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In yesterday’s newsletter, we covered the and from Week 2 of the preseason, and now it’s time to take a look at the fallout from those games. In today’s newsletter, we’re taking a look at changes in ADP and checking in on position battles from around the league to see where things stand with a little over two weeks until Week 1.
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Now, he’s a look at the latest ADP changes, position battle updates, and the injuries, news, and notes you need to know about in today’s newsletter.
One of my favorite points in the Fantasy Football Draft season is when people decide to just throw average draft position out of the window and go get their guys. There is so much talk about ADP and whether guys are a “good value,” but by the last week or so of drafts, when most drafts are happening, people tend to worry a lot less about the value and a lot more about making sure they get their guys.
We’re not at that point yet, but we are at a point where values are going to shift quite a bit each week. Jamey Eisenberg’s ADP Review piece Monday highlighted the moves rookie running backs like Brian Robinson and Dameon Pierce have made in ADP – along with his favorite and least favorite values at each position – and both were indeed among the fastest risers in ADP over the past week, according to NFC drafts.
In fact, of the five biggest risers among players being drafted in the top 150 right now, all of them are rookies. Which makes perfect sense – we’re two weeks into the preseason and about four weeks into training camp, which is enough time for coaches to start to shuffle depth charts and start challenging young players to see if they can handle more challenges.
Not all of them will rise to the occasion, and we’ll surely look back on some of the biggest movers in late ADP as mistakes. But you can’t ignore the shifting landscape around you. You just have to know how to work your way through it.
Here are the five biggest risers and fallers in ADP over the past week.
None of these are particularly surprising, and I don’t think any of them are egregious, either. A pick in the 10th round or later or any of Pacheco, Pickens, or Robinson makes perfect sense; Doubs being a bit later than the rest also makes sense, seeing as he’s potentially still running fourth in the Packers WR hierarchy despite drawing a lot of attention in the preseason, and that’s without Christian Watson, who was drafted two rounds ahead of him in the NFL Draft.
Pierce is the one I want to keep a close eye on in my next few drafts, though. He’s gone as high as 55th overall in at least one league, and I think that’s pretty much impossible to justify; even his price of 84.1 from Friday through Sunday isn’t ideal. Yes, it looks like Pierce is the lead back for the Texans, but … it’s still the Texans.
It’s not unreasonable to think Houston’s offense will be better than it was last season — it would be hard not to be, in fairness. They ranked dead last in rushing yards and yards per carry, while tying for the fewest rushing touchdowns a year ago, so they’re starting from the basement. This wasn’t a good offense for running backs in Fantasy, and I don’t think it was just because the running backs weren’t good.
Which is to say, while I think Pierce is a pretty interesting prospect, I’m not particularly excited about him as a Fantasy option. Pierce spent four years in college and never had more than 106 carries or 19 catches, so expecting him to just dominate work in the NFL seems like a mistake, so he’s probably going to be splitting work in a bad offense. Pierce profiles more like an RB3 who serves as a key depth piece, not someone you want to pencil into your lineup every week.
Again, all of these make sense, though I think Gage may be turning into a nice little value – Chris Godwin hasn’t been cleared to play yet and Julio Jones is still learning the system, so Gage very well could still open the season as the No. 2 option in a high-volume passing game led by Tom Brady. He’s unlikely to be a star, but Gage looks like a pretty solid PPR option to start the season.
Gibson and Sanders are the two headline names here, and this doesn’t even fully capture how far he’s tumbled; he’s actually going behind Pierce over the past three days. Brian Robinson looks like he has earned at least a share of the early-down work for the Commanders if he isn’t just outright the lead back at this point. Gibson still has a path to being a Fantasy contributor, and potentially a very good one, but it probably requires at least one injury to Robinson or J.D. McKissic.
Gibson played more in the McKissic role in preseason Week 2, and if he could carve out a split of the early-down work and a significant share of the passing game opportunities, Gibson could still end up being the best RB in this offense. But right now, I’m not sure I want to touch any of them inside of the top 100 picks.
For more on recent ADP changes and to see Jamey’s favorite and least-favorite values at each position, read his full piece here.
As I wrote about in yesterday’s newsletter, position battles in training camp and the preseason represent just one snapshot in time — they might tell us who is in the lead for playing time for Week 1, but they shouldn’t be taken as gospel when it comes time to figure out who to draft. Taking an early-season backup can still make sense if you’re aiming for the long run — you just have to remind yourself that you aren’t playing for just Week 1.
With two preseason games done and a little over two weeks left until the games actually count, we’ve still got plenty of position battles left to be sorted out, and many of those will enter Week 1 with some ambiguity — those are the players you need to be patient with. However, there are some competitions we can pretty confidently say we know who is in the lead, if not the outright winner already. Those are the situations you can start to react to a little more strongly in drafts this week.
We’ll break up the position battles based on those two criteria, starting with the few relevant spots we can probably make a call on now.
One player who hasn’t been able to make much headway in the Chiefs depth chart battle over the past week-plus is JuJu Smith Schuster, who has been sidelined by a knee injury. Smith-Schuster is still not at practice Monday and he has missed each of the team’s two preseason games as a result of the injury as well. It isn’t considered a serious issue at this point, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters last week there’s a “good chance” Smith-Schuster would return to practice this week. That hasn’t happened yet, at least, and he’s missing opportunities to lock himself in as Mahomes’ top target among the wide receivers.
It’s surprising because of what the Raiders invested in him – $11 million total, including a pretty sizeable dead cap hit for this season with his release – but that was a decision made by the prior leadership group, and Drake has been the clear fourth running back on the depth chart in the preseason. This seemingly clears Ameer Abdullah up to be the primary pass-catching back in this offense, which makes him a viable late-round target given how often Josh McDaniels’ offenses targets running backs in New England. It also clears a path for Zamir White to have a gameday role. He’ll be the backup to Josh Jacobs, in all likelihood, but should see some touches early on and could be the lead back if anything happens to Jacobs – or if the coaching staff decides they want a look. Like Drake, the new decision makers in Las Vegas didn’t bring Jacobs in and have no long-term commitment to him after turning down his fifth-year option for next season. White remains a great late-round target as a sleeper.
That’s what we expected when they traded for Mayfield, but they still went through the motions of a “competition” with Sam Darnold. As I wrote when the Panthers acquired Mayfield, Mayfield should be a significant upgrade for the Panthers’ offense even if he isn’t particularly good himself – that’s just how bad things have been there since Cam Newton‘s peak and subsequent decline. Mayfield had 7.2 yards per attempt last season, in a season pretty much everyone agrees was a disaster; Darnold’s career mark is 6.5. Since D.J. Moore entered the league in 2018, the Panthers have had one season with more than 17 touchdown passes, and their overall touchdown rate is just 3.2%, compared to Mayfield’s 4.8% mark for his career. This news didn’t come as any kind of surprise, but it’s still nice to get confirmation.
Spiller left Sunday’s preseason game with an ankle injury and will miss the preseason finale, with coach Brandon Staley acknowledging “there’s a chance” he’ll miss the season opener against the Raiders. Spiller was hoping to push to be the primary backup to Austin Ekeler in camp, but he’s been consistently running behind Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree for that job. It looks like Kelley is going to open the season as Ekeler’s backup and primary complement, which makes him a viable late-round sleeper – there is significant upside for the lead back in this offense if something happens to Ekeler, as Justin Jackson showed in averaging 18.8 points in five games with a snap share higher than 40% since 2018.
It’s not clear why Brady was absent – vague personal reasons, anonymous sources, and Reddit sleuthing aside – but he was back at Bucs training camp Monday. His absence was strange, but there was never any indication that the team was worried he wouldn’t be back for the start of the season, and now he’s got more than two weeks to make sure he’s back to full speed. The Bucs have dealt with a lot of injuries during camp, including two prospective starters on the offensive line, but as long as Brady has his weapons, I’m not gonna bet against him. This should remain one of the most productive passing games in the league.
Evans has been out for nearly two weeks with a hamstring injury, but it was never considered a particularly serious issue, and this confirms it. Evans has an opportunity to carve out a bigger target share than usual early in the season if Chris Godwin isn’t 100% coming off his torn ACL, and he’s a viable WR1 (or excellent WR2) in drafts right now.
Thomas is working his way back from a torn ACL and there’s still no guarantee he’ll be ready for Week 1, but this is a good sign. He was the No. 4 tight end in Fantasy in 2020 and could be a worthwhile late-round target as a sleeper if he’s healthy for the start of the season, especially if you’re a believer in Carson Wentz. I have Thomas ranked as a top-20 option at the position, but I’m probably not drafting him in most leagues.
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