Look, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s only June and the NFL regular season won’t start for six weeks. Doesn’t this guy have anything better to do?”
Well my counter is it’s almost July, six weeks of summer will be gone before you know it, and no, no I don’t.
I believe wholeheartedly in doing extensive research before your fantasy draft and have discovered my personal season-long results have improved with the more research I’ve done in preparation. This should not come as a surprise; if you take fantasy football seriously and you don’t seriously do research, you’re doing it wrong. Now that the draft is over and preseason depth charts are beginning to take shape, it’s time to start mining offseason reports for value and key takeaways. For as much as research does in helping you find value picks, potential “sleepers,” and diamonds in the rough, it’s also a helpful tool for avoiding players that are overhyped, risk-prone or simply won’t provide value at their ADP (average draft position).
Click here for some tips, tricks and helpful advice heading into your fantasy football season from SST’s Jared Langenohl.
This is the first in a series of fantasy football articles that will attempt to steer you in the right direction (or away from the wrong direction) in your drafts. Throughout the summer I’ll identify value picks against ADP, players with huge upside, overvalued players, late-round fliers, risky picks and more. This is merely one utility in a sea of helpful tools you should be using to guide your draft decisions. Just like I’ve done my research to get to this point, you should be doing the same thing to identify value where others might not see it. No, I can’t draft for you, and no, I’m not sharing every player I’ll be targeting in drafts this year. For one, some people in my fantasy leagues against may be reading this (feel free to stop if this applies to you!) and also because this is half the fun. So have fun with it! There aren’t many better feelings than nailing a pick in the 12th round that initially made everyone roll their eyes. And remember: Always trust your gut!
Wide receiver value picks based on current ADP
*Note: All ADP data is from Fantasy Football Calculator and is based on 12-team PPR leagues unless otherwise noted.
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers – PPR ADP: 86, WR36; Standard ADP: 98, WR39
Pierre Garcon might be the most undervalued receiver in fantasy football this year. Part of this probably has to do with name recognition. Do you associate Pierre Garcon’s name with fantasy greatness? Me neither. The other part likely has to do with Garcon’s new team in San Francisco, generally thought to be one of the worst rosters in football. But there is so much to love about Garcon’s situation that is sure to have him crush his ADP (which is the point, remember), and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Let’s start with his ADP. In PPR leagues, Garcon is, on average, going as the 36th receiver off the board (39th in standard), which can also be viewed as the last WR3 drafted in 12-team leagues. Last season in Washington, he finished as the WR31 in PPR leagues, which means he is already going 5 receiver spots beneath last season’s finish. This means he is already being drafted beneath his floor, with plenty of room to grow in his new situation. Surprisingly, in non-PPR leagues Garcon has been a WR3 or better in 5 of his last 7 seasons. He managed the WR31 (or WR34 in standard) finish despite competing with DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson for targets. He is now the unquestioned #1 receiver in San Francisco with slot journeyman Jeremy Kerley as his biggest competition for targets. There is a clear path to 140+ targets and 90 receptions for Garcon, which are numbers reserved for elite receivers. San Francisco will likely need to throw it a ton considering the state of the defense, which also bodes well for Garcon’s volume.
Some will worry about his quarterback Brian Hoyer, who is, in my opinion, an underrated player. Hoyer was competent for the Bears last year and helped unleash Cameron Meredith along the way. In fact, Hoyer has shown a tendency to lock-on to his go-to receiver and pepper them with targets and fantasy points, like he did with Josh Gordon, DeAndre Hopkins and Meredith. Garcon too is underrated in general as a player. Per the excellent Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball), he ranked 6th in “success rate” last year, in the same tier as Julio Jones and Jordy Nelson. Per Numberfire.com’s similar Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric (read more here), Garcon ranked 10th last year, ahead of players like Amari Cooper, Michael Thomas, TY Hilton and many other receivers being drafted way ahead of him. Garcon gets open with deceptive quickness, great hands, and route-running savvy, the sort of tools that will keep him open this year despite facing tougher corners as a #1 receiver.
If you’re not already convinced Garcon is going to smash his ADP, don’t forget his potential for touchdown upside. Crucially, his new head coach is Kyle Shanahan, generally considered one of the smartest offensive minds in football. Shanahan has gotten career years out of players like Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins because he strategizes to his players’ strengths and puts them in positions to succeed. He has continually gotten career years from his #1 receiver, from studs like Julio Jones and Andre Johnson to lesser threats like Santana Moss. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington during Garcon’s best season when he finished as the overall WR13.
Last year Garcon managed the WR31 finish despite only scoring 3 touchdowns on a low 3.8 TD%. His career averages, however, are 4.6 touchdowns per season and a TD% of 7%. Expected regression to the mean should result in something closer to 5-6 touchdowns this year. Did I mention he’s played in all 16 games for four straight seasons? Going as an eighth round pick in PPR leagues, Garcon is the perfect WR4 pick with WR2 written all over him.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals – PPR ADP: 55, WR27; Standard ADP: 71, WR30
Ok that was a lot, clearly I’m pretty stoked on Garcon. I’ll try to keep it short(er) and sweet from here on out. Larry Fitz is simple; every year he slips to the fifth or sixth round and provides massive value for whoever is willing to wait. For some reason, despite being arguably the best all-around receiver of my generation, Fitz is perennially underrated in fantasy football. Perhaps it’s due to age bias (he’ll be 34 in August), or maybe his reputation was permanently tarnished from a three-year doldrum when John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and Drew Stanton combined to start twenty-five games at quarterback for Arizona.
Despite his age, Fitz is noted for his pristine conditioning, with stories popping up of young players unable to complete his workouts year after year. He is incredibly durable, having only missed two games in his last nine seasons. As far as quarterback goes, he has Carson Palmer throwing him the ball. Palmer is in the twilight of his career, but he’s only one full year removed from being the MVP runner-up and he has developed a solid rapport with Fitz. Per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, Palmer’s play improved from weeks 8-17; he was the fantasy QB12 during that stretch and received Pro Football Focus’ 4th-best passing grade.
Fitz has impressively topped 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards over the last two seasons, leading the league with 107 receptions last year. Over these seasons his standard scoring finishes have been WR11 (2015) and WR20 (2016) and yet he is priced as a mid to high WR3. Like Garcon, Fitz wins with crisp routes, impeccable hands and great knowledge of zone coverages. His catch rate has been at elite levels (over 70%) since moving to the slot where he has had at least 145 targets the last two seasons. Fitz is still a clear WR2. Scoop him up at a WR3 price and enjoy.
Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens – PPR ADP: 125, WR49; Standard ADP: 135, WR50
So I understand you’re probably not jumping out of your chair to draft Mike Wallace. I get it. Last year my friend drafted Mike Wallace at the 7.11 spot of the draft (83rd overall) and the entire room gave him loads of harassment for such an absurd reach, especially in his first year in a new offense coming off his worst season as a pro. And yet, all of us were forced to eat our words when Wallace finished as the standard WR27 and the PPR WR31. This article isn’t about exciting picks, it’s about finding value relative to draft position. In standard scoring, Wallace has finished outside the top-30 scoring wide receivers only once in his eight NFL seasons, and that was amidst a lost season in a poor Minnesota offense he didn’t fit into in the first place.
From there alone, Wallace is a serious value with an easy path to match his 116 target total from last year, and subsequently, WR3 numbers. Wallace now has a season under his belt in Baltimore and is the most experienced receiver in the system. With Dennis Pitta gone and Jeremy Maclin only recently joining the team, he may be in line for even more targets this season. He’s not a sexy pick, but his reputation is unfairly knocking him way below his actual value. He’ll easily outscore this ADP.
Kenny Britt, Cleveland Browns – PPR ADP: 150, WR58 Standard ADP: 158, WR59
The trend of this list (and often value picks in general) is players with a tarnished fantasy reputation for one reason or another. For players like Wallace and Britt, it’s due to comically underperforming in the shadow of high expectations. Britt has always had prototypical #1 receiver size at 6’3″ and 218 lbs. with 4.5 40-yard dash speed, but has never lived up to his athleticism on the field. He finally put together the best year of his career last season, recording career highs in targets, receptions and yards despite catching passes from Case Keenum and Jared Goff.
Even in the Rams putrid offense, Britt finished as the WR28 in standard and the WR29 in PPR scoring. Yet for some reason, Britt is going off the board as the fifty-eighth receiver. Something is wrong here. Though he is now in Cleveland, which isn’t necessarily a city synonymous with football success, his volume should remain stable with the limited receiving options around him. Corey Coleman missed much of his rookie year and is more of a deep threat, while David Njoku is a rookie tight end. Cleveland paid Britt big money (4 years, $32.5 million) and chose to pay him instead of Terrelle Pryor. Somehow only 29, if he were to soak up even 85% of Pryor’s target share from last year, he’d be in line for a healthy 119 targets. And he’s available at the beginning of 13th round! There are at least 12 receivers being drafted ahead of Britt who won’t even sniff 100 targets. Now that’s what I call value.
So I’m a bit rusty and this is already closing in on 2,000 words. Thanks for sticking with me. Let’s close with brief blurbs on a few other receivers I think offer value at their end of June ADP.
It’s been a year since we’ve seen him, so it’s possible drafters are underrating just how good Martavis Bryant (PPR: WR25; standard: WR24) is at football. He’s one of the best athletes on the field, tied to an elite quarterback and will have defenses focusing on Antonio Brown. Bryant is easily the riskiest pick in rounds 4-6 (one more failed drug test and he may never see the field again), but that’s been more than baked into his ADP. WR1 potential is hard to come by in round 5. Michael Crabtree (PPR and standard:WR23 is one of the best route runners in the game and has outproduced Amari Cooper for two straight seasons, yet he can be had 30 picks later. Quincy Enunwa (PPR and standard: WR48) is big, fast and coming off a career season. He’ll be the unquestioned target leader on a team that seems to be openly tanking and therefore losing often. Robert Woods (WR60) was paid big money to come to the Rams and new head coach Sean McVay’s offense better suits his skill set. He should end up leading the team in targets while defenses focus on stopping Todd Gurley.
Statistics courtesy of: Pro-Football-Reference, Rotoworld and Fantasy Football Calculator