8 Values in Early Underdog Best Ball Mania III Drafts
Underdog’s big, $2 million-grand-prize Best Ball Mania III tournament is off and running. It’s a 451,200-team contest, so drafts figure to be firing off all through August and maybe into September.
There are pros and cons to drafting this early; pros and cons to drafting later. (If you’re entering a bunch of teams, I’d recommend spacing out your drafts.)
One advantage of drafting now: The Draft Sharks projections. We’ve already spent 100+ hours digging into all 32 teams. That work has unearthed quite a few players that the masses are overlooking.
They might not be values by the time we get to August, but here are 8 players going too late in current Underdog drafts.
Daniel Jones, QB, Giants
Draft Sharks Rank: QB19
Underdog ADP: QB24, 15.05
There might not be a bigger play-calling upgrade heading into 2022 than the Giants going from dinosaur Jason Garrett to forward-thinking Brian Daboll. Jones should be a big beneficiary of the change.
Daboll spent the last 4 years in Buffalo, overseeing the breakout of a young, athletic QB with accuracy and decision-making issues. Sound familiar?
Jones is not Josh Allen. Of course not. But I do believe he’s capable of taking a big step forward in 2022, with the help of Daboll’s scheme. The 2021 Bills offense was fast and pass-heavy, ranking 9th in situation-neutral pace and 1st in situation-neutral pass rate. The Giants probably won’t go to those extremes this year, but expect plenty of plays and plenty of passes.
Jones’ protection got an upgrade with the arrival of 1st-round OT Evan Neal. The Giants used their 2nd-round pick to add Wan’Dale Robinson to the WR corps alongside 2021 1st-rounder Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay. Hopefully we get a healthier season from RB Saquon Barkley.
And don’t sleep on Jones’ rushing ability. Only 9 QBs have averaged more rushing yards per game over the last 3 seasons than Jones’ 26.3.
He’s the most likely late-round QB in Underdog drafts to finish top 12 at the position.
James Conner, RB, Cardinals
Draft Sharks Rank: RB11
Underdog ADP: RB15, 3.07
Conner’s ADP has been climbing and climbing all offseason, so he’s a guy that I’m particularly looking to draft now before his price gets steeper. He’s still a value in Round 3.
Chase Edmonds’ departure in free agency leaves 2020 7th-rounder Eno Benjamin and 2022 6th-rounder Keaontay Ingram behind Conner on Arizona’s depth chart. Expect the veteran to dominate backfield work.
That’s exactly what he did in 5 games without Edmonds last season, averaging 15.8 carries and 5.4 targets. Conner finished as a top-16 half-PPR RB in all 5 of those weeks, including a trio of top-8 finishes.
He might be even busier early this season as the Cardinals deal with WR DeAndre Hopkins’ 6-game suspension.
Conner looks like a low-end RB1 that should be going in the 2nd round of Underdog drafts. Take advantage of the current discount.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
Draft Sharks Rank: RB25
Underdog ADP: RB28, 8.02
Edwards-Helaire hasn’t looked like a 1st-round pick through 2 NFL seasons – no doubt. And he’s been just OK in fantasy, finishing 26th and then 27th among RBs in half-PPR points per game.
Does he have more to offer? Maybe. He’s still just 23 and was a good enough looking prospect for the Chiefs to take him 32nd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
But, really, this is just a bet on Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Chiefs offense. Kansas City, as of now, has not re-signed RBs Darrel Williams or Jerick McKinnon, who combined for 77 targets last regular season and 17 more in the playoffs. The Chiefs added RB Ronald Jones in free agency. But he got just a 1-year, $1.5 million deal, was mistake-prone throughout his time in Tampa and offers very little in the passing game.
We’ll watch for clues this summer about how carries will be divvied, but I’m at least confident that Edwards-Helaire will handle the majority of the pass-catching work … in a Patrick Mahomes-led offense that lost a top target in Tyreek Hill.
That alone makes CEH worth a shot in Round 8. Anything beyond that is gravy.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans
Draft Sharks Rank: WR14
Underdog ADP: WR30, 6.04
Cooks is the single biggest value in Underdog drafts right now.
We could really just leave it at this: He finished 21st among WRs in half-PPR points last year and is currently WR30 in ADP.
We don’t see much changing for him in 2022.
Cooks benefitted from big volume last year, finishing 12th at his position with 133 targets. Expect more of the same this year. The only notable addition Houston made to the WR corps this offseason was 2nd-round rookie John Metchie, who might not even be ready for the start of the season after tearing his ACL last December.
Cooks deserves the targets anyways. The 28-year-old remained super effective last season, ranking 27th in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and 17th in yards per route run among 90 qualifying WRs.
He ranked 19th in PFF grade and 15th in yards per route in his 1st season with the Texans in 2020, when he finished 15th among WRs in half-PPR points.
Cooks might even get better QB play this season from Davis Mills, who’s coming off a promising rookie campaign. Cooks averaged more targets, catches, yards and TDs in 10 full games with Mills last year than he did in his other 6 outings.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Giants
Draft Sharks Rank: WR36
Underdog ADP: WR53, 10.03
Toney’s rookie season was sparse but impressive. The 1st-round pick appeared in 10 games and played in 50+% of the Giants’ offensive snaps in 7 of them.
But he popped in that limited action. There was a 10-catch, 189-yard explosion vs. the Cowboys, a 6-78 line vs. the Saints and a 7-catch outing against the Bucs. Toney averaged 7.4 targets on a 21% share across those 7 games with a 50+% snap rate – impressive marks for a rookie.
Even more impressive: Toney’s 2.14 yards per route run ranked 11th among 90 qualifying WRs and made him just the 8th rookie in the last 5 seasons to average 2+ yards per route. The other 7: Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, A.J. Brown, Hunter Renfrow, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin and Chris Godwin.
There are certainly red flags on Toney – both durability and character concerns. He was reportedly on the trade block earlier this offseason, so it’s unclear exactly how he fits with the new Giants regime.
But those risks are more than priced into his current ADP. His pedigree and rookie season suggest that a breakout might be coming. And he should benefit from the arrival of aggressive, pass-happy HC Brian Daboll.
Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers
Draft Sharks Rank: WR41
Underdog ADP: WR52, 10.01
There are valid concerns with Claypool. He’s coming off a rocky 2nd season; his team added a WR in the 2nd round of this year’s draft; and he’ll be working with a new QB this season.
But we’re looking for upside when we get to the double-digit rounds, especially in this top-heavy Underdog tournament. And Claypool certainly has upside.
He’s a 23-year-old, 6’4, 238-pounder with 99th percentile athleticism. He finished 18th among WRs in half-PPR points as a rookie in 2020. And, even in what felt like a disappointing 2021, Claypool finished WR38 in half-PPR scoring. That’s 14 spots higher than he’s being drafted right now.
Is George Pickens, a rookie who played just 12 games over the last 2 years, really going to come right in and take Claypool’s job? Is the Kenny Pickett - Mitchell Trubisky tandem really going to be a downgrade from the corpse of Ben Roethlisberger?
There’s very little risk – and a whole lot of upside – to Claypool at his current ADP.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles
Draft Sharks Rank: TE5
Underdog ADP: TE8, 8.08
Goedert was finally freed from Zach Ertz last season – and the results were strong. In 10 healthy games after the Ertz trade, Goedert averaged 4.4 catches, 67.8 yards and .2 TDs. That’s 10.2 half-PPR points per game, which would have ranked 5th among TEs for the season.
Goedert saw a huge 24.7% target share in those games, although that amounted to a modest 6.7 targets per game because the Eagles were the league’s run-heaviest offense over that stretch. Expect that to change – maybe drastically – after the addition of WR A.J. Brown.
Brown, of course, figures to steal some targets from Goedert. But Goedert still looks like a strong volume bet. He’s 1 of the game’s best pass-catching TEs, ranking top 10 at the position in yards per route run in 3 straight seasons, including a 1st-place finish last year.
Plus, HC Nick Sirianni comes from the Frank Reich coaching tree, which tends to heavily utilize TEs in the passing game. In Sirianni’s 3 seasons as OC under Reich in Indianapolis, Colts TEs tallied 25.8%, 26.3% and 21.6% target shares. (League average is around 20%.) Eagles TEs combined for a 24.5% target share under Sirianni last year.
Evan Engram, TE, Jaguars
Draft Sharks Rank: TE13
Underdog ADP: TE25, 16.09
If you’ve played fantasy football for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ve been burned by Engram. So, in some ways, I understand his current ADP.
But, in some ways, his current ADP is friggin’ whack. TE25?!? Behind Logan Thomas and Taysom Hill?!?
Engram has certainly fallen short of expectations as a former 1st-round pick. But he’d finished as a top-18 half-PPR TE in 4 straight seasons prior to last year (and top 7 in points per game in each of his first 3 seasons). He’s still in his prime, turning 28 in September. And he finds himself in a nice spot in 2022.
Engram inked a short but lucrative deal with Jacksonville in free agency. He’s signed for just 1 year but at $9 million. Only 9 TEs are making more total cash this season. That suggests the Jaguars envision a big role for him.
And that jibes with new HC Doud Pederson’s history. Eagles TEs averaged a massive 32.3% target share in Pederson’s 5 seasons as HC. You could argue that Engram isn’t as talented (or reliable) as Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. But Jacksonville’s 2022 TE target share could fall well short of 32% and still crush the NFL average of 20%.
It’s a TE-friendly offense, and Trevor Lawrence has the potential to be a big upgrade over Engram’s old QB, Daniel Jones.
Add it all up and there’s a chance we get a big rebound season from Engram. That upside is not baked into his current ADP.