Matt Breida, RB, 49ers
We’ve been saying for a while that Breida just might be the best draft value in a Niners backfield that lacked clarity even before adding Tevin Coleman this offseason. Last week brought the long-awaited return of Jerick McKinnon from last summer’s ACL tear -- and then his un-return.
McKinnon’s knee failed it’s 1st on-field test. Now he’s headed for one of those new-fangled platelet-rich plasma injections. HC Kyle Shanahan says the RB “could” be back in 2 weeks. That also means he “could” not.
Meanwhile, Breida doesn’t necessarily need McKinnon’s knee to keep failing just to make the 3rd-year back fantasy viable. Breida has done a pretty good job of that on his own so far.
Pro Football Focus assigned him the top receiving grade among all RBs last year. Football Outsiders rated Breida stronger than Coleman in both rushing and receiving efficiency (granted, on different teams). Breida’s 5.3 yards per carry ranked 4th in the league in 2018 and beat San Francisco’s 2nd and 3rd leading rushers by at least 1.3.
Coleman’s arrival blocks Breida from maintaining the top backfield spot he occupied last year. But a draft-day price tag of Round 12 or later means he doesn’t need to enter the season with that role.
Devin Singletary, RB, Bills
This entry could really just say “Bills RB” up top, because the entire situation carries value at current ADPs.
LeSean McCoy is going 1st, with an ADP early in Round 11. Then comes Singletary in the 1st half of Round 13. And finally there’s Frank Gore, barely cracking the end of drafts. That means no Bills RB is going higher than 45th at the position -- on average.
McCoy is coming off the worst season of his career. At age 30, he averaged 0.8 fewer yards per carry than his previous low (which came in 2017). His 7.0 yards per catch marked his lowest rate in 4 Buffalo seasons. His 2.4 receptions per game were the 2nd-fewest of his career -- in an offense that saw only Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin(!) beat McCoy in targets. Only LeGarrette Blount ranked lower among qualifying RBs in Football Outsiders’ rushing-efficiency metrics.
So Buffalo went out and signed Gore. And T.J. Yeldon. And drafted Singletary. Clearly, the Bills thought the position needed help.
We can’t argue with taking a shot on McCoy at his ADP. The team would have little reason to keep him around -- at about $9 million in salary vs. just a $2.625 million cap hit if he’s cut -- unless coaches plan to give him the ball 1st again.
But there’s a reason Buffalo snatched up Singletary in Round 3, even with those veterans already aboard. The rookie has mixed in with the 1st team since spring workouts and impressed teammates and his HC in Thursday night’s preseason debut.
Gore said, “Out of all the guys who got drafted since I’ve been playing, he’s the most natural.”
Singletary is a nice shot to take as a 5th RB, going 2 rounds and 10 spots in RB ADP behind McCoy. And if you’d rather not touch this backfield until the very end of your draft, Gore makes plenty of sense in that range.
At the level the whole Buffalo backfield is going, you don’t need anyone to break out or the team to be good to find value.
Tyrell Williams, WR, Raiders
We would love Williams’ draft value right now even if Brown were on the field with his new team and lighting it up. Oakland gave Williams a $44.3 million, 4-year contract at the start of free agency, clearly planning to make him 1 of the team’s top targets. And there are plenty of looks available.
The Raiders watched 3 of last year’s top 4 target-collectors walk in the offseason. That trio accounted for 252 of last year’s looks, 45.3% of the team’s total pass attempts. Amari Cooper, by the way, tied for 5th on the team at 31 targets, despite being traded after the 6th game.
Brown can assume his expected target-hogging lead role and still leave enough work for Williams -- an efficient wideout with 16.3 yards per reception and a 60.1% catch rate for his career.
Moving from Philip Rivers to Derek Carr at QB marks a step down for Williams overall. But Carr’s coming off a career-best 68.9% completion rate. He also beat Rivers in deep-ball passer rating 3 of the past 4 years, according to Pro Football Focus.
Devin Funchess, WR, Colts
We already highlighted rookie teammate Parris Campbell in a sleepers article, but there’s room for Funchess in this category as well. Really, with both wideouts going after Round 10 (and outside the top 50 at their position), there’s room to stash both on your roster and see what happens.
Before Indy drafted Campbell, Funchess arrived on a 1-year, “prove it” deal that will pay him at least $10 million and could net as much as $13 million. And here’s why …
“I watched Devin’s take, and I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” HC Frank Reich told reporters back at the March league meetings, “I was like, ‘Please. Let’s get this guy.’ That was the guy we really wanted to get.”
Funchess has been viewed since before camp as the best bet to win the #2 WR job, and Campbell’s hamstring trouble in camp hasn’t helped the rookie.
Of course, the big question for the entire Indy passing game is when QB Andrew Luck will make it back from his nagging calf injury. As long as he’s back by the regular season, though, this will be an offense we want some pieces of -- especially if they come cheap.
Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys
Amari Cooper’s the top target in Dallas. But Gallup’s the guy generating summer buzz.
Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says that “no Cowboys player is having a better training camp than Gallup, who is so much more comfortable and confident than he was as a rookie.” Hill adds that Gallup “has proven reliable and explosive.”
That’s what we hoped to get early from a wideout we loved coming out of college, especially when he landed in then WR-needy Dallas a year ago.
The Cowboys haven’t done well recently at supporting multiple fantasy wideouts, but 2019 brings a new OC (former QB Kellen Moore). And Gallup’s going late enough -- outside the top 55 WRs -- that we can draft him without worrying about the specific target outlook.
Beyond that, every day without Ezekiel Elliott on the field has to make a maturing passing game look more attractive to the Dallas staff.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Jets
You might be surprised to see 2 other Jets follow Crowder on this list. Does that mean we love the Adam Gase Jets in Year 1?
But there are upside pieces in this offense, including 2nd-year QB Sam Darnold. If he's ready to take a significant step forward, he'll take at least 1 pass-catcher (and perhaps 2 or 3) with him. Just like everyone else, we're betting that Robby Anderson leads the crew in targets. But he doesn't look the part of a target hog, leaving room for another wideout to join him in relevance -- perhaps even challenge his target lead.
Crowder has averaged 5.9 targets per game to Anderson's 6.2 in their young careers. Crowder leads Anderson by 0.5 receptions per contests (3.9 to 3.4). More importantly, it hasn't taken him long to develop an apparent connection with Darnold. And that followed glowing words from Gase after the Jets signed Crowder.
“I think he has something unique as far as he has an explosiveness after the catch that you don’t see,” Gase told reporters at the March NFL League Meeting. “A lot of slot players, historically, have not been guys that are threats down the field. He’s actually a threat down the field, but at the same time, he can catch it and create, which is going to be interesting for us. We’ve never had a guy that really can juice it up like he can.”
Just as important as the strong reviews, Crowder is going outside the top 60 WRs in ADP. So you're not risking much to take a shot on him.
Chris Herndon, TE, Jets
Herndon looked like a potential breakthrough player early in the offseason. But then the NFL suspended him 4 games under the substance-abuse policy, a punishment stemming from a DUI last June.
It’s hard to draft a TE who will miss the 1st 4 games, and the Jets’ Week 4 bye means Herndon would kill a roster spot for 5 weeks -- about one-third of your fantasy season.
So he won’t make sense as a draftable player in every league. But if you play in a deeper league or TE-premium format, there will still be breakthrough potential beyond the punishment.
Herndon ranked 16th among TEs in PPR points as a rookie, earning the team’s top TE role right away. His reception and yardage totals each rank top-30 all-time among rookie TEs.
Herndon enters his 2nd season with a promising 2nd-year QB and an offense that lacks role clarity. There’s competition for targets, with Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa at WR and Le’Veon Bell taking over the backfield.
Herndon could realistically fall anywhere from 2nd to 5th in that target totem pole. That would be scary if he were going around the bottom of TE-starter territory. It’s not, though, with Herndon’s ADP outside the top 20 at his position.
And if drafting him doesn’t make sense in your league, consider adding him within the 1st month if you need a potential starter for Week 6 vs. Dallas, Week 7 vs. New England or beyond.
Ty Montgomery, RB/WR, Jets
Remember that crowded Jets offense? Well, let’s highlight another candidate.
Montgomery started Thursday night’s preseason opener in the backfield, with Le’Veon Bell not playing. That seems to position him as the #2 RB -- ahead of Elijah McGuire -- and RB is likely where Montgomery will be eligible in your fantasy football league.
But he and HC Adam Gase have said that the former Packer is playing a “hybrid” role, which is key to his potential for standalone value even when Bell’s in the lineup. Brian Costello of the New York Post recently called Montgomery “one of the most impressive players” in Jets camp and said he “could be a significant piece” of the 2019 offense.
It’s difficult to project all that into a strong touch count, but that’s why Montgomery lives in deep-sleeper territory. He’s an end-of-draft consideration with upside in multiple directions. We don’t need to chart his specific path to take a shot on that upside.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, Patriots
Meyers followed a buzzy training camp with a great, big preseason opener. The undrafted rookie racked up 6 catches for 69 yards and 2 TDs on a team-high 8 targets (3 more than his nearest teammate).
Perhaps just as notable: Meyers spent most of his time outside. According to Pro Football Focus, 36 of his 44 snaps came on the outside, vs. just 8 in the slot. Why does that matter? Because it would make Meyers an easier fit in the lineup after Julian Edelman returns. The veteran spent 51.9% of his offensive snaps in the slot last season.
Meyers has more to prove before we can count him a potential starter in New England. But there’s clear opportunity in an offense that lost Rob Gronkowski, let Chris Hogan walk and currently doesn’t have Josh Gordon available.
KeeSean Johnson, WR, Cardinals
Johnson was the 3rd wideout Arizona drafted in April. But by all recent accounts, he has been the trio’s top performer this summer.
Johnson got on the field during Kyler Murray’s brief debut Thursday night and drew 1 target from the fellow rookie (though an illegal-touching penalty wiped it out). Johnson split his 4 official targets between the next 2 QBs, Brett Hundley and Drew Anderson.
There will be fighting left to do for Johnson. But like with Meyers, it’s worth noting that Johnson spent all 27 of his Thursday-night snaps outside. That would help him fit onto the field with Larry Fitzgerald (65.6% slot last year) and Christian Kirk (29.3% slot). Fitting will be even easier if Arizona indeed regularly trots out 4 WRs.
The bottom line: There’s big upside to this offense in Year 1 of Murray + Kliff Kingsbury. Johnson looks like a nice, cheap way to buy some stock.
Gerald Everett, TE, Rams
If you don’t want to draft a TE who will miss the 1st 5 weeks, then take this guy instead of Herndon.
Everett just might be what Dallas Goedert drafters hope they’re getting. Just like Goedert, Everett resides in a loaded offense that promises to limit his weekly target consistency. Unlike Goedert, however, Everett enters 2019 as his team’s top pass-catcher at TE.
The 3rd-year player’s snap share rose late last season. Everett went from playing less than 40% in 11 of the first 12 games to playing 57.1% or more in 5 of the final 7 contests, including the playoffs. His target share also climbed from 7% over the first 12 games to 10.2% over the final 7 (despite just 7 total targets in 3 playoff games).
Everett arrived as a 2nd-round pick to a team that had drafted Tyler Higbee just the year before. Everett averaged 14.8 yards per catch and delivered a 12.1% TD rate over a college career that forced him from UAB to South Alabama after his primary school shut down its program.
Where the loaded offense could help Everett is in the red zone. The Rams rank among the league’s best scoring offenses. Everett ranked just 6th on the team in red-zone targets last season, but his total proved good enough to tie for 12th among all TEs. A mere 18.2% TD rate on his 7 red-zone catches, however, ranked just 58th among TEs -- 13th among the 16 TEs who drew 10+ RZ targets.
Cooper Kupp’s return challenge the red-zone target count, but Everett should remain involved. And an ADP that will find him undrafted in most regular-sized fantasy leagues makes him an end-of-draft scratch-off ticket.