When it comes to draft time for fantasy football, there’s no secrets anymore. There’s so much coverage, everyone is a “sleeper” and the old strategy of taking an unknown or overlooked later in the draft who can win you a league isn’t as viable a strategy. Odds are those who you’re drafting with know your sleeper just as well or better than you do. How to combat that can come from little inefficiencies throughout the draft. There’s some values to be had on the board when looking at average draft position (ADP). So let’s look at a couple players with a chance to outperform their draft position for the upcoming season.
ADP taken from Fantasy Football Calculator based on PPR leagues.
Christian McCaffrey, CAR - ADP: 2.05, RB11
Last season Christian McCaffrey finished the year as RB14 with 117 rushing attempts and 80 receptions, just 12.3 touches per game. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said they want to get the second-year back 25-30 touches per game. There’s just about no way that’s going to happen, but the Panthers wanting to get McCaffrey more involved overall is good sign. Just getting even 175 carries and keeping those 80 receptions would get McCaffrey to 16 touches per game, which could even be on the conservative side. A season in the 18-20 touch per game range could make McCaffrey an elite option, especially in PPR leagues. McCaffrey could also be in line for more work around the goal line. Last year McCaffrey had a total of 12 carries inside the 20, along with 11 receptions. Teammate Jonathan Stewart had more carries than that (18) inside the 10 alone. More touches near the end zone should mean more trips to it, which means more fantasy points for the running back.
Chris Thompson, WAS - ADP: 7.04, RB31
Injuries are an unfortunate part of football and when they happen at the skill positions it effects fantasy. Derrius Guice’s torn ACL is unfortunate and it leaves a massive hole in Washington’s plans at running back. Before Chris Thompson broke his leg last season, Washington’s coaching staff had a frustratingly stubborn view of Thompson’s role as a receiving back only. They might not have a choice to get Thompson more involved this season once he returns to full health. He’s currently being drafted now (RB31) at the place he finished last season with just 10 games played. Thompson is also with a quarterback a little more apt to dump it to the running back when nothing is available down the field.
Robby Anderson, NYJ - ADP: 8.01, WR36
Robby Anderson won’t strike many people as one of the league’s relied upon receivers, but that’s what he was for the New York Jets last season and should continue to be this year. For as much as the Jets tried to improve this offseason, wide receiver wasn’t a place they brought in many new faces. Terrelle Pryor is the only addition and it’s unclear what he’ll bring to the table. That should keep the path clear for Anderson to be the top target with a better quarterback. Last season Anderson was seventh among all wide receivers in his team’s percentage of targeted air yards, per Next Gen Stats. High volume while getting targeted down the field is an excellent recipe for production. Here’s the wide receivers who were targeted at least 100 times, with 35 percent or more of his team’s air yards, and an average depth of target of at least 12: Julio Jones, A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, and Robby Anderson. There’s plenty in place for Anderson to improve on his 2017 season, when he finished as WR16.
Kenny Stills, MIA - 11.04, WR51
Every season Devante Parker is the Miami Dolphins receiver expected to break out, but every season Kenny Stills outperforms him. With Jarvis Landry gone, and Parker not even getting the usual training camp hype, Stills could be a poor man’s version of Robby Anderson in the Miami offense. If we drop our parameters in the Anderson section to at least 30 percent of team air yards, we get a big group addition of Marvin Jones, Devin Funchess, Brandin Cooks, Alshon Jeffery, Marquise Goodwin, Mike Evans, Mike Wallace, and Stills. All of those players, except for Wallace, are being drafted ahead of Stills, who was WR26 last season while catching passes from Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, and David Fales. Miami also had one of the league’s worst defenses last season — 28th by DVOA — and if that continues, the offense could be on the field whole facing deficits and could be forced to throw the ball, which will help with passing volume.
David Njoku, CLE - 10.07, TE11
Any Giants fans who watched the preseason opener against the Browns saw what Njoku has the potential to do. He was perhaps the most impressive physical specimen in a tight end class historically full of them — one that also produced Evan Engram. Njoku was still incredibly raw in a football sense during his rookie season and tight end is a position notoriously difficult for first-year players — the average Approximate value for a rookie tight end is 2.1 since 2000, per pro-football reference. Compare that to 3.6 for rookie wide receivers. But tight ends take a big jump — up to 3.2 — in Year 2. Last season there were three tight ends with at least 60 targets who were targeted at least 10 yards down the field on average — Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, and Njoku. As the Browns roster stands right now, Njoku might be the most legitimate deep threat for the offense. His volume should increase exponentially from his rookie season and he has a chance to have top tier production with vastly improved quarterback play, regardless who starts.