As the NFL offseason zooms along and free agency has hit the headlines, the NFL Draft looms on the horizon. Right now is time to capitalize on the ever shifting complexion of NFL offenses. Before the volume is turned back up on players and situations to target in fantasy football there are values to be had. The best way to do so is to start drafting best ball teams today! Underdog Fantasy (promo code “FTN”) offers a fantastic and user-friendly platform with multiple tournament formats to choose from. Let’s discuss some players whose ADP doesn’t reflect changes that have occurred this offseason or in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Cam Newton’s draft position is criminal. Newton’s numbers last season on multiple levels display a quarterback that is definitely not washed. Although it’s an incredibly small sample before Newton missed time last year due to COVID-19, he and the Patriots’ offense were starting to hum. In Weeks 1-3, Newton was the 11th highest EPA per drop back passer (0.183), directing a New England offense that ranked sixth in EPA per play (0.178). After Newton’s return, these numbers dropped to 29th for Newton and 25th for the offense overall.
The additions of Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith all raise the floor and ceiling for a passer that showed he still had it in 2020. Last season among 38 quarterbacks with 20 or more deep attempts, Newton ranked fifth in deep adjusted completion percentage (51.7%). Newton will still add plenty of equity with his legs inside an offense ranked second in red-zone rushing rate (69%) last year. Newton’s floor will still pay dividends at this draft position, and his ceiling is a top-five option at the position.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB24, Overall 159.3)
How quickly everyone forgets how good Ryan Fitzpatrick was as the Dolphins’ starter last season. In Weeks 1-6 before losing his starting spot to Tua Tagovailoa, Fitzpatrick was the QB12 in fantasy points per game (20.9). Fitzpatrick now gets an upgrade on multiple levels from last season’s environment. In Scott Turner’s system, Washington will utilize play-action passing more, perfect for the bearded football magician. Fitzpatrick ranked second in play-action completion percentage (76%) last season among 44 quarterbacks with 100 or more dropbacks. More plays and passing attempts are on the way for him, as last year Washington ranked 14th in neutral script pace and eighth in neutral script passing rate. Miami lagged in both of those categories, sitting at 25th in pace and 15th in neutral script passing. Add on top of this, throwing to Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Logan Thomas, Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic is far better than anything Miami could assemble.
Searching for running back upside
Najee Harris (RB20, Overall 33.8)
Many will stare at Najee Harris’s draft position and claim he’s already being overdrafted. This is false because if he’s selected in the first or even top of the second round of the NFL draft, he likely is catapulted up further. Harris is a mammoth of a man who can be a three-down back in the NFL. He proved last season at Alabama he can still succeed under a heavy workload as the focal point of an offensive attack. In 2020, he ranked 23rd (out of 56 running backs with 125 or more rushing attempts) in yards after contact per attempt. At this stage of the offseason, if you’re taking a chance on a rookie runner without a landing spot, pass game upside is a must. In his final collegiate season, Harris ranked 22nd (among 60 running backs with 20 or more targets) in yards per route run.
Javonte Williams (RB24, Overall 49.6)
As I discussed in his rookie prospect profile, Javonte Williams is a three-down workhorse with plenty of juice left in his legs for heavy volume at the NFL level. Williams runs with the unstoppable force of a tank while also displaying a soft set of hands in the passing game. If he is selected in the second round of the NFL draft, like Harris, his ADP could climb further. His pass blocking will also help to ensure that he never leaves the field. Williams can hit the ground as a volume monster in Week 1.
Chris Carson (RB25, Overall 53.4)
The injury stigma associated with Chris Carson has been overblown. Carson has missed a total of seven games over the last two seasons. He flashed his pass game upside to begin last year, performing as the RB6 in fantasy points per game in Weeks 1-5. The Seahawks brought him back on what is essentially a one-year deal. For Carson, the incentive is huge for his stay in Seattle to be longer, and for that to happen, he needs to have a banner season in 2021. Over the final five games of 2020, Carson was the RB24 in fantasy points per game, so he’s essentially being drafted at his floor right now. Even with Rashaad Penny back, Carson can still pay off on this draft spot.
Chase Edmonds (RB27, Overall 59.9)
With Kenyan Drake heading to the Raiders, Chase Edmonds stands alone atop the Cardinals’ running back depth chart. The combination of Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin, D.J. Foster, and Khalfani Muhammad shouldn’t strike fear in anyone’s heart. Could the Cardinals address the position in the draft? Sure, but outside of a back-selected inside the top two rounds, even a third or fourth-round running back would be a step behind Edmonds in the pecking order. Edmonds finished as the RB25 in total PPR points last season based solely on his passing game role. After running the sixth-most routes among running backs and finishing seventh in yards per touch last year, that job should be sewn up. With Edmonds picking up the slack on early downs, his ceiling is immense with workhorse usage in that range of outcomes.
Wide receivers that can outkick their coverage
Keenan Allen (WR9, Overall 29.7)
Last year before sustaining a hamstring injury in Week 14, Keenan Allen performed at a top-three fantasy wide receiver level. Allen may revisit this in 2021 with a full season of Justin Herbert under center. In Weeks 2-13, Allen was the WR3 in fantasy points per game (19.5, PPR). He was tied with DeAndre Hopkins for fourth in target share (28%) among all wide receivers during that stretch. In those 11 games, Allen also ranked third in yards after the catch (400) and first in receptions (86) among all receivers. Allen is a first-round-worthy draft pick that you can select in the third round.
Michael Thomas (WR10, Overall 29.8)
Michael Thomas faced injuries and underwhelming quarterback play in 2020. The injuries finally derailed his season for good after Week 14 with an injured reserve stint to close the season. The Saints quarterback position is unsettled entering 2021, but regardless of who is throwing him passes, his ceiling as a target vacuum still exists. In Weeks 11-14 with Taysom Hill under center, Thomas ranked first in target share (33%) and weighted opportunity (0.83). With Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook and a slew of defensive players getting axed for payroll reasons, this could create a perfect storm for Thomas. With diminished competition for targets around him, Thomas could be a target magnet. If the Saints defense takes a step back in 2021, Sean Payton could be forced to air it out more. This could coalesce into Thomas giving Davante Adams a run for his money as the top receiver in fantasy for 2021.
Will Fuller (WR35, Overall 73.5)
Before Will Fuller missed the remainder of the season due to a PED suspension, he was on a torrid pace as the Texans’ alpha. In Weeks 1-12, Fuller was on pace for 1,279 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns as the WR11 (PPR) in fantasy points per game. Fuller proved that the Texans’ faith in his ability to take up the mantle from DeAndre Hopkins, as Houston’s passing game spearhead wasn’t misplaced. Now, Fuller lands in Miami with the opportunity to take over as the unquestioned number one option. Fuller’s blazing speed, route running and separation skills offer Tua Tagovailoa a different type of receiver than he was accustomed to throwing to last year.
Brandin Cooks (WR39, Overall 83.1)
From one former Texan to a player still on Houston's roster. After Fuller was suspended, Brandin Cooks didn't miss a beat assuming the number one spot for the Texans. The Houston quarterback position bears watching all offseason, but regardless of who is tossing the passes, Cooks is likely to see massive volume. After Fuller's departure, Cooks was tied for 12th among wide receivers with a 28% target share. He was tied with A.J. Brown for seventh in weighted opportunity (0.70) among wide receivers over that same span. Cooks has shown us with multiple teams, quarterbacks and offensive schemes that he will still be productive despite all of the changes.
Late round tight end bargain hunting
Cole Kmet (TE20, Overall 161.5)
Yes, Jimmy Graham is still on the Bears’ roster, but Kmet showed us last year his role offers upside even if Graham remains. Last year, the Bears passed at the ninth highest rate (tied with Buffalo) inside the red zone (59%). Graham finished fifth in the NFL in red-zone targets (19) but down the stretch, Kmet cut into that role. In Weeks 12-17, Kmet saw four red-zone targets to Graham’s six. During that same stretch, Kmet saw his routes per drop back percentage increase to 67.3% (previously 22.6% Weeks 1-11). Kmet could ascend as the second receiving option in this passing offense with immense target upside especially if Graham is cut or further marginalized.
Gerald Everett (TE24, Overall 179.5)
Gerald Everett lands in Seattle, reuniting with his former tight ends coach in Shane Waldron (now Seattle’s offensive coordinator). Everett is a tackle-breaking machine in need of volume to show the league what he’s fully capable of. In 2020, Everett ranked 12th among all pass catchers in receptions per broken tackle (6.8). In the previous season, Everett was even more impressive in this metric, ranking second (4.1).
While Everett will never be discussed among the league’s best blocking tight ends, this matters little for our purposes in fantasy. When he’s on the field, he’ll be running routes for an offensive coordinator that made it a priority to reunite with him in his first go-around in directing an offense.
Derek has written for Fantasy Data, 4for4, Player Profiler, and as a co-author of the best selling Fantasy Football Black Book Series. His DFS, redraft, and dynasty takes have been projected to the masses with recurring guest roles on Sirius XM and DK Sweat. Born in Louisiana, he is a diehard Saints fan (Whodat). Derek now resides in Fort Worth, Texas, with his beautiful, football-loving wife and three kids.