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KUBIAK vs. ADP 2020: The Underrated

Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

After identifying some of the players you might want to avoid at their average draft position last week, today we will focus on the players KUBIAK expects to outperform their market values. Some of those players are sleepers who can fill your fantasy benches with starter upside, but many of them are prominent fantasy options whose typical draft positions fail to reflect our expectations based on the trends of their underlying metrics or changes in their roles or teammates in 2020.

This article is an annual Football Outsiders tradition, and you can read all of our previous examples of it. But keep in mind that we overhauled the KUBIAK system this offseason, and some of the systematic changes to things like injury prediction may influence the types of players KUBIAK prefers.

All referenced KUBIAK rankings are for players at their positions and based on PPR scoring.


Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
KUBIAK Rank: 3
ESPN ADP: 6
Yahoo! ADP: 4

He may be overexposed as the Cowboys quarterback, but Prescott remains underrated as a talent and fantasy option. To the former point, his 27.1% passing DVOA was sixth at the position in 2019, ahead of passers with better reputations such as Russell Wilson (24.3%), Deshaun Watson (9.5%), Aaron Rodgers (9.0%), and Matt Ryan (7.0%). And to the latter point, Prescott should enjoy the most favorable fantasy circumstances in 2020. He plays his home games in a dome, which adds 13.0 projected fantasy points versus a true-talent home venue. His offensive line finished second in 2019 with a 4.3% adjusted sack rate. His primary receivers ranked third and 11th in yards and touchdowns per catchable target and could be even better this season after the team's addition of CeeDee Lamb, the top rookie receiver in Playmaker Score. And the Cowboys play the second-most favorable schedule for fantasy passing, boosting Prescott's projection by 4.9 more fantasy points. In addition to the Giants and Washington Football Team in the NFC East, the Cowboys draw the Falcons, Cardinals, and Bengals in the top 10 boosters of passing touchdowns per attempt.

Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers
KUBIAK Rank: 13
ESPN ADP: 24
Yahoo! ADP: 21

There is more guesswork in Bridgewater's projection because he joins a new team in the Panthers that has a whole new coaching staff. But offensive coordinator Joe Brady seems like a driver of pass plays. He came up -- and intersected with Bridgewater -- as an offensive coach on the pass-happy Saints, and he architected LSU's spread offense that in 2019 finished second in FBS with 527 pass attempts and made Joe Burrow a Heisman-winner. Really, Bridgewater may have no choice but to throw a ton of passes in 2020. The Panthers are projected to have the worst defensive DVOA (11.0%) and the hardest schedule (3.6%). They will likely trail in most of their games. That formula didn't work for Kyle Allen or Will Grier in 2019, but Bridgewater's conservative nature should help the team avoid a repeat of its fourth-worst 8.6% adjusted sack rate. And even if his schedule is difficult from a real-life perspective, Bridgewater should benefit (7.0 extra fantasy points) because of passer-friendly opponents such as the Raiders, Cardinals, Falcons, Lions, and Washington Football Team, all of whom are top-10 increasers of passing touchdowns per attempt.

Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars
KUBIAK Rank: 15
ESPN ADP: 25
Yahoo! ADP: 24

Minshew has even less starting experience than Bridgewater and does face some risk of a benching if he plays poorly -- although there's much less risk with Mike Glennon behind him than with Nick Foles. But in typical fantasy formats with one quarterback starter and a waiver wire full of decent replacements, Minshew deserves draft consideration because of a fantasy-friendly skill set. Most notably, he is a willing and capable runner. In just 12 starts as a rookie, Minshew ran 67 times for 344 yards. He's one of seven quarterbacks we project for 300-plus rushing yards in 2020. Five of them -- Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, and Russell Wilson -- are top-10 in ADP. The sixth, Cam Newton, would join them if if he had been healthier in recent seasons.


Running Backs

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
KUBIAK Rank: 9
ESPN ADP: 14
Yahoo! ADP: 7

Mixon's 2019 season was a tale of two halves. He averaged just 12.6 carries per game, 3.2 yards per carry, and -22.0% DVOA prior to the Bengals' Week 9 bye. After that, he averaged 22.1 carries per game. 4.6 yards per carry, and 11.2% DVOA. And while Football Outsiders research tends to show that full-season rates better predict future production than second-half rates, there are reasons to expect Mixon to continue his improved late-season efficiencies. The first is a scheme change. During the bye week, head coach Zac Taylor and offensive line coach Jim Turner transitioned from a zone-blocking run scheme to a pin-and-pull attack that better fit their personnel. Second, that personnel improved this offseason, most obviously by the addition of No. 1 pick Joe Burrow, but also by the recovery of left tackle Jonah Williams, who missed his rookie season with a shoulder injury. Third, Mixon was an unlucky touchdown scorer, netting just five rushing touchdowns against 9.3 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns. Neutral luck and an improved situation should help him to a top-10 season.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
KUBIAK Rank: 16
ESPN ADP: 17
Yahoo! ADP: 20

Mixon may have been unfortunate with his touchdown luck, but he enjoyed a charmed 2019 season compared to Leonard Fournette. Fournette converted just three rushing touchdowns against 8.2 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns, and that poor luck sabotaged what otherwise looked like an exceptional 2019 fantasy season with 341 total touches, 1,674 total yards, and a top-two 3.0 average yards after contact. Contract drama aside, the Jaguars remained committed to Fournette by skipping his position in the draft and adding only receiving back Chris Thompson of note in free agency. Thompson may eat into Fournette's target share, but even average touchdown fortune would counterbalance that and catapult Fournette into comfortable RB2 status.

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
KUBIAK Rank: 14
ESPN ADP: 21
Yahoo! ADP: 18

Depending on your appetite for risk, Conner may be the KUBIAK-preferred player you should avoid at our ranking. Even if you enable the ranking adjustments for his red risk factor, Conner beats his ADP on the strength of our healthy projection of 231 carries, 11th-most at the position. On paper, his injury history is scary. He tore his ACL and suffered Hodgkin's Lymphoma in college, missed a few weeks with a leg injury in 2018, and missed six weeks with knee and shoulder injuries in 2019. But Conner has still reached a 215-carry benchmark in three of his last six seasons, and one of those misses came in his 2017 rookie year when he backed up workhorse back Le'Veon Bell. Tomlin tends to rely on a bellcow back and has indicated he plans to do so with Conner again this season.


Wide Receivers

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
KUBIAK Rank: 9
ESPN ADP: 21
Yahoo! ADP: 24

It is reasonable to have some trepidation for the fantasy value of the Chargers receivers with the team's transition from Philip Rivers to new starter Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is a dual-threat quarterback, which motivates the decline of 72 pass attempts we project for the team as a whole this season. But Taylor has also tended to avoid risky throws that could lead to interceptions -- he led the league with a miniscule 1.0% interception rate in his last year as a starter in 2017. That tendency should move the team's needle of target share toward the quicker Allen and away from deep threat Mike Williams, whose 2.0-yard average separation was second-lowest of the 125 players with at least 43 targets last season according to Next Gen Stats. On balance, Allen will likely see a similar target volume this season as he has in previous years.

DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
KUBIAK Rank: 15
ESPN ADP: 28
Yahoo! ADP: 20

Now that teammates Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson have opted out of the 2020 season, Parker's ADP will likely come closer to our ranking for him. But it has a way to go to catch up to our optimism for a player whose 2019 quarterback splits suggest an excellent encore season in 2020. Few fantasy players expected a breakout for Parker in his fifth professional season last year, so it was easy to misread the fact that Josh Rosen sabotaged his potential fantasy value in September and October. But after Ryan Fitzpatrick took over as the team's starter in Week 7, Parker was the No. 6 PPR receiver for the rest of the season with sustainable numbers of 9.1 targets and 88 yards per game to counterbalance his possible touchdown regression.

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
KUBIAK Rank: 30
ESPN ADP: 35
Yahoo! ADP: 42

Jones avoided the same starter/backup quarterback splits that Parker showed, possibly because he missed the final month of the season with an ankle injury. Jones missed part of 2018 as well with a knee issue, but when he has been healthy, he has been one of the most reliable touchdown-scorers at the position. Over the last three seasons, Jones is one of just eight receivers with a rate of at least one opportunity-adjusted touchdown every two games over 25 or more games played. The others -- Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, DeVante Parker, Odell Beckham, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones -- are all household names. Maybe Marvin would be too if he had a cooler name. As it stands, his depressed market value if your fantasy opportunity.


Tight Ends

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
KUBIAK Rank: 5
ESPN ADP: 8
Yahoo! ADP: 7

After a typically slow career start for a tight end, Higbee exploded to a position-leading 10.3 targets per game after the Rams' Week 11 bye last season. That tripling of his early-season target share illustrated the team's lack of receiver depth after Brandin Cooks suffered another concussion and Gerald Everett injured his knee. But the team traded Cooks this offseason, and his spot will be taken by Josh Reynolds, a replacement-level talent with just 16 DYAR and a 51% catch rate on 120 career targets. Higbee proved he was an efficient contributor with a 5.5% DVOA last season and should continue to see heavy target shares because of it.

Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
KUBIAK Rank: 11
ESPN ADP: 19
Yahoo! ADP: 22

Never say never with the team's recent history, but the Eagles are unlikely to be as injured at their skill positions in 2020 as they were in 2019. But a healthier roster doesn't spell doom for second tight end Goedert's chances for fantasy success. His development motivated the team's shift to a heavy reliance on two-tight end personnel in 2019 even before they suffered their myriad receiver injuries. They've finished first in usage of that personnel group in each of the last two seasons. Meanwhile, Goedert can make a fair claim that he is a more efficient receiving option than presumed No. 1 option Zach Ertz, having edged the veteran with 0.3% versus -1.1% DVOA the last two seasons.


Kickers

Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons
KUBIAK Rank: 8
ESPN ADP: 12
Yahoo! ADP: 16

Koo nearly exhausted his NFL opportunities with a disastrous rookie 2017 season -- in four games with the Chargers, he missed three of his four attempts from 40-plus yards and three of his six attempts at extra points. After his release that year, he did not kick again until the Falcons signed him halfway through 2019 to replace injured incumbent Matt Bryant. As such, it's hardly a surprise that fantasy owners remain wary of Koo's abilities. But the Falcons are clearly comfortable with him, declining the option to bring in competition for his job this offseason. Meanwhile, the Falcons have finished in the upper half of teams in extra-point attempts in all but two of Matt Ryan's 12 seasons, a consistency Bryant sometimes failed to translate into fantasy success as his range eroded in his early 40s. Kickers are notoriously inconsistent with their conversion rates from year to year. Koo is a good choice because of the team for which he plays.


Defenses

Cleveland Browns
KUBIAK Rank: 15
ESPN ADP: 28
Yahoo! ADP: 22

The Browns snuffed out the interest fantasy owners had in both their offensive and defensive potential with a letdown performance in 2019. But new head coach Kevin Stefanski's possible offensive renaissance could mean as much for the team's defensive prospects for fantasy as it should for key offensive players such as Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham. Last season, the Browns finished top 10 with a 31.6% defensive pressure rate, but that translated to just 38 total sacks, 20th-most in football. Likely with more opportunities to rush the passer with leads this season, the Browns could balance out that total and enjoy the fantasy benefits of tremendous line play from Myles Garrett and company. Meanwhile, the team's disappointing 2019 season softened their schedule (-0.6% projected DVOA, 22nd) for 2020, and those benefits should begin with a couple of excellent opportunities for standout performances in Weeks 2 and 3 at home against the Bengals and the Washington Football Team.

Comments

3 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2020, 5:29pm

2 "the Jaguars remained…

"the Jaguars remained committed to Fournette"

!!!!!  I drafted this guy on sunday.

 

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