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Erickson: Top fantasy football fades in Best Ball rankings vs. ADP

Nov 1, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins (27) runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

Value is the name of the game in fantasy football. If you aren’t exposing value by taking advantage of market holes and dodging player landmines based on overpriced best ball ADP, you’re doing it wrong. We build the foundation of a championship-winning roster by aggressively attacking the mispriced players, not by reaching on overvalued players and teams.

Leveraging my tiered best ball rankings is a great way to start identifying overvalued candidates, but I’ve taken it a step further by pinpointing a select few players who are strong fades at their current price tags.

These players all rank higher in ADP than they do in my best ball rankings, which is why I find myself rarely drafting them in fantasy drafts. And until the consensus decides to lower the price on these players, I’ll continue to avoid them all summer long because I like winning. If you like winning, I’d suggest you do the same. After all, drafting players with a “no matter what” mentality without considering value is a great way to finish last.

Editor's Note: Dive into PFF's 2021 Best Ball Draftkit for everything you need to win it all at the end of the year!

RB J.K. DOBBINS, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Running backs tied to a mobile quarterback are often short-changed when it comes to the passing game. For as well as J.K. Dobbins performed in fantasy football from Weeks 11-17 in full PPR (RB11), do you know who outscored him? J.D. McKissic. And it’s because McKissic caught 37 passes versus Dobbins’ three.

With most fantasy football leagues shifting toward full or half-point allocations for receptions, running backs who don't play a role in the passing attack are hard to get behind, especially at the top of the third round.

Guys like Derrick Henry can overcome the lack of receiving work because they are entrenched bell cows, but that’s not the case with Dobbins in Baltimore with Gus Edwards also in the mix. Edwards didn't see fewer than seven carries in a game after Week 13. He also was only slightly out-touched by Dobbins (74 to 86) during that time.

It would also be pure ignorance to assume that Dobbins will just take over when Edwards has been excellent at every opportunity he’s received.

Baltimore Backfield from Week 11 onward (including playoffs, 2020)
Player PFF grade Yards per carry Yards after contact
per attempt
Missed tackles forced
per attempt
J.K Dobbins 76.3 6.0 3.3 0.15
Gus Edwards 90.1 5.4 3.6 0.20

Aside from yards per attempt (the least predictive running back stat), Edwards was better across the board on nearly the same amount of runs (80 versus 96).

Dobbins also ran extremely hot when it came to scoring touchdowns, scoring at least one touchdown in every game from Week 11 onward. His total rushing TDs (nine, 12th) was nearly double his expected output (5.5, 30th), the sixth-highest difference at the position.

I just can’t side with Dobbins as an early third-rounder when I can snag Chris Carson at the end of the third/beginning of the fourth round instead.

RB MILES SANDERS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The same goes for Miles Sanders (RB17 ADP), who will undoubtedly be the first Philadelphia player drafted in fantasy football next season. However, there should be more concerns about him with Jalen Hurts under center.

I've done extensive research on mobile quarterback influence on running back production — the reality is that it’s going to be tough for Sanders to finish as a top-12 fantasy RB without a heavy receiving workload. And mobile QBs like Hurts just don't have to dump the ball off to RBs when they can scramble just as easily.

Perhaps it’s still possible that Sanders could make up the difference as a pure rusher on the ground, as the mobile QB “opens rushing lanes” corollary has proven true in the last two seasons.

But the increased efficiency on rushing attempts doesn’t always make up for the lack of volume for running backs, which we know reigns supreme at the position. Sanders will have to continue his upward trajectory of efficiency and ramp up his rushing production to become a worthwhile pick in the third round.

The Eagles also drafted Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he should dramatically affect Sanders’ role in the passing game. Head coach Nick Sirianni has already dubbed Gainwell as “the team's Nyheim Hines.” Hines finished third in receptions at the running back position last season (64).

We could easily see Sanders’ pass-game usage hit rock bottom, and that’s the exact thing we don’t want for our fantasy RBs on a team that projects to be frequently trailing. Philly’s projected win total ranks 29th in the league.

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