10 Undervalued Players by Draft Round (Fantasy Football)
Last week, we took a tour through the first 10 rounds of fantasy drafts to find overvalued players worth avoiding. But of course, having erased all those guys off your draft boards, you’re going to need some hot commodities to replace them.
With that in mind, let’s dive back into the FantasyPros Consensus ADP in search of an equal serving of undervalued players. With their discounted price, these guys may have the upside to win you weeks or even championships.
A.J. Green (WR5, 11th overall)
Obviously, it’s tough to find an undervalued player in the first round considering there’s not much higher to go. But with Green, there’s actually a legitimate case to be made.
Want to see a list of receivers with more fantasy points than Green over the first half of 2016? Julio Jones … the end. Green was a top-end WR1 last year before going down with a hamstring injury in Week 11. Now, he’s fully healthy and an elite talent in an explosive offense. For a superstar target-magnet like Green, the additions of talented rookies Joe Mixon and John Ross are not a threat to fantasy production. If anything, they’ll command additional defensive attention and give Green more room to work.
While it’s tough to rank Green higher than Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., he could certainly challenge Julio Jones and Mike Evans as the next best fantasy wideout and is worth considering over any running back not named Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson.
Dez Bryant (WR8, 18th overall)
Bryant is one of the more polarizing players in fantasy (and in the NFL, for that matter). A large contingent of drafters fear his nagging injury issues and run-first team philosophy. I prefer to take my Dez glass half full. First, he’s a dominant force in the end zone. The only player with more receiving touchdowns since 2010 is Rob Gronkowski. Bryant has scored at a career rate of 0.69 TDs per game – better than Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, and Calvin Johnson.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Cowboys’ situation is trending Bryant’s direction. A defense severely depleted by free agency will prevent Dallas from constantly running out positive game scripts as they did in 2016. For six weeks, the Zeke suspension should push more balls Bryant’s way, as the most talented player left on the field. And Dak Prescott‘s improving rapport with his lead receiver will only continue to increase production. In Dak’s last eight games, including the divisional round playoff game, Bryant had 43 receptions for 646 yards and eight touchdowns. The potential reward with Bryant is well worth the risk and an early second-round pick.
Isaiah Crowell (RB14, 30th overall)
Crowell went undrafted in 2014 and was then signed by the offensively anemic Cleveland Browns. He also finished as the No. 14 RB last year and is being drafted at exactly that spot in 2017. So how is he an “undervalued” pick?
Because everything is trending up for The Crow. Offensive line? Check. The Browns added Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter in free agency, earning their improved O-Line Pro Football Focus’s second best grade for 2017. Opportunity? Check. The Browns tied for the least rushing attempts in 2016 (350), but coach Hue Jackson regrets it. “Gotta run the ball more,” Jackson said in an interview this offseason. “I beat myself up about that. I’m a coach that likes to run the ball.” Game script? Half-check. If DeShone Kizer can win the job early in the year, it should have a positive effect on Crowell, as mobile quarterbacks commonly do. If it’s Brock Osweiler … well, let’s just hope it’s not.
Crowell averaged 4.8 yards on 198 attempts last year and had eight rushes of 20 yards or more (fifth most in the league). He also posted 319 receiving yards on 40 catches. If his touch total rises closer to 300 – which it should – you could get a solid RB1 in the middle of the third round.
Keenan Allen (WR19, 42nd overall)
Allen is another player whose fantasy stock has plummeted due to injury. Not surprising, since he’s only played nine games since 2014. Here’s the thing: Allen missed half of 2015 with a lacerated kidney and all of 2016 with a torn ACL. In other words, these are not the types of soft-tissue or lingering foot issues we see hounding truly injury-prone players. This is why SportsInjuryPredictor.com projects Allen at only 0.9 games missed for 2017.
As for Allen’s production when healthy, look out. His catches per game have steadily increased year over year and in his eight games in 2015, Allen averaged 8.4 catches, 90.6 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns per game. Projected over a full season, those numbers would’ve made him the No. 5 WR in non-PPR last year – and the No. 1 in PPR.
Even limited to 14 or 15 games – if he can continue to produce at that level – Allen would return incredible value on the 42nd overall fantasy draft pick. In the words of the wise Mr. Miyagi, “It’s okay lose to opponent! Must not lose to fear!”
Jimmy Graham (TE5, 55th overall)
Remember the days when Graham was up there with Rob Gronkowski in a tight end tier stratosphere above the competition? Those days may return this season. Graham had a down year in 2015 upon joining the Seattle Seahawks before suffering a patellar tendon tear. While he made it back onto the field incredibly rapidly last year, he was never 100%, according to coach Pete Carroll, and underwent constant rehab throughout the season. It showed in his reliability, as Graham finished with the worst drop rate of any TE with 85+ targets and caught only 35.3% of his red zone targets.
Still, Graham posted 923 yards and six touchdowns en route to a finish as the No. 4 TE in fantasy. According to ESPN, Graham says he feels “100 times better” this year. If he’s even marginally better, we may see something close to the New Orleans edition of Graham in 2017. And that’s well worth his current ADP.
Andrew Luck (QB6, 62nd overall)
This one may come as a shock, considering all the negative buzz surrounding Luck’s slow recovery from shoulder surgery. Reports are that he may not even be ready to start Week 1 for the Colts. Additionally, his center and a key piece of his offensive line, Ryan Kelley, will be missing the first few weeks of the season following a foot surgery.
Simply put, it doesn’t matter. There is so much depth at the quarterback position in fantasy, streaming a few games in lieu of Luck is an absolute breeze. Carson Palmer, for example, opens the season against the Lions, Colts, Cowboys, and 49ers. He could easily net QB1 numbers every one of those weeks. And when Luck does come back, you have one of the best in fantasy for the rest of the year.
When fully healthy, Luck belongs with Rodgers and Brady at the very top of the QB rankings. He will likely fall further in ADP over the next week or two, making him an even greater value in the seventh or eighth rounds. Be the owner brave enough to pounce early and grab a worthy fill-in at the back end of your draft.
Marcus Mariota (QB10, 80th overall)
In 2015, Mariota was the second-overall pick in the NFL Draft, played 12 games, and posted the 18th best fantasy points per game total among starters. In his sophomore season, he played 15 games and finished 12th-best. This offseason, his receiving weaponry improved dramatically, and he has another year of experience under his belt. Seeing a trend here?
All of Mariota’s key targets are still in town – namely, Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker, and Demarco Murray. On top of that, Tennessee added fifth-overall draft choice Corey Davis, third-rounder Taywan Taylor, and touchdown-hawk Eric Decker. While retaining one of the best run games in the league, the Titans are also investing heavily in Mariota as their franchise star. It’s hard to find an offense on more of a meteoric rise to greatness, and Mariota’s spot at the helm puts him in a stellar position for fantasy production.
Don’t be surprised to see Mariota put up 4,000 yards through the air, 400 on the ground, and in the neighborhood of 35 total touchdowns on his way to a near-elite fantasy QB season.
Danny Woodhead (RB33, 86th overall)
The Ravens have lost 390 of their 2016 targets (and counting) to free agency, retirement, and season-ending injury. While they brought in Jeremy Maclin to soak up as many of those as possible, there is still a massive opportunity for receptions in this offense.
Fortunately, they also signed pass-catcher extraordinaire, Danny Woodhead. Woodhead is one of the best in the game at racking up receptions out of the backfield, something Joe Flacco has been especially fond of in recent years. He’s also a surprisingly decent runner (4.3 yards per attempt) on a depth chart currently led by Terrance West.
In his last two full seasons, Woodhead has been a top-20 running back in both PPR and non-PPR formats. If he stays healthy in 2017 – given the opportunity in Baltimore – he has an RB2 floor and an RB1 ceiling.
Jonathan Stewart (RB38, 97th overall)
In my 32-team bold predictions article last month, I laid out the reasons Stewart is massively undervalued amidst all the Christian McCaffrey hype. For those in need of a refresher:
Ron Rivera plans to reduce Cam’s opportunity for injury, which means less usage as a short-yardage and goal-line runner. Stewart has never been a pass-catching threat, so the addition of McCaffrey doesn’t affect him much there. And while McCaffrey is certainly explosive and exciting, I’m not buying his potential as a between-the-tackles, first-and-second down bell-cow back. That’s Stewart’s forte.
While he probably doesn’t have RB1 upside, Stewart will get a healthy workload and plenty of touchdown opportunities. Pegging him as the 38th running back is a fool’s errand, and you can capitalize on your leaguemates’ foolishness by snagging a consistent back all the way into the ninth round.
Eric Ebron (TE13, 130th overall)
Clearly, the fantasy community is tired of waiting for Ebron’s supposed breakout season. After coming in as a 21-year-old rookie in 2014, Ebron’s season highs are 711 yards (in 13 games in 2016) and five touchdowns (in 14 games in 2015). Amusingly, his value is all captured in that very sentence.
Tight ends are notoriously slow to develop in the NFL. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Greg Olsen, and Jimmy Graham had their breakout years at ages 23, 24, 24, and 25 respectively. Ebron is now 24 years old. Moreover, Ebron has put up solid per game stats but has just been unlucky in combining yards, scores, and health. Stat Ebron out over 16 games with his 2016 yards per game and his 2015 TDs per game and he’d push 875 yards and six touchdowns, good for the No. 5 TE in fantasy last year.
Obviously, this exercise is speculative. But if Ebron does put it all together – on a Lions offense in need of a big-bodied end zone threat – he has top-five upside and is being drafted as a backup.