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Fantasy Football 2017: Players Poised to Outperform Their ADP

Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott

When trying to determine a player's fantasy value, at this point, it falls on the owner. For example, if a player is being drafted in the 10th round but finishes the year near the top of the fantasy scorers at his position, it was a great value. If he flames out, it was a bust. In the preseason, it's a guessing game as to who will do well and who will disappoint.

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Each preseason, mock drafts are done to create a current average draft position (ADP) for each player. At the end of the day, some owners will like players more than others and reach for them in drafts. Here are players that have a high ceiling and the potential to perform better than their ADP. That's not to say they should be drafted earlier, just that they may have more value than their current ADP.

Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (Current ADP: 9.12)

Rivers is currently the 13th quarterback off the board, with an ADP at the end of the ninth round. Rivers isn't a glamorous pick, but he finished with the eighth-most fantasy points among QBs in 2016. That also was a year where he was without Keenan Allen, who should be back this year (but there’s no guarantee that he'll stay healthy). Over the past nine seasons, Rivers has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in eight of them. He's had at least 29 touchdown passes in each of the past four seasons, and he's fairly consistent. With Allen back and a solid receiving corps, Rivers should finish in the top 10 among fantasy quarterbacks again in 2017.

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (Current ADP: 10.08)

While Prescott will likely suffer a bit of the sophomore slump that is common among second-year quarterbacks, it shouldn’t detract from the success he enjoyed last season. Buried on the depth chart initially, Prescott ascended to the starter and never relinquished the job, throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading the Cowboys to an NFC East title. Odds are the interceptions will rise, but if he can maintain the other numbers, he's still viable in fantasy. He gets a full season of Dez Bryant (assuming health). While Ezekiel Elliott's pending suspension may hurt him a bit, Darren McFadden (as well as Alfred Morris) is capable of running the ball during Elliott’s absence. As long as a running threat exists, Prescott will still be able to do what he does – throw as well as run (282 rushing yards, 6 TDs in 2016). His mobility adds to his fantasy value, which should exceed his late-10th round ADP.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints (Current ADP: 5.09)

Even though Adrian Peterson is now in the mix in New Orleans, the starting job still belongs to Ingram. Both backs will see the field, but at this point, Ingram is the back to own over Peterson. Ingram is being drafted as the 27th running back off the board, just outside RB2 range. He is a solid RB2, especially in PPR formats. He's not known as a pass-catching back but he had 46 receptions last year and 50 in 2015. Last year he had four receiving touchdowns as well. As long as Ingram can continue to produce, he'll out-touch Peterson and exceed his ADP.

Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts (Current ADP: 7.04)

He may be 34 years old, but Gore is seemingly ageless. Last season, he posted yet another 1,000-yard season and scored eight touchdowns. He's still the lead back in Indianapolis, although he will lose work in the red zone. Gore isn't someone that will be a RB1, but he's a solid RB2 for fantasy owners. In 2016, he had just one game in which he finished with fewer than 50 total yards. He had three games with more than 100 and he remains involved in the passing game. He's consistent (as consistent as running backs can be) and (knock on wood) stays healthy. In the past six seasons, he's played all 16 games.

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Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns (Current ADP: 11.06)

In PPR leagues, Johnson has low RB2 value. In his two seasons in the league, he's had 61 and 53 receptions respectively. In each season, he's had more than 500 receiving yards and more than 300 rushing yards. The touchdowns aren't there, but if you can get a solid six or seven points each week via his catches (say three receptions for 40 yards), then he can add a few more points thanks to his work on the ground as well. He’s not the worst option for a RB2, although his value is lower in standard leagues. Isaiah Crowell will handle most of the between-the-tackles work, but look for Johnson to have a bigger role this year.

Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (Current ADP: 14.01)

The Eagles’ backfield is a bit of a mess, but if fantasy owners were going to gamble on one guy, it should be Smallwood to exceed his 14th round ADP. LeGarrette Blount is struggling, Ryan Mathews is no longer on the team, and Darren Sproles isn't an every-down back. This paves the way for Smallwood, coming off an unimpressive rookie season, to have a chance to carve out a significant role. He's shown that he can run and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. In terms of size, he’s similar to Frank Gore (Smallwood is 5-10, 208), who most running backs wouldn't mind being compared to. Smallwood is a solid draft pick who likely will start going before the 14th round as we get closer to Week 1.

Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins (Current ADP: 6.10)

In 2016, Crowder had 847 yards and seven touchdowns. He is now higher on the depth chart, thanks to the departures of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Even though Crowder has been hampered in training camp by a hamstring injury, he should be on track to play Week 1. In PPR leagues, Crowder has WR2 value. Even with Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson in the mix, Crowder will likely lead the team in receptions. In standard leagues, the sixth round is appropriate, but in PPR formats, he should be drafted earlier.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Buffalo Bills (Current ADP: 10.09)

Traded to Buffalo after the Bills sent Sammy Watkins to the Rams, Matthews has dealt with a chip fracture in his sternum in training camp. Right now, there’s no indication he won’t be ready to go by Week 1. With Watkins no longer around, Matthews has the opportunity to immediately become Tyrod Taylor’s No. 1 target. Second-round pick Zay Jones will likely line up outside and LeSean McCoy also is an option as a receiver out of the backfield. However, Matthews should be utilized more than he was in Philadelphia, and should exceed his 10th round ADP.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings (Current ADP: 11.04)

In Weeks 14 and 16 of last season, Thielen had 101 and 202 receiving yards, respectively. He added two touchdowns in Week 16 as well. While those games may have been a fluke, they also show his potential. He'll be behind Stefon Diggs on the depth chart, but Thielen should still see plenty of opportunity to score fantasy points. He's not going to be consistent, and it's going to be tough to want to start him as more than a WR3, but the ceiling is high. He was just under 1,000 yards last year (although that is skewed by the 303 yards in two games), but he should top that in 2017.

Julius Thomas, TE, Miami Dolphins (Current ADP: 13.11)

Believers in Thomas this year are also believers in Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. While Thomas had success with Gase in Denver, it's a little different now in Miami. Jay Cutler is at the helm, and while Cutler also has had success with Gase when both were with the Bears, it's going to be tougher this season. However, when healthy, Thomas is a solid TE option, and should out-perform his late-13th round ADP. He's a big threat in the red zone, and Cutler has no problem throwing to tight ends for touchdowns. Because of Thomas’ health concerns, fantasy owners should have another tight end on their roster, but he’s a solid pick in the latter rounds.

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.