Fantasy Focus: Three most undervalued WRs for the 2017 Season

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Fantasy Focus
Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) looks at the crowd after catching a touchdown pass against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via USA TODAY Sports
The NFL Talking Heads (Jeff Carrier and Seth Lull) return with cover32’s Fantasy Focus. In this edition, they breakdown the three most undervalued wide receivers for the 2017 season.

Sometimes the key to a successful fantasy football draft is being able to identify the undervalued players at each position and capitalizing on it. Anyone can take David Johnson with the number one overall pick, but the decisions you make in the other 10+ rounds often determine how well you set yourself up for success during the fantasy season.

What constitutes as undervalued? Here are the three main things that I use as barometers to determine great values players.

  • Current ADP (average draft position)
  • Past Production
  • Upside

ADP is probably the main indicator of whether a player is undervalued, overvalued or correctly valued. For example: I like Jamison Crowder as a receiver, and if his ADP was seventh round or later, I’m all in. However, his ADP is 5.08 (12 team/PPR), and to me, that is higher than I would feel comfortable taking him.

It is easy to get emotionally attached to certain players both good and bad, but utilizing ADP data can help you make solid business decisions when drafting your team. It is important to identify the players that are coming at a great value and the players that are being over drafted.

Past production is another area that needs to be taken into account. Obviously, you want the player to have exhibited some success in the past. This helps to mitigate the risk you take drafting the player. Regardless of round, there is always a certain level of risk attached to each pick you make. Because in order to draft a player you have to pass on other players. You do not want to make the wrong decision.

A great example of past production is Demaryius Thomas. Thomas has totaled 90+ rec, 140+ targets, 1,000+ yards and 5+ touchdowns each of the past five seasons. Those numbers speak for themselves and demonstrate why historical context should be a key factor in assessing the value of a player.

Although there are many other factors that can be examined, the third main factor I look at is upside. Upside can inflate the ADP of a player and cause the player to be over drafted because of it.

A great example of this is Michael Thomas. Michael Thomas had a great rookie season last year and finished as the 7th ranked WR and 13th WR/RB overall in 2016. His upside entering his sophomore season is a big reason why his ADP is 2.03. His upside is baked into his ADP and if he regresses at all from what he produced a season ago, he is going be a bad selection in the early second round.

But while upside can lead to inflated ADP’s and impossible expectations, it cannot be ignored either. Bottom line is, whenever you draft a player in rounds 1-10, you want them to be able to put up big weeks for you. Simple as that.


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When I look at the WRs through the lenses of current ADP, past production and upside, here are a few that check all three boxes:

#1: Jordy Nelson (1.12 ADP)

Dec 11, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) spikes the football with wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Now, I’m not saying Jordy is being completely forgotten. After all, his ADP is 1.12 so he’s a later first round/early second round player. However, he might be the steal of the first two rounds. Jordy was the second best fantasy WR in 2016. He was the fifth best WR/RB overall. So why is he a player who is on a cusp of falling out of the first round? Based on the type of receiver he is, the offense he plays in and the fantasy points he generated last year, his ADP is remarkably low.

At age 32, his age is absolutely something that knocks him down a couple pegs. While still in the prime of his career, we have seen him at his peak. With younger WR’s like Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and even A.J. Green still on the rise, it is easy for someone like Jordy Nelson to be underappreciated. His past production speaks for itself. He missed all of 2015 with an ACL injury but finished his last three full seasons with 85+ rec, 1,200+ yards, and 8+ TDs. His last two full seasons have been particularly impressive:

Jordy Nelson Receiving 
Game Game Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G
2014* 29 GNB WR 87 16 16 151 98 1519 15.5 13 80 6.1 94.9
2016 31 GNB WR 87 16 16 152 97 1257 13.0 14 60 6.1 78.6
Care Care 121 73 748 497 7366 14.8 63 93 4.1 60.9

His upside is also considerably underappreciated. In 2016 Jordy produced seven top-10 fantasy weeks which ranked second at the position. So although 2016 Jordy may have been peak Jordy, it is still pretty damn good for someone that is going to fall to the end of the first round.

#2: Michael Crabtree (4.10)

Raiders WR Michael Crabtree
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) reaches for the end zone as Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) defends in the first quarter during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Here is another wide receiver that continues to be underappreciated. Crabtree’s ADP (4.10) compared to his teammate Amari Cooper’s ADP (2.08) demonstrates how most consider him to be the second best fantasy receiver on his own team. While I think you can make the argument for either one being the better overall WR, I do not understand why Cooper is two full rounds ahead of Crabtree. Crabtree has finished with more fantasy points than Cooper each out of the past two seasons. He continues to catch more passes and see more targets each year than Cooper. Here is a comparison:

Michael Crabtree 2016 Receiving
Game Game Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rush
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Ctch% Rush
2016 29 OAK WR 15 16 16 145 89 1003 11.3 8 56 5.6 62.7 61.4%
Care Care 111 108 861 521 6252 12.0 43 60 4.7 56.3 3
6 yr 6 yr SFO 79 77 570 347 4327 12.5 26 60 4.4 54.8 3
2 yr 2 yr OAK 32 31 291 174 1925 11.1 17 56 5.4 60.2
Amari Cooper 2016 Receiving 
Game Game Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Ctch%
2016* 22 OAK WR 89 16 14 132 83 1153 13.9 5 64 5.2 72.1 62.9%
Care Care 32 29 262 155 2223 14.3 11 68 4.8 69.5

So, aside from a slightly lower yardage total, Crabtree outperforms Cooper in all the other main areas. Now, obviously, Cooper is just one WR of many to compare him to. But I think it is a pretty telling example because they play on the same team and for the second year in a row he will go multiple rounds behind Amari Cooper.

Getting Crabtree in the fourth round becomes even more appealing when you consider that he is the 24th WR coming off the board, despite finishing 2016 as the 12th best fantasy WR. When I look at some of the receivers being drafted ahead of him this year, it only reinforces my opinion that he is one of the most undervalued WR’s in fantasy. Here are some WR’s that have higher ADP’s:

  • Tyreek Hill
  • Martavis Bryant
  • Alshon Jeffery
  • Sammy Watkins
  • Terrelle Pryor

I know, ADP’s aren’t a perfect science and Crabtree could easily be drafted in front of some of those WR’s, but the point is, if ANY of them are drafted ahead of Crabtree, it will be borderline criminal.

#3: Pierre Garcon (7.05 ADP)

Dec 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon (88) catches a pass as Chicago Bears cornerback Tracy Porter (21) defends during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Call me crazy, but if Jeremy Kerley can go for 64/667/3, Pierre Garcon can easily produce an 80/900/4 season. Especially now that he is reunited with new head coach, Kyle Shanahan. Garcon at age 30, is still in the prime of his career. He has some of the best hands in the NFL (only three dropped passes over the past three seasons). In addition he enters the 2017 season as the clear cut number one receiver on an offense that is going be playing from behind just about every game.

The main reason I have Garcon on this short list is that the upside he has this year to see a ridiculous amount of targets. In his only full season with Kyle Shanahan in Washington, Garcon led the NFL in targets with 184. I don’t know how realistic it is to expect him to repeat that total this season. However, 130-150 targets are well within range.

Lastly, I think the drop-off after Garcon in the 7th round at the WR position is pretty steep. Here is the next ten WR’s being drafted behind Garcon:

  • Jeremy Maclin
  • Devante Parker
  • Desean Jackson
  • Eric Decker
  • Randall Cobb
  • Cameron Meredith
  • John Brown
  • Corey Davis
  • Quincy Enunwa
  • Corey Coleman

When I look at that list, I am completely underwhelmed. After Garcon, the next ten WR’s being drafted either have little to no track record (Coleman, Davis, Enunwa, Meredith). Or have been consistently mediocre over the past few seasons (Jackson, Maclin, Cobb).

In the seventh round, Garcon might actually be the last true number one wide receiver on the board. That is why I think he is going be a steal in most drafts this season and clearly undervalued if his ADP turns out to be accurate.

– Jeff Carrier and Seth Lull are The NFL Talking Heads and they cover fantasy football for cover32. Like and follow on and Facebook.

 

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