One of the myriads of tools fantasy managers have at their disposal is Average Draft Position or ADP for short. This tool gathers information from completed drafts and averages out where each player was taken in each of those drafts. For this exercise, I’m using data provided by Fantasy Pros and can be found here. I’m using them simply because they aggregate data from multiple sources and that, in theory, would provide the most accurate data. I’ve listed one player at each of the core skill positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) that I think will see his ADP rise or will outperform his current ADP by the end of the season along with one that I feel will either see his value drop or will finish below his current ADP. The ADP data used in this article is for PPR (point per reception) scoring and is accurate as of 7/30/21.
Dak Prescott (Current ADP: #50 Overall; QB5)
At the start of the 2020 NFL season, Dak Prescott was on pace for Madden-like numbers as he went 151-of-222 for 1,856 yards and nine TDs with four INTs. Prescott also had three short rushing TDs and even chipped in with one receiving TD. Prescott’s season was cut short midway through the third quarter in the team’s Week 5 victory over the Giants with a gruesome injury that required surgery to repair a dislocated and compound fracture of his right ankle. Extrapolating his numbers through four-plus games to a full season would result in an unheard-of 7,000 passing yards and a more reasonable 35 TDs. The skill positions around Prescott will remain unchanged with Ezekiel Elliott as RB; CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup at WR, and Blake Jarwin returning at TE after missing all but the first game last season. The coaching staff is also unchanged from 2020. Prescott even provides some upside with his legs as he has never run for fewer than 275 yards in a full season and compiled six rushing TDs each of his first three years and had three in just four games last season. All these factors point to Prescott exceeding his current ADP of QB5 and are one of a few QBs who has shown he can challenge for the overall QB1 mantle.
Lamar Jackson (Current ADP: #45 Overall; QB4)
When Lamar Jackson stepped into the role of full-time QB for the Baltimore Ravens he became a sort of “cheat code” for the team as well as fantasy managers who took a chance on him in drafts leading up to the 2019 NFL season. Jackson proceeded to smash Michael Vick’s 13-year-old NFL record of rushing yards by a QB as Jackson ran all over defenses to the tune of 1,206 yards and seven TDs. Jackson’s passing numbers in 2019 were equally impressive as he accumulated 3,127 yards and 36 TDs against just six INTs. The 2020 season saw a regression in all of Jackson’s stats, however, possibly due to NFL defenses “figuring him out” or because the Ravens knew they couldn’t expect their star QB to survive long in the NFL with that sort of rushing load. Recent player acquisitions may indicate the team is looking to become at least a little more balanced as they signed Sammy Watkins in free agency and drafted Rashod Bateman with their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and also selected Tylan Wallace from Oklahoma State in the fourth round. Most leagues have a scoring system for fantasy managers in which passing stats are not as valuable as rushing stats, and Jackson is drafted because of the advantage he has with his legs. If those numbers continue to decline, Jackson’s value becomes lower and lower and it could be a stretch to see him land among the top-five QBs again in 2021.
Antonio Gibson (Current ADP: #17 Overall; RB12)
Fantasy managers had good reason to be uncertain of how Antonio Gibson would perform with the Washington Football Team when he was selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Gibson was exclusively a WR for the Memphis Tigers in college during the 2018 season but found success at both WR and RB during his senior year as he accumulated more than 1,000 total yards and found the end zone 12 times. Gibson nearly matched those numbers as a rookie in the NFL with 1,042 total yards and 11 total TDs, finishing just outside the RB1 tier in most leagues. As Gibson enters his second season, it is reasonable to expect a marked improvement in many areas as this will essentially be his first season with a typical NFL preseason. Given the statistics from his rookie season, it is almost hard to believe that Gibson had just 14 touches all season on third down. The primary third-down role was occupied last season by J.D. McKissic, but it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Gibson won’t become more involved in third downs this year. Gibson was reliable in the passing game, catching 81% of his targets (36 receptions on 44 targets) and secured double-digit touches in every game he finished except the Week 9 game against the Giants in which he had nine. Fantasy managers should also expect more stability at the QB position in 2021 as Ryan Fitzpatrick is penciled in as the team’s QB. More opportunities lead to more fantasy points and it is not unreasonable to see a path in which Gibson exceeds his 2020 total of 206 touches and lands firmly inside the RB1 ranks this season.
D’Andre Swift (Current ADP: #27 Overall; RB15)
The other RB we’ll be looking at in this article was also a rookie last season but was taken earlier than Gibson as D’Andre Swift was Detroit’s second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and immediately became the best RB on the roster. Swift had a solid career at Georgia and carved out 771 total yards and four TDs in 2018 while sharing the RB duties with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Swift went on to record back-to-back seasons with 1,000+ rushing yards and remained a factor in the receiving game as well. Swift shared the field with another star RB last season as he and Adrian Peterson saw nearly the same number of touches (168 to 160 in favor of Peterson), though Swift was the more productive of the two. Detroit elected not to keep Peterson, opening the door for Swift to take over as the team’s primary ball carrier but then new OC Anthony Lynn had this to say to The Athletic about FA signing Jamaal Williams:
“Jamaal is what I’d call a classic ‘A’ back. I like to break the backs down into ‘A’ and ‘B’. My ‘A’ backs are normally my bigger backs. They can run between the tackles, block probably a little better than a ‘B’ back, they can also run the perimeter. I can leave those guys in there for all three downs.”
Certainly, not news fantasy managers want to hear when concerning Swift. Along with that negative, Detroit is virtually devoid of playmakers on offense outside of T.J. Hockenson which could lead to opposing defenses keying on the run game more without the threat of getting beat with deep passes. Detroit’s defense is also below-average, leading to more passing late in the game to try and come back. It’s unclear if this will be good or bad for Swift, but given Lynn’s comments above, Swift could end up on the sidelines too much near the end of the game to get him enough opportunity to reach his current ADP.
Allen Robinson (Current ADP: #31 Overall; WR11)
If there is one thing about fantasy football that is hard to dispute, it’s that opportunity is king. Since taking over a full-time role in 2015, Allen Robinson has finished no worse than eighth in WR targets in seasons in which he’s started more than 12 games and has been third in targets each of the last two seasons. Robinson has proven that he can be an elite option in the past as he put up 1,400 yards and 14 TDs in 2015 on just 80 receptions and finished inside the top-five at WR in most fantasy leagues. Heading into the 2021 season, an argument can be made that Robinson is going to be playing with the most competent QB in his career whether that be Andy Dalton or Justin Fields. Robinson is the clear #1 option in the passing game for Chicago and there is no reason to think he can’t continue to see plenty of targets once again in 2021. Robinson has not been a high TD scorer outside that 2015 season, but a little more luck in that department and there is no reason Robinson can’t move into the top half of the WR1 tier in 2021.
DK Metcalf (Current ADP: #18 Overall; WR5)
For the first eight games last season, D.K. Metcalf looked like he was going to become the next great WR for fantasy managers. Through those eight games, Metcalf produced 43 receptions for 788 yards and eight TDs and looked unstoppable at times. In the back half of the season, however, things took a turn and his final eight games likely cost many fantasy managers key games heading into or during the fantasy playoffs. Metcalf was able to compile just 40 receptions for 515 yards and two TDs. His final stat line looked good (83-1,303-10) but which eight games are the true representation of what his 2021 season will hold? Despite his early-season dominance, Metcalf has been out-targeted by Tyler Lockett in each of his first two seasons. Perhaps this has something to do with the history Russell Wilson has with Lockett but maybe there is something more. Both players were credited with eight drops on the season, but Lockett only had one in the team’s last 10 games while Metcalf had five. In addition to the disturbing second-half numbers, Seattle is bringing in Shane Waldron as their new OC who worked as the Rams’ Passing Game Coordinator over the past three years. In two of those seasons, the Rams were in the bottom 10 in percentage of pass plays. That is not good news for a top-five projected fantasy WR. If Metcalf can replicate 2020’s first half for the 2021 season then he is more than capable of producing a top-five fantasy finish but recent history and staffing changes put that in doubt enough that I think Metcalf could fall to low-end WR1 status easily.
T.J. Hockenson (Current ADP: #57 Overall; TE6)
As one of the most hyped TE prospects in recent memory, T.J. Hockenson had the weight of the world on his shoulders as a rookie in 2019. Hockenson promptly had one of the best TE debuts as he shredded the Cardinals’ defense to the tune of six receptions for 131 yards and one TD. Then the wheels fell off. Hockenson battled injuries and inconsistency to finish with just 32 receptions, 367 yards, and two TDs. What a difference a year makes. Hockenson stayed healthy throughout the 2020 season and had, in most leagues, a top-five TE season with 67 receptions for 723 yards and six TDs. As Detroit heads into the 2021 season, Hockenson is arguably the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon with the offseason departures of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. In addition, Danny Amendola is no longer part of the team’s plans, and those three combined for 216 targets in 2020. Once again, opportunity is king in fantasy football and it’s reasonable to assume Hockenson is going to see some of those lost targets this season. Hockenson got 101 targets last season and there is a path to 140 targets or more this year. If he can duplicate his efficiency from last season that would put Hockenson in line for 90+ receptions for nearly 1,000 yards and eight TDs. Adding fuel to the fire is the tendency of new QB Jared Goff to prefer the short passing game. The following tables show Goff’s percentage of throws at each passing depth and his accuracy at those same depths.
|Passing Depth||Yards From Scrimmage||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020|
|Deep||+20 or more||8.3%||11.7%||11.6%||8.9%||7.8%|
|Medium||+11 to +19||18.5%||21.8%||24.8%||25.7%||17.0%|
|Short||+1 to +10||53.2%||42.3%||39.2%||43.5%||50.7%|
|Behind LOS||0 or less||12.7%||15.5%||14.1%||13.1%||14.9%|
|Passing Depth Accuracy||Yards From Scrimmage||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020|
|Deep||+20 or more||29.4%||42.9%||47.7%||37.5%||34.9%|
|Medium||+11 to +19||50.0%||59.6%||64.7%||65.8%||69.1%|
|Short||+1 to +10||72.5%||79.7%||83.2%||79.0%||86.1%|
|Behind LOS||0 or less||96.2%||90.5%||93.7%||92.7%||86.6%|
Tables courtesy of numberfire
This data combined with a likely increase in targets bodes well for Hockenson to at least replicate his top-five fantasy TE season and potentially move into the top three at his position.
Kyle Pitts (Current ADP: #47 Overall; TE4)
Heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, Kyle Pitts was dubbed a “Unicorn” because of the uniqueness he brings to the TE position. Pitts was quick to embrace the new moniker, saying, “I definitely love the term unicorn because you can’t find unicorns just walking around in the forest. They are kind of unique, and I feel like what I bring to the table is pretty unique, and I think that kind of helps me, you know, beat certain things and do certain things.” While Pitts is an extraordinary specimen standing 6-6 and weighing in at 240 lbs while posting a 4.44-second 40 at his pro day it would be wise for fantasy managers to pump the brakes a bit on the hype train. Let’s assume that Pitts breaks every rookie TE record in terms of receptions, yards, and TDs. That would give Pitts 82 receptions, 1,077 yards, and 13 TDs which equates to 267.7 PPR points and would have been good enough for TE3 in 2020. However, no rookie TE has approached the 81 receptions Keith Jackson had when he was a rookie in 1988. The records for yards and TDs for a rookie TE have been held by Mike Ditka since 1961. Is Pitts really such a prospect that he’s going to exceed records that were set 33 and 60 years ago, respectively? I doubt it. The Falcons also hired Arthur Smith as their new HC, the same guy who turned Derrick Henry into one of the best RBs in football with his run-heavy scheme. The team also lost a key weapon on offense as Julio Jones was traded to the Tennessee Titans. Now, while this may look like a positive for Pitts on the surface, this just means there is one less elite option for defenses to account for in Atlanta’s passing game. I think Pitts will eventually be a top-tier TE for fantasy managers but I would be hesitant to put him among the top-five at the position given the history of production by rookies at the TE position.
Featured image by Aaron Polcare (@graphical_ark on Twitter)