Back in late July, as camps were opening and preseason action was on the horizon, I let you know 5 bargains you needed to capitalize on. Thankfully, other than Willie Snead, who’s playing behind Ted Ginn and giving some sketchy vibes, all of those previous names remain major discounts (Tyreek Hill, Doug Martin, Martavis Bryant and Hunter Henry).
Still, after a summer’s worth of news and game tape, some other “must-buys” have emerged — perhaps even juicier than many from before. Thus, we’ve released the most up-to-date, comprehensive (free) draft guide in the industry, and we’re here to preview it with six more can’t-miss bargains.
Just like when we’re haggling at a flea market or jumping for joy at a 2-for-$8 Ben & Jerry’s special, we want to feel the value we gain from a purchase equals or, better yet, exceeds the amount we gave up for it. As such, us fantasy football owners want the players who are going to outperform where we draft them and offer potentially huge profit returns, outscoring all others at a similar price point (draft range). That’s where knowing the market prices via FantasyPros ECR & ADP tools is crucial.
Before we dive into the players, one necessary investing and bargain hunting reminder: fantasy drafting is a tricky balancing act of getting the assets you want, while manipulating the prices that the market and experts have set. Even if I have, say, Eric Decker up at 53 overall, this does not mean take him this high if the market is underselling his value at 90. Make sure you secure him, yes, but take advantage of the insane deal and grab another few assets before he’s on other owners’ radars.
With this context and strategy in mind, let’s dive into the guys that are way too cheap and are thus offering huge value potential to your 2017 fantasy squads.
Note: These are the players going within the first 10 rounds, as we explore the 120+ ADP bargains in more depth later in our “Penny Stocks” section.
Note 2: Kareem Hunt anywhere inside Round 3 and beyond is now a tremendous steal. He’s such a wildcard ADP nowadays that it didn’t feel fair to include him and mislead people, but he is my number one target in Round 3 of drafts right now as Andy Reid‘s true workhorse — a voluminous role that’s yielded 19.5 PPR FPPG over Reid’s career. He’s flown up my Rankings, and needs to be treated like a low-end RB1, perhaps even ahead of Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook for redraft purposes (that debate is giving me nightmares).
Six Draft Day Bargains to Capitalize On
1) Devante Parker (WR – MIA)
My Rank: 46
ECR: 77 (-31)
ADP: 93 (-47)
Parker’s provided one of 2017s strongest hype trains, and I’m all-aboard with my life crammed into two suitcases and life savings (of ~$16.82) jammed in my pockets.
Before the preseason, voracious (and mildly arousing) OTA puff pieces had me at least considering a ticket to this show. His habits on and off the field are so improved! He’s sleeping, dieting and going 100% every play… and now dominating corners into submission! No one can stick with him, he’s taken the “next step” mentally and physically, and an enormous year is coming!
I was, of course, a bit hesitant, yet still intrigued to board. Then, the pads came on in camp, and the dominant reports continued pouring out. Next, gun-slinging Jay Cutler, who’s always preferred chucking to the big boy wideouts and letting them make plays, replaced the injured Ryan Tannehill. The snowball kept rolling as Cutler peppered Parker in his first Dolphins action with four targets, and then called his new toy a “faster Alshon,” a guy who caught 1421 yards and 1133 in back-to-back seasons with Cutler slinging him the rock. Choo Choo, I’ll add him the target list.
And then one play convinced me to shove all my chips in, and target Parker everywhere. Week 3 during the “Dress Rehearsal,” Parker went up and over a cornerback to haul in a contested 72-yard bomb. In these 10 seconds, I saw two crucial things:
1) Smokin’ Jay is still Smokin’ Jay, meaning he’s unafraid to let it loose up top to his big boys and let them go make plays.
2) Parker is actually ready to go up and make the big plays with him. All these “puff pieces” weren’t just puff, and Parker is truly ready to maximize his immense physical gifts(6’3”, 4.45 Forty, 36.5 Vertical).
In short, Parker’s finally putting it altogether on the field, and he now has the quarterback to help him unlock this maximum potential. This is a matter of all the stars aligning for a WR1 breakout, and the cost is after Round 7, minimizing the risk. Sign me up immediately.
2) Eric Decker (WR – TEN)
My Rank: 53
ECR: 90 (-37)
ADP: 92 (-39)
Reportedly dominating Training Camp and emerging as Marcus Mariota’s “go-to guy difficult situations,” Decker might be the quietest potential WR1 of 2017.
By all accounts, Decker has taken full advantage of Corey Davis’ hamstring related absence, forming a tremendous rapport with Mariota. He’s making one handed snags, dominating one-on-ones, and is already on the complete same page as his signal caller:
“A recipe of crisp timing, strong trust and cohesive understanding of the scheme is what all quarterback-receiver duos strive to lock down. Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and receiver Eric Decker are already excelling in those areas in their first month together.
The connection between Mariota and Decker has been apparent throughout training camp, but it hit an apex Friday night during a two-minute drill. Mariota found Decker over the middle for 15- to-20 yard completions on three consecutive third-down plays. One time, it appeared the defense knew where the ball was going on a third-and-long situation, but Mariota still squeezed it through tight coverage. It was a glimpse of what Titans fans could see on Sundays.
‘We see the game in the same way, like we have the same eyes,’ Decker said.”
Under-the-radar, this chemistry began bubbling weeks before training camp, as Mariota and Decker worked out for two weeks ahead of time. Head coach Mike Mularkey is impressed, stating:
“I think you see a trust between the two of them and rightfully so…They have had some time to work. They worked prior to training camp starting. Just in this week of practice, they’ve connected a lot of times. So yeah, there’s a chemistry there.”
The same report indicates how Decker’s been moving all around the formation, but has been especially dangerous out of the slot. Here, he’s been a nightmare in red zone drills, unsurprising since Decker is well-known as a red zone maven: only Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown, and Demaryius Thomas have scored more touchdowns since 2012, and that’s with Decker missing 13 games last season.
Which is a match made in heaven considering Mariota’s historic red zone efficiency. Via Scott Barrett:
“Throughout his career, when in the red zone, Mariota has completed 60 of his 94 (64 percent) pass attempts with 33 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Among all 52 quarterbacks with more than 10 red-zone pass attempts over this stretch, Mariota ranks fourth in completion percentage, first in touchdown percentage, and first in interception percentage.”
Sure, this offense is run-centric. This didn’t stop Rishard Matthews, perhaps half the talent of Decker, from scoring double-digit ½ PPR Points in 10 of his 12 games as a starter. Corey Davis’ eventual takeover is the only concern that genuinely worries me, as he’s a freak and capable of shouldering a passing attack.
But the missed time due to the hamstring will leave Davis with plenty of catch-up work to complete. In the meantime, Decker’s 80 catch, 1,000 yard, 10+ TD upside is going completely unnoticed.
In fact, he’s averaged 81.5 receptions for 1085 yards over his healthy seasons — which is essentially his whole career, as Decker had played in 92 of 96 possible games up until last season. Plus, this is the first time in his career that Decker’s been a true No.1 target. Perhaps we haven’t even seen his best yet.
The upside is astronomical. The floor feels quite high. And the price is a complete anamoly. Decker will be on every one of my fantasy teams in 2017. He should be for you too.
3) Zach Ertz (TE – PHI)
My Rank: 69
Expert Consensus: 86 (-17)
ADP: 95 (-26)
Zach Ertz was again Zach Ertz in 2016: a few flashes of brilliance to keep us all clinging to the dream, mixed in with mostly inconsistency and ineffectiveness. So why include him here?
Because his two brightest moments, Weeks 13 and 17, have one common trend: no Jordan Matthews. When Matthews was out and Ertz had the middle of the field to himself, the results were downright astounding: 31 targets, 22 receptions, 218 yards, and 3 TDs.
#Eagles Z.Ertz's 16 Game Pace w/o J.Matthews in the lineup (2016):
— Wolf of Roto Street (@RotoStreetWolf) August 15, 2017
Of course, Ertz can’t be expected to put up gaudy stats like this throughout all of 2017. Matthews may be gone, but Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith have arrived. Who knows exactly how Matthews’ targets will be split amongst these three?
Still, those absurd splits prove Ertz can be a week-winning difference maker, especially when he owns the higher-percentage looks in Doug Pederson’s methodical, quick strike attack. Beat writers already label him a “high volume receiver” in light of the news. This appeared very true during “Dress Rehearsal Week” where Ertz vacuumed in 3 balls for 44 yards in a half.
Simply put, Ertz is my must-have tight end target if I miss on Gronk or Reed early, or as an insurance policy for either of those two. He offers “Greg Olsen” type of upside at nearly a four round discount. Invest wisely.
4) Rob Kelley (RB – WAS)
My Value = 63
Experts Value = 94 (-31)
ADP Value: 86 (-23)
Clearly, it can’t get any less sexy than “Fat Rob,” right?
Though Kelley may not drip with the “first glance” appeal of some of the names above him, his price discount is arguably the sexiest on this entire list.
Consider this: Kelley’s 2016 per-start pace would’ve yielded 1068 yards and 11 TDs over a 16 game slate, and the “plodding” back outscored Jay Ajayi from the time he was named starter until the end of year. Unflashy? Sure. But productive, absolutely.
Originally, Samaje Perine was a valid excuse for Kelley’s price remaining low. Since the start of the preseason, however, Kelley has emphatically taken over this gig while Perine has been highly unimpressive. This was emphasized in the preseason “Dress Rehearsal,” as Kelley was the only back operating with the ones throughout the first half, looking flat out dominant in the process: 10 carries, 57 yards, and a TD while looking more slim and explosive than we’ve ever seen.
Unsurprisingly, Jay Gruden has endorsed Kelley as “the guy,” stating:
“Now he’s the guy, so it’s exciting to see how far he’s come in a short period of time…With that experience comes confidence. He’s more confident with every rep he takes. … Now it’s just natural to him. He can be a runner and he’s very gifted in that regard, finding holes and running through people.”
Additionally, his slimmed-down look makes sense, as Kelley himself trained rigorously to keep a stranglehold on the starting gig. Consequently, Kelley dropped his body fat from 18% down to 13% while also improving his receiving skills: “I feel more explosive, faster, getting in and out of cuts a little better,” Kelley said. “If you look at the league now all the running backs are catching the ball. If you want to be in the top tier, that’s what you have to do.”
This is a fantastic overall offense with a mammoth run-blocking line. Kelley carries legitimate 10+ TD upside, and could approach 1,000 yards if he is worked as extensively as this preseason. Yes, Kelley is a mediocre-at-best talent. Indeed, he has never handled a full load in his collegiate or professional career, and is a major risk to break down.
Still, this situation creates high-end RB2 upside, especially with Perine’s threat erased. That type of sneaky ceiling, and pretty high floor, doesn’t belong in Round 9. Kelley will be 2017’s Isaiah Crowell with health.
5) DeSean Jackson (WR – TB)
My Value = 57
Experts Value = 81 (-24)
ADP Value: 88 (-31)
Fresh off another 1,000 yard season in which he led the league in Yards per Catch (17.9), Jackson remains the league’s premier deep ball artist. Conveniently, he joins Dirk Koetter’s “Four Verticals” offensive scheme that is all about long-developing “chunk plays” like deep posts, flags, and go routes with which Jackson thrives.
As OC Todd Monken stated when hired last year:
“How can we be explosive? That’s what the game is about, man. People like big plays. I like big plays. So how do we figure out how to get big plays? In football trick plays are fun. I mean, what isn’t fun about explosive plays and throwing it down the field and guys making plays?”
This big-play scheme, combined with Jameis Winston’s strong-arm and willingness to chuck deep, meshes Jackson like a glove. Another season of the deep ball wizardry that can swing owners a win should be fully in play for Jackson.
Yet, the ceiling doesn’t end here. As explored (way back in early April) with Bucs Insider Trevor Sikkemma on ‘The Fantasy Fullback Dive,’ Jackson spent OTAs lining up all over the place, and could be used more creatively and extensively than ever before: “They’ve had him running out of the slot, trip wide receiver sets, even out of the backfield a little bit.”
Sikkema also noted that Jackson was the team’s top free agent target, by far, and they absolutely plan to maximize his usage. Moreover in camp, Jackson has been particularly (and surprisingly) impressive in red zone drills, where he’s “putting on a show” thanks to insane acrobatics and toe-tapping end zone snags. Clearly, the team is manufacturing touches for their new toy, and an added TD ceiling makes Jackson even more attractive at his price.
With even more looks beyond the “go-routes,” especially in the red zone, Jackson could add some floor to his usual “boom-or-bust” ways. Currently going as an early 8th round investment, Jackson is the ideal WR3 coated in a top bench player price.
6) James White (RB – NE)
My Value = 73
Experts Value = 117 (-41)
ADP Value: 134 (-61)
White’s clearly the most discounted name on this list, which is especially true in light of Julian Edelman’s season-ending injury. He could move into the slot while sharing the backfield, and should see his receiving usage increase far more regardless
And yet, he can be found well beyond Round 10, which is completely embarrassing. Did America miss Super Bowl 51, arguably the greatest game ever played? And White’s heroic 139 total yards, 14 catches, and 3 TDs apparently never happened?
Of course, that moment will almost assuredly go down as the highlight of White’s career, and he won’t put up stats even close to this in a more-crowded Patriots backfield and overall offense.
Still, according to Patriots Insider Ryan Hannable on our Podcast, this epic performance did secure Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s trust, and thus the ever-valuable Patriots third down back role for White: “He is gonna be the third down back, he’s gonna catch a lot of passes out of the backfield… those PPR leagues, he’s gonna be great for because he’s a big part of their third down offense.”
This jives with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, who added:
“He’s won over Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and Co., with his steadiness and continued improvement, elevating from a player who was inactive in Super Bowl XLIX to becoming unquestionably the Patriots’ go-to guy in the all-important “passing back” role. White played 30 snaps as a rookie in 2014; upped it to 290 in 2015; and played 425 last season… Because of how often the Patriots throw the ball, the “passing back” role is vital, with Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen among those who have played it well over the years. White…has now seized the spot with authority.”
This “trust seizing” is even more important with Edelman, Brady’s most relied upon receiver, now out of the line up. White’s dependability should leave him a massive share of these opened up looks. 65-70 receptions are totally reasonable, and White is now my RB30 and 73rd overall player, ahead of Theo Riddick and Danny Woodhead, among others.
Yes, the backfield is crowded. This does not excuse a key cog in one of the league’s most explosive offenses, who’s now slated for an even more prominent role, being treated like being a fantasy bench afterthought. Capitalize, and yield a dependable flex RB while others are sifting through garbage.
Honorable Mentions (My Rank / ECR / ADP)
Kelvin Benjamin (WR – CAR) (40 / 64 / 54): My how a month makes a difference — Benjamin was “featured” on our Overpriced Players to Avoid piece only a few weeks ago. But only stubborn fantasy fools ignore evidence that suggests they were wrong, and Benjamin has looked far slimmed down and much more explosive this preseason. The on-field results were even more impressive than the improved body shape: 6 catches, 76 yards, and 2 TDs in about three quarters of preseason work. He’s been catching jump ball fades, showing beastly run-after-the-catch abilities, and overall seems far more like a breakout than a bust at this point. Capitalize on owners still remembering “Fat” Kelvin’s form.
Mike Gillislee (RB – NE) (49 / 72 / 66): Gillislee had been one of the major fallers this summer, largely in part to a hamstring injury that saw him miss nearly 3 weeks of action. That changed emphatically during his Week 3 debut, where Gillislee was not only the main back on all 3 short yardage opportunities (goal line TD, 2 point conversion, and a 3rd-and-1), but he executed all three touches flawlessly. Locking down this role is crucial, as Gillislee could fall into 15+ TDs like LeGarette Blount did last season. Plus, the upside for some rushing yardage was also evident as Gillislee ripped through the defense on an explosive 27 yard scamper. He could legitimately yield RB1 numbers with enough carries. Rex Burkhead was out during this debut, but Gillislee showed everything needed to secure that ever-valuable Big Back role. TDs. His 12+ TD upside has never felt realer, and he’s a steal in the 7th right now.
Bilal Powell (RB – NYJ) (48 / 56 / 59): Many are probably dismissing Powell because of his horrendous surrounding situation, and I admittedly did the same at first. Upon reflection however, and especially in light of Quincy Enunwa‘s injury, who else is this team going to use? They will constantly be down and needing to throw, Josh McCown loves a good dump off, and Powell is truly a threat for 7-8 catches per game, whether Matt Forte plays or not. Speaking of the aging vet, he missed most of camp with hamstring woes, and Powell should have no job cementing himself as a 60% snap player, especially considering the game-flow. He dominated when afforded looks last year, being outscored by only Le’Veon Bell and Aaron Rodgers during Weeks 13-17. This game changing ability seen with his 4 catches and 115 receiving yards in the “Dress Rehearsal” game last week. Powell might be THE highest upside back flying under radars right now, as owners (like myself previously) view his horrendous team as a negative fantasy-wise, instead of the positive it very well could be.
Larry Fitzgerald (WR – ARI) (41 / 44 / 58): Though the experts and I agree on Fitzgerald’s value, the general public seems to be forgetting about this crafty vet. Since moving into the slot under Bruce Arians, Fitzgerald has been reborn, finishing as the
7th and 10th PPR receiver while recording his two career highs in catches (109 and 107). Moreover, age isn’t a real concern here, as nobody stays in shape quite like Fitz. Yes, we need to remember his late-season slumps — Fitz finished with double digit 1/2
PPR points only twice in his final 7 games (one of which was a meaningless Week 17), but he also lacked a healthy John Brown to take away attention. This could be his final hurrah, and you better believe Fitz will make it memorable
Theo Riddick (74 / 91 / 101): The picture of a “Blue Chip” prospect, Riddick has no initial “sex appeal” as a fantasy prospect. Yet, when you break his “Stock Score” down, Riddick’s revealed to be one of the better investments and values at the position: he’s a fantastic pass-catcher that’s used extensively in Jim Bob Cooter’s dump-off, quick strike attack, and is now playing behind a vastly improved offensive line. He’s an RB2 / Flex investment that won’t get ohhs and ahhs, but will leave you smiling come season’s end. Don’t forget – Riddick had his best game while sharing duties with Ameer Abdullah in Week One: 12 touches (5 receptions), 108 yards, 2 TDs (one receiving). Cooter’s system runs through chunk receptions to RBs. Additionally, reports suggest Riddick, who caught five Red Zone TDs in 2016, will be even more heavily involved around the stripe in 2017. This makes perfect sense with Anquan Boldin‘s 22 RZ Targets now up for grabs. The floor is very high, and the ceiling is completely ignored.
Adrian Peterson (58 / 82 / 66): I know, I know, it’s only been practice. But the buzz surrounding Peterson’s performance, from teammates and coaches alike, make it hard to keep him any lower. At this stage and cost — especially the 82 ECR — AP’s insane upside is worth more than those below him, even if the floor is far lower. He’s going to have plenty of goal-line capping chances in one of the league’s best offenses, at minimum, and AP should approach at least 200 carries as well. A talent this historic, and a personality this motivated, should never be counted out… especially when he gets a Week 1 “Revenge Game” versus Minnesota (what if he rips off 150 and 2 TDs and never looks back?!) The ceiling is clearly there, and the price minimizes the risk. I’m in.
This wraps up our Updated Bargains List. For even more current and in-depth takes, such as new Overpriced Avoids and Penny Stocks at all positions, be sure to check out our (free) Fantasy Football Investing Guide: Draft Day Edition. And never go into draft day battle with stale rankings, as we update ours in real time (thanks to FantasyPros excellent platform) right here. Bookmark and destroy!