The most undervalued fantasy players in each round of the draft
After identifying the most overvalued players in each round yesterday, we’re now taking a look at the most undervalued players by draft round. Below are some of the best values in fantasy drafts leading into the 2017 season.
Note that we’re skipping Rounds 1-4. If we wanted to get real picky with the term “undervalued,” we could find some players in those rounds, but it’s difficult to be undervalued when you’re one of the first players drafted. So we begin in Round 5.
Round 5: Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Based on ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator, Reed is the No. 58 player being drafted in standard leagues, but he’s No. 42 in the PFF Fantasy staff consensus rankings.
For the past three seasons, Reed has been elite in an important fantasy category: Yards per route run. His 1.97 YPRR ranked fourth among qualifying tight ends last year; 2.45 YPRR was first in 2015; and his 1.89 YPRR was tied for third in 2014. Reed also had the lowest drop rate among tight ends last year (1.49 percent).
Round 6: Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions
Tate is the 63rd player coming off draft boards, but the PFF crew has him ranked No. 46 overall. Tate is extremely underrated in standard leagues, and while it’s true he has more value in PPR leagues (his 131 targets last year ranked seventh), that volume is valuable in standard formats as well.
Tate’s 1,077 receiving yards ranked 14th among receivers last year, and he’s primed to again be Detroit’s lead receiver; Marvin Jones’ strong start to 2016 turned out to be a red herring. Tate is a comfortable tail-end WR2.
Round 7: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
Sanders is arguably the most undervalued player on this entire list. Our rankings have him at No. 39 overall — which equates to high fourth-round pick. But he’s going in the middle of Round 7, at No. 79 overall.
Sanders has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons (his three seasons with Denver), and while the quarterback situation remains spotty in 2017, it’s the same as it was in 2016, so there’s no reason to think Sanders can’t repeat last year’s totals (79-1,032-5). He’s a decent WR2 and an absolute steal in the seventh round.
Round 8: DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The difference between Jackson’s ADP (85th overall) and his ranking (65th overall) equates to nearly two full draft rounds in 12-team leagues. Jameis Winston threw 11 touchdowns on deep passes (20-plus yards downfield) last season, tied for second-most in the NFL. And when given at least 2.6 seconds to throw — i.e., enough time for plays to develop downfield — Winston tossed 17 touchdowns, the third-most of all quarterbacks.
For his part, Jackson gained a league-high 579 yards on deep passes last year while catching 50 percent of his deep passes, tied for the second-best catch rate on such passes in the NFL. This is a perfect match. Jackson is a strong WR3 or flex option, and he’s going several rounds later than he should.
Round 9: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
Stewart will face newfound competition in the form of Christian McCaffrey, so the hedges are warranted, but people are a bit too scared. Stewart, our No. 90 player, is coming off draft boards as the No. 102 player.
In the first preseason game of the year, Stewart was the starting running back for Carolina. There’s a legitimate chance he leads the Panthers in rushing attempts this year, and he figures to be the goal-line back as well. Stewart has been mostly underwhelming in his career, but he’s a true value in Round 9 as a viable flex option.
Round 10: Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions
Riddick is significantly more valuable in PPR formats, but perhaps because of this, people overlook him in standard leagues. He’s the 116th player being drafted, versus the No. 94 overall standing in our rankings.
Riddick had a streak of six straight games last year with at least 10 rushing attempts. Coupled with his 6-10 targets per game, Riddick had legitimate RB2 appeal in standard leagues. With Ameer Abdullah expected to see his role increase, Riddick is more of a flex option in 2017, but that’s still strong value in the 10th round.
Round 11: Kenny Britt, WR, Cleveland Browns
Ever underappreciated, Britt was an easy inclusion for Round 11. He’s the No. 126 player coming off draft boards, but he’s No. 79 in the PFF consensus rankings — a difference of nearly 50 spots (four full rounds).
Corey Coleman is Cleveland’s No. 1 wideout of the future, but Britt might be their true No. 1 in 2017. The Browns have a mess of a quarterback situation, but Britt managed to top 1,000 yards last season as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. In fact, his 68-1,002-5 stat line from 2016 is eerily similar to the aforementioned Emmanuel Sanders’ line of 79-1032-5. Britt is a viable flex option, and that’s a fantastic value in Round 11.
Round 12: Mike Wallace, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Wallace is, truthfully, difficult to label. But we have him ranked No. 98 overall, which is significantly higher than No. 136, which is where he’s being drafted. He caught 72 passes for 1,017 yards and four scores last season. Steve Smith is no longer in town, but he has been “replaced” by Jeremy Maclin. Wallace’s role in the offense is largely unchanged, and it’s not unreasonable to think he could match last year’s numbers.
Round 13: Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
“Ebron is going to break out this year!” the fantasy analyst tweeted into a narrowing echo chamber as his Twitter followers blocked him for repeating the same, unfulfilled prophecy for the third year in a row. “This is the year, I swear!”
Except, it really might be the year for Ebron. He’s a steal in Round 13 at his current ADP of No. 145 overall, significantly lower than the No. 97 overall ranking the PFF Fantasy staff gave him.
Ebron’s steady improvement in YPRR over the past three years (0.88, 1.36, 1.54) bodes well for his future. And he sees heavy usage. Ebron’s 462 pass routes run last year ranked ninth among all tight ends, as did his 85 targets.
And remember: Ebron is only 24 years old. Ebron has a great shot of producing TE1 numbers for your fantasy squad despite only costing you a 13th-round pick.
Round 14: Jonathan Williams, RB, Buffalo Bills
Williams is a fantastic late-round target at the running back position, especially if you are utilizing the zero-RB strategy this year. He’s cheaper than he should be (hence his inclusion here) but he has legitimate RB1 upside. Williams is the No. 157 player being drafted, but he’s No. 132 in our rankings. If something were to happen to LeSean McCoy, then Williams would likely shoot into the top 40.
Williams gained 9.8 yards per carry in Buffalo’s first preseason game this year, gaining 39 yards on four attempts. He’s a top handcuff in fantasy.