Undervalued and Overvalued Fantasy Football Players Based on Volume Projections

The idea of applying arbitrage to fantasy football is no longer new, but just because it's been done before doesn't mean that it doesn't have value.

Who wouldn't want to find similar workloads for less asking price in a fantasy football draft? I sure would.

So that's what I did. Using numberFire's projections, I sought out target projections for receivers and tight ends. As for running backs, I chose carries and targets (with targets weighted more than carries due to their increased value in fantasy football).

Using some regression analysis, I calculated each player's expected average draft cost based solely on their anticipated volume in order to find the biggest discrepancies.

Of course, this doesn't adjust for efficiency or touchdown rates or even team-level offenses, but volume is never a bad thing to find in fantasy football.

Here are the results.

Running Backs

Volume-Based Rankings
This is how all the running backs rank (again, adjusting for target value compared to carry value).

RB Rankings
RB Rankings
RB Rankings
1. Christian McCaffrey 13. Aaron Jones 25. Ryquell Armstead
2. Saquon Barkley 14. Nick Chubb 26. Cam Akers
3. Ezekiel Elliott 15. David Johnson 27. Kareem Hunt
4. Dalvin Cook 16. Chris Carson 28. Raheem Mostert
5. Alvin Kamara 17. Melvin Gordon 29. Antonio Gibson
6. Joe Mixon 18. James Conner 30. Ronald Jones
7. Clyde Edwards-Helaire 19. David Montgomery 31. Kerryon Johnson
8. Kenyan Drake 20. Todd Gurley 32. Tarik Cohen
9. Miles Sanders 21. Jonathan Taylor 33. Matt Breida
10. Austin Ekeler 22. Le'Veon Bell 34. Mark Ingram
11. Derrick Henry 23. D'Andre Swift 35. Jordan Howard
12. Josh Jacobs 24. Devin Singletary 36. James White


All of the top picks are super valuable compared to the less certain projections for backs with weaker claims to workhorse roles, but it's hard to make the case that Christian McCaffrey is undervalued at 1.01. I just want it to be known that, based on workload, McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook are worthy of their first-round draft valuations.

Cook is sort of a top-tier running back but isn't unanimously considered a slam-dunk top-five draft pick. That said, his projected volume (427.1 adjusted opportunities) isn't that far off of Ezekiel Elliott's mark (442.6). For that reason, he's undervalued.

Outside of those, Ryquell Armstead, projected for 190.6 carries and 33.8 targets, is trending toward a borderline workhorse role if he does take over early-down work from Leonard Fournette. Armstead's workload implies he should be roughly an eighth-round pick. Teammate Chris Thompson, slated for 67.1 targets, deserves attention in the early double-digit rounds. Sooner in a full-PPR league.

Antonio Gibson, part of the uncertain Washington Football Team backfield, is projected for 67.6 targets and an average draft cost near the ninth-round, and teammate Bryce Love should be more than just a final-round target like his average draft cost suggest he's been.

Other Undervalued Running Backs (Volume-Based Draft Round): Joe Mixon (1st), Chris Thompson (12th), Jerick McKinnon (14th)

Mark Ingram (158.1 rushes and 29.1 targets) fits as the most overvalued player compared to his projected workload. He's going as the RB22 in drafts, on average, but has the workload of the RB34. This is a spot where we need to remember that we're looking just at volume and not considering his offense, but that's a big gap nonetheless. J.K. Dobbins also makes the list to a lesser degree based solely on projected volume.

Neither Raheem Mostert nor Tevin Coleman project for a lot of receiving volume (32.6 and 23.3 targets, respectively). They come from an elite rushing offense (as of last year) and will need that to stick to pay off their asking prices.

Phillip Lindsay is going off the board around round seven or eight in a 12-team league but should be taken in the double-digit rounds, according to his volume projection.

Because of their limited receiving projections, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, and Josh Jacobs rate out as overvalued. They're still second-round material. Actually, Jacobs' workload (356.5 adjusted opportunities) doesn't rate out that much differently than Henry's (364.2).

Other Overvalued Running Backs (Volume-Based Draft Round): Todd Gurley (5th), Jordan Howard (10th), Devin Singletary (7th), Jonathan Taylor (6th)

Wide Receivers

Volume-Based Rankings
This is how the receivers rank in terms of projected targets.

WR Rankings
WR Rankings
WR Rankings
1. Davante Adams 15. DeVante Parker 29. Preston Williams
2. Michael Thomas 16. D.J. Chark 30. T.Y. Hilton
3. Julio Jones 17. Tyreek Hill 31. Julian Edelman
4. Chris Godwin 18. Courtland Sutton 32. Marvin Jones
5. DeAndre Hopkins 19. Adam Thielen 33. Tyler Lockett
6. Mike Evans 20. Calvin Ridley 34. A.J. Brown
7. Allen Robinson 21. Jarvis Landry 35. Christian Kirk
8. D.J. Moore 22. Amari Cooper 36. D.K. Metcalf
9. Kenny Golladay 23. Terry McLaurin 37. Marquise Brown
10. JuJu Smith-Schuster 24. Jamison Crowder 38. Anthony Miller
11. Robert Woods 25. Stefon Diggs 39. Michael Gallup
12. Keenan Allen 26. A.J. Green 40. Will Fuller
13. Odell Beckham 27. Sterling Shepard 41. Diontae Johnson
14. Cooper Kupp 28. Tyler Boyd 42. John Brown

By virtue of holding the best volume projection (171.6 targets) and not being the WR1 in drafts, Davante Adams rates out as undervalued.

A much bigger value is Preston Williams, who is slated for 115.6 targets but is the WR51 in draft cost. His volume projection puts him at WR29, right between Tyler Boyd and T.Y. Hilton. Likewise, Jamison Crowder (120.5 projected targets) is currently a 9th-round pick but has the volume to go toward the front-end of the 7th.

Anthony Miller and Sterling Shepard both project for 100-plus targets (103.1 and 116.4, respectively) but can be drafted in the double-digit rounds. DeSean Jackson is projected for 92.1 targets, making him an elite late-round pick, as well.

Other Undervalued Wide Receivers (Volume-Based Draft Round): Bryan Edwards (12th), Steven Sims (11th), Breshad Perriman (11th), N'Keal Harry (12th)

It's going to be a lot of big-play options here, but that's what we get when we look solely at volume. The most overvalued receivers based on projected volume are: A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Tyreek Hill. Take that for what you will. They're generally exceptions to the rule, but when the efficiency isn't elite, these are high-risk players.

The Dallas Cowboys' duo of Amari Cooper (125.3 targets) and Michael Gallup (103.0) appear overvalued based on volume despite each sitting in triple-digits. They're just surrounded by players with higher volume projections and without as much competition for target shares.

Darius Slayton fits the bill here. He's projected for just 84.4 targets but is the WR43. Four receivers projected for 100-plus targets are going later than Slayton (Crowder, Shepard, Williams, Miller).

Other Overvalued Wide Receivers (Volume-Based Draft Round): Deebo Samuel (9th), Brandin Cooks (9th), Justin Jefferson (12th), Mecole Hardman (14th), Marquise Brown (8th), Adam Thielen (4th)

Tight End

Volume-Based Rankings
Let's take a look at the target-based rankings for tight ends.

TE Rankings
TE Rankings
1. Travis Kelce 15. Chris Herndon
2. George Kittle 16. Austin Hooper
3. Zach Ertz 17. Blake Jarwin
4. Evan Engram 18. Noah Fant
5. Mark Andrews 19. Rob Gronkowski
6. Hunter Henry 20. Jonnu Smith
7. Darren Waller 21. Greg Olsen
8. Mike Gesicki 22. Jace Sternberger
9. Hayden Hurst 23. Jack Doyle
10. Tyler Higbee 24. Eric Ebron
11. Dallas Goedert 25. Kyle Rudolph
12. T.J. Hockenson 26. C.J. Uzomah
13. Ian Thomas 27. Dawson Knox
14. Jared Cook 28. Irv Smith Jr.


There won't be too many here, but there are some: Mike Gesicki is the TE14 in average draft cost but projects for the 8th-most targets. Chris Herndon is the TE22 based on draft position yet sits 15th in projected targets.

Evan Engram's 111.5 projected targets rank him fourth at the position, ahead of Mark Andrews (110.4), but they're about 35 spots apart in total draft position.

These are easier to find because, at some point, we start drafting tight ends even when their target expectations are similar to other players' who can be found much later.

Rob Gronkowski likely has a significant claim to a red zone role, but in terms of targets, he's not really there. He's going in the 6th round but should be more of an 11th-rounder based only on volume (72.4 targets). Jared Cook (78.6), Austin Hooper (77.6), and Noah Fant (76.3) project with similar volume to Gronkowski, but only Fant is going outside the top eight rounds on average.

Tight end value is certainly tied to their offenses and touchdown expectations, but we've got a few reasons not to reach for a non-elite tight end.