Undervalued Players in DRAFT Best Ball Leagues (Fantasy Football)
Undervalued is a straightforward term, and it’s not synonymous with sleeper — though, sleepers are essentially undervalued. The beauty of identifying undervalued players is that they’re not necessarily mid-round or late-round targets. In fact, two of the highlighted players below are being selected on average within the first 45 picks of DRAFT drafts. A third highlighted player is being selected within the top 80 picks. There are, however, some players who would also qualify as sleepers or late-round targets, too. Predictably, I expect the following players to be among my most rostered players on pre-NFL Draft selected DRAFT teams, and I’d strongly advise nabbing some shares of them on your rosters.
* The number listed next to players is their current ADP.
Patrick Mahomes (KC) – 135.9
Mahomes appeared in just one game in his rookie season for the Chiefs, and it was a Week 17 start against the Broncos. He failed to throw for a touchdown and tossed a pick, but he flashed plenty to get excited about passing for 284 yards at 8.1 yards per attempt, and he earned high praise for his arm strength and plenty more from Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. Mahomes’ arm strength was lauded entering the NFL Draft, and his No. 1 receiver, Tyreek Hill, and superstar tight end, Travis Kelce, give him a pair of downfield threats to utilize his arm talent with. Mahomes posted gaudy numbers in his three seasons at Texas Tech, and he also demonstrated the ability to run a bit with 456 yards rushing as a sophomore and 285 in his final season as a junior. Last season, the Chiefs ranked sixth in scoring offense (25.9 points per game), per Pro-Football-Reference. Mahomes will likely have some ups and downs in his first full season as a starter, but he’ll be the leader of what was a potent offense last year and retains their best skill-position players. Mahomes is the 22nd quarterback being selected on average in DRAFT leagues, but I would take him outright in front of Blake Bortles (ADP of 134.6) and Alex Smith (120.5), and I’d rather have him at his respective cost than other No. 2 QBs such as Dak Prescott (88.5), Andrew Luck (89.7), Derek Carr (107.4), and Jameis Winston (111.8).
Kenyan Drake (MIA) – 35
In the final five games of the 2017 regular season, Drake totaled at least 90 yards from scrimmage four times. In that five-game stretch, he averaged 18.2 carries, 88.8 yards rushing, 5.6 targets, 3.4 receptions, and 30 yards receiving per game while adding a pair of rushing scores. That sounds an awful lot like a workhorse, No. 1 RB, right? Drake is the 15th ranked back by DRAFT ADP, but I view him as a top-10 back. He’s a steal relative to Melvin Gordon (12.3), Dalvin Cook (15.8), and Christian McCaffrey (21.7), and I’d rather have him than the duo of Derrick Henry (27.2) and Jordan Howard (27.2) who are the two backs selected just before Miami’s top back.
Devontae Booker (DEN) – 148.9
I don’t necessarily love Booker, but Jeff Legwold recently stated in a piece at ESPN, “the team also seems intent on getting Devontae Booker into the No. 1 role.” He also notes that Denver could release last year’s starter, C.J. Anderson, without any “dead money” counting against the salary cap. Booker’s ho-hum numbers through two seasons that include a paltry 3.6 yards per carry don’t inspire a ton of confidence in him turning into a stud as a feature back, but he’s showcased solid receiving skills (2.1 receptions per game at 8.9 yards per reception). Furthermore, there’s almost no risk in taking Booker at his current cost as the 47th running back off the board, and tons of room for a positive return on investment.
Josh Gordon (CLE) – 42.4
Prior to returning to the Browns in a Week 13 loss on December 3, Gordon last appeared in a regular season game on December 21, 2014. Despite the lengthy layoff, Gordon reasserted himself as a dominant wide receiver and ranked 13th among wideouts in receiving yards per game (67.0). It’s scary to think about what he’s capable of doing in 2018 with a full offseason of preparation. Gordon’s also proven to be QB-proof by posting monster numbers with an embarrassingly bad collection of quarterbacks that includes Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, and DeShone Kizer. The Browns will be looking to improve their quarterback situation for 2018, and landing Kirk Cousins would be a boon for Gordon’s ceiling, though, any upgrade at the position would be helpful for Gordon’s 2018 outlook. I’d gladly scoop Gordon a dozen picks before his ADP.
Will Fuller (HOU) – 78.2
DeAndre Hopkins is an otherworldly stud No. 1 receiver for the Texans, and Nuk’s presence, as well as DeShaun Watson’s mobility, open things up for big plays from Fuller. The 2016 first-round pick played in four games with Watson, and he reeled in seven touchdown grabs. The touchdown pace is obviously unsustainable, but Fuller also posted averages of 5.5 targets, 3.25 receptions, and 69.75 receiving yards per game in that four-game stretch. Football Outsiders (FO) ranked Fuller 35th out of 86 receivers targeted at least 50 times in DYAR, and he ranked an even more impressive 12th in DVOA. The Texans scored 33 or more points in Watson’s last five games played before he tore his ACL in practice, and Houston’s high-scoring offense is one gamers will want to pluck pieces from. Fuller’s the bargain option of Houston’s key offensive cogs as the 33rd wide receiver off the board in DRAFT leagues. He looks more like a top-25 receiver than one who falls outside the top 30.
Pierre Garcon (SF) – 116.9
Marquise Goodwin was Jimmy Garoppolo’s go-to guy after being inserted as San Francisco’s starting quarterback, and the DRAFT community has flocked to the speedy wideout popping him as the 24th receiver off the board. Garcon’s season came to an end before playing with the club’s new franchise quarterback. Garoppolo was acquired on October 30, and Garcon was placed on season-ending IR on November 4. In eight games played with the thoroughly below-average combo of Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard, Garcon still managed to rank 20th among receivers in receiving yards per game (62.5) and averaged five receptions per contest. He played in just 48% of San Francisco’s offensive snaps in his final game played in Week 8, and if you dismiss that injury-abbreviated contest, Garcon averaged an even more impressive 5.43 receptions and 69.71 receiving yards per game last year.
He projects to reclaim a starting role in 2018, and he’ll be rejoining a more potent offense that scored 25 points or more in each of Jimmy GQ’s last four starts and averaged 27.6 points per game in his five total starts. Garcon has also previously proven to thrive in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s complex offense. When Shanahan was Garcon’s offensive coordinator with the Redskins in 2013, Garcon set personal bests in targets (181), receptions (113), receiving yards (1,346), receptions per game (7.1), and receiving yards per game (84.1). Garcon will be five years older than he was when he set personal bests in Shanahan’s offense with Washington in 2013, so I’m not suggesting he’ll duplicate his best season in the NFL. I am, however, a believer that Garcon can build on last year’s numbers, making him a steal as WR47 currently.
George Kittle (SF) – 125.6
Back-to-back 49ers close out this piece. Frankly, why wouldn’t you want a piece of an offense that’s on the rise? As I noted above, San Francisco averaged 27.6 points per game in Garoppolo’s five starts. Kittle had a solid if unspectacular rookie season averaging 2.9 receptions and 34.3 yards receiving per game with a pair of touchdown grabs in 15 games played. His receiving yards per game ranked a respectable 15th among tight ends last year, and his 43 receptions were tied for the 18th most. Both totals would put him on the outside looking in for fantasy starter status at tight end, but that assumes no growth in year two.
Kittle surpassed 40 yards receiving and caught at least three passes in each of his last three games, caught one touchdown in that stretch, and had his first 100-yard receiving game of his career in Week 17. He also possesses tantalizing measurables, as you can see here on his PlayerProfiler.com page. Finally, Kittle has significant touchdown-scoring upside. Kittle didn’t receive a red-zone target in San Francisco’s finale, per Pro-Football-Reference’s play-by-play data, but according to Lineups.com, he received at least one red-zone target in each of Jimmy GQ’s other four starts and totaled six from Week 13 through Week 16. A continued steady diet of looks in scoring territory would bode well for Kittle reaching paydirt more often in 2018 than in his first year as a pro, and his athleticism makes him more than a touchdown-or-bust option at tight end.