Most Undervalued Players in a 2023 Fantasy Football Draft
NFL Offseason - How do you define "value" in fantasy football? Whether it's a draft, a trade, or a waiver wire bid, it all comes down to one thing: Is this player potentially worth more to me than he is to other fantasy teams?
If you can identify some key areas where you can find value—in particular, players in situations where they could meaningly outperform where you draft them in a fantasy league or best ball tournament—your team can even overcome injuries and less successful picks.
In my last article on Football Outsiders, I covered the players I found to currently be the most overvalued in 2023 fantasy football with some surprising picks (Giants fans really respond well when you point out Saquon Barkley is bordering on mediocrity). Today we'll focus on the bright side of some players I feel are underappreciated in early fantasy draft boards around the globe, accentuated by some relevant stats from Sports Info Solutions.
We'll go position by position in this column, but make sure to check out the SPAGS Fantasy Football Rankings on Football Outsiders to see my brief overviews of over 270 of the top drafted players, including rookies. SPAGS stands for Superior Players and Great Spots, the factors I consider keys to providing yourself upside and the opportunity to win in fantasy football. The rankings sharing my nom de plume? Complete coincidence.
Most Undervalued 'Stud' RB: Josh Jacobs
(29.4 ADP on Underdog Fantasy, 23rd ranked in SPAGS Rankings)
As I mentioned above in my previous column about overvalued players, I am not a fan of Saquon Barkley. He receives a ton of volume but doesn't perform above expectation in most of the core stats I look at, including EPA, DVOA, and missed tackle rate. Josh Jacobs is the other side of the coin. He had 23.5 intended touches per game compared to 23.0 per game for Saquon. He had positive rushing and receiving EPAs as well as a 12.0% rushing DVOA and 7.1% receiving DVOA. He forced missed tackles at a 26.5% rate, almost double Barkley's 13.6% missed tackle rate.
This once again comes down to the concepts of brand names driving a lot of the public Average Draft Position (ADP). Josh Jacobs was lightly reviled by fantasy players last year, particularly after seeing snaps in the Hall of Fame Game—something perceived to be beneath a running back of high stature. And despite an outlier 2022 season, he hasn't fully recovered despite the fact he'll play 2023 on the exact same franchise tag that Barkley will.
I'd still put Derrick Henry ahead of Jacobs, but I'd prefer Jacobs to Barkley relative to where these guys all go. I also wouldn't sleep on the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo to this offense. Garoppolo will check down frequently, poses no threat to steal rushing touchdowns, and will be very happy to hand off to Jacobs 20 or more times in favorable game scripts.
Most Undervalued 'Up and Coming' RB: Tyler Allgeier
(88.8 ADP on Underdog Fantasy, 65th ranked in SPAGS Rankings)
I have been in the bag for Tyler Allgeier since last summer and perhaps I'm chasing windmills a bit hoping for it again in Season 2. I will say this with no exaggeration: In terms of advanced metrics, Allgeier was the best rookie running back last year.
Yes, I understand Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker go several rounds higher (and they should—public ADP should always be your guiding light on when to draft guys even if you print out and tattoo the SPAGS Rankings on yourself Memento-style). Yes, I know some people will hold a candle for Dameon Pierce, who seemed like the biggest rookie steal for most of last season even with Devin Singletary added along with a new coaching staff. And yes, I know there's a possibility than run-heavy Atlanta drafts another rookie from this year's deep class.
Allgeier was enough of an outlier to justify the risk. He wielded a 16.0% rushing DVOA and 41.2% receiving DVOA along with a 0.05 EPA per rush and 0.31 EPA per target. He had 3.6 yards after contact per rush and a 24% avoided tackle rate. He outperformed Hall, Walker, and Pierce in most of these advanced statistics behind an Atlanta offensive line that also ranked top-five in adjusted line yards in 2022.
Point being: If Atlanta rises in a weak NFC South with their heavy free-agency spending, Allgeier should rise with the tide. I believe he's well worth the risks at current ADPs. And if the Falcons do avoid high draft capital for a rookie running back, he could seize even more of a share in 2023.
Most Undervalued QB: Anthony Richardson
(150.4 ADP on Underdog Fantasy, 138th ranked in SPAGS Rankings)
This feels like teetering on Stephen A. Smith hot take territory, but hear me out. People have misread Anthony Richardson's draft capital all along. Now there are rumors of the Cardinals aggressively shopping the No. 3 pick due to the likelihood of a Colts-Richardson pairing at the No. 4 spot.
I find it hard to believe a player with Richardson's arm and natural rushing ability, along with likely top-five draft capital, doesn't see the field close to Day 1. And if he does align with Jalen Hurts-shaping mastermind Shane Steichen in Indianapolis, I believe he'll have the best possible runway to reach his potential in an offense schemed to maximize his strengths and limit his weaknesses.
Players with a 38% avoided tackle rate and 0.178 EPA per rush don't come along often. Richardson's ability to handle pressure versus stout SEC competition is also crazy given that he faced a 37.4% pressure rate but only produced a 3.8% sack rate. He has flaws, including horrendous accuracy in short throws with a 56% completion rate on throws under 10 air yards according to SIS. But he can run the ball and sling it, including a 0.78 EPA per throw over 20 air yards. That number is just behind C.J. Stroud's 0.93 EPA in this class.
The potential for high draft capital, ideal landing spot, and rushing ability is still undervalued despite how much Richardson's ADP has risen since drafts started opening up. Don't let the SEC-watcher in your life talk you out of a share.
Most Undervalued WR: George Pickens
(66.7 ADP on Underdog Fantasy, 57th ranked in SPAGS Rankings)
There may be a few wide receivers I have with comparable differential between my rankings and ADP (such as incoming rookie Quentin Johnston, Michael Thomas, and the completely ignored Terrace Marshall). But if you pointed the proverbial gun at my head and asked which wide receiver could meaningfully outperform his ADP, I'd target the second-year man in Pittsburgh.
Pickens brought a 0.38 EPA per target along with a 15.7% receiving DVOA in his rookie year. I expect improvement from Kenny Pickett, and there will have to be some from this offense with the questionable decision to bring back Matt Canada, who will now be calling plays to save his job. If Pickens could have outlier numbers like he did in an iffy offense, he could explode if Pittsburgh continues to grow offensively with a quarterback and receiver making the expected jump we see time and time again from Year 1 to Year 2.
There are a lot of exciting second-year receivers to target, but guys such as Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Christian Watson have all been incredibly priced up to reflect that expectation of growth. Pickens can still be had for relatively cheap and I imagine that may not be the case come August after we see countless Athletic articles talking about what a camp standout he has been, let alone if one quote comes out about him being a true WR1 over Diontae Johnson.
I'd try to get ahead of the hoard and grab shares of him now in best ball—use promo code OUTSIDERS for up to a $100 deposit match on Underdog!
Most Undervalued TE: Dallas Goedert
(68.7 ADP on Underdog Fantasy, 49th ranked in SPAGS Rankings)
Before I extoll Dallas Goedert's virtues, let me say I also really find this year's incoming rookie tight ends to be undervalued. There could be first-round draft capital for three players (another Dallas in Dallas Kincaid, plus Michael Mayer and Darnell Washington) with a few fringe players such as Luke Musgrave and Sam LaPorta not too far behind. Rookie tight ends have struggled historically, but I find this class to be different, with each of the above players bringing high value pass-catching skills and the ability to see the field quickly.
The veteran Dallas Goedert is still the more trustworthy player to highlight as undervalued. His 0.58 EPA per target and 36.0% receiving DVOA are tops in the league at the position. He also brings contingent value with more upside if a highly drafted A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith were to miss any time. And by drafting Goedert, you can gain a key part of a Philadelphia offense that is a top Super Bowl-contender that should score a lot of points as it racks up wins.
Ultimately, every tight end who isn't Travis Kelce is going to provide one core functionality for best ball drafters: the ability to produce a ceiling game when you really need one to win it all come Week 17. Dallas Goedert brings that ability more than other popular picks, as well as a higher floor than many of his peers. I'd trust my teams with his abilities more than almost any other tight end in a fantasy football draft, relative to his ADP.
There you go, that sums up my views as of mid-April before we know all of the NFL draft and offseason workout machinations. As always, I'd recommend to care more about ADP than my personal views when drafting teams, and even if you disagree with me, remember: any player can be a value if you end up being right about them.
We'll continue to grind all these fantasy football angles as over the coming weeks and months, but I'd really encourage you to check out a draft on Underdog Fantasy (and again, use promo code OUTSIDERS for up to a $100 deposit match). If you're a fantasy football junkie, it's a fun way to spend some downtime and build entirely different teams than you'll see in your office league come this Summer.
And don't be afraid to check out my and Pete Overzet's FO-affiliated show Splash Play! We talk fantasy football year-round, draft best ball teams, bring on our industry friends as guests, and generally have a lot of fun doing this while still bringing the analytic eyes of a Football Outsiders.
Draft responsibly, friends. I'll see you again soon.
6 comments, Last at 16 Apr 2023, 1:08pm
#3 by Kahoutek // Apr 14, 2023 - 6:55pm
Josh Jacobs and Dallas Goedert helped power my fantasy team to the championship last year. But I am concerned about the work load for Josh Jacobs. 340 carries in 2022 is close to the curse of 370. And he willed his way through a bad ankle starting around Week 11 of last year that lingered until the end of the season.
I would love to pick up Goedert and Pickens this year.
#5 by Chris Spags // Apr 16, 2023 - 1:08pm
Derrick Henry has given me some faith that some guys can overcome the high volumes, at least until it totally goes wrong. But it's mostly a question of value for me with Jacobs; he was great last year, I think the offense will fit him even better this year due to Jimmy's approach. Wouldn't be shocked if he comes up in ADP in the Summer.