Every week in this space I look at the performances that surprised us, for better or worse. Who was unexpectedly good, and why? Who dramatically disappointed us, and how? The goal is to figure out what we can trust in going forward.
Now that we’re at the midpoint of the fantasy season, it’s time to take a broader view of some players we largely got wrong on draft day.
Some of you may roll your eyes when you hear a phrase like “process over results” because the results matter on Tuesday morning. Making a good decision for the right reasons that produce an unforeseen negative result is part of life and definitely part of fantasy football. What we want to do is make sure that our process is as good as we think it is.
Thus, the review. Aiming to understand why we believed certain ideas that led us to draft players too early or too late (based on what we know now) can help us improve our process in the future.
We all bring a set of assumptions and biases to the draft that can cause us to overlook or ignore features of a player profile that give crucial information. One of my big ones is ageism. I’m famously anti-players-at-or-near-30 years of age. By going through the biggest ADP surprises from the first half of the season, we’ll hopefully identify other patterns that can help us avoid mis-categorizing players in the future.
I’ll give the Yahoo Fantasy ADP for each player below and the current ranking by position in half-PPR fantasy points per game with a focus on the positives. Who has been much better than expected? I’ll exclude players who are dealing with significant injuries, making the information unactionable (like De’Von Achane, Kirk Cousins, Kyren Williams, etc.).
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (ADP RB30, current RB3 with 18.9 FPPG)
Those who waited on Kamara until the fifth round are rejoicing. You had to wait out his three-game suspension, but in his five appearances this season, Kamara has turned back the clock to produce five consecutive top-10 performances. He’s getting better and better too, with 110 total yards and two scores in Week 8. The 28-year-old is in his seventh season but looks as fresh as we’ve seen since Drew Brees retired after the 2020 season. The Saints are not holding back as far as his workload goes, as he is averaging about 26 touches per game. Normally, my ageist bias would suggest he might not be able to withstand it, but the three-game delay in his starting the season might prove to be the perfect recipe for success.
Hold or try to pry him away from managers who don’t believe in things that seem too good to be true. I trust him to continue to fill the stat sheet with a neutral remaining schedule.
Adam Thielen, Carolina Panthers (ADP WR58, current WR8 with 16.2 FPPG)
Thielen is another wily veteran who was mistrusted by most in the fantasy community when it came to draft day. It was the old “best receiver on a bad team” situation compounded by Thielen’s advanced age (33 years old). No one knew what Bryce Young would be in the NFL and there have been bumps in the road for him. He has more multi-interception games than multi-touchdown games. Heck, the Panthers just got win No. 1 in Week 8. Still, Thielen has averaged over 11 targets per game since Week 2, turning that volume into 55 catches for 569 yards and four touchdowns. The Panthers have a pretty neutral rest-of-season schedule, with a fantasy-friendly matchup on tap with the Colts, who give up the fourth-most fantasy points per game.
Thielen may yet disappoint his managers as soft-tissue injuries aren’t uncommon in older receivers. So if you’re thinking about a two-for-one trade offer, sweetening the deal with Thielen at his peak isn’t the worst idea.
Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins (ADP RB40, current RB5 with 18.3 FPPG)
Mostert has posted rushing totals of 46 and 45 yards the last two weeks, put up a total dud vs. Buffalo in Week 4 and is still fantasy’s RB5 on the season. His touchdown production has slowed lately, too, but is still higher than most running backs. He has 10 rushing and two receiving touchdowns to date. Miami is a team that moves the ball effortlessly down the field through the air, but looks to its running backs to punch it in. No one, not even Christian McCaffrey, has more red-zone rushing touchdowns than Mostert (nine). Seven came from within the five-yard line.
Mostert leads running backs with nine breakaway plays of more than 15 yards and in fantasy points per opportunity. I’m slightly less enthusiastic about him in Week 9 as the Dolphins face the Chiefs, who are the third-least generous defense for fantasy, in Germany. Still, I don’t see how you can sit him. Depending on your depth at RB, he’s also a good trade candidate to a needy manager given his subtle but noticeable decline in production in the last two games.
Jakobi Meyers, Las Vegas Raiders (drafted WR52, current WR19 with 12.8 FPPG)
The flip side of this mostly positive blurb is a disastrous season for Davante Adams’ managers, unfortunately, but as a long-time Meyers fan I for one am glad to see him having so much success. Yes, he is on four of my five fantasy rosters. No, Week 8 did not please me. His biggest fault in New England was his lack of scoring; he was useful in PPR formats, but the lack of touchdowns was infuriating. Now in Las Vegas, he’s scored five times while playing with three different QBs and produced five out of seven great stat lines (Week 4 was also a dud with Aidan O’Connell at QB).
Week 8 was a new low for the Raiders overall, as Jimmy Garoppolo completed only four passes to his wide receivers (Meyers had 1/9 yards). The offensive line was a sieve, allowing six sacks and more pressures. He’s still only 27 years old and the Raiders should bounce back somewhat next week at home vs. the Giants.
Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams (ADP WR56, current WR10 with 15.3 FPPG)
Nacua has pretty much created happiness for managers all season long. If you picked him up after his Week 1 eruption, you got five great games from him. If you traded him away when Cooper Kupp got back, you only missed one great game and hopefully got a good player in return. His most recent effort, 3/43 vs. Dallas, was a low point. With Matthew Stafford potentially missing at least one week with a UCL sprain on his throwing hand, Nacua’s status as an elite receiver is in some doubt. Defenses are definitely on to Nacua and the loss of the electric run game of Kyren Williams has put more pressure on Stafford and his receivers. There’s little value in trading him now, but I also won’t start him without Stafford at QB.
Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings (ADP WR39, current WR14 with 13.6 FPPG)
Addison was a popular pick in the mid-late rounds as Minnesota looked poised to again be a high-scoring and pass-heavy team. The injury to Justin Jefferson really vaulted Addison to fantasy stardom as he has been more than worth the pick in the last two games (7/123/2 and 7/83/1). He opened the season fine, but had some disappearing acts, too, like his goose egg in Week 4 vs. Carolina of all teams.
Jaren Hall is a fifth-round rookie QB and the Vikings just added Joshua Dobbs via trade. Hall will get the starting nod in Week 9 when the Vikings get the Falcons. Atlanta is not the friendliest matchup for fantasy, so keep expectations in check for Addison even though you’ll probably still be starting him.
Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions (drafted TE17, current TE4 with 11.1 FPPG)
LaPorta is one piece of this year’s evidence that it pays to wait on TE if you don’t want to spend a first-round pick on Travis Kelce. There are currently 10 TEs averaging 10 or more fantasy points per game and three of them are late-round surprises (LaPorta, Cole Kmet and Logan Thomas). He’s on bye in Week 9, but LaPorta is one guy I’m holding on to tightly.
Potential breakouts (26 years or younger)
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP RB9, current RB4 with 18.8 FPPG)
Etienne just notched his fourth consecutive game with at least one TD, a receiving score, bringing his total to eight touchdowns on the season. He’s made a positive impact on fantasy matchups on the ground and through the air, seeming to be the one consistent bright spot on a Jaguars team full of talent. With one of the more favorable rest-of-season schedules, Etienne should keep returning excellent value.
D’Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP RB33, current RB13 with 13.3 FPPG)
As much as Jalen Hurts steals his thunder with all the goal-line shoves, it’s kind of amazing that Swift is returning such great value this season. Swift seems older than he is (24 years old), maybe due to his ups and downs with Detroit taking a toll on fantasy managers’ hearts, but he could just be approaching his prime. After going from one carry in Week 1 to 28 carries in Week 2, Swift has settled into about 19 touches per game over the last six games. When a team can move the ball as well as Philadelphia, an efficient rusher like Swift finds plenty of holes. Continue to ride him as one of the best draft values of 2023.
Nico Collins, Houston Texans (ADP WR52, current WR17 with 13.2 FPPG)
Collins and rookie QB CJ Stroud have really hit it off this season, revitalizing the Texans’ pass game and making Collins a near must-start WR. He’s averaging 17.5 yards per catch, which is up there with known deep-threat receivers like George Pickens and Brandon Aiyuk. But the recent loss to Carolina was one of his worst games of the season and he’s looking like a less-predictable fantasy option than I thought he was two weeks ago. Collins has two 20+ fantasy-point games, two others at 10+ fantasy points and two games under six fantasy points. He’s been a strong draft value if you started him in the right weeks, but that surely isn’t everyone. Collins is tall at 6"4' and only in his third season, so I’m not giving up on him. He and Stroud are bound to have more fantasy success together, perhaps in friendly passing matchups with the Bucs and Cardinals in the next few games.
Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts (ADP RB41, current RB7 with 16.7 FPPG)
The demise of Zack Moss has been greatly exaggerated. With Jonathan Taylor bursting back on the scene with a new extension in Week 5, many thought Moss would have disappeared by Week 8. Instead, he’s scored four touchdowns in that span while accounting for 15 more carries than Taylor (59 to 44). More interesting, even though Taylor was very efficient in Week 8 (7.9 YPC) his usage hasn’t followed a linear increase. Clearly, the team still wants Moss involved. With a perfect matchup in Week 9 vs. Carolina, Moss and Taylor should both be started. These two have the talent to be a Mostert/Achane-esque duo this weekend.