NFL Prep: Favorite Fliers 2017

While we (patiently?) wait for DraftKings to release Week 1 salaries, it’s extremely useful to understand what season-long owners are thinking. After all, just about everyone who we’ll be competing against on DraftKings in Week 1 will do a season-long draft. So there’s significant overlap between the “sneaky” cheap players on DraftKings and the “flier” picks at the end of those standard snake drafts.

At this time last year, players such as Jamison Crowder, Davante Adams, Dak Prescott, Terrelle Pryor, Spencer Ware, Jordan Howard, Marcus Mariota and LeGarrette Blount had average draft positions in the flier range. We see a common thread here in that they were almost all overlooked players on strong offensive teams.

These are my 2017 Favorite Fliers, also known as players with an MFL average draft position of 120.0 or later.

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1. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks — ADP 141.0

Twelve months ago, Tyler Lockett had an ADP of 62.8 which landed him a prime spot in my “Overvalued” article. Fast forward to now and Lockett is almost free following an injury-plagued season which ended with a nasty Week 16 broken leg. But he’s reportedly close to full strength as training camp opens and will be looking to build on the December momentum he found. As the health of both Russell Wilson and Lockett coincided, the extremely efficient wideout went 5-63-0, 4-41-0 and 7-130-1 from Weeks 13-15. He added 3-90-1 rushing during that span. So with Wilson slimming down with a focus on his health and Jermaine Kearse posting a wildly pathetic 2016 season (41 catches, one TD on 90 targets), Lockett qualifies as a strong post-hype sleeper.

2. DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders — ADP 180.4

Everyone loves Marshawn Lynch. He wacky, he runs over people, he eats Skittles during games, he’s selling Beast Mode gear. But everyone also seems to be ignoring that Lynch is a 31-year-old running back with a history of chronic back issues who was on a PR “retirement” tour all of last year and averaged just 3.75 YPC when we last saw him (seven 2015 games with Seattle). There’s speculation out of Oakland that Lynch will hover around 200 carries – and that assumes he stays healthy and effective. A more cost-efficient play in season-long formats is to wait until very late in the draft and take DeAndre Washington and/or Jalen Richard (ADP 211.3). They’ll have a role no matter even if Lynch sticks, and they’re set up for big things behind Oakland’s league-best offensive line if Lynch goes down/struggles. Washington is slightly preferred thanks to his pass-game ability.

3. Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals — ADP 125.4

Saving season-long draft capital by waiting on QB or saving DraftKings dollars by spending down at the position is often a no-brainer. Kirk Cousins, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and other high-ceiling QBs will often be available in the ninth or tenth round. The top quarterback option going in our flier range (ADP at least 120.0) is Andy Dalton, whose 2016 numbers are tainted by injury. All-world WR A.J. Green missed six games and barely played in another, and red-zone maven Tyler Eifert missed eight games in addition to being limited in others. Dalton still threw for 4,206 yards, but his touchdowns dipped down to a meager 18 aka 1.12 per game. In the previous four seasons, Dalton averaged 1.70 pass TDs per game.

4. Ted Ginn, WR, Saints — ADP 131.6

As noted by Rotoviz’s Ben Gretch here, 2016 was an outlier season for Drew Brees. He threw to wide receivers 58 percent of the time (a six-year high) and to tight ends just 16 percent of the time (a six-year low). It’s also worth noting that no Drew Brees wideout has topped 132 targets over the last six years. In other words, Brees typically spreads the ball around and typically throws to his backs and tight ends. So while investing a top-15 pick in Michael Thomas – who is coming off unsustainable efficiency – is scary, there’s a lot of room behind Thomas for profit. Willie Snead is a strong mid-round value pick in PPR formats and the flier is Ted Ginn. The ex-Panther has shown he is one of the game’s premier lid-lifters, turning 191 targets into 1,491 yards and 14 TDs over the last two years. Now he gets a QB and environment upgrade as he’ll take part in the annual Superdome shootouts.

5. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers — ADP 136.2

Stewart played in 12 full games last year, averaging 17.7 carries per game in them. That would have been good for 9th in the entire NFL, right there with Jordan Howard (16.8), Jay Ajayi (17.3), DeMarco Murray (18.3) and David Johnson (18.3). Stewart also ranked sixth in red-zone carries, 12th in carries from inside the 10-yard line and tied for fifth in carries from inside the 5-yard line. Virtually all running backs who got this kind of usage last year are going in the first two rounds, while Stewart is going in the 11th round. There are reasons for that, of course. Stewart has devolved into a complete zero in the pass game (1.53 targets per game last year) and the Panthers used the No. 8 overall pick on Christian McCaffery. However, Stewart outweighs McCaffery 235-205 and still projects for a decent share of the two-down work plus a lot of the goal-line role. With the Panthers intent on limiting Cam Newton’s hits, there’s still room for value here. The Panthers have ranked seventh, first and eighth in rush attempts across the last three seasons.

6. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Bucs — ADP 170.4

Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of the year and was #bad last season. He averaged a pathetic 2.92 YPC and was PFF’s No. 44 RB among 61 qualifiers. Meanwhile, Jacquizz Rodgers averaged 4.34 YPC and was saddled up for 27.3 touches per game when pressed into midseason duty. Given a very reasonable first three games against the Dolphins, Bears and Vikings, it’s certainly conceivable that Quizz (still just 27 years old) can run with the job. And given his nearly-free ADP, there’s no downside to taking the shot. I’ll be very curious how Rodgers is priced on DraftKings in Week 1.

 


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is AdamLevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.