The fantasy football offseason is heating up, as training camps are just around the corner and before we know it, preseason games will arrive. A lot can happen between now and when your fantasy football leagues conducts it’s draft, but this is also a good time to see the warning signs in mock draft ADP (average draft position).
Early summer mock drafts give us an idea of how the fantasy community perceives certain players and can help us pinpoint value picks. This also helps us formulate our own stances on NFL players we refuse to reach for, and others we can probably wait on due to their draft position. Things will change, but in mid-July we’re already seeing some interesting value picks. Here are our favorite five:
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: Round 9)
The record doesn’t change in 2017 fantasy football drafts. Quarterback remains insanely deep and there is no reason to reach for one early. That’s a panic pick, folks. I get it; having Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady is a ton of fun and feels super safe – and both are accurate feelings – but you don’t need them to win. Things tend to even out with some of the other top options, yet you can get them several rounds later.
Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are quality mentions here, as both boast top-5 upside and aren’t being taken off of draft boards until round 7 or later. Prescott represents even more value, however, as he’s lasting until round 9 or later, despite being fantasy’s 6th best quarterback as a rookie. I get that the position is stacked and there is some fear of some second-year regression, but Prescott is a dual threat beast, has awesome talent around him and could – ya know – get better. I’m not sure he’s necessarily a top-10 lock, but he’s going to be right around that area and right now he’s being drafted as the 13th best quarterback. Due to his upside, the value could be staggering here.
Paul Perkins, RB, New York Giants (Round 6)
I’m not saying Perkins will for sure be a stud. We have one year of pro tape to look at with him and he has guys like Shane Vereen and rookie Wayne Gallman waiting for him to falter. But what we saw in his rookie season was promising. Perkins displayed early signs of NFL vision, quickness, cutting, patience and burst. He will still have to iron out inconsistencies, but this is a guy who brings some upside to the running back position that we haven’t seen with Big Blue possibly since David Wilson.
Perkins doesn’t offer the same explosiveness, but he produced as a rookie, averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 112 rushing attempts. This isn’t a huge sample size, but Perkins has the talent and more importantly the role to end up being a massive fantasy steal in drafts this year. I’m seeing people call him a potential bust, but at what point in drafts are guys just calculated risks and not really busts? Yes, if Perkins was being looked at in the first four rounds, maybe jumping at him could be worrisome. But he’s available in the middle of round six and sometimes later because people aren’t fully bought in.
I’m not scared of Perskins in round six. He’s probably a RB3 or Flex at worst, but very well could end up being a rock solid RB2. The way I draft, I will probably already have my top two fantasy rushers. That eliminates any real risk and taking Perskins in rounds 6-7 quickly ends up feeling like a massive steal.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers (Round 9)
Where does it say anywhere that the Panthers are done with Jonathan Stewart? Last I checked, he’s still alive, is coming off a fine fantasy season (9 TDs) and his main competition is a rookie running back in Christian McCaffrey that a lot of people don’t even believe in. Needless to say, I’m not really sold on the idea of Carolina randomly jettisoning Stewart to the sun just to hand a massive workload to a wide-eyed rookie.
That doesn’t do anyone any good. What is much more likely is Stewart remains the regular early down and goal-line option – as he should with his bigger size and experience – and the shiftier and more versatile McCaffrey gets worked in slowly as a receiver and change of pace option. Stewart can still ball, but at 30 years old the Panthers are merely looking to the future and at the same time getting him a capable, versatile assistant in the backfield that can help him out.
Let’s keep things in perspective. Rookie running backs don’t always take the league by storm, and they really are less likely to do so when there is already a starting-caliber option ahead of them on the depth chart when they arrive to town. Stewart remains that and after putting up the 23rd best fantasy running back season in 2016 despite missing 3 games and it being a down year for Carolina, there is optimism he could again churn out a top-25 campaign. That shouldn’t have you racing to go draft Stewart early this year, but you can certainly pick him up around round 9 and feel like you’re getting away with a huge steal.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (Round 4)
The fourth round isn’t the sixth round, but I still feel like we’re getting a potential stud WR1 at an insane discount. I get that DT has not been the same elite fantasy receiver the past two years, but we know what he’s capable of. The best part is even with his mild regression, this was still a pretty consistent weekly performer and ultimately a top-20 fantasy option in each of the last two seasons. DT was actually still a top-15 fantasy weapons in 2015 and before this mild regression set in, he was the second best fantasy receiver in the league.
I’m obviously not enamored with DT’s upside with the pedestrian Trevor Siemian under center, but this is still a beast when it comes to physical ability and the possible shifty to Paxton Lynch could provide the upside we haven’t been seeing under center lately in Denver. There are no guarantees here, but the logic is simple; you’re getting a top-20 wide receiver and that’s what you’re paying for. The beauty here, though, is Thomas could easily sneak his way back up into the top-10 if things break just right.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (Round 11)
The other fantasy football value I love based on recent Average Draft Position data is Eagles star tight end, Zach Ertz. Ertz has certainly been a bit inconsistent so far in his career, but this was fantasy football’s 8th best tight end a year ago. Ertz’s only other chief weakness outside of erratic play is his lack of scoring prowess (has never topped 4 TDs), but realistically with a guy with his size and athleticism, I’d bet the Over on that number going into 2017.
Ertz still has question marks with consistency, TD upside and quarterback play, but the overall numbers have looked solid with three straight 700+ receiving yardage seasons. Ertz is still just 26 years old and after really coming alive late last year, it’s worth wondering if he’s ready to produce a truly elite campaign across the board. The talent and role are certainly there, yet we’re drafting Ertz in round 11 on average, seemingly as if he offers no upside. Ertz is consistently coming off of fantasy draft boards after rookie tight end O.J. Howard and a guy who could still be splitting snaps in Hunter Henry. Based on what we’ve seen and his sheer upside, Ertz should be going a little higher. That’s fine, though, as we can get supreme value in a viable TE1 in round 11 or later.