ADP Watch: Young Running Backs Struggling Early
With three 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.
Week 3 of the preseason is seen by most teams as the final "tune up" game for the starting units, with many top players playing into the third quarter. These games offer the most insight we can get this preseason into a teams readiness and intentions, and there were a lot of highlights and low-lights over the weekend. In this edition of ADP Watch, we will take a look at the players who have struggled on the field or seen their stock drop due to the circumstances around them.
So without further ado, here are some players whose stocks are falling through three weeks of preseason play.
Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys
With Darren McFadden hurt for most of training camp, Joseph Randle had the opportunity to grab the starting job behind the league's best offensive line and cement his status as a top-15 fantasy running back. Instead, injuries, inconsistency and poor play allowed this situation to devolve into a huge mess, with a committee approach seeming very likely.
This past week Randle was outplayed by McFadden, who demonstrated the speed and physicality that has always made him a somewhat appealing prospect. While health is certainly an issue, people seem to forget that McFadden played 16 games last season and has two very successful seasons on his resume from his days on a below average Raiders franchise. That being said, it's hard to ignore how pedestrian he has been the past several years.
Regardless, Randle's struggles are causing his ADP to drop after peaking in the mid third round, and he now is firmly in round four and falling.
T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars
It was a rough debut for rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, who had eight carries for just 10 yards and a touchdown that probably wasn't a touchdown. The good news is that he got a ton of work as a three-down back, but the bad news is that he didn't do anything with that work.
Jacksonville's offensive line looks shaky at best, and on an offense that may not score a lot of points or play often with the lead, it's hard to trust that Yeldon's workload will be consistent enough to provide him with the touches he needs to be an effective option. He also just didn't look very good, and it appears likely that Yeldon will be hard to trust this upcoming season.
His ADP is continuing to fall, and he can now be found closer to the end of round five, almost a full round drop in the past three weeks.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns
The Browns were excited to see rookie Duke Johnson in action for the first time this preseason, but it was a short-lived debut for the former Miami Hurricane. He had one carry for four yards and was targeted twice in the passing game, getting blasted both times before leaving early with a concussion.
For those hoping he would bring some clarity to this running back situation, it was a major disappointment, and things seem muddier than ever before. While Johnson's ADP has never been higher than Round 8, his stock is continuing to take a hit as he struggles to prove he can stay healthy and withstand an NFL pounding at just around 200 pounds. He appears to be behind Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West in the battle for snaps at this point, and that obviously won't change if he isn't playing or practicing.
While he still offers a pass-catching ability that is needed on this roster, if he can't stay healthy he won't hold much fantasy value.
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
Yet another rookie running back who made his debut this past week, Tevin Coleman fared no better than Johnson or Yeldon. With an opportunity to move past the injured Devonta Freeman on the depth chart, Coleman ran for just two yards on four carries.
It reminded everyone how bad this Falcons offensive line is but also demonstrated Coleman's inability to create yards on his own. Neither particularly powerful or creative, the young back's greatest asset is his speed in the open field, and he may not have many opportunities to showcase that if he's being hit in the backfield on every play.
After peaking with an ADP in the sixth round, Coleman's stock is continuing to drop, and he can now be had in the late seventh or early eighth round. That being said, it was good to at least see him healthy and on the field, something that can't be said for Freeman. Despite his struggles, there are still reasons to be optimistic about his future in Atlanta.
Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
The struggles continued for Melvin Gordon, one of the most hyped running backs this offseason. While his performance was much improved from his Week 1 debacle, he still only managed 34 yards on 14 carries, with his longest run being just eight yards. He struggled to create any yards for himself behind average blocking, and his 2.2 yards per carry preseason average is Trent Richardson bad. He has been thoroughly outplayed by both Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver, and his emergence as a top-flight running back may have to wait.
While sounding the alarm on his career is premature, Gordon's ADP is beginning to reflect his struggles, and he has moved behind Latavius Murray, Alfred Morris and Mark Ingram on draft boards. His value now sits in the fourth round, with players like Carlos Hyde, Ameer Abdullah, Arian Foster and Doug Martin beginning to chase him down from behind.
Gordon could use just one explosive play in Week 4 to help revive his stock, although it remains to be seen if he will play this coming Thursday.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Alfred Morris has been fine, but Matt Jones has been fantastic. While no one expects the rookie to surpass Morris on the depth chart anytime soon, the former Florida Gator certainly looks like a superior athlete and prospect on the field, and that could cause him to eat into Morris' workload.
Morris has just 56 yards on 18 carries while Jones has 129 yards and a touchdown on just 20 carries. The rookie has also been productive in the passing game, with two receptions for 28 yards, and it's just impossible to ignore that he has looked like the better player.
What that means for Alf's fantasy value in 2015 is uncertain, and that uncertainty has caused his ADP to begin falling, with a fourth round landing spot appearing imminent. Meanwhile, Jones is picking up steam as a late round sleeper, and his stock is now firmly in the 12th round.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is still being drafted as a top quarterback with an ADP 4.05, but his preseason performance hasn't reflected positively on that valuation.
Most concerning is his inability to complete passes down the field due to his limited arm strength, and he fell woefully short on two end zone passes to Demaryius Thomas, including one that was intercepted. This inability is reflected by his five yards per completion average, which is significantly lower than the 7.8 he averaged in the 2014 preseason or the 7.9 he posted during the regular season.
Even worse, his offense line looks like a disaster waiting to happen, with linebacker Navorro Bowman coming through untouched several times, forcing Manning to fall to the ground to protect himself.
It has been a rough start for Manning and this offense, and his price tag should start to take a hit as a result.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Forget the Deflategate suspension issues for a minute, and you will notice that Tom Brady doesn't look particularly good throwing the ball to below average group of receivers. With Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman sidelined with injuries, Brady has completed just 45 percent of his passes, thrown two interceptions and averaged a terrible 4.9 yards per completion through three games.
The entire offense has looked out of sync, with the receivers providing no help for their veteran quarterback. While Reggie Wayne was signed this past week, it's fair to suggest that he may not have much left in the tank, and if Lafell and Edelman are out for a longer period of time than some presume, it could be a rough start for this offense.
With red flags continuing to pile up, Brady's stock is beginning to dip again with all the uncertainty. He is currently being drafted in the late seventh round, although a ruling on his suspension will obviously change that significantly.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While rookie Jameis Winston won't be drafted in most leagues, his impact on the skill position players around him is still something to monitor. And with an offensive line allowing him to be pressured on 40 percent of his dropbacks according to Pro Football Focus, Winston may not have much of a chance to produce this season.
It has been an up and down preseason for the first overall pick, who will have a brilliant throw followed quickly by a sack or terrible decision. He is completing just 49 percent of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown, although he has rushed for two this preseason. He has also been sacked seven times in limited action.
While his stock is as a late round pick at best, the weapons around him continue to drop in ADP. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins went from a sleeper target to an undrafted player and Mike Evans has been passed by fellow sophomores Brandin Cooks and Jordan Matthews. Vincent Jackson has seen a slight bump in his stock, but that is more about him being undervalued at the start as Winston's top target than anything we have seen on the field.
This is likely an offense that will be very inconsistent throughout the 2015 season, and the ADP is shifting to reflect that.