Success in fantasy football comes down to one word: Value.
Sure, you can use your first-round pick on Jonathan Taylor or Cooper Kupp and hope they duplicate their monster 2021 seasons. But how you'll win your league is by identifying the Taylors and the Kupps before they become fantasy stars, and using your late-round picks on players who can give you top-of-the-draft production.
Case in point: Kupp had an average draft position of 44 last season in half-PPR leagues and finished as the highest-scoring non-quarterback in fantasy. While the level of Kupp's breakout is an anomaly, there's plenty of value to be had each year in players who are being overlooked for a variety of reasons.
In this exercise, we'll identify 10 players who we believe can significantly outperform their average draft position, or ADP. Let's find those diamonds in the rough!
Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders
Carr has an ADP of 107 as the 14th quarterback off the board, per FantasyPros. But with offensive mastermind Josh McDaniels running the show and All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams on board, Carr has legitimate top-10 potential. Only two of Carr's wide receivers played at least 16 games last season (Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards). If Adams, tight end Darren Waller and the majority of Carr's weapons stay on the field, he should easily be a QB1.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Lance isn't exactly flying under the radar, as the pressure will be on the second-year QB to fill Jimmy Garoppolo's shoes in San Francisco. He's still being valued as a QB13 right now, however, and there's top-10 upside here -- mainly because of his legs. Lance averaged 6.3 rushes per game in 2021, and Kyle Shanahan could increase that number as he revamps the offense around his athletic signal-caller. If you want to wait until the 10th round or later to draft a QB with upside, Lance is your man.
Travis Etienne Jr., RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
There's an element of the unknown here after Etienne missed his entire rookie season due to injury. But new head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Press Taylor used running backs liberally in the passing game with the Philadelphia Eagles, and we could see them doing the same with Etienne, who has RB2 potentially as he reunites with college QB Trevor Lawrence.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots
The evidence Stevenson put forth in his rookie season suggest he can be a legitimate top-10 running back one day. The question is whether he'll get enough touches in New England's unpredictable offense. But after giving Damien Harris 220 touches last season, we can see the Patriots turning more frequently to Stevenson -- who also has improved as a pass-catcher entering Year 2.
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys
The evidence is clear: Pollard is simply a more effective rusher than Ezekiel Elliott, who averaged 4.2 yards per carry to Pollard's 5.5 in 2021. The Cowboys still will feature Elliott in Week 1, but with 1,650 career rushes under his belt, he's not the RB1 he used to be. That means Pollard is no longer just an Elliott handcuff; he's an RB3 with RB1/2 upside if Elliott misses any time.
Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints
At least one rookie pass-catcher has topped 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Will Olave join that group? That might be wishful thinking, but the Ohio State product could play an immediate role in a Saints offense led by the pass-happy Jameis Winston. Michael Thomas hasn't played since 2020 and Jarvis Landry turns 30 in November, so there's real potential for Olave to greatly exceed his WR47 ADP.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
Are the Lions good? No. But Brown caught 90 passes for 912 yards on the not-good Lions last season and again should be Jared Goff's top target in the passing game. Even if a healthy D'Andre Swift cuts into Brown's targets, Detroit should be throwing plenty as it plays catch-up in games, making Brown a legitimate top-20 receiver entering his second season.
Christian Kirk, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Kirk is currently going as the WR42 despite posting career highs in receptions (77) and yards (982) with Arizona last season. Lawrence is a downgrade from Kyler Murray, but the young QB should only improve under Pederson in Year 2, and Kirk projects as Lawrence's No. 1 receiver in an offense that should throw the ball plenty. We'd feel comfortable with Kirk as our WR3.
Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers clearly seems to like Lazard, who is the Packers' longest-tenured wide receiver (not including 31-year-old Randall Cobb) and appears poised to fill Davante Adams' No. 1 receiver role. Even if Lazard comes nowhere close to matching Adams' production, he's a strong bet to outplay his ADP as the 46th wide receiver selected.
Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears
Kmet put up decent numbers last season (60 catches for 612 yards) but flopped in fantasy by failing to score a touchdown. New Bears head coach Matt Eberflus should inject some life into a Bears offense that mustered just 16 touchdown passes in 17 games, and with Jimmy Graham out of the picture, Kmet has the opportunity to develop into a reliable red zone target for Justin Fields.
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