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Fantasy Football: Value Picks For Last-Minute Drafts

fantasy football value picks

They say good things come to those who wait.

We’re just days away from the start of 2017 NFL season, with the Kansas City Chiefs squaring off in Foxborough with the Patriots on Thursday night. If you’ve waited this long to hold your fantasy football draft you’ve avoided drafting players like Julian Edelman, Cameron Meredith and Spencer Ware, all who were injured before we even got to Week 1.

You also get the benefit of drafting after teams have cut down their rosters and scrambled to claim other team’s castoffs. This is important if only because it changes the values of players like Jonathan Williams — someone we thought was to be second in line to LeSean McCoy.

So if you’ve waited this long and are looking for some last-minute advice on who some of the players with the best value are, look no further.

The following is not meant to be a list of blue chippers. Everyone knows Antonio Brown is a great draft pick. Rather, this is a list of players who I believe will provide greater returns than what their current asking price would imply. I will be using both ESPN and Yahoo ADP’s because those appear to be the two most popular platforms to my knowledge, and I have leagues on both.

Read More:

Week 1 Fantasy Football Player Rankings

Week 1 NFL Picks Against the Point Spread

Quarterbacks

If you’ve played fantasy for long, you know most experts believe in waiting as long as possible before you select one. I even said as much in my first article for XN Sports. Waiting on QB pays huge dividends, but how long should you wait? Well that probably depends on what platform you are using and how QBs are valued in your league. Here are some guys I like.

Marcus Mariota
ESPN ADP: 100.7
Yahoo ADP: 57.0

I’m all in on Mariota this season, and apparently Yahoo users feel the same way. Last year we saw Mariota improve drastically upon his rookie season. From Weeks 5-12, Mariota was the QB1 in all of fantasy football, throwing 21 touchdowns against just three interceptions in that span, while adding 238 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. And he did this for a team that prefers to run.

Last year Mariota’s top targets were the always undervalued tight end Delanie Walker and breakout wide receiver Rishard Matthews — a player who had never had more than 64 TARGETS in a single year before posting career bests in catches (65), yards (945) and touchdowns (9) on 108 targets. The rest of his targets? Fifth rounder Tajae Sharpe — who appeared to struggle adjusting to NFL competition — and the underwhelming Harry Douglas and Kendall Wright. This year the Titans have finally given Mariota some weapons to play with. The team signed Eric Decker and drafted rookies Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor in the first three rounds.

With a better set of receiving options and his knack for protecting the football, Mariota is a steal as the 12th QB being selected in many drafts.

Derek Carr:
ESPN ADP: 81.0
Yahoo ADP: 100.2

Carr is another player who I feel is being drastically undervalued, especially in Yahoo leagues. There he is being drafted behind players such as Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton.

Those are all good real-life players, but have their concerns. Since 2010, Roethlisberger has finished outside QB12 or worse standard scoring six times, has been nearly unusable on the road for three straight years, and in 13 seasons, the future Hall of Famer has only had three seasons where he has managed to play all 16 games. Luck is injured and the Colts plan to take their time bringing him back, even trading for Jacoby Brissett. When he has been on the field, Luck has been one of the most hit QBs behind one of the NFL’s worst lines, resulting in him becoming a turnover machine. Newton is returning from his own injury concerns and Winston has yet to cut down on his own turnover problems.

I’d take Carr over any of those guys in a heartbeat.

Last season Carr continued his evolution, becoming one of the best in the league. Through 15 games, Carr was completing 63.8 percent of his passes, for nearly 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He was behind the best offensive line of his career, only taking 16 sacks on the year. Carr may not throw for 5,000 yards, but he protects the ball and should net you around 30 TDs.

Other guys I like:

Matthew Stafford may not be the sexiest pick, but he is guaranteed to reach 4,000 yards passing. He is being drafted as QB11 and an almost criminal QB15 on Yahoo. He might now win your league single handed, but he’ll keep you in it most weeks…. Carson Wentz is heading into year two and gets Lane Johnson back on his line. The Eagles struggled after Lane’s suspension and added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to one of the league’s weakest receiving cores last season. I wouldn’t bank on Wentz as a weekly starter, but Wentz is currently be drafted as QB17 on ESPN and behind Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco and Texans BACKUP Deshaun Watson on Yahoo. If you are the type of player who likes to roster two quarterbacks, Wentz is practically free.

Running Back

Heading into last season, fantasy owners had soured on the running back position. After a resurgent 2016 season, nine running backs are being selected in the top-20 picks this year. Finding value at the position may be a matter of preference. Using the first pick on David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell certainly improves your chances of making the playoffs. But I’m looking for bargains, so let’s start with one that might be a little obvious:

Ezekiel Elliott
ESPN ADP: 24.4
Yahoo ADP: 14.1

Ok, so we all know the situation here, so I won’t say much. Elliot has been suspended six games by the NFL and is currently fighting to get that sentence overturned. Regardless of how that turns out, he will play in 2017, the question is when?

Reports on his situation are currently mixed and he could potentially start Week 1. He could also possible have his sentence delayed until next season, similar to Tom Brady’s case in 2015.

As far as fantasy goes, you know what you are getting with Zeke — a gamebreaker behind one of the best offensive lines in football. I for one am perfectly fine taking him in the late second round or early third. That way you can either pair him with an elite wide receiver or with another stud running back. I’m fine waiting for him to return, as long as you plan accordingly.

Isaiah Crowell
ESPN ADP: 36.8
Yahoo ADP: 29.4

Last season, Isaiah Crowell finished as RB15 in standard leagues and RB14 in PPR leagues. He did this despite playing on the team with the worst record league, and that consistently found itself down big early, forcing them to abandon the run. Crowell had as many games with 15+ carries — five —as he did gams with single digit carries. So why Crowell such a sneaky good RB2?

Well for starters, he had no competition for carries. Duke Johnson is a third-down back who plays better as a receiving threat. Secondly, Crowell was incredibly efficient with the carries he did receive. On 198 carries, Crowell averaged 4.8 YPC. But Crowell’s real secret was that he was a sneaky good target in the passing game. Crowell quietly hauled in 40 receptions for 319 yards.

None of those numbers are incredibly sexy, but Crowell performed admirably for a player who constantly faced terrible game scripts. This year, the Browns have managed to assemble an offensive line that at least on paper should one of the better units in the league. Crowell may not win you any games single handedly, but he will give you consistent production as an RB 2 or Flex.

Other guys I like:

Kareem Hunt’s ADP was a steal prior to the preseason. It has since gone up as a combination of his performance and the injury to Spencer Ware have put Hunt into the fantasy proven role of Andy Reid’s primary running back. Hunt is not the most athletically gifted, but he has great balance and contributes between the tackles and in the passing game. He’s going in the fourth round in most leagues and has a legitimate shot of being the top scoring rookie running back in fantasy this year… Derek Henry is going in the 11th round in Yahoo. That’s despite scoring five TDs and averaging 4.5 YPC with limited touches as a rookie. He was also efficient in the passing game, snagging 13 of his 15 targets for a YPR average of 9.1. I believe the Titans will try to work him in more this season, if only to ensure Murray stays fresh. If anything were to happen to Murray, I believe Henry becomes a top-5 RB…Fantasy owners have cooled on Ameer Abdullah after his first two years in the league. He disappointed after he received an almost unfair amount of hype for his rookie season, and only played in two games last season before he was lost to injury. Still, in those two games Abdullah was averaging 5.6 YPC and he caught all five of his targets for an average of 11. 4 YPR. The Lions didn’t feel the need to address the position in the draft or free agency and Abdullah is going after the seventh round… LeGarrette Blount is not going to repeat his touchdown totals from a year ago, but he is going to be the primary goal line back for an Eagles team that had Ryan Mathews tie for the fifth most rushing attempts inside the 5-yard line… Bilal Powell is going after the 10th round and averaged 5.5 YPC and hauled in 58 receptions on 75 targets. The Jet’s recently tested the trade interest for Matt Forte and figure to be down early and often this year. Pair that with few down field threats and no quarterbacks on the roster who seem capable of throwing it deep anyway, and Powell could be the sole beneficiary of the Jet’s horrendous offense…. Finally some dart throws I like. James Conner should slide into the back up role behind Le’Veon Bell. Bell has struggled to play a full season and held out the entire preseason. I especially like Conner in dynasty leagues. Rex Burkhead seems like the Patriots running back I would most like to take a late round flier on. Marlon Mack looked explosive and Frank Gore has to break down sometime right? Finally, Matt Breida looks to be Carlos Hyde’s back up in San Francisco. Hyde has yet to play a full season and new head coach Kyle Shannan has turned backup running backs into fantasy relevant players before. With Tim Hightower being cut and fellow rookie Joe Williams — who I love and am bitterly disappointed won’t play this year — on I.R., Breida could be in line for a bigger role if something should happen to Hyde.

Wide Receiver

Personally, I am a fan of going wide receiver early and often. I typically go WR in the first round and usually again within the next two round. That said there is still some good value options out there.

Larry Fitzgerald
ESPN ADP: 44.1
Yahoo ADP: 63.4

From 2005 to 2011 Larry Fitzgerald was on the short list for the discussion of best receiver in the game. But follow the 2011 season, Fitzy had three straight seasons with under 1,000 yards and his reception totals were the lowest of his career. When he only totaled a stat line of 63-784-2 in only 14 games in 2014, people began to believe Fitzgerald’s best years were behind him.

This has lead to fantasy owners to sleep on him the last two seasons and they are doing it again this year. But what people are failing to realize is that since moving to the slot in 2015, Fitzgerald has posted the two best single-season reception totals of his career. In 2015, Fitzgerald caught 109 passes for 1,215 yards and nine TDs. He followed that up in 2016 with 107 catches, 1,023 yards and six TDS.

He is not a sexy pick, but Larry Fitzgerald has become a glue guy. That is, a guy that will hold your fantasy team together with solid production every week, and at a cost that is basically highway robbery.

Kelvin Benjamin
ESPN ADP: 54.6
Yahoo ADP: 63.3

Ok, so we all saw the pictures. When Benjamin showed up to camp this summer he appeared… let’s just say he didn’t look like he was in the best shape of his life. As a result, fantasy owners have cooled on Benjamin.

But did you watch him play this preseason? Not only did he look like he lost the weight, but he looked like the dynamic red zone threat that had so many of us excited when the Panthers drafted him in 2014.

I don’t have a lot of numbers to wow you about him.Last year he had 118 targets and 7 TDs. He will never be the league’s leading receiver in yards or receptions. But what he will be is the top wide receiver on the Panthers depth chart and someone he could be in line for a lot of red zone targets. Call it a hunch, but I imagine you could do a lot worse in the 6th round.

Other guys I like:
Martavis Bryant has been reinstated by the league and is going as roughly WR26. In Bryant is Pittsburgh’s No. 2 WR, but he has WR1 upside. In his first 21 games, Bryant had more points than T.Y. Hilton did in his first 21 games. That’s his upside. Consider this too — when Bryant has played 30 or more snaps in a game, he has averaged 17.3 PPG… Pierre Garcon’s best season came when Kyle Shanahan was his offensive coordinator. Shanahan is now Garcon’s head coach and San Francisco doesn’t have many other receivers to compete with him for targets. They will also be down often. He’s going as WR41 on Yahoo… Tyrell Williams had over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He’s 6-foot-4 and has plus speed. Keenan Allen hasn’t had the best luck with health and prized rookie Mike Williams is dealing with back injuries. Tyrell is being drafted as WR44 on ESPN… Zay Jones was a receptions monster in college. True, some of that was by design, but the Bills recently dealt away Sammy Watkins and only have a banged up Jordan Matthews as competition for targets. Going at WR52, that’s a gamble I would take in the late rounds any day… Let’s keep this one simple. The Rams offense stunk last year. They brought in Sean McVay who made Kirk Cousins a legitimate top fantasy option at QB. The Rams will also be down a lot this season. Jared Goff showed a surprising amount of chemistry with Cooper Kupp, a player who has exceeded expectations every time he has been presented a step up in competition. At WR63, I think Kupp has the potential to be a safety net for Goff and is an intriguing PPR lottery ticket… Washington lost Garcon and DeSean Jackson this offseason. Not all of those targets are going to go to Jamison Crowder. The team drafted Josh Doctson with a first round pick last year and he is currently WR63 in ESPN draft.

Tight End

The tight end position is always a bit of a crapshoot. There isn’t really one that I think is much more valuable than others. It is probably easier to say who I don’t like. I am not comfortable drafting Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed or Tyler Eifert because of his injury concerns. I’m not a believer in Jack Doyle, especially if Luck doesn’t play for an extended period of time. O.J. Howard is being drafted ahead of Cameron Brate, despite being behind him in the depth chart and rookie TEs having a history of fantasy irrelevance. I much prefer Evan Engram as a rookie TE if you choose to go that route.

Drafting Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen at the end of the third is something I would consider if I found myself not liking the remaining running backs or wide receivers. Jimmy Graham if he falls past his ADP of 50.7 is also a potential steal.Outside of those four, just wait until after the seventh or eighth.

Photo Credit: Michael Wifall/Flickr C.C 2.0

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