A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should outperform their draft position.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Alex Smith, Washington
Sigmund Bloom: Smith was a top-five quarterback in most systems last year, and yet fantasy drafters appear to want nothing to do with him after he changed teams. He might be a better fit in Jay Gruden system with more short passing and quarterback movement. The team just lost Derrius Guice, so Smith will have to shoulder more of the offense. Washington’s offensive line was in shambles last year, concealing the true value of this offense in Kirk Cousins numbers. Smith opens with Arizona’s defense debuting a new scheme and then gets the Colts and Packers. He’s a fine QB1 to start your season.
Will Grant: Alex Smith catches a lot of hell, but the reality is that he put together a pretty solid season last year in Kansas City with relatively average talent around him at wide receiver. Now that he’s with Washington, fantasy owners are afraid of him because he’s in a new system and still doesn’t have a stand-out receiver to focus on. However, Jordan Reed expects to be healthy this year, and Jamison Crowder is still pretty solid from the slot. If Josh Doctson and newly acquired Paul Richardson Jr can perform at even a reasonable level, Smith should easily outperform his current draft position. The loss of Derrius Guice also puts a bigger focus on the passing game, which only helps Smith over the long haul. Finally – neither Colt McCoy nor Kevin Hogan is really going to challenge Smith for the starting spot. If Smith is healthy, he’ll be playing.
Jeff Haseley: Alex Smith had a career year in 2017 finishing as the fourth-ranked quarterback, which propelled him into a new deal with a new team, Washington. Prior to last year, Smith ranked 23, 16, 19, and 15 in the previous four season. He is bound to take a step back in 2018, but that doesn't mean we should ignore him. His ability to make plays and not commit turnovers is admirable as evidenced by his lack of interceptions thrown. Missing only four games in the last five years, Smith has averaged only 6.6 interceptions per year in that span. A supporting cast of Jamison Crowder, Chris Thompson, Paul Richardson Jr, Josh Doctson, and Jordan Reed can keep Smith a viable fantasy quarterback, and the loss of Derrius Guice may further emphasize the need to pass, giving him more production at the position.
Ryan Hester: Typically, a top-five fantasy quarterback changing teams would be a red flag. But Smith heads to Washington, where Jay Gruden is in charge of the offense. Gruden has coaxed a high-end QB1 season out of Andy Dalton and made Kirk Cousins a fantasy darling at times as well. It’s not outlandish to say that Smith is better than both of those players – especially Dalton. Washington does lack a true prototypical WR1, but the weapons have skills that align with Smith’s. The tight end duo provides athleticism that Smith loves to target. Jamison Crowder offers a safe target on intermediate routes, and Paul Richardson Jr has the deep speed to produce in the area of the field Smith was finally able to crack last season.
Jeff Pasquino: A proven veteran quarterback, Mr. Smith now goes to Washington (I bet you will hear that a lot this year) to lead a new offense in the NFC East. Smith is very capable of putting up solid, respectable numbers and is being overlooked in most fantasy rankings and drafts. Washington has a similar recipe to Kansas City in the passing attack (strong tight end, up and coming wide receivers) and the approach, with head coach Jay Gruden getting top-10 production from Kirk Cousins in his scheme.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Philip Rivers, LA Chargers
Jeff Haseley: Philip Rivers is currently among the last fantasy starting quarterbacks on the ADP board among quarterbacks; however, he has surpassed 4,000 yards passing in five straight years and nine of the last ten. The last five years he has averaged 30.6 touchdown passes and respectable 7.68 yards per attempt. I will gladly take Rivers at his current draft position.
Chad Parsons: Rivers has been a Rodney Dangerfield-type fantasy quarterback for years, getting no respect compared to his results. Rivers' ADP this year reflects a stacked position and the lack-of-flash older veteran being underrated. Rivers has finished in the top-12 fantasy quarterbacks in 10-of-12 seasons dating back to 2005 and the last five straight. Despite losing Hunter Henry, Rivers is stacked at the skill positions with strong weapons and a budding defense. Another perk of Rivers is his high floor with 26 or more touchdown passes in each of the last 10 seasons and 4,200+ yards the norm for Rivers over the span.
Matt Waldman: Despite the loss of Hunter Henry, Rivers as a talented receiving corps and track of meeting or exceeding value as a low-end fantasy QB1 in 12-team leagues. When he has met expectations, his offensive line and/or receiver corps has been decimated with injuries. When Rivers exceeds expectations, his surrounding talent is healthy. While Henry was an asset, Rivers has enough talent around him to thrive without the young tight end. Virgil Green has excellent athletic ability and was a primary receiving option in college before Denver labeled him a blocker. If Antonio Gates returns, he’ll be capable of delivering on third downs and the red zone because of his decade-plus of timing and rapport with Rivers. Keenan Allen is also one of the best route runners in football. With the Chargers secondary likely to struggle after the loss of top cornerback Jason Verrett, look for favorable Rivers game scripts.
Jason Wood: Philip Rivers is the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL. In 12 seasons as the Chargers starting quarterback, Rivers has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback eight times. He's been a top-12 fantasy quarterback ten times. Yet, every season the pundits make up reasons to doubt the future Hall of Famer. This year, it's the loss of Hunter Henry to a torn ACL. The Chargers have a proven system and a cohesive offensive roster. The receiving corps goes four deep, at a minimum, and the defense and running game guarantee Rivers will see plenty of single coverage downfield. Betting against Rivers has been the wrong play for a decade and a half. Learn from others mistakes, and get on the right side of this fantasy star.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
Sigmund Bloom: Did you know Roethlisberger was the No. 1 quarterback in some systems from Week 10-16 last year? After a slow start, he feasted on home matchups to fuel some teams to championships. Second-round pick James Washington moving into Martavis Bryant’s role might not be a downgrade, and otherwise, the Steelers offense returns a cast that will be a strong foundation for fantasy value. He belongs in the same part of your draft as Tom Brady and Drew Brees but will be available a lot later.
Will Grant: Antonio Brown is still considered one of the top fantasy wide receivers to have this season. It makes sense that the guy throwing to him should be considered a star as well but for whatever reason, people are still hesitant to recognize Ben Roethlisberger’s value as a fantasy QB. Last season he had 4200 yards passing and 28 passing TDS. Le’Veon Bell prevents defenders from pinning their ears back and blitzing on every down. Roethlisberger is tough as nails and would probably still play with a broken throwing arm. Finally, JuJu Smith-Schuster emerged as a legitimate playmaker last year and should only get better going into his second season. Roethlisberger is a top-10 fantasy quarterback who is being drafted like he’s as a mid-tier backup. He’s great value as your main quarterback and is even better as part of a committee approach this season.
Ryan Hester: He’s being drafted outside the top-10 at quarterback, but he has two skill players who are top-five overall fantasy picks. The only other quarterback with two teammates in the top-15 is Drew Brees, and he’s being drafted three to four rounds ahead of Roethlisberger. Philip Rivers is a similar situation in terms of two elite skill position teammates the same ADP range as Roethlisberger. While Rivers is solid and consistent, he doesn’t offer the ceiling that Roethlisberger does. Roethlisberger has four-touchdown potential every time he suits up – especially in home games.
Jeff Tefertiller: With a mid-QB2 ADP, Roethlisberger allows a team in a one-quarterback league to get QB1 production at a great price. Coming off a 2017 season with 4251 passing yards and a 28 to 14 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions in only 15 games, it is easy to see the value of waiting at the position. Roethlisberger was a top-10 fantasy passer in most leagues last year (in just 15 games) and saw an upgrade to his weapons with the addition of James Washington and a full season with Vane McDonald.
Player Receiving 3 Votes
Cam Newton, Carolina
Phil Alexander: Newton has been a top-5 fantasy quarterback in five of his seven seasons as a pro. In the two years he failed to post top-5 numbers, he either played through ankle, chest, and back issues (2014) or a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery (2016). Betting against another elite finish for Newton is foolish. He proved last year by setting a career-high in rush attempts (139) he's more willing to run than ever and he enters this season with an improved supporting cast. His top target, Greg Olsen, is returning healthy after missing nine games last year. First-round pick D.J. Moore has after-the-catch ability the Panthers were sorely lacking in 2017. Devin Funchess is still improving. And the backfield combo of Christian McCaffrey and C.J. Anderson is one of the best in the league. The arrow is pointing up for Newton and Carolina's offense as a whole.
Clayton Gray: If Cam Newton outscores Aaron Rodgers this season, zero people would be surprised. The fact that Newton is available three or four rounds after Newton is astonishing value. I'd rather wait even later on a quarterback, but if you want to grab a good shot at elite fantasy numbers, go get Newton.
Jason Wood: People fixate on what Newton doesn’t do well, and ultimately lose sight of what he does better than anyone. In a year where he completed less than 60% of his passes, threw for just 3,300 yards, and had 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, Newton was the No. 3 fantasy quarterback. He can be a below average passer because his rushing totals (last year he had 754 yards and six touchdowns) are worth so much more. There’s some concern about Carolina’s offensive line now that Daryl Williams it out for the year, but Newton is a proven commodity. In his five fully healthy seasons, he’s finished QB4, QB4, QB6, QB1, and QB3. Bank on him.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota
James Brimacombe: When looking for value at the quarterback position I want high upside guys that have potential to have a top-five type of season and that is exactly what you get with Kirk Cousins. The past two seasons he has finished as QB5, and some might say he gets an upgrade in the passing game with the Vikings and Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, and Dalvin Cook.
Jason Wood: The Vikings turned rag-armed Case Keenum from replacement-level journeyman to top-15 fantasy quarterback last year. Imagine what Kirk Cousins can do now that he’s at the helm. Cousins has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback in all three seasons as a full-time starter and has back-to-back top-five finishes. He moves from a dysfunctional Washington team with no elite receiver and an oft-injured tight end, with no running game to a Super Bowl contender with a pair of Pro Bowl caliber receivers, a dynamic pass-catching running back, and a healthy tight end that dominates in close quarters. Unless Cousins gets hurt, he's as close to a lock for QB1 performance as anyone at the position.
Jared Goff, LA Rams
Andy Hicks: Jared Goff finishing as the 12th-ranked quarterback in 2017 is highly deceiving. Unlike almost all the guys ranked ahead of him, he was rested in Week 17. An average game would have moved him up to seventh. A great game in Week 17 could have moved him to second. Yet here he is as a borderline fantasy starter in 2018 according to ADP. Take Goff this year as major value for several reasons. Goff is a rapidly improving passer. Brandin Cooks is in for the unreliable Sammy Watkins. Robert Woods missed four games and played injured in others, while the tight ends and Cooper Kupp will only get better. This is a team going places, and Goff will be at the head of the queue.
Matt Waldman: Goff finished 12th among fantasy quarterbacks last year and he did it as a second-year player with a new coaching staff, a new scheme, and three new starting receivers. Head coach Sean McVay’s coaching was helpful, but the way he’s characterized in the media, you’d think he installed a secret military game control device into the quarterback’s head to control Goff on the field. Although you’ll read that Goff was a dramatically different quarterback between 2016 and 2017, you’ll only hear it from those who haven’t studied the details of his game. Goff’s value remains low because fantasy players and media incorrectly concluded that he was a bust in 2016 due to faulty evidence that also prevents them from buying into additional growth. They see a fluke when he’s only getting started with improving young talent.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
Sigmund Bloom: Luck has returned to practice and preseason action without much fanfare, which is a good thing. He might be his old self for a while, but Luck should still be the engine of the offense with a nondescript four-way committee at running back. The offensive line is improved with the addition of No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson, and even though the wide receiver group is weak after TY Hilton, Luck has one of the best pairs of receiving tight ends in the league in Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron. Getting him for less than a premium quarterback price is worth looking into.
Devin Knotts: It genuinely is amazing how Luck is not the consensus value play across the industry and how his average draft position is not skyrocketing. Andrew Luck had a tremendous 2016 season and was taken as a top-five quarterback last season without a clear timetable on when he would play. Luck finished as the number four overall quarterback in 2016 and should have a much better offensive line then the last time we saw Luck take the field which has been the problem for most of his career. While the amount of skill position players is likely the cause of Luck being undervalued, this is an offense that has always been built around T.Y. Hilton and the tight ends.
Patrick Mahomes II II, Kansas City
Ryan Hester: Blessed with a huge arm and the athleticism to produce on the ground as well as in the air, Mahomes has the skill set to be a solid fantasy producer. On top of that, he has Andy Reid guiding him and calling his plays and a plethora of weapons around him. Mahomes has top-six quarterback potential.
Matt Waldman: Alex Smith had a career year in 2017, so it’s illogical to many that a first-year starter can equal or top Smith. Most don’t know that Smith made a lot of single-receiver reads last year and Mahomes makes more full-field reads. Smith has always been reticent to throw fade routes and he wasn’t maximizing the strengths of receivers Travis Kelce, Demarcus Robinson, and Chris Conley. Sammy Watkins is also good at the fade and Mahomes is throwing a ton of these routes during camp. Smith’s production was great in part to his league-leading work as a vertical passer. It’s no coincidence that Smith’s only strong year in this area coincided with Chiefs receivers leading the NFL in separation per route. The scheme is the same and Mahomes excels in the vertical game. Although he’ll make more mistakes than Smith as a young player, fantasy players are being too cautious.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
Jeff Haseley: The Titans offense is in for a renaissance with the additions of Mike Vrabel at Head Coach and Matt LaFleur at Offensive Coordinator. Marcus Mariota will be returning to a spread style offense which fits his skill set and abilities. I see him having a rebound season where he could sneak into a weekly fantasy starter.
Daniel Simpkins: Even being a normally-pessimistic Titans fan, it's easy to see everything coming together in a way that will turn this bottom-third-of-the-league passing offense into one that will sit among the top third by year’s end. The acquisition of Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur will mean the institution of spread, play action, and run-pass option concepts, which are more in line with the successful offensive philosophies of the modern NFL. Mariota has familiarity with these concepts from running them in his college offense in Oregon. It may surprise you to learn that in the instances in which former Head Coach Mike Mularkey allowed Mariota to run the offense from a play action set last year, Mariota logged the highest quarterback rating in the league. Expect these changes to better fit the offensive cast that Jon Robinson has been assembling for the past three years, especially Marcus Mariota.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Ari Ingel: The Falcons offense performed at a historical pace in 2016 under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, scoring 30 or more points in 11 of 16 games. This was the 5th highest mark in NFL history, and Matt Ryan’s passer rating was 117.1, which was also the fifth highest mark in NFL history. It all came crashing down with Steve Sarkisian at the helm; however, it wasn’t as bad as it appeared. The Falcons finished second in drive success rate and yards per drive last season, while Ryan ended the year tied for second in overall PFF grade and ranking third in adjusted completion percentage. Additionally, 8 of his 12 interceptions came off of tipped passes or receiver errors. Their biggest downfall was how atrocious the Falcons were in the red zone, which should hopefully be fixed by better playing calling, better luck, the addition of rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley and the advancement of the third-year tight end, Austin Hooper. With literally no weaknesses anywhere in this offensive unit, look for Ryan to rebound this year.
Jeff Pasquino: Matt Ryan has to be my favorite value quarterback so far this year. For Ryan to come off the board after 15 other quarterbacks feels like a complete travesty to me. Julio Jones’ quarterback has to have a higher value than that, especially when you factor in a playmaking top prospect in Calvin Ridley and two running backs (Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman) who can both catch plenty of short passes out of the backfield. Playing in a dome and against high scoring teams in the NFC South should lead to plenty of production for Ryan this season.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit
James Brimacombe: Over the past eight seasons, Matthew Stafford has finished as at least a top-nine quarterback in seven of those seasons. You always know what you are going to get with Stafford as he is one of the safest plays at the position but also gives you top five upside every season and with Kerryon Johnson added in the backfield and Kenny Golladay looking to emerge I will be buying in on Stafford once again with confidence.
Justin Howe: Stafford is my favorite quarterback in an ADP range that usually finds drafters chasing upside. Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, and even Patrick Mahomes II often come off the board around or before Stafford, which I simply don't understand. He's finished the last two years as the QB8 and QB7, and I see the potential for a serious touchdown spike with all of the playmakers Detroit has accumulated. He throws short to the reliable and explosive Golden Tate and downfield to bona fide playmaker Marvin Jones Jr - as well as scintillating deep-ball prospect Kenny Golladay. In my eyes, Stafford is neck-and-neck with Drew Brees as the top choices just beyond the tip-top tier of quarterbacks. I love scooping him when he falls into Round 9.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
Phil Alexander: Winston was already shaping up as value play before news of his three-game suspension hit. But now he's being drafted as if he has a serious injury rather than a brief league-mandated absence. Drafting Winston at his depressed ADP and pairing him with a replacement-level starter for the first three weeks will net you a QB1 by season's end. Last year, Winston played through a bum throwing shoulder for seven games, yet still finished with career-highs in completion percentage, yards per game, and yards per attempt, while also trimming his interception rate to a career-low 2.5%. Once he returned from the three-week layoff due to the injury, Winston had the most passing yards and third-most touchdowns in the league. A three-game suspension shouldn’t be treated like a death sentence for an ascending talent with a quality supporting cast.
Jeff Pasquino: Winston is getting overlooked a great deal this year. Tampa Bay is going to be relying on a brand new running game while the passing attack offers two strong tight end options along with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin at wideout. Winston is low on the ADP chart only because of his three-game suspension to start the year. When he is playing, he is a borderline top-12 quarterback, and he has never finished lower that QB21 in his three seasons at the helm in Tampa Bay.
Player Receiving 1 Vote
Derek Carr, Oakland
Andy Hicks: Derek Carr presents a great conundrum heading into the 2018 season. Before Oakland's bewildering 2017 season, he looked the part of an ascendant star. Now he lost his most reliable target in Michael Crabtree. Carr also gets a coach who comes with a big name but was old school when he left the league more than 10 years ago. Carr gets a potentially washed up Jordy Nelson, a proven unreliable player in Martavis Bryant, a wide receiver who was supposed to be a star but looked horrible last year in Amari Cooper, and a running game that could easily be disastrous. Yet somehow there is optimism that it all clicks together and fantasy value galore will be found in Oakland this year. Take with hope, because this is literally going to be boom or bust.