Fantasy football: Eight players being undervalued in your draft

Cam Newton

Fantasy football is all about maximizing value, and grabbing undervalued players in the late rounds can get you over the hump and well on the way to a league championship. I’ll be looking at two undervalued players for every position, identifying guys in the back half of your draft who could provide great value in your fantasy football lineup.

Quarterbacks

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (Current ADP: QB12)

Newton’s biggest fantasy asset has always been his legs, and he’s unlikely to ever throw up any crazy passing numbers. However, he’s currently being drafted as the QB12 on nfl.com after a 2014 season filled with injuries. Newton finished last season as QB17 after playing in 13 and a half games. If you extrapolate his total points into a full season score he finishes as QB7. In a vacuum this provides value against his current QB12 ADP, but there’s actually more to  it. In his first three years in the league, Newton’s worst finish in terms of QB total points was QB4 in 2012. In both 2011 and 2013 he finished the season as the QB3. Newton played through some serious rib injuries last season, and as a mobile quarterback it’s safe to say this hurt his ability to move effectively outside the pocket.

Carolina was not all that talented of a team last year, squeaking into the playoffs with a of record of 7-8-1. The offensive line remains a question mark for the Panthers, but they look to have at least upgraded in some fashion at left tackle with Michael Oher coming in to replace Byron Bell, along with a challenge from rookie Daryl Williams. Newton’s receiving corps has been upgraded, mainly through the addition of Michigan WR Devin Funchess. Jonathan Stewart staying healthy and the threat of Newton’s legs could allow for more one-on-one opportunities for Carolina receivers on the outside. Newton now finds himself with three legit weapons with Funchess joining Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen and second year wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. As we look to 2015, Newton is back to full health and should have a very good chance to regain top 5 quarterback scoring output. You should feel comfortable selecting Newton at his current ADP that has him slotted in the ninth round of fantasy drafts.

Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles (Current ADP: QB23)

After tearing his ACL last offseason, Sam Bradford looked close to done in the NFL. However, the tire fire that is many teams’ quarterback situation (I’m looking at you, Buffalo) caused his value to steadily rise as free agency crept closer and closer this offseason. When the Eagles acquired Bradford for Nick Foles, many saw it as a high risk-reward type move. Bradford is likely the better quarterback (it’s been a while since he’s played, so who can be sure) but he’s struggled to stay on the field after now missing 39 career games while only playing in 49. Why do I consider him a value pick then? Chip Kelly.

Kelly’s wide open, hurry-up system is great for fantasy owners, as it maximizes plays and attempts at points. Looking at the Eagles’ quarterbacks from last season and their fantasy output, the combo of Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez put up QB14 numbers in the whole 2014 season. If you agree that Bradford is the best quarterback — when healthy — of the three, then you should jump all over Bradford at his current price. He’s an excellent backup fantasy quarterback with QB1 upside considering some of the pass defenses he faces in his division. And with Mark Sanchez essentially free as a handcuff, I’d have no problem taking Bradford in round 15 and taking Sanchez with my last pick instead of a kicker. If Bradford ends up healthy for week 1, simply drop Sanchez and grab your kicker, win-win.

Running Backs

T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (Current ADP: RB30)

Going into the 2015 NFL Draft, it was clear the Jaguars would make the running back position a priority, as the signing of Toby Gerhart to be a bell cow type back didn’t pan out and Denard Robinson was never made for an every down role. Therefore, with the 36th pick in the draft they grabbed Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, making him the third running back taken. I’ve been grabbing Yeldon in any draft I can because he has realistic three-down potential as a rookie. When you look at the backs selected ahead of Yeldon, it ends up being a lot of passing down only backs and a lot of handcuff type players. At his current ADP, Yeldon is a must own player, if only because he will see a ton of snaps due to a lack of competition on the depth chart.

Yeldon was never quite on the level of fellow rookies Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, but he provides the highest fantasy floor of any rookie aside from Gordon. I think a realistic stat line for Yeldon would be 215 carries, 875 yards and 7 TDs. Add about 25 receptions for 200 yards receiving and that would be a very serviceable RB2. Putting up those stats last year would have made him a mid-range RB2, and that’s more than worth the round 10 and RB30 price.

Yeldon is a guy I’ve been drafting as my RB1 quite often after starting with about four receivers, a tight end and a quarterback in 12-team leagues. I think he’s a really safe pick that allows you to draft high upside running backs and receivers with your earlier picks if you can grab him in the middle rounds of your draft.

Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns (Current ADP: RB53)

Another rookie running back being under drafted is Duke Johnson, as his current ADP is borderline undrafted. Johnson was an electric back from Miami, but his fantasy value took a major hit when he found himself drafted by Cleveland, who appeared fairly set at the running back position heading into the draft. Their depth chart right now is a pure RBBC, with second year players Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell vying for time against Johnson. I believe Johnson is the most talented of the group and should at least get his fair share of snaps. Sitting at RB53, he’s going in the 15th round of drafts, and he’s absolutely worth a shot late.

The main reason Johnson could be worth a flier is the relative ADP of the other Cleveland backs. Isaiah Crowell is being drafted as the RB36 and Terrance West is going at the RB43. The way it looks right now, the value pick is all the way in Johnson’s favor, considering that if all players get equal touches Johnson is the latest you can grab a Cleveland back. With such a late round ADP and the best value of the Cleveland backs, grab Johnson and hope for the best in your draft this year.

Wide Receivers 

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (Current ADP: WR45)

Fantasy Football

John Brown, photo from commons.wikimedia.org

 

Brown was an unheralded third round pick out of Pittsburg State, and he’s a great fit for Bruce Arians scheme in Arizona. He’s currently being drafted right behind fellow Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald and nine spots behind Michael Floyd. With Fitzgerald appearing to be on the way out the door Brown is quickly carving out a role in the offense. Arians is known for a pass heavy and vertical attack, and Brown put up some really solid numbers with Carson Palmer as the quarterback.

If you take the six weeks that Carson Palmer played and extrapolate Brown’s stats to a full season he would have put up 840 yards, and that’s pretty impressive considering those games were almost all in the first half of his rookie season, where he played just under 58 percent of snaps. His current ADP puts him as a round 14 and WR5 caliber player. I’d be comfortable with him as my WR3 and I think he has legit WR2 upside as the season wares on, depending on the health of Carson Palmer.

Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (Current ADP: WR84)

After a year spent on the IR, Jones has become a borderline afterthought, being drafted behind players like Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker, Devin Hester and Danny Amendola. Jones is locked into the slot receiver role but should realistically challenge Mohamed Sanu for a majority of snaps in two wide receiver sets. Jones had a really nice sophomore season in 2013, producing 51 receptions on 80 targets, 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s a really solid stat line out of a second year receiver selected in the fifth round the year before.

His ADP is sitting behind totally unproven guys and free agent veterans without any sort of ceiling. He’s right now going in the 16th round to undrafted free agent range. With A.J. Green locked into the top wide receiver role in Cincinnati, Jones should get a fair share of targets over Sanu. Grab him with a late pick and reap the rewards early and often.

Tight Ends 

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (Current ADP: TE24)

Fantasy Football

Tyler Eifert, photo from twitter.com

 

Much like the receiver above him, Eifert is a largely forgotten piece in the Bengals offense after missing the entire season with a dislocated elbow. Eifert is a big, athletic and young tight end with some good hands to work the middle of the field. He’s currently being drafted as a TE3, behind low-ceiling guys like Heath Miller and Owen Daniels. I love Eifert as a swing-for-the-fences type of play late in the draft as he’s gathering up some buzz in the Bengal’s offseason program.

In his rookie year, Eifert produced 39 receptions, 445 yards and 2 touchdowns which are some pretty solid numbers for rookie tight ends. Looking at Pro-Football-Reference, Tyler Eifert ranks 35th all time in rookie tight end receiving yards. If he can come back fully healthy I could absolutely see a breakout year for the former Notre Dame tight end.

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (Current ADP: TE33)

What a meteoric fall for Reed, pegged as a budding star before last season and now being drafted behind backup tight ends like Scott Chandler and Andrew Quarless. Reed’s athletic ability is elite for the tight end position and if he’s on the field he can produce solid TE1 numbers. It’s always been a big “if” for Reed though, as he simply has not been able to stay healthy with any consistency. When he’s on the field he can produce and that makes him worth a late pick in deeper leagues or at least keeping an eye on him on the waiver wire. Once again, these late round picks are all about maximizing value, and for Reed’s price, he’s absolutely worth the pick in deep leagues.

 

Sources:

ADP info from nfl.com

Pro-football-reference.com

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