As the offseason progresses toward the start of Week 1 and fantasy football season has moved from its mock draft period to the real thing, my rosters are shaping up in a certain way. On that note, while I advocate for avoiding heavy investment in any player across your different leagues there are a few players who have consistently found their way onto my real and mock rosters so far this season.
Below, a list of guys I own more often than the average and my current rank relative to their ADP (data from Fantasy Football Calculator) with some justification as to why.
[This post appears as part of our 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide]
2014 Fantasy Football Draft Targets
C.J. Spiller – My Rank 19 – ADP 36
I’ve shared my viewpoint on Spiller a few different times this offseason, but the short story is that we’re seeing a big draft day discount based on a poor 2013 relative to expectations. Last year, we drafted Spiller as a mid-high first round pick and he failed to deliver at that draft day cost. The season wasn’t awful, though. Spiller managed to deliver 1100 total yards in 15 games despite playing most of the year on a bum ankle.
He averaged 4.6 YPC despite that limitation, and with a healthy offseason he figures to factor into the offense in a big way this year, just as was projected in his first year under Nathaniel Hackett as OC before injury threw off the plans. Add to that the fact that Spiller acknowledges some struggles adjusting to Hackett’s system in year one that have been resolved for year two, and that the team spent time upgrading an offensive line that already ranked as a borderline top-10 unit in terms of run blocking last season (per Pro Football Focus) and the outlook is plenty rosy while the price is considerably cheaper. Spiller offers great draft day profit potential.
Cam Newton – My Rank 43 – ADP 87
You’re getting a different kind of discount on Cam Newton, one related to his rough offseason with recovery from surgery, an additional rib injury and the departure of most of his familiar pass catchers. Sure, he’s missed time when trying to familiarize himself with his new receiving corp and the rib injury threatens his Week 1 availability (Newton says he’ll play) but this is a player who has never finished outside the top four at his position and is coming off the board as the 7-10th QB in most drafts.
I’ll wait a bit on the position and take the value with Newton, who still figures to add plenty with his legs and has managed to connect with rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin on a regular basis in the preseason and should take advantage of the first year receiver’s size in the redzone, an area where Carolina’s passing offense has struggled during Newton’s tenure.
Mark Ingram – My Rank 71 – ADP 116
Ingram’s ADP is on the rise as the fantasy community starts to realize that he’ll be first in line for carries (Pierre Thomas may still lead the team in touches) in New Orleans, but it still lies below his anticipated production. He’s had a solid camp and averaged 4.9 YPC last season in limited opportunities. While Ingram has not made good on his 2011 draft stock, this may be the year where he puts it all together. A 200-250 touch season is on the horizon, and with that 1000 total yards is a reasonable projection and yet you’re drafting him in the range of backs who are likely to see many fewer opportunities – plus, he should see goal line work in an offense that will score plenty of points.
Jeremy Hill – My Rank 85 – ADP 118
Jeremy Hill is one back who actually projects for a similar workload and comes right after Ingram in terms of ADP. I’ve been high on him since the draft, consistently ranking Hill in the high 30’s at RB. Others are starting to come around as it becomes apparent that the ‘Green-Ellis role’ in Cincinnati is Hill’s for the taking. He was drafted to be the power running compliment to Giovani Bernard and while you haven’t heard a lot about him during training camp but after finally getting work with the ones in Cincy’s 3rd preseason game Hill posted a solid 12-48 line, as part of an even 100 yards on the ground on 21 carries so far.
Consider this: BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished as fantasy’s 31st overall RB last season with an awful 3.4 YPC average and ranked as the 4th worst regularly used RB in the league. If Hill takes his volume, he is guaranteed to deliver profit on a 10th round ADP.
Charles Clay – My Rank 92 – ADP 154
I just don’t think we’re giving enough love to Clay’s 2013 season. He’s presently being drafted as the 16th TE off the board (behind rookie Eric Ebron and a pair of Chargers, among others), after a 69-759-6 season. Miami has added to its receiving corps this offseason and that may mean a few fewer looks for Clay, but with Bill Lazor in town via Philadelphia where Chip Kelly’s offense has enjoyed great success with the position and Clay coming into his own last year I’d expect him to deliver last season’s production or better. Last year, he was the 7th best fantasy player at his position and yet he isn’t even getting a look as a back-end TE1 at this point of the preseason. Clay, to me, is the perfect example of why you’ll want to wait on the position after the first handful of players come off the board. The drop off in anticipated production from, say, TE6 to 16 is nil.
Alex Smith – My Rank 110 – ADP 175+
Smith’s 2013 was actually one of the more useful campaigns (seriously, check my startable weeks analysis), on a per week basis, delivered by any fantasy QB and yet he is going largely undrafted in standard leagues. There are concerns about the offensive line in Kansas City this year to be sure, and if Dwayne Bowe misses more time there really isn’t anyone to throw to. With that said, Smith’s ability to get outside the pocket and create with his legs is an attribute that should serve him well in both areas. Quietly, he added 431 yards on the ground last season and should be able to match that total in 2014 – good for an average of 2.7 fantasy points per week in addition to his passing numbers. I’m not advocating for him as your starter, but for team’s with a shaky QB1 situation Smith can serve as a solid backup at no cost.
Marvin Jones – My Rank 112 – ADP 173
I’ve covered Jones’ falling ADP in light of his foot injury in recent weeks, so, I won’t spend much time here. The short of it: he’s coming two rounds cheaper/at no risk at all at this stage, and you weren’t drafting him as a starter to begin with. Take the injury discount and add Jones at the back end of your draft. He’ll be a bench body by that time anyhow, and you can afford to wait for a player who scored double digit TDs in 2013 and was in line for a bigger role in the team’s offense this year before the injury. A solid stash, Jones could deliver top-36 numbers with ease after his return.