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“Trusting a blindfolded Tim Couch as your darts partner is more fruitful.”
This is how many in the fantasy community describe July drafts.
Though exercises well before battles are determined seem frivolous, to the serious gamer they provide invaluable insight into market trends, developments which help owners map appropriate strategies. As they say, the early bird gets the worm. And in a game where one mid-round pick could make all the difference come playoff time it never hurts to get a leg up.
Combing over ADP charting data provided by Fantasy Football Calculator, here’s a six-pack of players leaping rounds in recent drafts:
Allen Robinson, Jax, WR
Current ADP: 67.2 (WR28)
ADP Change (last month, 12-team leagues): +3.01 rounds
The last time a Jaguars wide receiver was considered a must-get Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith were reeling in passes from Mark Brunell. But the hype attached to the sophomore target is parallel to yesteryear’s, understandably so. Before breaking his foot in Week 11, Robinson’s stock was on an upward path. From Weeks 2-10 he ranked No. 32 among PPR WRs, snatching 48-of-49 catchable balls from Blake Bortles. With Marqise Lee best-suited for underneath work, Justin Blackmon no longer in the picture and Allen Hurns projected for No. 3 duties, the former Penn St. standout should entice plentiful targets. Yes, even with Julius Thomas on roster. Robinson made several jaw-dropping plays in minicamp, reportedly dominating challengers in red-zone drills. His excellent size (6-foot-3, 210-pounds), soft hands and precise routes comprise a No. 1 makeup. Bortles and the Jags’ offensive line must improve, but because Jacksonville will likely often play from behind, Robinson is a good bet for a 70-1100-7 effort.
Joseph Randle, Dal, RB
Current ADP: 39.8 (RB20)
ADP Change: +2.03 rounds
Everyone’s favorite underwear thief is stealing the heart of many an early drafter. No player has seen a bigger value spike over the past month. Dallas’ immovable offensive line and effective pass game are undoubtedly attractive qualities. Randle’s meek competition (Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams) also boosts confidence he’ll head up the Boys’ RBBC, if not establish himself as a 15-plus touch-per-game back come Week 1. Though the sample size was infinitesimal (53 carries), his 61.3 yards after contact percentage in ’14 was impressive. Still, reservations are completely warranted. He’s a largely unproven rusher who has a tendency for saying and doing dumb things. There’s little to no profitability if selected inside the top-50 overall. With a strong camp he could begin the season lugging 12-14 touches per game. However, that’s FAR from a guarantee. Once an ardent supporter of Randle, I’m passing at his expensive price point. In a recent 12-man 'experts' auction, he went for $19 (DMC $11), the same price as Mark Ingram and two bucks more than Todd Gurley. Great situation, sure, but the risks are palpable.
C.J. Spiller, NO, RB
Current ADP: 34.4
ADP Change: +1.01 rounds
PPR zealots are willing to sacrifice first-borns for the former Bill. Expectations in his new digs are extraordinarily high. It’s easy to construct a career-year argument for Spiller. Pierre Thomas is no longer strutting his stuff on Bourbon Street, which should lead the newcomer to receive bountiful targets on screens, swings and check-downs. Sean Payton has also made it no secret he wants to feed his new gadget in space. Additionally, New Orleans is scheduled to play 12 games on artificial turf, a surface Spiller’s logged 5.2 yards per carry on in his career. Throw in the fact Saints RBs averaged 142.6 receptions and 1,052 receiving yards per year the past five seasons, tops in the league, and the unabashed love is justifiable. Despite a spike in value, Spiller remains undervalued. Ingram will do the dirty work between the hashmarks and at the goal-line, but given the complement's explosiveness and versatility he should amass 65-plus receptions, 1100 total yards and a handful of TDs. He’s Kardashian-era Reggie Bush revisited. Achieve those totals and he’ll slide comfortably inside the RB top-15 in PPR.
Carson Palmer, Ari, QB
Current ADP: 130.2 (QB16)
ADP Change: +0.98 rounds
If not for a blown knee, Palmer would’ve been a borderline QB1 in 2014. Pre-injury, he averaged 21.3 fantasy points per game over six contests, a mark that placed him just behind Tom Brady for No. 15 among signal callers. Extrapolate his accomplishments over 16 games and he would’ve finished with 4,336 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a thirty-something QB who chilled on his couch for a large chunk of the 2011 season. Overall, the arrow is pointing north in the desert. The Cardinals offensive line, which brought in premier blocker Mike Iupati this offseason, is the best it’s been in years. Palmer’s 36.7 under-pressure percentage from last fall is sure to decrease. The passer’s stable of receivers – Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and Andre Ellington – are also a plus. Equally promising, Bruce Arians wants to push pedal-to-metal, a hurry-up wrinkle that is sure to keep defenses vulnerable and winded. If you plan to implement a wait-on-a-QB strategy, Palmer needs to be your target. Roughly 4,300 yards with 30-35 TDs are within reach.
Zach Ertz, Phi, TE
Current ADP: 79.7 (TE7)
ADP Change: +0.94 rounds
Craziness for Ertz is quickly becoming a July pastime. This time last year, the fantasy community was abuzz over the tight end's minicamp productivity and anticipated major role within Chip Kelly's high-powered offense. No surprise, he was selected as the No. 6 or No. 7 TE, placing unattainable expectations on his shoulders. Then the regular season began. Ertz started off with a bang generating 77 yards and a TD against the Jags Week 1, but from that point on he performed unevenly. Only two other times the rest of the season did he eclipse the 10 fantasy-point threshold in standard settings. Overall, he finished No. 15 in per game average, a far cry from the TE1 output most banked on. Undeterred, advocates, evidenced in the TE's ADP climb, never jumped off the bandwagon. To be fair, Ertz was better than his cursory numbers indicated. He ranked top-five at his position in drop rate, deep catch percentage and yards per route run. His dependable hands and field-stretching abilities are certainly noteworthy. Still, this is a spread-the-wealth offense with legit QB issues. Sam Bradford remains on the mend and likely won't be available when training camp opens later this month, which means Mark Sanchez's odds of starting under center to begin the year are substantial. Yes, an uptick in targets is plausible with Jeremy Maclin not scoring TDs in KC, but I fully expect Nelson Agholor to fill the void beautifully. And emerging star Jordan Matthews could earn additional looks. Give me Delanie Walker, Jordan Cameron or Larry Donnell much later on.
Martavis Bryant, Pit, WR
Current ADP: 54.8 (WR25)
ADP Change: +0.94 rounds
Once dropped from a plane in Week 7 last year, Bryant immediately detonated. His lethal size/speed (6-foot-4/4.42 40-yard dash) blend left defensive coordinators mystified as he accumulated 77.5 yards per game and totaled six touchdowns over his first four games. Defenses, however, made adjustments to ground the bomber, as his No. 62 rank from Week 11 on showed. Getting granular, his 0.45 points per snap was the highest among eligible PPR WRs (0.36 in STD). Yes, higher than Odell Beckham. Tossing an entire refinery onto the fire, he tacked on 10 pounds of muscle this offseason in an attempt to improve his separation skills at the point of attack. Since he was already beating press coverage 70.6 percent of the time, the added strength only makes him more monstrous. A full offseason absorbing Todd Haley's complex playbook should assist him in reaching max potential. Throw in Ben Roethlisberger's deep-ball touch (No. 7 in completion percentage beyond 20 yards in '14), the attention Antonio Brown draws, Pittsburgh's projected weak D and Le'Veon Bell's early-season suspension and the table is set for Bryant to crash the WR top-20 party, if not the top-15. He's well worth the reach. As stated previously, a 70-1050-12 campaign is on the horizon.