Using Our Draft Kit to Win Your ESPN Fantasy Football League

Who is overvalued and undervalued in ESPN draft lobbies in 2017?

It happens every year.

You've studied the coaching changes, the draft picks, the training camp buzz surrounding the NFL. You know the guys you want in your fantasy football drafts, you know the players you aren't drafting no matter what, and you know who your favorite sleeper picks are in the late rounds.

And then you hop into your draft lobby and load up that player queue with all the picks you want. You scroll down to find that late-round receiver you've had your eye on all offseason and can't find him. You search that name and you see that your dude is ranked dozens of spots higher than you ever thought he'd be. Ugh.

You think you can wait it out. You think the guy you were targeting in the 11th round can be had in the 10th. And then Mark -- that dude who is a friend of a friend, who doesn't even know that Jay Cutler retired and then came back to sign with the Miami Dolphins, who somehow got second place in your league last year -- takes your favorite pick in the eighth round because your draft lobby tells him to.

It sucks. But that's why knowing the ins and outs of your site-specific draft lobby can pay dividends on draft day. To help out, I'm digging through the draft lobbies for you.

I'll be setting our customizable draft kit (there's also an app for that) to ESPN's default settings (which is now PPR scoring, so be on the lookout if your commissioner just ran out the default settings) to identify which players you should target or avoid (and to help you avoid getting Marked on draft day).

Fundamental Principles

1. ESPN's default leagues are PPR scoring. This may not apply to your league, but if your commissioner tends to leave things as is, you'll be playing in a PPR setup.

2. Despite this, our projections suggest wide receivers are generally overvalued in ESPN's lobby. This is because our algorithms identify a few rushers to be workhorses, and those fantasy assets can be worth the risk associated with them. After the top of the draft, though, ESPN's lobby ranks receivers a bit too optimistically, according to our algorithms.

3. That leaves some quarterbacks as great values. Quarterbacks are undervalued in ESPN's draft lobby pretty much from top to bottom, per our projections.

4. But tight ends are still mostly listed too soon. The slim edge in fantasy football generated by top-tier tight ends and the replaceability in 12-team leagues where you need only one tight end causes plenty of options to be overvalued in ESPN's drafty lobby ranks.

Overvalued ESPN Players According to Our Projections

It's still early on in the preseason, so some of these numbers could shift one way or another, but this is a snapshot of the most overvalued players in ESPN's top 100, according to our projections.

Player Position ESPN Draft App numberFire Rank Difference
Adam Thielen WR 82 125 -43
C.J. Prosise RB 93 132 -39
Pierre Garcon WR 53 89 -36
Jordan Reed TE 27 62 -35
Alshon Jeffery WR 22 51 -29
Rishard Matthews WR 68 97 -29
LeGarrette Blount RB 97 126 -29
DeSean Jackson WR 74 102 -28
Delanie Walker TE 72 96 -24
Davante Adams WR 46 69 -23
Donte Moncrief WR 66 87 -21

These are some pretty big discrepancies with these particular players for being inside ESPN's top 100 in the app.

There are some other players inside ESPN's top 100 listed at least 12 picks (a full round) sooner than our ranks suggest taking them.

Player Position ESPN Draft App numberFire Rank Difference
Sammy Watkins WR 31 50 -19
Martavis Bryant WR 73 92 -19
Corey Davis WR 87 106 -19
Mike Wallace WR 75 93 -18
Giovani Bernard RB 96 114 -18
Adrian Peterson RB 99 117 -18
Carlos Hyde RB 42 59 -17
Leonard Fournette RB 26 42 -16
Rob Gronkowski TE 20 35 -15
Mark Ingram RB 41 56 -15
Jamison Crowder WR 57 71 -14
Demaryius Thomas WR 23 36 -13
Keenan Allen WR 32 45 -13
Marshawn Lynch RB 35 47 -12
Rob Kelley RB 83 95 -12

Overall, receivers are a bit too overvalued in ESPN's app, even in the PPR format, but that doesn't mean some specific running backs aren't overvalued, too.

Undervalued ESPN Players According to Our Projections

On the flip side, there are a good number of interesting players who look undervalued in ESPN's lobby. Here are the 19 players inside our top 150 in PPR leagues with ESPN's default roster settings who are listed at least 24 picks (two rounds) lower in the ESPN lobby than we have them.

Player Position ESPN Draft App numberFire Rank Difference
Robby Anderson WR 230 99 131
Joe Williams RB 214 107 107
Terrance West RB 170 91 79
Andy Dalton QB 196 120 76
Blake Bortles QB 209 136 73
Mohamed Sanu WR 210 139 71
Carson Palmer QB 189 142 47
Cole Beasley WR 173 128 45
Marcus Mariota QB 148 105 43
Jeremy Maclin WR 114 72 42
Randall Cobb WR 107 67 40
Jason Witten TE 176 138 38
Eli Manning QB 183 146 37
Ameer Abdullah RB 80 43 37
Tavon Austin WR 165 135 30
Eric Decker WR 91 64 27
Willie Snead WR 88 61 27
Joe Mixon RB 62 37 25
Jacquizz Rodgers RB 135 111 24

These are primarily flex position players (running backs and receivers) who can be had in the mid to late rounds of your drafts.

With quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton (196th in the ESPN lobby and 120th in our ranks) and Marcus Mariota (148th, 105th) and tight ends such as Jason Witten (176th, 138th), Martellus Bennett (121st, 104th), Jack Doyle (140th, 127th), Eric Ebron (132nd, 121st), and Zach Ertz (105th, 94th) listed low in the draft lobby, you can soak up some of these value picks and wait on tight end and quarterback.

Hidden Gems

There's Robby Anderson, who is listed as our 99th-ranked player and 230th on ESPN, is going to be the de facto top receiver for the New York Jets, after Quincy Enunwa's season-ending neck injury. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is found 346th but does have a two-game suspension.

Running back Joe Williams isn't necessarily hidden at 214th on ESPN's list, but he's our 107th-ranked player and has -- at one point -- been a hyped up candidate to take over the San Francisco 49ers' lead back role from Carlos Hyde. Matt Breida is 740th.

Bounce-back candidate Coby Fleener sits 219th in ESPN's draft ranks despite being a top-six tight end in efficiency last year, by our metrics.

Wide receiver Jaelen Strong ranks just 283rd in our projections but is 414th on ESPN's lobby list. Braxton Miller is 236th. One or both could hold early-season value while Will Fuller is out a few months.

Chris Conley's athletic profile has garnered hype in the past, but ESPN's 231st-ranked player has an outside chance to be a fantasy producer for the Kansas City Chiefs as the third receiving option behind Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Conley is our 151st-ranked player.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Jeremy McNichols received first-team reps as a third-down option. He's 282nd on ESPN's list.

Oh, and Josh Gordon is ranked 237th. I'm just saying.