Early ADP Battle: Sony Michel vs. Lamar Miller
Value in fantasy football is a fascinating thing. Early rankings and average draft position can shape an entire draft cycle, and with it an entire fantasy football season. How a player is valued in May can dictate how is treated throughout an offseason. What changes that value is a change in opportunity, be that due to injury or performance. In general, outside of these situations, once a players value has been set it can take a lot to change it. However, that does not mean fantasy players should blindly follow that ADP, and that is what I hope to achieve with this series. I am hoping to open peoples eyes to misleading ADPs, and that it helps them make decisions which they look back on and smile about come seasons end.
The great thing about this series is that there is so much it can touch on. In this series I will look at players with widely differing ADPs, who the numbers suggest should be closer together. Players with similar ADPs who really should not be close together, and in some cases even players whose ADP should be completely switched if the numbers are to be believed.
Sony Michel, RB, NE
Michel took the NFL world by storm in the playoffs last season. In three playoff games, he carried the ball 71 times for 336 yards and added six touchdowns. However, that playoff performance has driven his fantasy cost to a level where there is no value left. The contrast between Michel in the playoffs and the regular season is stark. In the playoffs, Michel averaged over seven carries more per game than he did in the regular season. That translates into a yards per game total over 40 yards higher in the playoffs.
In 2018 Michel struggled for consistency, due to a fluctuating role within the Patriots offense. In 13 games he finished as an above average running back on just five occasions. On those other eight occasions, he finished outside the top-36 running backs.
Overall in 2018, Michel finished the season ranked 34th in PPR formats with a total of 141.1 fantasy points. The large majority of his fantasy value came on handoffs, as he carried the ball 209 times. However, his contribution to the Patriots passing game was minimal. In the entire season, Michel managed just seven receptions on 11 targets for 50 yards, as he was virtually a non-factor in the passing game.
Looking forward to 2019 it seems unlikely that Michel’s role will grow. Even in the playoffs, when his carries increased, he still only had three targets, catching one for nine yards. With James White and Rex Burkhead remaining part of this roster heading into 2019, they are likely to see the bulk of the targets. Additionally, the Patriots added Alabama running back Damien Harris, who could also eat into some of the carries that Michel will receive. Michel’s value in the playoffs was largely due to his volume, as his yards per carry increased just .2 from 4.5 to 4.7. For Michel to have the chance to return value at his current ADP he is going to require more touches than he received last season, and that seems unlikely.
Lamar Miller, RB, HOU
Miller may well be one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL. While it is true he never sets the league on fire and runs all over opposition he is a solid contributor. Last season Miller ranked 23rd in PPR scoring with 174.6 fantasy points. Additionally, he also ranked 22nd when it came to consistency last year. On eight occasions last year he finished as a top-24 running back, and as a top-12 back on three occasions. Additionally, he fell into flex range three times, finishing among the top-36 running backs. On just three occasions he finished outside of the top-36 altogether. That is not a bad record at all.
The one thing that you could always rely on with Miller is that he would see touches in this offense, averaging 15 carries per game. He finished the year with 210 carries for 973 yards and five touchdowns. Miller also saw solid work in the passing game too. In 14 games he saw 35 targets, with 25 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.
The other big key for Miller s the lack of competition in the backfield. The only running back with any real expectation is former third-round pick, D’Onta Foreman. Even then Foreman has no real track record, with just 85 total carries in his career. Behind Foreman is a lot of questions marks, that may provide answers, but they are long shots. The lack of depth in this backfield does two things. On one hand, it means that Miller should have a safe floor. The Texans are unlikely to dispense with him altogether at this stage, and realistically he may only have to play second fiddle to Foreman.
What does that mean for 2019? Well, on one hand, there is a realistic chance that Miller will be the number one back for the Texans. The top back in Bill O’Brien’s offense has averaged 223 carries and 34 carries in his time as a coach. That is a pretty nice starting point in touches for the 73rd overall pick. In terms of production on a per-play basis, Miller returned his third highest numbers in yards per attempt of his career. That was before the Texans went out and strengthened their offensive line in the draft and free agency. With an improved offensive line in front of him, Miller has a real chance to top last years numbers and provide real value on his current ADP.
As soon as I started looking at ADP these two players jumped out to me. Often playoff success can lead to a massive increase in value for a player for the following year. That has never been more clear than in the ADP for Sony Michel this season. A middling running back all season, in a crowded backfield, does not make for a sensible pick at selection 33. Michel’s talent certainly makes him interesting but there is a lot of risks. He would be much better suited at the ADP of Lamar Miller.
It would be perfect symmetry if I was to say Miller should be the 33rd overall pick. However, I would be lying to say that. Miller is certainly undervalued as the 31st overall running back on the board. Above him in ADP are arguably more talented players but a lot of them offer question marks and uncertainty. Miller is at least undervalued by five spots among running backs and perhaps as many as 10. He has a real chance to return value in the late-40, early-50 region of the board. That makes him well worth a gamble in the 60th pick region, still leaving enough room for him to outperform his ADP, but also means you have not invested too much in him, in case Foreman does steal this role.