Read & React: Finding Values Using NFFC Drafts
Estimated read time: 10-15 minutes
As we inch closer to the start of the 2023 NFL Season, it's time to lock in your fantasy football cheat sheets. Below is a list of some of the best values using the Average Draft Position (ADP) from the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) and comparing them to the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) and Underdog Bestball Drafts. The NFFC drafts have existed since 2004 and have some of the sharpest minds in the industry competing against one another. Over 500 high-stakes drafts have been completed since January, and fantasy managers can compete for a grand prize of up to $350,000. Let's take a look at who those competitors are taking to give you an edge on your fantasy drafts.
Kirk Cousins | QB | Minnesota Vikings
NFFC ADP 95.57
Underdog ADP 112.1
Captain Kirk could also be known as Consistency Kirk since signing with the Vikings in 2019. So consistent that Kirk Cousins has never finished below QB11 in any fantasy football season as Minnesota's starter. Cousins finished last year as the QB6 in his first season with HC Kevin O'Connell. So why is he still being drafted at the floor price of QB13? Managers at NFFC are taking Cousins earlier than ECR, and he could be one of the best values this year.
The Vikings have the best receiver in the game in Justin Jefferson, paired with a potential top-5 tight end in T.J. Hockenson. Minnesota upgraded the roster in the offseason with the addition of rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison to replace an aging Adam Thielen. O'Connell brought over a version of Sean McVay's offense from Los Angeles that relied on play-action more than any other team in the league. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Cousins had 191 pass attempts off play-action in 2022, the most by any other offense. Cousins threw for 1,283 yards when using play-action, which was fifth most in the league last season. Will defenses still react to the run without the threat of veteran Dalvin Cook in the backfield? Cook rushed for three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for Minnesota, but the team decided to release him in June. O'Connell's play-action schemes are married to unproven Alexander Mattison, but will it be enough to keep defenses honest?
Rachaad White | RB | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFFC ADP 70.08
Underdog ADP 84.2
Navigating the running back "dead zone" can make even the most experienced fantasy football player look foolish. Some of my first articles on Fighting Chance advocated a Cam Akers breakout season last year. (I will be doubling down, FYI). Volume is king, and who has a better opportunity for volume than Rachaad White? Leonard Fournette was one of the least efficient running backs in the league last year, and he still finished as the RB12. What saved the season for fantasy managers was his 73 receptions for 523 yards and three TDs. Now with Fournette out of the picture, the main question would be if White can handle a three-down role in the NFL. The managers over at NFFC are taking a chance a couple of rounds early in ADP to find out.
White caught 50 of his 58 targets last year in limited playing time backing up Fournette. How much will the Buccaneers be different than a Tom Brady-led offense? Tampa Bay came into this season with veteran Baker Mayfield and could turn the keys over to Kyle Trask at some point. Both would have to depend on some easy targets, and that's where White excels on the field. At least to start the season, White will have the feature role, with Chase Edmonds and Ke'Shawn Vaughn contributing as complementary pieces. The Buccaneers didn't try to upgrade from White in free agency or the recent NFL Draft. White has an opportunity to become the first Tampa Bay running back to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season since Doug Martin in 2015.
James Cook | RB | Buffalo Bills
NFFC ADP 80.05
Underdog ADP 83.1
It's no secret James Cook could be in line for a bigger role in Buffalo, and NFFC managers are getting ahead of the ADP just in case. Cook was a popular candidate to breakout last season playing in committee with RB Devin Singletary. Many believed Cook would eventually take over for Singletary later in the season, but surprisingly he never started a single game in 2022. Singletary would lead the team with 177 carries to an RB20 finish in PPR formats.
Singletary signed with the Houston Texans in the offseason, and the team brought in veteran Damien Harris from New England. Was Harris brought in to complement Cook in a committee or take over the Singletary role? Preseason will bring more clarity, but if Cook graduates into an RB1 role, you might have a steal in the middle rounds. The risk is Harris and what he can bring to an offense which could limit Cook's exposure in scoring situations. If Cook can be more involved in the passing game, the second-year back can become a valuable flex option even with Harris's presence in the offense.
Jameson Williams | WR | Detriot Lions
NFFC ADP 107.02
Underdog ADP 103.8
Jameson Williams is the one example where the NFFC and Underdog drafters agreed. Williams is a prototypical best-ball asset with potential monster spike weeks. Williams possesses big-time playmaking ability and game-changing speed. He was slated to start opposite Amon-Ra St. Brown, but the NFL handed Williams a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy. The suspension hurts Williams' value early in the fantasy season but could have a major impact in the fantasy playoffs.
At the 45-50 range for wide receivers, he has a real shot to put up weekly WR2 numbers. With D.J. Chark moving to Carolina, Williams has little competition when he returns from suspension. Marvin Jones, Kalif Raymond, and Josh Reynolds will be given playing time until the second-year receiver is ready to return. NFFC drafters are buying the risk on the player who has only touched the ball twice in his NFL career - albeit a 41-yard TD catch and a 40-yard run.
T.J. Hockenson | TE | Minnesota Vikings
NFFC ADP 42.38
Underdog ADP 52.3
One of the biggest discrepancies in researching the NFFC drafts was the eyepopping 42 overall for T.J. Hockenson. After digging a little deeper it's not surprising at all. Hockenson played ten games with the Vikings after being traded mid-season by the Detroit Lions and totaled 60 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns. That would have put him on pace for 102 receptions for 882 yards and five touchdowns if Hockenson hypothetically played the entire season for Minnesota. From Week 9 to Week 18, Hockenson was targeted 86 times, according to TruMedia. That kind of volume placed him 7th among all pass catchers (receivers included) during that span.
Hockenson has three straight seasons with 60-plus receptions in his career and will be playing on the last year of his fifth-year option. With free agency looming, he has a chance to become the best tight end in the league and the most-targeted Vikings player only behind Justin Jefferson. An ear infection had led to missed time for the veteran tight end, but he's not in danger of missing time in the regular season. NFFC drafters are not letting Hockenson fall anywhere past a late fourth-round pick, and you shouldn't either.
Dalton Schultz | TE | Houston Texans
NFFC ADP 120.53
Underdog ADP 137.7
The managers at NFFC know volume is king for positions other than the running backs, and we should be taking a serious look at Dalton Schultz. Tight ends continue to be the most ambiguous position in fantasy football, and showing patience at the position can make or break your drafts. Schultz is flying under the radar mainly due to his relocation to Houston after signing a 1-year, $9 million deal in the offseason. Houston is nowhere near the offense Dallas is, but with the lack of pass catchers, Schultz could be in line for a large target share for the Texans. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud will lead a mix of veteran and inexperienced receivers into the 2023 season. Houston traded away veteran WR Brandin Cooks to the Cowboys and replaced him with another veteran in Robert Woods. Woods has been a productive fantasy player in the past but is now on the back nine of his career. Opposite Woods would be talented but unproven pass catchers in Nico Collins and John Metchie.
Schultz is as valuable as a 10th-round pick can be and could potentially provide low to mid-tier TE1 numbers. Schultz was the TE11 in fantasy scoring in his last season with the Cowboys and had five games with double-digit points. He has had 55-plus receiving seasons for the third consecutive year but was overshadowed by the shining star that is Ceedee Lamb. Schultz now has a chance to be considered one of the most consistent tight ends in the game. If you decided to use draft capital on positions other than the top-tier tight ends consider Schultz a steal in the later rounds. Follow the lead by the NFFC managers as they are taking the veteran a round early to secure a decent player at the position.
Follow Michael Chasco on X @ChascoFCF