We’re inching ever closer to the prime of fantasy football draft season, which typically takes place about 10 days or two weeks before Week 1 kicks off. Really, any time after the third week of preseason games is an appropriate time to draft. That timeframe not only helps fantasy owners avoid drafting a player only to have him suffer a season-ending injury in August, as was the case with Kelvin Benjamin; it also allows for the clearest picture of which players have emerged victorious from training camp battles.
While we are still a few weeks away from draft season beginning in earnest, the clouds over much of the draft board have started to break. We now have about a month’s worth of valuable average draft position data to sift through, giving us an idea of the players who are rising and those who are tumbling heading into draft day.
All ADP data is courtesy of fantasyfootballcalculator.com
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions
Are you ready to pay up for America’s favorite running back? You’re going to have to if you want Abdullah’s services this season. Just one month ago, Abdullah was the fourth pick in the sixth round of a typical 12-team draft. After his impressive training camp and eye-popping preseason opener, he’s now the second pick in the fourth round of your average draft. That’s a rise of 38 picks in the draft rankings. It’s easy to see why Abdullah has captured the hearts of fantasy owners everywhere. He’s an explosive player who can break a huge play every time he has the ball in his hands.
Teammate Joique Bell is a boring, plodding runner who has always been part of a timeshare, and he won’t keep Abdullah off the field. The rookie out of Nebraska is part of an offense that hasn’t been talked about much but could be among the most potent in the league if Calvin Johnson can stay healthy. There’s risk tied to every rookie running back, but there’s no doubting that Abdullah has a chance to be special. Understand, though, that you’re not getting him at a discount. He’s going to be a much-desired target and will likely be off the board within your draft’s first 40 picks.
Chris Ivory, RB, Jets
I cannot endorse Ivory strongly enough at his current ADP, which is, coincidentally enough, 6.04, the exact spot Abdullah was in a month ago. Ivory has had a similar rise, climbing up from his 8.01 spot held during the last week of July. Everything points to Ivory having a breakout season for the Jets and his fantasy owners. Long one of the more underrated and underutilized backs in the league, Ivory appears to finally have a chance to prove he can be a workhorse. Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy aren’t going to stand in his way, and Bilal Powell is really more of a third-down or change-of-pace back. Ivory, who totaled 944 yards and seven touchdowns on just 216 touches last season, has a career 4.7 yards-per-carry average, and he was fourth in the league in missed tackles last year despite getting just 198 totes. He won’t have any serious competition in the Jets’ backfield. As such, expect him to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 carries this year to go along with 40 or so targets. Ivory may not be a steal anymore, but he’ll still be a great pick at his expected draft-day price.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins
Landry has seen his draft-day stock climb all the way to 5.12 (60th overall) from 6.09 one month ago. The Miami offense has a ton of breakout potential, with Ryan Tannehill surrounded by the best collection of weapons he has enjoyed in his career, but using the 60th overall pick on a receiver like Landry is a bit rich. Landry had a strong rookie year, catching 84 passes for 758 yards and five touchdowns. While he deserves to be a high pick in PPR leagues, his possession style of receiving doesn’t make him a reliable starter in standard formats.
He can be a shifty target in the red zone for Tannehill, but it’s still hard to see him getting more than six or seven touchdowns. First of all, there are a ton of mouths to feed in Miami. With Kenny Stills, Jordan Cameron, Lamar Miller and DeVante Parker all set to have significant roles, the team leader might not have more than eight receiving touchdowns, and I’d rather bet on that leader being a big-play guy like Stills or a big body who can dominate the red zone like Cameron. Second, Landry does most of his damage in short and intermediate routes. It’s hard for receivers with Landry’s skill set to rank inside the top 30 in non-PPR leagues. I’d look elsewhere, especially with receivers like Jeremy Maclin, Victor Cruz and Allen Robinson potentially still available.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
I’ve done plenty of gushing over Eifert already this summer, so I’ll spare you most of the song and dance. Understand, however, that this is a 6'6", 250-pound tight end with a first-round pedigree (he was the 21st overall pick in 2013) who just might be the second pass-catching option in Cincinnati’s offense. Unfortunately, the rest of the fantasy football world is starting to jump onto the Eifert bandwagon. One month ago, you could get Eifert for the low price of the first pick in the 14th round of a typical 12-team draft. That’s essentially a replacement-level draft pick. He’s still cheap, but his ADP is up to 11.06, and it’s only likely to rise another round or round and a half higher over the next few weeks. I’d be shocked if he weren’t a top-10 tight end this season, and if everything goes right for him, he could very well end up in the top five at the position. Even if you end up having to use a ninth-round selection on Eifert, you will not be disappointed.
Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
Perhaps fantasy owners are more forgiving than we typically believe them to be. Despite consecutive lackluster, injury-plagued seasons, Martin’s draft price has risen throughout the summer. He’s now the sixth selection in the fifth round of a typical 12-team draft after sitting at 6.11 a month ago. This is another one where the price is simply too high. Most players deserve the benefit of the doubt after one season wracked by injury. Martin has now had two in a row, but that might not even be the most alarming thing about him. Even when he was on the field in 2013 and 2014, he wasn’t very good. Over the last two seasons, Martin has averaged 3.6 yards per carry over 261 rushes. He has forced a grand total of 24 missed tackles in that time and has 10 runs of at least 15 yards. Last year alone, there were 11 backs with fewer than 261 carries and more than 10 such rushes. Charles Sims is likely to have a role in the Tampa Bay offense, the team could very well be playing from behind a lot and it could throw in the red zone frequently given the presence of three big receiving weapons in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. There’s little to like about Martin in general and even less when you consider the price tag.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees has carried many a fantasy team to championships over the last nine years, but his days among the top three quarterbacks has come and gone, at least in the eyes of drafters. Brees is now the sixth quarterback selected in a typical draft, and his ADP has fallen to 5.12 from 5.02. That places him right in the unhappy middle when it comes to signal callers in one-quarterback leagues. The harsh reality is that with Jimmy Graham out of New Orleans and Marques Colston a fading asset, Brees is no longer a slam dunk to outperform the tier of quarterbacks that includes Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan.
Despite that, he’s still going comfortably higher than all of those quarterbacks, even though there may not be significant differences among any of them. If you’re going to take Brees at his ADP, you really have to believe in his weapons, and that’s an awfully tough case to make. Brandin Cooks had a solid rookie season, but can he really be a No. 1? Who takes over in the red zone now that Graham is in Seattle? Who stretches the field for Brees with Stills in Miami? Who catches passes for him out of the backfield with C.J. Spiller already hurt and Travaris Cadet taking over for Shane Vereen in New England? Brees will still give you a productive season, but even his depressed cost looks too steep.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
Gordon remains the favored rookie running back in the fantasy community at large, but that could soon change thanks to Abdullah’s ascent. The Wisconsin product has experienced a decrease in draft stock amid reports that he is struggling in pass protection. Danny Woodhead was already going to have a sizable role in the offense on third downs and in obvious passing situations, but if Gordon can’t learn the Chargers’ protection schemes, the roles of Woodhead and Branden Oliver could continue to grow. Last month, Gordon was right at the top of the third round, coming off the board with the 27th overall pick on average. He’s now at an ADP of 4.01, behind Joseph Randle, Mark Ingram and Latavius Murray.
The drop in price only makes me like Gordon more. I’ve been one of his most vocal supporters this summer, but even I was a bit wary about using an early third-round pick on him. Now that it’s feasible to get him somewhere in the 40s overall, I think he’ll easily turn a profit. Gordon turned in a phenomenal senior season in Madison, and the Chargers traded up to get him in an era that devalues running backs for a reason. So long as he gets 200 carries, he’ll justify his draft-day price.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets
Marshall seems to be a forgotten man in fantasy circles, falling all the way into the sixth round despite a track record that suggests he will be, at worst, a low-end WR2. He started out the summer toward the top of the fifth round, but he is now coming off the board with the 11th pick of the fifth round in a typical 12-team draft. The Jets' offense doesn’t project to be a high-flying, light-up-the-scoreboard unit, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has proved himself capable of being a league-average quarterback, and Eric Decker will take plenty of attention away from Marshall. Add Ivory to the mix, and suddenly the Jets are working with a pretty nice core of skill players.
Marshall is now 31 years old, and he’s not likely to approach the 1,295-yard, 12-touchdown season he had with Chicago two years ago, but there’s no doubting that he can be a consistent WR2 in 12-team formats. I’d feel a lot better about him as my third receiver, but if he’s my second then I assume that I loaded up on running backs. If that’s the case, I can live with Marshall in that role. He’s not a steal at his ADP, but there’s no reason to avoid him, either.
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
Ertz’s draft-day price was already starting to slip before he suffered an injury to a core muscle that required surgery to repair. After that news broke, his stock fell off a cliff. Earlier this week, Ertz had an ADP of 8.08, which is the 92nd pick in a 12-team league. He’s now at 10.04, or 124th overall. Ertz was a popular breakout prediction in each of his two seasons thus far, but it just hasn’t materialized for him, even though the Philadelphia offense has been among the most potent in the league. Last season, he had 58 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns, which made him the No. 14 tight end in standard-scoring leagues. The position remains relatively shallow, but there’s more talent than usual at the back end of the TE1 class. One of those guys is Eifert, but there are plenty of players who I’m not invested in that I’d rather have than Ertz, especially with his injury, which could force him to miss some time early in the season. Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten, Delanie Walker and Dwayne Allen all have an ADP of eighth or lower at the position, and all four have a chance to provide a better return on your investment than Ertz.
Photos: Paul Sancya/AP (Abdullah), Joe Robbins/Getty Images (Brees)