Fantasy Football Draft Kit 2021: 10 Undervalued Players in Fantasy Football Drafts
BY KEVIN HANSON (@EDSFootball)
Updated: Friday, August 6th
Using a baseball analogy, my goal is to hit doubles with each of my picks in fantasy football drafts. While I may swing for the fences with some late-round picks, I believe consistently finding value in each round will best position my team to compete.
The purpose of this post is not to list every single player that is undervalued but instead to highlight some players that offer value compared to where they are currently being drafted by fantasy managers.
For a better idea of which players I'd draft over others, my fantasy football rankings answer those questions.
With that said, here are 10 players that are currently undervalued in fantasy football drafts (half-PPR ADP):
QB - Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: 100)
Before Burrow's rookie season was cut short by a season-ending knee injury in Week 11, the only quarterback with more pass attempts than Burrow (404) was Tom Brady (433). After factoring in byes, however, Burrow (40.4/G) averaged more pass attempts per game than Brady (39.4) through Week 11. Only Dak Prescott, lost for the season after Week 5, averaged more pass attempts per game (44.4).
Going into the 2021 season, Burrow has a more talented receiving corps than he had as a rookie. Not only should Tee Higgins be even better in his second season, but Burrow has been reunited with his former LSU teammate, Ja'Marr Chase. In addition, Tyler Boyd is one of the more underrated slot receivers in the league.
Early camp reports haven't been positive, but the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 should turn things around as he works back from injury. If some negative reports push his ADP down a bit further, so be it. Even with some young core players that offer optimism for the future, the Bengals should be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2021 and Burrow has a legitimate shot at leading the NFL in pass attempts. Due to that expected volume, Burrow is ranked inside my top-10 fantasy quarterbacks for 2021.
RB - Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 11)
Derrick Henry. Dalvin Cook. Aaron Jones.
What do these three backs share in common? That's the list of backs that have finished top five in fantasy scoring (half-PPR) in each of the past two seasons.
Beyond the three consensus top backs (Christian McCaffrey, Cook and Henry), it would be easy to argue that Jones has as much likelihood to finish among the top five scorers in 2021 as well.
Not only did he lead the NFL in touchdowns (19) in 2019, but Jones averaged a career-high 5.89 yards per touch with Aaron Rodgers playing at an MVP level in 2020. The resolved offseason tension between Rodgers and Green Bay's front office eliminates what was the biggest threat to his fantasy outlook.
If there are any concerns, it's that Jones has missed multiple games in three of his four NFL seasons due to injury or suspension. In addition, A.J. Dillon's role will expand with Jamaal Williams in Detroit and it's possible that he siphons a few goal-line opportunities away from Jones.
That said, Dillon is clearly less likely than Williams to steal targets in the passing game. Even with Williams, who had 70 catches over the past two seasons, Jones has a minimum of 47 receptions in back-to-back seasons and a total receiving line of 96/829/5 on 131 targets during that stretch.
RB - Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: 17)
Durability tops the list of concerns with Mixon. Not only did he miss the final 10 games last season, but he has missed multiple games in three of four seasons (like Jones).
That said, volume is king in fantasy football and Mixon is going to get as many touches as he can handle in 2021. In the six games he played last season, Mixon had a minimum of 19 touches and only King Henry (123) had more touches than Mixon (119) during that stretch.
Like Jones, Mixon is a talented receiver and he ranked among the top 10 running backs in targets (26) when he was healthy last season. In fact, he averaged a career-high 3.5 receptions per game in 2020. Given that pass-catching specialist Giovani Bernard is now in Tampa Bay, there should be even more targets headed Mixon's way.
As he enters his age-25 season, Mixon could be poised for his best season yet.
RB - Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 28)
Many fantasy managers are frustrated by Pete Carroll's insistence to establish the run. For the first half of last season, Rusell Wilson was slinging it all over the yard and D.K. Metcalf (WR2 through Week 9) and Tyler Lockett (WR5) were as dynamic of a 1-2 punch as any in the league.
Even so, Carson was off to a great start from a fantasy perspective before sustaining a foot injury following their Week 6 bye. Before the Week 6 bye, Carson finished as a weekly RB13 (or better) in four of five games and he was the RB5 over that span.
His physical running style may lead to a greater propensity to get banged up, there are often times that he's available in Round 4 and I'll draft him every time he slips to that point like I did here.
RB - Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 64)
Going into the season, the plan was to make Cam Akers the featured back. With Akers tearing his Achilles, the Rams will turn to Henderson, by default, with a few late-round or undrafted backs set to back Henderson up.
It's certainly possible that the team adds veteran competition to the backfield room before the start of the season, but at this point, it's setting up for the Rams to give Henderson way more work than his ADP suggests.
Injuries have been an issue for Henderson, but when he was on the field last season, he was efficient and productive. The former Memphis Tiger averaged 4.52 yards per carry and 9.94 yards per reception in 2020.
While the Rams have one of the better offensive lines in the league, they also have a talented group of pass catchers (see below). What really helps those pass catchers as well as the offense overall is the upgrade from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford.
Based on ADP, Henderson is being drafted as a flex option, but he is ranked as a high-end RB2 in our projections and rankings.
WR - Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 49)
Goff has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league the past couple of seasons, but the trade for Stafford should really be able to take advantage of the weapons in this offense.
Over the past three seasons, Woods receptions (86-90) and targets (129-139) have been incredibly consistent. In addition, Woods has had 17-24 rush attempts in each of the past three seasons as well. While his Y/R (10.4) and Y/TGT (7.3) dipped considerably from his career averages last season, regression to the mean with improved quarterback play could allow for Woods to once again outperform his draft-day cost.
|Year||Final Performance||ADP (via FFC)|
* While we don't know where he'll finish, Woods currently sits at WR9 in our projections and WR13 in our rankings.
WR - Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans (ADP: 110)
When it comes to Cooks' fantasy outlook, the obvious concern is the uncertain status of Deshaun Watson. Other than that (and obviously that's a significant concern), there is a lot to like about Cooks.
By posting an 81/1,150/6 season with Houston last year, Cooks joined Brandon Marshall as only the second receiver in NFL history to have a 1,000-yard season with four different teams. Of course, Cooks did that with Watson.
Especially if Watson isn't under center, the Texans are going to bad. Really bad. As an example, they are a home underdog to the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 and it's possible that they are underdogs in every game this season. Garbage time should come early and often for this offense and Cooks has a chance to rank top 10 in targets with Will Fuller and Randall Cobb no longer on the roster.
With an ADP of WR41 in Round 9, Cooks offers plenty of upside even assuming that Watson doesn't take a snap for the Texans in 2021.
WR - Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 111)
To a certain degree, Shenault was already breaking out. As a rookie, Shenault closed the season with 25 catches for 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 targets to go along with six rush attempts for 31 yards over the final five games of the season. During that stretch, he performed as the WR16 (half-PPR). In addition, Shenault had a minimum of three receptions in every game where he played more than 10 snaps.
Heading into his second season, he gets a quarterback upgrade with Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Built more like a running back than a wide receiver, Shenault is at his best with the ball in his hands. He led all rookie receivers in missed tackles forced.
WR - Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 123)
L.A.'s offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi told The Athletic's Daniel Popper that if he were a "betting man," he would "bet on nice numbers coming from him on the stat sheet."
That's good enough for me.
Although last year's numbers for Williams (48/756/5) were a bit disappointing, Williams had double-digit touchdowns in 2018 and led the NFL in Y/R (20.4) in 2019 when he had a 1,000-yard season. In other words, we have seen glimpses of what Williams can do already and the former first-rounder has the potential to crush his current ADP.
TE - Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 133)
Higbee's dominant close to the 2019 season -- 43/522/2 on 56 targets over final five games -- led to optimism heading into 2020. With their hopes up, fantasy managers that drafted Higbee were left deflated.
Despite finishing 2020 with only 44/521/5, it's both addition (Matthew Stafford) and subtraction (Gerald Everett) that leads to renewed optimism for Higbee. Not only does Higbee benefit from the same quarterback upgrade I referenced above, but Everett had played only four offensive snaps during that five-game stretch to end 2019 where Higbee posted elite numbers.
It would be foolish to expect double-digit targets and 100-plus yards per game like he did over that final five games in 2019, but Higbee offers enormous upside for a tight end that is currently going outside the top 12 fantasy tight ends.
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