You don’t win your fantasy league in the first round.
By far one of my favorite aspects of fantasy drafts is loading up on players that (for some reason) no one ever seems to want. After the first eight or nine rounds, I begin to assemble my Island of Misfit Toys, so to speak. You have a handful of older players who people seem to keep throwing in the garbage, as well as younger guys who haven’t lived up to the hype, but are still very, very intriguing. So, using early ADP from Fantasy Football Calculator, I thought I’d highlight a few players from each position who are being drafted a bit lower than I would like.
Or maybe I DO like it?
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
At the moment, there are 20 quarterbacks being selected ahead of Jay Cutler, while he’s coming off of the board towards the back-end of the 13th round. And while Cutler showcased plenty of bad in 2014, there was also a handful of good. For instance, he set a career-high in passing touchdowns (28), completion percentage (66%) and played in 15 of 16 contests for the Bears. Cutler also finished as the 13th-best fantasy signal caller, so even with the loss of Brandon Marshall, I think it’s a bit premature to be taking players like Jameis Winston and Joe Flacco over him. I think the addition of John Fox and Adam Gase can’t hurt Cutler, as both worked exclusively with some Peyton Manning guy over the last few seasons in Denver. The offense will be more balanced, which should cut Cutler’s downside a bit, helping in leagues that surrender a handful of points for turnovers.
Also, even with the departure of Brandon Marshall, Chicago still has plenty of weapons for Cutler to utilize. They have arguably the best pass-catching back in the NFL in Matt Forte, a tight end who led his position and finished 11th in all of football in receptions (90) in Martellus Bennett, and a burgeoning star on the outside in Alshon Jeffery, who, over the final six weeks of the year, ranked behind only Odell Beckham Jr. in fantasy points. During that same span, Cutler tossed 10 scores.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots
The Patriots running back depth chart is less than appealing, but even with a one-game suspension, LeGarrette Blount is easily at the top of the list. Bill Belichick and company truly like the guy. Why? Well, for starters, over his last 320 carries, Blount has only coughed up the football three times, and during his second go-around with New England last year, he averaged a strong 4.7 yards per carry. They have been trusting him down the stretch of seasons, and the Patriots didn’t even select a running back in the draft, which tells me they are comfortable with him leading the way. He’s really thrived when playing alongside Tom Brady, rushing for 1,411 yards on 289 carries and 17 touchdowns with the Patriots. Meanwhile, New England continues to run the ball more, ranking inside the top-10 in rushing attempts per game over the last three years (29.6 per). Blount will also see the goal line work in an offense that led the NFL in red zone scoring attempts per game in 2014 (4.3).
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
While everyone is gushing over rookie rusher Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman is still in town, and will more than likely get the first crack at starting carries in Atlanta. He’s been the starter during OTAs and believes he will be the starter in a very high-powered offense. According to Rich Hribar, the Falcons backfield combined to rank 13th in the NFL in standard scoring fantasy points, and 10th in PPR. Of course, it won’t surprise me if this backfield becomes a platoon one sooner than later, but you’re taking Freeman, a shifty, versatile back in the same offense as Coleman, but you’re doing so two full rounds later. You also have the whole Kyle Shanahan effect, as running backs have been known to thrive in his offenses over the years.
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
To me, Anquan Boldin makes for one of the best values in all of fantasy football. I get it. We gravitate towards the exciting, young playmakers and throw the older guys back into the toybox. For instance, Odell Beckham is Buzz Lightyear, and a guy like Boldin serves as Woody.
It’s a mistake.
Over his career, the worst fantasy finish Boldin has ever posted is WR35 in 2011, when he missed two games. He’s been a top-20 fantasy wideout in eight of his 12 seasons (66 percent rate), including top-18 and top-15 finishes over the last two years alone. During that span, he’s hauled in at least 80 balls both times, and last year, the now 34-year old wideout actually handled 90 percent of the 49ers’ team snaps. The consistency is fantastic, and with the 49ers possibly transitioning to a team that needs to throw the ball more, Boldin should see at least 130 targets again this year. However, again, despite serving as at least a top-35 wideout every year, Boldin is currently being drafted as WR49, behind guys like DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman and Davante Adams. Boldin is going to see strong volume again, especially when you consider the fact that the 49ers target their wideouts in the passing game around 70 percent of the time, and I don’t care about the additions of Torrey Smith and Reggie Bush— Boldin is the go-to guy in this passing game.
Stop the madness.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
Yes, I’m apparently an advocate of older wide receivers, and running backs for that matter (looking at you, FJax). But it’s allowed when these aging wide receivers are still, you know, good.
People are still trying to kill off Roddy White, who turns 34 in November. I get it, but I also don’t get it. He’s missed five games in his nine-year career, and in 2014, produced his seventh season with at least 80 catches, 900 yards and six touchdowns. White obviously is being overshadowed by the megastar in Julio Jones, but Roddy did post at least five catches 72 percent of the time last year, while also hauling in seven touchdowns, which was more than Julio, for what it’s worth. And while Julio will see more targets, Roddy should still rank close to the top-20 in targets because Matt Ryan still loves him.
At the moment, White is coming off the board as the 36th wideout. He was WR26 last year, despite missing two games. Below are his fantasy finishes since the 2007 season.
*Missed three games in 2013.
It’s also worth noting that the last time Roddy played a full 16 games (2012), he finished as the number-10 fantasy wideout, despite Julio also dominating, ranking inside the top-10 as well. To me, it’s asinine that guys like Charles Johnson, a sophomore wideout that has more competition for targets in worst offense, Victor Cruz, coming off scary torn patellar tendon and rookies like Kevin White and Nelson Agholor.
Asinine, I tell you.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Let’s keep it going with the out of prime wideouts, shall we?
Michael Floyd and John Brown are both very talented receivers, and when the Cardinals could have let Larry Fitzgerald walk this offseason, they instead handed him $22 million extension over the next two years, despite 2014 being a rough year for the former perennial Pro Bowl wideout. He posted a career-low in targets (103), touchdowns (2) and his lowest yardage total since his rookie year (784). However, the quarterback play in Arizona wasn’t just a revolving door, but it was a filthy, rotten revolving door. What excites me about Fitzgerald this year is his prospects if Carson Palmer can play a full 16-game season. Using the RotoViz Game Splits App, take a look at the difference in Fitz’s performance last year with the veteran under center.
Both of Fitz’s touchdowns from 2014 came with Palmer at the helm, and I actually kind of like his scoring potential this year. Back in 2013, Fitzgerald had 18 end zone targets, which was not only eight more than the next Cardinals’ wideout (Floyd), but it was among the highest in all of football. And if you look at the chart, five catches for 80 yards and a potential touchdown definitely isn’t bad for a 31-year old wideout who you are getting in the 9th round as the 40th wide receiver.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
At this point, we just want to see Eifert.
After catching three balls in Week 1 last year, the now third-year tight end suffered a dislocated elbow that ended his season early. And during his rookie year, we saw upside and potential, but he still played behind Jermaine Gresham. Well, Gresham is gone and Eifert is healthy.
Color me excited.
A 6’6″, 250-pound athlete, Eifert has some rare quickness and leaping ability at the tight end position. He has measurables that flirt with guys like Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce, after all. And if you look back at what Gresham did last year, his 80 targets ranked 16th among tight ends. Nothing special, but a respectable number. However, he was heavily involved in this passing offense, being targeted on 25 percent of the Bengals’ red zone passes, which ranked top-five at his position. His 13 red zone targets ranked ninth among tight ends, catching nine of them for five touchdowns. That usage excites me because Eifert is seemingly a better football player than Gresham in every aspect.
At the moment, he is being drafted in the bottom-three among tight ends, coming off the board in the 14th round. If you don’t land Rob Gronkowsk, Graham or Travis Kelce, I love the idea of pairing Eifert with another high upside tight end.