Written by John Lindinger (Injured Reserve on the forums). I've been in what seems like a million fantasy football leagues with John, and I consider him to be one of my toughest competitors. He will be providing some fantasy insight for this Web site from time to time. You can e-mail John at [email protected].
Aug. 13, 2010.
Undervalued 2010 Fantasy Players
Below is my list of undervalued players for 2010. Their draft ranges run the gamut from second round through the later stages of the draft. You should be targeting these great value picks, as they give an added punch to your roster for reasonable prices come draft day. I give an Average Draft Position (ADP) for each player, which is based upon the mock drafts done on FantasyFootballCalculator.com. I am giving drafting advice assuming a 12-person draft. So if you're drafting in a smaller league note that these players will remain on the board a little longer into your draft.
Ryan Grant (ADP = 25.4)
Ryan Grant represents first-round fantasy value with a second-round price tag. His yardage totals place him among the elite backs, while his 11 touchdowns in 2009 and presence in an unstoppable offense make him a solid player who is flying under the radar. Ryan Grant is not a flashy star and does not have the potential to be a top five back. But he is a model of consistency for fantasy teams, benefiting from the great situation he has found in Green Bay. Draft him equally high in both standard and PPR formats, as he is an average receiving back whose value isn't significantly impacted by the difference in scoring formats.
Eli Manning (ADP = 100.4)
Fantasy owners everywhere are excited about Hakeem Nicks' 2010 prospects. Yet, these same experts are writing Eli off as either a fringe QB1 or top backup. How is it that Steve Smith is expected to retain his value and Hakeem Nicks is supposed to blossom, while Eli remains only a below-average option? It doesn't make sense. Who does everyone think is going to be throwing passes to these wide receivers? Are the Giants planning to drop Brandon Jacobs back to throw passes to this up-and=coming receiving core?
The equation is simple. If Steve Smith retains most of his value and Nicks takes another step towards becoming a No. 1 receiver, then Eli's stats shoot up into the realm of the elite quarterbacks. I am fine with Eli's low ranking if you don't see Nicks stepping up his game this season, but otherwise show Eli some respect.
Eli is the player I consider the biggest steal right now in fantasy drafts. His average draft position has him coming off the board in the early eighth round, making him the 14th quarterback taken. I see Eli easily finishing in the top 10 this year, with the potential to post top six or seven stats.
Darren Sproles (ADP = 113.2)
Sproles will never have a starting running back job to himself. He will never compile large rushing yardage totals or post double-digit touchdowns. Fantasy owners have recognized Sproles' lack of potential for statistical improvement and frequently leave him on the board well into the eighth round of fantasy drafts. However, the lack of elite potential should not push a player who is set to generate 800 yards, 40-50 receptions and around 6-7 touchdowns so far down in the draft. It is unwise to ignore such a versatile player when you're in a PPR league and need to address your flex spot.
Drafting Sproles provides your team with invaluable running back depth, while ensuring that you will get great production from your flex spot. When most owners are pinning their flex production hopes on unproven middle-round sleeper selections, you can take solace in the knowledge that you have drafted a proven commodity who could be the edge in securing close victories in your weekly matchups.
Justin Forsett (ADP = 62.3)
Justin Forsett should make you nervous. Not because he isn't talented, but because his coaching staff seems hell bent on not playing him. If you told most coaching staffs that you have a back that averaged 5.4 yards per carry and had 41 receptions for 350 receiving yards in limited action, then you would expect them to fall over one another to give touches to their new starting running back. Instead the Seahawks try to bring in weak replacements like LenDale White and are only begrudgingly giving him a shot. Draft Forsett because he has a cheap price tag and a ton of potential. Fear him because the Seahawks may find some irrational reason to keep him off the field.
I want to also note that Forsett's ADP is misleading as he has a very wide draft margin. I actually believe that he is likely to last well into Round 6 of most live drafts, since many fantasy drafters use the magazines they bought in June, which still believe that White is on the team and poised to start. It is a rare opportunity to grab such a high-upside back in the sixth round.
Mike Sims-Walker (ADP = 54)
In every draft I have taken part in, Mike Sims-Walker has been available in the fifth round. I am amazed at the value he presents at that point seeing the incredible dropoff in talent that follows him being drafted. If you pass up on Sims-Walker then you had better be really confident that someone like Pierre Garcon can generate WR2 numbers, because that is the kind of guy who will be left for you. Don't take that as a slight against Garcon. I like his prospects a lot this year, but he is a far more risky selection.
Sims-Walker was inconsistent for his owners last year, but to be fair he was dealing with an injury and had a freak game-time suspension for missing curfew due to scoring even before the game began on Sunday. I think even the most irate 2009 MSW owner can now look at the positives and realize that Sims-Walker has serious game.
Pierre Garcon (ADP = 62.4)
I gave you the negative on Garcon in my reasoning to draft Mike Sims-Walker. He is going in the early sixth round, a round in which several owners are still in need of a second wide receiver. Take Garcon because his upside as Peyton Manning's No. 2 receiver is off the charts. However, if you need to rely on him to start every week then make sure to draft a few sleeper receivers as insurance. This is a selection that may not be well received by your fellow drafters. It will most likely be seen as an average pick; by some even a reach. But come season's end, they will regret not having the foresight to grab this up-and-coming star.
Brandon Jacobs (ADP = 62.5)
Brandon Jacobs was drafted in the first round of many standard- and touchdown-friendly leagues. He turned in a season that was a colossal disappointment. He ran for around 800 yards and only scored six touchdowns. These low touchdown numbers are disconcerting from a player who made his name as a short-yardage specialist. However, it would be a mistake to avoid him this year. The Giants desperately want to reestablish their running game, and to do that they will turn to Jacobs' punishing running style. The 2009 season saw fourth-round values Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai reassert themselves as running backs any owner would be proud to own. The 2010 season will be the comeback year for Brandon Jacobs. A fifth-round pick is a cheap bargain to be along for the ride.
Tim Hightower (ADP = 112.1)
Tim Hightower is one of the strange backup running backs who has asserted himself as the superior pass blocker, touchdown scorer and receiving threat on his team. When the Cardinals are in a tough spot they won't have the luxury of keeping Beanie Wells on the field, seeing as Hightower's blocking abilities will buy Matt Leinart a few more precious seconds in the pocket. It will surprise many football fans to know that in 2009, Hightower had more than 1,000 total yards, caught 63 passes and scored 8 touchdowns. These are exceptional stats for a player that will be available in the middle of the ninth round. I expect his numbers to decrease a bit with Leinart at the helm, but am not overly concerned since there will be many more checkdowns to haul in this year.
Jerome Harrison (ADP = 75.9)
Many owners owe their fantasy championships to break-out running backs Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison. In return for their 2009 heroics, both of these talented runners were awarded with competition for their starting jobs. The Cleveland Browns drafted Montario Hardesty in the second round, and in an instant, Jerome Harrison's stock plummeted to the sixth or seventh round. Yet, despite the presence of a 1,400-yard rusher (Thomas Jones) in Kansas City, who presently sits atop the depth chart, Jamaal Charles is going in either the second or third round.
The disparity between the two situations confuses me - especially once you consider that I have a lot more faith in Jones than a rookie runner, whom many fans had not even heard of until Draft Day. If you went receiver-heavy in the early rounds and are struggling to put together a running back corps, then you need to draft Harrison for his upside and reasonable price.
Laurence Maroney (ADP 117.5)
Laurence Maroney is awful. I have seen him play many times since he entered the league and have never once been impressed. If it wasn't for the fact that the New England Patriots have annually ignored their desperate need for a running game, then I would never mention his name. I wish there was someone else who could start at running back in New England's high-powered offense. But since no one has stepped up, it will once again be Maroney. Maroney is proof that even with zero talent you can still have fantasy relevance when placed in a great situation. Take advantage of him being available in Round 9 or 10 in standard and touchdown-friendly formats, where you can put his touchdown opportunities to good use.
Arian Foster (ADP = 110.6)
I will keep this short and simple. It is well worth a ninth- or 10th-round pick to take a shot at drafting the starting running back for the Houston Texans? The runner who wins this job will re-pay your investment exponentially. Reports out of camp suggest that Ben Tate is nowhere close to wrenching this job away from Foster. So this is a high risk-reward pick that is well worth making.
Brett Favre (ADP = Unimportant)
This may very well be the year that Brett Favre retires. Then again, Brett may just be once again showing us the indecisive petulant child-like behavior that has so negatively marked his last few years in the league. I do not pretend to know what will happen in the coming weeks. What I do know is that Favre was the fourth-overall scorer in fantasy football last year. His indecision and retirement scare will make him the steal of the century for this year's fantasy drafts if he does decide to come back.
Favre's ADP is not listed because it is not important. He will be drafted completely differently in every league. If you are one of the people who believes he is coming back, then it would benefit you to find out the opinions of the other owners in your league and try to steal him accordingly. This is the epitome of high risk-high reward. Do not take this risk without a fallback quarterback plan.
LaDanian Tomlinson (ADP = 106.8)
Personally I am surprised at how low people are on LaDainian Tomlinson this year. I love what I saw from Shonn Greene last season, but it also appears to me that Tomlinson is a perfect short-term player for New York. Greene has shown the ability to be the running back of the future, but it's unlikely that the Jets are ready to seriously contend for the Super Bowl until Mark Sanchez has another year of experience under his belt. Bringing in Tomlinson for a season allows the Jets to have a back who can play on passing downs and can take the brutal short-yardage carries that take a toll on a runner. This one-year grouping makes all the sense in the world. I honestly don't have enormous projections for Tomlinson this season, but he is much better than a Round 10 value when one considers the touchdown vulture and reception potential he has this year.
Eddie Royal (ADP = 105)
I anticipate a big comeback year for Eddie Royal. Owners who had him last year remember the frustration that Josh McDaniels caused us. His misuse of Royal made him unworthy of a starting roster. There is no guarantee that McDaniels won't do the same thing again, but one can only hope that he uses his talented receiver in a way that produces some kind of results. Draft Royal and you could very well be bringing on the top 15 receiver from 2008. At his current 10th-round price tag, it's an incredibly small risk to take when you consider the potential starting wide receiver you get, in a weak fantasy WR class no less.
Marion Barber (ADP = 64.5)
People are far too down on Marion Barber. They are failing to remember that Marion actually had relatively equal, if not greater value when he was in the backup role in 2006. Barber will also be healthier and more productive for his owners this season, seeing as his decreased carries will allow him to continue his punishing running style with a lower risk of getting injured. His carries, yards and receptions will take a hit, but look for his touchdowns and yards per carry average to shoot up.
You can also take Felix Jones' frailty as an added bonus. I doubt he makes it through the entire season. If he were to get hurt around Week 10, then you would have a relatively fresh Barber getting an increase in touches that luckily coincides with the fantasy playoffs. When you throw in that his average draft position places him in the sixth round, you have to see that the positives severely outweigh the negatives for Barber this year.