by Vincent 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 we made in 2015 compared to the way we wrote 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.
We should note that KUBIAK is generally better at picking out players who are overrated than it is at picking out players who are underrated, and the difference between KUBIAK and ADP is often bigger for those extremely overrated players than it is for the most underrated players.
If you're interested in history, you can check out what we said in 2011, 2012 (overrated and underrated), 2013 (overrated and underrated), 2014 (overrated and underrated), and 2015 (overrated and underrated)
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FPOB rank: 9
ADP rank: 18
Dalton started every game in each of his first four seasons, and he ranked 18th, 12th, fifth, and 18th among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring in those four years. Last year, he was fifth through the first 13 weeks of the year, then suffered a season-ending injury in Week 14 and finished 18th again. So if your favorite way to average numbers is "mode," Dalton's average ADP ranking makes sense -- he has finished exactly 18th three times in his five-year career, so maybe he'll make it four times in six years. But Dalton has also never finished worse than 18th, so it's odd that his average draft position is down so much, considering he's coming off a good year and should theoretically still be in the improvement phase of his career. Dalton has said goodbye to a lot of his teammates this offseason, including two of his top three wide receivers in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, plus starting right tackle Andre Smith, while stud tight end Tyler Eifert will likely miss the first month of the season following ankle surgery. This explains the expected drop in Dalton's numbers -- after all, we think he'll decline too, just not as sharply as the general public is predicting. The Bengals have promising youngsters at wideout (second-round draft pick Tyler Boyd) and tackle (2015 second-rounder Jake Fisher). A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard are still here, and Eifert should be back at some point this season.
Also, "ninth" isn't necessarily as close to "eighth" as you might expect, but we'll get to that in a couple of paragraphs.
FPOB rank: 13
ADP rank: 16
While Dalton lost Jones and Sanu, Stafford lost a Hall of Fame-caliber receiver when Calvin Johnson retired. And just as fans are overreacting to the talent departures in Cincinnati, they're not paying attention to the targets Stafford has left. Golden Tate has already been the top receiver on a Super Bowl champion, Anquan Boldin gives Stafford a big target, and Dalton's loss is Stafford's gain as the Lions are hopeful that Marvin Jones can break out and become a true No. 1 receiver. The Tate/Boldin/Jones trio gives Stafford an ideal short/middle/deep pass arsenal, and should mesh together well. The cupboard is not as bare here as most seem to think.
FPOB rank: 11
ADP rank: 15
Taylor was the only quarterback to run for more than 40 yards per game last season. In 2016, we're projecting him to finish second in that category behind only Cam Newton. Quarterbacks whose value depends heavily on rushing yardage tend to be underrated by ADP.
There is another thread tying Dalton, Stafford, and Taylor together: after the top eight quarterbacks in KUBIAK's rankings, there is a dropoff to a very tight cluster of players. If you factor in the Risk settings, only eight points separate our ninth-ranked quarterback (Dalton) from our 17th-ranked quarterback. If you don't get one of those top eight guys, you might as well wait to find a passer at the end of the draft -- at that point, it likely won't matter which one you get. Given this tight pack of projections, our "underrated" quarterbacks this year aren't really very underrated by ADP.
FPOB rank: 17
ADP rank: 30
Last year, Johnson carried the ball 6.5 times per game, about half as often as Isaiah Crowell (11.6). However, he was clearly the preferred target in the passing game, averaging 3.8 catches to Crowell's 1.2. Johnson is just plain better than Crowell. We expect Cleveland will realize this and Johnson will end up the No. 1 back, though Cleveland still figures to rotate the two backs heavily and that cuts down on Johnson's ceiling. Not surprisingly, we also think Crowell is overrated and probably shouldn't be on your roster at all.
FPOB rank: 20
ADP rank: 31
Bernard's ADP appears to be partly the result of the general pessimism surrounding Cincinnati, but people also seem to be confused by the Bengals' running back rotation. Last year, Bernard and Jeremy Hill both played 16 games. Hill finished slightly ahead of Bernard in fantasy points, with Hill ranking 13th among running backs and Bernard 21st. This year, we're again projecting Bernard to finish behind Hill, but for some reason Hill has been 44th among all players in average draft position, while Bernard has been 75th. That's ridiculous. Bernard has never finished lower than 21st among running backs in fantasy scoring -- it's bizarre to think that 30 backs will outdo him in 2016.
FPOB rank: 12
ADP rank: 18
In eight seasons in Chicago, Forte never ranked lower than 17th among running backs in fantasy scoring. Even in 2011, when he missed four games, he was 15th. His numbers were down a bit last year, again because he missed three games. He's 31 now, so it is reasonable to expect a little decline, but is Is Bilal Powell really going to steal his carries? Powell has never been a fantasy factor in five NFL seasons -- it's hard to see him getting a bigger piece of the pie this year, considering Forte is an upgrade over any other running back in recent Jets history.
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FPOB rank: 29
ADP rank: 43
We do not think the San Francisco offense is going to be any good this year. In fact, we think the San Francisco offense is going to be very, very bad this year. However, we think they well be bad quickly -- the first 49ers drive of the Chip Kelly regime went from first-and-10 to fourth-and-9 in less than a minute of real time. That means lots of plays for San Francisco and its opponents. And since they'll probably be behind a lot, they're probably going to throw more passes than they otherwise would. Kelly's Eagles were in the top six in pass attempts each of the past two seasons, and those teams went a combined 17-17. Imagine how many pass plays a 4-12 49ers team will rack up! And when they do throw, who do you expect them to target -- a veteran big-play threat like Smith, or this motley crew of midround draft picks and undrafted players? Chip Kelly's Philadelphia teams always had 1,000 yards from the No. 1 receiver. Smith will be the target on a ton of passes this year, and they won't all fall incomplete.
FPOB rank: 8
ADP rank: 15
Indianapolis' forecast isn't nearly as dire as San Francisco's -- they certainly have a rosier quarterback situation -- but they are similarly thin at wide receiver. After Hilton, the Colts have a reasonable No. 2 in Donte Moncrief and a promising No. 3 in last year's first-rounder Phillip Dorsett, and that is almost literally it. No other wide receiver on the Colts roster has ever caught a pass in the NFL (only Quan Bray has ever played an NFL game), and every single one of them went undrafted.
FPOB rank: 17
ADP rank: 24
After four years as a second or third receiver in Seattle's offense, Baldwin finally got 16 games to show what he could do as a bona fide No. 1 receiver last year, and he came through with flying colors, leading the NFL with 14 touchdown catches. He probably won't do that again, and in fact we are projecting a pretty healthy decline from his 2016 seventh-place finish among wide receivers in fantasy scoring. But he is clearly the Seahawks' top wide receiver this year, and he still gets to play with a quarterback who thinks touchdown on every play. People seem to always underrate the Seattle passing game, and that means they underrate Baldwin.
FPOB rank: 6
ADP rank: 11
Ertz was a top-10 fantasy tight end last year despite catching only two touchdowns, a flukishly low number for a player who gained more than 800 yards receiving. We think he'll top 800 yards again in 2016, and if he does, he's almost certain to score more often.
FPOB rank: 13
ADP rank: 17
Witten has ranked 12th or better among tight ends in fantasy scoring every season since 2007. That 12th-place finish came last year, when Tony Romo threw only 121 passes. Now Romo is healthy, and while Witten's age scares us a bit (he turned 34 in May), we still see him right on the edge of being a viable fantasy starter this year.
FPOB rank: t-12
ADP rank: t-20
And here the public's anti-Cincinnati movement reaches its zenith. There is a point where kickers simply stop being drafted, and their rankings beyond that point are meaningless. Nugent is in that group, essentially tied with 13 other kickers for last place in ADP. It's a group that includes kickers on moribund offenses in San Francisco, Cleveland, and Tennessee -- and Nugent. People, the Bengals may well take a step back on offense in 2016, but they are not going to totally collapse. And it's not as if Nugent was especially good last season, either -- his 82 percent field goal accuracy rate was right in line with his 81 percent career mark. He's no Stephen Gostkowski, but he's a fine pick as the last kicker in your league.
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FPOB rank: t-4
ADP rank: 10
When looking at overrated defenses, we found that fantasy players too often equated individual greatness with great fantasy defenses. Well, here is the opposite case: underrating a fantasy defense due to the loss of a great individual performer. With Chandler Jones now in Arizona, the Patriots will have to lean on Jamie Collins, Jabaal Sheard, and Rob Ninkovich (once he gets back from his triceps injury) to generate pass rush this year. We aren't expecting them to get as many sacks as last year, but we're expecting a couple more interceptions to balance that out. (The Patriots had only 12 last year after 16, 17, 20, and 23 in the previous four seasons.) The Pats also had lousy luck on fumbles last year, recovering only nine of the 23 balls that opponents put on the ground. Better fumble recovery luck means less scoring by the opposition, a better chance for defensive touchdowns, and a stronger fantasy finish this year.