Which players are underrated in fantasy?
By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)
Fantasy drafts will soon be upon us, and the beginning of July marks the time for committed fantasy players to begin draft preparation. As always, the ins and outs of this year’s ADP (average draft position) have dominated the discussion, and while consensus rankings usually do a good job of valuing players, there are always many who are being underrated (and overrated) in fantasy drafts. In this article, I’ll be giving my opinions on just that. Below are my top five fantasy value picks for 2021.
5. John Brown (WR, Las Vegas Raiders)
What if I told you that the clear #1 WR for a team is ranked as the WR58 in the FantasyPros ECR? You wouldn’t believe me, right? Well, just look at where Raiders WR John Brown is currently ranked. I currently have Brown 14 spots ahead of that ranking, a much more fitting spot for a player who produced upper-tier-WR2 numbers in Buffalo just two years ago.
Last year, Brown was still good when healthy, but he struggled mightily with injuries, and the presence of Stefon Diggs in the Bills’ offense was a slight damper on Brown’s opportunity potential. Now, he has signed a contract to be the presumed WR1 in Vegas, a team that desperately needs help at the position after the first-year flops of Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. Those players still have some potential and shouldn’t be completely written off, but the receiver you should want in that offense is the 31-year-old Brown, who has already had success as the number one wide receiver in an offense.
Two years ago in Buffalo, Brown caught 72 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games played, finishing as the WR15 in Weeks 1-16. Brown is an explosive receiver who is good at catching deep balls, so if he stays healthy, he could certainly put up similar numbers again. Raiders QB Derek Carr isn’t the greatest player ever by any means, but he definitely isn’t terrible, and Brown put up those 2019 numbers with an inconsistent Josh Allen, who had just a 58.8% completion percentage that year. Even if you don’t think Brown has the potential of two years ago, his current WR58 price is just way too low, and he should be a must-add in all fantasy drafts because of it.
4. Marvin Jones (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars)
Jones slots in at WR48 on FantasyPros, making him yet another WR1 in an offense who is ranked too low. I have Jones ranked as my WR38, and I believe that, like Brown, he has the potential to be a WR2 in fantasy.
Jones was actually the fantasy WR5 from Weeks 7-17, and he showed during that stretch that he could handle a WR1 workload with Kenny Golladay out. Even if you remove Week 17 (he had 11 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns that week), he only drops to the WR10 in that stretch. Now, he joins a Jacksonville team that has recently received a major QB upgrade in the form of Trevor Lawrence.
Fellow Jags WR D.J. Chark has struggled since his breakout at the beginning of 2019, and while slot WR Laviska Shenault is talented, he hasn’t proven that he can have success as a target hog like Jones did in 2020. Jones will have the best opportunity out of the three to gain an immediate connection with Lawrence, an opportunity that he will deserve given his past production. Jones has been consistently underrated in fantasy for years now, but now that he’s shown off his true potential, he may be in his most undervalued spot yet in 2021.
3. DeVonta Smith (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)
The reasoning behind the pick of Smith (the FantasyPros WR40) is very similar to the rationale behind selecting Marvin Jones and John Brown at their respective values. However, Smith may have the highest potential of them all, due to the enormous availability of targets in Philadelphia.
In Vegas, Brown will still have to compete with superstar TE Darren Waller for opportunities, and like I said before, Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards shouldn’t be completely written off. In Jacksonville, Jones is competing with two other receivers who, while unproven or inconsistent, have shown flashes of being good in the NFL. Smith, who was selected with the #10 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, has virtually no competition for targets, and therefore has the ceiling of an alpha WR in Year 1.
Smith, who is currently my fantasy WR30, has all the traits necessary to be an alpha for Jalen Hurts. His route-running, field awareness, and hands are all excellent, and he should mesh immediately with an Eagles team that needs major help at the WR position. His size is a concern for some, but Smith was the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in two decades, so it’s already been established that he’s an outlier. Smith was the pick that Miami should’ve made at #6, but he ended up falling to Philly, and as a result, he could see a massive workload in Year 1, giving him plenty of fantasy potential.
2. Javonte Williams (RB, Denver Broncos)
It’s possible Williams doesn’t produce for fantasy at the very beginning of the year, but once he becomes Denver’s starter, he could break out, much like Jonathan Taylor in 2020. Williams has an extremely dominant running style, and he was easily the best tackle-breaker in college football last year.
Williams’ ability to stay balanced and run defenders over is matched by very few players in the NFL. When you combine that ability with the fact that he’s also a solid pass-catcher, you get a complete three-down skill set, which could mean that Williams gets a heavy workload even in year one. Melvin Gordon is a talented player, but the Broncos traded up for Williams for a reason, and it’s because they know he has the potential to be a great running back. If Williams has any sort of consistent breakout in any part of the season, he could easily be worth it at his RB28 FantasyPros rank, and he could produce like an RB1 late in the year.
1. Kenny Golladay (WR, New York Giants)
Golladay’s WR23 FantasyPros ranking is truly a travesty, and his potential role in the Giants’ offense could genuinely make him a top-five fantasy receiver in 2021. This isn’t at all meant to say that Golladay will undoubtedly be top five, but him and Daniel Jones have the potential to make a connection that could be lethal for fantasy and real life.
As the clear #1 option in New York, there’s really no possible way that Golladay finishes outside of the top 24 fantasy receivers unless he gets injured, which basically shows that he is currently being drafted at his absolute floor. Even if Daniel Jones continues to be inconsistent, Golladay will still be the most reliable option for the Giants, so his target share would likely be enough to put him in WR2 territory anyway. However, there’s reason to believe that Jones will take a step up this year.
The addition of Golladay, an excellent contested-catch receiver, gives Jones a WR1 talent that he’s never had in his NFL career. On top of that, Jones graded out as NextGen Stats’ best deep-ball passer in 2020 (he went 19-39 with 636 yards, 5 TDs, no INTs, and a +14.8 completion percentage above expectation on 20+ air yard throws). Turnovers have been a problem for Jones at times, but he began to make smarter decisions (ex: not forcing as many throws) in 2020, and the Golladay signing will let him get away with more risky passes anyway.
As mentioned already, there is virtually no competition for downfield targets in this Giants offense. Golladay could easily see 150+ passes thrown his way this year, and a target share that high wouldn’t be surprising with Jones getting a dominating receiver for the first time in his career. Even if Jones falls short of his potential, Golladay is still good enough to perform at ADP. However, his potential and ceiling is very high, and if Jones is able to make a leap in Year 3, Golladay’s breakout could resemble the one we saw from 2020 Stefon Diggs.