Biggest Overreactions from Fantasy Football Managers After 2023 NFL Preseason
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The 2023 NFL preseason is behind us, which means there will be real stakes for players and fantasy managers alike when you next watch NFL action.
With each team playing three preseason games, there are certainly things that can be gleaned from the action. In some cases, there was some clarification on what rotations might look like. We also saw some flashes from potential breakout players.
However, the preseason can also be ripe for overreactions. Taking a look at current ADP trends, there may be some things that fantasy football players are overreacting to.
Here’s a look at a few players who drafters are too high or low on based on what happened in the preseason.
RB Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears
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AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Current ADP: 8.10
With one 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown, Khalil Herbert jumped up a full round in fantasy football drafts. Ther day before the Bears’ preseason opener against the Colts, he was being drafted as the 10th pick in the ninth round.
The Chicago running back took the simple screen pass to the house in a brief cameo with the first unit in the preseason opener.
It was a good play to be sure, but it’s also the only explanation for Herbert’s rise up draft boards. One explosive play against the Titans in the first week of the preseason shouldn’t have that much sway over someone’s draft stock.
The reality is that the 25-year-old might take over the No. 1 role, but it’s not a position that’s primed for fantasy success. For one, Justin Fields is going to sap some of the rushing production and red-zone rushing attempts.
The quarterback had 25 red-zone carries with five touchdowns, while D’Onta Foreman had 32 for the Panthers and scored another five times.
Herbert will likely be the leading pass-catching back, but it’s unclear how big a role that will be. David Montgomery was the most-targeted back in the passing game last season with just 40 targets.
Add in fourth-round pick Roschon Johnson—our pick for the back with the best power in the 2023 draft class—and this is a really crowded backfield for an offense that may not be good this season.
RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
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Rhamondre Stevenson (left) and Ezekiel Elliott.Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Elliott Current ADP: N/A
Stevenson Current ADP: 2.11
There are two classic mistakes when it comes to drafting running backs: Clinging to name value for former stars when it’s clear they are done and overestimating how much a backup is going to eat into a star’s workload.
Both are going on with the New England Patriots backfield right now.
Rhamondre Stevenson isn’t plummeting down draft boards, but his ADP has taken a hit since the Patriots signed Ezekiel Elliott. He has dropped about three spots from 2.08 to 2.11 since the beginning of August.
However, people should still be drafting the 25-year-old with confidence. He was 16th in the league in opportunity share, per Player Profiler, but still managed to finish ninth among all backs in PPR leagues.
That kind of efficiency is going to make Stevenson a worthwhile second-round pick, even if Elliott is coming in to take away some goal-line carries and third-down duties.
Fantasy Football Calculator doesn’t have Elliott listed in its ADP data, but the new Patriot is the fastest-rising player on ESPN.
In the world of instant analysis and reaction, it’s hard not to get swept up by the thinking that Elliott is going to reduce Stevenson’s value, but the latter is just a better running back at this point. Bet on the talent.
TE Darren Waller, New York Giants
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Current ADP: 5.12
The more fantasy managers have seen Darren Waller with the New York Giants, the higher they are drafting him.
The 30-year-old has seen his ADP go up almost a full round since the beginning of August. A strong preseason showing has certainly helped with that ascent.
Highlights of the tight end have been all over X, formerly known as Twitter. He shined in the second preseason game, catching three of his four targets for 30 yards against the Panthers.
The logic is there for Waller to have a big season when you look at his training camp and preseason, but that does seem to gloss over the risks you are taking when spending a fifth-round pick on him.
Waller has become an annual injury risk as he gets into his 30s. He played in 11 games in 2021, sitting out multiple contests with knee and ankle issues. In 2022, he was limited to nine games due to a lingering hamstring problem.
When the Georgia Tech product was on the field, he wasn’t very efficient despite playing in an offense that had Davante Adams occupying the secondary’s attention.
In New York, Waller will ostensibly be the top receiver. That sounds like a good thing, but it’s a double-edged sword. It also means everyone is going to scheme against him and do what they can to force the Giants to win with other receivers.
Taking Waller at his current ADP is betting he can still be a team’s primary receiver and he’s going to stay healthy. The preseason has done too much to hide those risks.
RB Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Current ADP: 10.12
Jaylen Warren started eating into Najee Harris’s workload last season and that trend has continued throughout the preseason. He saw a lot of action with the starters and scored on a 62-yard run against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2.
It’s all made an impression on drafters. The 24-year-old was carrying an ADP in the 13th round when August started and is now going toward the end of the 10th.
There’s no denying Warren will be part of the Steelers backfield. His performance, combined with a disappointing 2022 from Harris, is forcing a backfield-by-committee situation.
However, the proper way to respond to that development is to knock Harris down your draft board, not to move Warren up.
Much of Harris’ lack of production could be chalked up to the offensive line. He was 40th among qualified backs in yards before contact last season at just 2.1. That line should be improved with the additions of Broderick Jones and Isaac Seumalo, but it’s yet to be seen if that moves them beyond average.
In the passing game, the Steelers have a lot of mouths to feed. Diontae Johnson is a target magnet. George Pickens has breakout potential as a downfield threat. They added Allen Robinson II in free agency, and Pat Freiermuth is coming on as a legitimate tight end threat.
Kenny Pickett has had a good preseason at quarterback, but it’s yet to be seen how many relevant fantasy options he can support. Warren isn’t likely to be one of them, though.
RB James Cook, Buffalo Bills
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Current ADP: 7.05
James Cook isn’t rocketing up draft boards, but he’s been slowly creeping his way up from an ADP of 7.10 in mid-August to the middle of the seventh round.
That’s likely due to the share of the carries and snaps he’s seen when the starters have been on the field for the Buffalo Bills. With Josh Allen leading the way in an offense that added guard O’Cyrus Torrence and Dalton Kincaid to possibly get more 12 personnel on the field, it makes sense to target their running back.
Cook played a staggering 87 percent of the snaps with the starters in the first two weeks of the preseason. Scoring the first touchdown of the preseason temporarily answered concerns that he wouldn’t be the goal line back. The Bills kept him in from the eight-yard line rather than going with Latavius Murray.
Damien Harris then made his Bills debut in the final preseason game and cast doubt on Cook’s short-yardage and goal-line role. Harris took the first nine snaps of the game but when they got into the red zone, he took over and scored from the two-yard line.
Cook stayed in the game after the Bills pulled most of their offensive starters, which isn’t a great sign.
In reality, the 5’11”, 190-pound back still holds value, especially in PPR leagues. He’s going to be the pass-catching back and will have some big weeks when he breaks off explosive plays but he’s not going to have the reliability of a back with red-zone duties.
WR Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders
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Current ADP: 7.01
Two things are true: Jahan Dotson lit up the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 of the preseason, and the Commanders are a difficult offense to project for fantasy football purposes this season.
Drafters seem to be leaning pretty heavily on the first thing. Dotson’s ADP has been skyrocketing throughout the preseason. On August 7, he was a ninth-round pick. Now he’s flirting with the sixth round.
The 23-year-old certainly outshined Terry McLaurin with five catches and 76 yards on seven targets. McLaurin only had three catches on three targets for 39 yards and no touchdowns.
Add in that McLaurin came out of the preseason with a turf toe injury, and Dotson’s booming ADP makes some sense.
It’s still short-sighted, though. On a bigger scale, it’s hard to know how productive this Commanders offense is going to be. Sam Howell is the quarterback with just 19 pass attempts in his rookie season.
Eric Bieniemy is taking over as the offensive coordinator and we don’t know what his offense will look like out of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes’ shadow.
What we do know is that McLaurin has been scary consistent despite rocky quarterback play. He finished each of the last two seasons with 77 reception, over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns.
Even if he’s unavailable for the first few weeks of the season, he will return. When he comes back he’ll at least be a option 1A to Dotson’s 1B.
Fantasy managers are putting a lot of stock in this offense being able to support two fantasy starters at receiver.
ADP information and trends from Fantasy Football Calculator based on a 12-team PPR league.