Welcome to From the Gut! If you’re clicking in to read this article, you’re likely just as insane as I am. Or perhaps you just recognize the value of solidifying viewpoints while the current season is still fresh before the inevitable overvaluation of 2021 ADP begins.
What does that even mean? Well, since fantasy football is a year-round hobby these days, and fanatics will start drafting for next season as soon as the Super Bowl ends, it is a good idea to have some of our own thoughts rooted before groupthink inevitably sinks in. As we commence draft season in February, through the NFL Draft in spring and through summer training camp, there will be nonstop movement of players up and down ADP on the slightest of news tidbits. Having some idea of where the market (ADP) will flow and how it will settle for the final two weeks of draft season can assist in identifying which players we feel most confident investing in.
Hence, my fun end-of-year exercise begins projecting early ADP of the first three rounds for next season. Much of the market-setting will be based on end-of-season results, blended with a touch of hope for certain players or offenses in the season that’s to come. There will always be inflation on the young and fun players with upside and deflation on the players who failed to live up to their high ADP and early draft cost in the recent season. Josh Jacobs and Joe Mixon are two examples of that for 2021, but for different reasons.
Mixon, for example, won’t come close to sniffing his 2020 first-round valuation next season because he missed most of this season and left an overall bad taste in our collective mouths. Every year, there are cases of first or second-round players who fail to reach that valuation either because of injury or poor performance. But that doesn’t automatically mean they won’t be in a position to return to that high level. It may or may not be Mixon next year, but the ideology remains. Recognizing and drafting those mispriced players at a reduced cost because of groupthink overreaction is oftentimes a big part of our success.
Here is my rough preview of what I believe the ADP will start off at for 2021. I may end up being off by half a round on certain players, here and there, after the first 25 or so, but projecting ADP for a new season in football is one of my best analytical skills.
First Half of First Round
1 – Christian McCaffrey (RB/CAR)
2 – Dalvin Cook (RB/MIN)
3 – Alvin Kamara (RB/NO)
4 – Davante Adams (WR/GB)
5 – Derrick Henry (RB/TEN)
6 – Saquon Barkley (RB/NYG)
I strongly believe that McCaffrey will return to first overall status, though it likely will not be a consensus. I would expect Cook and Kamara to garner some attention as the first overall pick as well. Through 15 weeks, they are the only two backs with over 300 PPR points. Because of one game that Cook missed, his average points per game (24.7) is slightly higher than Kamara’s (23). Meanwhile, McCaffrey averaged 30.1 over his only three games, scoring two touchdowns in each of them. His injuries this season will not be of grave concern next year as none of them were anything to be overly concerned about. Adams will be the top wideout drafted and may even crack the top-three in high stakes drafts. His 24.9 PPR points-per-game is currently the league’s highest average.
Henry should round out the top five with a bit more respect after another stellar season but won’t crack the top three in PPR because of little involvement as a pass-catcher. We can make a greater case for him with one of the first few picks in standard-scoring formats. A poll I ran on December 23 confirmed my opinion that Barkley will most frequently be drafted in pick 6 to pick 9 range despite the ACL injury which cost him most of the season. Barkley will be 24 years old heading into his fourth NFL season and is undoubtedly one of the premier backs in the league behind a stout offensive line. A full recovery is expected and there are another nine months to go before 2021 training camp.
Second Half of First Round
7 – Tyreek Hill (WR/KC)
8 – Travis Kelce (TE/KC)
9 – Nick Chubb (RB/CLE)
10 – DeAndre Hopkins (WR/ARI)
11 – Austin Ekeler (RB/LAC)
12 – Jonathan Taylor (RB/IND)
Hill and Kelce will easily be first-round selections as both should finish the season as the top producers at their respective positions. Kelce leads all pass-catchers in receiving yards through 15 weeks (1,318) and Hill has a 20-point lead on Adams among wideouts, though Adams averages nearly two more points per game as he has essentially only played 11.5 games. Pick your poison but either one as a second-half first-rounder is a solid selection.
Everyone loves Chubb and we can only envision the type of Henry-esque numbers he could produce in a full season. Kareem Hunt still looms which keeps him from true bell-cow work, but one could argue that Chubb is the most dynamic pure runner in the league. Chubb ranks second in the league in 20-plus yard runs (11) behind only Henry’s 13 despite nearly half the rush attempts (321 Henry, 165 Chubb). Hopkins is easy to project as a back half first-rounder, possibly falling into the early second in some drafts. Ekeler’s PPR value puts him in the back half of the first as well despite the glut of complimentary backs on the Chargers’ offense.
The one hopeful assumption that I’m basing on public perception that might turn out to be a bit of overreaching is Colts’ running back Taylor as a back-end first round selection. He will be drafted anywhere between pick 11 and 16 in the upcoming year as excitement for his prospects and draft helium could push him here. Part of the reason I have him here though is because of the glut of wideouts you’ll see in my second-round predictions. Don’t forget that in the high-stakes format, Taylor’s ADP that final week of draft season was 28.4.
13 – DK Metcalf (WR/SEA)
14 – Calvin Ridley (WR/ATL)
15 – Stefon Diggs (WR/BUF)
This feels like the next group of wideouts drafted after the big-three. They also happen to be the only other studs at their position besides Adams and Hill to average more than 18 PPR points per game. All three are their team’s respective alphas and garner massive target shares. The lone question surrounding Ridley will be the play of his quarterback and the health and efficiency of teammate Julio Jones, who soaks up his fair share of targets when active. Diggs will have made the biggest ADP rise from the previous season after being an unpopular sixth-rounder projected to be a ‘bust’ in many fantasy circles. My how the turntables have…turned.
16 – Aaron Jones (RB/GB)
17 – Miles Sanders (RB/PHI)
18 – James Robinson (RB/JAC)
19 – Ezekiel Elliott (RB/DAL)
20 – Cam Akers (RB/LAR)
Specifically grouped these five backs together as they can certainly be interchangeable. Jones fired his agent two weeks ago and hired Drew Rosenhaus which is an ominous sign for his prospects of staying in Green Bay. Jones could have easily been a top-five overall producer this season if not for Aaron Rodgers’ MVP tour where easy Jones walk-in touchdowns have instead been one or two-yard passes to Adams and the other pass-catchers. Sanders is listed in this group but the overreaction from a rough 2020 results might even cause him to fall outside of the first two rounds. He missed a couple of games to start the season and hasn’t been properly utilized in this offense but has broken off some of the cleanest chunk plays and longest TD runs we’ve seen this season.
Robinson will be an easy second-rounder based on his productive rookie results and my assumption is that Akers cracks the first two rounds based on hype and the strength of the Rams’ offensive line. Those two games were enough of a glimpse to get this train rolling.
Elliott is one of the tougher ones to evaluate since it feels like there’s a chance he won’t be with the Cowboys next year. Perhaps just speculation on my end but reading the tea leaves, I believe the organization would be comfortable handing the lead back reins over to Tony Pollard. Zeke won’t just fall out of being a top-five overall pick for so many years into a forgotten third-round guy but it’s likely he lands somewhere in the middle, which is the second round.
21 – A.J. Brown (WR/TEN)
22 – Michael Thomas (WR/NO)
23 – Keenan Allen (WR/LAC)
24 – Patrick Mahomes (QB/KC)
Brown, Thomas and Allen are in the next group and there were some tough decisions to make here once you see the names of the third-round guys. Thomas should still fall in somewhere among the back-end second-rounders so long as he doesn’t pull an Antonio Brown circa two years ago and lose his mind in the offseason. One thing that we are nearly certain of is that Thomas won’t be part of this Saints organization. There is some bad blood here that is being kept under wraps and it’s only a matter of time before it surfaces.
Mahomes will be the first QB off the board, and possibly in the second round for those who play NFFC and get six points per passing touchdown. The top end of the QB pool will be extremely strong this season with Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Deshaun Watson.
Third Round Possibilities
George Kittle (SF), Darren Waller (LV)
Sincerely doubt Kittle falls out of the first three rounds but if he does, I’d be smashing that draft button in the fourth round all day long. He was a clear second-rounder last season and was selected frequently near the end of the first round in FFPC’s tight end premium setup last year. Waller’s second consecutive season of phenomenal production launches him into the conversation right next to Kittle though.
J.K. Dobbins (BAL), D’Andre Swift (DET), Antonio Gibson (WAS), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC), Joe Mixon (CIN), Josh Jacobs (LV)
Tough group to navigate but I do believe that both Dobbins and Swift could have wide ranges in their ADP – anywhere from mid-second round to late third round. Can we confidently even say that Akers is a better option than either of them? What we do know is that Edwards-Helaire will be “okay, fine, I’ll take him” third-rounder after the disappointment following his inability to return first-round value. He had big shoes to fill as a first-round guy with no pro experience but my guess is that his second season treats him much more fruitfully as the primary back on the league’s best offense. Mixon and Jacobs are the two second-round guys pushed out to the third who end up being great bargains.
Allen Robinson (CHI), Justin Jefferson (MIN), Adam Thielen (MIN), Julio Jones (ATL)
Robinson and Jefferson could both be top-30 overall selections but I’d assume a wide ADP range on them anywhere between 25 and 35. Jefferson will be the preferred selection over Thielen but Thielen’s touchdown efficiency this season will keep him in the conversation as a ‘safe’ first-rounder even though that TD rate will be nearly impossible to repeat in 2021. Jones will now have the injury stigma with him for the remainder of his career. There is no reason yet to believe that he follows the A.J. Green path of becoming ‘just a guy’ but he will be turning 32 in a few months and there will be folks who stay away from drafting him altogether.
Here are some others likely to crack the top 50 ADP:
- Lamar Jackson (BAL)
- Kyler Murray (ARI)
- Josh Allen (BUF)
- David Montgomery (CHI)
- Travis Etienne (undrafted)
- Kenyan Drake (ARI)
- Chris Carson (SEA)
- Tony Pollard (DAL)
- Ronald Jones II (TB)
- Will Fuller (HOU)
- Terry McLaurin (WAS)
- Brandon Aiyuk (SF)
- Robert Woods (LAR)
- Amari Cooper (DAL)
- Mike Evans (TB)
- Kenny Golladay (DET)
- Diontae Johnson (PIT)
- Corey Davis (TEN)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE)
The beauty of ADP and draft analysis is that there will always be overreactions and bias to the previous season’s results without much introspection about future production in a new team/role/coaching context. Moreover, last year’s busts – whether production-wise or because of injury – always get automatically discounted and quite frequently end up as the best draft values. Chris Godwin is the first name that comes to mind. The second highest PPR producer at his position in 2019, who becomes a second-round pick and then may fall out of the first four rounds in 2021 drafts altogether.
The name of the draft game is finding those values relative to public perception (like Stefon Diggs this year) who fall too far down ADP. All the while, avoiding the overhyped and overvalued players who may be potential landmines. I’ll have another look at ADP and compare it to this list in an offseason article.
If you’re in the finals this weekend, I wish you lots of luck! Hope you’ve enjoyed the column this season.
Looking for more thoughts on the 2021 Fantasy Football season?