Fantasy football draft season is just around the corner, and we’re all looking for value picks and future stars. However, it’s important to take a step back and think about strategy as well as players to get at a discount relative to draft value. Doug Moore provides us with a list of 2016’s most underdrafted fantasy players and explains why you need to grab these players in your draft.
As the 2016 NFL (and fantasy football) season rapidly approaches (Thank God!), it’s time to take a look at the results from drafts that have taken place so far. This article will look at two players from each position (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end) that appear under-drafted (drafted lower than they should be) and examine why they should be taken higher.
DISCLAIMER: All draft information is from MyFantasyLeague.com’s ADP data for 2016 in standard scoring, re-draft leagues. All ADP data taken from Sunday, June 26, 2016.
Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers (13th QB taken)
Pop Quiz: Who was the 2nd highest scoring quarterback for the 1st half of the 2015 season? Cam Newton? Russell Wilson? Blake Bortles? Nope – it was Philip Rivers. Rivers (through Weeks 1-8) who threw for 2,754 yards, 18 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. As such, his average stat-line would be: 344.25 yards, 2.25 touchdowns and .875 interceptions, which would be good for 21.02 points per week, second only to Tom Brady’s crazy 26.6 points per game.
Rivers dealt with injuries to his offensive line (King Dunlap, Chris Watt, Orlando Franklin), wide receivers (Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd) and tight ends (Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green) during the second half of the season, which led to a poor performance to end the season (22nd highest scoring quarterback for Weeks 9-17). Now, as we approach the 2016 season, Rivers is being significantly undervalued in terms of his average draft position (ADP); he is currently being drafted behind Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, and Tyrod Taylor to name a few.
Rivers will have a full arsenal in 2016, with Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson fully healed and Travis Benjamin as an offseason acquisition. In addition, he will have Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates returning as his usual weapons. Along with a healthy offensive line, Rivers is in line to be a major bounce-back candidate who could easily be a top 10 quarterback in 2016, despite his below top 12 draft status thus far.
Tyrod Taylor – Buffalo Bills (20th QB taken)
Excluding Geno Smith (who only played in one game in 2015), Tyrod Taylor finished with the 7th highest average points per game in 2015 for fantasy quarterbacks (19.3 points per game in 14 games). He missed two games because of a leg injury, but it still shows how amazing Taylor played in 2015 considering he wasn’t even widely viewed as a serious competitor for the Bills starting quarterback job in 2015.
Even with star wide receiver Sammy Watkins missing three games in 2015 due to various injuries, Taylor still managed to put up great numbers with 3,035 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions, and 568 rushing yards to go with four rushing touchdowns. His low interception total and high rushing yard total stand out the most as huge contributions toward his finish as a solid fantasy football quarterback in 2015.
Tyrod has the same returning cast in 2016 with Sammy Watkins, Charles Clay, LeSean McCoy, and Robert Woods as his main playmakers. With an arguably improved defense, the Bills may be poised to perform even better in 2016. With Taylor still being picked outside of the top 15 quarterbacks – behind Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford – he is massively underrated as he has a chance to be a top 12 quarterback in 2016.
Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings (7th RB taken)
“How is Adrian Peterson under-drafted?!?” That is a great question. Adrian Peterson is simply a workhorse and a fantasy football stud as he continues to put up terrific stats year after year. He finished as the 2nd best running back in 2015, with over a 30-point gap in between him and the 3rd best, Doug Martin. He led the NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and tied for 1st in rushing touchdowns in 2015. And yet, somehow, Peterson is being drafted as the 7th running back in standard scoring re-draft leagues so far.
Even in 2013 (Peterson played very little in 2014 due to a near-season-long suspension), Peterson was tied for 6th in rushing attempts, 5th in rushing yards, and tied for 4th in rushing touchdowns. Simply put, Peterson is one of the greatest running backs of not only this generation, but arguably of all time. In fantasy football, he is a near sure bet to finish as a top five running back, but is somehow being drafted as a top seven running back.
Considering the Vikings actually made some improvements to their offensive line in 2016 and deploy a very run-heavy offense (4th in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2015), Peterson is again a near-lock to be a top five running back, and yet is still being drafted behind rookie Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Lamar Miller. Peterson is a solid bargain at his price tag right now and it’s almost borderline stealing considering what he is actually worth.
Danny Woodhead – San Diego Chargers (30th RB taken)
This is a special for my fellow points per reception (PPR) players. Danny Woodhead has proven over most of his career that he is a very dependable and valuable asset in PPR leagues. Heck, he finished as the THIRD best running back in all of fantasy football in 2015 in PPR leagues. That was ahead of the likes of Lamar Miller, Doug Martin, and Todd Gurley to name a few. Yet somehow, he is being taken outside of the top 25 and just barely in the top 30.
He finished tied for the most receptions of all running backs in 2015 (80, with Theo Riddick) and was tied for 18th in the entire NFL for receptions as well. He also led all running backs in receiving yards (756) and receiving touchdowns (six). Despite this production, Danny Woodhead is being drafted as a mid-tier RB3 in PPR leagues right now even though he was a top five running back in 2015. That is absolutely crazy when you look at his production in 2015 and consider that he is in a good position to put up great stats again in 2016.
When Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon, and even DeMarco Murray are being drafted ahead of him, you know something is seriously wrong. Danny Woodhead is a sure-fire top 20 running back in PPR, if not better, and comes at a very cheap price right now. He is extremely under-drafted at the moment and owners would be wise to grab all of the shares of him they can at this price tag.
Randall Cobb – Green Bay Packers (18th WR taken)
Yes, Randall Cobb floundered in 2015 after inheriting the #1 wide receiver role following Jordy Nelson’s knee injury. Although Cobb finished as the 28th best wide receiver in standard scoring leagues, there is a lot to love about him in 2016. Besides the fact that Cobb will only be 26 when the season starts, he will also have Nelson back alongside him for this upcoming season.
Additionally, the Packers hope to have a more stable run game in 2016, seeing as the combined efforts of Eddie Lacy and James Starks in 2015 turned into a disaster. Also, the Packers are expected to go in a new direction at the #3 wide receiver position (where Davante Adams disappointed badly in 2015), which should alleviate the pressure on Cobb, of which he saw a ton in 2015. In 2014, when both Nelson and Cobb played all 16 games, Cobb had 91 receptions, 1,287 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns –good for 6th best wide receiver in standard scoring leagues.
Currently being drafted as a mid-tier WR2 right now, Cobb is a potential steal as he has the talent and perfect situation to be a top 10 wide receiver, if not better, in 2016. If I had the chance to take Cobb as my #2 wide receiver on my fantasy football team, I wouldn’t think twice; be sure to grab him at this price while you still can.
Brandon Marshall – New York Jets (20th WR taken)
Brandon Marshall had nothing short of an amazing season in 2015, his first with the New York Jets. He was fantasy football’s #3 overall wide receiver in standard scoring leagues and played in all 16 games as well. Even with the Jets quarterback situation murky at the moment, Marshall’s price tag so far in redraft leagues is exceedingly low.
Marshall finished tied for 5th in receptions, 4th with 1,502 receiving yards, and tied for 1st in receiving touchdowns in 2015. Even though his current quarterback situation is a bit in flux with Ryan Fitzpatrick still not signed with the team for 2016, there is nothing to suggest that Fitz won’t be there come week one of the regular season. But even if Fitzpatrick somehow didn’t play for the Jets in 2016, the Jets will still have it in their game-plan to force-feed Marshall as much as he can handle.
Now it would be a downgrade if Geno Smith, Christian Hackenburg, or Bryce Petty were his quarterback in 2016, but there is little to suggest he can’t still be a top 10 wide receiver in 2016. Marshall is being criminally under-drafted at the moment and it would be extremely wise to buy as many shares of him for 2016 at this price tag (while it lasts).
Gary Barnidge – Cleveland Browns (11th TE taken)
The 2nd highest scoring tight end in standard scoring leagues in 2015 wasn’t Greg Olsen or Travis Kelce or Tyler Eifert. Nope. It was Gary Barnidge. He was a fantasy football force in 2015 as he finished 2nd behind Rob Gronkowski. And after signing a contract extension last season, Barnidge will be back with the team in 2016 as they attempt to re-tool with a new front office and coaching staff.
With a whole new group of wide receivers including Corey Coleman and Rishard Higgins, Barnidge is probably expected to lead the young group in the receiving game. And with the quarterback situation still up for grabs and reports of Robert Griffin not doing well in mini-camp, we could see the Browns return in 2016 to the quarterback who gave them the best statistical season last year: Josh McCown. From Weeks 3-8, during which McCown threw for more than 30 attempts in each of those games before going down to injuries, Barnidge was the top tight end in fantasy football by nearly 20 points (Greg Olsen was 2nd and behind by 19.5 points).
Even if Barnidge doesn’t have McCown throwing to him, he will have new head coach Hue Jackson bringing in a creative offensive playbook. This is also the same Hue Jackson that oversaw Tyler Eifert’s breakout in 2015 for the Bengals. Barnidge is in a great spot for 2016 and, with other tight ends like Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener currently being drafted ahead of him, Barnidge is available at a terrific price tag. He is as good of a bet as any to have a top eight season for tight ends and is a solid value pick right now.
Zach Miller – Chicago Bears (21st TE taken)
After Martellus Bennett went on season-ending injured reserve following Week 13 last season, Zach Miller was the 6th highest scoring tight end in fantasy football from then through Week 16 (he missed Week 17 due to injury). After trading Bennett in the offseason and re-signing Miller to a two-year deal, the team seems ready to give Miller the starting tight end job for the Bears.
The team did lose offensive coordinator Adam Gase to the Dolphins, but Dowell Loggains, the team’s quarterbacks coach in 2015, is expected to keep a relatively similar offensive playbook. Miller could be in for a big role in 2016 after the team let Matt Forte leave in free agency, which should open up a good amount of targets in the passing game. With Kevin White ready to contribute alongside Alshon Jeffery, however, Miller may find himself as the team’s #3 target in the passing game. But even if that is the case, Miller should still see a healthy number of targets to keep himself very much fantasy relevant in 2016, especially seeing as Jay Cutler threw for near 3,700 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2015.
Yet despite his outlook for 2016 looking strong, Miller is still being drafted as a low-end TE2 in standard scoring re-draft leagues – behind even Clive Walford, Jason Witten, and Hunter Henry to name a few. Miller has an outside chance to be a top 12 tight end in 2016 and is very much a bargain at his current price tag. Keep him in mind on draft day if you wait on taking a tight end, as Miller will most likely be available as a steal if you get him anywhere late in your draft.