Since fantasy draft season began in earnest in August, there have been players that fantasy owners have been both reading and dreaming about obsessively. In some cases, these preseason darlings have translated to the draft board, and their ADPs (Average Draft Positions) have shot up as result. Let’s take a look at the top preseason risers for the 2014 fantasy football season. If I’ve left players out, or you disagree, feel free to post at the end or in our forums. Fantasy Football season is about to begin, so let’s get to it!
Note: All mentions of ADP are courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com and are reflective of 12 team leagues.
With the glowing reviews of Lucks’ camp and the news that Indianapolis is going to transition to a more pass-happy offense, the price for the Colts golden horseshoe is on the rise. The return of Reggie Wayne, the continued development of T.Y. Hilton, and the signing of Hakeem Nicks seem to bode well for this concept, and drafters are taking notice. Luck currently is being taken early in the 5th round.
Cutlers’ ADP has recently been on the rise due to many fantasy prognosticators predictions that he will be the best value pick of all the QBs due to the superior aerial weapons (Marshall and Jeffrey) and stud RB (Forte) at his disposal. He’s been sharp this preseason, but his value is rapidly evaporating as a result. He currently stands at an 8th round ADP on average.
The combination of the health of Julio Jones and Roddy White and the prospects of exciting rookie Devonta Freeman have drafters more excited to take Ryan recently. Despite a lost year in 2013, the fantasy community is bullish on Ryan’s ability to bounce back, especially considering the Falcons relative inability to play defense. His ADP has slowly crept into the 6th round.
Amid concerns about his health and workload, Ellington and his ADP took a sharp drop right at the start of draft season. The preseason has done wonders for his outlook; It is clear the Cardinals no longer view him solely as a change-of-pace back and are going to feed him relentlessly. He showed massive upside in the Cards vertical passing attack last year, and with the emergence of Michael Floyd alongside Larry Fitzgerald it should be difficult for defenses to key in on any one threat. Owners foresee big things this season for Ellington, who ADP now stands at 3.04, or early in the third round.
At the beginning of draft season, reports out of Tampa had the Bucs running as many as three backs in a committee, which obviously poured a bucket of icy water on Martins ADP. He had been a workhorse back in the past, so drafters were understandably cautious. Fast forward to late August – Two of the three backs rumored to be in the committee are hurt, and the Muscle Hamster has been getting all he can eat in the preseason. It looks like he will be leaned on heavily once again in all phases of the offense, and his ADP is rising due to that. He must now be taken in or before the early third round if you would like to secure his services for 2014.
Due to his offseason battery charges and injury-plagued 2013, Rice was certainly more of a side dish at the beginning on August. But since he received only a two game suspension for his transgressions and reported to camp lighter and ready to rock, his ADP is on the upswing. Now increasingly seen as a potential value pick at RB, Rice has risen all the way to the top of the 5th round on average. He’s a high-risk, high-reward selection at that spot.
Many felt like the Niners had chosen their Frank Gore replacement when they took Hyde in the second round of the 2014 draft, but that he wouldn’t contribute right away. That may not be the case, and his ADP is rising as such. Despite Gores refusal to break down, he’s still 31 this year and well past his prime. RBs tend to begin breaking down at 30 (See: Jackson, Steven) and if 2014 is the year he finally does, Hyde would take on both a massive workload and fantasy superstardom as the lead dog in the run-heavy 49ers attack. Marcus Lattimore isn’t close to ready, and Kendall Hunter tore his ACL (done for the year). Despite a two round gain since August 1, Hyde offers huge upside at his current 8th round ADP.
Perhaps the biggest single Riser since draft season began is Kelvin Benjamin. He has the pedigree (First Rounder), the size (6’5″ / 240), and the opportunity (virtually the only impact WR on the Panthers this year) that seem to indicate a fantasy breakout. It has also been widely publicized that Panthers QB Cam Newton has taken the young WR under his wing and they’ve been inseparable since. Finally, reports out of camp were basically that Benjamin looks like a stud and that big things were coming this year. The result of these reports is that Kelvins ADP has soared from the late 11th all the way to the early 8th round in the last 30 days. At his current WR3/4 price, he just might be worth the risk.
Like Benjamin, Cooks has also experienced a meteoric rise on draft boards as August has progressed. Many have him pegged to take over some of the Darren Sproles role in New Orleans, while others think he can simply be a breakout WR out wide. The Saints seem to be on board with this idea, lining Cooks up all over their offensive formations during camp and the preseason. QB Drew Brees has had nothing but glowing things to say about Cooks and his ability to pick up the Saints complex offense quickly, and it looks like Brandin should be on the field more often than not in the Saints well-established, high-powered offense. Cooks has also risen two rounds in ADP, and it will now cost you a 6th round pick (on average) to get in on the Cooks hype.
I’m not even sure the term ‘Riser’ really covers Justin Hunter. Whether you’ve seen his highlight reel catches in camp, seen him flash his potential is the preseason, or checked out his size and speed (6’4″ / 203 / 4.44 jets), the fantasy community has certainly taken notice and adjusted their draft boards accordingly. Hunter has risen upward more than two entire rounds since drafts began, and is now going as early as the early 10th round. If Jake Locker can remain healthy and perform, Hunter could be one of the biggest upside draft candidates for 2014.
There haven’t been as many TEs that have had dramatic value shifts over the last month or so, but the one that really stands out to me is Zach Ertz. It all started when his QB Nick Foles compared him to Gronk. He then starred and camp and made solid plays in the preseason. When you think about it, DeSean Jackson is gone, and his targets and TD’s have to go somewhere – Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy can only handle so many themselves. Ertz is a prototype ‘move’ TE with great hands. If he gets going in the Eagles video-game offense, big things could happen quickly. Despite rising a full round since drafts began, Ertz can still be had as (in my mind anyway) a massive value pick in the 9th round.