- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Fantasy football owners love to see what others are doing in drafts, which is why an early look at ESPN's average live draft results can be a fruitful experience. Yes, you can actually draft right now on ESPN.com, but even if you're going to wait a few weeks, periodically checking out the trends in average draft position (ADP) gives an idea which players are seeing their value rise and fall. Perhaps you really like Michael Vick and want to select him in the second round. Well, according to ADP, you don't need to act that soon.
It's early, of course, and as of this writing we do not have seven-day adjustments to the ADP, but perhaps that's a good thing. This is the ground floor, so to speak, and I was curious whether the current results reflected ESPN's rankings (or mine) and how they might be differing, but also I wanted to check out some early draft trends. So far I have noticed the following:
People sure love their quarterbacks: ESPN ranks Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers fourth overall, and I've got him fifth, but the only player going ahead of him in ADP is Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. In fact, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are each up one spot from our rankings, and Matthew Stafford moves from 13th to 11th. Cam Newton goes from 23rd to 15th! I understand the need to secure a top quarterback early, as opposed to in recent seasons, but it certainly appears that owners don't want to take any chances.
Maurice Jones-Drew is starting to worry people: It's July. I think the Jacksonville Jaguars running back, and likely their only relevant fantasy option, will eventually get a new contract or learn to live with the one he's got, and will not miss any regular-season games. Whether he misses training camp or even preseason games means little and would not affect his draft rank for me. Still, ESPN ranks him fifth overall, and he's going eighth. Frankly, I'd worry more about him having the most rushing attempts the past three seasons than pulling a DeSean Jackson and slumping due to financial reasons.
Tight end attention is modest: I'll be honest, I'm unlikely to spend an early- or mid-second rounder on Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. I know all the reasons to do so, but I'm likely waiting eight more rounds for perennially overlooked Tony Gonzalez, for example, or longer for Jared Cook and Jacob Tamme. Anyway, Gronk and Graham are not being selected earlier than ESPN ranks, which really surprises me. Perhaps that's an indication others would prefer to wait at tight end as well. Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis and Jason Witten, however, are going roughly one round earlier than our ranks. Gonzalez, incidentally, is going 15 picks earlier. I expect Gronkowski and Graham to still rise in ADP, with Gronk soon flirting with the first round, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding second- and third-tier running backs.
The name Adrian Peterson matters: There's no guarantee the great Peterson plays football in September. Haven't you read and heard what the great Stephania Bell says about this situation? Still, we rank Peterson 11th at running back and 28th overall, but he's going ninth and 22nd, respectively. It's not the worst gamble, though I'm not likely to do it. The corresponding ADP result has potential Minnesota Vikings starter Toby Gerhart slipping a round from our rank and missing the top 100, which is similarly risky. Gerhart is pretty good and if he gets the opportunity, I trust him. Securing Gerhart in the eighth or ninth round, regardless if you chose Peterson, seems wise to me. I rank him 85th.
Rookies always get overrated: Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson is up six spots from 36 in our ranks to 30 in ADP, which isn't at all surprising or wrong. He's certainly younger than Steven Jackson and Michael Turner, so go for it. But Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, the 15th quarterback in our rankings and 101st overall, isn't particularly close to proven Pittsburgh Steelers ace Ben Roethlisberger. In ADP, though, they're going 78th and 79th, (Roethlisberger first). Well, of course they are! I view Roethlisberger as a capable starter. I do not view the rookie that way, though I would choose him as a backup if my starter was reliable and durable.
The defense doesn't rest: If you don't know the history of top fantasy defenses and their remarkable inability to repeat year-to-year success, I urge you to check out colleague Christopher Harris' defense preview. Yes, Harris, Matthew Berry and I each rank the San Francisco 49ers unit tops, but certainly not close to 70th overall, which is the ADP result. It would be prudent to throw as many running backs on your roster as possible, hoping two are weekly plays, as opposed to reaching on any defense, even the presumed leaders. It's even worse that any kicker goes earlier than the final round; the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski is going 107th overall, ahead of running back David Wilson, wide receiver Sidney Rice and quarterback Josh Freeman in ADP. This makes little sense, but as more drafts occur, the results at kicker will normalize. I'm not sure that will be the case with defense.
Eric Karabell offers his take on some of the early behavior in ESPN.com live football drafts.