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13 Early Undervalued Players (Fantasy Football)

Feb 16, 2017

Sterling Shepard (WR)

Sterling Shepard will enter 2017 without Victor Cruz stealing targets

While the season ended weeks ago, our consensus draft rankings began taking shape immediately afterward. Why stop thinking about fantasy football when there is every reason to start looking forward to the next season? Think about it. The NFL Combine is just over a week away, free agency kicks off in under a month, the NFL Draft will be here before we know it, and like that, summer will be here and things will start to heat up.

Until then, we can have some fun by taking an early look at the rankings and getting some thoughts from our featured experts on who they feel are undervalued at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions.

Q1. What WR is the most undervalued in our early consensus rankings and why?

Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG): WR42
“Rishard Matthews and Sterling Shepard both have similar gaps from where they should be ranked (WR20 and WR29, respectively). I already talked about Mariota, and Matthews will continue his growth with Mariota, so let’s talk about Shepard. Or, let’s just focus on the fact that this ranking is six spots lower than where Shepard ranked as a rookie with Victor Cruz still in the mix (relatively). Shepard caught eight touchdowns as a rookie, despite his being anything but a typical red zone threat. Shepard will eat up the middle of the field, is great at separating and is dangerous after the catch. His second year is going to be great.”
Jake Ciely (RotoExperts)

Terrelle Pryor (WR – CLE): WR29
“I’m as limber as a fencepost, but if I’m able to get Terrelle Pryor at WR29 in any of my drafts, I’ll turn cartwheels across the room and finish with a flip that’ll make Simone Biles jealous. We’re talking about a 6-foot-4 receiver with sub-4.4 speed who just had 77 catches for 1,007 yards in his first full season playing the position, and there are people who don’t put him in the top 25? Pardon my indignation, but the WR29 ranking is ludicrous. I’m willing to pay a much higher price to find out what Pryor can do for an encore.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

John Brown (WR – ARI): WR55
“Wide receiver is so deep, I purposely skipped down the list after No. 50 in order to find a value. John Brown should not be drafted outside of the top 50 wide receivers as we head into 2017, though I understand why he is. The sickle cell trait was a big issue, causing him to play around just 20 snaps per game the final two months of the season. In the four games he saw more than five targets (before the sickle cell issue), he totaled 26 receptions for 349 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals have come out and said it is now under control and that they look forward to having him back as a full-time player. In a contract year, you should too.”
Mike Tagliere (Pro Football Focus)

Robert Woods (WR – BUF): WR100
“Selected with the ninth pick in the second round of the 2013 draft, Robert Woods is a talented player capable of putting up strong numbers in the right system. Unfortunately, Wood’s numbers have been repressed thanks to a combination of an offense that emphasized the ground game, mediocre quarterback play, and nagging injuries. With Woods expected to leave Buffalo this offseason, expect his ADP to climb if he were to end up in a wide-receiver friendly system.”
Matthew Hill (DataForce Fantasy Football)

Doug Baldwin (WR – SEA): WR16
“While some people keep waiting for Doug Baldwin’s last two seasons to become outliers, I’ll keep viewing him as a WR1. His consensus ranking currently places him at WR16, but his status as WR7 and WR10 the last two seasons disagree, and so do I. Baldwin is easily Russell Wilson’s favorite target, and he still produced consistently with a healthy Jimmy Graham. Baldwin actually had 16 more catches last year than he did in 2015. There’s already value to be had with one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL, particularly in PPR formats.”
Zach Greubel (Gridiron Experts)

Q2. What RB is the most undervalued in our early consensus rankings and why?

Jordan Howard (RB – CHI): RB9
“Despite being in the Top 10, Jordan Howard is still underrated. He’s a Top 5 running back for 2017. Only six running backs with 200 carries (okay, 198 actually thanks to Isaiah Crowell falling two short of 200) averaged three-plus yards after contact, and Howard was one of them. Plus, ninth? Howard already finished ninth last year despite not being the Bears starter in four games.”
Jake Ciely (RotoExperts)

“There were several people who gave up on Jordan Howard too early in his inaugural season, including the author of these words. Nonetheless, Howard’s consensus ranking of RB9 isn’t something I’m going to lose my mind over, but he should be higher. He actually finished as RB9 last year, but he only started in 13 games. Despite losing three starts, he was second to Ezekiel Elliott in rushing yards (1,313) and totaled seven touchdowns. Howard, also a rookie, was largely taken for granted due to Elliott’s superior season, but the “other” good sophomore running back has top-five potential at the position.”
Zach Greubel (Gridiron Experts)

Isaiah Crowell (RB – CLE): RB23
“Isaiah Crowell, Tevin Coleman and C.J. Prosise are worthy ‘most undervalued’ candidates, but Crowell’s RB23 consensus ranking is particularly distasteful. All Crowell did last season was finish RB14 and average 4.8 yards per carry and nearly 0.7 fantasy points per touch for a 1-15 team that had a popgun passing attack — and he did it at age 23. As a restricted free agent, Crowell will get either an extension or a tender offer from the Browns. The poor outlook for Cleveland is obviously baked into Crowell’s ranking, but the Browns should be more competitive in 2017, and head coach Hue Jackson is a proven RB whisperer. It’s also highly encouraging that Crowell had 40 catches last year after contributing almost nothing to the passing game in his first two seasons.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

Kenneth Dixon (RB – BAL): RB26
“Dixon is my choice here. Go big or go home, right? He’s currently surrounded by guys like Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore, Bilal Powell, and Jonathan Stewart. Those are all aging running backs that are very likely to be in a timeshare, while Dixon is the youngest and best talent on the Ravens roster, and it’s not all that close. The coach speak has gotten everyone concerned, but I’m taking it as them lighting a fire under the youngster who showed big-play ability in year one. This team needs him even more than he needs them. He’s going to be really good.”
Mike Tagliere (Pro Football Focus)

Theo Riddick (RB – DET): RB39
“Riddick made a name for himself in 2015 after hauling in 80 receptions for 697 yards. He continued his strong play in 2016, catching 53 passes, with 728 yards of offense and finding the end zone six times before his season ended prematurely in Week 13. With his role secure, Riddick makes for a fine early-season target as he appears to be flying under the radar due to last season’s modest numbers resulting from his injury-shortened season.”
Matthew Hill (DataForce Fantasy Football)

Q3. What QB is the most undervalued in our early consensus rankings and why?

Andy Dalton (QB – CIN): QB20
“Proof of the bias against redheads in American society: Andy Dalton trails Eli Manning and Carson Wentz in the early consensus rankings. Dalton finished QB12 last season even though A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard all missed six or more games and the Cincinnati offensive line fell into a state of decay. With better protection and improved health for his key pass catchers, Dalton could easily regain the form he displayed in 2015, when he finished with the best YPA, passer rating and TD-INT ratio of his career. Mark Twain said that when redheads reach a certain social grade, their hair is auburn. The modestly priced Dalton has a reasonable chance to achieve auburn status this year.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

“Despite his top wide receiver, tight end, and receiving back each missing time, Andy Dalton still posted a career high in completions, passing for 4,206 yards. With the running game in flux and throwing to a talented group of pass-catchers, Dalton offers low-end QB1 upside at a QB2 price tag.”
Matthew Hill (DataForce Fantasy Football)

Marcus Mariota (QB – TEN): QB13
“Mariota is easily the most underrated quarterback, and it’s not even close. Let’s not forget that no QB scored more than Mariota did from Weeks 5-12, and only Tom Brady averaged more per game in that span. Mariota is an emerging star, and the Titans will address their receiver need this offseason to give Mariota a better collection of weapons. Top 5 potential is here.”
Jake Ciely (RotoExperts)

Dak Prescott (QB – DAL): QB9
“I’d say it’s Dak Prescott. There are a lot of people who are gun-shy when it comes to a player whose only done it once. What this kid did coming into the league on short notice as a rookie, playing for the Dallas Cowboys, is nothing short of amazing. Perhaps the most underrated part of his game is his legs. He didn’t need to use them much this year, but if needed, he could rush for 400/5. He plays behind the best O-line in football and his pass attempts will go up this year, with the guys they’re about to lose on defense in free agency. ”
Mike Tagliere (Pro Football Focus)

Philip Rivers (QB – SD): QB14
“Alas, it looks like another offseason in which Philip Rivers will be undervalued. The unorthodox gunslinger has a consensus ranking of QB14, but in the 11 seasons Rivers has been a starting quarterback, he has finished outside QB1 territory just twice. In fact, he has finished as a QB1 the last four seasons. Keep in mind that he has dealt with a slew of key injuries, including Keenan Allen the last two seasons and Danny Woodhead in 2014 and 2016. The one constant for the Chargers over the last decade-plus has been Rivers. Since taking over for Drew Brees in 2006, Rivers’ average finish is QB9. His average finish over the last four years is QB8, including QB6 last season. He may not be a “sexy pick,” but as long as he stays healthy, he’s basically a shoe-in for QB1 status once again. He’s the perfect solution for those who want to wait to draft a quarterback.”
Zach Greubel (Gridiron Experts)

Thanks to the experts for chiming in on the early rankings. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below to stay updated each time we have a new episode.

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