Using Our Draft Kit to Win Your ESPN Fantasy Football League

According to our customized rankings, who is overvalued and undervalued in ESPN draft lobbies in 2018?

Nothing can derail a fantasy football season quite like a bad draft.

I don't mean injuries and busts, necessarily. I mean entering your draft lobby and realizing that your favorite picks, the late-round gems you scrounged for, are listed as mid-round picks on your site's draft app.


While there's nothing you can do to make your host site change their rankings, you can at least prepare for your draft by doing mock drafts on your site and studying the rankings that your leaguemates assuredly will be seeing when building their fantasy football teams for the upcoming season.

For ESPN drafters, I'll help give you some shortcuts. To do that, I'll be setting our customizable draft kit (there's an app for that, too) to ESPN's default settings.

Fundamental Principles

1. On ESPN, point-per-reception (PPR) scoring is the default. If your league commissioner doesn't tinker with the scoring format, you'll be playing in a PPR league. Just know that going in. You can tweak our draft kit (for free) to make sure your rankings are optimized to your league.

2. The draft lobby's ranks are the same whether your league is PPR or non-PPR. Your draft lobby will display ESPN's staff ranks for PPR leagues regardless of whether your league rewards a point per reception or not. Also, league size doesn't impact the rankings. You can use this to find value.

3. ESPN's default lineup features two receivers and a flex. You can get away with two running backs or two receivers in your lineup, but this also allows you to take advantage of your league's settings by leveraging in the most important positions based on scoring format.

4. In general, quarterbacks are undervalued, and wide receivers are overvalued in ESPN's default lobby. Compared to our rankings, the ESPN lobby lists a lot of quarterbacks too low and a lot of wide receivers too high.

5. ESPN is high on rookie running backs, whether their situation is certain or not. As you'll see below, ESPN is high on rookie running backs, whereas our algorithms prefer some veterans instead.

Overvalued ESPN Players According to Our Projections

Among players inside ESPN's top 125, these are the biggest discrepancies compared to our rankings in a 12-team, PPR format.

Player Position numberFire
Royce Freeman RB 101 44 57
Kerryon Johnson RB 144 94 50
Sony Michel RB 98 48 50
Allen Hurns WR 143 106 37
Jamaal Williams RB 123 97 26
Julian Edelman WR 107 82 25
Nick Chubb RB 137 112 25
Chris Carson RB 138 113 25
Ronald Jones RB 68 46 22
Robert Woods WR 75 53 22
Emmanuel Sanders WR 76 54 22
Marshawn Lynch RB 79 58 21
Devontae Booker RB 135 114 21
Zach Ertz TE 50 30 20
Marvin Jones WR 60 41 19
Kenny Stills WR 110 91 19
Will Fuller WR 91 73 18
Sterling Shepard WR 99 81 18
DeSean Jackson WR 111 93 18
Derrius Guice RB 62 45 17
Carson Wentz QB 84 67 17
Michael Crabtree WR 78 62 16
Tarik Cohen RB 102 86 16
Jordan Reed TE 105 90 15
Trey Burton TE 126 111 15
TY Hilton WR 39 25 14

A lot of rookie running backs make the list: Royce Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones, and Derrius Guice. If these backs carve out the starting role in their offense, they can pay off their ESPN rank, but right now, our algorithms see them as overvalued in ESPN lobbies.

Also, mid-range receivers fill up the list of players who are at least a full round (12 picks) overvalued, per our models.

Undervalued ESPN Players According to Our Projections

These are just quarterbacks inside the top 125 in numberFire's rankings who represent the biggest discrepancies in rankings.

Player Position numberFire
Blake Bortles QB 125 267 -142
Drew Brees QB 41 128 -87
Jared Goff QB 119 163 -44
Dak Prescott QB 122 162 -40
Matthew Stafford QB 96 127 -31
Jimmy Garoppolo QB 106 137 -31
Matt Ryan QB 108 138 -30
Aaron Rodgers QB 26 56 -30
Kirk Cousins QB 90 119 -29
Marcus Mariota QB 116 140 -24
Ben Roethlisberger QB 95 118 -23
Russell Wilson QB 46 68 -22
Tom Brady QB 38 57 -19
Philip Rivers QB 117 135 -18
Alex Smith QB 124 139 -15

If you're in a 12-team league, you can usually wait on quarterback and draft one late, but if you're in an ESPN league and your leaguemates stick close to the draft rankings, you could wind up with a steal in the middle of the draft.

As for the flex spots, these are the biggest values inside our top 125 relative to their ESPN rankings.

Ted Ginn Jr.WR115214-99
Bilal PowellRB121193-72
Rex BurkheadRB4995-46
Nyheim HinesRB120150-30
Tyler EifertTE112136-24
Marlon MackRB7496-22
Jimmy GrahamTE6384-21
Lamar MillerRB4060-20
Carlos HydeRB80100-20
Jordy NelsonWR82102-20
Chris ThompsonRB6987-18
Jack DoyleTE92110-18
Sammy WatkinsWR5370-17
Jamison CrowderWR7188-17
Mark IngramRB4561-16
Jordan HowardRB2338-15
Randall CobbWR5671-15
Evan EngramTE6579-14
Duke JohnsonRB6680-14
Kyle RudolphTE8599-14
Greg OlsenTE6477-13
Marqise LeeWR88101-13

Rex Burkhead continues to trend up in the offseason, but if you draft early, you can snare him at a discount in your ESPN leagues.

Rather than get overly excited on the rookie picks, the algorithms single out some veteran running backs who are values in ESPN lobbies: Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde, Chris Thompson, Mark Ingram, Jordan Howard, and Duke Johnson.

Hidden Gems

Ted Ginn Jr. is our 115th-ranked player (WR50) but is slotted at 214th in ESPN leagues (WR76). Ginn finished as the WR34 last year in PPR formats.

Tyrell Williams is projected to finish as the WR53 (and is ranked as our 130th overall). On ESPN, he's the WR80 and is listed 218th overall. He was the WR45 in 2017.

In his return from a neck injury that cost him a full season, Quincy Enunwa looks to be a value pick: 142nd in our ranks and 230th on ESPN. Enunwa was 2016's WR45.

All eyes are on Kenyan Drake in Miami, but Frank Gore is listed as a co-starter. We list him 129th overall, but on ESPN he's 202nd.

Nyheim Hines is a top-150 pick on ESPN, but we list him at 120th overall. Hines is an intriguing prospect, selected in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts' new coaching staff. Still, current starter, Marlon Mack, is listed as a value (74th in numberFire's rankings and 94th on ESPN), as well. The Colts' backfield should provide value for ESPN drafters.

San Francisco 49ers' tight end George Kittle is a favorite sleeper pick for a lot of analysts this season, and he could fall in your ESPN drafts, where he's listed at 157th overall. Kittle is ranked 132nd in our projections in a 12-team PPR league.

As always, it's vital to make sure that your rankings are customized to your league settings, so you can head over to our draft kit and plug in your settings to help you navigate through your ESPN fantasy football draft this season.