Football season is once again upon us which means the hot takes are back! It is somewhat early in draft season but it is still worth getting ahead on research by doing some mock drafts at this point to get a feel for where players are being taken. In fantasy drafts, productive players in the first few rounds are a requirement to remain competitive but it is players in the later rounds who win leagues. Here are a list of players with significant upside being drafted later than the 75th pick in MyFantasyLeague drafts since Jul. 1 with the potential to substantially out-produce their draft spot:
NOTE: ADPs are according to MyFantasyLeague drafts that have taken place since Jul. 1.
Pat Mahomes, Chiefs, QB (ADP: 81.35)
The masses have already begun drafting quarterbacks (QBs) like DeShaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo early in drafts (both have an ADP of top seven at the position since the start of July on MyFantasyLeague.com) whereas Pat Mahomes has barely been drafted as a starter in 12 team leagues (ADP of 12 at the position since the beginng of July). Comparatively to Garoppolo, Mahomes’ team is absolutely loaded with weaponry: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt for starters. According to team sources, Mahomes’ progress as a rookie led to the trade of Alex Smith, and the entire organization seems to be nothing but excited about this kid. For what it is worth, Mahomes threw for 41 touchdowns (TDs) and ran for 12 in his final season at Texas Tech after throwing for 36 TDs and rushing for 10 the season before. Most impressively, he completely 65.7-percent of his passes in his final college season, so he is not built like a Cam Newton who is wildly inaccurate and reliant on arm strength. Mahomes features a rare combination of arm strength and accuracy and his team features receivers who can help maximize both aspects of his throwing skill set. Since he is unproven, fantasy owners are not sure what to make of him, but once they see him in action, his ADP should skyrocket. If drafting early, you would be smart to wait on him as a QB1 if you miss out on the elites.
Dion Lewis, Titans, RB (ADP: 78.23)
Finally, Dion Lewis does not have to deal with the unpredictability of Coach Bill Belichick. Last season, in a limited workload, Lewis produced the ninth most PPR points per opportunity (PPO) of any running back (RB) after finishing 18th in the category back in 2015. While the team has officially named Derrick Henry the starting back, Lewis expects to share carries, and he is clearly the superior receiving back of the duo. Although Mike Mularkey was running the show the last few seasons, and the team has since switched coaches (Mike Vrabel was hired in the offseason), DeMarco Murray was targeted 44 times (in 15 games) last year and 64 times in 2016. Hell, only three backs posted a superior catch rate to Murray in 2017 (89-percent): LeGarrette Blount (only eight targets), Dion Lewis (97-percent) and Samaje Perine (92-percent). The short passing game should only help a young QB like Marcus Mariota develop and therefore it would be foolish for the team to leave him out of the game plan.
James Conner, Steelers, RB (ADP: 214.12)
Unfortunately, the Le’Veon Bell situation does not seem to be improving anytime soon, as the man wants to get paid more than the Steelers are willing to pay him. Bell held out last offseason and he is threatening to sit out the season if he has to because he does not want to risk his body to get paid less than he is worth. Regardless of how you feel about that mindset, someone will benefit if Bell holds out for an extended time, as he will either rusty to start the year or he his holdout will have extended into the regular season. James Conner “was very impressive” at spring practices, per the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, and Conner announced a month ago he was “100-percent.” If Bell were to sit, the team theoretically would be likelier to use a committee at the RB position, but Conner would be the next man up. It should be noted Kaboly mentioned Conner “looks like he can be a solid every-down back in this league,” and the team may change its mind about the committee once it gave him a shot in Bell’s absence. He is far from a sure thing to exceed value, but if Bell were to sit for any reason, he could see a significant amount of volume on a solid offense. He is worth the shot with a late-round pick.
Will Fuller, Texans, WR (ADP: 80.31)
Everyone and their mother knows and makes the comment: “Will Fuller’s TD rate will depreciate over the long run with DeShaun Watson.” Well, Fuller tied teammate DeAndre Hopkins for the NFL receiving score lead through eight weeks (seven total games) in 2017 prior to Watson’s season-ending ACL injury. In a short sample, Watson put on display his dynamic skill set, and it may not have been better personified than by the contrast of T.J. Yates and Tom Savage’s poor play in weeks 9-17. During that span, the duo only threw nine TDs and nine interceptions (INTs) whereas Watson threw for 19 scores and eight INTs in the team’s first seven games. The threat of his rushing ability needs to be respected and Watson proved that he was willing to take a risk downfield (unlike the team’s other QB options); he led the league in average depth of target (aDOT) at 11.5. Furthermore, he led all QBs in fantasy points per dropback and really just needed to work on his accuracy (ranked 28th while healthy). Assuming he comes back resembling the player he was just a season ago, he will once again look to continuously take shots downfield. The presence of Hopkins will only assist Fuller’s production as well because he needs to be the focus of a defensive scheme and teams can lose track of Fuller. He should be treated like a boom/bust option on a week-to-week basis but having one of the most effective QBs under center should only cause optimism surrounding Fuller’s outlook…not pessimism.
D.J. Moore, Panthers, WR (ADP: 87.18)
Here are the only QBs who posted a lower completion rate last season than Cam Newton: Tom Savage, Ryan Fitzpatrick, C.J. Beathard, Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, Blaine Gabbert, DeShone Kizer and Drew Stanton. Of that group, only Kizer spent more than eight games under center, and he was a volatile rookie playing on the lowly Browns. Sure, Greg Olsen’s injuries did not help Newton nor did the injury to Kelvin Benjamin (prior to being traded to the Bills), but Christian McCaffery still acted as a security blanket and that could not save Newton. Due to his questionable mechanics, Newton often lets the ball sail high on receivers, so drafting a reasonably tall receiver (6’0”) with the second highest vertical jump in the class was a wise decision by the organization. Moore’s SPARQ score ranked in the 92nd percentile and his catch radius ranks in the 88th percentile so this is a player with an uncapped ceiling if deployed correctly. With Olsen back in the mix, that should only alleviate attention from some of the receivers, and give Newton a healthy array of weaponry with Olsen, McCaffery and Devin Funchess. Consistency may be tough for Moore as a rookie, especially because Olsen is Newton’s “old reliable,” but the youngster has the skill set to string together monster games similarly to Kelvin Benjamin in 2014 and 2016. He should see a target share closer to Benjamin in 2016 (118) so nearly 1,000 yards and close to double-digit TDs is not an unthinkable outcome. Fantasy owners will need to take a leap of faith on his skillset but someone this talented should not take long to hit the ground running.
J’Mon Moore, Packers, WR (ADP: 203.59)
Unlike the Panthers’ Moore, the Packers’ J’Mon Moore is not in line for a sizeable target share initially, but he too possesses some talent. This Moore ranks in the 85th percentile of SPARQ and he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash with a 38-inch vertical (one of just six receivers in the class to jump that high). The allure of drafting Moore would be his potential to run away with the third receiver job and a potential increase in role if either of the top wideouts were to suffer an injury. Every year, an elite QB like Aaron Rodgers is able to sustain fantasy value for three-plus pass-catchers in his offense, and the team should be in the running for most TDs via the air. The addition of Jimmy Graham limits his window of opportunity and it was likely he was brought in for his expertise in the red zone. Still, Rodgers had thrown at least 31 TDs in three straight seasons heading into last season before an injury limited his 2017 to just seven games. If Rodgers were to flirt with the 40 TD milestone again, and there is no reason to believe he does not possess that ability, then many players would likely end up on the receiving end of those. Since the Packers ran three-plus wide receiver (WR) sets the third most of any team last year (764 plays), there is still a significant role available for Moore in his first season, even with Graham in town. All he needs to do is beat out Equanimeous St. Brown for the role (not a sure thing) and he should be ready to contribute.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins, TE (ADP: 149.15)
The tight end (TE) position is loaded with guys like George Kittle, Trey Burton and O.J. Howard moving up draft boards as the offseason rolls on. This is leaving Mike Gesicki, the first TE selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, as the forgotten man and he is currently being drafted as a TE2 in even 14-team leagues. Remember Jarvis Landry? He is gone now which means Ryan Tannehill will be looking for someone else to act as his security blanket. Enter Gesicki who produced a 97th percentile SPARQ score, owns a 100th percentile catch radius, 99th percentile agility score, 99th percentile agility score, 95th percentile speed score and 95th percentile 40-yard dash. To put it differently, Gesicki is an elite athlete in every way, shape and form plus he is 6’6” and 247 lbs. Julius Thomas was an aging veteran in the system who specialized in the red zone whereas Gesicki can be used more like a Travis Kelce to both move the chains and finish off drives with a score. The Dolphins may not have been the ideal landing spot but there is a huge target void (at least 131 targets in three straight years for Landry) that now needs to be filled. Rookie TEs are typically tough to rely on but this is no average TE and the void that needs to be filled is gigantic. For that reason, there is a better-than-average chance the kid falls into 90-plus targets as rookie, and that cannot be overlooked when those targets are headed towards a truly special talent.