2019 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Underrated

Happy Ben Roethlisberger
Happy Ben Roethlisberger
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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 KUBIAK to their ranks in ESPN.com and Yahoo! fantasy drafts. These numbers will show where each player ranks at their position, not overall. 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 rankings in KUBIAK and elsewhere 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), 2015 (overrated and underrated), 2016 (overrated and underrated), 2017 (overrated and underrated), and 2018 (overrated and underrated).


Jameis Winston, TB
FO Rank: 9
ESPN Rank: 19
Yahoo! Rank: 18

Jameis Winston's 2018 game logs at NFL.com tell a fascinating story: start the year on suspension; re-join the team from the bench because Ryan Fitzpatrick was so hot; regain the starting job when Fitzpatrick inevitably turned back into back into Fitzpatrick; lose the starting job because, hey, Fitzpatrick's not so bad; and finally re-regain the starting job because yes, Fitzpatrick is that bad after all. Through all that chaos, though, Winston averaged 19.3 fantasy points in his nine starts, which was among the top ten among quarterbacks who started at least nine games. This year, there's no suspension, no Fitzpatrick, and only Blaine Gabbert (yes, THAT Blaine Gabbert) on the bench. There's also Bruce Arians, whose "no risk it, no biscuit" style seems like a perfect match for Winston. Arians' last team, the 2017 Cardinals, were sixth in the league with 122 deep passes; last year's Bucs were first. The Bucs might not win many games this fall, but Winston will start as long as he's healthy -- and as long as he's healthy, he should put up fantasy points.

Jared Goff, LAR
FO Rank: 7
ESPN Rank: 15
Yahoo! Rank: 12

Well, we're confused. Even with Cooper Kupp sidelined for half the season, Jared Goff was seventh among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring last year, so he should be in about the same slot with Kupp healthy this year, right? Why on earth is he going so low in so many drafts? Our best guess is that this an overreaction to the slump Goff suffered late in the year and in the postseason, but if so, it is just that: an overreaction. Goff has been a solid fantasy starter for the better part of the last two seasons, and there's little reason to think he won't be again this year.

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
FO Rank: 10
ESPN Rank: 14
Yahoo! Rank: 14

Listing Ben Roethlisberger as an underrated fantasy quarterback is practically an annual tradition at this point -- this is the fifth time in the last nine seasons the Steelers quarterback has been listed in this space. For a variety of reasons, Roethlisberger hasn't always been the most popular player, and his low position in many drafts may be a reflection of that. But Roethlisberger led the NFL last season in passes, completions, and yardage, finishing third in fantasy points. He's likely to slip this year -- we think the Steelers will win more, which means they'll pass less, and the loss of Antonio Brown can't help -- but he should still be a low-end starter, not a backup.

Running Backs

James White, NE
FO Rank: 17
ESPN Rank: 24
Yahoo! Rank: 28

You'll recall that we listed Sony Michel as one of the most overrated running backs in fantasy football. Well, here's the flip side of that coin: White is being undervalued in most drafts. White didn't make as much noise in the postseason as Michel did (although 20 catches in three playoff games is nothing to sneeze at), but he was 11th in the regular season in fantasy scoring. Some of this discrepancy may be due to leagues that do and do not use PPR scoring -- White now has 248 catches and only 207 runs in his career, and his value would diminish sharply in leagues that don't put a premium on receptions.

Kerryon Johnson, DET
FO Rank: 10
ESPN Rank: 15
Yahoo! Rank: 19

Similar to White and Michel, Kerryon Johnson is underrated while his teammate Kenny Golladay was overrated. In this case, it's not due to a difference in playing time, but to a difference in play calling. Head coach Matt Patricia and new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have said they want to run the ball more often, and we're believing them until proven otherwise. We're also predicting that the Lions will be much better than most other outlets are projecting, which will only skew their run/pass balance further. Johnson finished fifth in rushing DVOA last season; if he can maintain that efficiency over a heavier workload, then that workload will likely remain heavy.

Chris Carson, SEA
FO Rank: 21
ESPN Rank: 23
Yahoo! Rank: 26

As you can see, the dropoff from White and Johnson to the third-most underrated running back is a big one. Still, Carson is flying under the radar considering how productive he was in 2018, when he finished fifth in the NFL with 1,151 rushing yards. Like the other two names in this space, Carson plays with a teammate who was listed as overrated -- in his case, quarterback Russell Wilson. Suffice to say we think Seattle will still be running a lot even if not quite as much as they did last year. With Mike Davis now in Chicago, there may be even more carries headed Carson's way in 2019.

Wide Receivers

D.J. Moore, CAR
FO Rank: 18
ESPN Rank: 26
Yahoo! Rank: 29

How will the Panthers go forward with Devin Funchess now in Indianapolis? Many observers are predicting that Curtis Samuel will get the targets that used to go to Funchess, but we're believers in D.J. Moore. Moore was the top wideout in our projections in the class of 2018, and he had better per-game numbers than Samuel last season. In fact, Moore started every game from Week 8 onwards, and finished 20th among wide receivers in fantasy scoring over that stretch.

Tyler Boyd, CIN
FO Rank: 20
ESPN Rank: 28
Yahoo! Rank: 27

Remember last week when we said fantasy drafters were expecting too much from an injured A.J. Green? It appears they're not expecting enough from Tyler Boyd, the player most likely to benefit (statistically, at least) from Green's absence. Last season, Green was limited to one catch after the Bengals' Week 9 bye, while Boyd started every game from Week 10 to Week 15. Over those six weeks, Boyd was 17th among wide receivers in fantasy scoring.

Tyler Lockett, SEA
FO Rank: 19
ESPN Rank: 21
Yahoo! Rank: 24

Is there some kind of anti-Tyler bias going on in the fantasy football world? Even as the No. 2 receiver in Seattle's offense behind Doug Baldwin, Lockett finished 11th among wide receivers in fantasy scoring last season. With Baldwin retired, Lockett's role is going to change -- he's not going to be the designated deep threat anymore, but he will get plenty of targets as a possession receiver. The key words there are "plenty of targets." Lockett will likely never again be as explosive or efficient as he was last season, but he's now the top wideout on a team with the highest-paid quarterback in football. There's still plenty of upside here.

Tight Ends

Full disclosure: this section will be boring. There aren't a lot of underrated tight ends this year, and the few we found are still low-end starters at best.

Jimmy Graham, GB
FO Rank: 12
ESPN Rank: 16
Yahoo! Rank: 18

Jimmy Graham was 14th among tight ends in fantasy scoring last season. Conventional wisdom says he'll be a little worse than that this year, but we think he'll be a little bit better. This is partly because we think the Green Bay offense as a whole is due for a rebound, partly because of Graham's successful track record -- 2018 was just the second time in the past eight years he was not among the top four tight ends in fantasy points.

Austin Hooper, ATL
FO Rank: 8
ESPN Rank: 12
Yahoo! Rank: 11

Austin Hooper only caught four touchdowns last year, but he still finished seventh among tight ends in fantasy scoring. He very quietly caught 71 passes, more than better-known tight ends such as Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph, or David Njoku. Skeptics may say that life is easy for tight ends in Atlanta's offense; we would point out that Hooper is still a tight end in Atlanta's offense.


Matt Prater, DET
FO Rank: 6
ESPN Rank: 13
Yahoo! Rank: 18

If you check the "Full 2019 Projections" in Football Outsiders Almanac 2019 (still available!), you'll see that the Detroit Lions are projected to be a little better than average in total wins, overall DVOA, and offensive DVOA. That's higher than you'll find most anywhere else, which means we expect the Lions to be in scoring range more often than most other observers. And they're likely to lean heavily on Prater, a reliable 15-year pro who hit on 25 of 27 field goals last year of less than 50 yards.


FO Rank: 9
ESPN Rank: 20
Yahoo! Rank: 22

In the words of FO head honcho Aaron Schatz: "I'll fully admit that the Seahawks defense in general may present the biggest difference between a 'top-down approach' like Football Outsiders takes (analyze the team stats and adjust for personnel changes when possible) and a 'bottom-up approach' like, for example, Mike Clay at ESPN (analyze all the individual players and units, and then build a team projection from that)." Schatz adds. "We project them dropping by 5.5 sacks and going up by [two interceptions]. But [their risk is green] because they have a history of strong fantasy performance."


8 comments, Last at 21 Aug 2019, 10:48am

3 Accuracy?

If I had drafted the underrated players last year I'd have ended up with:

Mariota qb25
Smith qb31
Roethlisberger qb3!
Coleman rb19
Mccoy rb39
Fitzgerald wr28
Thielen wr7!
Cook te5
Eifert te54
Engram te12
Dawson k36
Packers d25

That's really, really bad.

8 Overrated?

Garoppolo qb40 

Luck qb5

Brady qb13

Howard rb21

Mixon rb10

Penny rb67

Jeffrey wr26

Gordon wr46

Diggs wr11

Burton te7

Butker k5

Texans dst2


I think you would've been better off avoiding the "underrated" players and targeting the "overrated" players.  Or just ignoring both lists altogether.  I know modeling and projections are hard, but it probably should be better than nothing.  

5 Ouch! I used Kubiak last…

In reply to by BuffaloWes


I used Kubiak last year and ended up drafting LeSean McCoy, Tyler Eifert and Jared Cook in multiple leagues.  Cook was gold as he had a very high ADP and I'd grab him in the last round or two.  Eifert was doing OK too until the inevitable injury.  Devontae Booker was another Kubiak fave last year, and I took him too...oh well.


For this article it seems playoff performances are living large.  Jared Goff in particular.  FO doesn't value playoff performance much so it makes sense that Goff would be much higher in their rankings than conventional wisdom.  Been a while since Big Ben did much in the playoffs either.

6 broken link

Also, the link to last week's overrated is broken.