Undervalued Dynasty Players: May
Now that we have released early rankings for 2019, which include both the new class of rookies and the most recent free agent signings, it's time to recalculate the dynasty values of each player and identify the bargains.
As I described in the first article of this series, last month, my statistics-based process for computing dynasty values starts with John Paulsen's rankings for next year, projects each player forward along typical age-production curves for their position, and then combines all the future years of production into a single number in the same manner that you would compute the value of a company from projections of future cash flows. Below, I will compare the dynasty values produced by that process to the ADP data from our friends over at Dynasty League Football and highlight the players that stand out as bargains.
After you're done looking at my list, you should also have a look at Matt Williamson's dynasty rankings, which incorporate his NFL insider knowledge and give you another way to find players to target.
Jared Goff lands at seventh in John's early rankings for 2019, placing him just ahead of Drew Brees and just one projected point behind Baker Mayfield. Still just 24 years old, Goff is only a few months older than Mayfield, despite having two extra seasons under his belt. Like Mayfield, he plays in an offense loaded with talent, including Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who was missing for a good part of last season. The Rams offense should score at least as many points as the Browns offense. Despite that, however, Goff is being drafted about five rounds later than Mayfield, making Goff the clear bargain.
Kyler Murray nearly cracks the top 12 in his first projected NFL season. (He sits at 13th in John's rankings.) Murray does not look cheap by ADP. In fact, he is usually being taken before Goff, who we have projected well ahead. The place where Murray may be cheap is in rookie drafts, where he is often available at the top of the second round. Compared to taking a second-round receiver with a low probability of success, the option of taking a quarterback that will be startable in year one is worth consideration.
Still undervalued (from last time): Marlon Mack
Josh Jacobs's ranking as the top rookie running back is as expected, but the exact position of that ranking, at 14th overall (between Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb), is something of a surprise. That said, it makes sense—Jacobs will likely see a lot of touches, both carries and receptions, in an offense that likes to run the ball. Now add in the fact that Jacobs only just turned 21, and it's a surprise that Jacobs isn't more beloved by dynasty drafters. He is sometimes available in the fourth round of startup drafts, which seems too cheap. After Jacobs puts up a few solid performances, his ADP could easily jump up into the second round.
Another surprise in John's rankings is the position of Kenyan Drake, at 18th. Again, this makes sense given the lack of competition in the Dolphins offense. Drake could easily be their most talented offensive player, so expect him to see a lot of the ball. Given that, Drake's seventh-round ADP makes little sense for an RB who is only 25 years old. Presumably, drafters worry about Drake's long-term prospects, as he is in the last year of his contract in Miami. However, if he puts up the solid numbers that are expected this year, we would expect him to see interest from some team (if not the Dolphins). That makes him look, to me, a little undervalued at that ADP.
James White lands in between Jacobs and Drake in the rankings, at 16th. Even at 27 years old, a high-end RB2 should be drafted as early as the fifth round, three rounds earlier than he is being taken now. Presumably, White gets a discount due to the unpredictability of his running back usage in the Patriots offense, but I have to wonder if that picture is out of date. Last season, White put up at least 13 points in 75% of his games, and at least 8.5 points in 88%, so his floor is higher than generally perceived. Furthermore, with Gronk's departure, there is a large drop in competition for targets. Neither Sony Michel nor Damien Harris are known for pass catching, so the only competition that may get a significant number of targets will come from Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry. That still leaves a lot of targets available for White. He certainly looks cheap in the 8th round.
With the departure of Antonio Brown, the Steelers offense also has a huge number of available targets. A good fraction of those should go to James Washington, who now sits as the WR2 on the depth chart. When we consider that the Steelers offense has consistently put up big scoring numbers (particularly at home), Washington's ranking of 29th overall makes a lot of sense. What does not make sense is his ADP in the eighth round, especially given that he is only 24 years old. I suppose drafters are waiting to see him put up some big games before they become believers, but when that happens, his ADP will quickly move up into the fifth round.
Fantasy drafters do not seem to have as much confidence in Nick Foles as I do. After putting up one of the most efficient quarterback seasons in history one year and becoming the Super Bowl MVP in another, it's not crazy to think that Foles might actually be a good quarterback. Assuming he's not terrible, though, some pass catcher on the Jaguars should be fantasy relevant. The top two on the depth chart are Dede Westbrook and Marqise Lee. While the team will still likely run the ball more than average, I'm expecting an uptick in passing this season.
Both Westbrook, the possession receiver, and Lee, the deep threat, look undervalued. Drafters correctly value Westbrook higher, but give him only a ninth-round ADP, unbefitting his ranking as a WR3 and his age of 25. Lee is even more undervalued. Ranked as a WR3/WR4 and still just 27, he should not be available in the 15th round as he frequently is now.
Conventional wisdom sees a large dropoff after the top three tight ends, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle. John's rankings agree. However, when we consider age, that dropoff should not be so large, as the next tier of tight ends are all under the age of 25. This tier includes Hunter Henry, Evan Engram and O.J. Howard. While Henry is still the screaming bargain, Engram also appears undervalued.
Howard and Engram have nearly the same ADP (within a half round) and nearly the same age (within a few months). However, we have Engram projected 10 points ahead of Howard. With the departure of Odell Beckham, Engram could again end up as the focal point of the passing offense, just as he was two years ago. Meanwhile, Howard has some uncertainty as he transitions to a new offense under Bruce Arians. This is especially worrying considering the lack of tight end usage under Arians in Arizona. Overall, Engram deserves a larger premium than he is getting at the moment.
Having lost Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks offense has a lot of available targets. Some of those will to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, but I would also expect to see an uptick in targets for the tight end position. It was not long ago that Jimmy Graham was the overall TE2 in this system. Luke Willson even had his moments. While I'm not going to bet real money that a Seattle tight end will be fantasy relevant this year, the good news is that you don't have to—the top two players on their TE depth chart, Nick Vannett and Will Dissly, are both completely free. If one takes over a pass-catching role in the offense, they will be worth the roster spot you spent on them. (Vannett is probably the safer bet of the two. He averaged almost five targets per game last season, putting him right on the edge of fantasy viability.)
Since the statistics-based dynasty values use only John's rankings as age and do not incorporate any other information about the future prospects of the players, they should not be trusted blindly. Instead, I've gone through the players that look most undervalued by the numbers and discussed the ones that look sensible to me. However, the full numbers are also shown below. If you subscribe to DLF, you can see current dynasty ADPs for these players and decide for yourself which ones are under- and over-valued.
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