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Sleepers to Stars: 3 Ways To Effectively Find Late Value

I typically look for one of three reasons when targeting fantasy football players in the second half of the draft. Of course your first few round draft picks will most likely decide if your team is good or not, but any week can be won by the guy you weren’t expecting to be good.

By: Brendan Taffe

I typically look for one of three reasons when targeting fantasy football players in the second half of the draft. Of course your first few round draft picks will most likely decide if your team is good or not, but any week can be won by the guy you weren’t expecting to be good. Let’s take a look at how to effectively identify those guys.

I. Players With A Bigger Role

Every year there are players who step into a bigger role. Sometimes it’s because they are on a new team, perhaps a teammate left and handed down a bigger workload, or maybe they are just another year into their career and ready for a larger share.

Example: Bryan Edwards – WR, LVR 

Edwards was a 3rd round pick last year but saw limited game action in his rookie year. After week 3, his highest snap percentage for any game was 32%. However, he finished his rookie campaign on a high note, catching both of his targets for 51 yards (season high) and scoring for the first time. The reason for optimism around Edwards in his sophomore season is that he offers something that none of the other Vegas wide receivers do: he is the lone WR in the room who has the size of a prototypical X. At 6’3 and 212 lbs, he compares to Corey Davis, and while Edwards was not drafted in the top 5 of the 2017 NFL draft like Davis, he did have a 100th percentile breakout age in college, a 94th percentile college dominator rating, and an 88th percentile college target share. 

Aside from his own personal growth, the reason why I am noting Edwards in this article is because of how he differs from the other Vegas receivers. Nelson Agholor and his 82 targets are gone and Gruden and Mayock replaced him with the duo of John Brown and Willie Snead IV. Neither Brown nor Snead are six feet tall, and both of them missed time with injuries last season. Brown and Snead join a receiver room featuring Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow, with none of the four stretching over the six foot mark, Edwards looks like he stands the best chance to break out as the alpha.

………Yes I am purposely leaving out Darren Waller for the sake of my argument.

II. Players In A Better Team Situation

Most of the impactful fantasy players do not change teams throughout their career because real NFL GMs aren’t as trade happy as that one guy in all of our leagues… if you don’t know that guy, it might be time to look in the mirror. This means that we have to look for players whose situations around them improved over the offseason. 

Examples: Darnell Mooney – WR, CHI & D.J. Chark – WR, JAX

Mooney and Chark are in similar situations heading into the 2021 season so they get grouped together here. Their situation has greatly improved this year by nothing they did, but what their team did around them. We all watched the draft, and while Trevor Lawrence was a shoe-in for the top pick, Justin Fields was the big question mark after he fell out of the top 3. Bears fans were ecstatic to see their team move up a few spots to get their new franchise guy, and I’m sure Darnell Mooney was thrilled as well. 

Last year, the Bears trotted out Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky, and Tyler Bray at different points throughout the year, while Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon, and Jake Luton each got at least 110 pass attempts for the Jags. If all goes according to plan, Lawrence will be the only one throwing passes to Chark this year, and for Mooney’s sake, Justin Fields will take over for Andy Dalton sooner rather than later (Fields is incredibly smart and should be the week 1 starter).

The difference between Chark and Mooney is that Chark will go a lot earlier in your draft. He is the #1 WR on the team heading into his fourth NFL season and has all the makings of a true alpha (40 time, burst score, and speed score all at least 92nd percentile and great size). He is currently going as the 29th WR off the board, directly behind Courtland Sutton and Tee Higgins. 

Mooney, on the other hand, is behind Allen Robinson on the depth chart. Even with Robinson’s presence though, Mooney saw 98 targets last year as a rookie. Not even accounting for an increase in targets in his second pro season, the quality of targets he’ll see will be much much better. Mooney is currently being drafted around WR55, going right after guys like Jalen Reager and T.Y. Hilton, and a dozen spots behind Hollywood Brown. 

III. Players Returning From Injury

It is easy to forget, and even easier to devalue, players who just lost a year due to injury. We may never see another season like Adrian Peterson’s post-ACL tear, but there can still be value in guys returning from injury.  

Example: Tarik Cohen – RB, CHI

Unfortunately, Cohen missed nearly all of last season with an ACL tear, and let me down on one of my boldest predictions for 2020. In his last full season, 2019, he finished as RB27 in PPR leagues. He was a solid flex play scoring 10.2 points per game. Similar to the Darnell Mooney section, the presence of Justin Fields should be an upgrade over what Mitch Trubisky and Chase Daniel provided in 2019. Even while sharing a backfield with David Montgomery, Cohen only finished three spots behind him in PPR scoring. This year, Cohen is going off the board as the RB47, after Latavius Murray, Nyheim Hines, and Devin Singletary. 

Example: Tyrell Williams – WR, DET

Tyrell fits into this category as well as the first one for guys who are stepping into a bigger role. His second season with the Raiders was lost due to a torn labrum, and he now finds himself in Detroit in possibly the most barren wide receiver room of all time. Breshad Perriman, Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Jonathan Adams Jr. These are the receivers (along with TJ Hockenson) who will be fighting for targets alongside Williams. Yes, you read that correctly. Of course there is a new HC and OC running the show in Detroit, but last year Lions quarterbacks threw nearly 600 passes. Those have to go to someone, and who better than Tyrell Williams? 

Live look at Jared Goff during his first wide receivers meeting:
 

You might totally disagree with me on all of these picks, and that’s fine! I’d love to hear some of your favorite players that you think fit into the categories. As always, it’s process over results. There are other examples of players that fit into these categories, but this is a good start on finding hidden redraft values.   

Brendan Taffe – Writer/Rule of Three Podcast
Twitter: @BCTAFFE
Ride or Dynasty

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