Many people subscribe to the draft theory of “zigging” when others “zag”. While this is an effective strategy, I find it’s equally beneficial to understand the rankings that most people will be seeing on their screens come draft time. Because let’s face it, not everyone is going to make their own full rankings sheet, and most people are just going to look at the default rankings on the site hosting the league. This can be taken advantage of greatly, particularly in PPR leagues, which I tend to prefer. The standard rankings displayed apply to standard scoring leagues, naturally. This can lead to reception heavy players being underdrafted, and players who aren’t a threat in the passing game going far too high. I want to take a look at the players being underdrafted, because those of course are the players you want. I’m going to look at the default ESPN and Yahoo rankings, given that these are the two most common websites for fantasy football. I’m using the standard ESPN rankings, which are displayed during drafts, as well as the Yahoo standard rankings (but both sites have PPR ranks available in their early draft kit). Still, many drafters in PPR leagues will end up looking at these standard ranks come draft day, and these picks will take advantage of that.
ESPN Underdrafted Players
First of all, I will say I’m a huge fan of Allen this year, in all formats. But he was a top five WR in PPR formats before being knocked out for the season with a total fluke injury. I’m not saying he’s invincible, but a kidney isn’t something that will likely be re-injured. He was on pace for 134 catches and over 1400 yards before being injured. Philip Rivers is still a very good quarterback, who loves to throw Allen’s way. He was on pace to finish 4th in the league in targets, again prior to injury. ESPN has Allen ranked 31st, and is someone I would absolutely spend a 3rd rounder on in PPR formats. Getting him in the 25-30 range is a fantastic pick.
Bernard has been discussed on The Fantasy Authority, notably here. I’m a firm believer in Bernard as an RB2 or fringe RB1 in PPR formats. He’s practically a lock for 1000 combined yards, and is a strong candidate to see an uptick in his TD numbers, scoring just two last year after scoring 15 in the prior two years combined. With the futility of Jeremy Hill last year, Bernard could see an expanded role. But even if his role stays the same, he was top 10 in targets for running backs, and finished 16th in PPR points. ESPN currently has him off the board as the 33rd running back, which makes him a fantastic pick in PPR formats. I think 1200 yards and six touchdowns is a very reasonable expectation for Bernard.
Yahoo! Underdrafted Players
First off, let’s just remember this play from 2015. On a point per game basis, Lewis was fifth among all running backs in PPR scoring. Yes, the Brady suspension hurts him a bit. But Lewis averaged over five catches per game, and is outside the top 20 on Yahoo’s standard rankings (Those which will display on draft day). Even if Lewis regresses from his 2015 pace, he would still have to see a decrease of over four points per game to fall out of the top 20 based on last year’s top 20 running backs. If you’d rather not draft Lewis, he may even be a potential trade target if his numbers aren’t as good with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm.
Landry is ranked as the 26th WR on Yahoo, and the 57th overall player. He finished 9th in scoring among WR’s last year, and is somehow ranked behind Kelvin Benjamin. 110 catches is a fantastic number to see for PPR players. The emergence of Devante Parker will draw coverage off of Landry, and likely allow him to increase from his four touchdowns in 2015. With Rishard Matthews leaving Miami, some of those targets will go to Landry, offsetting the increase Parker will receive. Anyone getting 100+ catches is someone to take a strong look at in PPR settings, and as a fourth or fifth rounder, Landry is an excellent PPR target.
Overall, you don’t have to like or agree with the default website rankings. However, you do need to understand them, and pick out where you find value. If you have a player ranked much higher than the consensus, you don’t necessarily have to take them three or four rounds early. You just have to draft him enough before the standard ranks. This can backfire if someone beats you to a player you really like. But overall, it’s a strong strategy for maximizing value. Understanding what your competitors will see and think on draft day is a great way to make the most with every pick.