2021 Football Draft Kit: Undervalued & Overvalued Players

2021 Football Draft Kit: Undervalued & Overvalued Players

This article is part of our Football Draft Kit series.

In our version of sleepers and busts, we seek to identify players whose average draft position (ADP) makes them undervalued or overvalued. We asked some of our football writers for their favorite undervalued and overvalued players for the 2021 season. 

But remember, calling a player overvalued does not mean he will be awful this year. It simply means his risk outweighs the likelihood he returns his ADP value. We limited "busts" to an ADP top-10 QB/TE or top-30 RB/WR.

Disagree with any of the picks? Got a favorite undervalued/overvalued player? Let us know in the comments.

UNDERVALUED PLAYERS

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Buccaneers

Widely considered the greatest tight end of all time, Gronkowski stayed healthy all last season, catching seven touchdown passes on only 77 targets during the regular season plus two more in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl victory. He is only five months older than TE1 Travis Kelce, still has Tom Brady as his quarterback and is now completely up to speed in the Tampa Bay system. Yes, there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Buccaneers offense, but no one is a better red-zone option, and no one has a better rapport with Brady.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs

CEH was a frustrating player last year as he missed three games, and his role seemed to ebb and flow all season. And despite his pass-catching pedigree, CEH caught only 36 passes, as Patrick Mahomes, when pressured, is capable of buying time or scrambling rather than dumping it off to his backs. But keep in mind CEH was a rookie on a Super Bowl favorite, so it was only natural for the Chiefs to be conservative with him. In Year 2, he should see more snaps on third downs, and while he still has usage risk, his upside, with his skill set on that team, is RB1.

— Chris Liss, @Chris_Liss

Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills

Davis had only 35 receptions last year, but 10 went for 20-plus yards. He also had 12 red-zone targets. This year, Davis should slide into a prominent role in one of the league's most explosive offenses with John Brown gone in free agency. The Bills signed Emmanuel Sanders, but he's 34 and likely can't match Davis going downfield (17.1 YPC, 4th; 15.9 air yards/target, 2nd). With No. 1 WR Stefon Diggs drawing extra coverage, Davis should consistently see advantageous matchups and an increase in downfield and red-zone targets.

Michael Pittman, WR, Colts

Although Pittman played 772 snaps in 13 regular-season games last season, he averaged fewer than five targets per game, which kept the physical 6-foot-4, 223-pound receiver from fully capitalizing on his after-the-catch skills (7.33 YAC, 3rd among WR). Pittman has good speed for his size (4.52 40) and could be in for a big increase in targets this year. T.Y. Hilton (32 in November) isn't getting younger and Parris Campbell can't seem to stay healthy. He could also put his size to use in the red zone more, after seeing only nine targets in that area last season.

— Jim Coventry, @JimCoventryNFL

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Texans

Lindsay has played three NFL seasons. He's topped 1,000 rushing yards in two of them. He's competing with a 29 year old and a 31 year old who have one 1,000-yard season combined since Lindsay entered the league. Both David Johnson (29) and Mark Ingram (31) have struggled with injuries, missing 20 games in four seasons and 10 in three, respectively. There's an understandable tendency to avoid the Texans' tire fire entirely, but "bad team" is not a good enough justification when Lindsay's ADP is so late — RB52, 13th round.

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys

As a rookie, and with his starting QB injured three-quarters of the season, Lamb finished WR21 in standard leagues and WR22 in PPR. Yet, at least according to ADP, drafters expect minimal improvement. In Dak Prescott's four full games, Lamb saw more targets, catches and yards than Michael Gallup three times. Had Lamb kept up his Prescott pace, he would have finished WR10 in standard and PPR. What's more, Amari Cooper (ankle) might not be ready for camp, and the Cowboys play the NFC South and AFC West this year, divisions loaded with good offenses and bad defenses.

— Alex Rikleen, @Rikleen

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers

Packers wide receivers like Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and James Jones needed multiple seasons before emerging, and given Valdes-Scantling's three-game stretch (10 catches, 235 yards, two touchdowns) to end 2020, it's possible the fourth-year wideout will be the latest to join that group. Losing Aaron Rodgers would change things, but the upside scenario is too appealing to ignore. If nothing else, MVS' deep-play potential makes for excellent value in best-ball formats, particularly since he's being drafted just outside the top 70 wide receivers.

Raheem Mostert, RB, 49ers

After Mostert missed eight games last season due to injuries, the 49ers added competition at running back in rookies Trey Sermon (3rd round) and Elijah Mitchell (6th round) and offseason-signing Wayne Gallman. It makes sense given Mostert's increasingly lengthy injury history, but when healthy, the 29-year-old's speed is unrivaled in the league, and he has an obvious advantage over his new teammates when it comes to the playbook. His seventh-round ADP (RB32) mitigates much of the downside with his injury risk.

— Joe Bartel, @JBFantasySports

Jameis Winston, QB, Saints

It seems like a long time ago, but Winston threw for more than 5,100 yards his last season in Tampa Bay. He's had a full year to learn Sean Payton's system and, believe it or not, he's still only 27. Michael Thomas is healthy heading into this season, and Winston never has had a running back like Alvin Kamara at his disposal. And unlike Drew Brees last season, Winston has the arm to get the ball downfield to Tre'Quan Smith. He will have to beat out Taysom Hill for the starting job, but Winston is the better pocket passer and adds some rushing stats with scrambles.

Laviska Shenault, WR, Jaguars

Shenault's rookie season was a mixed bag, including a hamstring injury that basically cost him three games. He is third on the depth chart after DJ Chark and newly signed Marvin Jones but should be heavily used in an offense that lacks a playmaking TE and has phenom Trevor Lawrence under center. Shenault is a physical freak at 6-1, 227, and likely will again get rushing opportunities (18 rushes in 14 games last year). Should anything happen injury-wise to Chark or Jones, his value would skyrocket. As is, he should outperform his ADP as a ninth-round pick in 12-teamers.

— Kevin Payne, @KCPayne26

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Washington

Job security has never been part of the package with Fitzpatrick, but it might be in 2021 if Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen are the other QBs on Washington's roster. And while the 38-year-old is a journeyman for a reason, he does have a style of play that's conducive to fantasy scoring, between his aggressive throws downfield and willingness to scramble. Fitzmagic even ran for 383 yards and six TDs in 20 starts for Miami, in addition to throwing 31 TDs. He'll have better receivers in Washington, with Curtis Samuel joining Terry McLaurin to form a versatile 1-2 punch.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks

Lockett might not be a classic "sleeper," but he is both under-appreciated and undervalued. He often lands outside the top 50 in fantasy drafts, even in PPR formats, despite reaching 1,000 scrimmage yards and 8-10 touchdowns each of the last three seasons. DK Metcalf's presence may seem to block Lockett from WR1 upside, but Lockett's target total from last season (132) suggests it isn't out of the question. It would help if he got a few more shots downfield, as the volume increase in 2020 was related to his aDOT dropping to 9.7 (down from 12.4 in 2019 when he had 9.6 YPT).

— Jerry Donabedian, @JerryDonabedian

Trey Sermon, RB, 49ers

The San Francisco backfield is not as crowded as it might seem. Starter Raheem Mostert is injury prone. Jeff Wilson could be out through November with a knee injury. Wayne Gallman is on a one-year contract and seems more like insurance, and Elijah Mitchell is a sixth-round pick. That leaves room for Sermon, a third-rounder, to earn a regular role in the rotation. At 6-0, 215, Sermon is a physical runner with great short-area burst who does not go down easily. He'll have value as the complement to Mostert, and if he has a bigger role, the profit could be huge on his RB35 ADP.

Nelson Agholor, WR, Patriots

Agholor impressed last year in Las Vegas, leading the league with 18.7 YPC (min. 65 targets). He's in New England this year where there's little competition for targets, especially down the field. Cam Newton had no one to throw to last season, but when he threw deep, he was usually accurate his on-target rate on attempts of 20-plus yards ranked third (64.3 percent). Agholor gives him a reason to go deep much more often this year. If rookie Mac Jones takes the starting job, his lack of arm strength could negatively impact Agholor. But at WR62, Agholor has little risk.

— Jason Thornbury, @JDThornbury

OVERVALUED PLAYERS

Davante Adams, WR, Packers

Prorated over 16 games, Adams had the greatest PPR receiving season in NFL history last year. But he also had one of the league's easiest schedules for wide receivers, and, of course, his quarterback, who only has eyes for him, particularly in the red zone, won league MVP. Even if Aaron Rodgers sticks around in Green Bay, he is likely to regress substantially and the Packers' schedule this season looks far tougher for wideouts. Plus, there's a good chance Adams is catching passes from unproven second-year man Jordan Love.

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

Henry is a great back and real-life difference-maker, (running-backs-don't-matter crowd, notwithstanding), but including the playoffs, he's had 782 carries the last two years, a monstrous toll even by 1985 standards. Moreover, star offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is gone, Henry will never contribute much as a receiver and the Titans defense projects to be below average, meaning the team is less likely to be grinding clock with the lead. When contemplating a first-round pick, it's better to get out a year too early than a year too late.

— Chris Liss, @Chris_Liss

Najee Harris, RB, Steelers

Assuming Harris will be a top-15 RB requires faith. Pittsburgh did little to upgrade an offensive line that allowed the third-most stuffed runs (45) last season, and Ben Roethlisberger's arm appears shot, which will allow defenses to stack the box at will. And while the Steelers fired their OC, they promoted from within, so there's no guarantee they'll dramatically depart from last year's scheme that relied on the short-passing game instead of handing it off — James Conner got as many as 20 carries just twice all season. Harris is no lock to get the massive volume many expect.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns

Drafting Hunt as a top-25 running back assumes he will share the lead role with Nick Chubb. However, in the stretch run last season, Hunt shifted to more of a secondary role. In the eight games they played together through Week 13, Hunt played 248 snaps to Chubb's 254. In the last six games, including playoffs, Hunt averaged seven fewer snaps per game, and his touches dropped from 15.1 to 9.3. Hunt is being overdrafted based on the perception he'll retain the role he had in 2019 and early 2020, which, if late last season is any indication, might not happen.

— Jim Coventry, @JimCoventryNFL

Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons

According to scouts, Pitts is one of the best tight-end prospects the league has ever seen. Fine. They would know. But if Pitts is anything short of that as a rookie, then he won't provide enough value to justify his ADP. Last season, the fifth-scoring TE in standard leagues totaled 108 fantasy points; in PPR it was 175. But this century, just two rookie TEs have topped 100 standard points and only three have topped 150 in PPR. At his ADP, Pitts needs to set rookie TE records just to break even. It doesn't seem wise to bet on that big of an outlier.

Josh Allen, QB, Bills

Don't get me wrong. Allen will probably have a good season. Just not third-round-pick good. A QB must finish top 2 at the position to justify that cost, and it's a position that sees a lot of turnover at the top year-to-year. No quarterback has gone back-to-back at No. 1 since Daunte Culpepper. In Sean McDermott's four seasons as coach, 2020 was the first time the Bills were outside the bottom third in pass attempts — all the way up at 11th. Allen improved his TDs by 17 last year and had just one more INT despite 111 more attempts. Those numbers are more likely to regress than sustain.

— Alex Rikleen, @Rikleen

Travis Etienne, RB, Jaguars

It was a bit odd to see Etienne selected by Jacksonville after undrafted rookie James Robinson emerged as one of the Jaguars' few redeeming offensive pieces last season. It was also not good for the rookie's fantasy value. While Etienne might be better suited for the Jaguars' spread offense under new coach Urban Meyer, he likely will play in a timeshare. Plus, the Jaguars also added Carlos Hyde, who played for Meyer for two seasons at Ohio State. Etienne is superbly talented, but his ADP is too high for a running back who needs an injury to vault him into a prominent role.

Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers

The sixth overall pick in last year's draft, Herbert had a huge rookie season. But that might turn out to be his ceiling. He is not likely to get 40 attempts per game again this year, as the Chargers' moribund rushing attack should improve thanks to upgrades on the offensive line, including All-Pro center Corey Linsley. And with a better running game, he's not likely to again score five rushing TDs on eight carries insde the five. Herbert also has to learn a new offense with the arrival of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Herbert finished QB9 last year, but he's being drafted as if he's headed for the top 5.

— Joe Bartel, @JBFantasySports

D'Andre Swift, RB, Lions

Swift had an underwhelming rookie season, unable to push the washed-up Adrian Peterson off the field. Peterson is gone, but the Lions signed Jamaal Williams, who could get the goal-line carries, or even split touches with Swift. With weak-armed Jared Goff at quarterback and below-average wide receivers, the Lions won't threaten down the field much, allowing defenses to stack the box and key on stopping the run. There are running backs available in the third round of fantasy drafts with clearer paths to stardom than Swift.

Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals

This is not to disparage Higgins' ability; there's no doubt he is a super talent. This is more about the number of mouths to feed in the Cincinnati offense, which makes it hard to build a case for Higgins as a top-20 WR this season. Running back Joe Mixon is a workhorse, slot receiver Tyler Boyd is in his prime and the Bengals reunited Ja'Marr Chase with Joe Burrow with the fifth overall pick in this year's draft. Furthermore, the AFC North is a tough division with the Browns, Ravens and Steelers projected to have top-10 defenses. 

— Kevin Payne, @KCPayne26

Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings

Thielen rebounded from an injury-plagued 2019 and outperformed his ADP in 2020, but it was largely on the strength of an unsustainable TD rate — 14 TDs on 74 catches. Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson led the Vikings in targets, catches and receiving yards, besting Thielen by 475 (1,400 to 925) in that last category. Thielen should be drafted as a WR3 rather than WR2, as he's still a good player but now finds himself as the No. 2 receiver in a run-first offense. He's also one of those "older than he seems" guys, 31 this year in what will be only his sixth season as an NFL starter.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Giants

Golladay is coming back from a lost season and learning a new offense, one with which Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are already familiar. Golladay should be the No. 1 receiver nonetheless, but the Giants could have one of the flatter target distributions in the league, between Golladay, Shepard, Slayton, first-round pick Kadarius Toney, RB Saquon Barkley and TEs Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph. It'd be less of a concern, of course, if the Giants had a reliable starting quarterback. Instead, they have Daniel Jones, who isn't officially a bust but looks an awful lot like one.

— Jerry Donabedian, @JerryDonabedian

Robert Tonyan, TE, Packers

Tonyan was a surprise fantasy asset last year, tying Travis Kelce for most TD receptions among tight ends with 11. Kelce scored his on 105 catches, though, while Tonyan had 52. Tonyan profited from an absurd red-zone TD rate, catching seven TD passes on just 11 red-zone targets. Odds are low that he converts 63.6 percent of his red-zone looks again. Perhaps his targets will increase to mitigate a drop in efficiency, but that's far from certain. And, of course, there's the risk Aaron Rodgers leaves Green Bay, in which case the whole passing game would be in trouble.

Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders

Jacobs averaged 3.9 YPC last season and showed little breakaway speed with just three rushes of 20-plus yards. He still finished RB8 in fantasy, though, thanks to 12 rushing TDs, 11 of which came in the red zone on a league-leading 65 red-zone rushes. The red-zone scores figured to regress anyway, and the addition of Kenyan Drake makes it all but certain. Drake also will siphon carries and targets from Jacobs, making 300 touches unlikely for the incumbent. What's more, the offensive line is a big unknown after it lost three members this offseason.

— Jason Thornbury, @JDThornbury

This article appears in the 2021 RotoWire Fantasy Football magazine. Order the magazine now.

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