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11 Undervalued Players

By Matt Schauf 5:08am EDT 8/22/17

The surprising ADPs on these 11 players mean that you can add them to your fantasy football team much later than you should be able to. The list includes some potential key early-round building blocks as well as veteran insurance and later-round upside plays.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers

ADP Rank: QB15
DS Rank: QB9

This is the most nonsensical entry on the list. Rivers has finished as low as 15th among fantasy QBs exactly once over the past 9 years. He finished the other 8 seasons among the top 11. That included a #8 ranking in total points and #12 finish in points per game last year, when he played 15+ games without lead WR Keenan Allen.

A still shaky O-line and shallow backfield figures to keep this offense relying heavily on Rivers, who gets Allen back – plus more-experienced versions of TE Hunter Henry and WR Tyrell Williams, and whatever rookie WR Mike Williams can contribute.

Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

ADP Rank: RB33
DS Rank: RB23

How do you quantify the value of 3 missed games? That’s the problem for fantasy football drafters here, and that’s why you can expect Martin’s ADP to keep from climbing too much despite an encouraging preseason to date.

Fortunately, your MVP Board knows how to calculate the value of the missed games, giving Martin replacement-level scoring for those open weeks. (You’re going to have someone else to start in his place.) And once he returns, Martin looks like he’ll be ready to play closer to the version who has already delivered a pair of top-4 fantasy finishes than the guy who struggled through last year. He’ll also play in an offense likely to be run-friendly.

Martin’s ADP on Fantasy Football Calculator has been closer to where we rank him: 24th in non-PPR, 27th in PPR. But he’s still a solid value even then.

Frank Gore, RB, Colts

ADP Rank: RB35
DS Rank: RB25

No one likes to draft steady old guys in fantasy football. But at some point you just have to.

Marlon Mack looked impressive in his initial preseason action, but he also has a ways to go before he’s displacing a 13th-year vet. And Robert Turbin? If there were 1 word to describe him, it would be: “Meh.”

Even while posting the worst 2 yards-per-carry averages of his career in his 1st 2 seasons with the Colts, Gore still finished each year among the top 14 fantasy RBs across formats. Now he’s suddenly gonna fall all the way to low RB3 range? Not likely.

Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles

ADP Rank: RB58
DS Rank: RB40

I have to admit, I was hesitant to include Sproles. He’s often frustrating to own in fantasy, relying on unpredictably strong receiving weeks or intermittent TDs to build his season scoring totals.

But even the Philly beat writers don’t know what to make of this backfield. Just this week has brought reports of LeGarrette Blount – who worked as the 1st back in each of the 1st 2 preseason games – being a cut candidate. Wendell Smallwood ranges from struggling to make the team to being the likely lead back. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement arguably carries the most buzz, and he has yet to log a 1st-team carry in an exhibition game.

Through it all, the one thing we know is that Sproles is pretty good at football. HC Doug Pederson briefly turned to the vet as his lead back last year, and that was before Philly jettisoned Ryan Mathews. Sproles looks like the surest runner in an iffy crowd and an explosive receiver on a team trying hard to build its passing game.

Don’t be surprised if he even usurps Blount near the goal line at some point. In Blount’s huge 2016 with the Patriots, he ranked just 15th in red-zone TD rate among 55 players with 10+ red-zone carries. And his 50% TD rate from the 5-yard line or closer ranked just 6th among 15 backs with 10+ attempts in that range.

Take Sproles in Round 12 and then figure out later how/when to use him.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

ADP Rank: RB54
DS Rank: RB39

None of us really knows what to make of Bernard for 2017 yet, because none of us has seen him on the field in game action. But that’s not because he hasn’t proved ready. Bernard has been practicing throughout training camp. The Bengals have just held him out of the 1st 2 preseason games as he returns from last year’s ACL tear.

But Bernard has finished each of his 4 pro seasons among the team’s top 4 in receptions per game, averaging more than 3.0 per contest each of those years. We like Joe Mixon’s talent as much as anyone, but it’s hard to imagine Cincinnati just pushing Bernard to the side.

We’re certainly betting on a reduced role given the talent infusion to the backfield. But even as a Mixon handcuff, Bernard makes for a fine pick by Round 12. He’s going in the middle of Round 14, on average.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders

ADP Rank: WR22
DS Rank: WR15

These 1st 3 receivers make a solid argument for starting your draft with a pair of RBs.

Crabtree has played 2 seasons with the Raiders. He finished the first 20th among non-PPR wideouts and 17th in PPR; the second 12th across formats. And he improved last year despite Amari Cooper cracking the top 15 across formats in total fantasy points.

So, apparently the assumed ascension of Cooper into the top 10 is going to push Crabtree nearly out of WR2 range in 2017. Why? He’s not old (30 in mid-September). The Raiders continue to sport little pass-catching depth beyond their top 2 wideouts. Crabtree has beaten his younger teammate in targets twice so far. And the team finished last season 7th in the league in WR target share (64.1%).

Although we agree that Cooper is still trending up, it’s a mistake to believe that his climb will push Crabtree down.

Golden Tate, WR, Lions

ADP Rank: WR23
DS Rank: WR14

You’ll probably see Tate and Crabtree come up together frequently on your MVP board. Consider Tate the safer receptions bet; Crabtree the higher-upside TD guy. Both should be in your draft plans.

Tate stunk for the 1st 5 weeks last year. (OK, his Week 1 was decent: 11.3 PPR points.) Yet he still finished the season 17th among PPR WRs. From Week 6 on, he ranked 8th in the league in targets and 7th among wideouts in PPR points.

Perhaps Marvin Jones will be better, Eric Ebron is finally ready to step up and Kenny Golladay is for real. But the Lions leaned back toward Tate after opening last season targeting Jones heavily, Ebron has spent most of camp and the preseason sidelined with a hamstring injury and Golladay is a rookie.

We’re certainly not betting against Tate remaining 1 of the position’s safer options – in an offense that has long ranked near the top of the league in passing volume.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

ADP Rank: WR27
DS Rank: WR17

ADP says you could possibly draft Crabtree, Tate and Fitzgerald with consecutive picks in rounds 3, 4 and 5. And why not do so?

Fitzgerald’s going last among them and near the middle of WR3 range despite a long record of production. He followed his brutal 2014 with PPR finishes of 7th and 10th the past 2 years. He caught more passes over that span than anyone but Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.

Now, Cardinals HC Bruce Arians apparently isn’t happy with any WR on his team beyond Fitz and Jaron Brown. How is this veteran not going to feast on targets yet again?

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Ravens

ADP Rank: WR44
DS Rank: WR31

Who will be the man in the Baltimore passing game? We’ll see. Odds are there won’t really be a “the man,” but Maclin looks like the steadiest option.

He has seen no reported setbacks or other issues this summer after dealing with a groin tear last year. When last we saw him healthy, Maclin finished 2015 among the top 20 WRs in points per game across fantasy formats. He drew 26.2% of the Chiefs’ total targets despite missing a game.

Now he joins a Baltimore team with little to rely on beyond Mike Wallace, who just posted a 60% catch rate for the 1st time in 5 years. Maclin beats him 61.8% to 57.4% in career catch rate. And the Ravens have led the league in pass attempts for 2 straight years.

Maclin’s a strong volume play anywhere in WR3 range.

Kenny Britt, WR, Browns

ADP Rank: WR49
DS Rank: WR35

Britt just finished ranking top 30 across fantasy formats with Case Keenum and Jared Goff throwing him the ball … or at least flinging footballs into his general vicinity.

He arrives in a Cleveland offense with an unsettled QB situation. Brock Osweiler stands as the current leader and certainly doesn’t present an upgrade over the Rams’ duo. But he also can’t get much worse than Goff was in the 2nd half of last year.

With Goff, Britt sank from 4.9 receptions, 77 yards and 14.5 PPR points per game to 4.0, 51.5 and 11.2, respectively. Those 11.2 PPR points per game would have ranked 50th among WRs last year. And that’s a noteworthy point.

Even with Goff driving down Britt’s productivity late last year, the wideout was still producing around the level where he’s being drafted this season. If he fares any better than that, Britt’s a value. And if Corey Coleman suffers any further physical setbacks – or just proves unready to be the lead receiver – then Britt’s target count would likely benefit.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

ADP Rank: TE18
DS Rank: TE13

It’s fitting to bookend this article with Rivers and Witten, because they present similar “undervalued” profiles.

Do you remember the last time Witten finished outside the top 12 among PPR TEs? Whether you realize it or not, you probably do. Because it came way back in 2003, when the rookie caught just 35 balls for 347 yards and 1 TD. Since then, Witten has averaged a 5.5 finish among PPR TEs.

Even his decline over the past 2 seasons still found him ranked 11th and 10th in the end. So who in Dallas is pushing Witten out of the passing game plans this year?

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