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Fantasy Stock Watch: Royce Freeman and Sterling Shepard Set to Impress

“Rising” and “falling” does not necessarily mean “good” or “bad” in fantasy. If a player’s average draft position is rising, his value is assumed to have dropped. Conversely, if a player is falling in terms of draft price, then he can be considered a value if his production is projected to out-perform his draft-price.

Here are this week’s risers and fallers. All ADPs are based on PPR scoring leagues per

Rising: Royce Freeman
Current ADP: 8.04
Projected ADP: 4.08-5.03

Royce Freeman had a productive career at Oregon and was the featured back in the fast-paced, high-scoring offense. Freeman played for four years as a Duck on an offense that ran out of the shotgun predominantly. The Broncos ran out of the shotgun 63 percent of the time in 2017, which might be a big reason why John Elway used a third-round pick on Freeman. Freeman is 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds and ran a 4.54 40-yard at the combine, which makes him a bruiser in the trenches with the ability to turn on the burners and take it to the house. The 22-year-old Freeman can catch the ball out of the backfield as well, which makes him capable of being a three-down back in Denver.

Devontae Booker has not earned the starting running back role for the Broncos in his two-year career, having averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 2016 and 3.8 YPC last season. He is labeled as the starter now, but by August he may lose his job as the Broncos look to bolster their offense in 2018 with new quarterback Case Keenum. If Booker does get his chance to start in Week 1, Freeman should earn the majority of the workload by mid-season. The Broncos did not draft him in the third round to sit on the sidelines. If Freeman is labeled as the starter, his ADP will jump up significantly. However, if Booker is still number one on the depth chart during draft season, Freeman will have great value in redraft leagues.

Rising: Mike Williams
Current ADP: 13.03
Projected ADP: 11.06-12.03

It was unclear how the Chargers planned to use the 2017 first-round draft pick in their offense, but the unfortunate season-ending injury to Hunter Henry may have carved out a role for the former Clemson Tiger. The Chargers have a plethora of options on offense, and Mike may not even be the best Williams on his team as Tyrell Williams is a former 1,000-yard receiver.

However, the loss of Henry and future hall of famer Antonio Gates left 23 red zone targets to be distributed amongst all of Phil Rivers’ weapons. With no proven red zone threat at the tight end on the current roster, the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Williams will have touchdown upside in fantasy football. Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon are both threats at the goal line but do not provide a tall frame for Rivers, who has always had a big target to throw touchdowns to within the 10-yard line. Williams saw limited action last season as he was recovering from a knee injury, so this will be his first healthy season in the NFL. The Chargers will be anxious to get the player they drafted with the number seven overall pick involved in the offense. Six to eight touchdowns are in the realm of possibility for Williams in this Chargers offense, which will give him WR2 upside in 2018.

Falling: Sterling Shepard
Current ADP: 10.07
Projected ADP: 11.02-11.08

In his rookie year, Shepard was able to exceed 100 targets even while playing opposite Odell Beckham Jr. He caught 65 balls and had 683 yards and eight touchdowns and was highly sought after going into 2017 in fantasy. The Giants had a forgetful season and those same adept fantasy gamers who were once on the Shepard hype train jumped off. In only 11 games last season he outproduced his first year with 731 yards. He did not see as many targets in the red zone because of the aforementioned Giants terrible 2017 campaign, so his fantasy impact was quite limited.

Shepard is the clear number two receiver for the first time in his career and will make noise in what looks to be an improved Giants offense. The addition of left tackle Nate Solder is going to be a big difference maker for Eli Manning in the pocket and they drafted a generational talent in Saquon Barkley at the running back. Shepard will drop in drafts and has the ability to score touchdowns because of his sharp route running in an offense that has multiple playmakers. Consider Shepard a mid-tier WR2 as his target share should return back to over 100 in 2018.

Falling: Giovani Bernard
Current ADP: 12.04
Projected ADP: 12.09-13.02

Bernard is a career RB2 in Fantasy football. He started his career as the RB13, RB16, and RB17 in PPR leagues in his first three seasons. In 2016 he only played 10 games and last season he was the RB28 as the backup for Joe Mixon. Jeremy Hill is gone, and even though he was virtually nonexistent, it does make the running back landscape a bit more clear for 2018. Bernard will have his usual role in the passing game. He saw 60 targets last season and that number should increase. The Bengals offense was not impressive in 2017 and it would benefit them to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers.

Mixon is the clear-cut starter on this offense, but there is still a chance that he does not pan out as a competent running back for the Bengals. The offensive line allowed a lot of broken plays last season and defenders got to Mixon quickly. Mixon is a patient runner who is best in opportunities in which he can burst into an opening and churn out positive yardage, but the Bengals line could not consistently provide the blocking that the first-year player needed. Mixon averaged only 3.5 YPC on 178 attempts while Bernard averaged 4.4 on 105 carries.

Bernard should see more touches overall in 2018 and his passing role is already carved out, so he has stand-alone value but he is also one of the best handcuffs to own in fantasy. Grab Bernard late in drafts and feel good about having an RB2 who can grab 40 to 50 passes but would be an asset with RB1 upside in the event that Mixon cannot succeed in this offense.

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