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Riskiest Players Based on ADP (Fantasy Football)

by Matt Giraldi | @Mgiraldi | Featured Writer
Aug 13, 2016

Why should fantasy owners be worried about Thomas Rawls?

Why should fantasy owners be worried about Thomas Rawls?

Average Draft Position (ADP) is an interesting piece of the drafting puzzle. We study, analyze and make tiers loosely defined by a player’s ADP.

The problem with ADP rests in its volatility. Much of what was in print a week ago will be in the electronic trash can today.

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Training camp news arrives in a flurry of unsubstantiated medical overreactions from fans, yet team doctors say nothing for hours. The number of Twitter doctors in existence today has likely surpassed six digits. Look, a cart in training camp and a cart in an NFL game are two entirely different things.

Guys are pulling hamstrings or other muscles all the time, especially in the heat and humidity. It’s still too early for coaches to risk injury. All precautionary measures are taken before the games start counting in the standings.

Odell Beckham Jr. got spiked, landed awkwardly, left practice and fantasy owners held their collective breath. The situation isn’t aided by vague reporting by verified beat-writers. DeAndre Hopkins missed one day of training camp and then came back.

According to Fantasy Football Calculator (FFC), Saturday, July 30 ended a nine-day streak where Hopkins’ ADP rose. The day that Hopkins missed camp? July 30.

Meanwhile, you have a draft at 7:30 p.m. and you’re already six pints in. You get a notification on one of the 20 sports apps you have on your phone, saying that “Player A” hurt his hamstring and was taken off on a cart during practice.” How do you react?

Rationally is likely not the answer. Unlike a Las Vegas wedding, think before you act from here on out.

OBJ and Nuk are not much of a risk at their current ADP. They are established high-end veterans in their offense.  The four players listed below however are a risk. Think 3:00 AM taco truck run after a night full of drinking levels of risk.

Whether it’s personnel changes, injury risk risk or a combination of both, I’m harnessing my inner craps player and playing the pass line.

Ryan Mathews (RB – PHI)
Take Mathews for instance, a player with an Encyclopedia Britannica of injuries credited to his name. Mathews recently tweaked his ankle training for the upcoming season. As a result, the Eagles placed him on the NFI PUP list to start training camp.

“You can’t make the club in the tub.” Mathews’ status on the 53-man roster this season was never in question. His productivity is, though, and it’s been evident throughout training camp.

Darren Sproles is still on the roster and getting valuable reps with the starting offense. The hype for Mathews is getting stronger since he’s come back to camp. Unfortunately, Mathews continues to work behind Sproles on the depth chart.

There were only two games last season where Mathews received more snaps than Sproles. It begs the question: Why is Mathews continuing to be drafted in the fifth round?

A partial answer could be related to the zero RB drafting strategy. Mathews’ 5.1 YPC last season turned some heads. As the 22nd ranked RB using FantasyPros’ ADP data, Mathews is a preferred target for those discounting the running back position.

Unfortunately, in Mathews’ final five games of the season, he averaged a robust 3.33 YPC on 39 rushing attempts. The final four games of that stretch came after Mathews suffered the third concussion of his NFL career against the Miami Dolphins.

His final season in college he suffered a concussion and missed two games. A statistic I don’t want to see from an alleged bell-cow is four concussions in seven years of football.

Thomas Rawls (RB – SEA)
The Seahawks have everything you want for fantasy production. A mobile and accurate Super Bowl winning quarterback. A constant, consistent and improving deep threat at wide receiver in Tyler Lockett. A reasonably efficient offensive line. An elite defense.

Unfortunately, there’s a logjam at running back, and Rawls is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered December 13 of last year. Rawls was recently cleared from the PUP list.

That does not mean that he’s a safe bet to be 100% when the season starts. Limited practice will also hinder his development.

In case you might have forgotten, Rawls only has seven starts to his career. He’s still being drafted ahead of Latavius Murray, Dion Lewis and Duke Johnson in PPR leagues.

Similar to Dion Lewis in New England, Rawls had a stretch last season where he was dominant. For Rawls, it was two different three-game stretches.

Here’s a look at the stark contrast when Rawls saw the field more (excluding Week 14):

Marshawn Lynch Snaps Games Snaps/Game Attempts/Game RuYds YPC TDs
20 or More Snaps 6 7.3 2.5 74 4.93 0
19 or Fewer Snaps 6 39.5 21.0 712 5.65 5

Clearly, as a starter, Rawls was a desirable asset. Emphasis on was. Or was he?

One thing is for sure; I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy about owning Rawls. Touchdowns are a fickle statistic, but it’s not like the Seahawks have done anything to improve their mediocre red zone offense.

Rawls found the end zone once every 31.2 touches. To make matters worse, the closer to the end zone Rawls found himself, the worse he got.

While three touchdowns came from the five-yard line or closer, Rawls was also tackled for a loss three times in nine carries inside the 10-yard line.

For each Rawls weakness – red zone rushing and receiving – the Seahawks have an answer. Rookies C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins represent a thunder and lightning combination that could press Rawls for carries.

In a backfield that has only one player (Christine Michael) with more than two years of NFL experience, it’s a toss-up for who will lead the Seahawks in rushing.

Coby Fleener (TE – NO)
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

I just can’t join the Fleener hype train. Tight ends are deeper than ever. Nine different tight ends had 100 or more targets last season. A new contract with the Saints will not change my view of the past three seasons.

Fortunately or unfortunately, many others are all aboard. It shows in his current ADP. Chasing New Orleans’ ghosts at tight end will not necessarily equate to a fantasy title.

The Saints wide receivers are the deepest they’ve been in years. Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead are entering their third year (Snead spent one year on practice squads). Rookie Michael Thomas is exceeding expectations thus far in camp.

Then we have Fleener, who spent his first four seasons catching passes from Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. While Fleener’s drop percentage is not as bad as some allude to, his lack of physicality is long documented and inability to stay on the field to block caps his upside.

Fleener was targeted 263 times over the past three seasons in 48 games. During that time period, Fleener averaged 1.65 fantasy points per target.

If he receives 100 targets this season, he would have the same number of points as Jason Witten last season, who finished as the TE10. There were eight tight ends that were within 10 receptions of Fleener last season. Six of them had more receiving yards.

Positional scarcity aside, Fleener is a mediocre talent put in a good situation. Fleener is currently being drafted ahead of Travis Kelce, John Brown and Lockett. Drafting Fleener ahead of the aforementioned players is like having a rabbit-eared Zenith on NFL Sundays instead of an HD TV with DirecTV.

Jordy Nelson (WR – GB)
I don’t know how many ways I can emphatically say “no” to a 31-year old receiver coming off a torn ACL. For Nelson, his price paired with his injury risk keeps me succinct.

It’s been more than 570 days since Nelson played in a meaningful game. Nelson has had a total of 21 snaps of preseason football that resulted in four targets in that time span. We are so focused on Nelson’s return from a torn ACL, but we haven’t seen how he will perform following offseason hip surgery in 2015.

Nelson has also had a knee condition dating back to college and received treatment on it in 2013. Of course, there’s also the “hiccup” that has kept Nelson on the PUP list.

I get hiccups after drinking beer. A knee condition is not a hiccup.

According to FFC, Nelson is currently being drafted as one of the first ten receivers. Meanwhile, teammates Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy are regularly available in the third round.

In the event Nelson can stay healthy for the duration of this season, his teammates should also return to their perch among the top fantasy players. Take them on draft day for a fraction of cost, but continue to enjoy the Nelson-effect without the fear of the Nelson injury.

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Matt Giraldi is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Matt, check out his archive or follow him@Mgiraldi.  

Correspondent, Draft Prep, Featured, NFL