The 2017 All Undrafted Team (Fantasy Football)
Sleepers are fun, but I’ve decided to throw a small wrinkle into what is essentially a sleeper/lottery ticket piece. The following players are mostly going undrafted, at least according to their consensus ADP. The standard league rules are a little different across the major fantasy football providers, but after looking at all of the standard league settings, the team below will consist of one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end. I’m a believer in streaming kickers and defenses by matchup, so they won’t be featured below — sorry lovers of kickers and defenses. In order to make the team below, the player had to have an overall ADP of 150 or later. I did make an exception at quarterback, though. Also, standard scoring across the major fantasy football providers does not include any points or partial points per reception, so the following picks were made with that in mind.
Carson Palmer (ARI) – Overall: 149, QB20
David Johnson’s emergence in his rookie 2016 season has resulted in him being the focal point of the offense these days, but let’s not lose sight of the fact Palmer is only one season removed from torching defenses for 4,671 yards passing and 35 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. That outstanding work in 2015 helped him lead quarterbacks in DYAR (1,698), DVOA (34.4%), and QBR (82.2), per Football Outsiders. The veteran’s play slipped significantly last year with him falling to 21st in DYAR (137), 23rd in DVOA (-7.8%), and 18th in QBR (18). If you combine the good with the mediocre, though, Palmer ranks fifth in passing yards (8,904) and tied for fifth in touchdown passes (61), per Pro-Football-Reference. During that same two-year stretch, among quarterbacks who attempted a minimum of 450 passes (thus, including Dak Prescott), Palmer ranks eighth in yards gained per pass attempt (7.85 Y/A) and tied for sixth in adjusted yards gained per pass attempt (7.94 AY/A). Palmer’s ADP basically treats him like the player he was last year without accounting for the excellence he displayed in 2015.
Marlon Mack (IND) – Overall: 163, RB54
Frank Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards last year after falling just short with 967 in 2015, but for the second year in a row, he fell short of four yards per attempt with 3.9 Y/A. He’s a veteran of 10 seasons and 180 games played. At 34 years old, a cliff season can’t be completely ruled out. The Colts have helped protect themselves against Gore’s play slipping while providing the backfield a more explosive complementary back even if Gore continues to chug along as a moderately productive grinder. Indianapolis spent a fourth-round pick on Mack, and he’s a home-run hitter — though, his infatuation with attempting to pop the big run too frequently has been referenced as a weakness in multiple scouting reports. In three seasons at South Florida, Mack bested 1,000 yards rushing each year and totaled 3,609 yards at a hearty 6.2 yards per attempt with 32 rushing touchdowns overall. He improved as a receiver and set new single-season highs in his final year of college ball with 28 receptions for 227 yards (8.1 yards per reception). The rookie has had issues with ball security with 12 fumbles, and he’ll need to avoid putting the ball on the ground or he runs the risk of ending up in head coach Chuck Pagano’s doghouse.
Mack is a long way from the doghouse currently, however, earning praise from his head coach. He’ll continue to stay in his coach’s good graces if he can help keep franchise quarterback Andrew Luck upright, and he should be an asset as a pass protector. Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus recently pointed out Mack’s strong pass protection grades. Gayle also noted Mack’s skills with the ball in his hands in the linked piece. He’s a steal at his ADP, but I suspect the cost of drafting him will increase if Pagano continues to hype him.
Rex Burkhead (NE) – Overall: 171, RB60
I first sung Burkhead’s praises here, and then I did so again here, and finally, I did so again as an undervalued player in DRAFT leagues here. I’m a big fan of Burkhead’s versatility, and being tied to a high-octane offense like New England’s creates a high ceiling for him if he carves out a significant role in the backfield. Well, get ready for his cost to rise significantly with news that he’s the leader in the clubhouse for the lead role in the backfield, per this piece from Rich Garven of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Mike Gillislee should be considered the favorite to handle goal-line and short-yardage work, and James White and Dion Lewis will receive touches, too, but Burkhead should finally get more love from gamers.
Josh Doctson (WAS) – Overall: 158, WR57
I previously discussed Doctson as a late-round target for DRAFT leagues here. Since then, Matt Okada has provided an even deeper dive into Doctson, and I have nothing to add to his excellent piece which you can read here.
Ted Ginn (NO) – Overall: 172, WR58
The Saints dealt Brandin Cooks to the Patriots prior to the NFL Draft this year, and that leaves a lot of production to be replaced in one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL. Last year, Cooks was targeted 117 times and caught 78 passes for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns. Ginn’s not going to duplicate those numbers, and Michael Thomas and Willie Snead are ahead of him in the pecking order for targets. Having said that, Ginn is a home-run hitter, and he’ll help fill the long-ball void created by the Cooks trade. He’s a volatile option, but pair his speed with Drew Brees, and he makes for a high-ceiling option to plug in during bye weeks or during home games — where Brees has played much, much better than on the road.
Paul Richardson (SEA) – Overall: 277, WR88
I gushed about Richardson recently, and he’s received some favorable news since then. Tyler Lockett is expected to be the No. 2 receiver when he’s healthy enough to return, but in his absence, Richardson has started with Doug Baldwin in the base, two-receiver set, according to Bob Condotta of Seattle Times. Russell Wilson’s passing attempts have increased every year in the NFL, and I’m bearish on the running game’s outlook for the Seahawks. There could be room for fantasy relevance in the passing game beyond Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham.
Austin Hooper (ATL) – Overall: 175, TE18
Hooper makes for another overlapping player from the Late-Round Targets for DRAFT Best Ball Leagues (Fantasy Football) piece. He’s being undervalued in standard leagues, too. The offseason praise for Hooper continues, and I’m intrigued by his potential in an explosive offense. Furthermore, as I noted in the DRAFT piece, Matt Ryan has demonstrated a willingness to air it out to his tight ends in the past. Adding to that, in Tony Gonzalez’s final three seasons in the NFL as a member of the Falcons and sharing looks with Julio Jones, Gonzalez averaged 5.33 receptions per game and 55.5 yards receiving per game, according to Pro-Football-Reference. He also ranked fourth among tight ends in that three-year stretch (2011-2013) with 23 touchdown grabs. Hooper isn’t Gonzalez, but the offense and Matty Ice could help him make the leap to fantasy starter at tight end this season.