By Joe Pollock
Every year there are players that get over-drafted and players who are under-drafted; that's the name of the game when you're playing fantasy football. One of the biggest keys to success is identifying the players being selected a few rounds too late and targeting them while steering clear of the guys who will inevitably underperform their draft positions.
The AFC East is filled with uncertainty as the 2018 season inches closer. It has been one of the most volatile divisions this offseason. Using data from John Dangle's May 23rd piece, Available Targets & Air Yards, we can find that the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets lost 800 targets and 6,410 air yards from their combined 2017 production. With names like Brandin Cooks and Jarvis Landry leaving for greener pastures, these numbers aren't much of a surprise. Still, considering the AFC East wide receiver currently being drafted the highest according to Fantasy Football Calculator PPR 12-Team ADP is Chris Hogan at the 7.11 spot, there are bound to be valuable pass-catchers being overlooked by the masses. Heck, just for kicks I might throw in a running back or quarterback too!
Here are my four most undervalued players in the AFC East:
1.) Robby Anderson (8.10)
We all know why Robby Anderson's draft stock is so low; the kid can't stay out of trouble. Dating all the way back to his dismissal from Temple University in 2014, Robby Anderson has been in and out of court for various incidents ranging from simple traffic violations to assault on a police officers' family–Anderson allegedly threatened to sexually assault an officer's wife during a traffic stop in January. There has since been good news for Anderson on the legal front, however. It seems many if not all of the charges stemming from that January arrest have been dropped or substantially reduced by the courts.
This is not to say Robby Anderson will be on the field week one, and it's not to say he will be on the field for all 16 games. There is still a lengthy legal process in front of him. It does, however, look like a draft position at the back of the eighth round as the 38th wide receiver off the board might be a classic offseason overreaction that could provide excellent value for a player who finished as WR18 in PPR scoring in 2017.
Legal troubles or not, Robby Anderson is an underrated player. He finished as a top 24 scorer at his position 40 percent of the time in 2017. That's better than Amari Cooper (28.57 percent), T.Y. Hilton (31.25 percent) and the same as Josh Gordon–though Gordon failed to finish as a WR1 once in 2017. Those players are being drafted as fringe third/fourth rounders. I get it. Nobody should be drafting Robby Anderson in the third or fourth round. There's still too much uncertainty regarding his legal status and offensive situation. Josh McCown might be his quarterback this season; he might not. Anderson might get suspended; he also might not.
I'm not here to tell you Robby Anderson is going to be your 2018 MVP. I'm not even here to tell you he's going to be a player that should be drafted at all come August. What I am here to say is that right now, Robby Anderson is being grossly under-drafted. Even if he misses the first few games of the season with a suspension, he's going to be useful. The matchups in the AFC East are conducive to streaming considerations for wide receivers. As a matchup based option there might be nobody better than Robbie Anderson for the price in 2018.
2.) Kenyan Drake (4.01)
Jeff DiMatteo and I had a lengthy discussion about Kenyan Drake on last week's episode of the show. The long and short of it is Kenyan Drake is good. He is an excellent pass catcher with an ability to run behind his pads and the hips to make people miss whether it's in traffic or the open field. He's got enough speed to break away and enough power to grind out tough yards between the tackles.
This isn't just Jeff and me talking. Pro Football Focus ranked Kenyan Drake's Week 13 against the Broncos as the best performance for a running back in 2017; a 95.9 overall grade. Drake forced nine–count em, nine–missed tackles in that game.
Since the start of 2016, Kenyan Drake has averaged 5.0 yards per carry; good enough for a tie with Mark Ingram for the best rate for any back totaling at least 150 carries during that span. Of backs with at least 100 carries in a season, Drake also posted the best season in yards after contact per attempt in 2017, shattering Adrian Peterson's 2012 mark of 3.93 with an astonishing 4.29!
Drake is looked at as a change-of-pace back; he doesn't have to be. At 6'1” and 211 pounds Drake has plenty of size to compete as a three-down back at the NFL level. Adam Gase, while not known for his bell-cow running backs, is right at the league average over the course of the last decade in RB1 market share at right around 49%.
Kenyan Drake is currently being drafted behind Rashaad Penny, Derrick Henry, and Joe Mixon and right before Alex Collins and Derrius Guice. If this remains the case come August or I have the chance to pick Drake up even later in a dynasty startup, I'm all over it. Give me Drake over all five of those guys. He's got the talent to be the 2018 version of DeMarco Murray in 2016, a fourth-round pick putting up first-round numbers. The Zero RB darling of the 2018 draft.
3.) DeVante Parker (9.05)
I hate to do this again, but this time, we've got good reason to believe DeVante Parker might finally have his breakout season in 2018 (4th time's a charm?). Jarvis Landry was a target monster in Miami; he's averaged almost 153 targets per season since the start of 2015. Jarvis Landry has taken his talents from South Beach to… Cleveland? Yep. Cleveland. Gross. LeBron doesn't need you, Jarvis. LeBron just needs JR Smith to get his head out of his… sorry we’re getting off topic.
Couple Jarvis Landry's departure with the recent report that Parker has been one of if not the most familiar face around the Dolphins facility this offseason–DeVante Parker has been known to have a lazy streak–and things might finally be coming together for Parker. He saw 96 targets in 2017. No offense to Jay Cutler and Matt Moore, but Ryan Tannehill is a far superior signal caller to either if he's back from that knee injury and performing at 100 percent. Parker could see target numbers in the mid-to-high 130s in 2018 and I wouldn't bat an eyelash. At his career catch percentage and yards per reception, 130 targets would translate into 77 catches for 1,062 yards. At those numbers, Parker would need only one touchdown to break into 2017's top 24 and seven touchdowns to crack the top 12. He's currently being taken as the 41st wideout off the board.
4.) Every QB Not Named Tom Brady (Undrafted)
Don't take this the wrong way. I know the QB situation outside of Tom Brady in the 2018 AFC East sucks. That said, if you're in a 2QB or SuperFlex league, these guys are massively undervalued. Even if you're just playing single QB redraft, every one of these guys should be someone you have your eye on near the back end of the draft in deep leagues or as streaming considerations early on in 2018 in smaller ones.
Ryan Tannehill was a QB1 25 percent of the time in his last full season, a QB2 56.25 percent. In 2017 Josh McCown produced five QB1 performances and six QB2 performances in only 13 games. The sample size on AJ McCarron and Josh Allen is almost nonexistent, but considering Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan each produced a QB1 performance in 2017, these guys shouldn't be overlooked as streaming considerations when they're going up against bottom-tier secondaries. The three (or more?) signal-callers not named Brady will almost inevitably be owned near the bottom of nearly every DFS slate for the first half of the season. For the QB minimum, you've gotta feel good about dropping a buck on a lineup featuring Josh McCown (assuming Sam Darnold turns the ball over enough to be holding a clipboard after training camp) in GPP.
Mark my words. One of these guys we're all laughing at right now will finish in the top 24 at the position, and he might even crack the top 15. That guy could bring home the hardware for fantasy owners everywhere in 2018 just like Blake Bortles did for so many owners in 2017. Keep your eyes open. You might miss it.
Shoutout to Addison Hayes @amazehayes_ on Twitter for the consistency numbers in this article. More and more I realize you’re the real fantasy MVP.