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Players to Fade at ADP in The Top 50(ish)

Price threatens to outstrip production for these stars

In August drafts we are buying into players for the next 16 games (17 if you are one of the lost souls in a league with a week 18 championship). This mindset can be helpful when seeking to maximize your return on investment all the way down your draft board.

At the top of the draft board, you are generally going to be choosing between two or three players that you probably like a lot, or that you can at least make a case for selecting with your next draft pick. Sometimes these decisions wind up not being significant; if you wind up with the #13 finisher at wide receiver in fantasy this year instead of the WR11 with your third round pick, that probably didn't capsize your whole campaign. But the WR6 instead of the WR3 with your first rounder can be the difference between playing in the championship game and the third place game. Here are some guys that I think are currently being drafted right around their production ceiling relative their position group.

(ADPs referenced below are current values on the fantasy platform Sleeper using .5 PPR scoring)

A.J. Brown
Current ADP: 9.9, WR5

To be clear: I am not saying to outright avoid A.J. Brown, so no need to grab a pitchfork and join an unruly mob. But I do believe Brown will stay right around the 10th overall pick on most boards come draft season, and I think it could be tough for him to pay back on that kind of investment this year.

For starters, Brown's already clocked elite target shares of 28.7% and 30.1% in his first two seasons in Philly, numbers that put him shoulder to shoulder with CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson over that time and trail only the true target share kings of the day, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. So while it's unlikely his share of the action slips, it is probably more unlikely that it grows. That alone wouldn't be cause for concern, but for the arrival of two new faces: Saquon Barkley as the bellcow back, and the very run-minded Kellen Moore to run the offense. Moore's Dallas offenses emphasized the run game, and his 2023 departure from Dallas coincided with CeeDee Lamb making the leap from star to superstar, along with a bump in pass volume from Dak Prescott.

With Barkley in tow it's not unreasonable to think Jalen Hurts' pass volume will pull back (he attempted a career-high 31.6 passes a game in 2023 after averaging 29.7 a game over the two previous seasons). Brown has easily the most tenuous path to 100 receptions of the first 10 receivers flying off draft boards right now, so that alone has to give us pause.

Alternatives to consider: Breece Hall, Jahmyr Gibbs, Amon-Ra St. Brown (if he slides)

Puka Nacua
Current ADP: 11.1, WR6

I promise this isn't clickbait guys, although I wouldn't fault you for the accusation. Nacua is coming off a season that saw him set the rookie receiving record, he's perched atop certainly one of the better offenses in the NFL, and production-wise offers both a sturdy floor and a desirable ceiling. What's not to like here?

Nacua at the back end of the first is basically him ascending to Cooper Kupp's 2023 ADP prior to the summer hamstring strain that mostly derailed the now-31 year old's season, and at that time Kupp was being taken as if he had no real target competition in this offense. Now Kupp is the target competition, and early word out of Rams camp is that rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated.

No matter how likely you think Kupp is to miss time this fall, the fact remains that a healthy Kupp would be extremely problematic for Nacua at this price point, and it absolutely could happen. Couple that with Sean McVay's willingness to reinvent the offense almost on the fly and I think Kyren Williams isn't the only risky Ram at the top of the redraft board this year.

Alternatives to consider: Jahmyr Gibbs, Garrett Wilson

Marvin Harrison
Current ADP: 13.2, WR8

I am aware it's no longer 2006, when Blackberry phones and the Black Eyed Peas ruled the world and rookie wide receivers were a strict no-no in fantasy. I pounded the table for Rashee Rice in redraft last year, and for Christian Watson the year before that; I am definitely down with rookie wideouts in general. In the 12th round, not early in the second.

Marvin Harrison Jr. is unquestionably a special talent, one that will very (very) likely be a fixture at the top of fantasy drafts for years to come. But we have never seen a rookie wide receiver go this high in fantasy drafts, ever. And while he is absolutely the top receiver in this offense day 1, the path for "MHJ" to clock 140 targets is actually pretty fraught: Trey McBride is absolutely for real and could finish as the top tight end in fantasy this year. Michael Wilson and Greg Dortch will probably account for 150 targets. The offensive line remains a major question mark. Kyler Murray's next season passing for 4,000 yards will be his first.

Harrison definitely has the talent for a top-12 finish at the position as a rookie. He also has more than enough uncertainty around him to keep him out of the top 18. Taking him at this price isn't quite 'playing with fire while wearing kerosene-soaked gloves', but it's in the vicinity.

Brandon Aiyuk
Current ADP: 20.6, WR13

Never mind the simmering contract standoff with the 49ers and accompanying trade rumors; it's unlikely the 49ers will acquiesce to Aiyuk's desire to be traded to a team more willing to pay him when they're primed for another Super Bowl run, and anyway by the time you are drafting we will very possibly have clarity on that front. This is really mostly about Aiyuk's numbers: Of the 12 receivers running ahead of Aiyuk by ADP right now, only Drake London and the rookie Harrison have failed to log a season with 135 targets. Of the remaining 10, eight have done it multiple times. Aiyuk has never logged so much as 115 targets in a season, and his 1342 yards receiving last year masks the fact that his paltry 105 targets were only five more than Justin Jefferson, in six more games. He had one more target than Elijah Moore. And that was with Deebo Samuel missing a couple of games, and without first round pick Ricky Pearsall in the mix.

Jaylen Waddle turned 117 targets into a statistically improbable 1356 yards in 2022 on the strength of 18.1ypc before crashing back to earth last year, and Aiyuk and his 17.9ypc mark from a year ago are poised to do the same. Don't let it happen to you, and especially not in the middle of the second round.

Alternatives to consider: Chris Olave, Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams (if he slides)

Sam LaPorta
Current ADP: 24.7, TE1

I love Sam LaPorta. If I pounded the table for Rashee Rice last July, I jumped off the roof of a Chevy Astro van and crashed through the table like I was in the Bills Mafia for LaPorta. He's also the poster child of actual 'fade' clickbait articles far and wide right now, so I really didn't want to hop on this bandwagon. And I really don't even dislike taking him in the beginning of the third round, as taking the top finisher at his position is a universal weekly advantage and LaPorta could repeat as fantasy's top tight end in 2024.

But it's unlikely. LaPorta had a lot of help crashing the party with his TE1 finish as a rookie: Travis Kelce's touchdowns vanished (1 TD after week 7); Evan Engram had the second-most receptions by a tight end ever, yet didn't score his first TD of the year until week 13; Mark Andrews and TJ Hockenson were both outproducing him at the time they suffered season-ending injuries; Trey McBride smoked him in receptions and yards once he took over as the starter from week 8 on.

LaPorta is a blue chip commodity in dynasty and there's no tight end I'd rather own over the next 3-5 years, but over the next 16 games all of the other guys I mentioned in the previous paragraph are pretty much interchangeable, and all but Kelce can be had over a round later.

Alternatives to consider: Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Trey McBride in the 4th/5th round, Mark Andrews in the 4th/5th round

Lamar Jackson
Current ADP: 36.8, QB3

When it comes to Lamar Jackson and his current ADP (which is basically interchangeable with Patrick Mahomes as the co-QB3s), Herm Edwards' famous rebuke comes to mind: You take QB early to win QB. Hello?!

Of the first four QBs coming off of draft boards right now, Lamar is the only one that hasn't finished as either the best or second-best QB in fantasy in the last two years. In fact, last year's QB4 finish was his first time cracking the top 8 since his legendary 2019. Lamar hasn't totaled 30 touchdowns in a season since 2020; for context Josh Allen has given owners between 42 and 45 total TDs four years straight. Trevor Lawrence has more rushing touchdowns than Lamar over the last three seasons, and now Derrick Henry is in town.

You draft a QB early because you are confident you are getting a top one or two finish for your money, and while Lamar may lead the Ravens to the #1 seed again in reality, he's pretty unlikely to be the reason that happens for your fantasy team. At this early fourth round price tag you should probably pass on him.

Alternatives to consider: Patrick Mahomes, Michael Pittman, Jaylen Waddle, Anthony Richardson in the 5th/6th round

Malik Nabers
Current ADP: 38, WR20

My assault on wide receiver ADPs resumes with the Giants' rookie phenom, whom NFL coaches seem to like a lot. Nabers would have been the first wide receiver taken in normal draft classes, and it can be argued that his physical gifts are even better suited than Harrison's to the run after catch lightning that NFL offenses are all frantically trying to bottle to copycat the 49ers. And unlike Harrison he is truly running unopposed, so Nabers definitely has all the opportunity he could need to explode as a rookie.

But aside from the inherent unpredictability of rookie receivers, the fact that the Giants are hoping to be merely 'bad' instead of 'absolutely horrendous' on offense is really a nonstarter for this kind of price premium on Nabers. The offensive line was a trainwreck that received only middling free agency reinforcements, and rumors that both GM Joe Schoen and HC Brian Daboll are over the Daniel Jones experience weren't exactly put to rest by Schoen going on record that the decision to let Saquon Barkley walk to the rival Eagles was to make Jones earn his money in 2024 on a recent episode of HBO's Hard Knocks. The Giants could be intentionally setting Daniel Jones up to fail, and they just as easily could be unintentionally unable to stop the whole offense from failing.

No Giants wide receiver has ever cracked 800 yards receiving in the Daniel Jones era. Nabers' ADP has begun to slide and should be resting somewhere around 45 overall come peak draft season, but don't bet your fourth round pick that Nabers flouts recent Giants' history with a 1200-yard campaign this year.

Alternatives to consider: Michael Pittman, Jaylen Waddle, Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf

Zay Flowers
Current ADP: 48.8, WR25

Zay Flowers was the first player to come to mind when I began thinking about players to fade at ADP in redraft leagues this year. I changed the premise of this article from 'top 50' to 'top 50(ish)' because a week ago Flowers' ADP was sitting at a lofty 51.8, to which I thought, 'I'm going to have to soften the cutoff, no way Flowers is going higher and I have to include him'.

Flowers' ADP has climbed three full spots since then. Engineer, please stop this hype train, I'd like to get off.

When the Ravens took Zay Flowers in the first round last spring, he pretty quickly inherited the de facto #1 receiver role. Then in August, Rashod Bateman aggravated the Lisfranc injury that cost him most of his 2022, prompting the Ravens to effectively bench him in favor of the shell of what was once Odell Beckham and the stars aligned for Flowers even more. And even operating as the clear top option not named Mark Andrews for a team that would finish sixth in total offense, Zay Flowers motored into week 12 with a whopping one touchdown as the WR39 in fantasy, handily trailing such luminaries as Gabe Davis and Rashid Shaheed. Not great!

Flowers did manage to turn it on down the stretch though, giving WR12 production from week 12 to the fantasy finish line in week 17. One could assume that he began to 'figure it out' and 'earn Lamar Jackson and OC Todd Monken's trust' at that point, but I much prefer the 'Mark Andrews went down for the season in week 11' narrative. You can check out my Zay Flowers video for a more in-depth breakdown of why I'm so skeptical, but all you really need to know is that Flowers is a Fade with a capital 'F' at this price.

Alternatives to consider: Trey McBride, Mark Andrews, Joe Mixon

Tank Dell
Current ADP: 51.3, WR26

The Houston Texans are going for it. In the face of a preposterously stacked AFC where Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are not even top 5 quarterbacks in the conference, the Texans went out and acquired the mercurial Stefon Diggs in the hopes that they will be the team across from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship game - maybe even in Houston.

While it's all systems go for the offense as a whole, we definitely have some 'only one football' involvement crunch concerns with Diggs now on the scene. Dell was fantastic as a rookie, giving us four top-12 and three top-six performances in 10 tries before a broken fibula broke the hearts of fantasy owners in week 13. But Nico Collins was even better and is now getting paid like a quasi-number one receiver, while Diggs is in a contract year looking for one last payday this spring.

Through no fault of his own Dell has fallen to number three in the pecking order here, and then there's Dalton Schultz, Joe Mixon and Noah Brown all clamoring to get in on the action. Dell will have his days in the sun, but unless somebody misses significant time it's likely to be more famine than feast for him in 2024.

—Luke Wilson

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