2023 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: ADP Rumblings (5/21)
Training camp is just around the corner, which means that fantasy drafts will be starting up again soon (unless you’re a degenerate like me who has been drafting since mid-April). As more drafts startup, that means we can start analyzing average draft position trends to identify players who are going too high, too low, or are being moved up and down the board based on news stories.
For this first article, we will focus on a collection of players seemingly going under the radar in early fantasy drafts. As more data comes in, we will begin looking at trends and ADP movement to find the values (or fades) being pushed up and down the board based on training camp and the NFL preseason. All ADP data for this article is coming from Underdog Fantasy, a best ball site. Take some of it with a grain of salt since that means some players are being pushed up and down to complete stacks to try and optimize lineups.
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks
ADP: 113, QB16
Last year, Geno Smith shocked the fantasy world when he finished as the QB8 in fantasy points per game (18.5) in his first season with the Seahawks. The veteran completed 69.8% of his passes for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions after eight seasons as a backup. Based on his early ADP, it seems like fantasy managers remain skeptical of the long-term viability of his play.
Smith is currently the QB16 in fantasy football. While it is difficult to envision him locking down another top-10 finish in fantasy, his price suggests that early fantasy drafters are treating his 2022 like an aberration. Maybe Smith can’t hit last year’s highs, but last year’s QB8 is currently playing for a team that extended his contract, didn’t bring in any competition at the position, added the top wide receiver in the first round of the NFL draft, added pass-catching running back in the second round of the NFL draft, and fortified the offensive line in front of him.
If Smith fails, it won’t be because of the weapons surrounding him. At a current 10th-round price tag, the upside of Smith is well worth waiting at quarterback early in drafts to load up on talent and hoping lightning can strike twice.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
ADP: 59.7, R19
There have been plenty of negative newsworthy events for Joe Mixon this offseason. The veteran running back has been charged with intimidation for an incident that happened during his playoff run, and then had another incident take place outside his home allegedly involving a gun. Given the amount of money the Bengals could save by cutting him, rumors ran rampant that Mixon’s time with the team was coming to an end. However, charges have not been formally filed (yet?), and the offseason has continued, with numerous coaches giving support to Mixon and his role with the team.
The team’s moves throughout free agency and the NFL draft also support the idea that Mixon will be safe unless some significant news breaks. Cincinnati chose to let primary backup (and pass-game pest) Samaje Perine walk in free agency. All three running backs behind Mixon on the depth chart were Day 3 picks in their respective NFL drafts, including 2023 fifth-round pick Chase Brown out of Illinois. Despite the frustration with Mixon’s pass game role throughout his career, he’s still coming off a season with career-highs in targets (75), receptions (60) and receiving yards (441).
Outside of losing Perine, there is nothing to suggest that Mixon’s role on Cincinnati’s fast-paced offense will change next season. Mixon finished as the RB8 in half-PPR leagues last season, averaging 14.0 fantasy points per game, but he is currently going off the board as the RB19 in fantasy drafts. Mixon is poised to be the perfect “hero-RB build,” allowing fantasy managers the opportunity to buy into a high-volume running back in the fifth round to load up on receiving talent early in drafts.
Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans
ADP: 163.4, RB50
If you’re targeting a running back in the later rounds who can secure a healthy workload, then Devin Singletary should be on your radar. In four seasons with Buffalo, Singletary averaged 168 rushing attempts, 787.7 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns per season. He also has a solid receiving profile, earning 48.3 targets and 36.3 receptions per season. Buffalo moved on from Singletary this offseason, allowing him to land on a Houston team with Dameon Pierce and little else at running back.
By no means am I suggesting that the Texans acquired Singletary to take over for Pierce after the latter put together an excellent rookie season. Pierce will still command the early down touches and goal-line work. He will likely lead this backfield in carries. Houston had a lack of talent (outside of Pierce) at running back last season, but the Florida product still managed just a 64% snap share in 13 games. This backfield will likely be a 60/40 split once again, with Singletary getting consistent work in passing situations. While he lacks touchdown upside, there are plenty of paths for him to exceed his current RB50 ADP.
Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
ADP: 96.6, WR47
There has been plenty of noise regarding Baltimore’s offense thanks to the variety of additions made to the team this offseason. The Ravens spent big this offseason, signing Lamar Jackson to a long-term extension, signing Odell Beckham in free agency on a one-year deal and then drafting rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers with their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Also, the team moved on from long-time offensive coordinator Greg Roman and his run-centric offense, hiring Todd Monken away from the University of Georgia. In the wake of all these moves, it is easy to forget about Rashod Bateman after his second season, much like his first, ended with an injury.
Of all the receivers Baltimore uses, Bateman seems like the most logical to finish as the top target earner (outside of Mark Andrews). Beckham is coming off an ACL injury that cost him the entirety of the 2022 season and was last seen as a role player with the Rams. Flowers will be finding his way in the NFL as an undersized receiver who had minimal college production (that wasn’t necessarily his fault). And then you have Bateman, the former first-round pick with the best combination of size (6-foot-0, 190 pounds) and speed (4.48) on the team. Bateman played in just six games last season (and had a 49% snap share) but put together a 21% target share and 133 yards after reception during that stretch.
As it stands, Bateman is going off the board at WR47, just eight picks behind Flowers and 13 picks ahead of Beckham. While we have only gotten a limited sample size in two seasons with Bateman, he has the profile and flashes of production to make him worth the gamble in a new offense that will put the ball in the air more frequently.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
ADP: 144.6, WR65
It took Michael Gallup a while to get going during the 2022 season after he tore his ACL at the end of the 2021 campaign. Gallup was inactive the first three games of the season, before gradually working his way back into the lineup. In Weeks 4-8, Gallup averaged just 4.6 targets, 2.4 receptions and 27 receiving yards per game while playing just 69% of Dallas’ offensive snaps.
After the Week 9 bye, Gallup seemingly got more confident with his knee and saw his role in the offense grow. Gallup’s snap share jumped up to 79% and he saw his averages grow with it. Weeks 10-18, Gallup earned 5.7 targets, 3.0 receptions and 32.1 receiving yards per game while catching three touchdowns. While these stats were ultimately a disappointment, the fact that his role grew as the season went on signified that the team had faith in his recovery.
Gallup should have every opportunity to earn more targets in 2023. The Cowboys moved on from Ezekiel Elliott and Dalton Schultz during the offseason and brought in Brandin Cooks via trade and tight end Luke Schoonmaker in the draft. CeeDee Lamb will undoubtedly be the team’s top receiving target next season, but there is currently a void for the second option in this passing attack. Gallup has shown the ability to excel at contested catches down the field and will be a full year removed from his knee injury. At WR65 in early drafts, Gallup is an excellent gamble to take for a team trying to find a legitimate second-passing weapon in their offense.
Tyler Higbee, WR, Los Angeles Rams
ADP: 150, TE16
Tyler Higbee remains a model of consistency in the Rams' passing attack as the rest of the team falls apart around him. Injuries by Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp and ineffectiveness from Allen Robinson forced Higbee into a high-volume receiving role last season. When the dust settled, Higbee led the Rams in targets (108) and finished with a respectable 72 receptions for 620 yards and three touchdowns despite having the third-worst average depth of target of any tight end in the NFL (3.0 yards). In half-PPR, those totals were enough to qualify him as the TE15 in fantasy points per game (7.3).
Fast forward a year later and not much has changed. Stafford will be back under center, and Kupp will once again feature as this team’s target hog in the slot. However, Higbee figures to be locked into the second target yet again (unless Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek or Tutu Atwell can take a massive leap). A healthy Stafford also means a different role for Higbee, one that sees the veteran tight end attacking the seams downfield and catching passes past three yards.
In fantasy, finding a tight end that can finish in the top two of targets is the trick to getting fantasy production. Higbee has that ability, which should help him exceed his modest price of TE16 in current ADP.