- 10 players who offer more value than where they're being picked.
As we head into Labor Day weekend, it means the excitement only rivaled by Christmas morning is almost upon all fantasy players. The fantasy frenzy is felt in the commencement of trash talking via group texts with our buddies in our home leagues as well as high-stakes players packing their bags for Vegas. In case you didn’t know, The Palms Casino Resort is hosting the Fantasy Football World Championships (FFWC). For those who cannot make it out to Vegas, the FFWC hosts online drafts starting in June for owners who feel they have an advantage by drafting early. By drafting early, owners can select the players they desire before they begin to ascend up draft boards. Well, Fulltime Fantasy has brought one of their amazing tools to Sports Illustrated in 2019—the High-Stakes Advanced Average Draft Position (ADP)—based on real-time data accrued from the most recent Online Championship and World Championship drafts! Now, I am here to share some of the players who are being undervalued in drafts according to the data.
RB Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets (ADP: 13.2, RB7)
Bell is primed for a huge year after sitting out the 2018 season due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to the data, Bell has gone as late as the 18th player off the board behind Joe Mixon, Todd Gurley and James Conner in some drafts. Mixon is playing in a suspect Bengals’ offense, Gurley has knee concerns, and Conner is rumored to be in a possible 50-50 split with emerging RB Jaylen Samuels. There is just no way Bell should be falling out of the first round in any PPR leagues based on the projected workload alone.
Bell is a proven commodity in fantasy football and is one of a handful of running backs who can be trusted to be on the field on nearly every down in a full-time role. His production in the passing game is an asset all fantasy owners desire, and there is no doubt that with the expected growth of second-year QB Sam Darnold, he will get plenty of opportunities.
RB Sony Michel, New England Patriots (ADP: 53, RB24)
With all the attention and accolades the football community showers upon QB Tom Brady, it’s easy for us to ignore that the Patriots have finished with a top-10 rushing attack three years in a row. The lead back once again will be RB Sony Michel, who in 16 games last season (including the playoffs), averaged 80 rushing yards per game with 12 touchdowns. According to the ADP data, he has gone off the board as late as the 66th player behind running backs Marlon Mack, Derrius Guice, and Tevin Coleman.
I understand James White is the pass-catching back who scored 12 touchdowns last season, but it’s safe to expect some regression on those numbers in 2019. Every pundit is always ready to write off the Patriots in the offseason, but don’t fall for the trap. Belichick and Brady will possess a strong run game once again, and Michel is as safe as they come as an RB3 with tremendous upside.
WR Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers (ADP: 69.2, WR33)
It’s important for all fantasy owners to realize that in the offseason, the Panthers moved on from WR Devin Funchess. This move opened a big role for the speedy Curtis Samuel. Samuel is primed for a breakout season, and with his 4.3 speed, he could also see many opportunities to carry the ball on reverses, boosting his value even further. Samuel has gone as late as the 80th player selected, behind wide receivers Courtland Sutton, Geronimo Allison, and A.J. Green. Green is expected to miss no less than the first month of the season and Samuel possesses less risk than Sutton or Allison, each of whom will be fighting just for targets and roles in their respective offenses. Samuel has had a standout summer and has a terrific chance to outperform his current ADP as a WR3 option and a top 25-30 overall finish at the wide receiver position.
TE Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 83.6, TE7)
As we all know, tight end is easily the thinnest position in fantasy football. It requires significant early draft capital if you want to secure the top tier of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz or George Kittle. Instead, you should wait and solidify your roster by acquiring running backs and wide receivers with your first seven or eight draft picks. Around those mid rounds, the player to target is New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook. The veteran performed at a high level last season for the Oakland Raiders, and my projections have him improving upon those career-best numbers catching passes from Drew Brees. Going as late as the 95th player, the athletic Cook has been dominant this summer and could easily become Brees’ go-to target outside of Michael Thomas. If that happens, the chance to outperform his current ADP is extremely likely. Cook is a player who can give you the winning edge on a weekly basis throughout the season.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 85.3, WR41)
Going into any fantasy draft, it always wise to see who projects to be catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. As we all know, WR Davante Adams is in the discussion to be the first player off the board at his position. So why wouldn’t you target the Packers WR2? Valdes-Scantling had four catches of 40-plus yards as a rookie last season, and it’s safe to project that those numbers will only improve as he develops an even stronger rapport with Rodgers. MVS has been seen going as late as the 89th player behind Courtland Sutton, Corey Davis and Josh Gordon. Davis was so hyped coming into last season and failed to finish inside the overall top-50 at wide receiver. Gordon, as talented as he is, has missed 58 out of his last 80 games. Can you really trust investing in him in the 5th round? Valdes-Scantling has tremendous upside and in my projections, I have him surpassing his current ADP value in a potential breakout season.
WR Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 128.5, WR57)
The player most likely to be a bust for his fantasy owners in 2019 is Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins, who is being drafted as WR37 with an ADP of 72.8, has missed 14 games over the past three seasons due to injuries. When actually on the field, it’s as if he isn’t really there, anyway. He has averaged a mere 3 catches with 47 yards per game and 13 touchdowns over his past 33 games! For three straight seasons, Watkins has finished outside the top-40 in PPR scoring among wideouts, so why exactly is there so much love again? In a prolific MVP season by his quarterback Patrick Mahomes last year, Watkins still disappointed, only finding the endzone three times. If my projections are down once again on Watkins, how can they not be high on rookie WR Mecole Hardman? The Chiefs traded up in the second round for the speedy Hardman, and he is poised to burst onto the fantasy scene in 2019. Hardman has gone as late as pick 146, which in that draft made him WR62! Playing on arguably the best offense in the NFL, Hardman easily makes the list as a player who is being undervalued in drafts.
QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 143.4, QB10)
Those here at Sports Illustrated know my thoughts on the insane infatuation for Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has gone as late as pick 168 behind Murray and Jameis Winston. Jackson’s potential for 800-plus rushing yards while leading all QBs in rushing touchdowns has him in position to surpass this ADP value. When told that Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton’s career-high in rushing attempts was 139, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, “take the over,” in regards to the number of carries for Jackson this season. The Ravens have significantly upgraded the weapons surrounding him with Mark Ingram in the backfield and Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin at wideout. My projections have Jackson finishing as a top-7 QB by year’s end with several top-5 weekly performances during the season.
RB Dare Ogunbowale, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: 187.75, RB 68)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Dare Ogunbowale is a very deep sleeper who you should not sleep on come draft day. Ogunbowale appears to be the front-runner for third-down running back duties for one of the leagues pass-heaviest units led by Bruce Arians. Early in the offseason, the Bucs’ running back battle looked like a two-horse race, but thanks to a strong preseason, Ogunbowale now appears primed to have a big role as back-up running back Ronald Jones continues to struggle with pass protection. Ogunbowale is a player who could offer great value as a potential starter at some point in 2019, and he currently requires virtually no draft risk. Don't let Ogunbowale’s name come out of left field on draft day, as he could return serious value in PPR leagues.
QB Sam Darnold, New York Jets (ADP: 203.11, QB22)
By all indications, New York Jets second-year QB Sam Darnold is ready to take his game to the next level in Adam Gase’s offense. Darnold now has star RB Le’Veon Bell, who will force defenses to respect the Jets run game and open more lanes down the field for the strong-armed Darnold. Darnold is being selected as one of the last quarterbacks off the board as QB22. With Bell commanding attention lining up behind him, and Jamison Crowder now manning the slot, Darnold makes this list as a player my projections have finishing inside the top-15 quarterbacks with several top-10 weekly performances mixed in. Darnold finished the 2018 season with 594 yards passing, five touchdowns and no interceptions in his final two home games. He has great investment appeal as a breakout QB2 to any roster construction in 2019.
K Giorgio Tavecchio, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 233.5, PK14)
Not often do kickers make this list, but Giorgio Tavecchio of the Atlanta Falcons finds his way in 2019. The Falcons are projected to have one of the best offenses in the NFL led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The angle here that makes Tavecchio so desirable is that the Falcons play 13 games indoors this season! In leagues where most owners only draft one kicker, it is quite perplexing that Tavecchio is PK14, according to the Fulltime Fantasy Sports ADP. The books here in Vegas have Ryan listed as co-favorite to lead the league in passing yards, which means it is safe to project that the Falcons will finish among the league leaders in scoring opportunities. Factor in that inclement weather will not play a role in 13 of Atlanta’s games helps set my projections for Tavecchio at 139 points, which would help him easily surpass his projected ADP value.
Frankie “Fantasy” Taddeo is the 2017 and 2018 PlayFFWC.com Top 100 Players in the World Invitational champion.