Fantasy Perception Warped: 10 Undervalued Players

Ten Fantasy Players to Re-Evaluate 2014

Every year, there are players who slide down draft boards farther than they should because owners’ perceptions about them are flawed in some way. Here are 10 such players to keep your eye on in 2014…

*Please note* The ADPs of these players were taken from Fantasy Football Calculator’s mock drafts, which will change quite a bit between now and draft day. On the left, I’ve given each player’s current ADP in a standard-scoring, 12-man league; on the right, I’ve suggested a more appropriate place for that player to be drafted.

Rob Gronkowski

Rob GronkowskiCurrent ADP: 4.02, Should be 3.04

Perception: Too injured and too risky.

Reality: Too injured? Yes. Too risky? No. A healthy Gronk is the only tight end in the league that can outscore Jimmy Graham on a consistent basis.

Asking for a healthy Gronk seems like a lot, but keep in mind that last year was his unhealthiest season ever. He played 16 games in 2011, 11 in 2012 and seven in 2013. “Recency” bias is strong and your fellow drafters are going to remember the man on the sidelines more than the monster on the field. Take the chance a little earlier; at worst, you’ll get a few games of excellence before he’s out of commission. At best, you’ll get the top scoring tight end in 2014.

 

Ryan Mathews

Current ADP 4.05, should be 3.08

Ryan Mathews Stats

Year TM G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Rec Tgt Yds TD
2010 SD 12 158 678 56.5 4.3 7 22 26 145 0
2011 SD 14 222 1091 77.9 4.9 6 50 59 455 0
2012 SD 12 184 707 58.9 3.8 1 39 56 252 0
2013 SD 16 285 1255 78.4 4.4 6 26 33 189 1
Totals 54 849 3731 69.1 4.4 20 137 174 1041 1

Perception: Made of glass, not a true franchise back.

Reality: Mathews had a career-high 311 touches last season (285 rushes, 26 receptions) while being spelled by the versatile Danny Woodhead. He played all 16 games. There’s no worry about the tread on his tires in his fifth season in the league and he’s got the ability and opportunity to break into RB1 territory if he stays healthy.

Second-year head coach Mike McCoy coach is determined to use him, so take advantage of what is lining up to be Mathews’ best season yet. Without the injury concerns, he would be going in the mid-second round. Don’t go that early, but don’t be afraid to take him before the fourth either.

Jeremy Maclin

Current ADP 7.01, should be 5.08

Jeremy MaclinPerception: Not a true #1 WR, may suffer from injury hangover.

Reality: Maclin has become a hot topic in fantasy with DeSean Jackson moving to Washington. Despite this, wideouts like Terrance Williams and Justin Blackmon are going before Maclin in mocks. Expect that to change soon, but I would go one step further and take Maclin over T.Y. Hilton, Cordarrelle Patterson (who is going in the fifth right now) and Maclin’s own ex-teammate, Jackson.

Maclin has the speed, the hands and the intelligence to thrive in Chip Kelly’s system. He’s going to be asked to do a lot on one of the league’s most potent offenses. As for his injury, modern players are recovering more quickly and more completely than ever. Maclin will have suffered his knee injury over a year before the start of the 2014 season. Put it out of your mind. A dependable wideout with WR1 potential is exactly what you want in the early-mid rounds, especially if you go RB early.

 

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Stevan Ridley

Current ADP 6.11, take 5.03

Perception: In last place on an unstable committee and can’t be trusted.

Reality: The reality of Ridley’s situation is going to become clear in one of two ways. Belichick is either going to bring in someone to take part of Ridley’s workload, like he did with Blount, or Ridley is going to go into next season as the first and second down back in a high-powered offense.

Belichick benched Ridley for his fumbling issues more than once. With Blount gone, the Patriots are going to decide whether they intend to give Ridley a chance to regain his 2012 form. Shane Vereen is a great back, but Ridley is the best north-south runner on the team and will play a different role on the offense, so he shouldn’t lose touches there. If Ridley earns Belichick’s trust this offseason, he could perform like the 2012 version we all knew and loved.

 

Reggie Wayne

Current ADP 7.12, take 6.10

Perception: Too old, concerns about recovery from an ACL tear.

Reality: Wayne has been too old for a couple years now and while a drop-off is coming sooner rather than later, it’s going to be more of a steady decline than a fall off a cliff. He played in seven games last year and in those games, he was averaging 13.2 YPC – his best average since 2008.

He probably won’t see the ridiculous 194 targets he saw in 2012, thanks to the emergence of T.Y. Hilton, but he was on pace for a solid 87 catches and 1,150 yards before tearing his ACL last year. All signs point to his being ready for kickoff in 2014. Don’t be the one taking Mike Wallace while Wayne is still up for grabs.

 

Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman FantasyCurrent ADP 6.02, take 5.02

Perception: Lots of catches and no yards, consistently mediocre scorer, backup only.

Reality: He’s taken the place of Wes Welker in New England and done it well enough to merit a fancy new contract. If you dust off your history books, Welker used to go in the fourth round when he and Brady were making magic. It’s hard to see why Edelman shouldn’t produce similar numbers given all the trust Brady showed him last year.

A receiver almost guaranteed to get 100 catches, 1,000 yards and between 5-8 touchdowns is a rare commodity in fantasy. In PPR, take him in the fourth round. In leagues that count return yardage, even earlier, assuming he retains his punt return duties, which he should. Take him early and you can forget about one of your WR spots for the rest of the season.

 

Philip Rivers

Current ADP 9.04, take 6.11

Philip Rivers Stats

Year Team G QBRat Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD Int
2004 SD 2 110.9 5 8 62.5 33 16.5 4.1 1 0
2005 SD 2 50.4 12 22 54.5 115 57.5 5.2 0 1
2006 SD 16 92 284 460 61.7 3388 211.8 7.4 22 9
2007 SD 16 82.4 277 460 60.2 3152 197 6.9 21 15
2008 SD 16 105.5 312 478 65.3 4009 250.6 8.4 34 11
2009 SD 16 104.4 317 486 65.2 4254 265.9 8.8 28 9
2010 SD 16 101.8 357 541 66 4710 294.4 8.7 30 13
2011 SD 16 88.7 366 582 62.9 4624 289 7.9 27 20
2012 SD 16 88.6 338 527 64.1 3606 225.4 6.8 26 15
2013 SD 16 105.5 378 544 69.5 4478 279.9 8.2 32 11
Totals 132 96 2646 4108 64.4 32369 245.2 7.9 221 104

Perception: Not an elite scorer, flaky, mid-tier or matchup-based QB.

Reality: Someone is going to have to explain to me why Andrew Luck, who outscored Rivers by three whole points in standard leagues last season, is being drafted four rounds higher. I would be happy with either as my QB, but the idea that Rivers is a boom-or-bust guy simply isn’t true. For a large part of last season, he was the third-highest scoring QB in standard leagues.

Rivers had just five games in 2013 under the 15-point minimum you want from your quarterback. That’s fewer than Luck (6), Newton (6), Romo (6), Wilson (7) and Kaepernick (6). Every one of those guys is going at least two rounds before Rivers right now. The man in the bolo is shining in McCoy’s offense and with the dangerous stable of weapons in San Diego; he is an every-week fantasy starter.

 

Martellus Bennett

Current ADP 11.07, take 8.06

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Perception: Slightly better than a middle-of-the-road tight end option.

Reality: Bennett will be one of the greatest steals of the draft this season. In the past three years, he has played with three different teams. This season, he will finally get a chance to continue to carve out a role in an offense he knows and Trestman’s offense in Chicago is healthy for your fantasy soul.

Bennett had career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns in 2013. He finished seventh among tight ends and is currently being drafted as TE #12. If anyone outside the biggest names is poised to break into top-five tight end territory by season’s end, it’s Bennett. I’ll be targeting him in all my leagues and you should be too.

 

Oakland Raider Wide Receivers

Oakland RaidersAverage ADP Range: 11.01-14.01

Perception: The Raiders can’t produce valuable fantasy starters.

Reality: This one is cheating a little bit, because we don’t have enough information on how Matt Schaub is going to mesh with the Raiders’ offense and who is going to be his favorite target. Still, the idea that the Raiders’ offense is a total mess is outdated and you need to take advantage of that perception.

People tend to forget that Schaub was a very good – not elite, but very good – quarterback as recently as 2012. He had an abysmal season in Houston last year, but it’s hard to believe all of that ability just evaporated overnight. We will cover this situation in more detail as drafting season gets closer, but Jones, Streater, Moore and Holmes are guys to keep tabs on as the summer workouts get underway.

If you have to pick one today, go with James Jones. He’s currently going in the early 11th round, but I would be comfortable taking him a round earlier. He has the experience and the skills that will help Schaub transition to a new offense and should prove to be a reliable target for the new-look Raiders.

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