KUBIAK vs. ADP Underrated: The Value of TD Opportunity

Chargers WR Mike Williams and Keenan Allen
Chargers WR Mike Williams and Keenan Allen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Preseason Week 2 - Last week's article on overrated fantasy players identified Derrick Henry, James Conner, and most of the Miami Dolphins passing game among the players that KUBIAK suggests have inflated market prices in fantasy football for 2022. Now it's time to turn to the opposite group, players you can wait on and get in fantasy drafts at excellent value because of lower average draft position (ADP). No particular team ties these players together except for a pair of Los Angeles Chargers receivers. Below, I've picked a baker's dozen of players that KUBIAK ranks notably better than ADP and will explain our optimism.

Here are the last few articles in this series:

All referenced KUBIAK rankings are based on PPR scoring and represent rank within each position, not all players.

Quarterbacks

Jalen Hurts

KUBIAK Rank: 4
ESPN ADP: 6
Yahoo ADP: 8

Jalen Hurts surprised a lot of people last season by finishing as QB9 in fantasy despite missing two games. All that ground yardage is very valuable. So how does KUBIAK have him even higher for 2022? Part of what's going on is that Hurts' 2021 performance is more sustainable than you might realize. For example, 10 rushing touchdowns certainly sounds like something you wouldn't expect a quarterback to get in two straight seasons. But Hurts was not particularly lucky when it came to scoring touchdowns. Based on where he took his carries, in fact, you would normally expect 10.6 rushing touchdowns. Hurts had a small expected touchdown deficit, not a surplus. We're also expecting an increase from Hurts' passing numbers this season. Wide receiver projections are folded into the quarterback projections, and the arrival of A.J. Brown as No. 1 receiver is a pretty big deal.

Jameis Winston

KUBIAK Rank: 14
ESPN ADP: 23
Yahoo ADP: 25

If we compare all NFL quarterbacks last year through seven games, Jameis Winston was QB18 in fantasy points. That includes Week 8 where he missed half the game due to injury. If he can duplicate that performance this season, he'll already be worth more than his current ADP. So why does KUBIAK have Winston even higher than that? Look at who he was throwing to last year compared to this year. Last year, the top three Saints receivers were Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, and Tre'Quan Smith. Now, Winston's top three receivers are Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry. The KUBIAK projections balance out the quality of the quarterback and his receivers, and so Winston's new recievers are lifting up his value a bit, making him an intriguing late quarterback choice in any league.

Running Backs

Leonard Fournette

KUBIAK Rank: 5
ESPN ADP: 10
Yahoo ADP: 11

We're not expecting Fournette's performance to stay as strong as it was in 2021 -- we have him dropping from 4.5 to 4.2 yards per carry, for example -- but we are expecting him to remain a very big part of the Buccaneers offense. Fournette put Ronald Jones behind him as the clear No. 1 running back option for Tampa Bay in Week 4 of last season. From Week 4 through Week 15, before he missed the final three games due to injury, Fournette was RB3 in PPR scoring. Jones had a 62.7% carry share during that period, and we're projecting him with a 60.5% carry share for this season. We don't see Rachaad White as a major threat to Fournette's playing time. He'll replace Jones, and he might replace both Jones and Giovani Bernard, but Fournette should still be the clear No. 1 back. No, there's no upside for Fournette like there would be for a younger player, but upside is for later in the draft. Early on, you want value.

AJ Dillon

KUBIAK Rank: 18
ESPN ADP: 32
Yahoo ADP: 25

AJ Dillon gets the ball a lot for the Green Bay Packers. Last year, even if you take out the two games where Aaron Jones did not play, Dillon had a carry share of 42.4%. Jones had a carry share of 44.8% in those same games. This year, we're projecting them with a carry share of 44.5% (Dillon) and 47.5% (Jones). There's no reason to think Dillon's usage will go down, and it might go up with another year of experience. Dillon was the most consistent back in the league last season, leading the NFL with a 62.6% running back success rate. And he should score more touchdowns with the same usage in 2022; last season, Dillon had 6.5 expected touchdowns based on where he got his carries but only got into the end zone five times. Add in the possibility of a Jones injury, which would likely make Dillon a workhorse RB1 -- that's the reason Dillon is a Blue Risk in the KUBIAK app -- and Dillon is excellent value at his current ADP.

Devin Singletary

KUBIAK Rank: 22
ESPN ADP: 27
Yahoo ADP: 29

Singletary is an underrated back who was tied for fourth in the NFL in broken and missed tackles last season. Ranking him is really about how much you expect the Bills to use James Cook as the change-of-pace, third-down back. Last year, the Bills clearly turned to Singletary as more of a RB1 in the second half of the season. In Weeks 1-11, his carry share was 43.0%. (That includes Josh Allen's carries, by the way.) From Week 12 through the playoffs, his carry share increased to 52.8%. Our projections put his carry share at 47.5%, about halfway in between those two numbers. We're not expecting Singletary to improve substantially -- in fact, his yards per carry project at a career-low 4.2 -- and our forecast has him catching almost a dozen fewer passes than last year because of Cook's arrival. It's not like we expect Josh Allen to stop running in the red zone, either, with Singletary projected for the same seven rushing touchdowns he had a year ago. Nonetheless, all it takes for Singletary to be worth more than his current ADP is for the Bills to use him just a little bit more than they did in the first half of 2021.

Wide Receivers

Keenan Allen

KUBIAK Rank: 7
ESPN ADP: 10
Yahoo ADP: 10

Mike Williams

KUBIAK Rank: 11
ESPN ADP: 18
Yahoo ADP: 19

Last year, Allen and Williams were 11th and 14th in wide receiver fantasy value for PPR leagues. For Allen, at least, his ADP matches that performance. So why do we have Allen and Williams both climbing the ranks in 2022? In part because we are not expecting the Chargers to use their tight ends as much as they did with Jared Cook as the starter last season. Last year, Justin Herbert threw to tight ends 137 times, which works out to a 20.8% target share for tight ends. That's more than Herbert threw to Williams. We're not expecting that to continue in 2022. Instead, we have the tight ends combined for 14.5% of targets, which means everything goes up for the wide receivers. That includes Allen's target share increasing from 23.8% to 25.0% and Williams' increasing from 19.6% to 22.0%.

I feel stronger about Williams than I do about Allen, and here's the reason: the man is a touchdown opportunity machine. Here's a look at the top 10 wide receivers of the last four years in opportunity-adjusted expected touchdowns per game. (This is research you can do with an FO+ subscription,, by the way.)

Top WR in Expected TD/Game, 2018-2021
Player Games Expected
TD/Game
Actual
TD/Game
Surplus
D.Adams 57 0.679 0.825 +0.146
M.Evans 61 0.575 0.705 +0.130
A.J.Brown 31 0.551 0.774 +0.223
D.Hopkins 57 0.537 0.561 +0.025
T.Hill 60 0.514 0.717 +0.203
M.Williams 60 0.494 0.433 -0.060
DK Metcalf 49 0.491 0.592 +0.100
J.Chase 17 0.490 0.765 +0.275
O.Beckham 49 0.484 0.367 -0.117
S.Diggs 63 0.479 0.524 +0.044

Williams gets plenty of looks in the red zone, but he has scored one touchdown less than his opportunities would suggest in each of the last two seasons. One of these years he's not going to have a touchdown opportunity deficit, making him an even better fantasy pick.

Rashod Bateman

KUBIAK Rank: 20
ESPN ADP: 37
Yahoo ADP: 28

File this under "someone has to catch passes in Baltimore." Last year's No. 1 wide receiver, Marquise Brown, had a 24.7% target share. We're projecting Bateman with a 25.5% target share as this year's No. 1 receiver, slightly higher because he's more of a possession receiver who will get a steady diet of medium-length passes with fewer screens and shot plays. Bateman is also a talented receiver whose 5.6% receiving DVOA as a rookie was first among the four Baltimore wideouts with at least 25 targets. We expect a rebound from the Baltimore offense this season, and Bateman will be the beneficiary.

Hunter Renfrow

KUBIAK Rank: 21
ESPN ADP: 31
Yahoo ADP: 34

It's very unlikely that Hunter Renfrow repeats last year's great fantasy season now that Davante Adams is in town to take some of Derek Carr's attention, but we think that the public is downgrading Renfrow a bit too much. Renfrow was 10th in fantasy value (PPR) among wide receivers last year. Now we're dropping him down out of the top 30? Renfrow's target share should be similar to what it was a year ago. Sure, Adams is now WR1 in Las Vegas, but Renfrow is still very clearly WR2. Even in the first half of last year, when Henry Ruggs was still in the lineup and Darrren Waller was healthy, Renfrow had a target share of 19.9%. Renfrow scored 9 touchdowns last year with only 7.3 expected touchdowns, a nice 1.7-touchdown surplus, but we're pricing that into our projections as well; we only have Renfrow with 5.6 touchdowns. Still, he's underrated by ADP, especially in PPR leagues.

Robert Woods

KUBIAK Rank: 29
ESPN ADP: 48
Yahoo ADP: 45

We can worry about a return from ACL surgery, but Bobby Trees is practicing without a knee brace at Titans training camp and Peter King said he looks "totally back to normal." Treylon Burks is struggling in camp, putting further emphasis on the idea that Woods is going to be the clear No. 1 receiver for the Titans. If Woods is starting opposite Nick Westbrook-Ikhine because Burks is running behind, Woods is going to clearly be the featured target. Austin Hooper is the tight end, not a big deal, and Derrick Henry doesn't catch passes. Woods is not in a scheme as good as the one he had with Los Angeles, but Woods was WR13 in fantasy value (PPR) back in 2020 and WR21 even if you remove his rushing yardage. (He had 155 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground that year.)

Tight Ends

Robert Tonyan

KUBIAK Rank: 11
ESPN Rank: 25
Yahoo Rank: 24

Robert Tonyan's touchdown rate from his 2020 breakout season is completely unsustainable. The guy is not catching 11 touchdowns again. But he should still play a significant role in the Green Bay offense, especially in the red zone. Tonyan had an 11.8% target share in 2020 and an 11.6% target share in the first seven games of 2021 before he got hurt. Our forecast gives him a small increase in target share because we expect the departed Davante Adams' targets to be spread around. We're projecting a 13.5% target share for 2022. At that target share, Tonyan is worth consideration as one of the last couple starting tight ends in a 12-team league. Even if you think that target share projection is a little high, Tonyan still is one of the top backups and bye-week fill-ins in a 12-team league, a lot closer to TE15 than TE25.

Cole Kmet

KUBIAK Rank: 12
ESPN Rank: 15
Yahoo Rank: 22

Cole Kmet had no touchdowns last year. Yes, the Chicago offense is bad, but a tight end should not be going through an entire season without a touchdown. In fact, based on where he got targets, Kmet should have been expected to score 3.8 touchdowns. That was the second-biggest touchdown deficit among tight ends, trailing only Kyle Pitts (who was expected to score 5.2 touchdowns and got only 1). Look, someone has to catch passes in Chicago this year. Kmet had a target share of 17.8% last year, and we're projecting that to increase slightly to 19.0% this year. Add in the expected touchdowns, and you have a player who, like Robert Tonyan, is good enough to either be the last starter in a 12-team league or one of the top backups and bye-week fill-ins.

Kickers

Greg Joseph

KUBIAK Rank: 7
ESPN ADP: 15
Yahoo ADP: 20

Greg Joseph was tied for sixth among kickers with 135 points last season. He didn't do this with particularly good luck on kicks, as his value was about equal to expectation according to our metrics. He just had a lot of opportunities, and he should continue to have opportunities in 2022 with the Vikings offense projected in the top 10 of DVOA. So why do ESPN and Yahoo ADP have him as undraftworthy in most leagues?

Comments

4 comments, Last at 22 Aug 2022, 3:11pm

1 How do you do it??

Roughly speaking, how do you project yards-per-carry, Aaron? What factors lead you to think it'll go up or down the following season? (like for Singletary and Fournette?)

And how reliable is that aspect of your projections? While never really diving into it, I've found that stat to be particularly volatile.

(yes, I'm one of the very few roto players here)

2 You're definitely not!

There are plenty of fantasy football players reading this site, believe me!

In the preseason, KUBIAK projects yards per carry by combining yards per carry from the last two seasons and regressing back towards the league average. Historical carries are weighted so that the most recent season is the most important. Both Singletary and Fournette, for example, see their projected rates drop because their 2021 yards per carry rates were a) higher than 2020 and b) higher than league average.

As the season progresses and a player plays more games, previous-season carries and league regression fade from the in-season, weekly projections.

Oh, and there are opponent adjustments, although those are lighter in the preseason.

For yards per carry and every projected efficiency, we strive to make the best projection possible.  That means that, when a particular stat is more volatile, KUBIAK more heavily regresses it toward league average.  Yards per carry isn't as sticky as some stats, but it isn't as extreme as say field goal conversion rate.  If you care to explore, you'll find that kickers have their projected conversion rates tightly bunched around the league average.

3 I definitely am!

I mean 'roto' in the sense of scoring, Aaron. In my case, rushing/receiving/passing yards each per attempt. Very, very few leagues do that.

Ergo, my interest in actually usefully forecasting rushing yards per attempt. (12.5% of my league!)

So I see you're just regressing toward the league mean and the player's historical mean. While I didn't think so given its idiosyncronicity, I figured maybemaybemaybe while doing research that actually matters to people you guys had stumbled across some other correlations. Like expected (dis)improvement in O-line play, better quarterbacking (so opening up the running game), role changes, whatnot.

4 Julio

Aaron is the Julio Jones ranking accurate? I'd imagine his late rise here was left out of this article if it's not.

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