Dynasty rankings are cool and all, but identifying where the value lies relative to average draft position (ADP) is when things really start to get interesting. The majority of social media discourse revolves around folks' top-five or top-12 players at each position — rankings that are typically sharper and less volatile from analyst to analyst due to the reality that we as a fantasy community generally devote more time to studying the best players vs. the worst.
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Today’s goal: Identify 10 players who are values at their present ADP (courtesy of the fine folks over at DLF). In many cases, this list could also be interpreted as a buy-low chart. Great day to be great either way.
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield (Ian Rank: QB22 | ADP: QB27)
Yeah, it’s gross. I will get mocked for this if the PFF Fantasy Twitter notes that I’m buying Mayfield.
But I am. Because the 2018 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick has never been cheaper. Let’s quickly rehash Mayfield’s career from a fantasy perspective:
- 2018: Doesn't get to start until Week 4. Works as the overall QB11 from Week 4-17.
- 2019: Largely goes terrible from start to finish. Overall QB19, QB27 on a per-game basis.
- 2020: Many mis-correlated the absence of Odell Beckham with Mayfield needing a handful of weeks to, you know, learn an entirely new offense in a season that had zero preseason contests due to covid. Overall, Mayfield finished as a middling QB17 in fantasy points per game but again finished strong down the stretch with a QB11 finish from Weeks 12-17 once the Browns were done with some truly nasty weather-induced affairs.
- 2021: A solid 321-yard opening performance (11.5 yards per attempt, 75% completion rate) in Week 1 against the Chiefs proves to be the peak of the entire season, as Mayfield suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in Week 2 and never seemed healthy the rest of the year. He finished as the QB26 on a per-game basis among all signal-callers to play at least eight games.
Mayfield is my QB22 behind guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins but in front of Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz and Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s being priced at his floor (2019 and 2021) with seemingly no mention of the top-12 ceiling he flashed in both 2018 and 2020. Mayfield has posted above-average marks in PFF passing grade (83.4, No. 17) and yards per attempt (7.3, No. 25) among 60 quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks since 2018; it’d make sense if the Browns — or someone else — give him more than a few additional opportunities to start.
Mayfield’s January shoulder surgery was deemed a success and he’s expected to be 100% by training camp. There are worse third quarterbacks to add to the dynasty squad than a former No. 1 overall pick who has worked as a top-12 fantasy signal-caller for extended stretches on multiple occasions during his short career.
New York Jets RB Michael Carter (Ian Rank: RB16 | ADP: RB24)
Many were hesitant to crown Carter as the next big thing in fantasy land due to his fourth-round draft capital, but that didn't stop the Jets from handing him 183 touches in 14 games. Credit to Carter for converting that usage into 964 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns despite working inside of the league's 28th-ranked scoring offense.
Still, it was the manner in which Carter went about picking up his production that was especially impressive: He was objectively awesome in 2021. The below graph denotes running back performance in yards after contact and missed tackles forced per carry; Carter finds himself in the same jumble as Nick Chubb and college teammate Javonte Williams.
Running back yards after contact per carry and missed tackles forced per carry (min. 100 carries, PFF) pic.twitter.com/RoPO5zcEOM
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) January 10, 2022
Injuries prevented Carter from soaring too high in Year 1, but he still worked as the overall PPR RB29 and finished inside the week’s top-24 scorers on six separate occasions.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the season: The Jets showed that they're willing to feature Carter as a true three-down back. He played at least 70% of the offense's snaps on three separate occasions and racked up at least 15 combined carries and targets in six of his 12 non-injury induced contests.
Tevin Coleman is a free agent, meaning Carter has a chance to feasibly see more consistent early-down work in 2022 and beyond. The Jets offer at least one year of continuity in their offense, coaching staff and front office alike; I’m fine betting on the 22-year-old talent as a mid-tier RB2 over guys with higher draft capital and ADP like Travis Etienne, A.J. Dillon, Josh Jacobs and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Minnesota Vikings RB Alexander Mattison (Ian Rank: RB31 | ADP: RB38)
Mattison remains just 23 years old despite having already played three professional seasons. He’s been nothing short of remarkable whenever Dalvin Cook has missed time in recent years:
- Week 6, 2020: 10-26-0 rushing, 1-4-0 receiving, PPR RB47
- Week 17, 2020: 21-95-1 rushing, 3-50-1 receiving, RB4
- Week 3, 2021: 26-112-0 rushing, 6-59-0 receiving, RB7
- Week 5, 2021: 25-113-0 rushing, 7-40-1 receiving, RB6
- Week 13, 2021: 22-90-1 rushing, 3-34-0 receiving, RB8
- Week 16, 2021: 13-41-1 rushing, 3-29-0 receiving, RB13
There are a number of reasons to believe we’ve already seen the best from Cook:
- Cook is entering his sixth season and will be 27 by the time Week 1 rolls around. Over the past 10 years, high-end running back production has started to really fall off at these exact points.
- Cook’s history of shoulder issues is apparently concerning enough for the fantasy industry’s chief doctor of the “Injury Prone is a lie” movement to concede that the community should be worried.
- His current legal situation certainly isn’t ideal.
A new regime in Minnesota could also feasibly split the backfield more than we’ve seen in past years; either way, there are a number of paths to victory for Mattison to smash his RB4-level ADP. Mattison's best-case upside is as a legit every-week RB1 as early as this season; I'm taking him ahead of older speculative free agents like Chase Edmonds, James Conner and Melvin Gordon.
Cincinnati Bengals RB Chris Evans (Ian Rank: RB55 | ADP: RB60)
Perhaps Evans enters 2022 as the Bengals' No. 3 running back just like he did last season. Or, Cincinnati could decide to part ways with Samaje Perine (would save $1.5 million vs. cap with just $350,000 in dead money). Pass-protection business aside: Evans certainly seemed to provide some juice as a pure receiver when asked.
Chris Evans as a true receiver ???? pic.twitter.com/LTZNs9U2Nm
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 19, 2021
Evans was just a sixth-round pick, but he possesses fine enough size (5-foot-11 and 216 pounds) to go alongside his obvious pass-catching goodness. Already being 24 isn’t ideal, but the man hasn't handled even 100 touches in a season since 2017.
Maybe Evans turns out to be just another backup running back; in that case, my apologies for advising you to blow a 15th-round pick to acquire his services. Or, maybe the Bengals look to clear out some cap room for inevitable Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins extensions by parting ways with their pricy starting running back.
Technically, Joe Mixon is signed with the Bengals through 2024, but like a lot of contracts, the deal becomes a lot easier to get out of the longer it goes on:
- If cut/traded after June 1 in 2022: Bengals save $8.6 million against the cap, eat $2.75 million in dead money.
- If cut/traded after June 1 in 2023: save $10.1 million against the cap, eat $2.75 million in dead money.
- If cut/traded after June 1 in 2024: save $10.4 million against the cap, eat $2.75 million in dead money.
Evans has a theoretical three-down skill-set in one of the best young offenses in the league that needs to find cap space sooner rather than later; this ADP will look like a joke if the Bengals decide to move on from either Perine or Mixon in the coming years.
Tennessee Titans RB Darrynton Evans (Ian Rank: RB68 | ADP: RB73)
Both Chris and Darrynton present dirt cheap backup running backs with an absolute best-case scenario of working as their respective awesome offense’s three-down back as early as 2022 should their team’s heavily-fed starter be forced to miss any game action.
Of course, Darrynton hasn’t done much of anything yet in his NFL career. Pre-rookie year reports that he had a chance to be a poor man’s Alvin Kamara were undone by injuries, as was a 2021 campaign that featured just four total touches before those damn injury gods struck again.
Since entering the NFL, Evans has suffered a pair of Grade 2 hamstring strains and Grade 1 knee strains. We as humans are terrible at predicting injuries, and Evans doesn’t seem to have suffered anything out of the ordinary over the past two (unfortunate) seasons.
Things have changed in the Tennessee backfield, but competition behind Derrick Henry remains meh. Dontrell Hilliard did some OK things as a scat back, while D’Onta Foreman flashed as the lead early-down back with Henry sidelined. Still, neither carries the sort of investment that the Titans paid Evans by making him the 93rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
There is often value in fantasy football land when the public’s biggest gripe with a particular player is “well, he’ll get injured.” That’s the game we’re playing here with Evans, who unfortunately missed the chance to cash in on his sky-high handcuff upside in 2021. I can think of worse ways to spend an 18th-round pick than on somebody with a chance to 1.) carve out a pass-down role on a regular basis (that seemed to be the original plan entering 2020!) and/or 2.) work as one of the most-valuable handcuffs in all of fantasy.
Buffalo Bills WR Gabriel Davis (Ian Rank: WR35 | ADP: WR50)
Attempting to trade for Davis at the moment is a tough task, but the public doesn’t seem to have fully grasped the upcoming opportunity that is available for the Bills’ talented 22-year-old receiver.
From my article on 10 offseason storylines that will define the fantasy offseason:
“Obviously Stefon Diggs isn’t going anywhere, and the Bills figure to lean on Dawson Knox for at least another year through the end of his rookie contract. However, the team can save $6.1 million against the cap by parting ways with Cole Beasley at any point during the offseason. Plus, Emmanuel Sanders only signed a one-year contract back in March.
It’s not like Beasley and Sanders are completely washed, but they’ll be 33 and 35 years old, respectively, when next season comes around. Every penny counts when your quarterback is making $258 million.
There’s also the reality that the Bills might just already have two tailor-made improvements on this very roster. Davis is on the squad through 2023 and finished second to only Diggs in PFF receiving grade and yards per route run among all Bills receivers.”
Davis worked ahead of Sanders during the Bills' Divisional Round loss to the Chiefs anyway. Remember that? The game where he caught eight passes for 201 yards AND FOUR TOUCHDOWNS? That was great, and also just another example of what he’s capable of doing with even a modest workload. Overall, Davis has just 12 career games with at least five targets, and he's accounted for a total of 12 scores during those contests.
Davis sure looks a lot like Josh Allen’s No. 2 pass-game option ahead of 2022. He’s a great Year 3 breakout candidate and worth reaching on in dynasty drafts of all shapes and sizes.
Washington Commanders WR Curtis Samuel (Ian Rank: WR49 | ADP: WR64)
To quickly rehash Samuel’s five-year NFL career:
- 2017: Plays just nine games due to injuries, starts only four.
- 2018: Works as the PPR WR23 in Weeks 8-17 after dealing with some early-season injuries and earning the starting job.
- 2019: PPR WR36 overall, WR49 on a per-game basis. This was entirely Kyle Allen’s fault. I’m begging you to watch the film.
- 2020: Overall PPR WR23, WR26 on a per-game basis, out-scored some guy named Cooper Kupp in both categories. This was with Teddy Bridgewater under center.
- 2021: Samuel gets just 10 touches, never plays even 40% of the offense's snaps in a single game due to a groin injury he suffered in the summer.
Reminder: Washington handed Samuel a far from insignificant three-year contract worth $34.5 million — good for the 21st-highest value at the position and 22nd on a per-year basis.
Somehow Samuel doesn’t turn 26 until August. The injury history certainly isn’t great, and it’s not like Washington has a great history of supplying fantasy-friendly quarterbacks. Because of this, I’m ranking Samuel closer to his floor than ceiling; the value comes from the rest of the community seemingly valuing him 6 feet below ground.
Samuel demonstrated the ability to work as a legit fantasy WR2 in both 2018 and 2020 despite dealing with rather piss poor quarterback performance. The latter variable isn’t guaranteed to improve in 2022, but a return to health would at least give him a chance to work as the No. 2 pass-game option he’s being paid to be. Arguably the closest thing in the league to Deebo Samuel in terms of demonstrated high-end ability at both wide receiver and running back, scoop up Curtis with confidence in the double-digit rounds of dynasty drafts.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett (Ian Rank: WR24 | ADP: WR32)
Lockett has spent seven years in the league and turns 30 in September. This goes against the general rule of thumb in dynasty of prioritizing younger talents, but we have to draw the line somewhere — and that somewhere is when guys like Allen Robinson, Rashod Bateman, Marquise Brown and Brandon Aiyuk are going ahead of one of the most consistent producers at the position.
Overall, Lockett has literally done nothing other than function as a top-16 producer at the position since obtaining a full-time starting role in 2018:
- 2018: 57 receptions-965 yards-10 TD, PPR WR16
- 2019: 82-1,057-8, WR13
- 2020: 100-1,054-10, WR8
- 2021: 73-1,175-8, WR16
Lockett has played in 111 of a possible 113 regular season games since entering the NFL in 2015. Last April, he signed a huge four-year extension locking him into the team through 2025. Parting ways with Lockett at any point prior to then would leave at least $7 million in dead money.
Rumors about the Seahawks Russell Wilson sure don’t seem to be dragging down teammate D.K. Metcalf’s ADP. I understand prioritizing the younger asset; just realize Lockett sure looks poised to work as a top-two weapon in the Seahawks’ passing game for the next three-plus seasons, a role which has historically provided production far ahead of where he’s presently priced.
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
Los Angeles Chargers WR Josh Palmer (Ian Rank: WR44 | ADP: WR55)
The Chargers have a number of notable free agent wide receivers and tight ends at the moment:
- WR Mike Williams (122 targets in 2021)
- TE Jared Cook (79)
- WR Jalen Guyton (46, ERFA)
- TE Donald Parham (26, ERFA)
- TE Stephen Anderson (19)
There’s a non-zero percent chance that Palmer could work as Herbert’s No. 2 pass-game option as early as 2022. Yes, Los Angeles has all sorts of available cap room and could choose to either bring back Williams or add a high-end replacement. Also yes, they picked him with the 77th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for a reason, and he was utilized ahead of incumbent No. 3 WR Guyton by the end of the season.
Palmer doesn’t turn 23 until September, is playing alongside one of the best young quarterbacks in the sport, at worst will be a staple in three-WR sets next season and at best gets triple-digit target volume in 2022 and beyond. I'll happily chase this sort of long-term upside ahead of veterans like Adam Thielen, Kenny Golladay and Van Jefferson, who each boast a higher ADP at the moment.
Carolina Panthers TE Tommy Tremble (Ian Rank: TE32 | ADP: TE37)
Tight ends virtually never do anything in fantasy land as rookies, so Tremble’s relatively modest 20-180-1 receiving line as a rookie isn't something to overly worry about. More importantly, the Panthers showed a willingness to experiment with their rookie third-round pick, giving him three rush attempts (3-11-1) and feeding him 35 targets. Note that Tremble only caught 35 passes during his 19 career games at Notre Dame.
Why did Tremble not post better production in college? Because current Bears starter Cole Kmet and future first-round talent Michael Mayer were soaking up all of the work. Why did Tremble not receive a full-time role as a rookie? At least partly because of incumbent starter Ian Thomas, who enters 2022 as an unrestricted free agent.
Ex-offensive coordinator Joe Brady never made a habit of feeding his tight end targets, but the Giants ranked ninth in total targets to the tight end position during new-OC Ben McAdoo's four years running the show.
Tremble’s athletic profile was borderline erotic coming out of college; the man clocked a sub-4.6 second 40-yard dash at 241 pounds, for crying out lout. The bigger question was whether or not he’d be utilized as more than just a run-blocking tight end at the next level, and the Panthers largely answered that speculation with a resounding yes in 2021 by using him alongside Thomas in all parts of the game.
Tremble turns 22 in June and looks poised to be the Panthers’ starting tight end of the present and future. We could be looking at a diamond in the rough here should the Panthers fully embrace him as their every-down tight end while also managing to eventually upgrade their situation under center. And if not? Tremble still likely has the goods to post middling TE2 production as an especially athletic starter. Not bad for someone that can be had in the 19th round of dynasty startups.