There are many skills owners need when navigating a typical snake-style fantasy football draft. Planning and organizing, adaptability, and risk-taking are just a few. Chief among these skills is exploiting the draft board to find the best value on your selections. Whether it’s the classic value-based drafting principles or newer metrics such as value over replacement, one tenet is clear: the key to your draft is picking players who will out-perform their average draft position.
Today, QB List continues our draft prep series by examining this week’s Fantasy Football Calculator average draft position data (ADP) and finds the holes in drafting trends. Which players are woefully drafted rounds early? Which players are criminally undervalued and can be had for a steal? Going by position, we will examine the previous seven days of draft data to see where you can exploit value in your drafts. Evaluation is based on half-point PPR, single QB, 12-team leagues.
“Wait on QB” is the mantra that fantasy owners chant on fantasy draft day across America. What typically happens, however, is the fantasy owner is pressured as the draft progresses through the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds. As quarterbacks start flying off the board, the most recognizable name or the hot young signal-caller is on the tip of the tongue. Right now, Baker Mayfield is coming off the board in the late sixth round ahead of proven vets and other rising stars. While the Browns improved their skill positions by adding Odell Beckham Jr, the addition isn’t enough to warrant such a huge projection. Drew Brees is now 40 and show signs of decline, yet he’s being drafted right behind Mayfield in the seventh. These are two players you don’t need to reach for when the middle round wideouts are staring you in the face. Instead, wait for a stud QB to fall in your lap.
Carson Wentz is just one season removed from an MVP caliber performance and is going off the board a full two-rounds after Mayfield in the eighth. The scoring difference between the QB12 and the QB16 is generally just a few points a week so there is no reason why you need to reach. Fantasy owners decisions get worse as we head on through the draft wherein the 9th round fantasy stars like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson can be had. When healthy, neither player has had a fantasy season outside of the Top 12 quarterbacks; both players have also finished number one overall. Big Ben Roethlisberger finished as the number three overall QB last year and is going in the eleventh round. Even Dak Prescott will be a better choice in 2019. He’s a player that has never finished lower than QB12 in his career. With a new offensive coordinator, a healthy offensive line and full seasons with Zeke Elliott and Amari Cooper, Dak is poised to finish inside the Top 10. Given the choice, I’d select Cam, Russ or Dak over Brees and Mayfield every time.
As draft season rolls on, one thing is clear: owners want to secure a stud running back as early as possible. But all studs aren’t created equal. Some are proven every-down workhorses and some are just projections. Players like Kerryon Johnson are drafted in the same round as Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry. Fournette and Henry may not be special, but volume trumps everything. Johnson just won’t see the number of touches or goalline work that can propel them into a Top 10 finish. Fournette is just one season removed from that, and he was on pace to finish inside the Top 10 before dealing with injuries in 2018. Henry found his groove around Week 6 last year and was a Top 5 back the rest of the way. The Titans will continue to ride him till the wheels fall off, and he’s an excellent value where he’s coming off the board.
Similarly, Mark Ingram–now in Baltimore–is a steal in the mid-4th round. In a run-heavy offense, with a running QB that will open up the line, Ingram is in line for more carries than he’s seen in a single season. This is another example where volume trumps talent.
Two players that project to be lead backs are Tevin Coleman and Lamar Miller, both drafted in the sixth. If you’ve loaded up on wideout early in your draft and are looking for solid vets that have little to no question of their role this season, these two guys fit the bill.
Further down the board, it’s criminal that Miles Sanders is coming off the board (7th) before Jordan Howard (8th) in Philadelphia. Say what you will about Howard, but he has finished inside the Top 10 twice in his short career. Philly will again rely on multiple backs to share the load and there is no reason to reach for Sanders when you can have his counterpart two rounds later.
At the very top of the board at wide receiver, there isn’t much inefficiency. As you get into the late third and early fourth rounds, however, you begin to see some places to take advantage. Robert Woods trajectory as a fantasy asset keeps rising and seeing him come off the board in the late fourth is an area you should exploit. He’s fully healthy, led the team in targets, and he is about as safe of a WR as there is this year. Stefon Diggs is the other receiver in the fourth that jumps out. Diggs finished eighth in targets in 2018 with 148, an amount that virtually secures a Top 12 finish, yet he’s coming off the board as WR15. With his counterpart Adam Thielen recovering from an ACL injury, Diggs will again be a target monster–all but securing a Top 10 finish in 2019.
Tyler Lockett in the fifth and Allen Robinson in the seventh are the next two players that I am loving at their ADP, instead of two unproven talents going ahead of them in Chris Godwin and Mike Williams. Both Godwin and Williams are talented young players that I would love to have on my fantasy rosters, just not at the price. Both are clear number two receivers on their respective teams playing behind legitimate fantasy stars. Fantasy is less about projections and perceived talent and more about volume and opportunity. Barring injury, I will take a number one option on a team, Lockett or Robinson, over the flash in the pan any day. I want the lead receiver who can get to 120 targets on the season, a number of targets that virtually guarantees a top 24 wideout performance.
I’m even looking for targets and opportunity in my wideout depth as the draft progresses. I want players that are at least the unquestioned number two receiver, preferably on a high powered offense. I’ve struck fantasy gold if I can find a late-round player that is projected to be the number one receiver. Again, perceived talent plays less of a role than volume, opportunity, and quarterback. Enter Sterling Shepard and Devin Funchess. Shepard will be the lead wideout for a struggling New York Giants team, but at least he will be targeted seven or more times each week. I cannot say the same for Christian Kirk, who is going a full round ahead of him. Funchess may just be this year’s Eric Ebron: a player who underperformed until he was paired up with Andrew Luck. Funchess will be the player I will own most this season, simply because his price is so cheap and he comes with loads of potential.
Finally, let’s not forget Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz again finished with 100+ targets on the year, pass volume you cannot easily find in the ninth round. He will serve as the security blanket for what many fantasy analysts project will be a big season for rookie QB Kyler Murray. There isn’t a single wideout that I’d rather have more at this price.
Tight end might be the best area for owners to exploit ADP. There is a clear Top 3 at the position and after Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle are off the board, the position is full of question marks. Sure there is immense talent at the position in the mid-rounds, but you can wait to the double-digit rounds to find your starter.
Trey Burton, in Chicago, fits the profile of a top fantasy tight end–players who sign a second contract and are young vets at the position. Historically, tight ends breakout later in their careers after their rookie contracts expire. Still just 27, Burton enjoyed the #7 overall TE finish in 2018. This is quite a feat as it is typically difficult to produce consistently when you change teams. Now comfortable in the scheme, expect Burton to take another leap and his price in the 10th is a steal.
If we look back to 2016, we saw another player is this exact scenario; he finished as the overall #2 tight end that season and he is still a massive bargain. Kyle Rudolph can be had in the 14th round, an outrageous price when you consider that he finished TE8 last season. In fact, Rudolph has not finished lower than TE8 since 2016. He’s a starting fantasy TE that can be drafted for scraps.
Finally, there is a pair of veterans that would be nice players to pair with Burton or Rudolph. Greg Olsen, in round 14, or Jason Whitten (undrafted) have each never finished outside the starting TE range in healthy seasons. These players can be had for next to nothing, allowing you to take shots at RB and WR. You can be sure they will finish as a starting fantasy tight end in their sleep.
(Photo by Kevin French/Icon Sportswire)