The 2018 All Undrafted Team (Fantasy Football)
For the second year in a row, I’ve constructed an “All Undrafted Team” instead of presenting the traditional sleepers/lottery tickets piece. I’m once again going to use the same cut point for including players. All of the following players have a consensus ADP north of 150.
Mitchell Trubisky (CHI) – Overall: 171.0, QB24
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A rookie quarterback with a horrible supporting cast and awful coaching staff posts mediocre to bad numbers when forced into duty his first year, and the organization wisely hires a young, offensive-minded head coach while adding weapons to help said quarterback in their second season. Sounds like what the Rams did with Jared Goff, right? Well, the Bears will be hoping for a similar second-year surge from Trubisky after firing John Fox as their head coach and replacing him with former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
Speaking of Goff, Trubisky’s ho-hum rookie season was better than Goff’s across the board. When considering the lack of talent around him and bland nature of the offense, Trubisky acquitted himself fairly well, but he’ll need to take a Goff-like leap to be a useful signal caller for fantasy teams this year. I’m buying into that possibility.
The Bears were active in free agency adding Allen Robinson to be their No. 1 receiver, signing intriguing, pass-catching specialist tight end Trey Burton, and bringing speedy gadget wideout Taylor Gabriel into the fold. They didn’t stop there, though. They also spent the seventh pick in the second round of the NFL Draft (pick 39 overall) on offensive lineman James Daniels and traded up to the 19th pick in the second round (pick 51 overall) to select wide receiver Anthony Miller. Add in the potential of do-it-all, home-run hitter Tarik Cohen thriving with a more creative offensive coaching staff, and Trubisky could have a treasure trove of options to work with in the passing attack.
In standard single-QB formats, I’m a big believer in waiting until late to select a few lottery ticket signal callers. Having said that, if a top-flight QB falls too far, snagging them and then adding Trubisky as a possible breakout candidate who would become a nice trade chip — or open the door for trading your original starting QB — is a viable move, too.
Nyheim Hines (IND) – Overall: 173.5, RB55
When selecting my running backs for this team, my preference was to highlight a pair of backs who could either have fantasy relevance if the back ahead of them on the depth chart stays healthy, or outright overtake the starter. In other words, I didn’t want to merely suggest handcuffs whose only value would come from an injury to the starter ahead of them. Hines has a chance to carve out a substantial role quickly, and the path to meaningful playing time became clearer with Robert Turbin receiving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
After leading the Colts in carries (261) and rushing yards (961) last year, Frank Gore signed with the Dolphins as a free agent. Second-year back Marlon Mack was second on the team in carries (93) and rushing yards (358), and he added 21 receptions for 225 yards receiving, too. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and he had an underwhelming rookie campaign. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him as the 35th best running back, and he posted a negative Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), per Football Outsiders (FO).
The Colts spent the fourth pick in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft on Hines, and the converted wide receiver projects to be used in a variety of roles as part of the Colts running-back-by-committee approach. Hines doesn’t necessarily need a bunch of touches to do damage, either. The rookie was the fastest running back at this year’s NFL Draft Combine, and his 4.38-second, 40-yard dash was tied for the ninth fastest time overall.
After adjusting his height by one inch in their algorithm, PlayerProfiler.com’s closest comparable for Hines is C.J. Spiller. The former Bill had a few fantasy relevant seasons in Buffalo, including a big 2012 season in which he tallied 1,703 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. I don’t expect Hines to duplicate Spiller’s best season immediately, but I wouldn’t rule out 1,000-plus yards from scrimmage from Hines in year one in the NFL.
Matt Breida (SF) – Overall: 185.0, RB59
Let me start by voicing my infatuation with Jerick McKinnon this year. Breida’s inclusion in this piece isn’t the product of distrusting McKinnon’s skills. The second-year back is a physical freak in his own right, though, as you can see checking out his workout metrics and SPARQ-x score here.
The undrafted running back earned an average grade at PFF overall and ranked 38th among qualified backs. Furthermore, out of 47 running backs with a minimum of 100 rushes, Breida ranked 15th in DYAR (87) and fifth in DVOA (13.0%), per FO.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan has produced multiple fantasy contributors in the same backfield before as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, so Breida doesn’t need McKinnon to get hurt or faceplant to earn flex starter status in 2018. Also, San Francisco’s offense looks like one that’s on the rise with Jimmy Garoppolo leading the show. In Jimmy G’s five starts to close out 2017, the 49ers’ low for total yards of offense was 369, they bested 410 yards of offense three times, and they scored 25 or more points in each of their last four games.
Rishard Matthews (TEN) – Overall: 156.2, WR55
Tennessee’s offense could be one to watch now that they’re no longer running Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth,” and Matthews is an integral part of the offense. The former Dolphin has established rapport with starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, and he’s quietly performed well. Over the last two years, Matthews ranks 30th in targets (195), 31st in receptions (118), 22nd in receiving yards (1,740), 25th in receiving yards per game (58.0), and tied for 12th in touchdown receptions (13) among receivers, according to Pro-Football-Reference’s Play Index.
In addition to the solid marks in traditional stats, Matthews ranked 19th out of 86 receivers who caught a minimum of 50 passes in DYAR (173) and DVOA (13.6%). Even if Corey Davis makes substantial strides in his sophomore campaign, Matthews should retain a big enough piece of the pie to outperform his ADP and rank at wide receiver.
Michael Gallup (DAL) – Overall: 173.5, WR60
The Cowboys will need to replace the vacated production of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and — apologies to Allen Hurns — they didn’t make any big free-agent splashes. Bryant and Witten ranked first and second on the team in targets (132 and 87), receptions (69 and 63), and receiving touchdowns (six and five), respectively, and first and third, respectively, in receiving yards (838 and 560) last season.
Dallas popped Gallup with the 17th pick in the third round (81st overall) of this year’s NFL Draft. The rookie was extremely productive in two years at Colorado State, and even if he doesn’t open the year as a starter while making the transition from college to the pros, I fully expect him to eventually ascend to the top of the depth chart.
Tyler Lockett (SEA) – Overall: 176.2, WR63
Lockett recently revealed that he wasn’t at 100 percent last year in his return from a broken leg suffered on Christmas Eve the year before, and he estimated he played all of last year at “about 75, 80 percent.” Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reported that coaches and beat writers “have noted how spry the 2015 third-round pick has looked in offseason practices.”
In 2016, the explosive wideout ranked 52nd out of 94 receivers who caught a minimum of 50 passes in DYAR (99) and 39th in DVOA (5.5%). He earned an average overall grade and ranked tied for 48th in player grade among qualified receivers at PFF despite playing at under 100%. Lockett has an opportunity at his biggest role in Seattle’s offense in his young career.
Both Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson signed elsewhere this offseason after combining for 176 targets, 101 receptions, 1,223 receiving yards, and 16 touchdown receptions last season. Lockett will have a chance to serve as second fiddle behind Doug Baldwin in Seattle’s passing attack and absorb a sizable chunk of Graham’s and Richardson’s vacated production.
Luke Willson (DET) – Overall: 294.5, TE46
The aforementioned Graham and Richardson are the big departures from Seattle’s offense, but Willson also left to sign as Detroit’s top tight end. The options among undrafted tight ends are largely unpalatable, but Willson is an interesting change-of-scenery breakout candidate. The 28-year-old has dreamy measurables as you can see here. Those measurables haven’t been translated into much on-field production, but Willson has flashed.
The best example of Willson showcasing his skills was down the stretch in 2014 and 2015. In Week 16 of the 2014 season, he torched the Cardinals by converting all three of his targets into receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that up with a far less impressive two receptions for 32 yards on four targets in Week 17, but then he re-emerged in the Divisional Round of the playoffs by catching all four of his targets for 68 yards and a score against the Panthers.
The Lions utilized the tight end more frequently toward the end of last season, and perhaps Matthew Stafford will continue to do so this year. Willson doesn’t need to be drafted in most leagues, but I believe he has the potential of playing his way into fringe starter or bye-week fill-in status.