It’s one thing to grab the best player in fantasy football with high draft picks. You paid market price for them, and they should deliver. Still, everyone loves a good bargain, or in this case, what we’re calling overachievers.
I wrote about the top 10 busts ahead of Week 10 of the fantasy football season. This week, let’s take a more positive tone and highlight the overachievers based on Average Draft Position (ADP). These are the sleepers, breakouts and (hopefully) league winners who you stole in the draft. Some were selected in the first round and managed to outperform even that lofty draft position. Others were virtually undrafted.
Now let’s talk about the fantasy players who you may have renamed your team for ... or whose success on someone else’s team had you muttering to yourself in anguish.
(ADP based on data from FantasyPros. Position Rank and Average Based on PPR Scoring from ESPN.)
Eagles QB Jalen Hurts
ADP: QB12, 96 Overall
Position Rank: 2
Hurts was the last passer drafted as a QB1 and he’s just a few points away from being the overall QB1. Those who believed in him (or at the time, thought they were stuck with him) around draft time were rewarded with one of the most consistent players in fantasy despite this season essentially operating as his rookie year. Hurts has finished outside the top 12 of his position just once in 10 weeks and he scored 20 or more points in each of the first seven weeks of the season, only recently struggling with the Eagles’ dramatic shift in playcalling.
Hurts is second among quarterbacks in rushing yards behind Lamar Jackson and tied with Ryan Tannehill for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (5). Few quarterbacks drafted ahead of Hurts have performed up to their ADP. Hurts is consistent, healthy and is finally pairing good fantasy performances with good real-life outings, easing managers’ concerns that he might be benched.
Buccaneers QB Tom Brady
ADP: QB9, 68 Overall
Position Rank: 4
The greatest quarterback to ever do it remains an elite fantasy football player at the ripe age of 44. Brady is among the leading scorers at his position as a result of a few spike weeks and his usual gaudy counting stats. His 27 passing touchdowns lead the league and he has four games with four or more touchdown passes.
The reason he fell in drafts was in large part due to the doubt that’s fueled him every year past his age 40 season. No one has ever done what he’s doing at the age he’s doing it ... so when does it stop? We still don’t know, but for fantasy purposes he has bottomed out a few times this season. Brady went for a season-worst 11 points against the Patriots in his return to New England and he has two other games under 20. The Buccaneers have lost two games in a row and Brady threw multiple interceptions in both. Is age finally catching up to him, or will Brady bounce back with a few shootouts? Tampa Bay has not been shy about throwing the ball with a lead, so the numbers could still be there.
Colts RB Jonathan Taylor
ADP: RB10, 11 Overall
Position Rank: 1
Many people, myself included, worried about Jonathan Taylor’s ability to live up to his rookie season. Then news came out in the offseason about injuries to Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson. Even more reason to worry. Then, through the first three weeks of the season, Taylor totaled a hair over 30 points. In other words, not first-round material.
Since then, Taylor has at least one touchdown in every game. He now leads the league in rushing yards and leads all running backs in fantasy points (granted, he’d be second if not for Derrick Henry missing time). He’s posted week-winning performances of 30-plus points twice and his floor during this tear is 18 points. Taylor has been more heavily targeted as of late and his rushing (5.8 yards per carry) and receiving efficiency (10.4 yards per reception) is bonkers. The Colts are trying to catch the Titans and they go as Taylor does. Indy will keep riding him and managers can ride the wave to the postseason and beyond.
Falcons RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson
ADP: RB88, 263 Overall
Position Rank: 9
The Year 9 breakout is no longer a novelty. It’s very much a real thing for Cordarrelle Patterson, the unlikely star of a Falcons offense quarterbacked by a former MVP with a pair of first-round pass catchers to throw to. Patterson leads the team in touchdowns and rushing yards and Atlanta truly cannot move the ball without him.
Saying Patterson was a steal is an understatement. Congratulations to those who got him off waivers after Week 2 when he exploded against the Buccaneers. And to those who had the foresight to draft the journeyman expected to be a backup, I hope you played the lottery soon after. Patterson has been wildly consistent for fantasy. In his first game, when he was still not fully involved, he scored less than 10 points and he did so against Dallas in Week 10 when he was injured early on. Other than that, he’s been good for 14 or more points every Sunday with a blowup, three-touchdown performance to boot. Here’s hoping he’s healthy for the Falcons’ playoff push and for those with Patterson on their roster.
Cardinals RB James Conner
ADP: RB35, 97 Overall
Position Rank: 11
James Conner was one of many running backs thought to be in an undesirable position before the season began. Arizona had two backs it planned to use and Conner was second in line behind Chase Edmonds. The first two games didn’t bode well for Conner’s usage or fantasy prospects. Then he scored twice in a game. Then he did it again. Weeks later, he rushed for two scores in back-to-back games once again. All told, he’s tops in the league with 10 rushing touchdowns and has the RB1 role in Arizona with Edmonds sidelined. Conner is not especially efficient—he’s averaging a career-worst 3.9 yards per carry—but his surprising volume and consistency outweigh his lack of big plays. Conner managers will gladly take a touchdown per game from an eighth-round selection who’s playing like a second-round pick.
Rams WR Cooper Kupp
ADP: WR18, 44 Overall
Position Rank: 1
If you drafted Cooper Kupp over his teammate, Robert Woods, or any number of early-round receivers, you should still be patting yourself on the back. Kupp was good last year - and he has already bested his 2020 numbers through 10 games this season. In fact, he’s on an historic pace. Kupp leads all players in receptions (85), receiving yards (1,141) and receiving touchdowns (10). He has Matthew Stafford to thank for the explosion that’s simply never slowed down. It won’t be surprising to see Kupp on a large number of championship teams. There are late-round surprises who help carry your team to success and then there’s what Kupp is doing. He’s easily outpacing first-round receivers like Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams. It’s safe to say Kupp was the steal of the draft.
Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase
ADP: WR29, 73 Overall
Position Rank: 5
It turns out Ja’Marr Chase can catch a football just fine. He confirmed this for everyone in his NFL debut, when he went for 100 yards and a touchdown, and he’s only continued to show that he’s bound to be one of the top receivers in football in a few years’ time. With the preseason chatter about Chase’s persistent drops, he was seen as a risky pick. Those who trusted in Chase -- who believed the reunion with his college quarterback in Cincinnati would lead to numbers comparable to former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson, last season’s top rookie receiver -- found a top-10 receiver waiting for them in the middle rounds. He’s established himself as a big-play threat, averaging 19 yards per reception, while maintaining a respectable floor.
Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr.
ADP: WR43, 102 Overall
Position Rank: 7
Carson Wentz recognizes what he has in Michael Pittman Jr. The second-year receiver has three games with double-digit targets in which his quarterback hyper-targeted him. But even when Wentz isn’t force feeding the ball to Pittman, the 6-foot-4 target can do a lot with a little. Pittman turned four targets into four catches, 105 yards and a touchdown in one game this season. He was awarded a whopping 15 targets the following game. Given his limited history in the league, it’s difficult to say what drove Pittman’s price down. Lack of belief in Wentz, who is still up and down, surely factored into his ADP. But it’s clear Pittman is more suited for a quarterback like Wentz than he was for Philip Rivers in his rookie season.
Ravens WR Marquise Brown
ADP: WR49, 122 Overall
Position Rank: 6
The Marquise Brown breakout finally came. Many people surely gave up and sold their stock on the former first-round pick. His late-round ADP says as much. But in Year 3, he’s putting together his best season. Years of establishing a connection with Lamar Jackson have aided Brown’s breakout. He still comes with peaks and valleys—Brown has one game with 30-plus points and three with less than 10—but he’s been more consistent overall and less reliant on touchdowns. Brown finished 2020 strong and rewarded managers who believed that stretch was for real, with a steep discount to land a WR1.
Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki
ADP: TE11, 108 Overall
Position Rank: 3
It says a lot about tight ends this season that Mike Gesicki is ranked so high. Miami’s tight end posted zero-point games in Week 1 and Week 10. But between those goose eggs, Gesicki has been heavily involved in the Dolphins offense. He had a 100-yard game and a 10-catch game during that eight-game stretch. What’s better is that Gesicki, who has two touchdowns this season, is not dependent on finding the end zone to provide for fantasy. He’s great for PPR leagues, averaging 4.4 catches per game, and he has the fourth-most yards at the position. Gesicki had a few blowup games in 2020, but he wasn’t seen as a top-tier tight end coming into this season. He asserted himself as one of the top pass catchers in Miami, often lining up as a receiver rather than a tight end. Gesicki is one of the only late-round, non-touchdown dependent tight ends who’s been startable week-to-week.
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