frozen Tundra, and somebody has got to break through that ice at some point. Why not the guy who has all the pieces in place to be successful? Those driving down that ADP of Lazard’s may point to his poor draft capital as an UDFA, but even Donald Driver was just a seventh-round pick. Or, they may raise the matchup red flag that Lazard must now contend with the top cornerbacks previously assigned to Adams. But, it’s not like he was barely scraping by against the second-best cornerbacks on opposing squads as the WR2 last year in Green Bay. He was winning handedly, ranking seventh among all wideouts in target separation against man coverage. The trust from Aaron Rodgers is obviously paramount to success here, and the QBR per target to Lazard on the season was sixth-best among all receivers in the NFL at a staggering 132.8. The numbers show Lazard also continued to earn more trust as the season wore on as his air yard share in the second half was 11% higher than the first half. He simply makes the most of what he’s given, and it’s a foregone conclusion he’ll be given much more opportunity by his coaches this year with 100-plus targets a lock.
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WR to fade
Terry McLaurin, Commanders (ADP: WR18 – 44th overall, ECR: WR19)