With mandatory mini-camps now upon us, the time to start searching for market inefficiencies in ADP data is now. Whether you’re currently churning through Best Ball drafts or getting an early jump on research for your redraft leagues, deciding which late-round players are worth reaching for ahead of their respective ADPs is an important exercise.
The following eight players are routinely available in the double-digit rounds of early drafts but have paths towards becoming every-week fantasy starters. For as long as their current ADPs hold, prioritize them in your late-round draft plans.
At this time last year, Jameis Winston was widely considered an ascending talent, ready to stake his claim as an elite fantasy quarterback. One injury-dampened season later, he’s available at a four-round discount from his 2017 draft cost. What we’re seeing with Winston is a clear example of market overcorrection due to recency bias.
Last year, Winston’s sprained AC joint didn’t place him on the injury report until Week 7 and didn’t prevent him from playing until Week 10. But it’s been reported the shoulder injury originally occurred back in Week 3 -- only the second game of the season for Tampa Bay. After taking a three-week break to rest the injury, Winston returned to finish the season as the top-scoring fantasy quarterback from Weeks 13-17.
Despite the bum throwing shoulder, Winston set career-highs in completion percentage, yards per game, and yards per attempt in 2017, while also trimming his interception rate to a career-low 2.5%. Add in the strength and depth of Tampa Bay’s offense at every skill position, and the case can easily be made Winston is once again positioned for a breakout year. The difference from last year is the expected improvement is not already priced into his ADP.
Tampa Bay beat writers are penning new Chris Godwin puff pieces on a weekly basis, making him the early clubhouse leader for MVP of T-shirt and shorts season. Ordinarily, when a player -- particularly one with Godwin’s draft pedigree and athletic profile -- achieves such deafening levels of buzz, we see a corresponding spike in ADP. Yet despite the hype, the fantasy community refuses to buy on Godwin due to Tampa Bay’s crowded group of pass-catchers.
It’s not an unreasonable stance. Mike Evans’ status as the team’s target hog isn’t in question. DeSean Jackson’s play would have to fall off a cliff for the Buccaneers to bench him while he makes $11 million. Adam Humphries thrived last year in a specialized slot role. And let’s not forget, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard gives Tampa Bay a pair of viable pass-catchers at tight end.
To say Godwin has several hurdles to clear on his path to fantasy relevance is an understatement. But two possibilities make him an attractive target with one of your last picks:
- An injury could make him a star. Last year, Godwin saw at least 60% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps due to an injury to Jackson or Evans in three games. His stat lines in those games -- 10-5-68-0, 6-3-98-0, and 12-7-111-1. It’s evident Godwin has already earned Winston’s trust. If there is such a thing as a wide receiver hand-cuff, Godwin is it.
- He may not need an injury. Godwin is a former third-round pick who came into the league with a reputation for polished route running, strong hands, and excellent ball skills (both on 50/50 throws and deep passes). Slot receivers don’t necessarily have to operate strictly underneath and catch short passes -- look at the routes Doug Baldwin runs out of the slot for Seattle as an example. Considering the steady drumbeat coming out of Buccaneers camp, would it really be shocking to see Godwin start over the one-dimensional Humphries in three-receiver sets? If he supplants Humphries with a strong pre-season, 80+ targets and a top-40 WR finish are well within Godwin’s range of possible outcomes. While this scenario wouldn’t qualify him as a league-winner, it would still make Godwin useful and an outstanding draft value based on current ADP.
The two tight ends who will provide you with an edge at the position over your opponent in any given week are usually gone by Round 3. If paying a premium for Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce isn’t part of your draft plans, your choices are to invest a mid-round pick at tight end at the expense of useful running backs and wide receivers, or wait until the late rounds and shoot for the moon. George Kittle is a player, at his current 13th-round ADP, who makes the latter strategy preferable.
It flew a bit under the radar, but Kittle’s rookie season was exceptional when compared to other tight ends. In fact, he is one of only 10 tight ends since 2000 to exceed 500 receiving yards in his first NFL season. The production was all the more remarkable when you consider Kittle played through injuries to his hip, chest, back, and ankle.
Kittle reached full health around the same time Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the 49ers starting quarterback, and the results were encouraging. In Garoppolo’s five starts, Kittle ranked as a cumulative top-10 tight end. Over the final three weeks of the season, Kittle’s 11-194-1 receiving line was good enough to place him inside the top-3. Now, he’s got a full offseason to work with Garoppolo, whose 2017 touchdown total was oddly low in comparison to his passing yardage.
Kittle, at 6'4'', 247 lbs., with plus athleticism for his size, already led the 49ers in red zone targets in 2017. His focuses during the offseason were to add muscle to help protect against injury (which can’t hurt in the red zone either) and learning to catch the ball away from his body, which will help him come down with more contested catches (i.e. in the red zone). Kittle is priced like a tight end streamer, but he’s much more likely to emerge as an every-week starter.
While we’re on the topic of late-round tight ends who can help you stockpile valuable running backs and wide receivers in the early and middle rounds, Watson deserves your attention as well. He might not share the same ceiling as Kittle at 37-years-old, but Watson is the cheapest way to get an every-down player in the Saints passing game, which makes him a fine punt option at his current 16th-round ADP.
When Watson last played for New Orleans three years ago, he was targeted 110 times and finished as the TE7. Of course, three years is a long time for an elder-statesman like Watson, especially when one of those years was lost to a torn Achilles. But Watson quietly caught 61 passes and 4 touchdowns for the Ravens last year (TE11 in PPR leagues), suggesting he has enough left in the tank to once again become a trusted target for Drew Brees, who hasn’t played with a reliable pass-catching tight end since New Orleans signed Coby Fleener to replace Watson after the 2015 season.
Jerick McKinnon is receiving plenty of hype -- and deservedly so. If Garoppolo continues to be a rising tide that lifts all boats, San Francisco is poised to field one of the league's better offenses and Kyle Shanahan handpicked McKinnon as its main cog. Finishing the season top-10 at the position is a strong possibility for McKinnon on his new team, but let’s not pretend he comes with zero question marks.
McKinnon has failed to clear 3.8 yards per carry in each of the last two years. He also hasn’t averaged more than 13.5 total touches per game in any of his four career seasons. Shanahan had a true workhorse last year -- Carlos Hyde -- and still saw fit to give Matt Breida double-digit carries in four of the 49ers final five games.
There’s a greater-than-zero chance Breida can carve out stand-alone value playing 1B to McKinnon’s 1A like he did late last year playing alongside Hyde. Even if San Francisco gives McKinnon a workload commensurate with his rich free-agent contract to start the season, Breida's value as a high-upside handcuff in a solid offense still exceeds his 13th-round ADP.
Don’t make the mistake of writing Josh Doctson off as a draft bust just yet. While last year’s 35-502-6 stat line failed to move the needle, it’s important to remember 2017 was effectively Doctson’s first year in the league, after injuries cost him all but two games as a rookie.
Those judging Doctson strictly on last season’s cumulative totals will miss the fact he didn’t become an every-week starter until Week 7. From that point forward, he finished inside the top-40 wide receivers (respectable for a “rookie”) and led Washington in both red zone targets and targets from inside the 10-yard-line. His emergence as Washington’s top scoring threat should come as no surprise. Doctson’s jump-ball ability and strong hands have made him a bonafide touchdown maker dating back to his days at TCU.
Washington has ranked no lower than 14th in passing touchdowns over the last three seasons under Jay Gruden, so it feels safe to pencil Doctson in for around eight scores this year, provided he plays all 16 games. Whether or not he remains overly reliant on scoring chances to generate fantasy production will depend on his ability to improve last year’s abysmal 45% catch rate. There are reasons to be optimistic on that front. Last year, Doctson was targeted on passes that traveled at least 20-yards through the air on 28% of his routes, which ranked 14th among wide receivers (minimum 40 targets). But per PFF, only seven of Doctson’s 20 deep targets were considered catchable, and of those, he was able to catch six.
The abundance of errant passes aimed at Doctson was a result of Washington’s injury-depleted offensive line failing to give Kirk Cousins enough time to make accurate downfield throws -- a problem that no longer exists. Beat writers have also noted Doctson is running a variety of routes in OTAs, an indication he won’t be deployed primarily as a situational deep threat this year. In the 12th-round, there’s little risk in drafting Doctson for wide receiver depth and hoping he takes the next logical step forward in his career arc.
Ty Montgomery is currently the last of the Packers three backfield committee members being drafted (10th-round ADP), but his chances of leading the trio in PPR scoring are looking better every day. While he won’t be on the field for 90% of the team’s snaps like he was over the first three games of last season, it’s clear Montgomery will still play a role in Green Bay’s backfield and help fill the target void left behind by the departure of Jordy Nelson.
Packers beat writer Rob Demovsky recently named Montgomery the surprise standout of the team’s offseason program, noting he has been a mainstay on the field in certain key packages, including the no-huddle and two-minute drills. Then there were these quotes from head coach Mike McCarthy:
"We have to take advantage of Ty's skills. There's no question about that. The offense is suited for that. Ty had some incredible periods of play for us."
"Ty can play from the backfield and still have the ability to flex them out and get the matchups that you're looking for. We have plenty of that in the offense."
Green Bay’s distribution of running back touches might be the toughest to project in the entire league. When so much uncertainty exists, the best play is usually to invest as little as possible. Not only is Montgomery the lowest-cost option of the Packers running backs, he’s also the only one currently with a solidified role in the team’s offense.
Robby Anderson’s current ADP is downright disrespectful to the man. From Weeks 6-13 last year, Antonio Brown and Marvin Jones Jr were the only wide receivers to score more fantasy points than Anderson. If his production hadn’t fallen off in Week 14 due to Josh McCown’s season-ending injury, we’d likely be drafting Anderson five rounds ahead of his current 10th-round ADP. Every other wide receiver who finished top-15 at the position last season is being drafted by Round 6, yet Anderson comes off the board about the same time as rookies like Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore.
It’s not like anything has changed in New York’s target hierarchy. A healthy Terrelle Pryor might have put a dent in Anderson’s workload, but at this point, it’s unknown if or when Pryor will be on the field due to recurring ankle issues. A second felony arrest in as many off-seasons is legitimate cause for concern, but the cases against Anderson have since been dropped to misdemeanors or thrown out altogether. If the league does suspend him, it shouldn’t be for more than a couple games, at which point his ADP will dip even lower, and Anderson becomes an even greater value pick.
Of course, a strong possibility exists McCown will get hurt again or give way to rookie Sam Darnold at some point. But unlike last year, a quarterback change for the Jets is no lock to sink Anderson’s production. Darnold is young and unproven, but he comes with arm talent, accuracy, and pocket mobility last year’s backup, Bryce Petty, did not. Anderson’s strengths as a downfield playmaker dovetail perfectly with Darnold’s timeliness and velocity on deep throws. There’s a strong case to be made Anderson is currently the best value in 2018 fantasy drafts.
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