I think it’s fair to say that many NFL players have similarities. Most come from big college programs, most are in peak physical condition, most probably envy Andy Reid’s mustache.
However, specific to Fantasy Football, some player similarities are just too obvious to ignore – especially when one of those players is being drafted at an exceedingly higher price than the other. Finding these archetype pairings and ADP discrepancies can be the difference between playing in the Championship Game in Week 16 or lamenting all the missteps that landed you on the outside looking in.
3 Mispriced Pairs to Exploit in Your Fantasy Football Drafts
Melvin Gordon (1.09) & Jamaal Williams (6.05)
I know, this one seems a little crazy. Gordon has finished as an RB7 and RB5 in PPR formats the past two seasons, while Williams is currently set to begin his 2018 campaign in a crowded Green Bay backfield. However, it’s worth considering just how Gordon goes about achieving his success.
In each of those years, Gordon has averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Not exactly a number that jumps off the page. Yet, that doesn’t matter. He’s a volume-based back in an offense that supplies him what he needs. Gordon ranked third in the NFL in rushing attempts last season with 284. He also had the seventh-most targets as a running back with 73. Who needs to be efficient with this many touches? Certainly not Melvin Gordon.
Williams, to his credit, is currently shooting up draft boards. Much of this public reaction coming after head coach Mike McCarthy stated that he thought the second-year back was “poised to have a big year.” Now, in an active RB competition, that quote isn’t nothing.
Williams already had the inside path to the starting job with Aaron Jones suspended for the year’s first two games, however, Jones had looked to possibly be the better of the two rookie running backs in 2017, averaging 5.5 yards per carry during the regular season. Still, from Week 10 on, Williams’ role looked a lot like something we might have seen with a particular Chargers’ RB. Williams carried the ball 142 times and was also targeted in the passing game on 29 occasions. In fact, the only running back to receive more carries in that span than Williams was, you guessed it, Gordon.
The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers under center, have always been a pass-oriented team. That, along with the internal competition for snaps, might limit the likelihood of Williams getting the workload that we know Gordon will get this season if healthy. Still, we and Mike McCarthy saw that Williams is the type of RB that can handle that sort of volume last season. With Green Bay sure to be living in the Red Zone, being the starting RB for the Packers is a high-leverage fantasy spot. The path to get to first-round value has obstacles, but, if Williams becomes the bell-cow, it’s not out of the question.
Demaryius Thomas (4.10) & Emmanuel Sanders (5.12)
It would appear that many people have come to this conclusion over the past two weeks. Where Sanders was a seventh-round selection on average back as recently as August 23rd according to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s now moved within a 14-pick difference of his teammate. It’s helped that Thomas’ ADP has also fallen in the month. But why is that?
For starters, these two are eerily similar. Take away the glory days of Thomas in a Peyton Manning led offense and you’re left with a consistent, but unspectacular wide receiver the past two seasons. On average, the 31-year-old has caught 86.5 passes since the beginning of 2016, those catches going for 1,016 yards and five touchdowns. Those are good numbers, no one is denying that, yet Thomas has clearly become more of a floor-play than a high-ceiling option.
He’s been WR15 and WR16 in PPR formats the past two years. Again, you won’t find a more solid lock for a WR2 in drafts. However, taking a look at Sanders last full-season, he caught 79 passes for 1,032 yards and five touchdowns in 2016. That’s almost identical to Thomas’ composite receiving line.
For me, the most important thing about this specific pairing might be that neither is necessarily a bad pick at their price point – although Sanders was much more of a steal back in mid-August. Both players are likely to see high volume shares in an offense that now has easily it’s best quarterback since the aforementioned Manning. Plus, said QB, was able to sustain two Top-20 wide receivers in PPR settings just last season in Adam Thielen (WR8) and Stefon Diggs (WR19).
Really, Diggs would have finished even higher if not for missing a pair of contests due to injury. It might feel odd to sing the praises of Case Keenum, but, when your other options involve Paxton Lynch, the juxtaposition is only doing him favors.
Jimmy Graham (5.03) & Tyler Eifert (13.03)
Before I discuss the negatives, let me at least give Graham a little credit. Aside from 2015, the year he tore his patellar tendon, the veteran has played in at least 15 games every single season of his career. However, celebrating the health of a soon-to-be 32-year-old tight end is roughly the equivalent of congratulating a recovering alcohol on their sobriety during a brewery tour. I’m not saying something is going to happen, but you’re really going out of your way to tempt fate.
The reason I bring up health is it’s the only storyline that matters with Eifert. When on the field, the Notre Dame product is a force to be reckoned with – especially in the Red Zone. In fact, for his NFL career, Eifert has a massive 15.7% touchdown rate, with the then 25-year-old scoring 13 TDs in 13 games back in 2015. The 6’6 tight end caught 12 of the 16 targets he received inside the 20 that season, 11 of them going for scores. It’s not quite Graham’s league-leading 26 Red Zone targets from last year, but, if the inputs are slightly off, the outputs sure do look similar.
That last point is really the key. Each of these players are going to score touchdowns if on the field. Honestly, it might be the only thing they do with any consistency. Graham’s legs look done. The only TE to average fewer yards per target last season than the former first-team All-Pro was Austin Seferian-Jenkins – a man who sometimes looks like he’s running in place. Graham’s not suddenly exploding for a 1,000-yard season, even with Aaron Rodgers now throwing him the football. As for Eifert, the Bengals will likely parse out his snaps sparingly early in the season, hoping to maintain his health, but you’d better believe that he’ll see the majority of his work with Cincinnati in scoring position.
Is there risk in investing in a man who has only appeared in 24 games since 2014? Certainly. But the variance and general low-ceiling at tight end pretty much quell those fears. So does the cheap 13th round price tag that Eifert carries. There’s a world where the Bengals’ TE gets injured again and this comparison is an afterthought, however, give me 10 games of a healthy Eifert and he’ll finish with at least 75% of Graham’s point output in a Standard or PPR format. Of that, I’m sure.
Garion Thorne grew up in Toronto in the mid-2000s as a Jays, Raptors, Dolphins fan, so you know the only championships he cares about are of the Fantasy persuasion. Garion was a Host/Senior Analyst at the FNTSY Sports Network, most of the time taking a specific focus on Fantasy Baseball and deep baseball analytics. You might have also stumbled across his work for the New York Daily News, the Associated Press, USA Today's HoopsHype, or NBA.com. Garion keeps a FanGraphs tab open in his browser at all times and he has never seen a bunt he agreed with.
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