ADP Watch: Young Receivers on the Rise
With two weeks of preseason NFL action in the books, it's time to look at our weekly stock report based on what we are seeing unfold on the field. While it is important not to overreact to meaningless games (with injuries being a notable exception), evaluating what we are seeing and allowing that to help us craft an overall narrative about a team or player is an important way to formulate comprehensive opinions as we head into draft season.
In this edition we will take a look at the players who have either impressed on the field or seen their stock jump due to injury or the ineffectiveness of the players in front of them.
So without further ado, here are some players whose stocks are rising through two weeks of preseason play.
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
In the wake of Jordy Nelson's season ending ACL tear, Davante Adams' average draft position (ADP) has skyrocketed from late in the eighth round to at times as high as round five. And while it is somewhat of a mystery as to what the Packers will do to replace Nelson's production, it's safe to assume Adams will be a part of that solution.
That being said, nothing Adams has done in the preseason has been especially positive, and his three receptions for 17 yards (all in the first game) don't scream fantasy star. His per-play efficiency last year are also a red flag, which is perhaps why many in the fantasy community are on the Jeff Janis hype train.
Last year, Adams posted a Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target mark of 0.58, which ranked 56th among 81 receivers with at least 60 targets. Considering Nelson (0.93) ranked sixth and Randall Cobb (0.94) ranked fifth, Adams' inefficiency on the offense should be kept in mind going forward.
While it's hard to argue against the opportunity that Adams will have, count me as a skeptic that his ability is that of a top-15 wide receiver, and I wouldn't be surprised if he is surpassed as the second receiver in this offense at some point during the season. Because Jeff Janis is my hero.
Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
While Funchess didn't play in Week 2 of the preseason because of an injured hamstring, he had two receptions for 53 yards in an impressive debut in Week 1. The question now becomes, can the rookie be a 2015 version of Benjamin? We will continue to watch this preseason, but his stock is certainly on the rise. Someone will need to replace Benjamin's 146 targets from 2015, and odds are it won't be Ted Ginn Jr..
In the last week Funchess has gone from late-round flier to a ninth-round target, and his ADP will almost certainly rise if he can perform well in his next preseason game.
Drew Brees/Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees certainly made our projections for him as a top two quarterback look good this week, with 159 yards and 2 touchdowns on just eight attempts in his first preseason action. His decline due to a loss of weapons appears to be overstated, and Brees looks intent on reminding everyone that he was a 5,000-yard passer long before Jimmy Graham was a household name.
Brandin Cooks was on the receiving end of one of his touchdowns, a beautiful 45-yard strike that demonstrated a deep ball ability that we simply didn't see last season from the rookie. While his inefficient first year is reason for concern, he continues to flash this preseason and has five receptions for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns through two games.
Both Cooks and Brees look to be in midseason form already, and Brees especially could be a potential value in 2015 drafts.
Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs
Even as fantasy football's ninth best receiver in 2014, Jeremy Maclin is currently going as the 26th receiver off the board, with fantasy owners concerned that Alex Smith will depress any upside the former Eagle may have. But if this preseason is any indication, Maclin could be a major steal for the second year in a row.
While the deep ball likely won't be a major part of this offense due to Smith's inaccuracy (although God love him for trying), Andy Reid has found creative ways to get Maclin the ball, and his role reminds me a lot of how the Dolphins used Mike Wallace in 2014.
With four receptions, a rushing attempt and a touchdown where Maclin began the play lined up in the backfield, the Chiefs' top' target is poised to be a solid second receiver in PPR formats as the team looks for unique ways to get him involved.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
After an exceptional start to the preseason, it is becoming even safer to speculate that Ryan Tannehill could be on the verge of a massive season. Looking more comfortable in his second year of the Bill Lazor spread offense, the Dolphins' quarterback is completing more than 80 percent of his passes for 158 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He's also chipped in 15 rushing yards for good measure.
2014 saw Tannehill post by far his best NEP scores across the board, and he looks to improve on that with a supporting cast that looks much improved. And that's without the injured DeVante Parker on the field yet. Adding the first-round pick could push Tannehill into the top eight at his position, and his stock has never been higher.
Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
With eight receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown through two preseason games, it continues to look likely that Nelson Agholor will be a big factor in this Eagles' system. While it is fair to wonder how many targets he will receive in this run heavy, diverse attack, he certainly looks the part of a major contributor so far.
With Jeremy Maclin and his 143 targets now in Kansas City, Agholor appears ready to pick up the slack and play the part of the explosive, outside receiver in this Chip Kelly offense. Rookie receivers are rarely as dominant as those from the 2014 class were, but the Eagles' rookie is clearly in a position to capitalize in his first season.
Unfortunately for those looking to draft Agholor, his ADP continues to rise, jumping 13 spots this preseason to pick 6.04. That is quite the investment in a rookie receiver on a team with an uncertain quarterback position, but I guess in Chip Kelly we trust!
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
It has been an efficient and limited preseason for Latavius Murray, which perhaps speaks to the team's belief in him as their lead back. The presumed bell cow has the look of a future fantasy star, and the team has treated him as such with a limited workload in their first two games. Still, he has managed 55 yards on only 10 preseason totes (5.5 yards per carry) and scored one touchdown, looking explosive in the process.
There's a lot to like with Murray, whose 2014 Rushing NEP per carry of 0.05 was on the same level as Mark Ingram (0.04), Lamar Miller (0.06) and Le'Veon Bell (0.06), although the sample size was limited at only 82 carries.
Still, the positive narrative is only growing as he continues to produce on the field, and his ADP is rising every day as the football community gains more exposure to the talented young back.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
It is still early in Teddy Bridgewater's career, but things sure do look damning for the 32 teams who passed on him in the 2014 NFL Draft (yes, even the Vikings passed on him at pick nine). He has been fantastic this preseason, completing 78.6 percent of his passes for 219 yards and a touchdown through two games.
The questions about his ceiling are certainly justifiable as the team looks to center its offense around star running back Adrian Peterson, but this may be the last time you can grab Bridgewater at a discount. A top-12 season seems well within the realm of possibility.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The time to buy low on a Doug Martin resurgence is now firmly in the rear view mirror, with an impressive preseason causing his stock to jump from the late sixth round to now the early fifth round. Averaging seven yards-per-carry and looking quick and decisive can do that for a player's fantasy value.
It's also worth noting that Martin has one of the easiest schedules in football based on our metrics from 2014, making a resurgence that much more likely.
The offensive line will continue to be a major question mark, but Martin looks rejuvenated in his contract year, and all signs are pointing up this preseason.
Matt Jones, Washington Redskins
While Alfred Morris has done nothing wrong this preseason, Matt Jones has just looked like a more explosive and talented player. In limited action he now has 82 yards on just 13 carries, in addition to looking sharp in the passing game.
Jones is a big, powerful back who never really had a chance to demonstrate his abilities in an anemic Florida Gators' offense. While his role is likely limited in 2015, it may not be long until he poses a threat to Alfred Morris.
Morris’ Rushing NEP per play in 2014 -0.04, which put him in the same ballpark as Frank Gore (-0.06) and Joique Bell (-0.03) for backs with more than 200 carries. His yards per carry dropped from 4.8 as a rookie to 4.1 in his third season as he finished with a career low 1,074 rushing yards.
Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
I'll keep this short because I still have no faith in Bishop Sankey, but he had perhaps his best outing as a pro against the Rams with six carries for 45 yards. He ran as if he realized David Cobb was on the verge of taking his job (he is), demonstrating quickness, balance and the ability to break tackles.
While some would argue that we shouldn't give up so soon on the current starter in Tennessee, his efficiency metrics were terrible in 2014. Still, after his good performance last week, this is a situation worth monitoring as the preseason unfolds.