Every year, players either surpass, meet or fall short of expectations, both on the football field and in the fantasy realm. For fantasy purposes, drafting the players who meet or exceed expectations is absolutely crucial. In the late rounds, you’re looking to round out your roster. Add some depth here. Or maybe, depending on your draft strategy, you’re looking to fill out your starting lineup. Whatever the case, be sure to finish up strong — and then brag to your fellow league members about how good your team is. In order to make sure you make these rounds a success, we’ll be rolling out one overrated player, one underrated player and one safe bet for every ten picks, based on our player rankings. This is the final story in our seven-part series as we now tackle players ranked in the 121-140 range.
Note: Rankings as of 8-7
Overrated: Denver DST (No. 125 overall, No. 1 DST)
Denver is the top fantasy defense/special teams unit, and for good reason. The Broncos are among the best in the league in takeaways, and when they get the ball in their hands, they know what to do with it, finishing in the top seven in non-offensive touchdowns each of the past two seasons, per Team Rankings. But it’s not worth drafting a defense this early. Not only was the Broncos DST third (not first) in points per game last year, but the difference between that group and say, the Cardinals, who averaged just 0.4 points per week fewer, is massive. Arizona’s DST is ranked 25 spots (or, in this sense, 2.5 rounds) lower. For just 0.4 points! The Broncos have an outstanding defense; there’s no denying it. But these rounds are for drafting players with upside. Defenses ought to be saved for later in the draft — or even just scanning the waiver wire for a good matchup each week.
Underrated: Mike Wallace (No. 121 overall, No. 48 wide receiver)
Wallace had a career renaissance year in Baltimore last year, and for good reason: He joined a team that ran 712 pass plays, most in the league. Even though that number will come down in all likelihood in 2017, he should be ranked much higher than this. Of the Ravens’ six most-targeted players from 2016, four — Dennis Pitta, Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken and Kyle Juszcyk — are no longer on the roster. Wallace’s speed was an important piece for a quarterback who loves the deep ball. Wallace produced five catches of 50-plus yards, tied with 2010 for his season high. Wallace figures to be a major part of this offense once again, and you should draft him as such.
Safest bet: Carson Palmer (No. 123 overall, No. 19 quarterback)
At this point int he draft, if you’re looking quarterback, you’re looking for a steady backup. In the fantasy world, Palmer has been just that. He was a top-20 fantasy quarterback in 12 of the 15 games he started last year, and he was top-seven quarterback on five occasions, per Player Profiler. Even in a “down year” compared to his outstanding 2015, Palmer was a reasonable fantasy option and even a viable starter in a pinch. If you’ve reached this point in your draft with only one quarterback on your roster, Palmer is a very solid second option.
Underrated: Cameron Brate (No. 134 overall, No. 16 tight end)
Yes, the Buccaneers added top talent at receiver (DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin) and at tight end (O.J. Howard). Yes, that means Brate won’t finish ninth among tight ends in points per game, as he did last year. But he is a player who is already used to splitting time: He played less than three-quarters of the team’s snaps last year, finishing 24th among TEs in snap share. Even with Howard in the mix, Brate will be a trusted option around the goal line after an eight-touchdown 2016. He also finished fifth at the position in air yards, showing a propensity to get vertical for a very vertical-route-based offense. Yes, Brate’s production should fall off. But it won’t be quite as drastic a fall-off as this ranking suggests. He can still be your starting tight end in 2017.
Overrated: C.J. Fiedorowicz (No. 135 overall, No. 17 tight end)
With the quarterback options the Texans have, they project to be a very run-heavy team, which already considerably lowers the ceiling of any receiving options. Despite his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame, Fiedorowicz hasn’t factored into the Texans’ red zone plays much, with just eight red zone receptions combined in the past two years. Even with a vastly expanded role last year, Fiedorowicz finished just 22nd in points per game. That he’s ranked just one spot below Brate is crazy.
Safest bet: Duke Johnson (No. 132 overall, No. 44 running back)
The Browns plan to play Johnson all over the field, using him in the backfield on third downs and in the slot in some three-wide sets. Look at him as a poor man’s Theo Riddick, who I listed in the 101-120 series. Johnson finished fifth in running back targets last year and hasn’t missed a game as a pro. Plus he’s one Isaiah Crowell injury away from being the starter. Johnson will give you some sort of production week-in and week-out. He’s good for your depth, and could be a bye week starter if needed.