An Early Look at Undervalued and Overvalued Players
Time to compare the 2 lists and see who’s being undervalued and overvalued.
Our rankings will obviously change throughout the summer. So will ADP. We’ll have an updated version of this article during peak draft season in August.
Note: We’re using our PPR rankings and ADP data from real MFL10 drafts from June 5 to June 18.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans
DS Rank: QB12
ADP Rank: QB17
As a rookie in a crappy offense last year, Mariota finished 17th among QBs in fantasy points per game. He jumps into the top 12 if we remove the Week 15 outing that saw him get knocked out in the 2nd quarter.
So Mariota doesn’t even need to improve in Year 2 to return value at his current price tag. But we’re expecting improvement. Mariota figures to be more comfy in the offense, returns 2015 leading receiver Delanie Walker, should get more from WR Dorial Green-Beckham and added a strong pass-catching RB in DeMarco Murray.
Most importantly, there’s room for massive growth in Mariota’s rushing production. His 2.8 carries per game last year ranked just 15th among QBs. Tennessee has talked all offseason about letting Mariota run more in 2016. It’s worth noting that HC Mike Mularkey was the Steelers OC in 2001 and 2002, when QB Kordell Stewart averaged 6 carries per game.
If the Titans give Mariota that type of rushing volume, he has the potential to lead his position in rushing yards.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins
DS Rank: QB13
ADP Rank: QB21
Tannehill was a disappointment last year … and still finished 15th among QBs in fantasy points. That’s 6 spots ahead of where he’s being drafted this spring.
Over the past few months, Tannehill has watched his team hire a promising offensive mind in HC Adam Gase and draft a couple of talented pass-catchers in WR Leonte Carroo and RB Kenyan Drake. Those guys join WR Jarvis Landry, WR DeVante Parker and a potentially resurgent TE Jordan Cameron to give Tannehill an impressive supporting cast.
He doesn’t even need to improve from last year to make sense at his current price tag. And he’s already proven capable of QB1 production, finishing 8th at the position back in 2014.
Lamar Miller, RB, Texans
DS Rank: RB3
ADP Rank: RB6
We’re splitting hairs here, but even 3 spots this high up in the rankings is noteworthy.
We dug into Miller’s sky-high fantasy ceiling in this article shortly after he joined the Texans. The crux is this: Miller is a talented, efficient RB who will be a 3-down workhorse in a run-heavy and fast-paced offense.
Jump on him anywhere in the 2nd round of fantasy drafts. He even makes sense in the back half of the 1st.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins
DS Rank: RB16
ADP Rank: RB23
The guy replacing Miller in Miami is also a nice value in early fantasy drafts.
We didn’t get to see much of Ajayi last year, but he was a stat-piling machine at Boise State. His final 2 seasons produced 3,248 rushing yards, 757 receiving yards and 51 total TDs. The 6’0, 221-pounder earned a SPARQ score in the 79th percentile among RBs and only dropped to the 5th round of last year’s draft because of long-term concerns about 1 of his knees.
Ajayi heads into training camp in position for a hefty role in the Dolphins backfield. His primary competition for touches will come from 3rd-round rookie Kenyan Drake, who never topped 92 carries in 4 seasons at Alabama.
New HC Adam Gase is looking for a 3-down back, and Ajayi stands a good shot of emerging as that guy. He’s a potential RB1 that you can get at a low-end RB2 price tag.
Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals
DS Rank: RB20
ADP Rank: RB25
Since entering the league 3 years ago, Bernard has never finished worse than 17th among RBs in PPR points. He ranked 13th in 2013, 16th in 2014 and 17th last year. Yet he’s being drafted 25th at the position.
We might even be low on him at #20. His 17th-place finish last year came despite scoring just 2 total TDs. He popped in 7 and 8 scores, respectively, in his first 2 seasons.
And Bernard’s passing-game role could grow after Cincinnati lost 153 targets from 2015 when Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left in free agency. Only 6 RBs have caught more passes than Bernard over the past 3 years, and he’s averaged a strong 9.0 yards per catch.
Frank Gore, RB, Colts
DS Rank: RB17
ADP Rank: RB29
We get it — no one wants to draft a 33-year-old RB. But Gore ain’t your typical 30-something.
His 967 rushing yards last season were the 7th most in NFL history by a 32-year-old RB. And that followed 4 straight campaigns of 1,100+ yards. Gore also hasn’t missed a game since 2010.
He’ll find more running room this year with the return of a healthy Andrew Luck. Injuries to the franchise QB last season dumped the Colts to 28th in total yards and 24th in points. That was a big decline from their top-6 finishes in both categories the previous year.
This should again be a top-10 offense in 2016. And there’s no legitimate threat to Gore’s role as a 3-down back. He could stumble his way to 1,200+ yards, 8+ TDs and a top-20 fantasy finish.
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
DS Rank: WR22
ADP Rank: WR27
A trio of dislocated fingers cost Floyd much of training camp and all of the preseason last year. It also contributed to a slow start when the games began to count. Floyd totaled just 8 catches for 104 scoreless yards in Arizona’s first 5 contests.
But from Week 6 on, he ranked 18th among WRs in PPR points. Floyd was especially productive over his final 8 outings, topping 100 yards 5 times and scoring 4 TDs. His per-game averages over that stretch equate to full-season totals of 72 catches, 1,272 yards and 8 scores. Those numbers would have landed him 15th at his position in PPR scoring.
Squarely in his prime at 26 and playing for a fat contract, a healthy Floyd is capable of pushing for WR1 production this season.
Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens
DS Rank: WR48
ADP Rank: WR60
Here’s a potential #1 WR that you can get in the 12th or 13th round of your draft.
Baltimore’s WR corps is muddled, no doubt. But Wallace is going 4th among the group, behind Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman and Kamar Aiken. Wallace is healthier than the first 2 and more proven than the 3rd.
Yeah, he has disappointed in his last 2 stops. But Wallace’s deep game was a horrible fit with Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill and Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Now he gets to play with QB Joe Flacco, who has 1 of the biggest arms in the league. And in an offense that led the league in pass attempts last year. In fact, none of OC Marc Trestman’s 11 offenses have ranked lower than 16th in pass attempts. Six of those units ranked among the top 8.
You’re not risking much by grabbing Wallace at his WR60 price tag. And you might be getting a weekly WR3 with upside.
Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars
DS Rank: TE8
ADP Rank: TE11
A fractured finger suffered in August got Thomas’ Jaguars debut off to a slow start last year. He missed the first 4 games and was held under 25 yards in 4 of the next 5. Not a big surprise for a guy coming off injury and working in a new offense.
Thomas got hot over the final 7 games, though, tallying 31 catches, 316 yards and 4 TDs. Only 3 TEs scored more fantasy points during that stretch. Perhaps more encouraging: He saw a healthy 47 targets in those 7 outings. That’s a 16-game pace of 107 looks that would have ranked 8th at the position.
With another offseason in the system and a QB who could take another leap forward in his 3rd year, Thomas has a shot to be even better in 2016. He makes a lot of sense as a TE1 target in the 9th or 10th round of your draft.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
DS Rank: TE11
ADP Rank: TE12
Gates might not play 16 games. He’s done that in just 2 of the last 6 seasons and recently turned 36.
But he remains a strong bet to provide TE1 production when on the field. That’s exactly what he did last year, when he ranked 7th in PPR points per game. And in 2014, when he ranked 3rd. And in 2013, when he ranked 12th.
There are plenty of viable TEs available late in drafts or even on waiver wires to fill in for Gates if he misses time. In fact, 26 different TEs produced 3+ top-12 weeks last year.
And you’re not spending much to acquire Gates. He’s going in the 10th round of June fantasy drafts.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
DS Rank: QB1
ADP Rank: QB1
We’re on board with Newton as the top QB in fantasy football. But it’s how early you need to take him in drafts that makes him overvalued.
Newton’s June MFL10 ADP is sitting at #47 overall. That’s almost 1 full round ahead of Aaron Rodgers and 2 rounds before Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Those 4 QBs are separated by just 14 points — less than 1 per game — in our QB projections.
If you’re looking to snag an elite QB, Luck looks like the best value. He’s going 23 picks after Newton and out-scored the Panther by about 5 points per game in 2014 and trailed by less than a point in 2013.
Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots
DS Rank: RB27
ADP Rank: RB15
The argument for Lewis at RB15 is simple: “The guy was sitting 3rd among RBs in PPR points through 8 weeks last year! We’re getting him at a 12-spot discount now!”
Fantasy football isn't usually that simple, though.
For starters, Lewis is tasked with returning from the torn ACL that ended his 2015 season. A 5’8, 195-pound back who relies on acceleration and change-of-direction, Lewis shouldn’t be considered a lock to immediately return to pre-injury form.
Then there’s the fact that the guy had never been a fantasy factor until last year. His first 4 NFL seasons featured 36 carries, 3 catches, 3 teams and 1 broken leg.
And as good as Lewis looked last year, he’ll have trouble matching his efficiency marks. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry, 10.8 yards per catch and scored 4 times on 85 touches. Among RBs with at least 50 touches through Week 8, only Theo Riddick scored more PPR points per touch.
We’re open to moving Lewis up the rankings as the summer progresses. But right now, the risk outweighs the reward at his price tag.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks
DS Rank: RB29
ADP Rank: RB17
The Seahawks aren’t even sold on Rawls, so why are fantasy owners?
The former undrafted free agent was certainly impressive last season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. But he saw significant action — 16+ carries — in just 6 games. That’s an awfully small sample.
Then, of course, Rawls suffered a season-ending fractured ankle that has his Week 1 availability in question. The Seahawks added a bunch of insurance this offseason, spending 3rd-, 5th- and 7th-round picks on RBs — plus re-signing Christine Michael.
Rawls could climb our rankings this summer if we get good reports on his rehab. But he might never reach his current asking price of RB17. His upside is capped by his lack of pass-catching potential. In those 6 busy games last year, he totaled just 9 targets and 7 receptions. Seattle added a superb pass-catching back in rookie C.J. Prosise.
Rawls is priced far too close to his ceiling for a guy with so many question marks.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills
DS Rank: WR21
ADP Rank: WR17
We labeled Watkins overvalued all last summer. That looked like a good call through the 1st half of the season, when Watkins appeared in just 4 of 7 games and was sitting outside the top 70 WRs in PPR points. He got healthy and exploded in the 2nd half, though, ranking 3rd at his position.
That hot streak came on some crazy-good efficiency. Watkins averaged 18.8 yards per catch and scored on 14.3% of his receptions. Tough to bank on him matching either mark in 2016. For comparison, he averaged 14.9 yards per catch with a 10.5% TD rate in his first 19 games.
But the biggest reason Watkins is a tough sell at his current 3rd-round asking price is the injury history. He’s spending this offseason recovering from surgery to repair a broken foot. That follows calf and ankle injuries last season, hip surgery that offseason and groin and rib injuries during his 2014 campaign. Our friends at Sports Injury Predictor have Watkins as the most likely player to be injured this season across all fantasy-relevant positions.
Watkins’ ADP territory includes safer WRs with similar upside, such as Demaryius Thomas, T.Y. Hilton and even Randall Cobb.
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
DS Rank: TE14
ADP Rank: TE8
Ertz has finished 13th and 9th, respectively, among TEs in PPR points over the last 2 seasons. He should still be ascending at 25 years old.
His problem in 2016 will be volume. Chip Kelly’s Eagles ranked 1st and 2nd in offensive plays the past 2 years. Despite a run-leaning attack, they finished both seasons among the top 6 in pass attempts.
New HC Doug Pederson hails from Kansas City, where the Chiefs ranked among the bottom 5 in both offensive plays and pass attempts in 2014 and 2015. We don’t know for sure that Pederson will bring the same scheme to Philadelphia, but it’s at least a safe bet that the Eagles’ snap and pass volume will take a significant hit.
Unless Ertz’s target share spikes — unlikely with much of the same offensive cast returning from last year — he probably won’t see another 112 targets this season. Drastically improved efficiency seems just as unlikely with some combination of Sam Bradford, Carson Wentz and Chase Daniel at QB.
Ertz is priced at or maybe even above his ceiling.