There’s nothing better than a bargain in fantasy football. They’re your sleepers and breakout stars and you usually target them in the middle to late rounds of fantasy football drafts. But not every value pick comes after the early rounds, as some of the best pure value can come very early in your draft. It’s pretty hard to argue that anyone drafted with a first round pick is a “steal”, but from round two on, there actually are several bargains fantasy owners should be paying attention to – and specifically taking advantage of.
Value is naturally in the eye of the beholder, but I’m targeting some of these guys early in drafts simply because the value is too good to ignore. At the same time, their shocking availability can also impact the way I draft and ultimately build my team. How you draft is up to you, but before your clock starts running on your league’s draft, keep in mind that these guys could be had at bargain prices:
Note: ADP info taken from FantasyFootballCalculator.com. All value picks come in round five or earlier, on average.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (ADP: Round 5)
Okay, I get that the Saints plan on running the ball more and they traded Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. But can we pump the brakes for a second here and realize that Brees was going in round two or earlier in 2014 and now we can get him in round five and beyond? The changes are coming and Brees may not be the total stud he once was, but he was fantasy football’s 6th best passer a year ago. Had it not been for some freakish rushing stats by Russell Wilson, he may have even been third. I tend to think quarterback is insanely deep and you don’t need to draft Brees at all, but what if we’re passing up on a top-three passer at a round five value or later? It’s certainly something to think about when we could have two stud RBs and two stud WRs before plucking potentially one of the best fantasy quarterbacks off the board. The beauty here is you’re still listening to the naysayers and realizing the risk. Yes, Brees has lost some weapons and his attempts and overall production could see a dip. But he did still produce last year, he does still have some good weapons and he could still produce at a top-five level. All of that makes him worth consideration at his current ADP and easily one of the top bargains on draft day.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: Round 2)
There’s some serious negative surrounding Murray in 2015. He’s got no stability at quarterback, he’s on a new team, his offensive line is at best a serious downgrade and before 2014 he had never played more than 14 games in a season. Yeah, that’s a lot to worry about. Of course, on the bright side, Murray remains an underrated talent who fits Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense perfectly as a true north/south runner and the guy who was fantasy football’s top running back a year ago can be had in round two. That’s right, as risky as Murray very well may be, it doesn’t cost that coveted first round pick to land him. Instead, he can slide to you in round two, where he’s about as risky as anyone else, but just might carry the upside of a guy primed to finish 2015 atop the position for the second year in a row.
Why so optimistic? Well, that lack of stability under center could drive the Eagles to run the ball even more, Murray fitting Kelly’s system should not be a quickly dismissed point and while Murray has had a shaky injury history he did just man up for 16 starts in 2014. There is risk with anyone, but the beauty here is Murray is a true first round talent that you can get one round later. Why take a risk on someone like C.J. Anderson in round one when you can take a stud WR or a more stable running back and then grab Murray in round two? It’s not a fool proof plan, but it’s definitely one to think about.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (ADP: Round 2)
Can someone please show me Megatron’s insane drop-off from a physical perspective? Because I don’t see it. Instead, what I saw last year was a total beast storm week one with 164 yards and two scores and then slow down due to numerous injuries. Those injuries absolutely bogged CJ down, but despite playing at less than 100% several times and even missing three games, this dude was still the 14th best fantasy receiver in 2014.
Let’s be honest with something. Antonio Brown destroyed the league in 2014. Jordy Nelson was the second best wide receiver and he was still 22 fantasy points behind Brown. A healthy Megatron playing a full season would have at least rivaled for top-five production, although no one was going to touch Brown. In 2015, Megatron is completely healthy and in the second season of a new system. At 29, there is zero reason to think the game’s best receiver is in serious decline and it’s possible he turns right back around and produces one of his best years yet. Yes, the stud wide receiver that was going in the middle of round one a year ago is now the sixth drafted receiver on average, and he can be had in round two. My fellow fantasy owners can freely pass on him all they want. I’ll gladly be plucking Calvin Johnson off the draft board in round two in every draft I’m able.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: Round 2)
The ADP isn’t changing much, but I think the expectations have. Green remains a round two pick, but he’s sliding more to the middle or end of the second round and still represents a killer value. We’re talking about a guy that endured a more run-based offense, nagging injuries and three missed games, yet still recorded his fourth straight 1,000+ yard season. Green can’t expect to get the 97-98 catches he was getting in 2012 and 2013, but he’s still Cincy’s top weapon in the passing game and if nothing else, Andy Dalton does know how to get him the ball. You can be down on Green all you want, but had he been healthy last year, he wouldn’t have slipped outside of the top-10. Even so, he was still the 23rd best fantasy wide receiver, despite all of his troubles.
Green enters 2015 completely healthy and chasing a new contract. The odds are greatly in his favor to play some of his best ball yet and you can continue to get him at a solid value. I’m still taking Megatron over him, but if Johnson is gone and you already have a stud running back from round one, Green is a terrific WR1 to target.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: Round 3)
Jimmy Graham disappointed in 2014, as you had to spend a first round pick to land him and he didn’t even end up being fantasy football’s top tight end. Instead, Rob Gronkowski, who you coul have gotten a full two rounds later, ended up being the league leader at the position. The two have flip-flopped this year, and while I doubt Graham trumps The Gronk, you now only have to spend a third round pick to get him.
The value is clear. The big question is, does Graham moving from New Orleans to Seattle cripple his upside so much that you shouldn’t get excited about his ADP? I don’t think so. I definitely think Graham is headed for less receptions and fewer yards. After all, he’s going from an offense that threw the ball at least 650 times over the last five seasons, to a run-heavy offense that hasn’t thrown the ball more than 452 times even once in the last three years.
That’s not great. But keep this in mind: the guy Graham is leap-frogging in Seattle (Luke Willson) still managed to come in as fantasy’s 25th best tight end. He scored three touchdowns and put up almost 400 yards and he’s nowhere the talent Graham is. Graham can obviously at least double what Willson did without even trying, but there’s even a little more upside than what we can see on the surface. After all, the bulk of Graham’s value is in his red-zone ability and he’s going to a team that was ninth in the league in red-zone scoring attempts in 2014 and 10th in red-zone scores. Insert Graham, a massive target and matchup nightmare that has turned 50 red-zone receptions in the last four years into 35 scores. This is a guy that has averaged 11.5 touchdowns over that span and his size and athleticism aren’t suddenly evaporating into nothingness.
No, you don’t want to pay a 1st rounder for Graham anymore. His volume will be down and he’s probably still not going to be fantasy’s top tight end. But he very well could slide in at #2 still if the red-zone stats align, and that’s more than good enough for you to take him in round three.
These guys are all big names and they all have reason for you to hate them. That being said, logic still suggests there’s a very good chance they’re plenty good enough to roster and more than capable of remaining elite options. At their current ADP, they’re begging to be drafted. That doesn’t mean they’re locks to pay off, but it does mean you may not want to blindly pass over them when you draft this summer.
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