Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
If you want bargains in fantasy football you have to be a predator, constantly on the prowl. That means research, paying attention to the latest news and rumors and even projecting how things might shake out on your own.
Or you could just track the ADP (Average Draft Position) of guys you covet. At its simplest, knowing where players are being taken in mock drafts on average gives you an idea of when and where you can land elite players you must have, as well as sleepers you covet.
The difference between winning and losing can be to know the intrinsic value held by each position, as well as when and when not to reach for a sleeper that is on the rise. To get a better grasp on this year’s crop of sleepers and value buys, we’ve studied the latest ADP results from a standard 12-team league to gauge who the top ADP bargain buys are:
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Newton is suddenly the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy quarterbacks. It used to be Tony Romo who couldn’t “get no respect”, but now it’s Newton. Despite finishing among the top four fantasy passers for three years in a row, Newton is looked at as a guy about to see a huge drop in production.
It’s not completely insane to worry about him, as he’s recovering from offseason ankle surgery — plus the fact that he has no one of great intrigue to target. It’s cause for concern that Steve Smith is gone and Jerricho Cotchery is Carolina’s best wide receiver, but seeing Newton dropping into the eighth round of fantasy mock drafts is still quite appalling.
That would make Newton the 10th best fantasy quarterback for 2014 based off of value and rankings, and that’s just not a conceivable reality. This ADP surely can’t stick, as the Panthers have to add more talent at wide receiver through the draft. He still has Greg Olsen (yikes) and can always add value with his legs. If this ADP does endure, you can be the genius that sat and waited for your QB1 and plucked Newton off the board in round eight.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s true that Gerhart isn’t the most explosive back in the world. He’s also fairly unproven as a career backup and plays for the Jaguars, but there’s good reason to love him for 2014.
For one, he has the build and power of a great mashing running back, while also possessing the blocking ability and versatility to keep him on the field in obvious passing situations. It also doesn’t hurt that the Jacksonville coaching staff has been pretty public about his ability and role, stating that he’s an underrated talent and that it’d be ideal to get him 15-20 touches per game.
On sheer role alone, the bruising power back has a good amount of upside on a ball control offense. Even if all of your questions can’t be answered heading into the 2014 fantasy season, he still has RB2 upside. Add in his ridiculous fifth round ADP and he’s also a terrific value — even considering the risk.
Hungry to be a true feature back for the first time in his career, Gerhart is the type of guy you want to bet on. Yet he’s still being selected behind the likes of Chris Johnson, Joique Bell and Rashad Jennings. Johnson is sharing the rock with Chris Ivory and has been regressing, Bell is splitting action with Reggie Bush, and Rashad Jennings has one strong season to his name. Gerhart provides more value than these guys and is almost slipping into round six. I’m not sure he should be taken in the fourth round necessarily, but don’t be shocked if his ADP slowly ascends. For now, he’d be a terrific bargain at the end of the fifth round.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
Johnson continues to get dissed by the fantasy mock drafting community. He was routinely passed over in favor of Randall Cobb and other rising receivers in 2013, yet out-produced the majority of them, finishing as fantasy’s #12 overall receiver (depending on league scoring, of course). Despite talks of Johnson losing a step (turning 33 in July) he still caught 109 balls and put up over 1,400 receiving yards during a 2-14 season for the Texans saturated with horrid quarterback play. Johnson finished above the likes of Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Keenan Allen, Wes Welker and Victor Cruz.
For some reason, however, fantasy owners continue to neglect Johnson’s yearly output (even more catches and yardage the year before) and are making him the 18th receiver off the board in standard leagues. That makes him roughly a fourth round pick in most leagues, while guys like Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson and Keenan Allen are routinely being drafted ahead of him.
Sometimes it’s wise to predict drops in production for players, but doing so with Johnson hasn’t been the right move and that remains the case. More touchdowns would make him an elite WR1, but he’s a strong WR1 either way. He’s being immensely undervalued right now.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
What is with the semi-aging talent plummeting down draft boards? It’s early in the offseason mocking process, but Witten being drafted in round seven (#7 overall tight end) is a bit of a joke. It’s entirely possible that’s how things map out in 2014. After all, Witten isn’t normally a big touchdown guy and his role did drop off considerably in 2013.
With that said, two guys being taken ahead of him have their own red flags: Jordan Cameron and Jordan Reed. Both are clearly rising studs, but both will also be operating in new offenses. Reed also has added competition in DeSean Jackson and had concussion issues in 2013, while Cameron will probably have a new quarterback throwing him passes.
Witten had a slightly down year in 2013, but still slid in as a top-6 fantasy TE. With Miles Austin out the door, Witten will likely see an uptick in passing game activity. His value and ADP might stay where it’s at, but you shouldn’t have any qualms with sitting tight in round seven and snatching him up.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Premier Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.