Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Best values in Rounds 1-3 on Underdog Fantasy

2M9RWJE Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams (17) during an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Denver, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams: Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams is once again due for a high-volume role. His 80.0 PFF receiving grade ties for 18th among 33 NFL wide receivers with at least 105 targets.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans: Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans’ 83.0 PFF receiving grade in 2023 is his best PFF receiving grade of the last four years.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.: Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.'s quarterback upgrade brings exciting downfield opportunities for 2024. His 80.0 PFF receiving grade ties for 18th among 33 NFL wide receivers with at least 105 targets.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Best ball scoring formats have made fantasy football a year-round endeavor and high-value average draft position (ADP) opportunities are already taking shape in Underdog Fantasy’s half-points per reception (half-PPR) platform. The article below breaks down three NFL players whose early May ADP should be exploited aggressively by savvy year-round drafters.

2.07, WR11 Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders No. 1 wide receiver Davante Adams produced half-PPR WR3 and WR13 results over the last two years. He is a near-lock to finish inside that window in 2023 thanks to his elite target-earning ability, reinforced both by his own skillset and his two quarterbacks’ first-read-target dependency, in-house target competition and the AFC West’s subpar secondaries. Adams’ 2.07, WR11 ADP is extremely reasonable. His 80.0 PFF receiving grade ties for 18th among 33 NFL wide receivers with at least 105 targets.

The Green Bay Packers traded Adams to Las Vegas following the 2021-2022 NFL season. His Las Vegas tenure yielded consecutive No. 2 positional finishes in regular season targets (168 and 171). The two sums are the highest of his 10-year career while his respective 27.2% and 29.4% target rates rank fifth and third. 

Las Vegas head coach Antonio Pierce leaned heavily on Adams after ascending from linebackers coach to interim head coach in Week 9, 2022. Adams’ 94 targets and 84 first-read targets through Week 18 both ranked third among NFL wide receivers

The first-read usage accurately reflects his overall role in Las Vegas. Adams tallied 140 and 143 first-read targets, respectively, over the last two years after twice tying his prior career-high 129 in the prior two seasons. The trend will continue as incumbent quarterback Aidan O’Connell and journeyman quarterback Gardner Minshew battle for the starting role. Among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 275 dropbacks, O’Connell’s 64.6 PFF passing grade ranks 26th and Minshew’s 60.6 PFF passing grade ranks 28th.

Both quarterbacks relied heavily on their designed first read in 2023. Minshew’s 324 first-read passing attempts (17th) and O’Connell’s 232 first-read passing attempts (24th) account for 66.1% and 67.6% of their total passing attempts, ranking 13th and ninth, respectively, among 33 NFL quarterbacks with at least 150 first-read passing attempts and at least 240 total passing attempts.

Adams’ yards per route run (YPRR) dipped from an elite 2.45 to a still-great 1.97 last year but his per-play efficiency was expected to regress after producing career-best marks in average depth of target (aDot, 12.8), yards per reception (15.2), deep-target rate (22.6%) and missed tackles forced (16) in 2022. 

Las Vegas No. 2 wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is a reliable sidekick but he has yet to best a 24.0% seasonal target rate, nor has he produced a single one-thousand-yard season in his five-year career. Former Georgia rookie tight end Brock Bowers is the team’s only meaningful offseason addition to the pass-catching corps. Bowers is an elite pass-catching prospect but the position’s blocking and receiving responsibilities take time to develop; just two rookie tight ends have earned more than 100 regular season targets over the last three years. Bowers’ 87.1 PFF receiving grade ranks second among 27 Power Five tight ends with at least 45 targets.

Adams’ divisional coverage units are beatable for a player of his caliber. The Kansas City Chiefs traded away shadow-coverage cornerback L’Jarius Sneed this offseason, whose 73.3 PFF coverage grade ranks 25th among 81 NFL cornerbacks with at least 360 coverage snaps. The Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers attempted to plug secondary holes by respectively signing cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Kristian Fulton, whose 3.2% and 3.9% explosive pass plays allowed rates both rank outside the top 64. 

Adams will once again for the regular season league-lead in total targets, making him an excellent value in the mid-second round of Underdog best ball drafts.

3.03, WR19 Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers X-wide receiver Mike Evans is available in the early third round with a mid-WR2 positional ADP despite perennially out-producing the mid-tier WR2s. He should be drafted aggressively at ADP, thanks to his talent, quarterback relationship and target competition. 

Evans became the first NFL wide receiver to begin his career with seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2020, besting forming NFL wide receiver Randy Moss’ 17-year run atop the leaderboard with six such seasons. Evans extended his record to 10 consecutive seasons in 2023 while also maintaining a six-year half-PPR WR1 stretch. Evans’ 81.9 PFF offense grade ranks ninth among 32 NFL wide receivers with at least 830 offensive snaps

Evans thrived quarterback Baker Mayfield’s inaugural Tampa Bay 2023 season, posting top-three career finishes in target rate (23.5%), yards per route run (YPRR, 2.33), yards after the catch per reception (4.1), NFL passer rating when targeted (115.4), explosive pass plays (41), deep-target rate (28.1%), slot-target rate (5.8%), targets (146), receptions (90), receiving yards (1,450) and touchdowns (12). His 83.0 PFF receiving grade is his best since 2019. Mayfield’s 74.8 PFF passing grade ranks 18th among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 275 dropbacks. He likewise posted career-highs in passing yards (4.731) passing touchdowns (34) and completion rate (64.1%).

Tampa Bay’s front office selected former Washington slot receiver Jalen McMillan with the 93rd overall pick but McMillan is more likely to threaten 28-year-old slot receiver Chris Godwin than Evans, who remains an elite player at age 30. Godwin averaged exactly 1.73 YPRR in each of the last two seasons following his 2021 Grade 3 ACL tear and Grade 2 MCL tear. He cleared the ideal 2.00 rate just twice in his seven-year career. McMillan suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain on September 16th, 2023 but still averaged 2.30 YPRR, just 0.02 less than his 2.32 college-career best in 2022. Godwin’s 77.9 PFF receiving grade ranks 26th among 64 NFL wide receivers with at least 65 targets.

Evans is a half-PPR WR1 available in the mid-tier WR2 range.

3.06, WR21 Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts X-wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is being drafted at his half-PPR floor, with a 3.06, WR21 ADP. Fantasy managers should confidently draft him as a WR1 thanks to his high-volume role, ball-winning ability and quarterback upgrade.

Indianapolis head coach Shane Steichen ran the offense through Pittman in Steichen’s inaugural 2023 head coaching season, funneling 150 regular season targets (the ninth-most among NFL wide receivers) and 109 first-read regular-season targets (tying for 11th most) Pittman’s way. Among NFL wide receivers with at least 100 targets in either category, Pittman maintained top 10 catch rates (72.7%, 10th and 68.8%, sixth, respectively) despite fill-in quarterback Gardner Minshew’s scattershot arm. 

Pittman’s first-read-target data is particularly impressive in this regard. Among 18 NFL wide receivers with at least 100 first-read regular-season targets, Pittamn’s 22.9% contested target rate ranks fifth highest, 60.0% contested catch rate ranks first and his 92.6% catchable pass catch rate ranks third.

Among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 275 dropbacks, Minshew’s 60.6 PFF passing grade ranks 28th and his 62.2% completion rate ranks 26th.

Pittman finished as the half-PPR WR16 after finishing as the WR23 and WR21 in 2022 and 2021, respectively, while notching a career-best 2.04 YPRR average. Pittman should only get better with 2022 first-round draft pick, quarterback Anthony Richardson now healthy. Richardson’s 42.9% past-the-sticks throwing rate towers over Minshew’s 36.1%, adding an exciting downfield element to the offense. 

Pittman’s mid-third-round ADP offers fantasy managers must-draft value in 2024.

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