Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Fantasy Football draft prep: Finding the best values at CBS, ESPN, Yahoo by using their pre-draft rankings

This is a weird spot in the Fantasy Football calendar. Most of you probably haven’t drafted yet, but many thousands of you have. This means, I’ve gotta start straddling the line between in-season and Draft Prep content. 

And I’ve got the perfect solution. Let’s take an early look at some waiver-wire options. Maybe your first waiver-wire run is this week and you’re looking to make some moves. Or, maybe you haven’t drafted yet, in which case, you can just pretend I said “late-round targets” and it’ll still work.

In today’s newsletter, I’ve also got Heath Cummings’ piece on the best relative values at CBS, ESPN, and Yahoo based on Average Draft Position data, because I know not everyone uses our product. It’s fine, I don’t take it personally.

And then we’ve got a pretty busy day of news to catch you up on down at the bottom here. Cut day is today, but we already had some potentially noteworthy roster moves go down Monday, so we’ll catch you up on everything else you need to know about.

And, of course, here’s another reminder that our Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon is coming up tomorrow, Aug. 31, at 6 p.m. on CBS Sports HQ and then our FFT YouTube channel. We’ll be live until after midnight with a ton of awesome guests — you can learn more about that here. And, make sure you check out our ebay page as we continue to raise money for our friends at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with an opportunity to play in an FFT league with Adam Aizer and Heath Cummings and a bunch of other unique opportunities to interact with us and some of our favorite analysts and personalities from around the Fantasy Football and sports media industry.

That includes a chance to get a one-on-one Zoom call with me to go over your prep before you draft. All proceeds go to St. Jude, so why not help us out — and get some help for your draft at the same time? Win-win. 

10 Early Waiver-Wire Targets


New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (89) on the field for warm ups MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in East Rutherford. Nyg Vs Lar Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

We’ll have Jamey Eisenberg’s full breakdown of the top waiver-wire targets for Week 1 next week, but I know some of you have your first runs this week, so let’s get some targets out there for you. These are all players being drafted in 50% or less of CBS Fantasy leagues right now – which also means you can just make them your final round pick if you haven’t drafted just yet. 

I will note that I’m mostly focusing on long-term appeal here because that’s what your priority should be when churning roster spots early in the season. You’re looking for potential impact players – most of the time.

Sometimes, you drafted J.K. Dobbins as your No. 2 running back and might actually need a Week 1 fill-in if he isn’t ready, without caring too much about the long-term upside.

In that case, I do want to highlight Ameer Abdullah as my favorite Week 1 streamer (if you want to call it that) at running back. He figures to open the season as the pass-catching back in Josh McDaniels’ offense, and in what could be a shootout against the Chargers in Week 1, that could mean plenty of targets. He’s going undrafted in nearly all leagues, but I think he’s going to be someone a lot of people are looking to add on waivers after Week 1. There’s your Beat-The-Waiver-Wire choice. 

  1. Kadarius Toney (47.5%) – Toney might be the single most undervalued player in CBS Fantasy leagues – he’s going off the board about 75 picks later than where I have him ranked. The health questions are real, but he should be ready for Week 1 and I don’t think there’s much doubt he’ll be the Giants No. 1 option.  
  2. Isaiah McKenzie (50%) – We’ve seen Cole Beasley be a top-24 Fantasy WR as Josh Allen‘s primary slot receiver, but McKenzie even saw the occasional snap in the preseason in two-WR sets, so he seems to have a pretty strong role locked in. Remember, Beasley had 82 catches in each of the past two seasons; McKenzie could be a 1,000-yard receiver if he gets that kind of role. 
  3. Jahan Dotson (30.2%) – It’s fair to be skeptical of the Commanders offense, but Dotson looks locked into a starting job and could be the best No. 2 WR Terry McLaurin has ever played with. He might have the best chance of any rookie WR to be a Week 1 Fantasy starter. 
  4. Garrett Wilson (47.9%) – It looks like Wilson is probably going to be more of as reserve to open the season, as he mostly served as Corey Davis‘ replacement with the first-team offense. But, if you can afford to be patient, you No. 10 overall pick could very easily pay off. 
  5. Albert Okwuegbunam (35.2%) – There was some concern about Okwuegbunam’s role when he played deep into the fourth quarter in the second preseason, but as my former colleague Ben Gretch noted in his excellent Stealing Signals newsletter Monday, Okwuegbunam was doing stuff like splitting out wide in that game, a sign he was simply getting extra reps in a new role to help replace Tim Patrick. He’s a gigantic athletic tight end who can make plays down the field or with the ball in his hands, and if I’m going cheap on tight ends, Albert O is one of my favorite targets. 
  6. Nico Collins (27.8%) – Collins’ profile isn’t necessarily a great fit with his offense – he’s a big-bodied receiver who will win contested balls and figures to make a lot of noise in the red zone, and the Texans don’t necessarily figure to generate a ton of high-value opportunities. Still, he’s the clear No. 2 option and he had a great camp and preseason, so take a flier on the skill set. 
  7. Rondale Moore (21.2%) – With no clear passing downs back and DeAndre Hopkins out for the first six games – not to mention Christian Kirk gone in free agency – Moore has a clear opportunity to establish himself. The Cardinals have talked about playing him both inside and outside at wide receiver, in addition to occasionally at running back, and his unique skill set and ability to make plays with the ball in his hands could still make him a perfect fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, despite a lackluster rookie season. 
  8. Trey Sermon (50%) – Jeff Wilson is probably the No. 2 back for the 49ers, but I’m still willing to bet on Sermon being the most likely option to step into a lead role if something happened to Elijah Mitchell. And Mitchell has had a lot of trouble staying healthy so far. 
  9. Romeo Doubs (36%) – Given the preseason hype, I’m surprised more folks aren’t taking a dart throw at Doubs. He figures to open the season as the Packers No. 4 WR, but none of the guys ahead of him are insurmountable obstacles. Why not snag him with your last pick and see what happens early on? 
  10. K.J. Osborn (47.7%) – The No. 3 WR spot hasn’t been a valuable one in Minnesota in the past, but the new offense should be much more pass-heavy, and that puts Osborn in play as a potential Flex option, especially if Adam Thielen takes another step back or gets hurt. 

Best values at CBS, ESPN, or Yahoo

Chicago Bears v Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 27: Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears looks to pass during the first half of a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. Nick Cammett / Getty Images

Heath writes this piece every preseason, and it’s always one of my favorites of the year. Using the default rankings and ADP at each site to your advantage is a Fantasy drafter pro move, so knowing where the inefficiencies at each spot are is a key. Sometimes, they are glaringly obvious — like Toney going undrafted so often in CBS. Other times, you have to do some digging. 

Heath’s already done it for you. 

Heath’s Favorite Values at CBS Fantasy

  1. Justin Fields – ADP: 138.45, QB20 – “Fields is a cheaper version of Trey Lance. Of course, the reason he’s cheaper is that he doesn’t have Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle or Kyle Shanahan. Still, he has 2021 Jalen Hurts upside, and you don’t generally find that in Round 10 or 11. If you draft Fields, just pair him with someone like Kirk Cousins or Matthew Stafford so you have both his floor and ceiling covered.”
  2. Kyle Pitts – ADP: 40.44, TE3
  3. A.J. Brown – ADP: 36.33, WR10
  4. Rhamondre Stevenson – ADP: 97.45, RB37
  5. Michael Thomas – ADP: 68.65, WR25

Heath’s Favorite Values at ESPN

  1. Lamar Jackson – ADP: 48.2, QB4 – “Lamar Jackson is my No. 4 quarterback but I don’t really have any separation between him and the top three. He’s shown as much upside as any quarterback in football and last year’s woes were mostly about bad touchdown luck, a bad offensive line, and worse running back play. I expect all those things to improve this year and Jackson to once again challenge for QB1 overall.”
  2. Dallas Goedert – ADP: 83.9, TE8
  3. David Montgomery – ADP: 35.7, WR14
  4. Mike Williams – ADP: 45.3, WR16
  5. Courtland Sutton – ADP: 57.3, WR23

ESPN ADP is interesting, because it’s the only place where Sutton is cheaper than Jeudy. I’ll just take whichever of the two is cheaper, because I don’t have a strong opinion about which is most likely to be the top option for Russell Wilson. That means, at ESPN, at least, I’m a Sutton truther. 

I’ll also add that Robert Woods‘ 120.8 ADP in ESPN drafts is criminally low. He’s locked in as the No. 1 receiver for the Titans, and while he’s not a 1-for-1 replacement for A.J. Brown, he has run-after-catch skills of his own that should fit in that offense well. 

ESPN would also be my favorite place to draft Travis Etienne, who is RB21 at 55.4 overall. He typically goes more in the late third/early-fourth range in a lot of drafts I do, but that’s a bit rich for my taste. 

Heath’s Favorite Values at Yahoo

  1. Tom Brady – ADP: 64.5, QB8 – “Brady is going anywhere between QB9-11 on several sites, and I have him ranked as QB6. If I don’t land Jackson or Jalen Hurts, Brady is usually my next target. He was nearly as good as Josh Allen last year and he still has one of the best sets of weapons in the NFL. He’s also likely to lead the NFL in pass attempts, which helps make up for the fact that he won’t run.”
  2. Mark Andrews – ADP: 25.3, TE2
  3. Chase Edmonds – ADP: 84.5, RB30
  4. Dameon Pierce – ADP: 102.8, RB37
  5. Chris Godwin – ADP: 95.54; WR34

That Pierce price will continue to rise, but it’s worth noting that Pierce is already up to 64.27 in CBS Sports leagues, which is well past the max price I’d be willing to pay for him. Yahoo provides a nice opportunity to buy. Godwin is also a clear buy at Yahoo. 

Injuries, News, and Notes


Getty Images

We got a few more details about Brian Robinson Monday, and it mostly continues to be good news. Commanders coach Ron Rivera told reporters doctors believe Robinson will be able to play again this season after undergoing surgery for two bullet wounds in his lower body. Robinson seems likely to open the season on the NFI list, which would put him out for at least the first four games, but the fact that he has a chance to play at all this season is great news.

Antonio Gibson figures to step back into the early-down role for as long as Robinson needs to recover, with J.D. McKissic as the pass-catching back. So, we’re expecting last year’s status quo to reign. Gibson finished as RB17 in points per game while McKissic was RB32, and I expect something pretty similar from both until Robinson returns. 

Jimmy Garoppolo restructured his deal to stay in San Francisco

The 49ers were ultimately unable to find a take for Garoppolo via trade, so he agreed to a deal that will make him the highest-paid backup in the league. It will likely see him sacrifice some guaranteed money, but he got a no-trade and no-tag clause with the deal, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. And that makes Trey Lance it at least a little bit riskier this season. Garoppolo is a competent quarterback — he’s taken San Francisco to two Super Bowls, after all — and while Lance has more upside, his chances of being benched if he struggles just went from near-zero to somewhere north of zero. He’s still a high-upside target to look for after the must-start QBs are off the board, but have a backup plan if he gets off to a slow start. And, as Dave Richard wrote Monday, there’s more downside than expected here, based on his preseason struggles. 

The Dolphins cut Sony Michel

This is probably mostly a vote of confidence in Raheem Mostert, who is coming off knee surgery but has been able to practice in camp. Chase Edmonds figures to be a big part of the offense, especially in passing situations, but it wouldn’t shock me if Mostert was the lead rusher for Miami as long as he can stay healthy. He’s a dynamic runner who has succeeded in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which we’re expecting Mike McDaniels to emulate in Miami. Mostert is a terrific late-round pick if you’re looking for an early-season RB starter.  

Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson returned to practice

So, after Sean McVay told reporters that Henderson was cleared and Akers wasn’t over the weekend, both practiced Monday. It doesn’t sound like either was a full participant yet, but this is obviously good news for their availability for Week 1. Both were dealing with soft-tissue injuries, but we never got more details than that, and now it looks like they might be entirely past them. Though, obviously, with the injury history of both backs, there’s still plenty of risk for both re-injury in the short-term and other complications in the long term. But, maybe my doom and gloom from yesterday looks a little bit silly now.  

Najee Harris dealt with a Lisfranc sprain in camp

Harris told reporters about the injury after the team’s final preseason game, saying that he is four weeks removed from the injury, which typically carries a 4-6 week timetable. That puts him on pace to be fully healthy in time for Week 1, which is good news, but I can’t say this is nothing to be concerned about. The main argument in Harris’ favor as a first-round Fantasy is that he has the kind of projected workload few running backs can really compete with, as an every-down back on a team that likes to use their primary running back heavily. I expect him to be more efficient than he was last season in an offense I hope will be more functional, but if he’s slowed by any lingering effects of this injury – or worse, suffers a setback – that would really dim his prospects. Harris remains a first-round pick, but I’d probably prefer him more toward the end of the first round than where he’s typically going, which is around sixth or seventh. 

Darren Waller is nearing an extension

Waller has been a non-factor in the preseason and most of training camp, but it seems like it’s been related to his desire for a new contract, not a serious injury. Waller recently left his previous agency, and CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports that Waller has had discussions about being made the highest-paid tight end in the league. That should get him back on the field in time for Week 1, and though the Raiders are installing a new offense with head coach Josh McDaniels – not to mention target hog Davante Adams – there doesn’t seem to be much concern about his ability to get up to speed for the start of the season. Waller remains a top-five tight end in ADP, but he’s a risk given the new offense and Adams’ presence. There’s plenty of upside, but I don’t love the idea of making the 30-year-old a fifth-round pick, which is where he’s going in NFC drafts over the past week – though I don’t have him ranked far off from there in my top-200. 

Giants “hopeful” Kadarius Toney will be ready for Week 1

Toney has been dealing with knee and hamstring injuries for much of training camp, continuing a theme that has dogged him throughout his year-plus in the NFL. But new head coach Brian Daboll told reporters he “thinks [Toney’s] getting close” to being able to practice and should be able to play in Week 1. Toney has tons of upside and figures to be the top option in the offense if he’s healthy, but the Giants have reportedly grown frustrated by his inability to actually remain on the field, and even shopped him around the trade deadline. Toney has serious boom-or-bust potential, but I’m willing to gamble on the upside because he typically goes outside of the first seven rounds in drafts – he’s my No. 74 overall player right now. 

The Vikings are considering moving Alexander Mattison 

Mattison has been viewed as one of the most obvious handcuffs in Fantasy over the past few years, but he has been agitating for a new contract from the Vikings, who seemingly aren’t going to give it to him. The Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson reports that the Vikings are looking for a third- or fourth-round pick in exchange for their talented backup running back, and at least a dozen teams have expressed interest.

It seems like Mattison’s time as the backup for the oft-injured Dalvin Cook is coming to an end, which puts Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler in a position to step up in the depth chart if a trade does go down. However, it’s not clear which, if either, would be the true backup, so neither will be worth drafting as high as Mattison, who often goes in the ninth round. Mattison looks like a riskier pick at that price right now, too, though it’s possible he lands somewhere like the Rams where he could have a shot at early playing time, given their injuries. 

Marquez Valdes-Scantling is out of the concussion protocol

Valdes-Scantling missed the Chiefs preseason finale with the issue but has already been cleared, putting him well on pace to be ready for Week 1. The Chiefs’ receiving corps has been an ambiguous one throughout camp, and the fact that MVS and JuJu Smith-Schuster both missed time with some injuries hasn’t brought much clarity. Smith-Schuster is the most expensive of the team’s options, with Valdes-Scantling often available for a ninth- or 10th-round pick, making him an excellent dart throw as a WR4/5 with big weekly upside if he can emerge as Mahomes’ favorite downfield target. 

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