I truly, truly wish I could draft with certain people.
Going through very early ADPs, I noticed that players are being hyped up far too much, which is helping other guys slide down the draft board. Certain players draft stock is making me sick to my stomach, though, if I were drafting with some of these people, I’d feel pretty good about it. Anyway, I noticed a handful of guys that I absolutely love, but the fantasy community apparently does not.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you The All-Underrated Fantasy Team of 2014.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (QB16): I’ve already proclaimed my love for Big Ben, so this probably comes as a surprise to no one. Perhaps the most overlooked quarterback in both real life and fantasy, Roethlisberger has finished as a top-10 fantasy option in three of the last five seasons, including a number 10 finish a season ago. When healthy, he is a lock for 4,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, and I love the Steelers offense this year. They will be sticking with the no-huddle, a style that helped Ben thrive last year. From Week 9 0n, Pittsburgh scored 67 more points than the weeks prior, while Ben was only sacked 11 times, compared to 32 times the first eight weeks. Also, according to CBS Sports leagues. Ben averaged 22.2 fantasy points per game once Pittsburgh implemented the hurry-up, making him the third-best quarterback in fantasy during that span. He’s proven to be a sneaky QB1, and you can have him after 15 other signal callers.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints (RB31): So, let me get this straight. Last year, no running back in football caught more passes than Thomas (77), he still plays for the Saints and Darren Sproles is gone. yet, 30 backs are being drafted ahead of him? Ok. Last year, Thomas was an RB2 in standard formats, let alone PPR. He is going to walk into production in New Orleans, playing with the best screen/intermediate passer in the NFL in Drew Brees. In 2013, Brees targeted the running backs and tight ends 63 percent of the time, so you know he’ll be looking for Thomas. Meanwhile, Sproles’ healthy 71 receptions need to be replaced, and Thomas could easily lead all rushers in catches again this year.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (RB37): A fantasy zombie, Jackson has been one of the most under-appreciated running backs in football during his career. The captain of the Bills, Jackson plays the game how it’s supposed to be played, has great work ethic, oh, and posts some pretty strong numbers, too. Last year, he quietly finished as the 11th-best runner in fantasy land, and again, he isn’t being drafted until the 9th or 10th round. I get it, I guess. He lacks upside, is part of a crowded backfield and is on the wrong side of 30. However, there is still opportunity here. No team in the NFL ran the ball more than Buffalo last year, and despite the presence of C.J. Spiller, Jackson is going to see goal line work. Just two of Spiller’s 12 career rushing scores have come from inside the five, and both occurred without Jackson in the game. Last year. Buffalo ranked 29th in goal-to-go efficiency, so they’ll need to use Jackson as their goal line back. I’m also not the biggest fan of Bryce Brown. who runs East/West far too much.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (WR51): My favorite value/sleeper for 2014, Hopkins is poised to breakout in year number two. While his rookie year wasn’t explosive, he still caught 52 balls for 800 yards and two scores, so it certainly wasn’t bad by any means. I’m also a big believer in second-year wideouts breaking out, as we saw guys like Josh Gordon, Kendall Wright, Alshon Jeffery and Michael Floyd emerge in year two. Also, when ESPN looked at the 57 wideouts to ever post 1,200 fantasy points, they noticed that the biggest jump occurred in year two, seeing a 65 percent increase in fantasy points. Hopkins has a year under his belt, will (hopefully) have Andre Johnson drawing attention, and while the quarterback situation isn’t ideal, I do think Ryan Fitzpatrick will be serviceable. And drafting him where he is going now, there’s no risk. Only potential reward.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans (WR35): I love me some Kendall Wright this year, and I don’t care who knows it. Last year, only six receivers caught more passes than Wright (94), and he saw a healthy 140 targets to boot. He was a PPR stud, posting at least five receptions in 12 of 16 games, and the Titans are going to get creative with their use of him. Tennessee’s elite offensive line will allow Wright time to run his routes, and the Titans should throw the ball a bit more under new head coach, Ken Wisenhunt. And while he’s not an ideal red zone receiver, I do think he’ll improve on his touchdown total of two from a season ago.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers (TE16): Miller may have rushed back from injury last year, as he never really looked 100 percent. Still, I think he makes for one of the best draft day values in fantasy. If you miss out on one of the top-10 tight ends. wait for Miller and feel fine about it. In 2012, when healthy, Miller caught a solid 71 balls for 816 yards and eight scores, leading all tight ends in red zone targets that year. Big Ben loves finding Miller in the red zone, and I think that trend will continue in 2014. Health may be an issue, but if he can stay on the field, he’ll probably rank second on this team in targets, and like I said, I think the Steelers offense makes some noise in 2014.