An Early Look at Fantasy Draft Values
Now that all 32 teams are on the field practicing for another NFL season, it’s time for fantasy football owners to ramp up their own season preparation. This is the time of year where smart fantasy footballers are monitoring daily news, training camp battles, and paying attention to developments that have an impact on ADP.
Injuries, rumors, and sometimes simple overreactions can have an impact on where players are being drafted. Exploiting these ADP fluctuations is one of the biggest advantages the savvy fantasy owner can gain.
Previously, I wrote about some overvalued players that I’m likely to avoid when assembling my 2017 rosters. Now, it’s time to look at players that I’m much more likely to have an interest in this season–my early edition of undervalued fantasy players for 2017.
ADP courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator
As for Mariota, he was already a top-10 fantasy QB last season from a points-per-start basis and he should only get better. The Titans added some big pieces to surround Mariota in an emerging Tennessee offense. Corey Davis and Eric Decker will help open up the passing game, and the presence of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will attract favorable coverage scenarios.
Mariota is an excellent runner who is likely to run for over 400 yards and multiple touchdowns on the ground, adding to his fantasy value. I have Mariota as my No. 5 QB this season, so being able to grab him in the 9th round or later as the QB12 is tremendous.
Taylor does a superb job at avoiding turnovers, as witnessed by throwing a mere six interceptions in each of the past two seasons. While his touchdown numbers are modest, Taylor more than makes up for it with his feet- a huge bonus in fantasy scoring.
In 2016, Taylor ran for over 100 more rushing yards than any other QB and tied Dak Prescott for a league-leading six rushing touchdowns. Taylor has run for 568 and 580 yards in the past two seasons, with 10 additional TDs. The Bills are expected to have a much more credible passing attack in 2017, so if ‘Tygod’ can maintain 500-rushing yards and get even a small uptick in passing production, he could approach top-5 fantasy QB status. The addition of veteran WR Anquan Boldin should only help Taylor’s status as a late-round gem.
Other QB values: Dak Prescott (11.01), Eli Manning (11.07), Carson Palmer (13.06),
But Shanahan is a smart coach and one of the few versatile enough to alter his offense to fit his player’s strengths, rather than try to force a player ill-fitted to a system alter his strengths.
Hyde finished as the RB18 last season, despite playing only 13 games. His 15.1 PPR points-per-game was 11th among all running backs. In Shanahan’s system, Hyde should be more involved in the red zone and as a receiver. Fourth-round rookie Joe Williams, who hasn’t shown much so far in training camp, is all that stands in the way of Hyde and a big role with the 49ers.
After a Super Bowl winning performance, James White may have earned a much larger role than many fantasy players are anticipating. Last year, White clearly surpassed Dion Lewis and the Patriots’ passing down back, catching 60 of 86 targets and being heavily-featured in the red zone. Despite receiving only 39 rushes, White finished as the RB26 due to that prowess as a receiver out of the backfield.
It was White, not LeGarrette Blount, who received the Super Bowl-winning short yardage carry. This trend may, or may not continue into 2017, but it bodes well for White’s diversity. Regardless, White’s passing-down role appears to be secure, and that alone makes him an outstanding value as the 40th RB off the board.
Other RBs to target: Duke Johnson (9.03), Jamaal Williams (11.01), Darren Sproles (12.06), Rex Burkhead (13.09), Alvin Kamara (13.11)
Although Fitz’s yards-per-catch numbers have started to decline, he did lead the NFL with 107 receptions last season en route to another top-10 fantasy season. That’s the role to expect from the 14-year veteran in 2017– being used underneath and racking up tons of catches and fantasy points.
Fitz has been a WR1 in two consecutive years and a top-20 fantasy wideout in three of four seasons. It’s fair to predict a drop off in targets in 2017, but at the current WR27, Fitzgerald looks like one of the few safe WR bets to target in the fifth round of fantasy drafts.
With Mike Williams’ status for 2017 now unknown, Tyrell’s value has started to recover, but he’s still a nice value in the ninth round or later. The Chargers should remain a potent passing attack, and Williams could actually stand to benefit from coverage that Keenan Allen and two capable tight ends will undoubtedly draw.
Averaging an impressive 16.2 yards-per-catch over his career, Williams should be San Diego’s primary deep threat and is in line to potentially absorb north of 100 targets again. Another 1,000+ yard season and 6-8 touchdowns is within reason.
Other WRs to target: Kelvin Benjamin (6.08), Pierre Garçon (7.03), John Brown (8.12), Kenny Britt (10.12), Zay Jones (13.04), Tedd Ginn (13.10), Kenny Golladay (14.03), Cooper Kupp (14.05)
Jason Witten is the epitome of that description. You know you’re going to get 16 games out of Witten and four to five catches a game, but you won’t get many touchdowns. Rather than try to chase a 20-point game, I’ll take the safe 9-10 points per game Witten offers.
The Cowboys did next to nothing to upgrade the receiving options surrounding Dak Prescott, so Witten’s role as the safety valve should be secure. If RB Ezekiel Elliott is indeed suspended, it should mean an even larger role for Witten, perhaps even one more year with 100 targets.
Despite only playing 26 games, Thomas put up a whopping 24 touchdowns while playing under Gase in Denver. Granted, it’s a different offense in Miami than what we saw four years ago, but the Dolphins lacked a proven red zone receiving option, and Thomas fills that void.
With Jay Cutler now expected to start for the Dolphins, Thomas could see some additional targets as Cutler still has to learn timing and chemistry with his wideouts. Thomas offers more risk than Witten but is worth consideration for drafters looking for tight end value late in their drafts.
Other tight ends to look at: Austin Hooper (13.10), Cameron Brate (14.02), Antonio Gates (14.10)
Senior Writer Gridiron Experts. 2012 FantasyPros Most Accurate Fantasy Expert. Member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. 26-year fantasy football veteran. Featured on NFL.com, Fantasypros, Football Diehards annual magazine, local AM sports radio, podcasts everywhere and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Once scored 4 touchdowns in a single game for Polk High School.