Every year players like Ezekiel Elliot, Michael Thomas, and Jordan Howard breakout and we get excited about finding the next young breakout player. I do it too, whoever drafted Zeke in the mid/late first, Thomas in the 11th or scooped Howard off of waivers probably had a great season. I’m definitely an advocate of taking shots on younger players with upside in a draft, but sometimes we forget about how good some of the veteran players are, especially ones coming off of dips in production. Here’s a few veterans I am targeting in standard scoring leagues that I think are undervalued.
(All ADP is based on 12-team standard scoring mocks on Fantasy Football Calculator, July 5th, 2017)
Demaryius Thomas — ADP 4.06
Demaryius Thomas has regressed in his yardage and touchdowns the last two seasons leaving a lot of people shy to take the risk on him. Although its certainly fair to point to the QB play the last two seasons in Denver, a situation that hasn’t improved, as the reason for Thomas’ regression I think a lot of the regression had to do with the offensive scheme. Thomas has had over 140 targets each of the last 5 seasons, but in the last two seasons he dropped from 2.16 (’12), 2.47 (’13), and 2.05 (’14) fantasy points per reception to 1.58 (’15) and 1.54 (’16). I think a big reason for this was play-calling. One of Demaryius’ most dynamic plays is the WR tunnel screen, a play that was not a staple of the Kubiak zone-running offense. Enter Mike McCoy (OC) and Vance Joseph (HC). Mike McCoy was the OC for Denver the first 3 years (2010-2012) of Demaryius Thomas’ career; Thomas had 1,434 yards and 10 TDs the last year Mike McCoy was in Denver. Vance Joseph spent last year as the DC for Adam Gase (Denver OC 2013-2014) in Miami. Joseph undoubtedly picked Adam Gase’s brain on how to utilize Demaryius Thomas (hint: get the ball in his hands quickly through screens, slants, and drag routes). Demaryius had 1,430 yards and 14 TDs and 1,619 yards and 11 TDs in the two seasons that Gase was the OC for Denver.
I usually try to tempter my expectations with coach-speak during OTAs, but there is steady drum beat about the importance of Demaryius Thomas’ role in the offense this year. Joseph and McCoy have emphasized how they want to build and offensive scheme around the talent they have, and Demaryius Thomas is the guy. Joseph seems to know exactly how effective Demaryius Thomas can be if utilized properly saying, “He’s a great runner of the football with wide receiver screens — and that’s been his trademark for years, to catch the screen and go 60 and 70 yards.” Additionally, Demaryius Thomas has been dealing with a chronic hip injury the past two years that seems to be behind him now. This coupled with a offensive scheme that didn’t maximize his strengths makes me have faith he can get back to his elite production. McCoy will be looking to get the ball in Demaryius’ hands quickly and let him create yardage after the catch. I expect Demaryius Thomas to put up WR1 numbers, and with a fourth round ADP I am taking him everywhere I can.
Jimmy Graham — ADP 6.06
As a Seahawks fan I will freely admit our offense was a mess last year. Russell Wilson’s ankle and knee injuries in Week 1 and 3, injuries to Rawls and Prosise and an inexperienced offensive line that was traditionally masked by Wilson’s mobility and a strong run game left our offense woefully inconsistent. Jimmy Graham was also coming off the same devastating patellar injury that cost Victor Cruz two seasons, but despite all this Graham still finished as the fourth best TE in standard scoring leagues. This season Russell is healthy, the Seahawks offensive line should be (at least marginally) better, and although the committee is dreaded for fantasy, Lacy, Rawls and Prosise should provide a strong run game.
This is also the first full offseason Jimmy Graham has had since first being traded to the Seahawks which should help him get more involved in the offense. Last offseason Graham literally had to learn to walk again, but still posted 859 yards and 6 TDs on 61 catches, all numbers I expect to increase. Last year Graham was the 2nd most targeted player on the Seahawks, trailing Doug Baldwin by only 8 targets. He also led the team in redzone targets with 20 (more than Kelce, Olsen, Reed, Walker, etc). This stat shouldn't be ignored since TE is a very TD dependent position. As the Seahawks offense returns to form this season I expect Jimmy Graham’s production to only increase making him a great pick in the 6th round.
Desean Jackson — ADP 7.10
Desean Jackson is a player I typically haven’t drafted because I’ve always viewed him as boom or bust, but this year I am all aboard. I’m sure he’ll have some down weeks, but in the 7th round he’s likely a flex player for you who has week winning upside. Per FFToday, over the last 8 weeks of 2016 Desean Jackson was the 3rd most consistent WR in the league eclipsing 11 points in 5 of the 7 games he played in. Last year Desean Jackson also led the league in yards per reception with 17.9 giving Jameis Winston an excellent new weapon. It will be much harder to have safety help over the top of Jackson in Tampa Bay with Mike Evans aligned on the other side of him than it was in Washington which should lead to more big plays.
The yardage is definitely there; last year Mike Evans led the league in air yards with 2,500 yards, second in the league was Terrell Pryor with 2,029 to give you a sense of the disparity (Rotoviz). Winston was also 3rd in the league in QB air yards, but 23rd in the league in QB yards after the catch (Sporting Charts). I think Tampa Bay brought in Jackson to help create more yardage after the catch, which he is well suited for. Let’s remember that the 2nd highest targeted WR on the Bucs last year was Adam Humphries; Jackson is a huge upgrade there. With the amount of attention Mike Evans will draw from the defense Desean Jackson will have some huge games against #2 CBs. There will be some disappointing games I’m sure, but I love the idea of getting a flex player in the 7th that has weekly high-end WR1 upside.
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