Everyone loves to discuss fantasy lottery tickets. Regardless of how confident you are in your late round mining abilities, there is a strong likelihood that some of the picks you make will simply implode on your bench and not pan out. To put it simply: it’s hard to nail picks in the late rounds.
It’s easy to say this in hindsight, but Justin Hunter and Hakeem Nicks were drafted ahead of both DeAndre Hopkins and Jonathan Stewart last year. Even though we are looking backwards, that example further proves the variance and booms-and-busts available in the later portions of drafts. We’re going to get things wrong across the board, especially in the 10th round and later in drafts.
With all of that said, let’s identify five running backs, wide receivers, or tight ends in the AFC that may be currently undervalued according to average draft position. All ADP data is from Fantasy Football Calculator.
Editor's Note: For updated rankings, projections, exclusive columns, mock drafts and more, check out the Rotoworld Draft Guide.
Delanie Walker (ADP: Early-10th round)
Investing in the Titans’ passing offense may not win you a fantasy league this year, but Walker is a pretty clear value for those who are unwilling to spend significant re-draft capital at tight end this year.
Walker saw 106 targets last year, good enough for fifth most among tight ends in the league. He also had just one game with less than four targets and subsequently caught 3 or more balls in 13-of-15 active games. That production rolled up into a floor of eight sneakily usable top-12 PPR weeks. Granted, he’ll play with a rookie quarterback this year, but it’s really hard not to like him at his rather affordable TE10 price.
Eric Decker (ADP: Late-10th round)
It seems like Eric Decker shows up on “undervalued” lists every year.
In fairness, Brandon Marshall may cannibalize the Jets’ targets in some games this year but it’s still easy to get on board with Decker this year. It’s also just as easy to believe that the Jets’ offense may not be very good again in 2015. The latter analysis is a mistake.
For some background, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 12 starts last year helped support DeAndre Hopkins’ WR14 finish and kept Andre Johnson semi-relevant in Houston (WR28). In 2013 Fitzpatrick started 11 games with the Titans and aided a WR20 finish from Kendall Wright. The prior year, Fitzpatrick started all 16 games in Buffalo and Steve Johnson finished as the WR18.
Fitzpatrick isn’t a “franchise” quarterback and the Jets’ offense likely won’t be a juggernaut, but for all fantasy intents and purposes Fitz’s recent history has been fairly favorable for his wide receivers. Plus, Decker has shown he can overcome poor situations. Despite an anemic offense that finished 27th in points per drive and nursing a nagging hamstring injury, Eric Decker still finished as the WR27 in per-game PPR output last year. He can easily beat his laughable WR47 ADP.
DeVante Parker (ADP: Late-11th round)
I’m fully aware Parker is a rookie coming off of a major foot injury that required surgery for screw maintenance back in June. I’m also not sure what the Dolphins’ starting wide receivers are going to look like outside of slot-man Jarvis Landry. Kenny Stills has been battling a calf injury and is reportedly “not impressing” the Dolphins thus far in camp. That leaves Stills, soon-to-be 32-year-old veteran Greg Jennings, and Rishard Matthews as the outside wide receivers at the moment. I like Parker’s chances.
So not only does Parker not have as much competition on the depth chart as perceived, he’s also walking into a heap of opportunity. With the departures of Mike Wallace, Charles Clay, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson, Miami has a 313 target void in their offense. Recent additions Jordan Cameron and the aforementioned Jennings and Stills will surely see their fair share of the target pie, but if Parker is comfortable on his foot come Week 1 he may be the Dolphins WR to own beyond Jarvis Landry. Parker has perfect upside at WR51.
Roy Helu (ADP: Late-13th round)
Per our own Rich Hribar, Oakland trailed a league leading 69.18% of the time in their contests last year. That lack of positive game script can change for the better in 2015, but when teams are down they’re simply forced to throw more. That can only bode well for the Raiders’ projected passing down back, Roy Helu.
Helu caught 42 balls in Washington last year, led all 55 qualified backs in yards after catch per reception (11.7) and tied Marshawn Lynch for the most forced tackles per touch (0.32) in 2014. Now in Oakland, Helu will play second fiddle to Latavius Murray to start the season but could see an increased role as a mainstay in the pass game if Oakland does indeed end up trailing a lot again in 2014.
Dwayne Bowe (ADP: Undrafted)
Drafting a Browns’ player in fantasy football is like sleeping with socks on. It’s uncomfortable and it will likely keep you up all night. Alas, Bowe is the default No. 1 receiver on a team that is starving for any semblance of pass catching talent.
Bowe is the quintessential definition of dirt cheap targets. He’s going undrafted in fantasy on a team that 5-foot-7-inch Andrew Hawkins led in targets in 2014 (112) and is missing 168 targets from Jordan Cameron and Miles Austin’s departure plus Josh Gordon’s absence. Bowe turns 31 in September, his best years are behind him and Josh McCown is his quarterback, but he should at least have an ADP inside of the top-190 players.