Fantasy Football: Best High-Value Alternatives to Overdrafted Stars
Fantasy football is, at the end of the day, all about maximizing value. It's about figuring out who will get you the best return on your investment in every single round.
Sometimes there are some big names available in the earlier rounds that may seem enticing just based off name recognition and track record. But don't let that stuff fool you.
There are many sleepers and under-the-radar guys waiting lower in the ranks who will end up giving you a way better value at their draft slot.
Here are seven high-value alternatives to overdrafted stars.
ADP figures taken on August 10 from FantasyPros.
Pierre Thomas (ADP: 91)
Instead of: Trent Richardson (ADP: 68)
The gap between these two players' ADPs is not huge, but it's significant enough to be a difference-maker in the middle rounds, which is where most leagues are won and lost.
I don't know why Richardson is even still relevant. In fact, if he hadn't gone to Alabama, I don't think he would be. The only thing he's proved since arriving in the NFL is that he is slow. His 3.3 yards-per-carry average is just brutal and revealing of how much he stinks.
He also has to deal with an underrated Ahmad Bradshaw hanging around, as well as a gunslinging young quarterback in Andrew Luck. Pierre Thomas also has a gunslinging quarterback, but the difference here is that many of those passes go his way.
Think about this: Even with Darren Sproles around last year, Thomas still caught 77 passes.
Ninety receptions is perfectly in reach in 2014, and that upside makes him more valuable than Richardson regardless of where they're drafted.
Other alternative: Terrance West (ADP: 116)
Jordan Matthews (ADP: 174)
Instead of: Sammy Watkins (ADP: 88)
This is meant as no disrespect to Watkins, who is a more talented player than Jordan Matthews and will be a superstar in just a few seasons. But this year, Matthews is the better fantasy value.
Defenses will be blanketing Watkins, and EJ Manuel still has a really long way to go as a quarterback. The Bills also figure to rely heavily on their three-pronged rushing attack of C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown.
Matthews, on the other hand, could flourish in Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense. There are weapons around him in Philadelphia, but guys like Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz and Riley Cooper could easily relinquish a bunch of targets for the rookie.
I actually think there's a solid chance Matthews and Watkins could end up with similar stats, and maybe Watkins' will be slightly better. But if you can get Matthews at the end of your draft, why would you spend a ninth-rounder on Watkins?
Other alternative: Kelvin Benjamin (ADP: 143)
Michael Floyd (ADP: 62)
Instead of: Antonio Brown (ADP: 27)
Michael Floyd is a player who isn't getting nearly enough attention after outperforming Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona last season, registering a 1,000-yard sophomore season.
There's a good chance his stats increase a lot, but even if they only improve a little, a 70-catch, 1,100-yard, six-score season makes him a solid WR2.
At the same time, Brown is being selected as the eighth overall wide receiver right now at 27 overall, and I don't think there is a very good chance of him finishing the year as the eighth-best fantasy receiver or better.
I expect both Brown's targets (165) and touchdowns (eight) to drop this year. If he catches 95 passes for 1,300 yards and five touchdowns, that means (with only modest uptick for Floyd) in a 0.5 PPR league he would only score about two points more than Floyd per game.
If you can get Floyd five rounds later, that's the move.
Other alternative: Kendall Wright (ADP: 84)
Jay Cutler (ADP: 101)
Instead of: Matthew Stafford (ADP: 39)
I'm of the mindset that if you aren't getting one of the top three quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers), then you should wait and be one of the last guys—if not the last guy—in your draft taking a starting QB.
Why? Because quarterback is less predictable than people realize. Who would have thought that Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers would have finished (via NFL.com) as the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-highest-scoring fantasy quarterbacks in 2013?
This year, pass on Stafford and instead look at a guy like Jay Cutler. He looked pretty good last season, and if you put his numbers together with Josh McCown's, then they actually had a really solid year (4,450 yards and 32 TDs).
Other alternative: Andy Dalton (ADP: 130)
Fred Jackson (ADP: 98)
Instead of: C.J. Spiller (ADP: 34)
The difference in ADP to me between these two teammates is absolutely insane. Completely and utterly insane. Fred Jackson is consistently one of the most underrated fantasy players every year.
Jackson had a way better 2013 season than Spiller, even with both of them nursing some injuries. Plus, one of the biggest reasons Spiller had an opportunity for such a big 2012 season was that Jackson was banged up and missed six games.
Jackson is still a really good football player, and the Bills will feed both their backs the ball a lot. Spiller has yet to prove he's the lead guy, and I don't think that'll happen this year.
Taking Jackson in the 10th round instead of Spiller in the fourth is the biggest no-brainer of the draft for me.
Other alternative: Joique Bell (ADP: 72)
Kyle Rudolph (ADP: 93)
With Norv Turner running the offense in Minnesota, expect Kyle Rudolph to really take off and become more of a focal point in the Vikings offense.
No matter who his quarterback is, he'll be relied on as a safety blanket and get used in more creative ways down the field while continuing to be a touchdown machine.
Gronkowski is a phenomenal talent, but with his injury history, it's too risky to take him in any of the first few rounds. Davis, on the other hand, will almost certainly see his volume of work drop with Michael Crabtree healthy and the addition of Stevie Johnson.
Rudolph has the potential to break out big-time, and even if he's just above average, he's a great value in the 10th round.
Other alternative: Zach Ertz (ADP: 121)
Terrance Williams (ADP: 92)
Instead of: Larry Fitzgerald (ADP: 35)
I'm not quite sure why Fitzgerald is still being taken so high. Other than his name, there is nothing that makes him worthy of his current ADP. He's 30 years old, he hasn't had 1,000 receiving yards since 2011, and Michael Floyd will only steal more and more targets.
Enter Williams, who had a pseudo-breakout year as a rookie in 2013, catching 44 passes for 735 yards and five scores.
With the way their team looks right now, the Cowboys are bound to get in a bunch of shootouts this year, and someone has to complement Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Williams flashed a lot of talent last season, and there is plenty of room for him to break out. Get a guy like him on the upswing at a value instead of a veteran like Fitzgerald who is trending in the opposite direction.
Other alternative: DeAndre Hopkins (ADP: 129)