Fantasy Football: Four Undervalued Players in 2018
Every year, there seems to be a group of players that for unknown reasons, fall in average draft position (ADP). Despite their successes in previous seasons or improved offensive situations, this group is brushed aside as if they have been infected with some “anti-talent” virus. It’s a true phenomenon and one that leaves me scratching my head on an annual basis and 2018 is no exception. Below I’ve listed one player from each (relevant) fantasy football position that I believe is criminally undervalued heading into 2018. I would love your feedback of reasons why you believe these players are going as late as they are, and/or list some other players you believe are being undervalued for 2018.
*All ADP information credited to fantasyfootballcalculator.com.
Quarterback: Cam Newton – CAR
Current ADP: 7.10
I have been a Cam Newton supporter since he entered the league in 2011. For the past couple of years on Twitter, I have called out Cam Newton’s success rate as a Top 5 QB. In my latest example, I point out how Newton leads ALL quarterbacks in top 5 finishes (5) since 2011. That’s right, in the past 7 seasons, he has more top 5 finishes than QBs like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. As Andy recently mentioned on the Mid Round Madness podcast, Newton presents value as he’s currently being drafted as the 7th quarterback off the board!?!? Someone pointed out to me recently that “if Aaron Rodgers wasn’t hurt in 2017, he’d have five top 5 finishes as well“. My answer to that would be, don’t you have to consider that into the equation? The fact that Cam Newton, as an often vulnerable, mobile quarterback, has remained healthy through all seven of his seasons. When a player can remain healthy, you don’t have to play the “what if” game, you just know.
Newton has been able to maintain his consistency as a top option at the position with less than desirable offensive weapons over the years. He is able to do this because he is a natural playmaker. If there isn’t a play in the red zone from 7 yards out, he runs it in himself. In 2018, Cam has another season with pass-catching running back, Christian McCaffrey. He regains the services of his favorite, reliable target in Greg Olsen and now has a top rookie wide receiver draft pick in D.J. Moore. As I’ve already mentioned, Newton doesn’t need the weapons to produce as a top QB but it sure as heck doesn’t hurt his chances.
Running Back: Jordan Howard – CHI
Current ADP: 3.02
As the 16th running back taken in 2018 mock drafts, Jordan Howard could be the biggest steal at the position. It was brought to my attention by my co-host of the Fantasy Tilt Podcast and fellow writer Keaton Denlay, who recently wrote Don’t Hibernate on Jordan Howard. When he told me that Howard is the 16th RB taken in drafts, I couldn’t believe it. We are talking about a player that has back to back seasons as an RB1 and over 1,100 rushing yards in each season. He has 15 total touchdowns in his first two seasons combined. Tell me another running back with those type of stats that you can get in the third round.
The only explanation I can think of is the fact that Jordan Howard isn’t the best pass-catching back. I believe we are all too caught up in the PPR age and for the most part, ignore running backs that are not heavily involved as a receiver. Yes, it is an added value but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a pass catching back will always have better fantasy production than guys like Howard, Zeke Elliott, and Leonard Fournette. For example, 49ers RB, Jerick McKinnon has an ADP right next to Jordan Howard. This is completely ludicrous when you factor in the stats I’ve provided for Howard in his first 2 seasons in the NFL and that of Jerick Mckinnon. McKinnon has been in the league for 4 years and has yet to take on the full workload duties until now. He has 14 career starts and has yet to eclipse 570 rushing yards in a season. If players like Jerick Mckinnon are going ahead of Howard, it’s clear that Jordan Howard is vastly undervalued for 2018.
Wide Receiver: Golden Tate – DET
Current ADP: 5.01
Perhaps my favorite draft value of all positions, Golden Tate is being disrespected with a current ADP in the 5th round and the 22nd wide receiver taken in drafts. Tate has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL in recent years. As I mentioned in his Path to a WR1 article, Tate has 120 or more targets and 90 or more receptions in each of his last 4 seasons. He led the league in catch rate (WRs with 70 or more targets), catching 76.7% of his targets. Given his consistent volume and his average 70.8% catch rate with the Lions, Golden Tate should be viewed as nothing less than a high-end WR2 with an easy path to WR1 status in 2018.
Tight End: David Njoku – CLE
Current ADP: 13.03
Tight ends are the position with the most variance in fantasy points. The cliff after the top 2 TEs is like no other. In 2017, the point differential between the #1 TE and the #3 TE was 27.5 fantasy points. The decline continues. The difference between the #3 TE and #4 TE was 22.9 points. The trend continues at a dramatic rate as you near the back end of the top 12 TEs. To be a top 12 tight end isn’t very hard to do. With 574 yards, 4 TDs, and a lost fumble, then Detroit Lion TE, Eric Ebron was your TE12 in half PPR formats in 2017. If you don’t aim for one of the top 3 TEs, then I recommend you wait out drafting the position. Like, really wait it out. Wait until the double-digit rounds because the probability of you drafting a TE1 in those later rounds are just as probable if you were to target one in the middle rounds according to our own Matt Okada in his TE Positional Draft Study article.
I understand I just provided a lot of detail about the tight end position without actually mentioning my undervalued TE but it’s really how I feel about the position. For me, this year’s undervalued tight end has to be David Njoku. Currently being drafted in the 13th round as the 14th TE off the board, Njoku is the only Browns player I can see myself targeting in 2018. He is in an offense that has improved at wide receiver which could open things up for the young tight end. He also has the benefit of catching passes from Tyrod Taylor, not because Tyrod is a good quarterback but because he loves targeting the TE position. I do expect this Browns offense to at least have more red zone opportunities in 2018 which helps the odds of this late round TE of becoming fantasy relevant enough to post TE1 type numbers. If that argument isn’t enough for you, remember, he is Chief Njoku of the Igbo tribe!