Brolley: Undrafted Players

published 08/21/19 2:22:17 PM EDT
by Tom Brolley

I laid out my Most-Drafted Players in an article earlier this month. I thought it would only be fair to break down whom I’ve avoided drafting, as well. I’m obviously lower on these players than most since I’ve yet to draft them in my best-ball leagues. I’m either not in love with these players for this season and/or their ADP is too early for my liking.

You’re going to notice I have quite a few players on my undrafted list. It’s obviously important to build up shares of players you expect to perform well, but it’s just as important to fade players you’re expecting to underperform. I faded players like Jay Ajayi and Alex Collins in the first couple rounds in 2018 and I have no regrets. It also doesn’t always work out like when I didn’t draft Melvin Gordon last season, but you’re going to take some lumps when you take an aggressive approach to fade players. I’ve drafted 40+ best-ball teams so far this summer and these are the players I’ve yet to draft.

NOTE: The ADP used in this article is taken from the high-stakes drafts in the month of August over at The NFFC. To “Beat Tom Brolley” in an NFFC draft, sign up for my draft at 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 27.

Quarterbacks

As you can see from my undrafted QBs, I tend to wait until the bitter end to draft this position. I typically start considering my first QB around the ninth or 10th round. I don’t have many shares of the elite options while most of my shares are on QBs being drafted outside the top 10 at the position.

Aaron Rodgers (GB, QB3), Andrew Luck (Ind, QB4), Baker Mayfield (Cle, QB5), and Matt Ryan (Atl, QB6) — I don’t have anything against these four QBs based on their fantasy potential, I’m just unwilling to invest in them based on how early they’re going in drafts.

Kyler Murray (Ari, QB9) — I’m all for drafting for upside with Murray and I get why he’s being drafted inside the top 10 at the position. The Cardinals could easily throw it 600+ times and Murray could immediately be one of the league’s best running QBs. But there is way too much depth at fantasy QB to reach a couple of rounds early for a rookie QB facing a huge learning curve behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines.

Drew Brees (NO, QB10) — Brees attempted a Saints’ career-low 32.6 passes per game last season with Sean Payton running the rock at the fifth-highest rate (45.7%) last season. I also haven’t drafted much of Russell Wilson this summer because of his similar reliance on touchdowns over passing yards.

Josh Allen (Buf, QB22) — I love drafting QBs who can boost their fantasy output with rushing production so I typically would love a guy like Allen. I’m actually not high on Allen because too much of his production is predicated on scrambling. Sharp Football’s Rich Hribar noted this spring that last season Allen scrambled at the second-highest rate (11.9% of his dropbacks) in the last decade. Allen’s rushing production appears to be unsustainable this season especially since they brought in Cole Beasley to play the slot. Allen called Beasley his “safety valve” earlier this summer, and the second-year QB is more likely to check it down to Beasley this year after tucking it and running so much at the end of last season.

Derek Carr (Oak, QB23) — Carr is averaging just 6.7 YPA for his career and his 7.3 YPA average from last season isn’t exactly impressive considering he crushed his previous career-high completion percentage (63.8 in 2016) by more than 5%. Among the eight quarterbacks who completed 68% of their passes or more last season, only Kirk Cousins finished with a lower YPA (7.1). Carr has some fun new weapons in Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, but he’s ill-equipped to take advantage of them as downfield targets.

Matthew Stafford (Det, QB25) — Stafford attempted a career-low 34.7 passes per game last season, and he’s been trending downward for three straight seasons. The Lions traded away his safety valve Golden Tate in the middle of last season and they brought in Darrell Bevell to call plays. Bevell previously called plays for Marshawn Lynch in Seattle and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, and I’m expecting to Kerryon Johnson to be the starting point of this offense. The Lions also ran the fourth-slowest offense — 32.64 seconds between plays — neutral situations (according to Football Outsiders). It’s tough to see where the passing volume is going to come from for Stafford unless this Lions’ defense craters, which I’m not banking on after some key defense pickups this off-season.

Running Backs

Todd Gurley (LAR, RB10) — I’ve faded Gurley all summer long, which has me slightly worried given how dominant he was for nearly two straight seasons until his play tailed off at the end of 2018 because of his bad knee. Gurley clearly has the upside to be the RB1 as we’ve seen in recent years, but I think he has a much better chance to hit his floor this season because of his knee and Darrell Henderson’s presence. Healthy knees are critical to executing the one-cut-and-go approach in the Rams’ outside zone running game. I’m skeptical of Gurley’s knee staying healthy enough to keep the same burst and explosion that we’ve seen from him in previous seasons.

Melvin Gordon (LAC, RB15) — Gordon scored more than a TD per game last season (14 scores in 12 games), and he was ridiculously efficient with his touches inside the 10-yard line. He had 3 TD catches on 6 receptions and 5 rushing scores on 10 carries inside the 10-yard line. I didn’t draft Gordon when he was a first-round pick earlier in the summer and I’m definitely not picking him now that he’s in a holdout situation.

Sony Michel (NE, RB26) — The Patriots picked Michel in the first round last season, but they were concerned enough about his arthritic left knee to use a premium, third-round pick on Damien Harris. There’s no doubt I could be eating crow by fading Michel because the Patriots lead running spot has yielded some profitable campaigns for Michel (2018), Dion Lewis (2017), and LeGarrette Blount (2016) the last three seasons. I don’t feel comfortable betting on a ticking time bomb like Michel with his degenerative knees, so I’ve taken my shots on Williams at a severely reduced price.

Tarik Cohen (Chi, RB28) — Cohen is being priced at his ceiling in fantasy drafts this summer after scoring 8 TDs on 170 touches. The Bears dumped Jordan Howard this off-season, who was a non-threat as a receiver, and they added two competent receivers to their backfield in David Montgomery and Mike Davis. HC Matt Nagy even said that he gave Cohen too much work last season, which is the last thing you want to hear if you invested a fifth-round pick on Cohen.

Kenyan Drake (Mia, RB29) — The Dolphins decided to stand pat with their backfield after letting Frank Gore walk in free agency. By doing nothing, the Dolphins elevated Kalen Ballage into Gore’s old early-down role in this backfield next to Drake. Both old HC Adam Gase and the new coaching staff, led by Brian Flores, view Drake as primarily a passing back. New OC Chad O’Shea, who previously worked with the Patriots as a WRs coach, could utilize Drake more effectively as a receiver, but TD opportunities could be hard to come by and this O-line is still in rough shape.

Peyton Barber (TB, RB44) and Ronald Jones (TB, RB40) — I backed Barber in quite a few leagues last season and it wasn’t exactly a productive endeavor. He averaged 3.7 YPC and 54.4 rushing yards per game and he brought nothing to the table as a receiver, averaging 5.8 receiving yards per game. The Buccaneers would love for Jones to steal the starting job, but he hasn’t done anything at camp to justify a bigger workload. This backfield figures to be one of the least productive fantasy units once again and trying to extract fantasy value out of it is a losing venture.

Adrian Peterson (Was, RB53) — I’m basically fading the entire Redskins offense outside of slot WR Trey Quinn and passing back Chris Thompson. Derrius Guice is expected to be the lead runner here if he’s up to the task, but he could be slow out of the gate. Peterson is unlikely to see the kind of volume he did last season (262/1177/7 rushing), and this O-line could be significantly worse without star LT Trent Williams. AD also scored significantly better in seven victories last season (16.7 FPG) compared to his performances in eight losses (8.5, per Scott Barrett). The Redskins could be even worse this season as they’re projected to win just six games by FanDuel Sportsbook. I’d much rather target a Devin Singletary or a Darwin Thompson at Peterson’s current ADP.

Wide Receivers

Kenny Golladay (Det, WR19) — Golladay should remain the top target in Detroit, but Marvin Jones is being totally disregarded as a viable #2 WR in fantasy circles. The Lions also signed slot WR Danny Amendola and TE Jesse James and they used a top-10 pick on THE T.J. Hockenson. Golladay will have a lot more competition for targets this season compared to the end of 2018. The Lions have also been transitioning to a more run-heavy approach since last season. I understand being aggressive with Golladay because he’s an ascending player at 25 years old. He has the size (6’4", 218 pounds) and athletic profile of a dominant #1 outside WR, but you’re paying a pretty steep price for a player who could struggle to keep up his usage from the end of last season.

Calvin Ridley (Atl, WR23) — Ridley’s rookie campaign had a smoke-and-mirrors feel to it. He combined for 15/239/4 receiving in two games against the Saints while managing just 49/582/6 in his other 14 games. Ridley also had incredible luck in the touchdown department, scoring on an unsustainable 9.2% of his targets last year. He did average a solid 1.77 yards per route run (per PFF) but he’ll still have to deal with Mohamed Sanu keeping him off the field in 2-WR sets because of his superior run blocking. Ridley never saw more than 75% of the snaps in a game last season and he averaged 61% for the year. Sanu appears to be ahead of Ridley still as he played on four more snaps with the starters than Ridley did in the second preseason game. It’s tough to justify using a top-60 pick on a WR that can’t even play on two-thirds of his team’s offensive snaps.

Jarvis Landry (Cle, WR29) — Landry’s usage dipped late last season and now he will have to fend with his former LSU teammate Odell Beckham for targets. OBJ averaged 10.5 targets per game in his five-year career with the Giants. It’s going to be difficult for Landry to clear 130+ targets for the fifth straight season. Landry has also averaged 61 receiving yards per game in each of his last two seasons after topping 71 yards in consecutive seasons in 2015-16. Landry should still be a safe floor option most weeks but I’m looking for more weekly upside from a WR2 option. OBJ is the one guy guaranteed to get fed every week with Freddie Kitchens and Baker Mayfield’s propensity to spread the ball around.

Corey Davis (Ten, WR34) — I bought into Davis as a breakout candidate last season, but I’m afraid to go back to the well this year even at a reduced price. Marcus Mariota projects to be one of the worst QBs in the league once again, and the offense could revolve around Derrick Henry and the running game even more. Most importantly, I don’t think Davis will be able to match his 27% target share from 2018. The Titans signed slot WR Adam Humphries and drafted A.J. Brown in the second round, and they’ll also get Mariota favorite Delanie Walker back in the middle of the field. Davis is certainly talented enough to make some noise this year but all the signs point toward more mediocrity.

Emmanuel Sanders (Den, WR48) — I’m still extremely skeptical about a 32-year-old receiver being an impact receiver just eight months removed from a torn Achilles, but I’m extremely impressed by what Sanders has accomplished so far in August. He returned to game action in the second preseason game and he showed he still has plenty of speed. I’m still skeptical about Sanders’ legs holding up for the entire season at his advanced football age. I’m going to continue to fade Sanders now that his ADP is starting to skyrocket after one preseason game. Sanders is also going to be playing with Joe Flacco this season, who has submarined plenty of fantasy receivers recently with his pathetic 6.3 YPA average over the last four years.

Tight Ends

Zach Ertz (Phi, TE2) and Dallas Goedert (Phi, TE16) — Ertz and Goedert are clearly the top TE duo in the league this season, but I’ve avoided drafting them this summer because of their steep prices. Ertz set TE records for receptions (116) and targets (156) last season because of receiver injuries, but I’m expecting a downturn in usage with Goedert ready for a bigger role and with the addition of DeSean Jackson. The Eagles already used 2-TE sets at the highest rate last season (42%) and I’m having a tough time seeing Goedert’s usage rise enough to justify a pick at his current ADP. If either of these TEs misses time this season, fading them could hurt. I think I’ll be fine if they both stay on the field and cannibalize each other’s production.

Eric Ebron (Ind, TE9) — My favorite late-round TE selection from last season, Ebron surpassed even my wildest expectations by scoring a ridiculous 14 TDs that propelled him to a TE4 finish. Among all receivers, he finished behind only Antonio Brown in touchdowns (15). Ebron turned a ludicrous 12.4% of his opportunities into touchdowns last season (14 of 113). That rate is simply unsustainable going forward, especially since TE Jack Doyle and big-bodied WR Devin Funchess will be in the mix in the red zone this season. HC Frank Reich and company viewed Ebron as a part-time player when Doyle was in the lineup last season. Ebron averaged 34.3 routes run (per PFF) and 45.7 snaps per game in 10 games without Doyle, but his usage dipped to only 16.8 routes run and 27.3 snaps per game in six games with Doyle.

David Njoku (Cle, TE10) — I’d normally be all over a talented third-year TE like Njoku playing with a potential stud QB in Baker Mayfield. I just can’t get behind him because of the deep offensive talent the Browns have accumulated the last two years. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry could easily soak up about 50% of the targets like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have done the last two seasons in Minnesota. That would make it difficult for Njoku to match his 17% target share from last season (89 targets). The Browns should also have one of the better rushing attacks and an improved defense, which could lead to fewer pass attempts after they finished 12th last season with 35.9 per game. Njoku will need to be a bigger factor in the red zone going forward to make up for his inconsistent targets after seeing just 8 red-zone targets last season.

Austin Hooper (Atl, TE11) — Hooper finished last season with 71 catches but 39% of his catches (28) came in just three games. He also relied too heavily on receptions for his fantasy production as 44.1% of his fantasy points came from receptions, the fourth-highest rate at the position. The Falcons are going to commit more to the run this season with a healthy Devonta Freeman back — they called passes at the third-highest rate (65.3%) last season — =and Hooper remains the fourth-best option in this passing attack.

Jordan Reed (Was, TE15) — It’s too early to tell if the combination of Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum will be an improvement for Reed, but it can’t get much worse than the Redskins’ bottom-five finish in passing yards per game (188.8) last season. At least the Redskins’ WR corps continues to be one of the worst in the league, which will help keep Reed involved. The problem is that Reed is no longer worth the injury risk because he no longer provides upside performances like he did in his first four seasons (2013-16). He has just two 15+ FP performances in his last 19 games and only Ricky Seals-Jones scored a higher percentage of his fantasy points from receptions than Reed (44.3%) last season. At least Reed is cheap now but I’m not expecting him to turn back time in what could be the worst offense in the league.

Chris Herndon (NYJ, TE19) — I thought Herndon was being overdrafted earlier this summer when he was about the TE13 off the board because I knew a suspension was likely coming (I thought it would be the two-game variety). The Jets also brought in Le’Veon Bell and slot WR Jamison Crowder this off-season and they figured to be direct competition for Herndon’s targets in 2019. Herndon ended up getting a four-game suspension and his ADP plummeted shortly after the ruling came down. Herndon’s ADP is much more palatable now and I’m actually very excited about the direction of this passing game with Sam Darnold in his second season under new HC Adam Gase. Still, I held out this long on Herndon this summer and I’ve been hammering Darren Waller and Noah Fant a little later in drafts.

T.J. Hockenson (Det, TE22) — Hockenson will jump right to the top of the depth chart, but the Lions did sign the solid Jesse James to a four-year deal with $10.5 million guaranteed. Hockenson is as complete a tight end prospect as I’ve seen in recent years, and he certainly has enough athleticism (85th-percentile SPARQ) to make an impact for Matthew Stafford right away. However, he attempted just 555 passes last season while averaging a pathetic 6.8 YPA and this offense is trending even more toward the run heading into 2019. Rookie TEs also typically have a more difficult transition into the NFL than other positions. Hockenson would be one player to bet on to be the exception to the rule, but you won’t be getting any discounts to find out.

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Tom Brolley
Tom Brolley

@TomBrolley

Tom Brolley is the better half of The Fantasy Free Agents Podcast with his partner Joe Dolan. Brolley owned a 53.8% winning percentage picking every game against the spread for his old site over the last two seasons.