The best fantasy value on each NFC roster
We’re right in the thick of draft season this time of year, and we’re seeing the term “sleeper,” “bust,” and “value” being thrown around left and right. I’m going to bring a bit of clarity to the term “value” by identifying what looks like the best bang-for-your-buck picks in drafts this year. We’re going to focus on players that have a chance of far eclipsing their current averaged draft position and present unique upside for your fantasy football rosters this year. All ADP data for this exercise is taken from FantasyFootballCalculator’s 12-team PPR leagues. Their ADP is typically more reflective of casual drafting leagues and presents perhaps the truest form of ADP we can use for this exercise. We already checked out the AFC Division’s values, now let’s see what the NFC has for us in 2017.
Kyle Rudolph, TE
After finishing last year as the No. 2 fantasy tight end and leading the position in targets, Rudolph doesn’t seem to be getting much love from drafters this year. He’s often the forgotten man in the mid-round tight end tier, and as such, has become one of the best values in the league. Rudolph was a red-zone beast last year, finishing with 24 targets inside the 20-yard line. Only Jordy Nelson had more. He had 10 targets inside the 10-yard line, sixth-highest number in the league. He led all tight ends in both of these categories and finished the year with the most top-12 weeks at the position with 11. He sported a 22.4 percent target market share with Sam Bradford under center and can be regularly had in the eighth round of drafts this year, where he’s a major bargain.
Kenny Golladay, WR
After emerging on the scene with a big two-touchdown outing in his first preseason game, the hype surrounding Golladay turned him from “sleeper” status into “must-draft” status. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Northern Illinois product has blown up in terms of hype, but for good reason. He has a chance to play significant snaps in his rookie year as the “X” receiver for Detroit. The Lions are one of the league’s most pass-happy teams and ran 3WR sets 75 percent of the time last year – fifth-highest rate in the league. There’s a plethora of red-zone targets up for grabs following Anquan Boldin’s departure, and it’s difficult to envision Matthew Stafford not heavily utilizing Golladay there given his size-speed combination. Golladay’s ADP is still late in the 12th round, but has become one of those players I don’t mind reaching for a round early just to ensure he’s on my roster and not my opponent’s.
Randall Cobb, WR
The cheapest way to get exposure to this potent Packers’ passing attack is via Cobb. The 39th receiver off the board (late eighth round), Cobb struggled with injuries for much of last season. Prior to that, he was coming off 127- and 129-target seasons in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, Cobb finished as the WR8 before being thrust into the limelight as the primary receiver operating out of the slot in 2015. The emergence of Davante Adams on the outside last year should make life easier for Cobb heading into 2017 if he can stay healthy. In the seven games that Cobb saw at least seven targets last year, he averaged a stat line of 6.9-61-0.3 stat line and 15.1 PPR points per game. Extrapolated over the course of the year, that number would’ve put Cobb right inside the top-12. Those are lofty expectation for Cobb, but if he can find himself close to the middle-ground there, he’ll pay off his ADP substantially.
Kevin White, WR
This Bears passing offense is scary. We have a ton of unknowns at both the quarterback and receiver position. Following Cameron Meredith’s injury, White should be given every chance possible to succeed in his third year in the league. We saw last year in the four games he played that the offense wants to focus around him (averaging nine targets per game), but the results weren’t quite there (4.8-47-0 stat line). OC Dowell Loggains will have his hands full trying to get the most out of both Mitchell Trubisky and White this year. The good thing about White is that he’s going nearly for free. His current ADP is at the Round 11/12 turn where there are very few players with the ceiling of White if he hits his potential.
Jason Witten, TE
Witten isn’t a sexy pick by any means at this point of his career, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a valuable one. Witten’s going as the TE15 off the board, often undrafted in some leagues. If you’re looking to punt the tight end position and grab a dependable guy late in your draft, Witten is your man. He has seen at least 90 targets in 12 of his 14 seasons in his career. His 1.54 yards-per-route-run average isn’t going to blow you away, but he’s been a dependable low-end TE1 every year after his rookie campaign. Given the current state of the offense, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Witten improve on his three touchdowns from last year and provide more usable fantasy weeks in 2017.
Jamison Crowder, WR
Similar to Randall Cobb, drafting Crowder gives you exposure to one of the more pass-heavy teams in the league without paying the iron price for a fantasy stalwart. Crowder’s being drafted in the early sixth round, where he offers nice PPR value as a WR3 or flex option if going with a heavy wide receiver approach. Crowder emerged as a breakout slot wide receiver last year running 76.1 percent of his routes from the slot and posting a sterling 113.9 WR Rating when targeted there. Crowder offers week-to-week reliability at a position that often comes with a ton of variance.
Eli Manning, QB
Entering 2017, Manning has perhaps the strongest receiving corps of his entire career at his disposal. The offseason additions of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram make a well-balanced offense that will let Manning attack opposing defenses anywhere on the field. This offense is built around the pass and we can reasonably expect it to stay that way with Ben McAdoo calling the shots. The Giants have been in the top-12 in pass-play percentage two of the last three years. They rank top-five in red-zone pass-play percentage during that time span. Manning has a very real chance to put up some of the best numbers of his career in his age-36 season.
Zach Ertz, TE
Prior to the trade of Jordan Matthews to the Bills, Ertz was one of my easiest fades of the year. Outside of the month of December (for whatever reason), Ertz has put up pedestrian numbers. The draft equity required to take him never made sense to me. Following the trade, he’s become a target of mine to take over Matthews’ intermediate targets and really make a name for himself in Year 5. Doug Pederson loves to utilize the tight end position. Last year the tight end group saw a collective 30.4 percent market share of the team’s targets. If Ertz can find a way to be more active in the red zone (career-high of just four touchdowns), he could pay off his Round 7 ADP in spades.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR
I’m not going to lie, I’m extremely excited to see how Ginn fits with this New Orleans Saints offense. We’ve already seen in the preseason that Ginn has been in 2WR sets with Michael Thomas over Willie Snead, so he has a solid start at seeing significant playing time and targets. Brandin Cooks’ departure lets Ginn slide naturally over to the field-stretching role, something he’s no stranger to doing. Ginn’s yards per reception stands over the last three years with Carolina was 15.01 yards. Only 10 wide receivers averaged a higher rate. There will inevitably be volatility rostering a player like Ginn, but he presents unique upside on any given week to go for 100-plus yards and two scores. That makes him an appealing value play in the 11th round.
Jonathan Stewart, RB
I can’t buy into the Christian McCaffrey hype given his price. It’s just too high for a guy I’m expecting to yield valuable red-zone work to Stewart. Last year, Stewart had 66.7 percent of the Panthers’ carries from inside of the 5-yard line with nine rushing scores. He’s a hammer at 5-10, 235 pounds compared to McCaffery’s svelte 5-11, 202-pound frame. Touchdown vultures aren’t normally my thing, but Stewart should see a significant number of opportunities for them in 2017. His overall touches and volume will likely decrease for the second straight year, but his propensity for scoring six points makes him a valuable running back to roster – particularly if an injury were to occur to McCaffrey.
Austin Hooper, TE
Rookie tight ends are generally brought along slowly, but we started to see it all come together for Hooper toward the end of last year. It culminated in Hooper catching 3-of-6 targets for 32 yards and a score during the Super Bowl. During the regular season, he caught 19-of-25 targets for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to injury, Jacob Tamme was the Falcons’ leading receiving tight end posting two games of eight targets and scoring three touchdowns over eight games. The Falcons need additional receiving weapons to step up and stretch defenses vertically. Hooper can be flexed out wide in the slot and plays in one of the league’s most efficient offenses. He’s not a lock for premiere tight end fantasy performance, but there’s the potential he becomes a reliable one at a very affordable 13th-round cost.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB
Doug Martin’s three-game suspension to open the year opens the door for Rodgers to come in and take the spotlight. When Rodgers started for the Buccaneers last year, he put up the following touch counts: 35, 27, 20, 17, and 18. That type of volume is worth chasing even if it’s just for a limited time. That being said, there’s no guarantee that Martin comes back after his suspension and regains the starting gig. If Rodgers can distance himself from Martin with some big weeks to open the year, Rodgers could easily become one of the year’s biggest running back values at RB40.
Carlos Hyde, RB
Hyde’s fantasy value has been all over the map this offseason. The arrival of HC Kyle Shanahan combined with the free agent acquisitions made by GM John Lynch had his stock on the rise. It took a dip with the team drafting Joe Williams, but looks to be back on the rise after Hyde finished the preseason securing RB1 duties. Last year, Hyde finished top-10 in missed tackles rushing (35) and yards after contact per attempt (3.05). His 14.8 PPR points per game was 12th-best at the position and now he gets to be the feature back in a Shanahan offense (hint: that’s a good thing). Hyde is currently being drafted as the RB19. While it’s not a massive value, he has a top-12 finish well within his range of outcomes to make him an interesting value pick considering the other running backs being drafted around him.
Paul Richardson, WR
One of everyone’s favorite sleepers this year, Richardson has a very real path to earning more snaps. The team is currently rumored to be in trade talks with Jermaine Kearse, and if he were to leave, there’d be an opening right away for Richardson to slide into with Tyler Lockett still recovering from a leg injury. Lockett hasn’t seen much action at all this preseason, spending most of it on the PUP. Richardson, a former second rounder, could be thrust into the limelight by necessity early in 2017. Richardson possesses 4.40 speed and enters one of the most efficient offenses in the league, orchestrated by Russell Wilson. Richardson doesn’t even register an ADP in FF Calculator’s ADP tool. Spend your last-round pick on him and bask in the glorious upside.
Carson Palmer, QB
If you’re looking for a quarterback option deep in your drafts that has an ideal opening schedule, Palmer is your man. Palmer is currently going as the QB20. That’s an absolute steal considering his opening schedule is at DET (third-most fantasy points given up to opposing QBs last year), at IND (seventh-most), vs DAL (16th-most), and vs SF (10th-most). Palmer was the fantasy QB5 in 2015 posting a 97.51 PFF QB Rating (second-highest in the league). After a disappointing 2016 season campaign marred by injuries, I’m expecting this Arizona passing attack to bounce back big in 2017. It begins with Palmer.
Cooper Kupp, WR
Kupp may not have transcendent talent or athleticism, but that doesn’t always matter in fantasy football. Volume is everything, and if Kupp is going to see targets like he saw in preseason, he’s going to force us to pay attention to what he brings to the table. The Rams offense has a lot of moving parts heading into the year. How much can QB Jared Goff improve from his disastrous rookie season? What kind of play-calling will we see from rookie HC Sean McVay? Can the defense remain a force as it switches to a 3-4 base? McVay’s offense in Washington ranked sixth in the league in 3WR sets (73 percent of the time). If Kupp can usurp the slot receiver duties, he could turn into a PPR asset for an offense that needs reliable pass catchers.