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17 Aug 2015

2015 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Underrated

by Vince Verhei

Last week we looked at this year's overrated players, those who have been going higher in fantasy drafts than their KUBIAK projections say they should. Today we'll flip the script and look at those players we like who have been falling into the later rounds. Once again, we'll be comparing each player's rank in Fantasy Points Over Baseline (FPOB) to their Average Draft Position (ADP). These numbers will show where each player ranks at their position, not overall. This is a change from the way we have written these pieces in the past, but we think it's a good one -- players at different positions can change in overall value greatly depending on league settings and waiver wire rules, but their rankings at their position shouldn't change much at all. Obviously, which players are underrated or overrated by ADP may change if your league has non-standard rules.

How should you use this information? Suppose we have a third-round grade on a player, but his average draft position has been in the sixth round or so. You could take that guy in the third round and expect good production. Or you could pass on him, knowing he'd probably still be available in rounds four or five, when he'd be an even better value pick. As always, fantasy drafting is an art, not a science.

If you're interested in history, you can check out what we said in 2011, 2012 (overrated and underrated), 2013 (overrated and underrated), and 2014 (overrated and underrated).


Colin Kaepernick
FPOB: 11
ADP: 18

People don't have much faith in the 49ers this year, and for reasons explained in Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (on sale now!), neither do we. However, bad teams often end up passing more than their superiors, and that should mean more opportunities for Colin Kaepernick. Aside from a small boost in touchdowns, our projections for Kaepernick are very similar to his statline in 2014. And there's nobody in San Francisco with a even a tiny chance of taking his job, so he's a very safe pick too. We're really not being overly optimistic here, but the masses are apparently prepared for a Josh Freeman-like collapse.

Drew Brees
ADP: 6

Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills are gone, but that doesn't mean the Saints are suddenly going to stop leaning on their Hall of Fame passer. Drew Brees led the NFL in completions, attempts, and yardage last year, the sixth time in nine seasons he has led the league in at least one of those categories. (And in one of the years he didn't, he was still first in completion rate and touchdowns.) Brees was sixth in fantasy points last season, but that was his worst finish since 2005, and you'd expect him to bounce back. Brees also benefits from a very easy schedule with 13 games against teams ranked 20th or worse in our defensive projections. He is 36 this year and an inevitable decline is on the horizon. But we don't think it's here yet.

Tony Romo
ADP: 9

From 2007 to 2013, Tony Romo never averaged fewer than 32.5 passes per game, and sometimes averaged more than 40. Then came 2014, when DeMarco Murray ran the ball 392 times and Romo's passes per game dipped to 29.0. Well, Murray is now in Philadelphia, with no clear replacement left behind in Dallas. The Cowboys say they want to run as much as they did last year, but our projections tend to live with this thing called "regression towards the mean." We also see the Cowboys taking a small step backwards in the win column, which should mean more late-game deficits and more passes for Romo.

Robert Griffin
FPOB: 16
ADP: 26

This one matters only for your bench, or in leagues that start two quarterbacks. Our projection for Griffin's passing numbers is very close to the totals produced by Washington's trio of quarterbacks last season, and his rushing numbers are about the same on a per-game basis as what he did in 2014. That would make him a perfectly reasonable backup fantasy quarterback, but to the general public he's a complete pariah. There is certainly a lot of risk with Griffin, as you never know when Jay Gruden will roll "Cousins" or "McCoy" on his 20-sided die of QB management. But there is upside here too: Washington figures to be losing a lot this season, which might lead to Griffin passing more than he ever has before.

Running Back

Lamar Miller
FPOB: 11
ADP: 15

Note that the subhead there reads "Running Back," singular. We think the masses have done a fine job picking talent at this position, and aside from Lamar Miller, there aren't too many productive runners slipping to the later rounds of fantasy drafts. You could argue that Marshawn Lynch* (FPOB 1, ADP 5) or Eddie Lacy (FPOB 2, ADP 4) are underrated, but really, the top of our running back board is such a tight cluster that we wouldn't really blame anyone for passing on them to take an Adrian Peterson, Le'veon Bell, or Jamaal Charles.

(* In last week's piece, we mentioned that Bell was our top fantasy back, but that was with the playoff adjustment turned on. Turn that adjustment off and Lynch tops our board. I told you our running back rankings were tightly clustered.)

There are some other running backs who are underrated according to KUBIAK, but they're mostly guys in committee situations you wouldn't want to draft anyway, guys like Devonta Freeman (FPOB: 22; ADP: 38) or Bishop Sankey (FPOB: 27; ADP: 42). And the "underrated" there is more about figuring out the tea leaves of how the committees will work out, not about the actual projection of how good players will be on the field.

Meanwhile, our projection for Miller is virtually copy-and-pasted from his 2014 statline, with a little worse luck running but better luck receiving (which would make him even more underrated in PPR leagues). Miller was ninth among runners in fantasy scoring last year; it's a mystery to us why so many people expect him to decline so severely this fall.

Wide Receivers

Anquan Boldin
FPOB: 24
ADP: 48

DeAndre Hopkins
FPOB: 11
ADP: 16

Editor's note: Hopkins' numbers were incorrectly listed in the original version of this article. They have been fixed.

We're listing these two together because ... well, go read the 2014 edition again. For some reason, Anquan Boldin and DeAndre Hopkins always get underrated by the general public. Boldin has been a top-40 fantasy wideout for a decade now, and suddenly he's going to vanish? Hopkins was 15th in fantasy value among wideouts last year, and now that he's the unquestioned top target in Houston his numbers are going to drop? Granted, Boldin is 35 this season, and we still don't know who Hopkins' quarterback is going to be. On the other hand, Boldin's physical playing style could help him age gracefully, and as we noted earlier, his quarterback is also underrated. Meanwhile, Hopkins has a track record of making bad quarterbacks look good. The positives here outweigh the negatives.

Pierre Garcon
FPOB: 22
ADP: 44

Between Griffin, Garcon, and DeSean Jackson (FPOB: 16; ADP: 25), people are really, really underrating the Washington passing game. There are many reasons to think the pits of 2014 were fluky. It was the first time Garcon has played more than 10 games and finished outside the top 40. Even in a down year, Jackson was 17th in fantasy value last season, so why would he suddenly fall eight spots? The opportunities for Jackson and Garcon look even stronger when we consider a likely move away from dumpoff passes in this year's Washington offense. There's no receiving back here. Roy Helu is now in Oakland. Niles Paul could play that role lining up at fullback, but now he is out for the year. There's really nobody left in D.C. to target except Garcon and Jackson, so their numbers should be fine this year.

Tight Ends

Austin Seferian-Jenkins
FPOB: 14
ADP: 21

It may seem like we're too high on Austin Seferian-Jenkins, considering he has just 221 receiving yards in his NFL career, but consider this: Those 221 yards all came in the first 12 weeks of the season, before a back injury shelved him for the rest of the year. At that point, he was 30th among tight ends in receiving yards, despite splitting targets nearly 50-50 with Brandon Myers. Had he been the clear top tight end for the Bucs, ASJ would have been a fringe fantasy starter. Well, it's a year later, and though Myers is still around, Seferian-Jenkins is the clear top tight end for the Bucs. No, we're not especially confident in Jameis Winston as player or the Bucs' win-loss record as a team, but they should be throwing the ball all over the place this fall. Seferian-Jenkins projects as a good TE2, but the 2014 second-rounder also has the upside to be a decent starter.

Coby Fleener
FPOB: 12
ADP: 19

Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen both joined the Colts both joined the Colts as rookies in 2012, and since then Fleener has edge in targets (5.2 to 3.9), receptions (2.9 to 2.5) and yards (37.8 to 31.2) per game. For some reason, people always expect Allen to emerge as the superior passing option, and it just never happens. Fleener was sixth among tight ends last season and 14th in 2013, and he seems like one of the safest fantasy picks you could make. Just not a particularly exciting pick.

Jason Witten
ADP: 10

As is the case with Boldin, Garcon, and Jackson, Jason Witten is mostly underrated because his quarterback is underrated. Witten has always been one of Romo's favorite weapons, with at least 111 targets seven years in a row after Romo took the starting job. Those targets dipped to 90 last season, but again, no DeMarco Murray should equal more passes in Dallas.


Here is where our numbers differ most strongly from the consensus. You should be able to land any of these defenses in the draft, and you'll be glad you did:

Underrated Fantasy Defenses, 2015
DEN 3 8
PHI 3 11
NE 6 15
GB 9 18

What do all four of these defenses have in common? They play with quality, fast-paced offenses that can score points and force opponents to play catch-up, which in turn gives the defense more chances to get sacks and interceptions. Note that this is a list of underrated fantasy defenses; Denver is the only one projected to be top-ten in DVOA. You might want to avoid these teams if you're in a league that emphasizes yards or points allowed over big plays, but generally these teams should serve you well. Green Bay and Philadelphia were the top two defenses last year in many fantasy leagues.


Blair Walsh
ADP: 10

Greg Zuerlein
ADP: 14

Matt Bryant
ADP: 8

The Vikings, Rams, and Falcons: three teams that missed the playoffs last year but we now project to push for the postseason this year. Beyond that, Blair Walsh has gone 17-of-24 on kicks of 50 yards or more over the past three seasons, both the highest totals in the league; Greg Zuerlein should benefit from playing with a better offense and a defense that will probably put that offense in excellent field position; and Matt Bryant gets to play for a good Atlanta offense that will face a bunch of bad defenses in 2015. Of course, Zuerlein and Bryant also benefit from playing indoors.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 17 Aug 2015

30 comments, Last at 12 Feb 2018, 7:38pm by dmghaziabad


by Paydro :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 12:23pm

Where does the ADP data come from for these articles? A lot of them aren't close to what Fantasypros has, for instance.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 12:55pm
by Paydro :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 1:55pm

Way too late now, but I think that's a bad choice. Their ADP is based on *mock* drafts by people who happen to go to that website (which I hadn't heard of before), which means they're also heavily biased by that site's default rankings.

Take DeAndre Hopkins, for example. I don't think you could find another site on the internet where he is actually being drafted as the #25 WR. Fantasypros have him as the consensus #13 WR; only 6 of 46 rankers put him below #20. In ADP, Fantasypros has him at #15, ESPN at #15, Yahoo at #13, CBS at #17, NFL.com #15.

The others don't quite jump off the screen like Hopkins, but I'd reconsider the source next year.

Edit to add: I'm not even sure fantasyfootballcalculator.com thinks Hopkins is going #25. Right now I see #16 in 10-teams, #15 in 12-teams.

by Dan Slotman :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 4:10pm

Football Outsiders has a partnership with ESPN. That seems like a decent choice for ADP data and certainly has a larger userbase.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 5:49pm

There are actually three ADP lists in the KUBIAK workbook itself: this one, ESPN, and Yahoo. Vince just happened to use this one for these articles. All three are there to use during your drafts to compare our ratings to conventional wisdom.

by countertorque :: Wed, 08/19/2015 - 4:32pm

Do the ADP numbers update as you release new versions of the spreadsheet?

by nickbradley :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 2:28pm

Media Narratives have a pretty powerful effect on fantasy ADP. In the case of Kaepernick, completion percentage and rushing yards both went up last year, paired with really terrible OL and WR play (lots of drops, no separation).

QB Rush TDs seem to be pretty high variance, and I think he only had one last year. Our league's scoring system is a little unique (we reward completion percentage, penalize carries, etc), but he's projected as the #5 fantasy QB by Yahoo (I think their data is from Rotoworld?) -- that comes heavily from a projected 650+ yards rushing w 3 rush TDs. Passing figures are fairly pedestrian-looking: 3,750 yards, 16.5 TDs, 9 INTs.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 9:07am

I appreciate the idea for the article. There could have been better execution. As others pointed out, the ADP may not really be representative of where people playing in FFLs may actually draft a player. It may have been better to use the fantasy rankings from the more popular FFL sites like Yahoo, ESPN, and NFL.com.

by bingo762 :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 10:57am

10 team, .5 ppr,1QB,2RB,3WR,1TE,1K,1 Def

I took Hopkins with the 35th pick(5th pick of the 4th round)

I might have the all underated team as I have Bolden, Hopkins, Walsh, and Denver D.

Also, I didn't draft a QB so I'm thinking about picking up Kapernick

by skepticismissurvival :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 1:53pm

So did Hopkins and Jackson actually both end up having the exact same FPOB and ADP? Or is it a typo?

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 3:17pm

Oops. Hopkins' numbers were incorrect. Those have been fixed.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 3:32pm

So out of curiosity, I ran the numbers for underrated players using just the ESPN data, and looking only at guys we think should be starters:

We have Kaepernick 11th, ESPN has him 20th. Nobody else in our top 12 is off by more than two slots.

We are way higher on Devonta Freeman (22 vs. 41), Rashad Jennings (18 vs. 27), LeGarrette Blount (22 vs. 29), and Marshawn Lynch (1 vs. 5).

Garcon (22 vs. 35) and Boldin (24 vs. 48) are still light years out in front. The next two? DeSean Jackson (16 vs. 22) and DeAndre Hopkins (11 vs. 15). So zero change here, though Golden Tate (20 vs. 24) is tied with Hopkins.

Huge disparity for Jared Cook (10 vs. 28) but that's it.

Mike Nugent (6 vs. 22), Zuerlein (7 vs. 20), Josh Brown (11 vs. 21)

We have the Eagles and Chiefs tied for third. ESPN has them 13th and 12th.

by bingo762 :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 5:32pm

Would you recommend trading for Garcon? Dude that drafted him had also drafted DeSean and was POd when he realized to late. I have Bolden, Stills, and Steve Smith to offer

by Zheng :: Mon, 09/07/2015 - 8:41pm

Don't offer too much. Even KUBIAK has him as a WR3, perhaps a low end WR2.

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