In this article, we’ll do a quick examination of players who seem to be overvalued and undervalued relative to their average draft positions. This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t draft the bad values and target the good ones; what it does mean is that you can adjust your draft strategy for some of these players depending on where they may be taken.
Michael Turner, RB14 – Turner fell off a cliff last year, which didn’t surprise the people who saw his carries taking a toll on him in parts of 2010. From weeks 12 through 16 (fantasy crunch time), Turner averaged a paltry 3.3 rushing yards per carry (YPC), including 2.4 yards after contact per attempt, meaning he was being hit by a defender before he even gained a yard on average.
While he did have several solid games earlier in the season, the late season wear-down (just one touchdown over that same span) is cause for concern, especially for those of you potentially drafting him as an RB1. The Falcons have also stated their intent to run him less this season, so he may not get the volume you’re used to seeing out of him. I’d rather have a guy like Doug Martin, Ahmad Bradshaw or even Steven Jackson before him, especially since Turner doesn’t catch the ball.
Frank Gore, RB16 – Another running back with signs of aging, Gore graded out as the 47th-best running back in the 2011 regular season. Gore has well over 1,500 carries since the 2006 season, and like Turner, he put up some stinkers from Weeks 11 to 17. Last year, Gore didn’t top 100 rushing yards after Week 9, and averaged 3.6 YPC in that span. The Niners also brought in Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James this offseason, while Kendall Hunter flashed decent ability last year. Don’t be surprised if the Niners backfield ends up being a semi-committee in order to keep Gore fresh when it counts.
Willis McGahee, RB24 – It’s not so much that McGahee is a terrible running back. He had a nice year in 2011 in terms of yardage, and although his touchdown rate was a bit meek, he still played favorably down the stretch and ended the season with a 4.7 yards per carry clip and 7 100+ yard rushing games. The problem is relative value: as of right now, he’s being drafted in front of CJ Spiller, Darren Sproles, James Starks and Jonathan Stewart in PPR formats, which is baffling to me. The Broncos figure to pass it plenty in the red zone, and while John Fox loves his veterans, don’t be surprised if Ronnie Hillman sees some 3rd down work. McGahee is also a known injury risk. Draft him as a lower end flex type back, not as an RB2.
Victor Cruz, WR4 – Look, I think Victor Cruz has a bright future. He clearly has big play ablity, had a great season last year, and has as much opportunity as ever with Mario Manningham out of the picture and Reuben Randle learning the ropes. It’s just that WR4 seems remarkably high for him, considering you can get his arguably better teammate (Hakeem Nicks) as the WR9 and some 16 picks later. This is using PPR values, and even a guy like Wes Welker is WR13. One of the big warning signs that Cruz may be in for a touchdown regression is that he only had 2 redzone touchdowns, yet 9 total touchdowns on the season. As we saw with DeSean Jackson, living off big play TDs is pretty tough to sustain year after year. Cruz is certainly worth targeting, but the suggestion here is that he’s more of a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 than supreme WR1.
Miles Austin, WR10 – Again, it’s all about value here. Miles Austin is skilled, he’s put up great numbers for a couple seasons in a row. The main concerns with him are durability and his counterpart, Dez Bryant, who’s being drafted as the WR15. Last year, Bryant played 200 more snaps than Austin, but had a better overall PFF rating by 10.0, out-targeted Austin 100 to 73, outscored Austin, had better yards per reception, better YAC per reception, caused more missed tackles per catch, and still hasn’t fulfilled his potential. So you tell me: which one is more likely destined to be a superstar? We know Dez has his issues, but the sky is the limit for him. At this point, if you’re drafting Austin at WR10, his best case scenario is likely WR10. If you’re drafting Bryant as WR15, his best case scenario could be top 6 or 8.
The Good Values
Ryan Williams, RB45 – Williams hasn’t proven a thing in the NFL. So why is he on the undervalued list? One, Beanie Wells is always an injury risk, and as of writing this, Wells’s knees are still bothering him. Two, Williams has the pedigree as a 2nd round draft pick before his knee injury. Three, relative value. As an RB45, Williams is an RB4/5 in a standard PPR 12 teamer. At that point, you want upside or clear backups to injury risks, and Williams is both. Guys drafted in front of him include Peyton Hillis and Pierre Thomas.
Shane Vereen, RB55 – So you’re telling me a talented, young running back with an opportunity for 10-15 touches a game is being drafted as the 55th running back off the board right now? By all accounts, Vereen is over the hamstring injury that plagued him last year, and it’s well documented that Bill Belichick uses RBs liberally throughout games. Most people assume Stevan Ridley will be the de facto RB1 in New England with BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone, but don’t be shocked if there really is no de facto RB1. Vereen has been running with the first team in OTAs, and the guess here is that Ridley/Vereen will be a 2 headed combo with Danny Woodhead in on some 3rds and Joseph Addai in to pass block. But at RB55, you take the talent and situation and hope for the best.
Jay Cutler, QB16 – Apparently Cam Newton has everyone thinking every rookie QB is going to light the world on fire, because Cutler is being drafted behind both Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck (not to mention Carson Palmer). I understand the propensity for him to get dinged up given that awful offensive line, but adding Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery should help him immensely. Remember, when Cutler and Marshall were last together, the two had great rapport and routinely had solid games. It’s also worth remembering Cutler is only a few years removed from a 3,700 yard, 27 touchdown 2009 season, and that was with junk all around him.
Jeremy Maclin, WR23 – In 2011, Maclin was sick, hurt, you name it, and still put up a respectable 59/859/5 line. Not good, but not awful. However, just 2 years ago, Maclin was a guy who hit over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s apparently healthy this year, has had more time to work with Mike Vick, and as a 6th round pick on average being drafted as an extremely backend WR2 or high end WR3, he’s well worth the risk. Maclin had more redzone targets than anyone except Brent Celek on the Eagles last year despite the limited snaps, and his per-game averages over a full season still net him with a 78/1060/6 line. If he falls in your draft, snag him as a WR2 and be happy.
Brandon Lloyd, WR29 – Tell your commissioners to move your drafts up, because I have a feeling that as we get closer to the season, Lloyd will be drafted higher and higher. All reports are that he’s been a monster in the offseason, understands the routes because of his previous connection with Josh McDaniels, and fits right into the system. Despite the stiff competition for targets in New England, keep in mind that New England’s second best WR last year, Deion Branch, posted a 51/702/5 line. Is it that inconceivable to think that Lloyd can catch even 1 more ball per game than Branch given the talent discrepancy there? If so, we start inch closer to a 70/1000/6 type campaign, and you’ll take that in two seconds from your WR3. Steal him before the rest of the crowd catches on.