Evan Silva

Draft Analysis

print article archives RSS

Identifying the Underrated

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We're too busy to bother much with intros today, but here goes. After studying ADP data and making projections, here are ten players I've found to be undervalued amongst fantasy leaguers, each to a different degree.

We'll start it off with a big name.

1. Raiders running back Darren McFadden

According to Gregg Rosenthal's Draft Guide Overvalued article, "a huge chunk" of Run DMC's 2010 production came in four games against "awful defenses." A look at McFadden's game logs reveals ten outings of at least 114 total yards. Adrian Peterson only had six, and McFadden missed three games. Sure, McFadden torched some bad defenses (Denver in particular), but he also had 127 yards and a score against San Diego's No. 4 run defense and gets a major boost from some of the best pass-catching skills among NFL running backs. I thought McFadden was headed for bust status through his first two seasons. But the light flipped on last year, and he's only going to get better as a ball carrier. He finished second in the NFL in running back fantasy points per game -- behind Arian Foster -- and is being undervalued in summer drafts. To me, he's a no-brainer top-seven overall fantasy pick.

Current Positional ADP: RB9

2. Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham

Manningham benefited from late-season injuries to Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks, but there wasn't a more valuable fantasy receiver during the final three weeks of last season. Though he ranked a modest 14th in pass targets during that span, Manningham's 59 standard-league fantasy points were 13 more than second-place finisher Jerome Simpson and 16 more than Mike Wallace in third. Mario won't overtake Nicks for the Giants' No. 1 receiver role, but he is a playmaker in the vertical passing game and separates downfield with ease. With Smith (microfracture surgery) potentially headed for PUP to open the year, Manningham will be an every-week fantasy starter.

Current Positional ADP: WR28

3. Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes

Holmes is well known to football fans as a former first-round pick and Super Bowl MVP, but he's never finished better than No. 15 among fantasy receivers. Some chalk that up to being "better in real life than fantasy," but there's reason to believe this is the year Holmes will put it all together. As the Jets' No. 1 priority in free agency, Holmes agreed to re-sign on Wednesday and will become a true target-hogging No. 1 wideout for the first time in his career. (He's had Hines Ward, a four-game suspension, and Braylon Edwards to deal with before.) While the Jets' offense won't suddenly become pass-heavy, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, and Hakeem Nicks have shown that run-minded offenses can support elite fantasy wideouts if enough pass targets are there. The Jets are going to make Holmes one of the richest receivers in NFL history, and expect him to produce like one.

Current Positional ADP: WR21

4. Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem

You might argue that Meachem already had his "breakout season" when he finished as the 22nd fantasy receiver in 2009. But this is a player with loads of untapped potential who looks primed for a bigger role. A downfield playmaker with exceptional hands, Meachem has averaged 16.33 yards per career catch while dropping only six of his 150-plus targets through four seasons. Marques Colston underwent offseason microfracture surgery, and is now coming off his fifth knee operation in five years. Slot man Lance Moore is a free agent, and Devery Henderson -- Meachem's usual rotation partner -- is the subject of cap casualty rumors. If Meachem gets his snap percentage to rise from 48.9 last year into the 65-75 percent range, he'll be an every-week fantasy play. The Saints must determine whether Meachem is worth a long-term commitment in his contract year.

Current Positional ADP: WR51

5. Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings

Jennings is the featured player in our annual Draft Guide Top Prospects breakdown. Bang it here for the full story on Jennings and the rest of this year's top deep sleepers.

Current Positional ADP: RB50

6. Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow

His legions of doubters will avoid Tebow in drafts, but the dual-threat quarterback offers an awful lot of fantasy upside for open-minded owners. No NFL player scored more fantasy points from Weeks 15-17 last season, when Tebow took over as the Broncos' starter with Kyle Orton injured. Tebow's best game came against Houston's hapless defense in Week 16, but he was similarly valuable against the league's Nos. 1 and 2 pass defenses (San Diego, Oakland), racking up five scores and 515 total yards (172 rushing) in those two games. Tebow may never be an accurate, efficient passer, but his entire game wreaks of aggressiveness. He'll be a threat for double-digit rushing TDs if he inherits the starting job from Orton, who may be traded as soon as this week.

Current Positional ADP: QB17

7. Titans tight end Jared Cook

Cook is another player highlighted in our Top Prospects column, so we'll keep it brief here. Just 24 years old, Cook possesses an athletic skill set similar to Jermichael Finley and was compared to Calvin Johnson by Steve Spurrier coming out of South Carolina. Playing just 56.2 percent of the Titans' offensive snaps in the final six games last season, Cook had at least 40 yards in five of them including a 5/96/1 line against the Chiefs in Week 16. New Tennessee offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has gone public with his plans to feature Cook, and he's an ideal TE2 pick this year. It certainly can't hurt that the Titans have added Matt Hasselbeck.

Current Positional ADP: Undrafted

8. Colts wide receiver Austin Collie

Collie led all receivers in fantasy scoring over the first six weeks of last season, and finished the year fifth among wideouts in points per game. During the first month and a half, Collie even played ahead of Pierre Garcon in three-receiver sets. His three concussions ultimately proved season-ending, but they've also made Collie's Average Draft Position quite reasonable for a receiver with top-ten fantasy upside at his position. He's Peyton Manning's favorite target deep in the red zone, and Reggie Wayne's slipping performance going on age 33 makes Collie a candidate to lead the Colts in receptions this season. It's a recipe for big-time success in such a pass-heavy offense.

Current Positional ADP: WR24

9. Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson

Nelson shared time with James Jones throughout the 2010 regular season, but clearly emerged from the rotation by year's end. Nelson's 69.1 snap percentage in Green Bay's last three playoff games was a career-high clip, and he missed just five snaps all game in the Packers' Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers. Nelson has already settled in as Green Bay's primary "Z" receiver, and his snap counts will be more consistent than ever with Jones set to leave in free agency. Still, Nelson is frequently lasting until the ninth and tenth rounds of 12-team drafts. For a player who has rock-solid WR3 written all over him, that's impressive value. Nelson can safely expect single teams on every play with Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley commanding double coverage.

Current Positional ADP: WR44

Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days

Video Center


    Beer's NBA 6-Pack: Wednesday
    Draft: Clemson

    Draft: Clemson's Grady Jarrett
    Norris on Winston

    Norris on Winston's Pro Day

    Pepsi's Frozen Five: Tuesday

    Beer's NBA 6-Pack: Monday
    Norris: Titans need Mariota

    Norris: Titans need Mariota

    Beer's NBA 6-Pack: Friday
    Stroup: NBA Waiver Options

    Stroup: NBA Waiver Options