On any given day, on any given play, something crazy could happen. Anyone who watched Game 5 of the Rangers-Blue Jays ALDS series can attest to that. Unpredictability puts us on the edge of our seats, makes us yell at the TV screen even though the players can’t hear us, and makes every game of our favorite sport(s) must-see.
Fantasy football is remarkably unpredictable. We all think that we know exactly which players are going to be good, which ones are ranked too high, and which ones everyone else is sleeping on. While there may be some similarities in beliefs from people in your league, everyone thinks their team is going to be great and others are going to be just terrible. We all thought an owner in my fantasy league had an awful draft last season, and then made some questionable moves during the year. He won the league.
This week’s column will prove just how crazy this season in fantasy football has been so far. The top running back in the league through five weeks was undrafted in most leagues, and only taken by the savviest of owners (I had to mention that because I drafted him in my primary league!). The top quarterback isn’t named Rodgers or Brady, but a guy who was drafted 27th overall in ESPN leagues. 27th for quarterbacks. Two running backs that probably went in the first round are ranked outside of the top 50 for that position currently. The wide receiver with the second-most points this season was considered old and washed up, and fell to the late rounds in every draft. Even the “experts” that get paid to tell us who to pick and who to avoid get the majority of those picks wrong. Fantasy “experts” are just like meteorologists – they get their forecasts wrong most of the time and still make more money than most of us do.
So here is a look at the top picks before the season started, ranked by ADP (Average Draft Position) on standard ESPN leagues, compared to the actual rankings through five weeks of the current season.
Top 15 – ADP: Aaron Rodgers (2nd in fantasy points this season), Andrew Luck (32nd), Tom Brady (3rd), Russell Wilson (10th), Peyton Manning (23rd), Drew Brees (20th), Ben Roethlisberger (27th), Tony Romo (35th), Matt Ryan (12th), Marcus Mariota (19th), Cam Newton (9th), Tyrod Taylor (5th)
Leading Scorers: Andy Dalton (112 pts), Aaron Rodgers (106 pts), Tom Brady (102 pts), Carson Palmer (98 pts), Tyrod Taylor (98 pts), Eli Manning (91 pts), Blake Bortles (90 pts), Philip Rivers (88 pts), Cam Newton (82 pts), Russell Wilson (78 pts), Josh McCown (77 pts), Matt Ryan (75 pts), Alex Smith (74 pts), Joe Flacco (72 pts), Colin Kaepernick (69 pts)
Injuries will affect every position, as they have with quarterbacks, with three of the top ten QBs missing multiple games due to injury (Luck, Roethlisberger, Romo). The other big surprise is the lack of production from two early picks in Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. We knew going into the season that both of these quarterbacks were probably going to regress, due to age and injuries in Manning’s case and a shift in offense in Brees’ case. But to think QBs like McCown, Taylor, and Dalton would grossly outscore both future Hall of Famers would have been puzzling prior to the start of the season. Dalton has been terrific this season, limiting his turnovers while being asked to throw the ball much more than expected, especially with running back Jeremy Hill struggling for most of the year.
Top 25 – ADP: Le’Veon Bell (7th in fantasy points this season), Adrian Peterson (5th), Eddie Lacy (30th), Jamaal Charles (2nd), Marshawn Lynch (53rd), Matt Forte (3rd), DeMarco Murray (25th), C.J. Anderson (63rd), LeSean McCoy (45th), Jeremy Hill (20th), Mark Ingram (11th), Alfred Morris (46th), Lamar Miller (56th), Justin Forsett (13th), Carlos Hyde (8th), Frank Gore (19th), Melvin Gordon (40th), Jonathan Stewart (49th), Todd Gurley (39th), Joique Bell (71st), Latavius Murray (16th), Arian Foster (65th), Chris Ivory (18th), Joseph Randle (6th), Andre Ellington (50th)
Leading Scorers: Devonta Freeman (108 pts), Jamaal Charles (75 pts), Matt Forte (68 pts), Doug Martin (68 pts), Adrian Peterson (60 pts), Joseph Randle (58 pts), Le’Veon Bell (57 pts), Carlos Hyde (57 pts), Chris Johnson (56 pts), Dion Lewis (54 pts), Mark Ingram (53 pts), David Johnson (53 pts), Justin Forsett (51 pts), Danny Woodhead (51 pts), Giovani Bernard (50 pts), Latavius Murray (50 pts), Karlos Williams (50 pts), Chris Ivory (48 pts), Frank Gore (47 pts), Jeremy Hill (45 pts), Isaiah Crowell (44 pts), Charles Sims (42 pts), DeAngelo Williams (40 pts), Ryan Mathews (39 pts), DeMarco Murray (39 pts)
Let the craziness in rankings begin with running backs. There have been tons of busts and breakouts in this category, starting with the player who is far and away leading the category in Devonta Freeman (who I drafted in my primary league). In a PPR league, Freeman was definitely a guy that could have been targeted late in drafts, but no one knew that they would be getting performances like he has had in the last three weeks. Another huge surprise has been Dion Lewis, who has been tremendous for the undefeated Patriots, and has stolen the majority of snaps from presumed starter LeGarrette Blount. There are also a bunch of busts in the top 25 ADP picks, but some of them have nothing to do with injuries. Lynch, Anderson, Morris, Miller, and Hill (even though he’s 20th in points it was from one three TD game) have been terribly disappointing, and are forcing owners to bench them already. Unfortunately, Charles will be falling from the top of the rankings due to his ACL injury.
Top 25 – ADP: Antonio Brown (7th in fantasy points this season), Odell Beckham Jr. (10th), Demaryius Thomas (20th), Dez Bryant (126th), Julio Jones (1st), Calvin Johnson (38th), A.J. Green (6th), Randall Cobb (14th), T.Y. Hilton (34th), Alshon Jeffery (112th), Emmanuel Sanders (16th), DeAndre Hopkins (3rd), Mike Evans (68th), Julian Edelman (11th), Brandin Cooks (35th), Jordan Matthews (29th), Keenan Allen (9th), DeSean Jackson (153rd), Vincent Jackson (23rd), Amari Cooper (19th), Golden Tate (57th), Brandon Marshall (13th), Andre Johnson (54th), Davante Adams (105th), Jeremy Maclin (15th)
Leading Scorers: Julio Jones (82 pts), Larry Fitzgerald (80 pts), DeAndre Hopkins (75 pts), James Jones (66 pts), Travis Benjamin (66 pts), A.J. Green (65 pts), Antonio Brown (64 pts), Allen Robinson (62 pts), Keenan Allen (58 pts), Odell Beckham Jr. (58 pts), Julian Edelman (57 pts), Allen Hurns (57 pts), Brandon Marshall (54 pts), Randall Cobb (54 pts), Jeremy Maclin (52 pts), Emmanuel Sanders (51 pts), Tavon Austin (51 pts), Steve Smith Sr. (48 pts), Amari Cooper (45 pts), Demaryius Thomas (44 pts), Rishard Matthews (44 pts), Donte Moncrief (44 pts), Vincent Jackson (43 pts), John Brown (41 pts), Willie Snead (40 pts)
Wide receiver isn’t as crazy as running back, but there are still some players both underperforming and overachieving according to their ADP. All the receivers outside of the top 100 have either not hit the field yet or has played sparingly, but others like Megatron, Thomas, Hilton, Evans, Cooks, Tate, and Johnson have just played poorly or are on offenses that are performing very poorly. In comparison, Fitzgerald has regained his Pro Bowl form, becoming the primary option in the Cardinals offense. Jones went from being cut twice in the offseason to the biggest target in the end zone for Aaron Rodgers in the Packers offense. Hurns and Robinson have combined to be one of the best receiver duos in the league, with QB Blake Bortles (and his owners) reaping the benefits. Benjamin is a curious case, as he sits at 5th in points scored but only averages around five catches a game. If he goes a couple games without hitting the end zone, his ranking is set to plummet.
Top 10 – ADP: Rob Gronkowski (1st in fantasy points this season), Jimmy Graham (10th), Travis Kelce (4th), Greg Olsen (7th), Jason Witten (6th), Martellus Bennett (8th), Jordan Cameron (29th), Tyler Eifert (2nd), Delanie Walker (21st), Vernon Davis (35th)
Leading Scorers: Rob Gronkowski (60 pts), Tyler Eifert (59 pts), Gary Barnidge (52 pts), Travis Kelce (42 pts), Charles Clay (36 pts), Jason Witten (35 pts), Greg Olsen (35 pts), Martellus Bennett (33 pts), Ladarius Green (33 pts), Jimmy Graham (31 pts)
Tight end is the only position that is almost exactly as predicted. Only Barnidge, Clay, and Green have cracked the top 10 with ADP’s outside of that. Barnidge has been a focus in the resurgent Browns offense, Clay has had two big games with the Bills, and Green was solid while replacing the suspended Antonio Gates in San Diego. The only reason anyone is close to Gronkowski in points scored is the Pats’ bye week two weeks ago. Tight end is Gronk’s category, while the rest of the players are just battling for second place.