The most undervalued fantasy players at every position
This week, we’re breaking down the players who stand out most from the pack in terms of average draft position. In case you missed it, on Monday we looked at the most overvalued players at every position. Now, let’s tackle some of the best value buys relative to draft position.
(All ADP data is from Fantasy Football Calculator’s PPR ADP.)
Since entering the league as the first overall pick in 2012, Luck’s fantasy finishes are as follows: eighth, seventh, first, 28th, fourth. (He played only seven games in the 2015 season where he ranked 28th, but was sixth in fantasy points per game.) I mention this because Luck’s ADP has fallen a full round since the last week of July, meaning that as the seventh quarterback off the board, you’d essentially be buying him at his career floor.
Yes, it would be great to get some clarity on his Week 1 status, but the current risk-reward balance also makes Luck the kind of draft day investment that will pay huge dividends if he ends up playing regular-season games next month.
Heading into his third pro season, Mariota will not only operate behind one of PFF’s top-ranked offensive lines, he also gets an upgraded WR corps with the additions of Eric Decker and rookies Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor. Mariota was the top-scoring fantasy QB from Week 5 to Week 12 last season, and that’s the kind of upside that makes his ninth-round ADP awfully appealing. Of last year’s top-seven fantasy QBs, keep in mind that four were drafted in the double-digit rounds. Mariota made major strides with one of his rookie-year weaknesses: deep-ball accuracy. And we’ve still yet to really see the wheels that made him such a coveted draft prospect coming out of Oregon.
Thanks partly to his misfortune with injuries and partly to the draft buzz surrounding Joe Williams, Hyde has seen his fantasy stock plummet to the late fourth round. According to league insiders like Adam Caplan and Ian Rapoport, there isn’t much competition, after all, and Hyde has become a major bright spot at 49ers’ camp since reporting in peak condition. He finished ninth last season in elusive rating out of 25 qualifiers and was a top-15 fantasy RB despite missing three games. Now, he’s the lead back in a Kyle Shanahan offense, yet is being drafted as the RB20.
Owners who were burnt by Abdullah last season may be shy about going back to the well, but that well may soon dry up with the Lions recently confirming Abdullah as the team’s featured back. His ADP dropped to a low near the end of the fifth round before a slight rebound recently.
Last year aside, Abdullah remains quite the polarizing figure in fantasy circles due to the presence of Zach Zenner around the goal line as well as Theo Riddick in the passing game. To the latter point, I’d like to see Riddick catch a pass and do this. As mentioned in my recent piece about dynasty draft mistakes, recency bias can blind us to the great opportunities sitting right there for the taking. Point blank, Abdullah has been productive (5.1 YPC last eight games and second-best elusive rating through two weeks of 2016), and last year marked his first significant football injury ever. Don’t overthink it.
One of college football’s most elusive runners at UCLA in 2015, Perkins started to come on late in his rookie season. He saw double-digit carries in each of his last four games and averaged 4.9 YPC in that span, including a 102-yard effort in Week 17. Giants coaches have pointed to Perkins’ ability to handle all three phases in discussing his prospects as a three-down back. That is evidenced by the fact that Perkins ranked fifth out of 61 qualified RBs in pass-blocking efficiency (quite the feat for a rookie), allowing only one pressure on 30 pass-block snaps.
Don’t go telling all your friends, but there is justification for Bryant as a backend WR1 in fantasy. His career numbers bear it out. Bryant’s career 16-game pace would have seen him finish as last year’s WR8 in standard scoring (167.9 points) and WR11 in PPR (231.2). Heck, let’s bake in some regression and knock 25 percent off his TD rate. Bryant’s 16-game average would still equate to last year’s WR11 in standard (151.9) and WR12 in PPR (215.2). Touchdown scoring aside – Bryant led all WRs in fantasy points per snap in 2014 and was third in 2015 – he ranked seventh in yards per route run across his only two seasons. This is a guy who said he never used to train in the offseason, and we haven’t even accounted for any progression in his overall skillset entering his de facto Year Three with refocused dedication to his craft and the proverbial chip on his shoulder.
I’ve propped up Brown throughout the offseason as a top bounceback candidate as well as an ideal best-ball option, so I’m not about to back off now. By now you’ve read the reports that Brown is past the health issues that derailed his 2016 campaign, and you’re aware that Michael Floyd is no longer in Arizona and Larry Fitzgerald is another year older. During his 1,000-yard campaign in 2015, Brown had a 105.7 QB rating when targeted, and that was at an average depth of 15.4 yards downfield. Both numbers dipped last season as Brown played a career-low 56.2-percent of Arizona’s offensive snaps. Still, in the four games he matched or exceeded his typical 2015 volume (6.6 per game), he averaged seven catches for 87 yards (on 9.5 targets) with a score.
Somewhat quietly, things are getting interesting with the Panthers’ WR corps. With Ted Ginn and Corey Brown out of the picture, Carolina has 134 WR targets up for grabs. Funchess saw 45.9 percent of the offensive snaps during his first two seasons, compared to 62.2 percent for Ginn. A former Big Ten Tight End of the Year at Michigan, the 6-4, 225-pound Funchess was always going to need some time to adjust to the nuances of the wide receiver position at the pro level. Now entering Year Three at age 23, Funchess is listed as a starter and has reportedly had an excellent camp, while teammate Kelvin Benjamin has failed to stand out after packing on weight over the offseason. Funchess is as good a flier as any with your last position-player pick.
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
(ADP: 130, TE13)
Doyle is being drafted as a TE2, but he could very well crack the top-10 now that Dwayne Allen is gone after occupying 63.6 percent of the offensive snaps along with 48 targets last season. Out of 22 qualifiers, Doyle was 11th in yards per route run (1.58) but only 15th in snaps in route and 18th in targets (72), although his usage was up from only 14 targets the previous season. With only three career drops across 97 catchable targets, Doyle has earned the trust of both Andrew Luck and the front office, as he signed a three-year, $18.9 million contract extension in March. He could be the next in an increasingly long line of tight ends to turn in a big-time season under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Similar to Doyle, we have Hooper projected as a fringe TE1 entering his second season. Jacob Tamme departed after playing two-thirds of Atlanta’s offensive snaps over the last two years, and Hooper drew praise from Matt Ryan after they worked out together in the offseason. The chemistry between those two was evident in 2016, as Ryan’s 150.2 passer rating was the highest by a quarterback when targeting a tight end. Better yet, Hooper’s four highest-graded games of his rookie season were from Week 17 through the Falcons’ Super Bowl run.