Best Ball Journal: Post-FA Underdog Value Report

Best Ball Journal: Post-FA Underdog Value Report

This article is part of our Best Ball Strategy series.

The Underdog Fantasy NFL best ball ADP will undergo changes in light of free agency developments. This article will consider the player movements since free agency began and look at which players' numbers stand to benefit (winners) or suffer (losers) in light of the news surrounding them. There's also a Break Even section following those two.

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The players are listed in each section by descending ADP on Underdog Best Ball.
 

WINNERS

Ken Walker, RB, SEA (22.7 Underdog ADP)

Walker obviously didn't change teams in free agency, but Rashaad Penny leaving for Philadelphia was a welcome sign that clarifies Walker's value at the moment. If Penny had re-signed it would have been very difficult for Walker to come through as a second-round pick on Underdog, but with Penny elsewhere the odds of Seattle acquiring a similarly effective player are not good. The Seahawks also watched Travis Homer sign with Chicago, leaving just DeeJay Dallas and Darwin Thompson as in-house depth. Walker could get something like 18 of every 20 carries Seattle running backs log in 2023, especially if they don't add any notable running backs in the draft. With all of that said, Walker's previous market seemed to assume Penny wouldn't/couldn't re-sign, so that Penny didn't re-sign shouldn't be cause to raise Walker in the rankings.


 


 

Tony Pollard, RB, DAL (30.6 Underdog ADP)

The departure of Ezekiel Elliott was somewhat expected all along, so it didn't rock the boat too much when Dallas informed Elliott of his release, but it still reads as a helpful development for Pollard. Even if Dallas adds a credible fringe starter type to pick up Elliott's workload, it seems like Pollard would have to take up a leading role in the Dallas offense. Elliott was a trustworthy pass protector and effective runner on power functions, so the Cowboys won't give just anyone a workload at the level Elliott took. It's easy to imagine Pollard's ADP getting quite a bit higher than this – I personally don't see reason to rank him behind Walker, for instance.

Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU → DAL (101.3 Underdog ADP)

Cooks is one of the biggest winners of the offseason by switching Houston – where he produced better than anyone could expect with Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel – for a Dallas offense with one of the league's better quarterbacks in Dak Prescott. Prescott (87.7 ADP) gets a major boost with Cooks around, because Cooks is much more threatening to a defense than Noah Brown. While Cooks' arrival is great news for Prescott, it's probably bad news for Michael Gallup (148.4 ADP), who goes from a value to more of a speculative pick.
 

Rashaad Penny, RB, SEA → PHI (118.7 Underdog ADP)

Penny's injury history is uniquely concerning and he's playing on a one-year deal close to the veteran minimum, so his floor is not at all assured as he attempts to return from his season-ending leg break from 2022. His ceiling, however, could be of an RB1 return if he manages to stay healthy. Penny is a reliably standout producer whenever he plays, so even if Philadelphia adds a rookie that rookie is unlikely to outplay Penny, just as Walker only took over because Penny got hurt in 2022. The Philadelphia offensive line and offense in general are enviable for a running back, and Penny has more ability as a runner than Miles Sanders.


 


 

Jeff Wilson, RB, MIA (174.5 Underdog ADP)

Wilson is not a very talented NFL running back. The main thing he has going for him is trust and system familiarity with Mike McDaniel, who makes the difficulty level lower for everyone on his offense. Wilson is a weird case, then, where he might be useful and productive to the Dolphins but not any other team, save for maybe San Francisco. It was reassuring for Wilson's fantasy value, then, that McDaniel and the Dolphins chose to re-sign Wilson to a two-year deal. While Wilson and fellow Miami runner Raheem Mostert are both cheap assets who could easily be displaced by a more talented player, McDaniel already demonstrated in 2022 that he's more or less comfortable running an offense with just the two of Wilson and Mostert. There's probably not any reason for Wilson's ADP to go higher than this, however.


 


 

Deonte Harty, WR, NO → BUF (233.1 Underdog ADP)

Harty missed almost all of the 2022 season but he was immensely productive as an off-the-bench wideout the year before that, demonstrating memorable big-play ability both on high-ADOT targets on downfield routes and low-ADOT targets with yards after the catch. The target rate was inflated by the fact that Harty was an off-the-bench player who rarely blocked and often was the target of designed touches, but to generate 59 targets on just 268 snaps is impressive on its own, even before you factor in the staggering returns (61.0 percent catch rate, 9.7 yards per target). Harty is an immense upgrade on Isaiah McKenzie and maybe Jamison Crowder, too. Josh Allen has never had a receiver with as much downfield speed or after-the-catch ability as Harty does. Harty is probably not regarded by the average fan as better than McKenzie or Crowder, so expect this value to persist for some time, but understand that Harty changes the entire complexion of the Bills offense.

LOSERS

Jamaal Williams, RB, DET → NO (110.1 Underdog ADP)

Williams will have a sizable role in the Saints offense even when Alvin Kamara is active, but it's important to note that the difficulty level is about to go way up for Williams as he exits the cozy Detroit offense with its smothering offensive line and heads to a New Orleans backfield where the hits will land harder and faster behind a rebuilding offensive line. Williams ran for 17 touchdowns last year, but the Saints as a team ran for only 12. That, and Kamara will take a significantly bigger share of the New Orleans offense – including high-value touches – than D'Andre Swift did with the Lions. Williams is a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of asset if Kamara is active. I personally doubt Williams helps many rosters at this ADP.


 


 

Isaiah McKenzie, WR, BUF → ??? (218.2 Underdog ADP)

McKenzie developed some hype as a twitchy fast guy in one of the league's most entertaining offenses, but McKenzie's contributions are all aesthetic after a certain point. While good for trick plays and hurry-up situations, McKenzie is quickly overexposed as a wide receiver when left on the field for more than 20 snaps or so per game. The Bills discovered this at a high price, as McKenzie really killed the 2022 offense by turning his 65 targets into just 42 receptions for 423 yards and four touchdowns (64.6 percent catch rate, 6.5 YPT). Without the Bills offense, McKenzie's value is basically zero, yet he still gets drafted in the final rounds of Underdog best ball drafts. Players like McKenzie are not useful.

BREAK EVEN

Miles Sanders, RB, PHI → CAR (83.9 Underdog ADP)

Sanders' investors probably didn't quite have the Panthers in mind among their ideal landing spots for the free agent back, but the change of scenery is actually reassuring for Sanders' workload volume, and therefore it might be helpful for Sanders' week to week floor that he's in Carolina. The ceiling is perhaps lower, because Sanders' rushing average is likely to drop and his touchdown rate is certain to in a Carolina offense that will score far fewer points than the Eagles. The tradeoff is a benefit, though – the Panthers don't endeavor to throw as much as the Eagles or maybe any team, and because they signed Sanders to a four-year deal they have reason to use him more heavily than the Eagles. Sanders averaged 15.2 carries per game in 2022. If his yards per carry drops from 4.9 to 4.0 and his touchdown count from 11 to six, is it not worth it if he averages 18 or more carries per game? 


 


 

D'Onta Foreman, RB, CAR → CHI

Foreman is the guy Sanders is primarily replacing in Carolina. Like Sanders' investors, those who drafted Foreman earlier in the offseason probably didn't have the Bears circled as the ideal landing spot for the free agent. It should, however, be not much or at all worse than what Foreman would have been looking at in Carolina. Chuba Hubbard loomed as a competent ballcarrier and primary passing down back, and in an offense with low expectations. The expectations are low with the Bears, too, but at least they have Justin Fields and a run-heavy mindset on offense. Foreman could find surprisingly wide gaps between the tackles as defenses pay extra attention to containing Fields on the edge, and Khalil Herbert is likely just an off-the-bench player. With both Sanders and Foreman you have examples that go against the otherwise accepted truism that Losing Teams Don't Give RBs Carries, because the Panthers and Bears both barely even aspire to throw the ball. Win or lose, the Panthers and Bears should both attempt to run the ball more than most teams.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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