We’re almost there folks. We’ve suffered through the dog days of summer. We’ve researched countless players. We’ve dreamed beautiful dreams of hoisting fantasy trophies over our heads while our league-mates dejectedly cry and stomp their feet. Now, it’s time. It’s time………..to draft.
I’ve got my first live draft this Saturday, and I can’t wait. Not only is it a great time to sit around the draft board getting drunk with my friends, but it’s also the first time that I’ll get to feel truly invested in a group of players this year (side note: yes I’ve been doing best-ball drafts all summer, but I diversify so much in these drafts that it’s hard to feel truly invested in anyone). So I have to make sure I’m investing in the right players. That’s what this article is about. Every year, certain players are wildly undervalued. I’m here to break down one player from each position that is going far too late in drafts and tell you why you should be targeting each one. Let’s get to it!
Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill is one of my favorite late round quarterbacks to target. Though he’s currently going off the board at QB13, I have him ranked as QB8 this year. Even though I’m higher than most on him, I’m considering moving him even further up my board. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, Tannehill has increased his production every year of his career. Take a look at his passing stats over his first three years.
He set career highs in both passing yardage and passing touchdowns in 2014, as well as a career low in interceptions. This is no guarantee that Tannehill will continue to improve in 2015, but it’s certainly a good sign. Oh, he also added more than two fantasy points per game with his rushing in 2014. That doesn’t sound like a ton, but how many times have you lost a matchup by less than two points? It can make a difference.
Secondly, he’s entering his second year with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Tannehill was previously languishing in Mike Sherman’s overly simplistic offensive scheme, but he seemed to really thrive in Lazor’s system last year. Tannehill should continue to grow and improve under Lazor.
Thirdly, the Dolphins upgraded his weapons. They jettisoned overpaid WR Mike Wallace, who never seemed to develop chemistry with Tannehill, as well as WR Brian Hartline and TE Charles Clay.. In their stead, the team brought in several upgrades: Kenny Stills, a young deep threat whose “Best Comparable” on playerprofiler.com is none other than Mike Wallace; Devante Parker, an athletic and talented rookie from Lousiville who could be the best WR on the team; Greg Jennings, a veteran who ideally will only contribute in case of injuries but is a great locker room presence; Jordan Cameron, a seam-ripping tight end who, if healthy, could be one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. The math isn’t hard, better weapons should lead to increased production. Invest in Ryan Tannehill and reap your rewards throughout the season.
Running Back: Jonathan Stewart
Stewart has always been a talented back (he was the 13th overall pick in 2008), but he’s been stuck in a backfield committee and dealt with injuries for his entire career. In 2015, Stewart comes in to the season healthy and as the feature back for Carolina. He’s currently going off the board as RB22, but I’ve got him ranked as RB16.
With injuries plaguing the Carolina backfield towards the end of 2014, Stewart finally got the chance to show us what he’s got as a feature back. Over the last five games of the season, Stewart averaged 18 carries a game for 97 rushing yards. He added 1.5 catches for about 11 yards through the air. He also averaged .4 total touchdowns per game over this timeframe. Those numbers projected over 16 games would’ve made Stewart PPR RB9 in 2014.
There are two concerns with Stewart: his health and his touchdown potential. I can’t deny that he’s an injury risk, but I tend not to downgrade “injury prone” players as much as most people. I think the public doesn’t understand what causes injuries in certain players as well as it thinks it does, so a player being “injury prone” is an exploitable label. This led me to own DeMarco Murray in most leagues last year, and that worked out pretty well for me. Similarly, I think the public is factoring Stewart’s injury risk too much into his 2015 ADP. I think his low touchdown potential is also a valid argument. However, I think the following RB’s also have low touchdown potential: LeSean McCoy (RB9), Alfred Morris (RB15), Latavius Murray (RB16), Ameer Abdullah (RB17), Andre Ellington (RB20), C.J. Spiller (RB21). They are all going before Stewart.
If Jonathan Stewart can play like he did down the stretch last year, he’s an absolute steal this year.
Wide Receiver: Eric Decker
Eric Decker is being drafted as WR47. This is a guy who put up back-to-back top-10 WR seasons in 2012 and 2013. Yes, I know he had Peyton Manning as his QB then, but there are several reasons to believe that Decker can rebound from his disappointing 2014.
Decker was on the injury report for a total of 8 weeks last year. Though he only missed one game, it is clear that he was bothered by a lingering hamstring injury for most of the season. Decker also clearly suffered from being part of a very bad offense. With Chan Gailey taking over as offensive coordinator, Brandon Marshall on the opposite side of the field, and Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, the Jets offense should be much improved in 2015.
So Decker should be healthier and part of a better offense. Good. How badly did he finish last year then to get the WR47 label this year? WR26. The guy who should be better in 2015 finished as WR26 in 2014. “Yeah, but he had 10 catches for 221 yards in the last game of the season, that’s inflating his production!” Good point, imaginary antagonist in my head. So let’s take a look at how many top-24 finishes he had to get a good idea of consistency. Turns out he had 7. You know who had 8 top-24 weeks? JULIO F*CKING JONES. WR is a pretty inconsistent position, so Decker putting up 7 weeks in the top-24 at the position is pretty impressive for a guy who was hurt most of the season AND on the Jets. At WR47, he’s criminally undervalued.
Tight End: Travis Kelce
Yes, Travis Kelce is getting taken at TE3. Some may call it nitpicking to say that Travis Kelce is undervalued there, but I really don’t understand why we’re still taking Jimmy Graham ahead of him. Kelce had a 67-862-5 line on 87 targets last year. He did all that while only playing 67% of his team’s snaps. For perspective, Vernon Davis played 90% of his team’s snaps, and Gronk played 81% of his. With Anthony Fasano gone, Kelce should receive a full compliment of snaps this year which means he should also receive somewhere from 100-120 targets. This is oversimplified analysis, but if you project Kelce’s 2014 efficiency numbers to 110 targets you end up with a line of 85-1093-6.
Here’s the thing about simply projecting Kelce to do the same things on increased targets: HE WAS BASICALLY IN HIS ROOKIE YEAR LAST YEAR. Sure it was technically his second year, but he missed his entire rookie year with an injury. Tight ends rarely perform to that level in their first year on the field. In fact, rookie or 2nd year tight end have only had seasons like this 9 times in NFL history.
Kelce is clearly a rare talent, and it’s reasonable to project him to build upon his first season in the NFL. That, combined with Graham’s decreased role in the Seattle offense is enough to make Kelce TE2.
Come Argue With Me About Stuff
So there you have it! My four players who are undervalued. Disagree with me? Think the Jets will never improve? Don’t trust Jonathan Stewart’s health? Think Travis Kelce is bad at football? Let me know either in the comments below or @nwalshington on twitter, so we can talk some damn fantasy football!