This is the time of year to be making a list and checking it twice. And unless you wear a red velvet suit and live off donated desserts, you should be making a list of naughty and nice fantasy values that can win your 2015 fantasy football leagues.
Let’s take a look at the three most undervalued QBs, each of whom might just win you those leagues.
Robert Griffin III (Projected 12 Spots Better Than His ADP)
Our composite projections, shown in the RotoViz Cheat Sheet App, project Robert Griffin to finish QB14 this season, an aggressive belief that he’s not only the starter but also a fantastic value, currently drafted at QB26.1
I just wrote up Griffin as one of the late-round QBs who present nothing but upside, saying:
When you can take Griffin at nearly the end of your draft, you are buying into the upside. You are buying a lottery ticket on the chance he regains some of his old form. Our composite staff projections place him at [QB14], an aggressive belief that Griffin will show better this year than last. All that, yet the current price assumes Griffin is in the same tier as the Nick Foles and Blake Bortles of the world.
Going deeper, Coach Jay Gruden’s brief history offers additional reason for optimism. Here’s how his 2013 Bengals passing offense — with Andy Dalton as a top-five quarterback — compared to that of his 2014 Redskins:
In nearly every way we see mirror image passing seasons, with the notable exception of passing touchdowns, fantasy gold. Digging deeper, the teams’ average drives were nearly identical: 5.57 players per drive in 2013 to 5.38 in 2014 and 29.2 yards per drive to 29.9 in 2014. The difference? The 2014 Redskins just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone.2
If Gruden and the Redskins can sort out that aspect of their offense, the team as a whole could easily see a spike in offensive production. Additionally, Andy Dalton managed a top-five season with those 2013 numbers, and he only added 183 rushing yards with two touchdowns on the ground. If RG3 remains under center all year, he’s all-but-certain to exceed those rushing numbers.
If Robert Griffin III remains the team’s starting quarterback all season, it will be because he has the coach’s confidence and performs better on the field. We’re stacking a list of conditions necessary for success, but at a QB26 price tag that’s exactly what you want — a plausible path to upside.
Robert Griffin III needs only two things to flirt with top-ten production this year: sixteen games as the starter, and improved scoring from the team as a whole. Our RotoViz projection of QB14 suggests a belief he’ll get close to doing both this year.
Colin Kaepernick (+9)
As a group, we project Colin Kaepernick to finish QB8 in 2015, blowing away all but the most aggressive drafters so far — Kaep’s ADP is currently QB17.
San Francisco has experienced a mass exodus this season, losing players at nearly every position except quarterback, so the community is understandably hesitant to draft a quarterback behind an unknown offensive line and playing for an unknown head coach and coordinator.
Moving away from those aspects of the team, however, the weapons around Colin Kaepernick improved this offseason. The team added a reliable pass-catching back in Reggie Bush and swapped the inconsistent Michael Crabtree for Torrey Smith. As our own fearless leader pointed out recently:
Torrey Smith has never finished lower than WR30, signed an $8MM/yr contract, and now has an ADP of WR40 pic.twitter.com/IC10Pwcuxa— RotoViz Dynasty (@RotoVizDynasty) August 12, 2015
Kaepernick, doing his part, spent the offseason changing his stance, shortening his delivery, and improving his ability to read defenses. The team knows that their 2015 success hinges on Colin Kaepernick, and it appears he has taken that responsibility seriously.
If Kaepernick merely repeated last season’s production, he would finish QB15, an improvement on his current price, but there are reasons to hope for even more than that this season.
Beyond just the passing numbers, Kaepernick finished 2014 second only to Russell Wilson in rushing attempts and yards, although he managed only one rushing touchdown. Anthony Amico has shown that Kaepernick’s rushing market share and rushing yards have been increasing steadily, and he argues we should expect that trend to continue. We can see from his career numbers that history suggests last season’s one touchdown was an extreme outlier, leaving open the possibility of increased fantasy production from that stat alone.
Alex Smith (+9)
We project Alex Smith to finish this season as QB16, but he currently bears a QB25 price.
Mr. Smith captains the All-Undervalued Team assembled by Mike Braude, who wrote:
The Chiefs added Jeremy Maclin and will field the best supporting cast during Smith’s tenure as a Chief. With Travis Kelce ready to become one of the league’s best tight ends, Andy Reid could open up the playbook this season. The silver lining is that Smith doesn’t need to improve on last year’s numbers to provide great value – he’s a value pick if he repeats last year’s production.
Mike’s reference to Kelce is apt, given the expected emergence of the next-big-thing at tight end. Last season, Smith performed markedly better in games where he heavily involved Kelce, to the tune of a nearly 33 percent increase in fantasy production:
Alex Smith isn’t set to break any passing records, but barring injury there is no chance he fails to surpass his 2014 numbers with a breakout Travis Kelce and newly-added Jeremy Maclin in Kansas City. There is plenty of Alex Smith hate out there, but don’t let yourself forget he finished QB16 in fantasy points per game just two years ago. Without Kelce or Maclin.
Smith is one of the best late-round quarterbacks you will find this year.