Whose Fantasy Football Value Is Bound to Change After the NFL Draft?
One of the keys for best-ball and dynasty fantasy football leagues is identifying the "inflection points" within the calendar.
An inflection point is a time during the year where a player's value is going to change. For example, when free agency opens, and a team signs a new running back, that's going to have a major impact on the other backs on the roster.
If you had known beforehand that the Denver Broncos were going to sign Melvin Gordon, you obviously would have had a lower valuation on Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman and acted accordingly. That was an inflection point for their value.
While most of the key dominoes have already fallen on the free agency side of things, another major inflection point is coming up: the NFL draft. Teams will be bringing in new players, and it's going to have at least some impact on the fantasy outlook on a bunch of different guys, for better or for worse.
Let's try to get out in front of these shifts in value. Although we don't know exactly how things are going to change, we can at least make educated guesses and act accordingly. This will allow us to decide if we want to gobble up shares of that player now or potentially divest before it's too late. Here are players whose value is likely to change once the NFL draft is completed.
Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
In BestBall 10 drafts from March 24th on (filtering out the beginning of free agency), Damien Williams is going 68th overall, nestled between James Conner, Marlon Mack, David Johnson, and David Montgomery. If the Kansas City Chiefs don't draft a running back early, he's going to look like a massive bargain.
Between the regular season and the playoffs, Williams was healthy enough to play at least 50% of the snaps in 10 games. In those games, he averaged 13.6 carries and 5.2 targets. Given that a target for a running back is worth twice as much as a carry in half-PPR leagues, we can double his target total, giving us 24 adjusted opportunities per game for Williams in this span. A 50% snap rate isn't setting an ultra-high bar, so this seems like a realistic ask.
If we get a full season of that tied to this high-powered Chiefs offense, it'll be drool-worthy for fantasy. Williams has dodged one bullet with free agency thus far. He just has to hope he can do the same in the draft.
The draft angle here is complicated. On the one hand, the Chiefs have just five picks, and they've got plenty of holes to fill on the interior offensive line and on defense. That means they don't have a lot of ammo to add to the room before accounting for trade downs.
On the flip side, all five of those picks are in the first five rounds. If they do take a swing at the backfield, it'll be a higher-end pick than Darwin Thompson, who was a sixth-rounder last year. This means increased competition for Williams, which is more daunting than a late-rounder for depth.
Verdict: As laid out by numberFire's Austan Kas, now seems to be a strong time to buy Williams.
Yes, there is risk here should the Chiefs go at a running back early, and there are plenty of solid options at the position that will be on the board outside of the first round. They could also trade down and give themselves additional picks to use on a back.
But an early-round selection seems unlikely here. Andy Reid joined the Chiefs in 2013, and since then, they've taken zero running backs within the first two rounds of the draft. They're a pass-first team that devotes resources to making Patrick Mahomes more efficient, and Williams is a plus in the passing game. Whether it's in dynasty or best-ball, if you want Williams on your roster, now's the time to dive in before we see how the draft plays out.
Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams
With Todd Gurley gone, it seemed obvious that Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown would shoot up draft boards. That hasn't happened yet, though, and it's possible the public is assuming the team will draft a running back early.
That's far from a lock to happen.
As of now, the Los Angeles Rams have just six picks in the draft with no picks in the first or fifth and two in the third. Having four picks in the first four rounds means the team could absolutely add a higher-end rusher, and they seem likely to trade down in order to recoup extra picks. But this team has a ton of holes to fill.
Based on cuts and losses in free agency, it seems like the defense will be down five major contributors from last year's team. They're going to have to address that side of the ball and potentially add extra pieces along the offensive line. With two competent backs already on the roster, this is not the biggest need they've got.
Verdict: The Rams are probably going to add at least something to the backfield with Henderson, Brown, and John Kelly the only guys on the roster. But with so much help needed on defense, that's likely to be a later-round guy, making Henderson and Brown quality buys now.
Henderson's currently going 90th overall in BestBall 10s from March 24th on while Brown is 176th. Even if they do beef up this room, you don't have to devote many resources to dabble in this backfield.
This is especially true with Brown, who is bordering on being free. He easily out-snapped Henderson down the stretch last year and got starter-level treatment in the preseason. The most logical assumption is that Henderson's involvement goes up with a full offseason in the offense, but the gap between these two shouldn't be as large as it is.
Both Henderson and Brown will see their costs spike if the team goes elsewhere in the draft, and the risk around them is relatively low. It's a high-upside roll of the dice we should make before things change.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
With Williams and the Rams' guys, risks were mitigated by reduced costs. With Devin Singletary going 50th overall in BestBall 10s, that's less true. Here, we may need to proceed with caution.
If the Buffalo Bills were to ignore the backfield, Singletary would be a high-quality second-tier running back option. Singletary's snap rate spiked in Week 8, and from that game on, Singletary averaged 14.7 carries and 4.2 targets (23.1 adjusted opportunities) per game, including the playoffs. If you're getting that at pick 50, you're satisfied.
Unfortunately, there has been some smoke around the Bills addressing the running-back position, which makes things here a little shaky.
They were reportedly linked to Gordon before he signed with the Broncos, though they never made an offer, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Todd McShay also had the Bills selecting D'Andre Swift in the first round during a February mock draft.
That first-round pick is no longer an issue as they shipped it to the Minnesota Vikings in the Stefon Diggs trade. That's a plus. But it also lowers the team's need to address wide receiver in the draft, giving them extra flexibility to add competition for Singletary.
Verdict: Given that Singletary's not exactly cheap as things stand now, it's not a bad time to pump the brakes in best-ball drafts or explore his trade value in dynasty.
Even though the Bills don't have a ton of draft capital, it seems likely they'll address the position at some point. Outside of Singletary, the only other backs currently on the roster are T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones, and Christian Wade. Unless they plan on just completely committing to Singletary, that'll change.
The range of post-draft values for Singletary is wide. There's a bit of room for him to move up if the Bills completely ignore the position. However, the room for him to slide down is sizable. You don't have to shop him if he's on a dynasty roster, but it would be wise to at least test the market and see if you can get a quality return.
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Like the Bills, the Detroit Lions have been linked to running backs for a while now. They reportedly made a run at Kenyan Drake prior to the trade deadline last year and were linked to him again before the Arizona Cardinals assigned the transition tag to Drake this offseason. The team's own website also said they would look to address running back in the draft. That's bad news for Kerryon Johnson.
The Lions clearly seem worried about Johnson's durability. He has played just 18 games across two seasons, never topping 10 in a single year. Even when Johnson has been healthy, he has played more than 60% of the snaps just five times. They don't seem to think he can hold up. Whether that's true in practice or not is irrelevant; the Lions' opinions on this will influence their decision-making, and right now, it seems like they're skeptical of Johnson's ability to stay on the field.
Verdict: In both best-ball and dynasty, Johnson shapes up as being a stay-away.
Johnson's going at 74 overall in BestBall 10s since March 24th, right behind the wave including Damien Williams and among receivers like Deebo Samuel, Michael Gallup, and Terry McLaurin. While that's not super prohibitive, it's high enough where we have better options elsewhere in that range.
In March dynasty startup drafts on Dynasty League Football, Johnson has come off the board as the RB21, just ahead of Gordon. Johnson's durability issues haven't had a major negative impact on his value there, either, and it doesn't seem to account for the possibility the team bulks up via the draft. It also shows that you can likely still net a decent return for Johnson in a trade.
Johnson showed promise last year with an expanded role, and he's tied to a quality quarterback in Matthew Stafford. Those are things we should covet. But with how likely it seems that the Lions will add another name to the backfield this month, Johnson's a player we should peddle while we can.
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders
Darren Waller was a great story for the Oakland Raiders last year, so seeing him go 36th overall in BestBall 10s -- fifth among tight ends -- makes sense. It just seems to be assuming that he'll slide into a similar role to what he had last year, and with the Raiders holding the 12th overall pick, that's a risky assumption.
A lot of Waller's volume came from the fact that Derek Carr had nobody else at his disposal. Waller played nine games in which both Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow played at least 40% of the snaps. Waller got his meatiest volume in the other seven. Here, a "deep" target is any target at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|Waller's Target Shares||Overall Share||Deep Share|
|With Williams and Renfrow||22.3%||20.5%|
|With One or Both Missing||25.9%||35.1%|
The overall volume disappearing is a concern. But the loss of deep volume is much worse, especially in an offense that doesn't push it deep all that often to begin with. He had just eight total deep looks in the seven games alongside Renfrow and Williams.
If Waller takes that much of a hit while contending with those two, things could get messy if the Raiders were to add Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, or Henry Ruggs. With a pair of picks in the first round and at least one of those big three likely to be available at the 12th pick, Waller's competition for targets is about to get stiffer.
Verdict: Waller's draft cost was likely inflated to begin with because of the position he plays. You could have justified selling him even before this. Things are about to get worse, meaning it's time to jump ship.
It's also important to remember that -- despite just rising to relevance in 2019 -- Waller isn't a young pup. This will be his age-28 season. He's the TE9 in dynasty startups, so people are seemingly accounting for this, but it's still worth reiterating.
Waller's a fun player, and he'll be a decent tight end for fantasy after the Raiders bulk up on receivers. But his cost is likely to go down soon, and even after that happens, he may still be overvalued.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
With the other players we've discussed today, the edict has been to act on them before the draft. With Thielen, our best move is to hold off until after.
When the Vikings do make that plunge and add a receiver to the room, it's likely to be a high-profile name that will get people excited. That's not going to boost the cost tied to acquiring Thielen. Instead, it's likely to make him a little bit cheaper, even though it probably shouldn't.
Thielen and Stefon Diggs played six games together last year before Thielen initially injured his hamstring. In those six games, Thielen had 26.0% of the team's overall targets and 52.2% of the deep targets. Those are massive numbers and abundantly worthy of where Thielen is going right now in BestBall 10s (46th overall).
Those market share numbers came while playing alongside one of the best route-runners in the entire league. Having a rookie on the other side isn't going to make those shares decline, even if the cost around Thielen does.
Verdict: You can buy Thielen now. His perception seems lower than it should be based on his projected role, so it's not a terrible idea. But it also may not be the cheapest we'll be able to get him.
Assuming the Vikings' new toy generates buzz, people may be inclined to back off of Thielen, thinking it will take away some of his looks. But based on his workload when healthy last year, that's unlikely to be the case. He's going to be a target monster almost no matter what.
There is some risk here that the market could wisen to Thielen's projected workload and eventually push him up the board. It's not an absolute lock that his cost goes down. But with the way these things tend to work, that seems to be the most likely scenario, meaning we can hold off on him for now and then buy aggressively once eyes start to float elsewhere.