The 2021 fantasy season has officially come to an end. But for the true degenerates among us, the 2022 fantasy season is only just getting started.
It’s time to do arguably the most fun thing we as fantasy players do all year – draft teams.
Currently, Underdog Fantasy has the largest best ball tournament offering, complete with the 2022 rookie class, despite being over a month away from the actual NFL Draft.
Being nearly seven months away from the start of football season, it's apparent that the edge in these early tournaments is potentially the best we will see all year. ADP is at it’s softest and most exploitable as the market hasn’t quite yet figured out how to accurately price these players, and I’m here to help you exploit that by identifying the top values.
A few strategy tips before we get started:
While upside matters less in best ball than in redraft, the large-field tournaments offered by Underdog necessitate the more aggressive drafting of high-upside players (especially in the later rounds) to give ourselves the best shot at winning first place.
Stacking can assist in maximizing your lineups’ upside as a whole, and should be prioritized in these large-field Underdog tournaments. With that said, it’s important to also understand which players are destined to become free agents this offseason, as Underdog does not note that within their user interface, creating a potentially significant edge for those aware of impending free agents.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
ADP: 47.1 (WR21)
Lockett is the kind of player I won’t touch in redraft, but can’t get enough of in best ball leagues. Why? Well, Lockett averaged 26.3 FPG in his six best games last season, but just 8.3 FPG in his other 10 games. And this isn’t just a one-year trend, as Lockett averaged an insane 32.7 FPG in his eight best games from 2019 and 2020, but just 10.0 FPG in his other 24 games. He’s either the best fantasy WR in football or he’s equivalent to Kalif Raymond on a per game basis. Infuriating for season-long, but rather optimal in best ball.
Most games of 25+ fantasy points since 2018, WRs:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) February 25, 2022
18 - Tyreek Hill
16 - Davante Adams
15 - Cooper Kupp
14 - DeAndre Hopkins
13 - Michael Thomas, Mike Evans
12 - Adam Thielen
11 - Tyler Lockett, Julio Jones
10 - Chris Godwin, Stefon Diggs
And we really can’t understate just how many boom games Lockett has had over the last four seasons. Lockett (11) has almost three tines as many 25.0-point fantasy performances of D.J. Moore (4), who is being drafted nearly a full round earlier. And almost 2X as many 25.0-point games as both Stefon Diggs (6) and Keenan Allen (6) – both of whom carry significantly higher price tags. Plus, Lockett has 2 of the 25 highest scoring fantasy performances by a WR over the last 4 years under his belt. He offers an outstanding ceiling and hits it relatively often.
And Lockett is still a value even if we were to ignore his incredible ceiling games. Over the last 3 seasons, Lockett has finished as the WR16, WR8, and WR13 by total fantasy points, yet he’s being drafted this year as WR21. Even with the potential of a QB downgrade looming, Lockett’s current price tag is just too low.
I’ll never reach for any early-round players, but Lockett is a great example of a guy who I’m taking every time he falls to me in Round 5.
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
ADP: 74.5 (RB24)
Singletary was stuck in a frustrating committee for much of his career (with QB Josh Allen further capping his upside by vulturing goal-line touchdowns) but finally ascended to full-on bell cow-status to close out the season, and if he retains that role in 2022, then he’s arguably the best RB value in drafts right now.
Prior to Week 14, Singletary had eclipsed a 70% snap share just twice, and had scored more than 13.0 fantasy points only once. But from Week 14 onwards (including the playoffs), Singletary averaged 19.7 FPG and earned more than 70% of snaps in every game. Even better, Singletary recorded 86% of the team’s RB carries inside the 5-yard-line during that 7-game stretch, after earning just 49% of goal line carries across the first 13 weeks of the season. And this is a tremendously valuable goal line role, as Buffalo averaged the 3rd-most PPG (29.8) and 3.6 TDs per game (3rd-most).
But as we know with Buffalo, RB stats don’t tell the full story at the goal line given Allen was responsible for 12 combined rushing TDs inside the 5-yard-line in 2019 and 2020. And while 2021 initially looked like more of the same for Allen’s goal line role, Singletary did emerge as the team’s preferred goal line back from Week 14 onward, seeing 18 of 27 team goal line carries (67%), and scoring 6 TDs, compared to just 2 rushing TDs for Allen. I can’t underemphasize just how important that is, as Singletary had only scored 4 total TDs in his first two NFL seasons, but managed 8 TDs over his final six games.
Even if Singletary is 80% as productive in 2022 as he was to end 2021, then we are looking at somewhere around 15.8 FPG — a mark that would have tied Dalvin Cook for RB11 last season. So unless Singletary’s usage to end last season was a massive outlier, we are likely looking at one of the most undervalued RBs of the 2022 offseason.
Kenneth Walker, RB, Michigan State and Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
ADP: 95.1 (RB30) & 100.4 (RB34)
One of our biggest edges this early in the offseason is found by loading up on both rookie RBs and WRs before the NFL Draft — assets all but guaranteed to accrue in price over the next several months — while our opponents foolishly avoid these players due to the obvious uncertainty over their destination.
This year’s RB class doesn’t have a clear RB1 (at least based on consensus draft ranks), but on Underdog, Breece Hall (ADP: 61.7 / RB22) is being drafted significantly higher than both Walker (ADP 95.1 / RB30) and Spiller (ADP: 100.4 / RB34).
Now, if Hall was the consensus RB1, and a surefire pick in either Round 1 or 2, that would make sense. But because he’s not either of those things, we can quickly identify that our opponents have likely gotten too far ahead of themselves anointing Hall the clear RB1 in best ball. And since we know rookie RBs are a great place to find value this time of year, it’s safe to say that Spiller and Walker should be the guys we are targeting, given they provide comparable talent and potential draft capital to Hall.
For those wondering, the NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board lists Spiller No.1, followed by Hall, with Walker and Kyren Williams not far behind. Williams is another compelling target, given he’s available at a further discount to both Walker and Spiller, at an ADP of 129.1.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
ADP: 96.7 (RB31)
Penny is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but with the way he closed out 2021, it’s easy to see either Seattle bringing him back or another team signing him with potential workhorse duties in mind.
Penny closed out the season averaging 21.0 touches, 158.0 rushing YPG, 26.0 FPG, and an otherworldly 7.80 YPC over his last four healthy games. Over a full NFL season, 7.8 YPC would rank 2nd-best all-time, behind only Beattie Feathers’ 1934 season (min. 100 attempts). And while many fantasy players (understandably) want to proceed with caution given Penny’s injury history, he’s actually no stranger to this kind of elite efficiency.
Rashaad Penny has 7 career games with 12 or more carries. His averages in those games:— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) February 22, 2022
*7.7 YPC (!)
ADP of RB31 on Underdog is just too low for a player with this kind of upside.
It’s a small sample size, sure, but that’s to be expected when we are discussing a player who has only been active for 37 games over the last four seasons. And Penny’s NCAA YPC of 7.5 on 488 carries suggests that Penny is no stranger to extreme efficiency when he stays healthy.
We simply can’t overlook the upside. Could Penny put together a season so efficient it’s comparable to 2010 Jamaal Charles, or 2017 Alvin Kamara? I’m not sure, but he’s certainly more likely to do that than his current ADP of RB31 implies.
Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
ADP: 108.2 (RB36)
Patterson is an unrestricted free agent this year, but it’s easy to see his services being in high demand after his versatile 2021 season.
Patterson led all RBs with at least 50 targets in snaps from WR alignments (146), PFF receiving grade (91.4), and aDOT (4.1). And he recorded the 17th-most red zone touches (44) of any player, converting them into 11 TDs.
That unique pass game involvement and red zone role helped Patterson become one of the most efficient RBs of the 2021 fantasy season. Despite seeing the 38th-most touches per game (12.8), Patterson finished as RB18 by FPG (14.7) and RB21 by XFP/G (13.0). On a per snap basis, Patterson was the 2nd-most efficient RB in fantasy, earning 0.50 fantasy points per snap, besting Jonathan Taylor, Austin Ekeler, Christian McCaffrey, and Derrick Henry. And on a per touch basis, Patterson ranked behind only Ekeler, averaging 1.14 fantasy points per touch.
I’m not sure this should be considered surprising, as Patterson is actually the 17th-most efficient RB ever by YPC (5.1) among players with more than 300 career carries.
Even if Patterson’s super-human efficiency doesn't carry over to next season, just seeing similar usage would make his RB36 ADP look foolish, given the 13.0 XFP/G he averaged last season ranked 21st among RBs.
But Patterson is also 30 years old, and his efficiency did fall off to end the season, as he averaged just 5.5 FPG on an 10.7 XFP/G expectation in his final 4 games.
While there is a real risk Patterson is approaching an age cliff, or that Atlanta could draft or sign a bell cow RB, both his efficiency and usage numbers suggest an RB36 price tag is far too low if he reclaims anything resembling his old role in 2022.
Cedrick Wilson, WR, Dallas Cowboys
ADP: 162.9 (WR75)
Michael Gallup is an unrestricted free agent, and rumors that Amari Cooper may be cut or traded are swirling after recent comments made by both Jerry and Stephen Jones. Given the Cowboys have the 3rd-fewest cap space available, it’s fair to assume that at least one of Gallup or Cooper won’t be on the roster come OTAs. And while Cedrick Wilson is also an unrestricted free agent, he could be re-signed at a much more reasonable cost relative to Cooper or Gallup, which could open up an outstanding full-time opportunity for Wilson for the entire 2022 season.
Wilson played on over 45% of the Cowboys’ snaps in just 10 total games this regular season. But he showed his upside in the latter half of the year, as his final six games with more than a 45% snap share resulted in 16.0 FPG, 10.1 XFP/G, and 67.7 YPG. Those numbers would have ranked 12th-, 56th-, and 19th-best among WRs this past season. And Wilson met or exceeded 17.4 fantasy points in his final three contests with a snap share over 45%.
Even if we say that Wilson was lucky to massively overproduce relative to his XFP/G (which is certainly true) over that stretch, he’s still a clear value at WR75 on Underdog, as merely repeating the 10.1 XFP/G he averaged last year would mean he’s being drafted about 20 spots too low at his position. Then again, maybe he wasn’t lucky. Maybe he’s just good — a breakout waiting to happen. Wilson did rank 16th in slot YPRR (1.74) and 11th in slot passer rating when targeted (119.6) among 47 qualifying slot receivers.
With Dallas unlikely to retain both Cooper and Gallup, I think a repeat (or even an improvement) of Wilson’s 10.1 XFP per game is more likely than not.
Dan Arnold, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
ADP: 182.6 (TE23)
Arnold played only six games in a “full-time” role (>50% snap share) for the Jaguars (from Week 5 to 11, before getting injured), but he exceeded 7 targets and led the team in receiving yards on four separate occasions. And the 47.6 YPG and 8.9 FPG that Arnold averaged in his six “full-time” games would’ve ranked 8th and 17th among all TEs last season, already presenting a discount relative to his TE23 ADP.
And there is just no way Trevor Lawrence is as bad as he was last year. His 2.0% TD rate was the 11th-worst in a full season by a QB all-time. For a QB prospect who was as highly regarded as Lawrence, we would have to assume he has nowhere to go but up.
But the most bullish note for Arnold is the arrival of new head coach Doug Pederson. During Pederson’s five-year tenure as Eagles’ HC, Philadelphia TEs led the league in cumulative FPG three times, and finished top-4 the remaining two seasons, averaging 20.6 FPG over that stretch. And with Pederson as OC from 2013 to 2015, Kansas City TEs averaged 13.0 FPG. Assuming Pederson stays true to his tendencies, that’s somewhere between a 36% and 117% increase to cumulative TE FPG for Jacksonville, who averaged just 9.5 FPG in 2021 (25th). And if that happens, it’s going to be difficult for Arnold to not be a top-12 TE this season. He’s a steal at ADP.
Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
ADP: 187.8 (WR84)
Sterling Shepard— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) February 23, 2022
- 15th in targets per route in 2021
- Hit 17.0+ fantasy points in 5 of last 5 healthy games with Daniel Jones active (averaging 23.1 FPG)
Over his last 11 healthy games with Daniel Jones active:
+ 9.1 targets per game (~WR9)
+ 17.4 FPG (~WR11)
The Giants offense was decimated by injuries this past season. And Shepard was no exception. Shepard played just three healthy games with Daniel Jones in 2021, but we can’t forget that he recorded at least 9 targets, 75 yards, and 17.5 fantasy points in all 3 of those contests. In fact, Shepard’s 29% target share in that sample would’ve ranked 3rd-best among all WRs last season (behind only Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams), had it been maintained for the entire year.
With that said, Shepherd still has an uphill battle to be ready for the start of the season given he tore his Achilles in Week 14. But Shepard posting 0s through the first quarter of the 2022 season is only a minor risk given his rock bottom ADP relative to how he’s performed with a healthy Daniel Jones. And there’s always the chance he pulls a Cam Akers, and is ready to play months ahead of schedule. In that scenario, we could easily argue he’s being drafted 100 spots too low. You won’t find a WR with a better risk/reward profile in Round 15.
Antonio Brown, WR, Free Agent
ADP: 217.7 (WR96)
Brown is the ultimate example of chasing upside. He carries much greater risk than other WRs of the worst-case scenario – there is a legitimate chance no team takes a shot on him and he posts 0.0 fantasy points over the entirety of the season. But, compared to the players being drafted around him (Jamison Crowder, Bryan Edwards, Skyy Moore, KJ Hamler, and Zay Jones) Brown has a significantly higher chance of posting a WR1 or WR2 season. He’s either on the couch, or a borderline lock to be a top-24 fantasy WR regardless of landing spot.
In his five full games in 2021, Brown averaged an absurd 22.6 FPG and recorded an 88.9 PFF receiving grade – marks that would’ve ranked 2nd- and 4th-best among WRs last year. Over that same stretch, Brown exceeded 20.0 fantasy points four times, 7 receptions four times, and 90.0 receiving yards four times.
Even at 33, Brown is still one of the best in the business. And while there is significant risk he either remains unsigned or goes “Super Gremlin” after signing with a team, that’s been more than factored into his cost, as he’s virtually free in drafts with a Round 17 ADP.
I’m more than willing to take the plunge here given the potential upside. Brown has, after all, finished as a top-10 WR in eight of the last nine seasons by FPG.
James White, RB, New England Patriots
ADP: 238.0 (RB76)
If James White plays in 2022, he’s arguably the top injury discount available in Underdog best ball drafts. Scott Barrett’s 2021 Best Ball Primer notes that the optimal strategy, “modified Zero-RB,” has us taking somewhere between 2-3 RBs in the final 4-5 rounds. White’s Round 20 price tag means he fits right in.
Since 2019, White has played in 32 games and has averaged 15.6 FPG in the better half of his games, compared to just 6.2 FPG in his 16 worst games. Or, put another way, he’s a low-end RB1 half the time, and completely useless the remaining weeks. That inconsistency (which is relatively common among receiving RBs) makes White infuriatingly difficult to even roster in redraft, but for best ball, those low-end RB1 weeks are extremely valuable, and we never have to worry about when to plug him in.
White is an UFA this year, and I’d expect something resembling Nyheim Hines or J.D. McKissic usage regardless of where he signs. But nothing would excite me more than White re-signing with New England given he had his best game of the last two seasons in Week 2 of 2021 and saw at least 6 targets in both of his games with Mac Jones under center. If we see a continuation of that in 2022, an RB2 season for White wouldn’t be shocking.