There are a number of viable strategies that will help lead fantasy owners to a championship. While I may start a fantasy football draft with a particular strategy in mind, it's important to maintain the flexibility to adjust based on the flow of the draft.
Regardless of your preferred strategy, the one thing that fantasy owners should do is select players that are relative values compared to their draft slots.
At the end of July, I posted my initial list of undervalued players for the 2016 season.
Not only have injuries, preseason games, depth chart moves, etc. occurred since then, but average draft position (ADP) looks different now than it did then for many players.
Keep in mind that these aren't the only players that I believe are undervalued; just 12 that I'd like to highlight. For an idea of which player(s) I'd draft over other players, please consult with my 2016 Fantasy Football Rankings.
With that said, below is a list of 12 players that I expect to exceed their current fantasy football average draft position (ADP).
[Note: Consensus ADP from FantasyPros was used as a comparison.]
QB - Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (ADP: 82, QB11 — My rank: QB6)
This list kicks off with the same quarterback that kicked off the previous list. The +5 difference between his ADP (QB11) and my ranking (QB6), however, has grown since then (+4). Among the 100-plus "experts" tracked by FantasyPros, none have Rivers ranked higher than I do (as of Sept. 3).
Not only do I have Rivers projected to score more points than QBs like Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, but he's going a couple of rounds after them. More fantasy points at a multi-round discount? Yes, please.
The only quarterback that averaged more fantasy points per game than Rivers through Week 8 last year was Tom Brady. Why am I using Week 8? That's when Keenan Allen last played in 2015 due to his lacerated kidney. Rivers averaged 21.05 fantasy points per game with Allen; only 14.52/G without him.
Setting career highs in pass attempts (661) and passing yards (4,792) last season, Rivers has thrown at least 29 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons. Along with Drew Brees, he's one of only two QBs to throw 29-plus passing scores in three consecutive seasons.
Not only did Allen miss eight games last season, but Antonio Gates missed five games last season. The addition of Travis Benjamin, who had a breakout season in Cleveland last year, gives Rivers a vertical threat to open things up underneath for Allen and Gates. Provided Allen stays healthy, it's possible that Rivers exceeds not only his QB11 ADP but my QB6 ranking as well.
Editor's note: DraftKings is running a FREE Week 1 Fantasy Football contest ($100K in prizes, $10K to 1st, FREE to enter).
RB - Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 39, RB17 — My rank: RB11)
Based on my rankings, Murray will repeat exactly what he did last season — score the 11th-most fantasy points among running backs.
Even though he struggled in fourth quarters (2.2 yards per carry) last season, Murray ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing (1,066 yards) and only three backs had more touches (307). Perhaps more impressive than his overall workload was his consistent weekly usage rate.
Murray had 15-plus touches in all but one game last season. As you might imagine, no other running back had as many 15-touch games as Murray.
Going into 2016, it's possible that Murray gets an even larger workload than he had in 2015. Not only has Coach Del Rio said that he would like to give Murray more carries, but an improved team outlook should mean more opportunities to play with the lead.
Last but not least, the Raiders offensive line is about as good as it gets. Perhaps it's not as good as the unit in Dallas, but it's close.
RB - Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: 52, RB20 — My rank: RB15)
Hill's teammate, Giovani Bernard, appeared on the previous list and is still slightly undervalued (ADP of RB27 vs. RB25 in my rankings), but Gio's ADP has climbed a bit since the end of July (ADP: RB31). In fact, Bernard has never finished the season worse than fantasy's RB21 (last season) in standard-scoring formats.
Many fantasy owners were burned by Hill, who often went towards the end of Round 1 in 2015 drafts. Exploding for 1,124 rushing yards (5.1 YPC) as a rookie in 2014, Hill managed only 794 rushing yards with a 3.6 YPC average even though he scored 12 total touchdowns.
With that said, Hill appears intent on bouncing back following his disappointing sophomore campaign. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner recently wrote of Hill: "His razor focus and desire to return to rookie form are very real this offseason."
RB - Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 71, RB26 — My rank: RB20)
One of five players appearing on both versions of this list, Gore fell just shy of the 1,000-yard milestone and averaged a career-low 3.7 YPC in his first season with the Colts. Now 33 years old, perhaps it's unreasonable to expect better numbers for Gore in 2016.
That said, Gore finished as fantasy's RB12 last season despite the less-than-mediocre efficiency. And Gore was much more efficient in the games that Andrew Luck started (4.11 YPC) versus those he did not (3.44 YPC). In addition, he was a workhorse as he finished fifth in the NFL in touches.
To be fair, the Colts offensive line hasn't looked good in the preseason and only the Bucs (2.6) averaged fewer YPC than the Colts (2.7) during the preseason. That said, the Colts upgraded their offensive line in the draft so hopefully that means improved blocking for Gore as the season progresses.
Assuming Luck stays healthy for the full season, Gore should exceed value at his current ADP.
RB - Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (ADP: 84, RB32 — My rank: RB24)
Far from a model of durability, Jennings finally played a full 16-game season at age 30. Now 31 years old, it's fair to wonder whether he could put together back-to-back full seasons.
If he does, however, he has a great chance to exceed his current draft position. While Jennings posted career highs in both carries (195) and rushing yards (863), it wasn't until the final three games that the team abandoned their four-game rotation and gave Jennings the lion's share of the work.
During those final three games, Jennings amassed 419 yards from scrimmage -- no running back had more -- on 62 touches. (Receivers Julio Jones, 445, and Antonio Brown, 437, were the only players with more YFS than Jennings during that span.)
One other factor working in Jennings' favor going into 2016 — only the Bucs and Lions have a more favorable fantasy strength of schedule. And he gets three top-12 matchups in the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14 to 16).
WR - Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 28, WR13 — My rank: WR10)
Willing to draft him a round earlier than his mid-third ADP, Cooper is my 10th-ranked wideout and inside my top-20 overall. Despite too many drops and dealing with a foot injury for much of the second half of the season, Cooper posted a solid rookie-season stat line of 72/1,070/6. Assuming good health and that he gets the drops under control, Cooper should easily build upon his rookie numbers. I have him projected for an 89/1,344/9 stat line in his age-22 season.
- Related: 2016 Fantasy Football Projections for the Oakland Raiders
WR - Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 57, WR26 — My rank: WR18)
On his way to a breakout season, Moncrief scored five touchdowns in his seven games with Luck. Doubling his 32 receptions as a rookie, Moncrief finished with 64 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns in his age-22 season. Had Luck not missed nine games, Moncrief would have posted better numbers as he saw nearly two more targets per game with Luck (7.71/G) than with Matt Hasselbeck (5.67/G).
With an ideal combination of size (6-2, 222) and athleticism (4.40 forty, 39.5-inch vertical), Moncrief is poised to breakout in a big way in 2016. ESPN's Mike Wells wrote the following of Moncrief recently: "... Moncrief may not lead the Colts in receiving yards or yards per catch this season, but it won't be surprising if he leads them in receptions, because he'll be the receiver Luck turns to when a play breaks down."
WR - DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins (ADP: 91, WR38 — My rank: WR24)
The fifth and final player to double-dip on my two undervalued lists, the excitement about Parker is much different now than it was then. One of the concerns with Parker is durability and recently Adam Gase compared Parker to Demaryius Thomas due to the nagging injuries with a left hamstring issue being the latest.
"We’re going to keep strengthening him up," Gase said (via the Miami Herald). “I feel like I’ve been through this with Demaryius [Thomas] in Denver. Felt like he was always hurt. One thing after the other."
That said, Parker closed his 2015 rookie season strong with 80-plus yards in four of the final six games. During that six-game span, Parker racked up a total of 22 catches for 445 yards and three touchdowns as he scored the 18th-most fantasy points among wide receivers during that stretch.
If he stays healthy for 14 to 16 games, Parker should easily exceed his WR38 ADP and he's worth the potential injury risk as a fantasy team's WR4.
WR - Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 213, WR70 — My rank: WR46)
With their "exotic smashmouth" offense, it's two of the team's receivers that appear on this list. That said, it's not as though you will need to spend an early-round pick to get either Matthews or Tajae Sharpe, but both offer late-round value.
Speaking of Matthews, he missed the final five games with the Dolphins last season. Through the first 10 games (before his Week 11 injury), however, Matthews was on pace for 69/1,059/6. While I don't expect Matthews to reach the 1,000-yard milestone, he is ranked inside my top-50 fantasy receivers for 2016.
WR - Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 174, WR58 — My rank: WR47)
Based on my projections and rankings, I slightly prefer Matthews (WR46) to Sharpe (WR47) in standard-scoring formats, but I'd rather have Sharpe in PPR formats.
Even though Sharpe is only a rookie from UMass, he's an outstanding route-runner and he led college football with 111 receptions last season. Expected to begin the season as a starter, Sharpe is one of the reasons the Titans gave up (traded) Dorial Green-Beckham, their second-round 2015 pick.
TE - Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 94, TE11 — My rank: TE7)
Ertz set career highs in 2015 with 75 catches for 853 yards, but he had just two touchdowns. Especially productive over the final four games (35/450/1) of the season, Ertz will obviously slow from his end-of-season torrid pace, but he carries plenty of positive momentum into the 2016 season.
Based on comments from Doug Pederson, Ertz should see expanded opportunities inside the red zone. If that materializes, he could vastly outperform his current ADP. Through three NFL seasons, Ertz has scored only nine touchdowns on 169 receptions and 258 targets.
TE - Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 267, TE29 — My rank: TE14)
Based on how he closed the 2015 season, McDonald could be poised for a 2016 breakout. Over his final six games, McDonald had 21 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns and he finished with the 11th-most fantasy points among tight ends over that span. Extrapolating those numbers over a full season equates to a stat line of 56/699/8.
Most would argue that the 49ers have the least-talented group of offensive skill players in NFL. With lighter competition for targets, McDonald has the potential to pick up where he left off last season especially if Blaine Gabbert wins the starting QB job, as expected.
Check out more of our content:
Good luck in your 2016 Fantasy Football League(s)!
Continue reading "12 Undervalued Players in 2016 Fantasy Football Drafts, 2.0" »