2018 Fantasy Football: Best Value Draft Picks
For the most part, value picks aren't overlooked players, but they are underrated. Average draft position might suggest a player you rank as a WR2 is being treated as a WR3. If you take advantage of those perception-related discounts while sticking to your rankings, it will limit the need to overdraft players.
You don't have to reach for a QB with someone like Philip Rivers available in the double-digit rounds. He's not a top-12 QB by current ADP, but he can play like one at a cheaper price. That is a value.
Chris Hogan is regularly drafted as a top-30 WR toward the top of the sixth round, so while you may take him as your WR3, his upside as the top WR in New England is easily within the top 20. In fact, he could be in the league-winner category if he continues to dominate targets after Julian Edelman returns from his four-game suspension.
Determining values is about getting the most bang for your buck. Maybe you don't want to go all in on Jerick McKinnon as your RB2. Instead, you can wait a little longer and take Dion Lewis two or three rounds later with the hope he turns into the golden star of the Titans backfield.
Doug Baldwin, SEA: ADP 35.6
At the beginning of training camp, Doug Baldwin was my No. 8 WR and clearly in the WR1 tier. At the time, Baldwin's ADP was 30.4/WR12, which put him on the WR1/WR2 borderline, although still a coveted player. Unfortunately, a knee injury that seemed to come out of nowhere at the end of July put a damper on any excitement for Baldwin.
You could easily argue that Baldwin's ADP before the injury made him a minor value. since he finished the last three seasons at No. 11, No. 8 and No. 10 among WRs. Baldwin's ceiling might be higher this season than ever before with Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson leaving more than 33 percent of the team's target share up for grabs.
Some of those targets will be absorbed by Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, Brandon Marshall and Ed Dickson, but Baldwin is clearly the top option and should get a boost in targets as a result.
Baldwin appears to be trending in the right direction for the start of the regular season. According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, head coach Pete Carroll said Baldwin "ramped up conditioning" last week. Carroll added Baldwin is "progressing as hoped" and will "for sure" be ready for Week 1.
Even though Baldwin's ADP didn't slip that much since the injury was announced, the value was already there and looks even better at 35.6. Baldwin has WR1 potential, so if he remains a third-round pick, he could turn into the smartest pick of the draft.
Mark Ingram, NO: ADP 54
Can a player be a value if he's completely useless for the first month of the season? In the case of Mark Ingram, that answer may provide the key to a fantasy championship.
We know Ingram will serve a four-game suspension to open the 2018 season, which is a big reason why Alvin Kamara's ADP is 6.0/RB5. As a rookie, Kamara was the No. 3 RB with Ingram not far behind at No. 6, so both players were strong RB1s. That's an amazing achievement, and it also showed the Saints' commitment to their talented backfield.
It's hard to believe the Saints would mess with a winning formula, which is why Ingram should resume the same active role he played last year. Remember, Kamara had just 120 carries last season and never had more than 12 carries in a game. He had double-digit carries on only five occasions. A lot of that had to do with his average of more than six targets per game and more than five receptions per game.
The Saints have no reason to overwork Kamara on the ground once they have a fresh Ingram back for the fifth game. Ingram could easily be a strong RB2 with the possibility of returning to the RB1 tier if the team wants to replicate how it found success with their backfield in 2017.
You'll need a plan to cover Ingram's absence for the first four games, but after that, the boost he should provide could pay big dividends for the rest of the season.
Dion Lewis, TEN: ADP 58.6
Did you know that the No. 15 fantasy RB in 2017 had a total of 19 carries and seven receptions in his first five games of last season? If you think that sounds like a small role, you're right, but that RB was Dion Lewis, and he wound up with 161 carries and 25 receptions over the next 11 games. Over those 11 games, Lewis was the No. 7 RB.
Even after proving himself to be a great fantasy RB for the AFC champions, Lewis isn't getting the same respect from fantasy players based on his current ADP. If you want to blame his move to the Tennessee Titans, that's justified, but don't give too much credit to Derrick Henry.
The 180 carries Lewis racked up last season accounted for just 40.2 percent of the carry share in New England, but don't forget about his minimal role over the first five games. In Tennessee, Henry accounted for 39.7 of the carries (176), which wasn't far behind DeMarco Murray at 41.5 percent (184). Henry deserved a bigger workload, although that just means he was better than Murray and not necessarily a major upgrade.
When the Titans gave Lewis a four-year deal worth $19.8 million with $8.3 million guaranteed at signing, it killed a lot of the excitement for Henry after the team cut Murray. It also sent a message about what the Titans thought of Henry to spend that much on the open market for Lewis. That is not the type of money you pay a part-time RB. Lewis is coming in to play a big role, which makes sense, since he's a better all-around back than Henry.
In two seasons, Henry has just 24 receptions for 273 yards and a TD on 32 targets. Lewis had 32 receptions for 214 yards and three TDs on 35 targets in 2017 alone. Lewis has a clear advantage as a receiver and should be used as such. Without a regular role in the passing game, Henry's ceiling just isn't that high.
The difference between the two players might be shrinking, but Henry is going nearly two rounds earlier at 41.2/RB18. That would be a rise of 29 spots from his No. 37 finish in 2017. Meanwhile, Lewis' ADP drops him nine places from RB15 in 2017 to RB24 in 2018.
Even if you expect more from Henry and a little less from Lewis compared to last season, Lewis is a better value. Henry needs to make a big jump to justify his ADP, whereas Lewis can have some regression and still beat out his current draft value.
Chris Hogan, NE: ADP 61.6
It's a little baffling that Tom Brady's top WR for at least the first month of the season can't crack the top 25 WRs or the first five rounds of fantasy drafts. There's an easy argument for why Chris Hogan is a player to target at a good and potentially great value.
In August alone, the Patriots moved on from Kenny Britt and Jordan Matthews. Eric Decker was signed after Matthews was cut loose, but he's coming off just 54 receptions for 563 yards and one TD as part of a weak Titans receiving corps in 2017. Cordarrelle Patterson has 85 receptions over the last three seasons and is more of a returner than a regular contributor on offense. Phillip Dorsett has been a massive bust as a 2015 first-round pick with just 63 receptions in three seasons.
The Patriots still have Rob Gronkowski as the top offensive weapon, so he should at least repeat if not top the 18 percent target share from last year. Julian Edelman missed all of last season with a torn ACL and will serve a four-game suspension to open the regular season. While he could step right back into a busy role, more than 35 percent of last year's target share is available following the departures of Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola.
Edelman should get a solid portion of those targets, but Hogan is the name to focus on after he had 10.1 percent (59) in just nine games last season. If he played the entire season, that number would have jumped to almost 18 percent (104 targets). Hogan will get a big opportunity in Edelman's absence and could carve out a solid role to keep even when Edelman returns to action.
As I covered in this week's Big Board, the Patriots are battling multiple backfield injuries with Rex Burkhead (knee) and Sony Michel (knee). Plus, they've talked to Hogan about a contract extension, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic.. This all adds up to a potential top-20 season for Hogan, which might be conservative. Don't underestimate what it means to be Tom Brady's top WR.
Emmanuel Sanders, DEN: ADP 77.6
You could make a case for both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas as values, but Thomas still costs a fourth-round pick, which is a strong investment. Instead, we'll examine how Sanders can make a run at the top-25 fantasy WRs in 2018 even though his ADP puts him firmly in the WR3 tier outside of the top 30.
Last season, Sanders was limited to 12 games by a nagging ankle injury. He, along with the rest of the Broncos offense, saw a dip in fantasy value due to poor QB play. He was limited to just 47 receptions for 555 yards and two TDs on 92 targets. Despite missing four games, the 92 targets accounted for 16.6 percent of the team's target share. If healthy, that number could have jumped over 22 percent.
With his ankle injury behind him and Case Keenum taking over the QB spot, Sanders' two biggest issues from 2017 have been rectified. From 2014-2016, Sanders finished as high as fifth and no lower than 20th among fantasy WRs. At his current ADP, he wouldn't even have to get all the way back to the production of those three seasons to be a valuable fantasy asset.
Other than Thomas and Sanders, the Broncos don't have any established talent in their receiving corps, so both players have a chance to see at least 20 percent of the target share. If Sanders stays healthy, the upgrade in QB and a larger target share would give him a legit chance to find his way back into the top 25 fantasy WRs.
Jamison Crowder, WAS: ADP 89
You don't have to think much of Jamison Crowder to recognize that an ADP putting him at WR37 doesn't make much sense with a WR33 finish in 2017. He was able to do that despite just two games with five receptions and 50 yards in the first seven weeks of the season. He improved significantly in the second half and was the No. 21 fantasy WR from Weeks 9-17.
A little bit more consistency out of Crowder is one way to improve on last year's finish and outplay his current ADP. He has a good chance to find that consistency with Alex Smith taking over for Kirk Cousins. Even though Crowder posted top-35 finishes the last two seasons with Cousins, it always felt like he was capable of more.
Smith made big plays with Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, but Crowder is more of a fit for his style. Considering Paul Richardson is more of a deep threat and Josh Doctson has battled multiple injuries and inconsistency, Crowder seems primed to become Smith's preferred target. It wouldn't be out of the question to see Crowder improve on the 19.3 percent target share he had in 2017.
The loss of Derrius Guice will put more responsibility on the arm of Smith and the passing game as a whole. Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed should be consistent options if healthy, but there's more than enough to go around for Crowder to get his and find his way inside the top 30 fantasy WRs.
Jack Doyle, IND: ADP 111.4
Over the last two seasons, only eight players finished among the top 13 TEs both years. They were Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, Kyle Rudolph, Zach Ertz, Cameron Brate, Delanie Walker and Jack Doyle. That may not seem like much, but a lack of consistency and depth has been a problem at the TE position for years.
Doyle was able to post a TE7 finish in 2017 without Andrew Luck. His 22.9 percent target shared trailed only T.Y. Hilton, who finished with 23.1 percent. The departures of Donte Moncrief and Kamar Aiken leave more than 19 percent up for grabs. Ryan Grant and Eric Ebron should cut into a decent portion of that target share. However, the pie could get significantly bigger.
Without Luck, the Colts had 487 pass attempts, 469 of which came from Jacoby Brissett, who was with the team for less than a month before starting his first game. In 2016, the Colts had 584 pass attempts with Luck starting 15 games. A healthy Luck should provide an uptick in pass attempts to much closer to the 2016 totals than the 2017 totals.
Familiarity is another positive attribute for Doyle's fantasy value. Other than Hilton, Doyle is the only Colt to catch at least 20 passes from Luck in a season. The additions of Grant and Ebron are significant, but with Luck returning from an extended layoff, don't underestimate the comfort and rapport he has with Doyle.
You won't find a lot of value at TE, so consider Doyle a good value if you're waiting a while to grab your TE. He can find his way into the top 10 by the end of the season.
Philip Rivers, LAC: ADP 113.6
If Philip Rivers finishes at his ADP of QB14, it will tie his worst season of the last five years. Last season, he was the No. 8 fantasy QB. and other than the QB14 finish in 2016, he hasn't been worse than QB12 since 2013.
Rivers isn't the only example of a QB you can grab late and throw right into your starting lineup, but he does have the most consistent fantasy numbers of similar QBs going this late in drafts. He's made a career of getting the most out of his receiving corps, regardless of what kind of talent he's throwing to in a given year. Losing Hunter Henry to a torn ACL was a huge bummer, but it won't kill the fantasy prospects of Rivers.
A WR trio of Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams in addition to Melvin Gordon in the backfield still gives Rivers a strong group to work with this season, Mike Williams is a potential positive wild card after a back injury delayed the start of his pro career last year and cost him any chance of a productive season. The Chargers spent a first-round pick on him last April, so they clearly believe he has a lot of talent and trust Rivers to get it out of him.
Tyrell Williams has been a nice find as a reliable target for Rivers, and Allen is one of the best in the game after finishing as the No. 3 fantasy WR in 2017. Put your confidence in Rivers to get the most out the talent around him. He will outplay his ADP.