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Hungry For Drafting

The 2016 season is now well behind us, leaving fantasy enthusiasts hitting the fast-forward button to the 2017 season. For those of you who indulge in dynasty leagues, you’re able to continue with preparation for rookie drafts/dynasty start-ups as the combine, upcoming pro days, and NFL Draft takes place. You take part in DFS, but aren’t comfortable enough with NBA, Nascar, MLB, etc. to put money into the pot? That’s okay because there is another way for you to satisfy your fantasy cravings. MFL10s opened up for business and have been taking place for a few weeks. Wait, huh? What is an MFL10? @Mike TagliereNFL, recent addition to the FantasyPros team, wrote a great piece going over exactly what an MFL10 is. Check it out here to get an understanding of what you’ll be dealing with before you sign up.

Now that you’re well-versed in the basics of roster construction, scoring and general do’s and don’ts, we can begin to look at some of the guys that off initial ADP, are being undervalued at their current draft cost. Obviously, this early look into the MFL season there are an incredible amount of unknowns, especially prior to free agency and the NFL Draft. The ADP will no doubt change drastically for a number of players throughout the offseason. For this article, I’ll be using @FantasyADHD’s awesome MFL10 ADP app housed at FantasyADHD.

Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor MFL10

Tyrod Taylor

I’m not sure what this guy has to do to get respect from the fantasy community. After a breakout 2015 season, I went into last year loving the value of Tyrod, despite a one-year sample size of awesome. Tyrod’s ADP from MFL public leagues in 2016 was QB16 (140.2), which after finishing as the QB8 in scoring, would lead one to assume we’d see at least a small bump for him in early drafts for 2017. Surprisingly, his ADP remains unchanged in early-2017 MFL10 ADP (currently 139.9 – QB18).

Could it be that both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin have left in free agency to the NFC West? Most certainly not. I’m sure Bills fan are writhing in pain due to their departures. Andre Holmes was added over the past few days, but had fallen to number four on the depth chart behind Cooper, Crabtree, and Roberts. Plain and simple, most just don’t realize Taylor’s consistency even without an arsenal worth mentioning outside of his oft-injured top wideout. Taylor finished 10th in quarterback points per game and finished with only three sub-15 point weeks in 2016. That’s half as many as Derek Carr’s six and two fewer than Marcus Mariota and Cam Newton, all of whom are going in the top 10 of quarterback ADP.

I’m not saying draft Tyrod ahead of that threesome because obviously, their weekly ceiling is much higher. I am saying, however, that if you’re employing a late-round group of quarterbacks or simply need a solid QB2, he’s your guy.

Philip Rivers MFL10

 Philip Rivers

2016 was a nightmare season for Rivers. The yearly theme for the Chargers seems to be injuries galore. Stevie Johnson tore his meniscus in prior to the preseason, Keenan Allen went down with an ACL tear in week one, and Danny Woodhead lost his season the following week. Outside of center Matt Slauson the Chargers offensive line was a total disaster, allowing 36 sacks, top ten in the league. Rivers led the league in turnovers with 35, and the Chargers slipped away into the cellar in arguably the best division in football.

There were some positives to their train wreck of a season, however. Tyrell Williams emerged as a viable WR2 by posting a breakout 1,000-yard season. Rookie TE Hunter Henry tied Kyle Rudolph for the league lead in touchdown receptions with eight on only 47 targets. His weapons will need to remain healthy for Rivers to outproduce his ADP. The addition of OT Russell Okung, though not as effective as he was in Seattle, will be an upgrade over King Dunlap. It would be wise for the Chargers to make an addition to fill the role of Danny Woodhead, regardless of Gordon’s improvement in the passing game.

Rewind to 2015. Rivers posted QB8 numbers while being taken as QB14. This year, it looks as if people have written Rivers off due to his turnover-laden 2016 season. He is currently going as QB15 (127.4). If Rivers is able to cut down on his turnovers and still produce his average stat line over the past four seasons (31 TD / 4,486 PaYds), you’re looking at a top 10 quarterback. I’m buying that up before people realize he’s still good.

Running Backs

Forte Powell MFL10

Bilal Powell/Matt Forte

How would you dissect the NYJ ground attack in MFL10s? 

The Jets quickly ran Matt Forte into the ground over the first half of 2016 by giving him 157 rushing attempts over the first eight games, nearly 20 per game. I’ve identified Forte as an undervalued running back in MFL10s because his age and injury issues are being factored into his ADP (RB43 – 124.07). A bit too much in my opinion. Unless the Jets are willing to rock a hefty $6M in dead money, it’s near certain he’ll be back to at least split work in NY’s backfield for another year, barring an early round RB selection in the draft. He ranked fifth in running back scoring through the first 10 weeks, but obviously, his season was chopped due to injury over the majority of the second half of the season. As with all running backs, Forte’s health will play the largest role in whether he ends up being a value. Then we have his counterpart.

ProFootballFocus’ seventh-highest graded running back from 2016, Powell comes into the year in a very similar situation as last year. A complementary piece over the first half of the year, Powell finished out the final nine weeks (eight games) of 2016 as the 10th-highest scoring running back (123.0 pts) in MFL10s. Powell’s 5.5 yards per carry average and 58 receptions ranked him fourth among running backs in both categories. It’s no surprise that 70.5% of Powell’s fantasy production came in the second half of the season once Forte began to break down.

At 28 years old, I’m far more willing to take a stab at Powell only a couple rounds earlier. Powell was far more effective in his opportunities, and when you consider Forte’s age and injury history, Powell could be thrust into an incredibly large role if Forte were to go down. Over the final four weeks of the season, with Forte battling injury (2 of 4 GP), Powell averaged 25.75 touches, 6.63 yards per touch, and three total touchdowns. That’s good for RB7 during that time. I’m not even worried about Forte being in the mix when considering Powell’s cost. Even over the first half of the season, Powell was still able to toss in four weeks with double-digit PPR points as a role player. At his eighth round cost, he’s one of the better options on the table at that point if you decide to forego running back in the early rounds.

Isaiah Crowell MFL10

Isaiah Crowell

One of the obvious winners of free agency, Crowell comes in as the RB21 in MFL10 ADP (61.76). It was obvious going in that the Browns were going to have to drop some cash going in with over $100M in salary cap space. They did just that by adding Cincinnati OG Kevin Zeitler (PFF’s #7 guard) and Green Bay’s OC J.C. Tretter (PFF’s #9 center) to big deals. Additionally, they locked up No. 16 ranked LG Joel Bitonio to a massive extension. There’s no doubt that these moves indicate the Browns want to be able to control the line of scrimmage on offense, lean on the running game, and keep the defense off the field. They have just the guy to take care of business on early downs.

Crowell’s RB14 finish after being a complete steal in drafts last year has definitely inflated his price into a more real range for his likely outcomes for this season. Even so, at RB21 his price has yet to get out of control after the slew of signings along the offensive line. His ADP will definitely climb, probably into the fourth, maybe even the third round of drafts in the coming months. That’s why for the time being I’ll be snatching Crowell every chance I can in the fifth, or even sixth round.

Crowell has proven that he can be productive even with sub-par quarterback play and the second-worst offense in points per drive. The Browns were also in a negative game script in 12 of 16 games in 2016 (per Football Perspective), which can’t get much worse. If Cleveland is able to put together a more efficient team on both sides of the ball, Crowell’s situation could end up being far better than it appears on the surface. All of this obviously depends on whether Cleveland hits running back early in the draft or if a team acts on Crowell’s restricted free agent tender and offers him a deal. Fingers crossed.

Wide Receivers

Michael Crabtree MFL10

Michael Crabtree

 MFL10’s ninth-highest scoring wide receiver from 2016 (229.6 pts), Crabtree continues to be one of the most underrated wide receivers in fantasy football. Why is that? The adoration for Amari Cooper. At nearly 23, there’s no denying Cooper is an awesome, young talent. Unlike some young receivers, he has the opportunity to go through the growth process with a young talented quarterback in Derek Carr. That connection will continue to grow, but it’s time to face the facts about Oakland’s production at the receiver position. It’s entirely a 1a/1b situation as seen below.

wdt_ID Player G TARG REC RecYds TD RZ TARG (inside 10) G of 15+ pts
1 Cooper (2015) 16 130 72 1,070 6 0 6
2 Crabtree (2015) 16 146 85 1,022 9 6 6
3 Cooper (2016) 16 132 83 1,153 5 7 5
4 Crabtree (2016) 16 145 89 1,003 8 8 9

Crabtree ADP MFL10

Cooper is the WR8 (14.42) in MFL10 ADP up to this point, while Crabtree is coming off the board as WR23 (43.44). In an offense that funnels 130+ targets to both receivers, why not just wait for Crabtree two and a half rounds later? It’s encouraging that Cooper finally became involved near the goal line with seven targets inside the 10-yard line. Unfortunately, however, he hauled in zero of those opportunities for touchdowns. Though Cooper’s got the edge in yards per reception (13.9-11.3) and plays of 20-plus yards (21-10), I’m not looking to chase a guy that was 3rd on his team in red zone looks inside the 10-yard line (Crabtree – 8; Roberts – 8). Crabtree’s consistency is what I’m looking for in the 4th round of early-MFL10 drafts (Nine weeks of 15+ FPs). Guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Julian Edelman, and Donte Moncrief are going right around Crabtree in ADP at the moment. All have their concerns for different reasons, which is why I’ll be targeting Crabtree as my WR2/WR3 in drafts, until others realize what a value he is at that stage of the draft.

Adam Thielen

Adam Thielen MFL10

Coming off a 2016 breakout campaign, Thielen comes in as one of the best early-MFL10 value picks at the wide receiver position (WR54 – 120.22). Though the Vikings offense is one of the least imposing units in the league, Thielen was able to put together a very productive year, by posting top-10 numbers in various categories in Player Profiler’s efficiency metrics. Thielen was able to overcome his lack of opportunity (92 targets – 15.7% target share) by having the fifth-best catch rate (75%), and only dropping one target along the way. Though entirely different players and in completely different situations, Thielen’s efficiency level looks extremely similar across the board to Doug Baldwin’s. He too ranked in the top-five in catch rate (75.2% – 4th), but received 33 more targets and is the top option in a more explosive offense.

Prospective Thielen owners can breathe a sigh of relief that interest in Alshon Jeffery never materialized and that Minnesota committed to Thielen by signing him to a three-year contract extension. It has essentially been the perfect offseason scenario for Thielen to remain in the shadows. Finding an extremely solid contributor to your MFL10 squad in the ninth or 10th round goes a long way toward having a successful win rate. Scoop him up now before anyone else gets the memo.

Tight Ends

Kyle Rudolph MFL10

Kyle Rudolph

Another Viking? That’s right. As with any Sam Bradford-led team, the pass catching options automatically fall victim to the stigma that fantasy production will be minimalized. Though partially true, Rudolph is still the 10th tight end being selected in MFL10 drafts, outside of the overall top 100 (103.46).

On a team with limited red zone threats, Rudolph fits the description of a guy at the position that combines red zone prowess and target share. Since 2011, Kyle Rudolph is sixth in tight end touchdowns with 29, despite having multiple seasons cut short due to injuries. In 2016, Rudolph led all tight ends with 132 targets (8.3/pg), 10 of which came inside the 10-yard line, tops in the league at the position. This usage and reliance in the red zone propelled Rudolph to finish with the most 10 point-plus scoring weeks among tight ends with 11. Similarly to many of the top tight end options, health will be the biggest concern for Rudolph’s upcoming season.

Zach Miller MFL10

Zach Miller

Deep into early MFL10 drafts, you’ll find Zach Miller. His current TE29 price (199.48) is beyond ridiculous. Yes, he’s never played a full season in his career and is coming off a Lisfranc fracture in his foot. He’s also 33. The Bears also signed Dion Sims to a sizeable contract (3yr-$18M), though he doesn’t pose much of a threat to snake targets. Mike Glennon, enough said. All red flags. There are some things to be hopeful about, however.

Through week 11 last season, Miller was the eighth-highest scoring tight end, while putting up 10-plus fantasy point weeks in 50 percent of his games played. 153 targets are vacated between Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Marquess Wilson’s departures. Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were added in free agency to go along with the young duo of Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, so it’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out.

Miller averaged the 10th-most targets per game (6.4) among tight ends leading up to his injury. That’d be hitting the century mark over a whole season, so I’ll be chasing the potential targets that late in drafts. It would be wise for the Bears to address the position in the draft, so keep an eye out to see if they mix in a young athletic tight end with Miller nearing his end. Until that happens, I’m more than willing to invest a few really late picks on Miller as my TE3.

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I have been playing fantasy football since 2000 along with many other fantasy sports. I have a warm place in my heart for 2QB/SuperFlex formats.

I’m always available to chat football or answer any questions fantasy related. Follow @JeffDonovan_WA to send any questions, comments, or concerns my way.

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