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Draft Strategy

14 Undervalued Players

By Kevin English 9:08am EDT 8/17/20

Fantasy football drafting, at its core, is about buying players for less than they’re actually worth. In other words, you win your fantasy draft by picking undervalued players.

Before we get to this year's group, keep in mind that undervalued players are marked by a $ on the MVP Board.

Also note: ADP is taken from recent Best Ball 10 drafts.

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys


DS Rank: QB3

Prescott’s resume speaks for itself.

He’s ranked as a top-11 fantasy QB in all 4 pro seasons. He ranked 2nd last year, setting career highs in pass attempts (596), yards (4,902) and TDs (30). And that was with his pass catchers dropping 7.2% of his targets (the highest rate among 32 QBs with 250+ drop backs). Prescott's rushing stats also sunk to a career-low 52-277-3.

We have his volume coming down slightly (585 attempts) but with improved efficiency. Prescott’s only 4 years into his career, while 2020 will bring his most impressive set of pass catchers to date.

Dallas added the ultra-dynamic CeeDee Lamb to a WR corps that already boasted a pair of young playmakers (Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup). TE Blake Jarwin goes 6’5 and provides a huge athletic upgrade on Jason Witten.

Lasting until early Round 7 in most drafts, Prescott’s awfully tempting — especially if you have a thin starting lineup (like 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1 Flex).

Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles


DS Rank: QB8

Let’s all agree to give Wentz a pass for last season.

Absent DeSean Jackson for almost all of 2019, Philly lacked any kind of a deep threat. Their top target leaders at WR included Alshon Jeffery (73 in 10 games), Nelson Agholor (69 in 11 games) and Greg Ward (40 in 7 games).

There simply wasn’t any juice to this unit. Eagles targets combined for 4.6 yards after catch per reception — the 4th worst mark league-wide.

The team recognized its shortcoming this offseason, throwing 3 draft picks at the WR position. Chief among them is 21st overall pick Jalen Raegor, who brings dangerous downfield speed to pair with a healthy DeSean Jackson.

With defenses forced to defend that speed, Philly can better attack the short range with the league’s best TE duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Miles Sanders also showed a WR-like receiving skill set last year, ranking 6th among 32 RBs with 40+ targets in yards per route run (per Pro Football Focus).

You might worry about the injury risk here, but Wentz is coming off a 16-game slate and is coming up on 3 years post- ACL surgery. The 27-year-old demands attention as a mid-round target.

Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers


DS Rank: QB7

Brady’s 2019 story sounds a lot like Wentz’s. A shaky New England pass-catching corps combined to drop 34 passes — 2nd most league-wide. Julian Edelman was the only consistent WR.

2020 turns up a much different script.

Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard provide perhaps the league’s best group of pass catchers. Uncertainty in the backfield — despite some Ronald Jones hype — could have this team heavily leaning pass. Our current projections have Brady slated for the 2nd-most attempts (600).

Now put him in a shootout division with teams like Atlanta and New Orleans, and it wouldn’t be surprising if his volume rises even higher.

Cam Akers, RB, Rams


DS Rank: RB24

Beat writer Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic opined last week that Akers will work in a “committee” with Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown.

We concede — that is a possibility. But even if so, we don’t envision it lasting very long. Rodrigue even qualifies her prediction by saying "at least at first..."

Well, yeah. The Rams took Akers 52nd overall — 18 spots ahead of where they took Henderson in 2019. As one team scout put it (per USA Today): “He can run inside, he can run outside, he can catch the ball well, he’s elusive. I think he’s the total package.”

Akers showed well at Florida State despite a terrible supporting cast. Then he blazed a 1.52-second 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash. That beat each RB at the Combine, minus superhuman Jonathan Taylor. Akers showed plenty of long speed with a 40-time of 4.47-seconds.

At 5’10 and nearly 220 pounds, Akers has the size to handle lead back work if he earns it. Our money is on Akers doing just that sooner rather than later. And he'll be running for a Rams team that's ranked top 5 in rushing TDs in 3 straight seasons.

Tevin Coleman, RB, 49ers


DS Rank: RB32

You know how fantasy RB production is mostly about opportunity? Well, it sounds like Coleman will remain squarely in the backfield mix this fall.

[HC] Kyle Shanahan and [RBs coach] Bobby Turner liked starting games with Coleman because he’s a little bigger and more physical runner than the others," beat writer Matt Barrows wrote in August. "So my guess is that the arrangement will be the same as last season: Coleman starts, with Turner then using his feel for who’s hot that day dictating the snap loads for the rest of the game."

Barrows admits it’s a “guess” — but this is a seasoned reporter with 17 years on the beat.

Coleman’s body of work trumps Raheem Mostert’s, while the former remains a better pass catcher. Jerick McKinnon could steal some receiving work, but we haven’t seen him in an NFL game since Week 17 of 2017 due to a right ACL tear (and subsequent complications).

You’re not foolish for targeting Mostert at a very fair RB27 price tag. If forced to pick 1 San Francisco RB, though, we’d take the 3-4 round discount on Coleman.

Robert Woods, WR, Rams


DS Rank: WR7

Woods has never been known for a high TD rate. But his 2 TDs from 2019 — on a career-high 90 catches — are quite fluky. Since the 1970 merger, only 3 other WRs have scored 2 or fewer times on 90+ grabs.

So that number will rise in 2020. Awesome.

In terms of volume, Woods’ outlook appears strong. He’s handled 130 and 139 targets over the past 2 years. Now, Brandin Cooks (and his 6.3 targets per game) are out. Don’t expect Josh Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson to completely fill the void.

Woods also provides sneaky rushing value. His 36 carries, 272 rushing yards and 2 TDs over the past 2 seasons are all top 3 marks among WRs.

Returning the same QB and HC, Woods — who's regularly available in the 5th round of fantasy drafts — is 1 of our favorite WR targets.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks


DS Rank: WR18

Yeah, we’d like to see Seattle’s pass rate come up. But even last year, with that number at just 51.8% (5th lowest league-wide), Lockett assembled the WR13 season.

That’ll happen when you play with a hyper-efficient Russell Wilson. The duo combined for a catch rate of nearly 75%. And that’s with Lockett’s average depth of target at a well above average 13.43 yards.

Toss in the fact that Lockett led all pass catchers in red zone targets, and you really get fired up about his 2020 prospects. Given a thin target tree beyond Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, the veteran looks poised for another strong season.

DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins


DS Rank: WR20

Speaking of a thin target tree … have you seen Miami’s depth chart lately? After Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted out of the season, the Fins might actually use recent signee and former Colt Chester Rogers as their primary slot. (That’s actually the opinion of beat writer Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.)

It’s a win for Parker, who’s coming off a career season that culminated with a December contract extension.

Parker certainly benefited from Preston Williams’ mid-season ACL tear. Check out these per game splits from Parker with and without Williams:

With: 5.75 targets, 3 catches, 42.8 yards, .37 TDs

Without: 11.25 targets, 6.75 catches, 114.75 yards, .75 TDs

Williams is close to a lock to play Week 1. Yet it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be — at least right away — ~10 months removed from surgery.

Even if Williams progresses quickly, Parker should hover around 130 targets in an offense needy enough for 2 weekly contributors. And an eventual move to the super-accurate Tua Tagovailoa would only boost Parker's outlook.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals


DS Rank: WR24

Over the past 2 years, only 7 WRs have totaled more catches than Boyd’s 166.

Sure, the target competition is a bit stiffer this year with A.J. Green and Tee Higgins in the mix. But Green ultimately hasn’t suited up since December 2nd, 2018. There’s an outcome that has the 32-year-old simply done as a top-tier WR.

TD specialist Tee Higgins looks like a potential stud, but he’s missed practice time with an undisclosed injury. Any missed time for a rookie hurts — especially this year.

Then there’s the arrival of QB Joe Burrow, whose accuracy, fearlessness and quick release mesh well with Boyd’s slot role.

So far so good on this budding connection.

“The No. 1 thing with me in correlation with the quarterback is just the timing," Boyd said. “How he puts the zip on the ball and how quickly he releases the ball. That’s the number one thing with me. Secondly, how hard is he throwing it? How fast I have to get my hands up and things like that. So far, he’s been on point to me.”

Likely still ascending at just 26 (in November), Boyd brings a clear combo of safety and PPR upside.

Will Fuller, WR, Texans


DS Rank: WR30

Injury risk be damned: this guy belongs on your fantasy team.

We’re talking about one of the league’s speediest WRs playing with an accurate downfield passer. Now consistent volume looks promising with DeAndre Hopkins (and his 150 targets) out the door.

Sure, Brandin Cooks is a legit starting caliber WR, but he’s not near Hopkins’ level. Randall Cobb provides a complementary piece at this stage of his career.

The Texans are counting on a big year from Fuller — at least if you ask his QB.

“Will's going to be one of the best receivers in the league," Deshaun Watson said in August. "He came back a lot stronger, a lot faster. Will's really good, very confident in himself and what he did over the offseason. I'm very confident in what he can do. We all are as an organization and as a team."

You aren’t expecting 16 games if you draft this contract-year wideout. But even 13-14 could be enough to return a big profit.

Marvin Jones, WR, Lions


DS Rank: WR35

Only 14 WRs scored more PPR points than Jones over the first 9 weeks of the 2019 season.

Let that sink in.

Clicking with Matt Stafford on deep balls, Jones slashed 42-535-6 TDs — a full-season pace of 84-1,070-12.

Now, Jones never got there. He missed 3 games with an ankle injury; Matt Stafford sat out the 2nd half of the season with a back injury.

Now at 100%, Jones will carry 2017-level upside (61-1,101-9) into September. Kenny Golladay might look like a major barrier, but Jones actually out-targeted him by 1 in 9 games together in 2018. Last year, in 8 games with Stafford, Jones trailed his teammate by only 5 looks.

Take the massive discount on Jones, who’s routinely available into Round 8 of drafts.

Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles


DS Rank: TE3

We already went over Philly’s improved pass-catching corps in Carson Wentz’s writeup.

But Ertz’s spot in the offense is well established now; the Stanford product owns over 100 targets in 5 straight seasons. So the new speed additions only figure to boost Ertz’s efficiency.

The 29-year-old has missed only 1 game over the past 2 seasons. And he’s improved following early-career struggles in the TD department, totaling 22 scores over the past 3 years.

You’ll find tempting TE options later than Round 5, but none bring Ertz’s safety.

Noah Fant, TE, Broncos


DS Rank: TE9

The speedy Fant put on 5 to 10 pounds in the offseason in an effort to better handle his role under new OC Pat Shurmur.

“I’ll be in the slot, I’ll be in-line and I’ll be outside as a wide receiver,” Fant said. “I think that’s what I love the most (about the new scheme), is just being able to have a versatile game and do a lot of different things, take advantage of a lot of different matchups. Especially with as good of receivers as we have, it’s going to be a lot of fun to do that.”

Those good WRs — Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy — might appear to lower Fant’s target floor. But it remains to be seen how quickly Jeudy will capture a sizable role. And Fant clearly has a built-in edge having played 5 games alongside QB Drew Lock. One of those produced a 4-113-1 line at Houston.

Consistency might remain spotty, but ultimately, you’re betting on talent and athleticism producing some monster games.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Lions


DS Rank: TE11

We heavily weigh breakout age for college prospects. But consider this with Hockenson: in his very first pro game, he ripped the Cardinals for 6-131-1 on 9 targets. That’s the most yards in a rookie TE’s debut in league history.

Of course, the remainder of his rookie year didn’t pan out as expected. He suffered several injuries, including one to his ankle on Thanksgiving that required surgery.

"Probably hard to summarize his entire year right now as an entirety, but certainly I think a guy that was consistent from Day 1, someone that worked really hard," HC Matt Patricia said of Hockenson. "I think he improved as the spring and training camp and the season went on. I think he worked really hard at his task and understanding differences between the college game and the pro game and some of the different looks that he was going to see, especially after early in the season when I think obviously a lot production and a lot of stats early in the year."

Hockenson — only the 4th TE to go top-10 in the draft since 2000 — now looks poised for a year 2 leap. He gets the benefit of continuity with QB Matthew Stafford and OC Darrell Bevell. Boasting above excellent athleticism at 6’5, 250 pounds, it’s no wonder Bevell looked to get creative with Hockenson’s usage. Last year, 26% of his targets came from the slot — 3rd most among 57 TEs with 20+ targets.

Don’t be surprised if Hockenson ranks as a top-10 fantasy TE come January.

August 17 UPDATE: Word out of camp is that Hockenson still isn't over his 2019 ankle issue. We've dropped him several spots in our TE rankings.

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