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12 Most Undervalued Players in Fantasy Football Drafts

By Jared Smola 10:04pm EDT 8/18/13

Fantasy football isn’t just about finding the right players.  It’s about finding the right players at the right price.

If you snagged C.J. Spiller in the 7th or 8th round last year, you got a steal.  But Spiller wouldn’t have been nearly as valuable had you selected him in the 1st.

Here are 12 guys who could provide Spiller-like value in 2013.

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

DS Rank: 7th 

ADP Rank: 11th

Maybe it's his goofy face.  Or the fact that he's won just 1 playoff game.  Maybe it's all the Cowboys haters pushing his ADP down.

Whatever the reason, Romo has been a perennial fantasy value for a while now.  Nothing's changed in 2013.

Romo is lasting into the 7th or 8th round in most drafts.  He’s being selected after last year’s darlings, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck.  Those youngsters certainly have upside, but none is a proven producer like Romo.

The Cowboy has finished as a top 10 fantasy QB in each of his last 5 healthy seasons.  He ranked 7th this past year.

Yes, Romo is prone to a couple of stinkers every year.  He had 4- and 5-INT outings last season.

But Romo is money most of the time.  He threw for 250+ yards in 13 of 16 games.  He tossed multiple TDs 8 times.

And Romo is capable of blowing up in any given week.  He topped 30 standard-scoring fantasy points 3 times last year.  Peyton Manning only did that once.

With a top-notch group of weapons at his disposal, Romo once again looks like a rock-solid QB1 in fantasy.  And you can get him after loading up on RBs, WRs and maybe even a stud TE.  Romo is the best reason to wait on your QB this year.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams

DS Rank: 16th

ADP Rank: 21st

Josh Freeman, QB, Bucs

DS Rank: 18th

ADP Rank: 23rd

Both of these guys made our “Stealing a Top 10 QB” list.

Bradford, a former #1 overall pick, is entering his 4th NFL season.  He’s working in the same offensive system for a 2nd consecutive year for the 1st time in his pro career.  And he’s received upgrades on the offensive line (OT Jake Long) and in the pass-catching corps (TE Jared Cook, WR Tavon Austin).

Freeman was fantasy’s #7 QB back in 2010.  He was 13th this past year.  He gets stud Gs Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph back this season.  Freeman adds value with his rushing production.  He’s averaged 247 yards over the past 3 seasons.  Plus, Freeman is in a contract year.

Both guys have the potential to finish 2013 in fantasy-starter territory.  And here’s the best part: you can get them with 1 of your last few picks.

Bradford’s 12-team ADP is sitting at 13.10.  Freeman is right behind him at 14.09.  It wouldn’t be crazy to draft a mid-round guy like Eli Manning or Jay Cutler and then Bradford or Freeman as the 2nd half of a committee.

If you’re really on the Bradford and Freeman bandwagons, you could hold off on a QB until Round 12 or 13 and snag them both.  The pair is capable of providing top-10 production.  And that’s all you’d need considering the strength you’d have built at RB, WR and TE.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles

DS Rank: 3rd

ADP Rank: 8th

McCoy stands out as the most undervalued player in the 1st round of fantasy drafts. 

Folks seem relatively lukewarm on him after last year’s disappointing season.  He missed 4 games, scored just 5 TDs and averaged a mediocre 4.2 yards per carry.  McCoy ranked 21st in fantasy points among RBs.

He finished 11th in fantasy points per game, though.  And there’s plenty of reason to believe that McCoy will finish even higher in 2013.

He’s just a couple of years removed from a 2nd-place fantasy finish.  At 25 years old, McCoy remains in the prime of his career.  He’ll be running behind an offensive line that added stud rookie RT Lane Johnson and got LT Jason Peters back from injury.  And he’ll be operating in HC Chip Kelly’s creative, up-tempo, run-heavy offense. 

McCoy looked electric in his preseason debut this past week, racking up 47 yards on 8 carries, plus another 16 on 3 grabs.  This multi-faceted weapon will be the focal point of Philly’s offense this year.

Of course, if you want McCoy, you’ll need to select him with your 1st pick – regardless of where that is in the opening round.  We haven’t seen him reach Round 2 in a single draft we’ve taken part in.

But the fact that he’s going in the back half of the 1st could come in handy if you’re able to trade draft picks.  Say you’re sitting with the 4th pick in your draft.  You could trade down to 7 or 8, pick up a few extra picks or move up in subsequent rounds and still get McCoy.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints

DS Rank: 34th

ADP Rank: 44th

We’ll keep stealing Thomas while everyone else waits for Mark Ingram’s breakout season.

Ingram has been the talk of Saints training camp.  He’s healthy and reportedly showing more explosion.  Plenty of insiders are predicting a career-best campaign from the former 1st-round pick.

We’ll believe it when we see it.  Ingram hasn’t inspired much confidence this preseason, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.  He’s caught 1 pass in 2 games.

That wouldn’t be a big deal if Ingram had regular-season production to fall back on.  He doesn’t.  He’s averaged 3.9 yards per carry in each of his first 2 pro seasons.  He doesn’t have a run of longer than 35 yards.  He’s totaled just 17 catches and 10 TDs.

Thomas has been better across the board.  He’s averaged a juicy 4.8 yards per carry over the past 2 years.  He’s hauled in 89 balls and averaged 8.8 yards per.

Thomas has even been more efficient than Ingram near the goal line.  PT has scored on 5 of his 13 carries from inside the 10 over the past 2 seasons.  That's a 38% conversion rate.  Ingram has hit pay dirt on just 4 of 17 tries (24%).

It seems pretty clear to us that Thomas is the superior back.  The Saints don’t see it that way, though.  They’ve used Ingram as the primary ball-carrier the past 2 seasons and look ready to do the same in 2013.

That’s fine.  Thomas can still be a valuable RB3 or flex for your fantasy squad.  He’s finished each of his last 4 healthy seasons ranked 33rd or better at his position in standard-scoring fantasy points.  He’s been a top-32 PPR back each year.

That seems like his floor in 2013, making him a risk-free proposition at his current ADP. 

Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

DS Rank: 13th

ADP Rank: 21st

Sometimes injuries are a good thing.  Like when they happen in August and knock a guy’s ADP down a full round.

Nelson was going in the 4th round just a week ago.  Then news broke that he underwent surgery to correct nerve tissue in his knee.  Now he’s going in the mid-5th.

There’s big-time value there.  Just look at the 2 WRs going directly in front of Nelson: Pierre Garcon and Hakeem Nicks.  Both guys are bigger injury risks with less upside than Nelson.

Sure, Nelson’s recent surgery adds risk.  He’s not a lock for Week 1.  And we can’t know whether the knee problem will linger.  It is worth noting that the nerve issue has bothered Nelson since his college days.  It’s tough to believe the knee will be more of a problem after the surgery.

When Nelson is on the field, we know he’ll carry major fantasy upside.  He’s just a couple of years removed from a massive 68-1,263-15 campaign.  Nelson finished 2nd among WRs in fantasy points that year.

Even in just 12 games last year, Nelson still hauled in 7 scores.  He had a 3-TD outburst in Week 6 and topped 120 yards twice.  Nelson is capable of posting a difference-making stat line every week.

We love this guy as a WR2 for your fantasy squad.  Now that he’s going in the 5th round, you can load up on RBs early, take TE Jimmy Graham or an elite WR, and then add Nelson.

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers

DS Rank: 26th

ADP Rank: 37th

Did Williams punch a baby or something?  Because we can't think of any other reason he'd be just the 37th WR off the board in average drafts.

Williams finished 18th at the position last year.  His 9 TDs tied for 10th, and his 966 yards set a career high.

It looks like his disappointing 2011 campaign was an aberration.  He finished with just 771 yards and 3 scores that year, ranking 50th among WRs in fantasy points.  That followed a monster rookie season that saw Williams tally 955 yards and 11 TDs – and rank 11th at the position in fantasy points.

That’s 2 top-18 fantasy finishes in 3 seasons.

Of course, Williams isn't undervalued because of what he did in previous years.  He's undervalued because of the points he'll put up for your fantasy squad this year.

Vincent Jackson remains Tampa’s lead receiver.  But Williams is the clear-cut #2.  He saw 126 targets last year – 21st among WRs – and should be right around there again in 2013.  His role actually grew late last season.  After averaging 6.6 targets in his first 11 games, Williams saw 10.6 over his final 5.  He was a beast over that stretch, too, compiling 26 catches, 371 yards and 4 TDs.  Only 8 WRs scored more fantasy points over that span.

Don’t bank on Williams posting top-10 numbers in 2013.  But he could even take a step back from last year’s 18th-place finish and still be a major value in fantasy drafts.  He’s a strong WR3 with WR2 upside.  That makes him a steal at his current 8.11 ADP.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints

DS Rank: 27th

ADP Rank: 39th

Moore is the cheapest way to get a significant piece of the Saints’ high-octane passing attack. 

Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston are all going inside the first 5 rounds of average fantasy drafts – and rightfully so.  Then there’s Moore, sitting all the way down in the 9th round.  There’s big value there.

Moore has finished as a top-34 fantasy WR in each of his last 4 healthy seasons.  He’s been as high as #13 (back in 2008).  He turned in his first 1,000-yard season this past year, finishing 21st at the position in non-PPR scoring.

There’s no reason to expect a major dip in production this year, especially with offensive guru Sean Payton back in the mix.  Moore carries WR2 upside with a floor in low-end WR3 territory.  That makes him a prime value at his 9th-round ADP.

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys

DS Rank: 29th

ADP Rank: 33rd

Not much went right for Austin in 2012.  He was plagued by a couple of bum hamstrings all season.  He watched Dez Bryant emerge as one of the most productive WRs in the league.  And he saw TE Jason Witten tally a career-high 110 catches.

Austin still finished 26th among WRs in fantasy points.  Now he’s going 33rd at the position in drafts?  We’ll take him there every time.

Austin’s hamstrings remain a concern.  But he’s had a healthy summer and has looked good hauling in 4 balls for 47 yards in limited action in Dallas’ last 2 preseason games.

If Austin stays healthy this year, he’s a lock for at least high-end WR3 production.  That’s where he finished last year.  In 2011, he missed 6 games but ranked 18th in points per game at the position.  That followed top-12 finishes in each of the previous 2 seasons.

Austin is still only 29.  He’s averaged 13.5+ yards per catch in each of his 6 seasons.  And he’s playing on an offense that’s finished among the top 13 in pass attempts in 5 straight seasons.  Bryant’s dominance will only open up more space for Austin to operate.

We’re more than willing to roll the dice on him in the 8th round of fantasy drafts.  If those hamstrings cooperate, Austin will prove to be a big-time bargain at that price.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers

DS Rank: 6th

ADP Rank: 8th

Jared Cook, TE, Rams

DS Rank: 7th

ADP Rank: 10th

We’re listing these guys together because they’re so similar.  Both have disappointed fantasy owners recently.  But both remain elite talents who have the potential for top 5 fantasy TE numbers this year.

And they can both be had in rounds 8 or 9 of 12-team fantasy drafts.

Finley was a major disappointment last year.  He managed just 667 yards and 2 TDs, finishing 17th among TEs in fantasy points.

That’s turned him into a value pick in 2013 fantasy drafts.  Remember that Finley is just 2 years removed from a top 5 fantasy finish.  He was sitting 5th the year prior until a knee injury ended his season in Week 5.

Finley is plenty capable of returning to the top 5 this year.  He’s quietly improved his chemistry with QB Aaron Rodgers this offseason.  The duo connected 4 times for 78 yards in last week’s preseason contest.

An elite talent in a top-notch passing game, Finley’s upside makes him a tasty 8th- or 9th-rounder.

Cook is just as talented.  And while St. Louis’ passing game isn’t as established as Green Bay’s, it could produce plenty of fantasy points in 2013.

The Rams are transitioning to a pass-first, spread attack.  Cook will play a significant role as a down-the-seam field-stretcher.  He’s been drawing oohs and aahs all summer.  Sports Illustrated’s Peter King called Cook the best “offensive weapon” he’s seen on his camp tour.

Cook was under-utilized by the Titans.  It doesn’t sound like that will be an issue in St. Louis.

We can’t argue against targeting Jimmy Graham in the 2nd round of fantasy drafts.  But Finley and Cook in the 8th or 9th present better pure value.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions

DS Rank: 14th

ADP: 18th

Coby Fleener and Zach Sudfeld both sit ahead of Pettigrew in ADP among TEs.  Tyler Eifert is right behind him.  Those 3 guys have combined for 26 career NFL catches.

Pettigrew, meanwhile, has racked up 213 catches over the past 3 seasons.  Only 3 TEs – Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham – had more during that stretch.

We’re not saying Fleener, Sudfeld and Eifert have no chance of finishing with more fantasy points than Pettigrew this year.  Those youngsters have plenty of raw ability.  But they’d need to reach the tippy-top of their ceilings to out-produce Pettigrew.

The Lion missed 3 games last year but finished 18th among TEs in non-PPR points per game.  He was 12th in PPR.  Consider that his floor in 2013.  Pettigrew ranked 11th at the position in non-PRR in 2011; 6th in PPR.  He was 12th and 8th, respectively, in 2010.

Pettigrew might not be an exciting option.  He doesn’t have Jimmy Graham’s size or leaping ability, or Vernon Davis’ downfield speed.  But he’s a solid possession receiver in the league’s pass-heaviest offense. 

Now, RB Reggie Bush might steal a few of those short-range targets this year.  But the Lions still have question marks at WR behind Calvin Johnson.  Pettigrew is a good bet to finish 2nd on the team in targets, as he has each of the past 3 seasons.

If you’re waiting on TE and deploying a committee attack, Pettigrew is a prime target as the safe, reliable half of the duo.

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