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Steve Schwarz | Archive | Email |  
Staff Writer

The Fall From Fantasy Relevance Can Be Quick
High ADP Newcomers

Seasons change quickly and so do the opinions of fantasy owners. A player once thought of as a “star in the making” one year, can be a complete non-factor on draft day the next season.

Case in point, Denver running back Montee Ball. In August 2014, just before last season began, fantasy owners were infatuated with Ball’s potential. He was the heir-apparent to Knowshon Moreno who had run ragged over the league the previous season (1,038 yards rushing, 548 yards receiving, 13 TDs). Now, with Moreno in Miami after signing a big free-agent deal, Ball was the guy voted “most likely” to take over his role. His ADP was 13.0 – an early second-round selection.

If only things were that simple. Life threw Ball and his fantasy backers a “curve ball.” An offseason appendectomy and a severe groin injury left Ball watching from the sidelines as first Ronnie Hillman and then C.J. Anderson played well as his replacement. Anderson produced so well, in fact, that even when Ball recovered from the injuries, he couldn't win back his starting job.
A year later, many think Ball will be left off the final 53-man squad.

Ball isn't the only top selection from 2014 who isn't a factor in 2015. In fact, 10 players with an ADP of 60-or-better (meaning they were a top-five draft choice in a standard 12-team league a season ago), can't crack the top-200 in 2015.

Along with Ball, the list includes; Zac Stacy (2014 ADP 28.5), Toby Gerhart (37.6), Cordarrelle Patterson (43.2), Wes Welker (46.0), Ray Rice (49.5), Percy Harvin (52.7), Chris Johnson (58.2), Ben Tate (58.3) and Trent Richardson (59.5).

I would barely consider two of them, Harvin and Johnson, worthy of even a last-round flier.
The loss of 10 picks doesn't mean this season's fantasy options are thin. There are plenty of “new” faces ready to take their place. Checking the most recent ADP rankings shows 13 names that weren't in the top-200 last season who are currently being selected in the first five rounds.
The list includes six rookies and seven veterans.

Let's evaluate the newcomers.


Melvin Gordon, San Diego (ADP 37.2) – He's likely to be inconsistent. In fact, please make that the first line for all six of the rookies under discussion. Gordon is talented and should be the early-down back, but the return of Danny Woodhead is going to limit Gordon's fantasy value. You only have to remember how good Woodhead was in 2013 when he grabbed 76 passes for 605 yards and rushed for 429 yards.

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit (41.5) – The rookie out of Nebraska could supplant Joique Bell as the starter very quickly, but the Lions backfield currently appears to be a “by committee” situation as we start the season because undrafted-free agent Zach Zenner has also earned playing time. There has been a lot of media hype surrounding Abdullah which has resulted in him being drafted a bit too high.

Amari Cooper, Oakland (42.6) – Cooper was thought of as the most “NFL-ready” wideout coming out of college and has done nothing in training camp or the preseason to make fantasy owners change that opinion. He should lead the Raiders in targets, catches and receiving yards. Think Kelvin Benjamin-type numbers.

Todd Gurley, St. Louis (53.4) – He's the most talented rookie running back in the draft class, but coming off an ACL injury fantasy owners can't expect him to be a factor for the first half of the season. He could end up posting a Jeremy Hill-type second half if all goes perfect. He's a top-20 option in dynasty drafts, but re-draft owners will have to load up on running backs to cover his likely early-season non-production.

T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville (59.6) – Another talented rookie who is an every down back, but a suspect Jaguars' offensive line should limit fantasy expectations. Alabama running backs are used to seeing gaping holes in the line, but that won't happen in his first NFL season. Hopefully, he's more Eddie Lacy than Trent Richardson.

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia (59.9) – Agholor is in the perfect situation to succeed. He's replacing Jeremy Maclin, who posted career numbers in the same role last season despite suspect quarterbacking. He's looked great in preseason and if Sam Bradford can stay healthy, a big if considering the past two seasons, Agholor could end up with the best fantasy totals and the best value of this 2015 rookie class.


C.J. Anderson, Denver (8.6) – Didn't we feel just as good about Ball last season? Yes, Anderson put together a very good second half of the season a year ago, but he was featured over an injured Peyton Manning. If Manning is healthy, the Broncos will still pass the ball with the best of them. Be excited about Ball's potential, just not first-round excited.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants (13.9) – On the other hand, Beckham is as good as it gets and fantasy owners should be very excited to put him in their starting lineup. With Victor Cruz's comeback still up in the air, there is no reason Beckham can't duplicate last season's fantasy totals.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore (20.1) – Forsett exploded onto the scene in 2014 (1,266 yards rushing, 263 yards receiving, 8 TDs) and could be a better fantasy value in 2015 under new Ravens OC Marc Trestman. Trestman's running backs have averaged 72 catches for 597 yards over 12 NFL seasons dating back to 1988.

Latavius Murray, Oakland (31.0) – We were 12 games into the 2014 season before Murray got a chance to show his abilities. Considering Oakland's options were Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew we wonder why it took so long. He'll be running behind a below-average offensive line, so temper your enthusiasm, but his explosive speed will generate some big games. Producing third-round value, however, may prove to be difficult for a team frequently behind on the scoreboard.

Davante Adams, Green Bay (35.2) – Adams thrived in his role as No. 3 receiver on a team with the best quarterback in the league. Following Jordy Nelson's season-ending injury, Adams figures to dramatically improve on last season's 38-catch, 446-yard, three touchdown production and third-round value should be easily attainable.

Joseph Randle, Dallas (38.2) - It's the classic “which came first” argument … the chicken or the egg? Did DeMarco Murray put together a monster season because of his elite offensive line or did the line look good because Murray is such a good runner? Randle owners hope it's the former as he'll get the first opportunity to run behind the line in 2015. Rumors have this as an RBBC situation (with McFadden and Lance Dunbar), but if Randle can produce anywhere near the 6.7 ypc from last season or the 5.5 ypc he averaged in college at Oklahoma State, he will have the job all to himself and be a fantasy stud.

Jarvis Landry, Miami (50.1) – Beckham wasn't the only LSU rookie receiver to perform well last season. Landry posted 84 receptions for 758 yards and five touchdowns. We need significant improvement in finding the end zone from Landry this season if he's going to surpass 2014. Unfortunately, the Dolphins went to great lengths to improve their receiving corps, adding Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, rookie DeVante Parker and tight end Jordan Cameron. This could be a balanced receiving group and we aren't sure Landry can exceed last season's totals.

Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.

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