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.
This is how all the running backs rank (again, adjusting for target value compared to carry value).
|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.
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).
This is how the receivers rank in terms of projected targets.
|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.
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).
Let's take a look at the target-based rankings for tight ends.
|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.
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.