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Two years ago, Curtis Samuel was virtually unguardable at training camp. His ADP rose throughout the preseason to the point that he was regularly a Round 6 pick. D.J. Moore – who had just out-targeted and out-produced Samuel on better efficiency as a rookie — saw his ADP slip to the end of Round 5 as a result.
Moore ranked as the WR16 in 2019 with an 87/1,175/4 line. Samuel clawed his way to a WR36 finish with 52/627/6.
That same year, Chris Godwin was never going to come off the field. Bruce Arians said he could be a 100-catch guy.
Arians was wrong. Godwin amassed a mere 86 receptions in 2019 en route to a WR2 finish (in 14 games).
We see it every year. Some guys perform well during offseason practices and see their ADP spike as a result, while others disappoint and get cheaper in fantasy drafts. With OTAs and minicamp in the rearview mirror, we’ve got about one month before training camp starts and the real hysteria begins. Still, ADP has shifted over the last few weeks as beat writers tell us which players are exceeding expectations (or not).
What’s real and what’s fake? Is Elijah Moore more of a Samuel or a Godwin? What about Laviska Shenault? And other players who reportedly crushed it at minicamp?
Let’s take a look (with some help from other ETR analysts!).
No player has gotten more hype than Moore over the past month. Jets beat writer Connor Hughes reported that “Rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore was the most impressive player – offense or defense, any age – whenever he was on the field.”
Head coach Robert Saleh believes Moore – who mostly lined up in the slot in college – can play all over the field in the pros:
“He’s a dynamic young man. What makes those guys difficult to defend is that he can line up at Z, F, or X. He can line up wherever you want, and he’s going to execute at a very high level.”
The Ole Miss product’s ADP is up 21.7 picks over the last two weeks. Once solidly in the double-digit rounds, Moore’s ADP has crept up into the Round 10 range.
Still, I’m buying. The recent smoke is further ammunition supporting what we knew from his prospect profile. A former four-star recruit, Moore recorded 36 catches for 398 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman playing behind A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and DaMarkus Lodge. All three left for the NFL after the season, leaving Moore as the WR1. Ole Miss was dredged by poor quarterback play in 2019, but Moore still had 67 receptions for 850 yards and four scores. That doesn’t sound that impressive until you consider he accounted for 37% of the Rebels’ passing yardage and 55% of their passing TDs. Ole Miss’ next-closest pass-catcher had 192 receiving yards. That season counted as an official breakout (using a 30% Dominator Rating threshold), giving him an excellent breakout age of 19.7.
As a junior, he posted a 42% yardage market share and a 32% TD market share. He led the entire nation in catches (10.8) and receiving yards (149.1) per game. That’s right: A WR won the Heisman and still averaged fewer yards per game than Moore.
Production trumps athleticism for WRs, but it doesn’t hurt to have both. The knock on him is size (he’s 5’10” and 185 pounds), but 4.35 wheels and elite agility should help him overcome that obstacle.
All he needed was draft capital to complete a near-perfect profile. And he got it, as New York made him the 34th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Considering he was an elite prospect, it’s no surprise he’s already flashing at Jets minicamp. Moore has a solid chance of emerging as Zach Wilson‘s WR1 this year. He’s not as much of a value as he used to be, but his current ADP in early Round 11 still leaves plenty of room for upside.
Fantasy Twitter’s darling is once again the subject of relentless offseason hype. Laviska Shenault had a respectable rookie season despite a suboptimal situation, but he’s in a much better spot this year with Trevor Lawrence under center and a year of experience under his belt. ESPN’s Michael DiRocco noted that Jacksonville is using him more as a WR than a gadget player:
“Shenault has arguably been the Jaguars’ best offensive player throughout OTAs and minicamp … The Jags are keeping him at receiver instead of trying to use him in the backfield at times, and his development has been one of the highlights of the spring.”
Shenault is shifty enough to be used out of the backfield, but that shouldn’t detract from his potential as a true WR. He posted a 46% Dominator Rating as a sophomore and broke out at 20.2 before declaring early and getting picked in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s a strong profile, an improved situation, and the recent hype has him going near the top of Round 8.
I asked Anthony Amico for his thoughts on Shenault, and he said he loves the player but has a difficult time buying Shenault at his new ADP:
“I was infatuated with Laviska Shenault as a prospect. He was a three-year WR with a breakout and a diverse skill set. After Urban Meyer lamented not getting Kadarius Toney in the draft, I was concerned about what this new regime thought of Shenault, but that seems to be resolved now that the team is focusing on him as just a WR. With that said, I have a difficult time buying him in the eighth. He still has real target competition from D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones, and I have real questions about both the pace and quality of this Jacksonville offense.”
I’m slightly more optimistic about his outlook (I think he’s fine at ADP), but I agree that Shenault is no longer a priority target for me.
Evan Silva has been above consensus on Trey Sermon for a while, but the public started to catch up even before minicamp began after Jeff Wilson hurt himself getting out of a chair. For fantasy players who wanted Sermon on the cheap, it didn’t help that he blew the team away this month. With Wilson out and Raheem Mostert dealing with a minor knee injury, Sermon operated as the RB1 during minicamp. Nick Wagoner (of ESPN) said Sermon’s time to shine might come sooner than expected and highlighted his proficiency as a pass-catcher:
“But that future might arrive sooner than later as Wilson is out four to six months following meniscus surgery and as Mostert deals with some lesser knee issues. Sermon made a strong first impression, particularly as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, and he looks poised to make an impact as a rookie so long as it carries over to training camp and the start of the season.”
Reports like that have propelled Sermon’s ADP into Round 6. Despite the lofty price tag, Silva is still in on the rookie RB:
“I’m still buying Trey Sermon because I think the public started out way too low on him from the jump and they are now just playing catch-up. The 49ers traded up to get this guy because he fits the mold of what Kyle Shanahan is looking for in a lead back for the wide-zone running game and then Sermon goes to offseason workouts and he’s dominating first-team reps, as he should be. It’s a little frustrating the public caught up to our rankings – which have always been high on Sermon – so quickly. But it was probably inevitable.”
Nobody has seen their ADP rise more than Jakobi Meyers over the past two weeks. If you recall, Meyers flashed during the second half of 2020 as Cam Newton‘s WR1, but he was an afterthought in early best ball drafts after the Patriots signed Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith this offseason. However, his ADP is up 25.8 spots after a quote from the Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan surfaced last week. The part that spread like wildfire referred to Meyers as the Patriots’ WR1, but it’s important to zoom out on the entire quote in this instance:
“The sooner Nelson Agholor or Kendrick Bourne can master the playbook, the better. The Pats’ offense is notoriously difficult for receivers to pick up, even veterans, and the team is counting on one of them to step into a starting role. As they continue to learn, don’t be surprised if Jakobi Meyers looks like the team’s No. 1 option this week. He’s enjoyed a strong spring.”
It’s still good news for Meyers, but he’s just operating as their WR1 right now because Agholor and Bourne are getting acquainted with the offense. Meyers certainly has upside based on how well he played last season, but I’m not targeting him as his ADP climbs. Mike Leone views Meyers as an interesting dart throw at the end of drafts, but he later clarified that he hasn’t drafted Meyers much this offseason (although he did give him a slight bump in ETR’s projections as a result of the news).
“Jakobi Meyers is interesting if he can carve out a consistent role despite all of the offseason receiving additions. He was incredible in targets per route run last season, which makes him an appealing option at the end of drafts, especially with how thinned out WR can get late in best ball leagues.”
Fourth-round picks don’t usually have a chance to start right away, but Michael Carter has a legitimate shot to spearhead the Jets’ rushing attack in Week 1. Connor Hughes reported that Carter is always the first one out during pre-practice walkthroughs and speculated it might not be long before he’s getting the majority of the work:
“It might not be long before Carter starts to see the lion’s share of reps, though. He’s always the first one out during the pre-practice walkthrough. Understandably so, because of the group, he’s undeniably the most explosive. He also brings much more as a receiver.”
Hughes also said Tevin Coleman saw fewer reps at the end of minicamp, even though Coleman said he was healthy. It’s possible we’re not getting the full story, or maybe the veteran is actually falling behind. Either way, that paved the way for Carter to wow the coaching staff.
Carter split work with Javonte Williams at North Carolina last season, but he was actually slightly more efficient as a rusher, averaging 8.0 yards per attempt vs. Williams’ 7.3. He also totaled 25 receptions, a positive sign considering he’s a smaller back who profiles as more of a pass-catching threat, at least to start. According to the RotoViz Prospect Workout Explorer, his two closest athletic comps are Giovani Bernard and Duke Johnson.
With Coleman, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine as his only competition, Carter has a rare opportunity to be his team’s RB1 despite Day 3 draft capital. He should open the season with a locked-in pass-catching role, and his workload could grow throughout the year if he continues to impress. His ADP sits at 87.0 (RB31) right now. I expect that to rise once training camp begins and more reports come out about Carter already working with the first team. He’s not a screaming value, but I like him at his current ADP.
Full disclosure: Tee Higgins is my most-drafted WR so far this offseason. There are just so many factors indicating he’s on the verge of a breakout. For one, RotoViz has found Year 2 to be a major breakout year for WRs, especially those who were efficient as rookies. Over the last six seasons, first-year wideouts who posted a positive score in RV’s Fantasy Points Over Expectation metric averaged a 9.0% win rate in the following season. Higgins was at 15.4 in 2020.
Furthermore, Higgins was clicking with Joe Burrow before the young gunslinger went down in Week 11. Ignoring Week 1 because Higgins played just 22% of snaps as he made his way back from injury, the Clemson product averaged 7.9 targets and 105.4 air yards per game with Burrow healthy. He’d easily return value at his current WR26 ADP if he gets that sort of volume – and he did that as a rookie.
Ja’Marr Chase is the elephant in the room. Chase has the earliest ADP of any Bengals WR right now, and he figures to be involved immediately after Cincinnati spent a top-five pick on him in the NFL Draft. Still, Leone detailed how the Bengals’ lightning-quick, pass-heavy attack allows you to be higher than consensus on all of Burrow’s weapons. There are numerous examples of NFL teams supporting multiple top-24 WRs, and there’s no reason Chase and Higgins can’t be next in line. Plus, it’s far from a guarantee that Chase is actually the WR1 ahead of Higgins in 2021.
Higgins’ ADP is on the rise after reports that he reshaped his body to become more athletic. Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan took notice and commented on the young wideout’s newfound explosiveness:
“He’s markedly more explosive. When you’re a young player, you kind of find your way through. I think he has found that, and now he knows what it takes to get to the next level of his game.”
Everything points toward a Year 2 breakout for Higgins. He’s still a round too cheap. I’m targeting him heavily at his current ADP.