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Top fantasy football values and fades in Erickson rankings vs. ADP

Comparing fantasy ranks to ADP is a tried and true approach for finding value and fades in fantasy football drafts. Targeting a couple players at — or ahead — of ADP allows you to build around players you're higher on than the consensus. Of course, we fade those we're lower on, leaving these players for our opponents to overpay for.

PFF Fantasy rankings are a good place to compare your thoughts with those of our experts. In this article, I'm looking further into the players I'm higher and lower on than their current ADPs in July 2020 BestBall10s. These are my values to target and players to avoid at their current cost in your fantasy football drafts.  

Quarterbacks

Value: Cam Newton (My rank: QB10 | ADP: QB16)

You would think a former MVP going to the New England Patriots would generate more buzz around fantasy football owners, but Cam Newton is being drafted as the QB16 between Baker Mayfield and Ben Roethlisberger. This is drafting Newton at his absolute floor considering he has never finished worse than QB18 when starting at least 14 games.

Concerns about Newton’s health are suppressing his draft stock, but at this price he is well worth the risk. When Newton has played a full 16-game season, his overall finishes at quarterback are: third, fourth, third, first and second. The seasons when Newton finished first and second overall came after seasons in which he sustained injuries (2014, 2016).

Entering 2020, Newton is coming off an injury-plagued campaign, but history shows us that he does bounce back. He'll have the chance to flirt with 30-plus touchdowns if the Patriots can continue their three-year stretch of running the most red-zone plays in the league.

Newton has put up the fifth-highest passing touchdowns per dropback for quarterbacks with at least 70 dropbacks since 2018, and he has the third-most rushing attempts in the red zone since 2017. The Patriots have the second-easiest strength of schedule for quarterbacks in 2020.

Red-zone passing touchdowns per dropback since 2018
Andrew Luck 0.31
Ryan Tannehill 0.31
Lamar Jackson 0.30
Russell Wilson 0.28
Cam Newton 0.27

Value: Tyrod Taylor (PFF rank: QB22 | ADP: QB31)

PFF’s Sam Monson argued in a recent article that we should not be surprised if Tyrod Taylor thrives at the helm of the Los Angeles Chargers offense. It's almost like everybody forgot that Taylor’s best seasons in Buffalo from 2015-2016 were with current Chargers head coach and former Bills’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.

During those two seasons, Taylor rushed for 10 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards. He ranked third in fantasy points per dropback (0.59) in 2015 and sixth (0.52) in 2016. His two-year average of 0.55 fantasy points per dropback would have tied Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson for sixth-highest in 2019.

Justin Herbert could unseat Taylor at some point, but he looks like the clear-cut starter for Week 1. It’s worth recalling that in 2018, Taylor started over Baker Mayfield after the Cleveland Browns selected him No. 1 overall. Taylor's early-season slate is appealing, with three games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers — he should be able to have productive fantasy outings with arguably the strongest supporting cast of his career. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are clear upgrades over theBuffalo Bills Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Charles Clay.

Fade: Drew Brees (My rank: QB18 | ADP: QB10)

Drew Brees put up fantasy points like a mad man after coming back from injury last season. His touchdown percentage of 7.1% was the highest in his entire career — well above his career average of 5.4%. He did this while also ranking 35th of 36 qualifying quarterbacks in aDOT (6.8) and 34th out of 35 qualifiers in deep passing percentage (8.2%).

The possibility that Brees repeats his 2019 performance without consistently pushing the ball down the field seems unlikely and certainly not worth the cost of a top-10 fantasy quarterback.

His 27 touchdown passes in 11 games would have paced to 39 passing touchdowns, which would have led the NFL in 2019. But Brees' touchdown percentage is going to regress back closer to his career average in 2020. With absolutely zero skills as a rusher, he profiles much more as a safe quarterback rather than a quarterback with upside.

We also need to consider that Taysom Hill may see a larger role in 2020 considering the Saints signed him to a two-year extension. He could potentially vulture touchdowns or red-zone passing attempts.

Running Backs

Value: James Conner (My rank: RB16 | ADP: RB20)

James Conner‘s health concerns are causing his dip in ADP, but we have seen him operate as the primary runner for the Pittsburgh Steelers for two straight seasons when he's been healthy. In 2019 — which many would consider a lost season for the running back — he still saw 18-plus touches per game in Weeks 1-8.

Conner was also extremely efficient as a receiver, ranking ninth in yards per route run (1.64), fourth in forced missed tackles on receptions (19) and third in PFF receiving grade (89.8) among running backs with at least 35 targets. He showed he could create plays on his own, earning the 14th-best elusive rating (60.5) among 45 running backs who saw at least 100 carries.

PFF receiving grades for running backs in 2019
Austin Ekeler 93.6
Christian McCaffrey 92.4
James Conner 89.8
Jamaal Williams 89.7
James White 85.3

 The Pittsburgh Steelers added fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland Jr., but it's not likely that a rookie is going to eat into Conner's workload much. The other Steelers’ running backs, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr., are more one-dimensional as receivers and rushers, respectively, so there's little concern that one of them could overtake Conner without an injury. Conner is going to see the lion’s share of carries — as the Steelers have traditionally done with their lead backs. That should translate to heavy usage near the goal line.

A big part of Conner’s success in 2018 was his 12 rushing touchdowns — nine of which came on his 17 carries inside the 5-yard line (third-most). Last season, Conner had just five carries inside the 5-yard line, which ranked 40th.

There are also reasons to be optimistic that the Steelers will see more red-zone visits in 2020 than they did in 2019 when they ranked 31st in total red-zone plays (115). They also ran just 22 goal-line plays (30th rank) — over 50% fewer than they did the year prior (47).

With Ben Roethlisberger back under center, the Steelers returning an above-average offensive line and the acquisition of fullback Derek Watt to replace Roosevelt Nix, Conner should be able to finish as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 in 2020.

Value: Kerryon Johnson (My rank: RB35 | ADP: RB41)

The possibility of Kerryon Johnson becoming a top-end fantasy asset is not going to transpire. On top of the injuries that ended his first two seasons in the NFL, he's been vocal about wanting to work in tandem with another running back. Johnson got his wish in the 2020 NFL Draft, as the Lions spent an early-second on D’Andre Swift.

To most, it would seem this would completely tank Johnson’s fantasy stock, but it has actually created a nice value price for the third-year running back. Since 2018, when Johnson has lined up with at least one other running back or fullback in the backfield, he has the third-highest PFF rushing grade (79.1), fourth-highest yards after contact per attempt (3.5) and fifth-highest missed tackles forced per attempt (0.19). The Lions ran the 10th-most plays with two or more running backs in 2019 and the seventh-most during Weeks 1-8 when Johnson was healthy.

Johnson is going to see a loss in the passing game due to the addition of Swift from a volume standpoint but should be able to make up for it because of his efficiency as a receiver and usage at the goal-line. Since 2018, Johnson ranks fifth in yards after the catch per reception (9.4) among running backs with at least 50 targets.

During the first six weeks of the season, when the Lions offense was humming under the helm of quarterback Matthew Stafford, Johnson tied for third in the league in carries inside the 5-yard line (eight). He finished the season with 10 of them, albeit playing in just eight games. His percentage of carries inside the five-yard line (8.8%) was the second-highest among running backs with at least 100 carries in 2019.

Highest percentage of carries inside the 5-yard line
Melvin Gordon III 9.3%
Kerryon Johnson 8.8%
Jordan Howard 8.4%
Dalvin Cook 8.4%
Mark Ingram 7.9%

As the established goal-line runner for a sneaky-good Lions offense in 2020, Johnson is primed for a bounce-back season. His first two games against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are also favorable, as both ranked in the bottom 25 in rushing touchdowns allowed.

Value: Zack Moss (My rank: RB44 | ADP: RB46)

The Buffalo Bills have openly stated that they want rookie running back Zack Moss to fill the role of the departed Frank Gore. This means that Moss is going to see touches inside the 5-yard line, as Gore compiled the 13th-most carries inside the 5-yard line (11) and 16th-most carries inside the 10 (18) last season. Devin Singletary had only three carries inside the 10-yard line.  

Moss will still have to compete with quarterback Josh Allen for those touches, considering the quarterback has rushed for 17 touchdowns since 2018. That could regress considering the last time we saw a quarterback rush for that many touchdowns in his first two seasons (Newton, 22) there was a significant drop in Year 3 (Newton, 6). There is also a chance that Moss just eats into Singletary’s normal workload outside the goal line.

The former Utah Ute was PFF’s highest-graded running back (91.3) in 2019, dominating as a rusher with the 10th-most yards after contact per attempt (4.45) and second-most broken tackles (89). His pass game usage in 2019 was also encouraging, as he caught 28 of his 31 targets while averaging 14.5 YAC per reception.

Factor in that Moss has almost identical third-round draft capital to incumbent Singletary and is also a threat as a pass-catcher — much more so than Gore. Moss is emerging as the better value in fantasy, going outside the top-40.

Fade: Kenyan Drake (My rank: RB12 | ADP: RB8)

Since 2010, 45 teams had a quarterback with at least 65 rushing attempts. None of those teams supported both a top 10 fantasy WR and RB. This is exactly why we should have concerns about the prices of both Kenyan Drake and DeAndre Hopkins at their current ADPs considering Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray had 93 rushing attempts in 2019 and will likely reach at least 65 rushing attempts in 2020.

I have already voiced some concerns about Hopkins, predicting that Calvin Ridley will outscore him, but there are concerns over whether Drake can live up to his ADP as well.

Almost everything improved for Drake once he landed in Arizona: PFF receiving grade (76.3 vs. 47.3), rushing grade (74.1 vs. 64.8) and yards after contact per attempt (2.77 vs. 2.49). Though his yards per route run decreased from 1.45 to 0.89, his fantasy points shot up thanks to his eight touchdowns, which were more than any other Cardinal during that stretch. That touchdown rate seems unsustainable, and there is concern about how much pass game usage Drake will see.

The main concern is that Murray will not check the ball down to Drake, which would hurt his volume in the passing game. Murray attempted the fourth-lowest percentage of check downs to running backs in 2019. 

Earlier this offseason, I wrote about how mobile quarterbacks limit the upside of running backs in the passing game. Based on Drake’s current ADP, that does not seem to be factoring in the minds of drafters. He is not going to see massive volume as a receiver and could potentially be more touchdown-dependent than we would hope.

We've seen Drake flash seemingly every season but never maintain any level of consistency. His first-round ADP is ignoring his bust potential. 

Fade: Kareem Hunt (My rank: RB33 | ADP: RB28)

The addition of Austin Hooper to the Browns’ offense is going to hurt Kareem Hunt’s role in the passing game. In a previous article, I took a look at the relationship between targets for running backs and tight ends, finding that pass-catching backs perform better when tight ends aren't hogging targets (and vice versa).

After Hunt returned from suspension last season, he ranked sixth in the NFL in targets at the running back position. His 43 targets from Weeks 9-17 were more than all the Browns' tight ends combined (29). Going back to 2018, during Weeks 1-11 — when Hunt was with the Kansas City Chiefs and a notable tight end Travis Kelce — he ranked outside the top-20 in receptions and targets.

In 2019, most of Hunt’s receiving production came from 20 and 11 personnel alignments, formations commonly used by teams that feature the tight end position less. Those personnel groupings completely differ from what we saw from the 2019 Minnesota Vikings under new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Minnesota ran the fewest percentage of plays from 11 personnel and practically none from 20 personnel. With the Browns likely to run more 21 and 12 personnel sets, the team's tight ends are more likely to benefit in the passing game than Hunt. From those personnel groupings, the Vikings’ tight ends ranked second in the league in targets, receptions and routes run.

The Vikings’ running backs in those groupings also led the league in routes run, targets and receptions, but that was with just one running back being involved in the passing game —Dalvin Cook who led the NFL in targets, routes run and receptions from those sets. This receiving production was extremely concentrated, with Cook seeing 71% of the running back targets.

Nick Chubb showed in the first half of the season that he was more than capable of working in the passing game, ranking inside the top 20 in targets, receptions and routes run. 

Hunt is being drafted as the most expensive handcuff this year and seems only likely to pay off if Chubb gets hurt. With the standalone value we saw last year is unlikely to repeat, he's an overpay at RB28. 

Wide Receivers

Value: Tyler Boyd (My rank: WR19 | ADP: WR31)

Tyler Boyd has been one of the most productive slot receivers in the NFL over the past two seasons, leading the NFL in receiving yards and ranking sixth in yard per route run (1.94) from the slot over that time span among receivers with at least 100 targets.

Slot receiving yards since 2018
Tyler Boyd 1,509
Julian Edelman 1,289
Cooper Kupp 1,270
Tyler Lockett 1,224

In 2019, he stepped up in the absence of A.J. Green and posted career-highs in both receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,046). His 147 targets ranked seventh in the NFL.

Boyd has the potential to continue to ascend with the addition of first overall pick Joe Burrow taking over the offense. The Bengals' rookie quarterback targeted LSU slot wide receiver Justin Jefferson  third-most among all college receivers in 2019. The potential for Burrow to develop a quick rapport with Boyd seems likely.

Boyd won't threaten the defense as a field-stretcher (9.7 aDOT), but he should thrive in the short to intermediate level of the field. With Green likely on the downslope of his career, the 25-year-old Boyd should again lead the Bengals in targets and be a weekly WR2.

It's important to note that Green’s 2018 production was extremely dependent on his usage in the slot. His yards per route run (4.30) ranked No. 1 among all players that saw at least 25 slot targets. Outside of the slot, his yards per route (1.62) ranked 71st among qualifiers.

During weeks 1-8 of the 2018 season, Green was WR6, but 67% of his fantasy points came from the slot. Considering there was a different regime in Cincinnati in 2018 Boyd ran the fifth-most snaps from the slot under the current regime in 2019, expecting Green’s production to carry over from 2018 is a pipe dream. With fantasy drafters speculating on Green's comeback, it's Boyd who will ultimately benefit the most. 

Value: Mike Williams (My rank: WR33 | ADP: WR47)

Many drafters are off wide receiver Mike Williams because of concerns about who is under center and the total passing attempts the receiver will see in 2020. Our PFF Projections have the Chargers attempting 539 passes in 2020— 58 less than 2019 but still relatively close to 2019’s NFL average of 558 passing attempts.

The lack of perceived passing targets available for Williams is being slightly overblown, but if any receiver on the Chargers can overcome low passing volume it is Williams. His skill set as a downfield receiver and his touchdown upside should allow him to beat his ADP.

Williams ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards per reception (20.4), second in aDOT (18.3) and third in yards per target (11.8) among all wide receivers who played at least 50% of their team’s snaps. This fits perfectly with Tyrod Taylor, who has consistently pushed the ball downfield wherever he has been a starting quarterback. 

As a scrambling quarterback, Taylor is going to take more deep shots, and Williams is surely going to reap the rewards. Their relationship in 2020 could potentially mimic what we saw Taylor do in Buffalo with Sammy Watkins.

Watkins owns the highest PFF grade (87.9) and a whopping 17.3 aDOT among wide receivers that have seen at least 100 targets from Taylor. He was also Taylor’s favorite end-zone target — his 34 red-zone targets led the Bills from 2015-2016.

Williams could experience a renaissance himself in the red zone after just two touchdown receptions on 24 red-zone targets last year. This was after his 2018 season where he also had 24 red-zone targets and scored 10 touchdowns. While double-digit TDs is unlikely, Williams' touchdown totals should increase from 2019. Last season, receivers who saw at least 24 red-zone targets scored on average at least six touchdowns.

Should Taylor lose the job to Justin Herbert at some point, that would not necessarily be a death knell for Williams considering Herbert’s elite arm talent. From a clean pocket, Herbert had the highest accurate pass rate in the 2020 draft class throwing 20-plus yards downfield.

Fade: Darius Slayton (My rank: WR71 | ADP: WR39)

Darius Slayton’s average yards per route run last season ranked 36th out of 48 qualifying wide receivers who saw at last 80 targets. He was not efficient outside of his eight receiving touchdowns on just 48 receptions. The major concern fantasy owners need to be aware of with Slayton is that he only saw targets when all the other skill players on the Giants were hurt.

Slayton saw less than a 10% target share when the other Giants’ receivers were on the field and greater than a 30% target share when players missed time. Overall, his target rate per route run ranked seventh on the team. In an offense filled with players who will command targets — including a running back — it is difficult to project Slayton’s target share to drastically increase in 2020.

New York Giants target rate per route run 2019
Evan Engram 22.1%
Sterling Shepard 21.3%
Rhett Ellison 19.7%
Golden Tate 19.1%
Saquon Barkley 18.3%
Kaden Smith 17.1%
Darius Slayton 17.0%

The New York Giants also have a brutal opening schedule to start the year. With volatility at the quarterback position, Slayton seems like an absolute headache waiting to happen. They have the third-most-difficult strength of schedule for wide receivers for the entire season, and Slayton is going to draw plenty of coverage from the opposing team’s No. 1 cornerback operating as the the primary outside receiver.

He reminds me a lot of Marquez Valdes-Scantling last season — another fifth-round pick who flashed potential as a rookie and then faded into oblivion the following season.

Slayton will still serve his role as the primary deep threat, with his aDOT (14.3) ranking 20th last year.  With those kinds of targets, Slayton has boom/bust written all over him — with bust the most likely outcome. Both Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard are going after Slayton in drafts and look like much better value selections.

Tight Ends

Value: Austin Hooper (My rank: TE8 | ADP: TE12)

The Cleveland Browns were victims of some of the poorest tight end play in 2019, so they went out and signed former Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, making him the highest-paid player at his position.

This was after the hiring of had coach Kevin Stefanski, so it seems clear he had some influence in bringing in the veteran tight end. Hooper was phenomenal in his final season with the Falcons, emerging as one of the top options at the position before his injury — he led the NFL in receptions (52) and ranked eighth in yards per route run (1.98) among tight ends with at least 20 targets. He also generated a 20.1% target rate per route run, which was 12th-best at the tight end position, despite playing alongside stud receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.

We've seen Baker Mayfield thrive when targeting the tight end position, earning PFF’s fifth-highest grade (87.8) when targeting the position since 2018 among quarterbacks with at least 150 passing attempts. He also ranks fifth in touchdown passes to the position over that time span.

Most touchdown passes to tight ends since 2018
Carson Wentz 22
Andrew Luck 21
Derek Carr 18
Baker Mayfield 17
Patrick Mahomes 17

Outside of his favorable quarterback situation, expect Hooper to benefit from the Browns’ heavy use of play action. The Vikings ranked fourth in play-action percentage last season, and Hooper owns the most touchdowns off play-action passes since 2017 (seven) among all tight ends. Mayfield threw the third-most touchdowns off play-action (11) in 2019.

Highest play-action percentage by team in 2019
Baltimore Ravens 35.2%
Los Angeles Rams 32.6%
Kansas City Chiefs 32.1%
Tennessee Titans 31.2%
Minnesota Vikings 31.2%
San Francisco 49ers 31.2%

It remains to be seen how long it will take Hooper and Mayfield to get on the same page, but he could easily emerge as Mayfield’s safety blanket on short to intermediate throws. With no third receiver to speak highly of, Hooper could easily finish third in team target share.

Fade: Jared Cook (My rank: TE16 | ADP: TE11)

Jared Cook was a non-factor on the New Orleans Saints without Drew Brees, struggling to produce anything fantasy related during the start of the 2019 season. Upon Brees’ return, Cook’s production rose — over weeks 10-17 he had a touchdown or 50 receiving yards every single week.

Most of his production stemmed from touchdown production, as he caught seven of nine touchdowns during the last eight weeks, finishing the season with a career-high TD total.

With his production coming from absurd efficiency, Cook’s numbers are going to regress especially with the return of a healthy Alvin Kamara and addition of veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. They are going to give him much more competition for targets than he saw in 2019.

Also, consider that last season Cook ranked second on the team in aDOT (11.4) and has been reliant on big passing plays over the past two seasons.

Most 20-plus yard touchdown receptions for tight ends since 2018
Jared Cook 6
Mark Andrews 5
Travis Kelce 5
Eric Ebron 4
Blake Jarwin 3

Brees has always looked for his tight ends downfield – based on his league-leading 11.1 average yards per attempt and second-highest ADOT (10.8) when targeting the position – but with concerns about his arm strength potentially deteriorating betting on them to have another special connection in 2020 is not worth the asking price of a top-12 tight end. The Saints also have one of the most difficult strengths of schedules for tight ends. 

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