2017 Fantasy Football: Best Value Draft Picks
Values, overvalues, sleepers, lottery tickets, players to target, players to avoid.
You've probably heard a variety of these terms during every fantasy football draft season in articles just like this one. When it comes down to it, you'll likely have a combination of all of the above when you finish your draft depending on who's assessing your team.
It's easy to get too caught up in a set draft strategy. Regardless of how your team was constructed, the goal is still to win. Style points don't matter. We're focusing on values in this piece, but a team too reliant on getting the best value will likely miss out on talent. You need a combination of talent, opportunity, situation and, of course, luck to put the best team together.
Values and sleepers are not the same thing. In fact, I'll have an article dedicated to sleepers coming out next week. The value players presented here are those with an average draft position that's significantly different from their potential top value. Almost all in this article don't have strong name value and might be perceived as lesser players.
For instance, Matthew Stafford may not get mentioned among the top fantasy quarterbacks, but he's been one of the most consistent options over the last five years, as you'll see in his value profile. Taking advantage of those in your league who make selections based on perceived value instead of statistical evidence can put you way ahead of the game.
Note: All ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator. All fantasy stats used to calculate finishes from FantasyPros. All advanced stats calculated using data from Pro Football Reference. All stats are based on points per reception (PPR) format.
Bilal Powell, ADP 61.5/RB26
While Powell may not have the name value of Matt Forte, his performance in 2016 proved his worth to the New York Jets and fantasy community. Despite Forte's hot start, Powell finished five spots ahead of Forte in total fantasy points per game at the RB position (RB16-RB21) in PPR formats.
Powell had just 31.3 percent of the team's total carries compared to Forte's 52.2 percent. He was able to make up for some of that with 13.6 percent of the team's targets, which was an advantage over Forte's 7.9 percent. Even though Forte had more top-15 weekly RB finishes (6) than Powell (5), Powell boosted his value with four top-10 finishes in the final seven games.
The Jets are clearly retooling and may have the worst offense in the league after the exits of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and loss of Quincy Enunwa (neck) for the season. Marshall (23.4 percent) and Enunwa (19.2 percent) vacate a massive target share heading into the 2017, so Powell may be forced into an even bigger role in the passing game with second-year WR Robby Anderson atop of the team's depth chart.
Avoiding bad teams is usually a good strategy, which might explain Powell's low ADP, but he's a talented player and should get more than enough volume to be a solid RB2 in PPR formats.
2017 Projections: 145 carries, 623 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns; 60 receptions, 451 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns; 12.3 fantasy points per game, RB16
Garcon is the first of three players on this list joining a new team, and like the other players, his team is among the worst in the league. That’s probably the most obvious reason his perceived value has taken such a hit despite finishing as WR24 with the Washington Redskins in 2016.
Lazy, basic analysis says that going from the Redskins to the San Francisco 49ers will hurt Garcon’s fantasy stock. You’d like to draft players from good-to-great teams, but that’s not always possible. When it comes to bad teams, target the players who will receive the most opportunities. In San Francisco’s passing attack, there’s little doubt about Garcon’s role as the top option.
Last season, Jeremy Kerley led the 49ers with 23.6 percent of the target share. While Kerley remains in the mix, Garcon gives the team a much better threat in the passing game and is already familiar with head coach Kyle Shanahan.
In 2013, Garcon had the best season of his career under Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator in Washington. He set career highs in targets (181), receptions (113) and yards (1,346). Expectations shouldn’t be as high with the pair reuniting in San Francisco, but Shanahan made it clear he wanted Garcon.
According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, Shanahan was asked about Garcon in April and said, "You go into free agency and you study all the free agents who are available and then you stack them and see who can help you team the most. Pierre was at the top of that list. Also knowing him made me feel better about that because you know exactly what you're getting."
Garcon leads a receiving corps that includes Kerley, Marquise Goodwin (49 career receptions), Aldrick Robinson (50 career receptions), Vance McDonald (64 career receptions) and Garrett Celek (56 career receptions). It’s clearly not the best team, but in a rebuilding situation, Garcon will be an important piece from the start.
2017 Projections: 80 receptions, 1016 yards, 6 TDs, 13.6 fantasy points per game, WR24
Terrance West, ADP 88.5/RB36
Coming into July, West looked like a value in this offense because he was in line for a lead role with Kenneth Dixon set to serve a four-game suspension to open the 2017 season. That role looks permanent with Dixon done for the season to recover from having his "medial meniscus repaired" on July 25, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Even with that news, West’s ADP hasn’t risen to the expected level of a lead back.
It’s fair to assume that any rise for West is capped by the presence of Danny Woodhead. However, Woodhead has never been a true lead back, as he’s topped 100 carries just once in his career (2013 with the Chargers). Woodhead should be busy as a receiver, but he won't be a serious threat to West's carries.
West is without a doubt the best option to lead the Baltimore Ravens in carries, as he did in 2016 with 52.6 of the share. He did that in somewhat of a timeshare with Dixon, who finished with a 24 percent share of the carries. While it’s unrealistic for West to take Dixon’s entire share, his touches should rise out of necessity.
According to Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com, West said playing in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme would be a "big advantage." Head coach John Harbaugh said West is "steadily improving" and that he “worked really hard in the offseason.”
As of now, you don’t have to pay a premium price for a player who finished as the RB23 in 2016. West has a great opportunity with Dixon out of the mix, which is why he’s a great value for 2017.
2017 Projections: 233 carries, 945 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs, 28 receptions, 194 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD, 11.9 fantasy points per game, RB21
Tyrell Williams, ADP 97.1/WR43
After Williams' breakout performance in 2016, I didn't expect to be talking people into him for 2017, but the offseason has been a roller coaster for his fantasy value. He was on the way down when the Chargers made Mike Williams the seventh overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft. That, combined with a healthy Keenan Allen, seemed to push Tyrell Williams down the depth chart and fantasy draft boards.
A back injury landed Mike Williams on the PUP list to open training camp with the team announcing he's "not expected to practice during training camp." According to Jack Wang of the L.A. Daily News, head coach Anthony Lynn said, he's "hopeful" Mike Williams wouldn't miss the season, but he didn't know if that was the case.
The uncertainty surrounding Mike Williams, especially missing all of training camp as a rookie, moves Tyrell Williams firmly back into the starting lineup until further notice. Even with Allen back, the Chargers know they have a reliable option in Williams after he led the team with 21.1 percent of the targets last season in Allen's absence. He finished as the WR18 and had six top-15 weekly finishes.
His ADP and overall standing at WR will rise the more time Mike Williams misses. Plus, Allen's overall health has been a major concern, as he's played in just 38 of 64 possible games in his career, including just nine in the last two seasons. Even if his ADP creeps into the 30s among WRs, Williams is a good investment.
2017 Projections: 78 receptions, 1,078 yards, 5 TDs, 13.4 fantasy points per game, WR27
Zach Ertz, ADP 108.9/TE11
If you rolled your eyes at seeing Ertz's name on this list, please hear me out before you move onto the next player. You may be surprised to learn Ertz's ranking among fantasy tight ends has improved every year since 2013 when he finished TE23. That jumped to TE13 in 2014, TE9 in 2015 and TE6 last season. Has he ever lived up to the lofty expectations of a no-doubt, top-five TE? No, but he's a lot better than his reputation suggests.
The Philadelphia Eagles had an awful receiver corps last season, but lost in that was how well Ertz performed. He was second on the team with 17.5 percent of the total targets and had a 73.6 percent catch rate. He was one of five fantasy TEs with at least eight top-10 finishes, putting him in the same company as Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen and Kyle Rudolph.
The additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith could eat into Ertz's role, although their presence could be a bigger concern for Jordan Matthews, who led the team with a 19.4 percent target share in 2016. Plus, Ertz was the only receiver that developed any chemistry with Carson Wentz, and that should remain heading into Wentz's second season.
Ertz's name isn't popping up with the same kind of fantasy buzz as previous seasons because he hasn't lived up to those high expectations. However, if you treat him like what he is—a solid, but not spectacular TE1—he should come through for you if you want to wait a little longer to get your starting TE.
2017 Projections: 71 receptions, 766 yards, 6 TDs, 11.5 fantasy points per game, TE7
Matthew Stafford, ADP 118.8/QB14
Much like Ertz, Stafford has a reputation of never living up to the hype. As a former No. 1 pick, Stafford has been very good yet never consistently great. He still has fantasy value if you aren't banking on him to put up the gaudy numbers of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, all of whom will cost you much higher picks in your fantasy drafts.
In 2016, Stafford's average ADP put him as the QB15, so unless you were in a big league, he wasn't drafted as a fantasy starter. However, he exceeded that value by finishing seventh in total fantasy points and 12th in fantasy points per game at the position. Of the top 15 QBs drafted last season, eight failed to live up to their draft value in fantasy points per game.
Over the last five seasons, Stafford has finished no worse than QB15 (2014) in total fantasy points and has been a top-10 fantasy QB in four of those years. The only other QBs to finish in the top 15 for total fantasy points in each of the last five seasons are Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. That shows Stafford has produced and stayed healthy. He hasn't missed a game since 2010.
Maybe the ceiling for Stafford isn't as high as we all hoped when he was the top pick in 2009, but the floor hasn't been low, either. Even with the consistency, Stafford doesn't get the same love as a high-ceiling, low-floor player like Ben Roethlisberger (ADP 95.5/QB9) despite the fact Roethlisberger has finished as a top-10 QB just once in the last five years. Waiting on a reliable QB like Stafford is a smart strategy.
2017 Projections: 4,305 passing yards, 28 TDs, 11 interceptions, 150 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 21.8 fantasy points per game, QB12
Kenny Britt, ADP 119.6/WR49
Britt was off the fantasy radar coming into last season with the Los Angeles Rams and for good reason. He never had more than 48 receptions or 775 yards in a season, and his QB situation was less than ideal. Britt overcame all of that to post 68 receptions, 1,002 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games.
So Britt now goes from one rebuilding project to another with the Cleveland Browns. Much like the Rams, the Browns have a shaky QB depth chart that includes Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer. Britt had a career year catching passes from Case Keenum and Jared Goff, so at least he's battled-tested in that regard.
The key for Britt is opportunity. The Browns need to make up for the losses of Terrelle Pryor (25.1 percent target share) and Gary Barnidge (14.7 percent target share), as they led the team in targets. The player with the highest target share left from last season is Duke Johnson at 13.3 percent.
Last season, Britt led the Rams with a 20.9 percent target share and caught 61.3 percent of those targets, which helped him finish as WR28 in fantasy. With the addition of rookie TE David Njoku and a healthy Corey Coleman entering his second season, Britt may not have to be as busy as Pryor was, but he will be busy enough as the most accomplished receiver on the roster.
I'm not projecting Britt to match his fantasy performance from last season, but he should still have enough value to be a low-end WR3 with the abundance of targets available in Cleveland.
2017 Projections: 73 receptions, 992 yards, five touchdowns, 12.6 fantasy points per game, WR37
Tyrod Taylor, ADP 134.9/QB18
Taylor generated a little fantasy buzz coming into his second season with the Buffalo Bills and wound up outperforming his ADP of QB14. He finished eighth among QBs in both total fantasy points and average fantasy points per game despite having his top WR, Sammy Watkins, for just eight games.
Along with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins, Taylor was one of just four QBs to post 11 top-15 finishes in 2016. Four of those finishes were top-five weeks, so Taylor did more than enough to outplay where he was drafted. That level of consistency isn't easy to find, so Taylor should be commended for doing so in just his second season as a starter.
The ceiling should be even higher for Taylor in his third season with the Bills. Besides a healthy Watkins, the Bills added some help in their receiving corps with veteran Anquan Boldin and rookie Zay Jones. Boldin gives Taylor a reliable possession option out of the slot who should also help in the red zone (six of Boldin's eight TDs came in the red zone last year).
Taylor has thrown for just 6,078 yards in his first 29 games with the Bills, but he has been able to boost his fantasy value with 1,148 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs over that span. I've often preached the "look for legs" philosophy when it comes to QBs because a running QB can quickly make up for a bad passing performance.
Even though he clearly has room to improve and more help around him, Taylor has a surprisingly low ADP. You can wait to get him knowing his ceiling and floor are pretty high. Pairing him with another late-round QB is a sound strategy.
2017 Projections: 3,375 passing yards, 23 TDs, 10 interceptions, 575 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 21.7 fantasy points per game, QB13
Robert Woods, ADP 150.1/WR59
Woods makes this list because he’s very cheap and is walking into a situation with lots of targets that were vacated in the offseason. The Los Angeles Rams no longer have three of their four most targeted receivers from 2016. Kenny Britt (20.6 percent target share) signed with the Cleveland Browns, Lance Kendricks (16.4 percent target share) joined the Green Bay Packers, and Brian Quick (14.5 percent target share) is now a Washington Redskin.
Woods spent his first four seasons as a secondary receiver in Buffalo, although he was pushed into a bigger role at times because of injuries around him. He’ll enter the season as one of the top receivers for the Rams along with Tavon Austin and rookie Cooper Kupp. Woods should be the team’s top possession receiver, as Austin plays more of a hybrid role as both a runner and a receiver. Kupp might be the most talented of the group but may need some time to develop.
This is another opportunity-based value pick since the Rams are not a good team and still have plenty of work to do with second-year QB Jared Goff. However, for those looking for catches, Woods should have a chance to improve on the 16.6 percent target share he saw in Buffalo last season, which is good news considering he had a 67.1 percent catch rate.
While he might not be an exciting pick, Woods isn’t a risky one if he doesn’t work out, as he can be a late-round flier if you want a high target share.
2017 Projections: 71 receptions, 838 yards, 5 TDs, 11.5 fantasy points per game, WR42
Jason Witten, ADP 153.8/TE17
Witten is the security blanket of fantasy football. He's not flashy, but you know what you'll get from him every year. He's caught at least 64 balls in every season since his rookie year of 2003. He's dipped below 700 yards just once since that rookie season. He's also played in every game for the last 13 seasons.
In 2016, Witten had to adjust to a new starting QB in rookie Dak Prescott, but he still managed to finish as TE11, so in a typical 12-team league, he was worth a spot as a starter. The Cowboys had a pretty even distribution of targets among Witten (19.8 percent), Cole Beasley (20.5 percent) and Dez Bryant (20 percent).
Bryant's target share should rise if he stays healthy, but that's been a problem, as he's missed 10 games because of injuries in the last two years. While Bryant has the most upside of the Cowboys' receiving corps, Witten is the most reliable on a weekly basis. He hauled in 72.6 percent of his targets in 2016.
With an ADP outside the top 15 TEs, Witten can be had with one of your last picks. If you want to take a shot on an upside-filled, yet risky TE like Cleveland Browns rookie David Njoku or provide security for an injury risk like Cincinnati Bengals veteran Tyler Eifert, Witten is a good player to pair with either for some stability.
2017 Projections: 69 receptions, 665 yards, 3 TDs, 9.6 fantasy points per game, TE14