Wide Receivers Undervalued in Best Ball Drafts on Underdog – Part 1
We are a couple of months into the Best Ball season of drafting, and we have some clear indications of what the public is thinking. Here are some early edges when it comes to building your WR group, of guys who the market is simply too low on right now. The interesting thing is it’s not just late-round receivers that the market has mispriced, we see clear issues even in the top 10 rounds. Given the number of players, this will be split up into two pieces. Guys in the top 100, and guys in the 101+ range.
TOP 100 Undervalued Wide Receivers:
Tyler Lockett– WR 34 / ADP 64.4
Since taking over as a starter in 2018, Lockett has finished as WR 15, WR 14, WR 9, WR 13, and WR 13 respectively. In the past two seasons in 2021 and 2022, Lockett finished as WR 13 despite missing a game both years. In the last four seasons, D.K. Metcalf has been opposite Lockett finishing as WR 32, WR 7, WR 12, and WR 18. And in 2021 when Metcalf just edged out Lockett by one spot, Lockett had the higher points per game at 12.8 vs 12.2. So really in the 4 years they’ve been together, Metcalf has only out-produced Lockett in one season, 2020. The reality is both have shown that they can be top 20 WRs together without either needing to miss time (Metcalf hasn’t missed a game in his career).
This season the Seahawks add 1st-round rookie Jaxson Smith-Njigba to the mix, which has resulted in the rookie now going ahead of Lockett as WR 32 (ADP 63.4), and sliding Lockett down the rankings. Metcalf though hasn’t seen any real knock to his rankings as he’s going as WR 15 (ADP: 28.7). Metcalf is going higher than his finish a year ago, while Lockett is falling 21 spots down the WR ranks from where he finished. That just doesn’t make sense, which makes Lockett a clear value at this price. Even if the rookie JSN, has a pretty significant role, Lockett’s fallen too far to ignore. People may hype up his age, but he’s still too productive to not invest at this range. Even if he lacks the upside for another top-15 season, top-20 or top-25 is very much in play here.
Mike Evans – WR 35 / ADP 67.8
Evans checks in at WR 35 currently this year. This is a player who has had at least 1,000 yards every season of his career, had 5+ TDs in 8 of 9 seasons, and never fewer than 67 catches. Evans finished the season 16th in total half-point PPR scoring, despite missing two games. He was 8th in 2021, 10th in 2020, 12th in 2019 (missing 3 games), and 8th in 2018. In fact in 9 seasons the lowest he’s ever finished was 24th. Evans is exactly what you are looking for in a Best Ball receiver because he combines high volume, deep threat ability, and red zone ability. He will consistently put good usable 15-20 point weeks, but he will have some major spike weeks over 25 points basically every year.
The argument against him is that he loses Tom Brady, and that Evans will turn 30 before the start of the season. Addressing the age first, Evans hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Eventually, that will be a factor, but typically you see a decline before a massive fall-off. Even a “decline” could be WR 24 or even WR 30, still giving you plenty of value this year. If he doesn’t decline he’s a potential top 20 WR.
As for the drop-off from Brady to Baker Mayfield/Kyle Trask. That is definitely legitimate, but remember prior to the last 3 seasons, Evans was dominating with some bad Jameis Winston years. He was younger then, but we haven’t seen a decline in his play. With the Buccaneers expected to struggle this season, Tampa likely won’t have much of a choice but to keep throwing the ball. They simply don’t have the running backs to be a ground-and-pound team. While we shouldn’t expect the Bucs to lead the NFL in passing attempts, there will be plenty of opportunities for Evans to get 65+ catches, 1,000 yards, and 5 TDs. Given his TD upside even with the lower volume, he could get back to double-digit TDs pretty easily.
The last knock that people mention is that so much of his production came in week 17 and it influences both his overall rank and his ppg rank. That’s true, but if you are going to eliminate his outlier game, you need to eliminate every receiver’s outlier game. Otherwise, that kind of analysis is just confirmation bias, and not going to help you build better teams. No one is saying we should knock A.J. Brown for his 36.6-point game, or Amon-Ra St. Brown for his 34.9-point game, so why the knock on Evans? Also worth noting that Evan’s missed games weren’t due to injury. He got kicked out in the 4th quarter for his fight with Marshon Lattimore, week 2 vs the Saints. That led to a 1 game suspension, and his other missed game was Tampa resting guys Week 18 for the playoffs.
Brandin Cooks – WR 43 / ADP 83.7 & Michael Gallup – WR 61 / ADP 132.9
I’m combining these two Cowboys receivers because the case is essentially the same. As always assuming health, it is basically guaranteed that one if not both of these WR ranks is way off. Last season Cooks finished as WR 49, despite missing 4 games and playing for the Texans’ offense. Gallup finished as WR 68 despite missing 3 games and working his way back from a major knee injury. Of Gallup’s 14 games, he only cracked 80% of snaps in 6 of them, something that was a lock in previous seasons when healthy. So while Gallup is the later-round option, I’m including him with this group.
So you are basically paying the price of where these two WRs finished last year despite all those issues, that screams steal given the upside and environment here. Cooks was a top 20 WR in 2020 and 2021 with the Texans, and despite being 30 this season, he can still be pretty productive. He now goes to a Cowboys offense that when Dak Prescott has been healthy the past 4 years has been top 5 in the league in yards and scoring, with passing numbers that are up there with anyone. Gallup has had back-to-back injury-derailed seasons, but he’s fully healthy now, and at 27 years old he has plenty of good football left. He’s also a deep ball/spike week option, and even if he lacks the volume you are hoping for, he can still find your line-up.
Concerns about the Cowboys’ passing offense becoming too conservative are far overblown, even with the team replacing Kellen Moore as the play-caller. Their passing game is still going to play a major role, and the wide receivers in general might need to have relied upon more with Zeke Elliott and Dalton Schultz leaving. If there is any concern if Dallas can support three WRs this season, this offense in 2020 had Amari Cooper – WR 16, CeeDee Lamb – WR 20, and Michael Gallup – WR 38. In that year Prescott only played 5 games, so likely all three would have been far higher in the rankings. This offense is too good not to have at least 2 top 30 WRs, and potentially 3.
Rashod Bateman– WR 45, ADP 88.8
Bateman comes in as the Ravens’ top WR, with Zay Flowers right behind him at WR 46 and OBJ at WR 53, but this is simply too low even with factoring in some injury risk. Bateman has unfortunately missed significant time his first two seasons, but he’s just turning 24 during this season and has shown the big play upside in limited chances. Even if we weren’t expecting the Ravens to throw the ball more and increase their overall pace, WR 45 is too low if you believe that Bateman can be the team’s number 1 WR. Many might point to Mark Andrews being the true number 1 on the team, but people forget that Lamar Jackson hasn’t had any issues feeding a WR.
Through week 10 in 2021, Brown was WR 8 in the league as Jackson’s top target in that time. Brown and Jackson both missed a game, and then finally Jackson suffered a knee injury knocking him out the final 5 weeks, which led to Andrews having a monster season with Tyler Huntley. When they were both playing though, Brown was very productive with Jackson that season, and that was at a time when the Ravens weren’t throwing the ball a lot. Now there is definitely still an injury risk, which you should factor in, but not this much. Even in a scenario where the Ravens don’t end up throwing that much more, and the three WRs all eat into each other’s work, one receiver should still end up above 45. On the flip side if Bateman does emerge as the number 1, and Jackson does stay healthy and throw the ball more, Bateman could end up as a top 20 WR, maybe even top 15. So at this range, the risk is fairly minimal, and the upside is tremendous for a player of Bateman’s skill set.
Check out the OVERVALUED receivers 2-part article here: Part 1 – TOP 100 | Part 2 – 101+
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