Early Overvalued/Undervalued Players for 2018 (Fantasy Football)
Welcome to the first offseason edition of “Overvalued/Undervalued.” This one is for the real addicts who already have next year’s fantasy football season on the brain. Instead of looking at weekly expert consensus rankings, here we’ll be looking at the early average draft positions for 2018 fantasy football drafts.
Accordingly, instead of using ECR data from FantasyPros, we’ll be using Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP rankings. The only other difference from our in-season version of these articles is that they’ll be released monthly rather than weekly, due to the pace of new information in the offseason. Otherwise, the format should appear familiar.
Note that we’ll be using PPR scoring and rounding overall ADP to the 10th decimal place, even though actual draft positions obviously can’t be in fractions. With that, let’s jump right in.
Overvalued: Jimmy Garoppolo (SF): ADP – QB13 / 94.4 Overall
Most leagues don’t reward fantasy points for wins. So as impressive as it was for Jimmy Garoppolo to go undefeated with a bottom-dwelling team like the 49ers, it means nothing for his fantasy prospects. As a starter, Jimmy G threw six touchdowns and five interceptions.
On the other hand, he threw for over 300 yards per game, which is nothing to sneeze at. He’s certainly worthy of a spot on all draft boards, but to suggest that he’s already worth drafting as a borderline starter seems presumptuous.
San Francisco’s football team might be headed in the right direction, but right now the 49ers are still one of the least talented teams in the league. They might have the most available cap space in the league, but between all of the holes they have to fill and their quarterback’s big new contract, whether or not the team adds some much needed receiving depth is still up in the air. As that WR corps currently stands, Garoppolo isn’t getting much help.
He did build a connection with Marquise Goodwin, but outside of him he only has the return of 31-year-0ld Pierre Garcon to look forward to. Carlos Hyde is now a free agent as well, and his departure would make San Fran’s offense that much more one-dimensional.
With a full offseason of starter-level preparation, Garoppolo could very well end up being a top-10 fantasy QB in 2018. But it will also be the first offseason where opposing teams will have a sizable body of work with which to gameplan against him. The team has too many moves that still need to be made before it’s time to consider drafting Garoppolo this early.
Undervalued: Matthew Stafford (DET): ADP – QB 17 / 121.0 Overall
Matthew Stafford threw for 4,446 yards in 2017, which is the most he’s thrown for since 2013, which was the end of Calvin Johnson as we knew him. More impressive, his 2017 season saw him set career highs in passer rating (99.3) and yards per attempt (7.87). He ended 2017 as QB7, so why does his ADP have him 10 (QB) spots behind that?
One of the biggest factors behind Stafford’s numbers (besides his improved play) was the team’s running game, or lack thereof. As it stands, there’s no reason to expect any improvement. Ameer Abdullah’s future with the team is clouded, and the Lions could save over a million dollars by cutting or trading him in the final year of his rookie deal.
Theo Riddick is basically a receiver out of the backfield, which leaves Tion Green as the only glimmer of hope currently on this roster. Green will have to bolster his 3.9 yards per carry from 2017 if he’s going to make a meaningful impact.
Normally, this much of an inability to run the ball would be a problem for a quarterback, because even though he ends up throwing more, the playcalling becomes predictable enough to balance out the volume. But Stafford is just that good right now, and if it didn’t stop him last year, then there’s no reason to think it will stop him at any point in the near future.
Overvalued: DeMarco Murray (TEN): ADP – RB21 / 52.2 Overall
DeMarco Murray might have two years left on his deal, but the Titans have a contractual out that allows them to cut ties with the aging back for no dead cap money. Tennessee retaining Murray might be the worst possible outcome as far as his fantasy value is concerned; it’s clear that the starting job is Derrick Henry’s to lose. In 2017, Murray ran for fewer yards than he did during his disastrous stint with Chip Kelly’s Eagles.
He’ll be 30 next season, which is the usual point of decline for modern NFL running backs. And it’s not as though Murray has been anything but a workhorse: he’s ranked eighth in total carries among active running backs. Unless he lucks into a perfect situation with just the right team, Murray should probably be treated as a late-round flier, but at the moment, he’s being taken as a borderline RB2.
Undervalued: Dion Lewis (NE): ADP – RB45 / 113.6 Overall
Like DeMarco Murray, Dion Lewis could end up with another team in 2018. But despite his expiring contract, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Patriots find a way to keep him. Bill Belichick has a habit of cheaping out at the position, but Lewis has been the exception in the past.
The team signed Lewis to a three-year extension just a few games into his tenure as a Patriot, while he was still on a one year deal. Lewis, who was having an exciting season, wisely accepted the long-term guarantee immediately rather than gambling on himself to make a strong finish to the season and test free agency afterward. As we all know now, he ended up tearing his ACL shortly after that.
Since returning from that ACL injury, Lewis’ role has slowly been growing, the point now where he’s one of the most important players on the team. He’s the undisputed featured back, with James White coming in occasionally in passing situations.
Mike Gillislee, who looked to be the team’s top option going into the season, has been a healthy scratch for months now. Rex Burkhead, meanwhile, has struggled mightily to stay on the field with a bevy of health issues.
In short, Lewis has been sturdier than Burkhead and better than Gillislee. Burkhead’s contract expires at the end of 2017, and the Patriots have an out with Gillislee’s deal allowing them to dump him for no dead money. Throw in Lewis’ value as a kick returner, and he seems like an obvious target for the Patriots to pursue.
But if some team does manage to pry him away, it will likely be with every intention to work him hard enough such that he retains value similar to what he’s had over the second half of 2017. And because we’ve gone this whole time without mentioning it, remember that Lewis finished as RB13 last season despite not being featured until Week 5.
Overvalued: Kelvin Benjamin (BUF): ADP – WR23 / 47.8 Overall
Buffalo just finished with the second-most rushing attempts by a team for the third straight year. None of their coaching changes over that period have had enough influence to develop any passing game. The reason, of course, is simple: they haven’t had a quarterback who could throw reliably.
That was made painfully evident this year as former Bills wideouts like Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin flourished as soon as they joined other teams. Tyrod Taylor probably isn’t coming back, but that’s only half of the problem. Now they need to find a replacement passer who can get the job done.
This means that the best case scenario for Kelvin Benjamin would be to work with a rookie quarterback next season. But Buffalo lucked into a playoff spot, meaning that without trading up in this upcoming draft, they’ll have to wait for a quarterback until the 21st pick at the earliest, by which point the best prospects could already be gone.
Benjamin was nothing special during his time in Buffalo in 2017. In fact, he was pretty bad. A lot would need to go right in this offseason for Benjamin to be worthy of his current ADP, and even if everything does fall into place, his current ranking is still too high.
Undervalued: Allen Robinson (JAC): ADP – WR26 / 53.9 Overall
Allen Robinson has already reached the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and his rookie contract is only just now expiring. He burned fantasy players who drafted him in 2016 as he was coming off of a monstrous 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown 2015 campaign and ended up halving those numbers. He tore his ACL just three snaps into the first game of the 2017 season.
Wherever he ends up, Robinson will almost surely be the top receiving option. At the moment, the Jaguars seem like the favorites to keep him, which is the most convenient for this analysis, since it takes out a lot of guesswork (though not all of it). If we assume that Blake Bortles remains the team’s quarterback, then we can hang our hats on the fact that 2017 was arguably his best season as a pro.
None of the numbers jump out in comparison to his past seasons, but this has been the first year where he hasn’t been the beneficiary of large amounts of garbage time with which to pad his stats. For being the quarterback of a run-first, defensive-minded team, Blake Bortles did much better than expected and should be able to keep Robinson involved.
But Bortles isn’t guaranteed the job. Adam Schefter recently suggested that the Jags will pursue Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith should either become available in the offseason. Smith and Cousins were second and 10th in yards per attempt, respectively, in 2017, compared to Bortles’ placement of 17th.
Robinson would benefit significantly from a quarterback who can throw downfield with accuracy, meaning either of these two would be huge for the returning receiver’s fantasy prospects next season. As of now, Robinson deserves to be treated as a WR2 with WR1 upside but is being drafted as a low-end WR3.
Overvalued: Jordan Reed (WAS): ADP – TE5 / 60.8 Overall
Jordan Reed is made of glass. This has been common knowledge for some time, but it’s further cemented as each season goes by and Reed continually fails to stay on the field. In his five seasons, Reed has never played in every game, and this past season he participated in only six, which is a career low.
His ailments aren’t of the Keenan Allen variety, where he’s being hit by an unfortunate streak of one-off ailments. They’re lingering knee, toe, and hamstring issues that don’t just go away. That’s not to say that he can’t somehow shake it all off (see: Alshon Jeffery), but the odds seem stacked against him.
And as strange as it is to think that Kirk Cousins might not be the Redskins’ quarterback next year, the organization has found ways to botch negotiations each of the previous two offseasons, so it isn’t so crazy to imagine that they could mess it up again. Losing Cousins would certainly hinder Reed’s ability, regardless of availability. If Jordan Reed is the best tight end available on the draft board, then suffice to say you’ve missed out an grabbing an elite tight end, because the window closes with him.
Undervalued: Cameron Brate (TB): ADP – TE19 / 149.4 Overall
Cameron Brate will be a restricted free agent this offseason, and I’d be incredibly surprised if the Buccaneers let him walk. The key to Tampa Bay’s success going forward will be the development of Jameis Winston, and his team can keep his favorite red zone target for an affordable price.
Brate’s value is at its highest with the Bucs, who probably aren’t ready to leave all of their pass-catching duties to O.J. Howard. In short, it will take another team to overpay for Brate to end up anywhere else, and if a team is willing to go that far to get him, then one would imagine he’d be used enough compensate for the loss of the Winston connection.
Brate finished 2017 as TE10, which is more impressive once you consider that he had to play several games with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. If he can end the year in starter territory despite the team as a whole dealing with a down year, then it would stand to reason that TE10 should be his floor in 2018 barring disaster.