As fantasy football players, we spend a large portion of our time researching players that are drafted in the first three or four rounds. There’s a constant stream of information flying at us throughout the month of August. Despite our very best efforts, we will over-analyze every preseason snap, training camp rep, and unofficial depth chart update. When it’s time to focus on draft day, we need to have success picking players in the middle and later rounds. In this series, we will breakdown the best fantasy football value picks on every NFL team.
Before we breakdown players in the AFC East and NFC East divisions, I wanted to briefly explain how I’ve determined the best fantasy football value picks. For the purpose of this article a “value player” is defined as having an ADP outside of the Top 25 for running back and wide receiver, outside of the top 12 for a quarterback and outside of the top 10 for a tight end. We will be using half PPR scoring with a default lineup (1QB, 2 WRs, 2 RBs, 1TE, 1Flex). The Fantasy Pros source will be used when referencing average draft position (ADP) in this series. Finally, each player in this series should show a significant return on your investment. You should be aiming to draft these players around their listed ADP, if not earlier (don’t be afraid to “get your guy”). A top 10-12 (TE/QB) or top 25 (RB/WR) finish in 2019 is well within the range of outcomes for these players given their opportunity, situation, talent profile, and so on.
New England Patriots – James White (65.3 ADP)
Currently being drafted as RB38, James White has cemented himself into his role within the Patriots offense. He’s a player that slips through the cracks every season and every season those who draft him reap the rewards. In White’s sophomore season (2015) he was RB19 in total targets (54) with an average of 3.4 targets per game. The next year, James White was RB4 in total targets (86) and his average jumped to 5.4 targets per game. In 2017, White saw a very small dip and finished as the RB9 in total targets (72).
Last year, the Patriots offense went through a big shift with what was essentially the loss of Rob Gronkowski. What did Bill Belichick do? He leaned on his satellite back. White finished the year with a whopping 123 total targets behind only Chrisitan McCaffery (124). Adding to that volume, the Patriots ran the ball on 45% of their plays (7th in the NFL) – compared to 40% in 2017 – and White saw 94 of the team’s 478 total rush attempts (about 6 attempts per game). It’s very clear that this Gronkless-Pats offense is going to rely heavily on their running backs. In a rare Patriots move, they spent draft capital to acquire Damien Harris with the 87th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. James White’s historical floor in this Patriots offense is rock solid – even with consistent yearly backfield competition – as he has an average fantasy finish of RB30 thus far in four years with New England. Even with a slight regression in total opportunity, James White is very likely to finish in the RB20-25 range (1,000+ all-purpose yards, 8 TDs).
Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen (164.5 ADP)
Let me pause to say if there’s one offense I’m avoiding like the plague this season it’s the Buffalo Bills. With that off my chest, the late-round QB draft strategy (made famous by JJ Zachariason) is not only viable but it is one that I personally employ every year, especially in redraft leagues. Josh Allen is a prototypical target if you’re employing this strategy. Most of his upside as one of the best fantasy football value picks is in his athletic build and innate rushing ability. Josh Allen’s 631 rush yards were second only to Lamar Jackson’s 697 yards, but Allen only had 89 attempts (average of 7 yards per rush for Allen in 2018) compared to Jackson’s 147 attempts (average of 4.7 yards per rush). Josh Allen is a run-oriented quarterback, but he’s not in a system that schemes for his mobility. Most of his 600+ yards rushing came on scrambling/broken plays when he took advantage of the defense.
The Bills QB threw for over 2,000 yards and 10 TDs last season. That’s nothing to scoff at for a young QB who was given a ton of responsibility. If this Bills passing attack is going to develop in 2019, Allen will need to improve his accuracy (52.8% completion percentage) and take better care of the ball (12 interceptions). I’m willing to bet a 13th round pick that Josh Allen’s natural progression bumps his 17.3 fantasy points per game (QB19) up to around 18-18.5 points per game (QB12-QB15). Arm talent and mobility were never question marks with Josh Allen. If he can take the next step and learn how to fully utilize his skill-set, he’s going to be a late-round steal.
Miami Dolphins – Kenny Stills (172.7 ADP)
Stills holdin’ it down for ‘Phins fans in MIA. I’m not sure if there is a team that has more offensive players listed lower in ADP than the Miami Dolphins (other than maybe the Bills). This tells us that the fantasy football community is low on the offensive output of this team. The beauty of this is that we are looking for the best fantasy football value picks and sometimes those players are found on “bad teams”. If we dig a little deeper we can see that this offense was flat out gross in 2018 under Adam Gase. They ran the fewest plays of any team since 2005. There is obvious room for growth in opportunity for this entire offense with its new coaching staff. Enter Kenny Stills, the most well-rounded receiver on the Dolphins roster. We should all be excited to hear that Ryan Fitzpatrick has the lead on the starting QB job for now. That should mean better days are ahead for Kenny Stills in this offense.
He is a pure talent at wideout. Playerprofiler.com lists Mike Wallace as Kenny Stills closest wide receiver comparison because of their similar speed, agility, and burst. Both receivers are very fast and they use that speed to stretch opposing defenses with their deep route prowess. He still has not had a true breakout season and has been more or less inconsistent week to week. All that accounted for, his floor is really what we’re interested in. Over the last three years, Kenny Stills has averaged 700 yards and 7 TDs on 83 targets. Danny Amendola’s team-leading 79 targets have been vacated in what is now a much less crowded receiving unit. Don’t let the forever hype man DeVante Parker scare you away. Kenny has stills got that juice.
New York Jets – Chris Herndon IV (159.0 ADP)
In 2018, eight tight ends had a 78 or higher PFF receiving grade. Out of those eight, only five had 600+ snaps: Travis Kelce (1,122), Zach Ertz (1,104), George Kittle (930), Jared Cook (767) and Chris Herndon IV (625). His volume was tier’s below the top 5 TEs in fantasy last season, but he ranked among that same elite group as pass-catcher. Often times players can gain or lose value because of things that happen off of the field. Chris Herndon IV’s four-game suspension is definitely a hit to his overall value, but we shouldn’t be completely disregarding him.
Jets new head coach Adam Gase doesn’t exactly light a fire when talking offensive tempo, but he will have no choice in getting his 6’4″ 253 pound TE involved in the offense. The Jets tight end position was very underutilized last season as evidenced by Herndon’s 56 targets (4th on the team). Not only are there 100+ vacated targets up for grabs in this offense, but Herndon should be the team’s go-to red zone option. In addition to his 70% catch rate, Chris Herndon IV had a true catch rate of 92% and he caught six of his eight red zone targets. He has the talent and opportunity to develop into an extremely tough cover. There’s no reason why Herndon can’t be the second option in the Jets receiving core outside of Robby Anderson in 2019. Sam Darnold looked great in his preseason debut Thursday night. He even found Herndon across the middle of the field for a 33 yard gain.
Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott (132.0 ADP)
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott finished 2018 as the QB10 while averaging 17.6 ppg. Scott Barett mentions – in his beautifully crafted 96 stats article – that after Amari Cooper joined the team in Week 9 last year, Dak Prescott ranked 6th among quarterbacks in total fantasy points scored. Prescott has actually never finished outside of the top ten in total points scored since his rookie season. If you need more reason to draft him at his QB17 ADP, Dak is lethal on the ground in the red zone. In each of his three seasons, he has run for at least 6 TDs and thrown for 22 more. For those in the back, that’s a 28 touchdown average per season. It really doesn’t get much better than this as an example of the best fantasy football value picks.
To top off this upside, Ezekiel Elliot is in the middle of a holdout. If the Cowboys have to go into the season without their star running back, the offense is going to have to have a counterbalance. We could see a heavy dose of rookie RB Tony Pollard, who has an excellent skill-set and very underrated collegiate resume. Prescott was quoted as saying that Pollard is, “one of the most exciting players in camp”. This could very well end up being a James Conner 2.0 situation if this holdout continues. Alongside Amari Cooper, Prescott gets his trusty old veteran TE Jason Witten back this year. Plus, Michael Gallup is receiving his fair share of off-season praise for his growth as a player. It’s wheels up for Dak in 2019 with or without Zeke.
Philadelphia Eagles – Miles Sanders (96.0 ADP)
Fellow TFA writer Ryan Murphy has a solid player breakdown on Miles Sanders that you need to read. When we really drill down on this Eagles backfield, Miles Sanders is by far the most talented and athletic player on the depth chart. It should surprise no one if by season’s end Miles Sanders is the starting RB. Jordan Howard was acquired by the Eagles for a 6th round draft pick. We know what Howard is, we’ve seen him before and he’s nothing special. Sanders is an electrifying player who is in line for pass-catching and 3rd down work at a bare minimum this season.
Sanders was no slouch at Penn State in 2018 – with Saquon Barkley gone to the NFL – posting 1,274 yards and 9 TDs. He also showed pass-catching ability hauling in 24 receptions for 139 yards. He was the most complete RB in this years draft class in my opinion (David Montgomery is a close second) and his landing spot in Philadelphia is a tremendous fit. Currently being drafted as RB37, Sanders should see plenty of volume after he picks up the nuances of the Eagles offense (pass protection as an example). An explosive talent who’s poised to leapfrog his competition, Miles Sanders is one of the best fantasy football value picks on the Eagles in 2019.
New York Giants – Sterling Shepard (96.7 ADP)
It’s rare that the top wideout on any NFL team has an ADP in the eighth-round. If they do, it’s usually because of a low outlook on their offense’s production. Sterling Shepard finished last season as the WR30 averaging 9.2 ppg. Odell Beckham Jr. and his 124 targets are no longer in the picture anymore. Shepard now has a much larger potential opportunity share in 2019. His 87th percentile SPARQ-X score reveals just how dynamic of an athlete he is. The Giants should see plenty of negative game script this year in what most people predict to be a bottom half offense in terms of production. This creates the perfect blend of vacated targets, talent profile, and consistently favorable late-game situation.
Look for Sterling Shepard to capitalize on his rapport with Eli Manning very early on this year. We have learned that newly added WR Golden Tate has been suspended for the first four games of the season. This gives an obvious bump to both Shepard and TE Evan Engram if Tate’s suspension appeal is not granted. Is this Giants offense going to be easy to predict week to week? Absolutely not, but Shepard is currently being drafted as the WR37. This team is hurting for talented assets. The quicker Sterling Shepard can get back to full health (broken thumb) and lead this team’s receiving core the better. We should not be shying away from volume positive cases like this one, even if the team projects to be heading for a losing season.
Washington Redskins – Jordan Reed (178.5 ADP)
I know you’ve probably been burned by this man before. I get it, Jordan Reed has been the epitome of hype and failure over his NFL career from a fantasy football point of view. I’d like to point out that when he is healthy, Jordan Reed is a dominant pass catcher with great size and ability for a tight end. During his last four seasons, Jordan Reed leads the league in fantasy points per snap at TE. The Redskins are reporting that “Reed is having the best camp of his career.” He actually led the Redskins in receiving last season – in a tough year for the offense – posting 558 yards and 2 TDs on 54 catches. In 2017, he was basically derailed by consistent nagging injuries. In 2015 and 2016 he combined for 17 total TDs and averaged 819 yards a season.
Former Redskins GM Charley Casserly commented on Jordan Reed at Redskins training camp, “When he was around, live, healthy a couple of years ago, best separation of any tight end in the NFL. Better than [Rob] Gronkowski. Better than all of them. That’s what I saw [in camp this week].” If Reed has finally rebounded from the injuries that plagued his 2017 season and nagged into 2018, he’s going to be the top option for whichever quarterback turns out to be the starter. This kind of proven production does not often fall this far in drafts, but many are turned off by his unhealthy past. Still, he’s one of the absolute best fantasy football value picks at the TE position and it costs you nothing to invest. Evan Silva even mentioned him as part of a late-round TE draft strategy on one of our latest TFA podcasts.