By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


It's no secret that fantasy football drafts are all about getting value-selecting players who will outperform their draft slot while avoiding the ones who will fail to meet expectations. The thing is though, where "value" is concerned in fantasy drafts, perception and reality can be the same thing-especially on draft day.

The reality is that on draft day at least, a player is worth what fantasy managers are willing to pay for them. That price can fluctuate-wildly.

As training camps wind down and the preseason ramps up, some players will start making a steady charge up draft boards. Sometimes it's because of performance. Sometimes it's simply a matter of hype. But whatever the reason, the closer we get to Week 1, the more expensive those players become.

Of course, the opposite happens as well. Sometimes a player struggles on the practice field. Other times the fantasy community just collectively starts to sour on a guy. Whatever the reason, those players see their "value" drop.

For these players, it's one or the other. Some are rising. Others are falling. But all have "value" that's on the move as the preseason gets underway in earnest.



Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

There hasn't been a rookie quarterback who generated more fantasy buzz in 2023 than Anthony Richardson of the Colts. In fact, Richardson has generated more hype than quite a few veterans at the position. And given what Colts head coach Shane Steichen had to say about Richardson recently, that hype is only going to grow.

"I thought he had a heck of a day (Sunday)," Colts coach Shane Steichen told reporters. "He was really solid, made some big-time throws. Obviously, the two-minute drive, threw a nice touchdown right there in the end zone and then the two-point play that he ran in. It was pretty good to see."

The first time Richardson connects on a long pass in the preseason, the fantasy community is going to lose its collective s**t. There's no denying Richardson's athleticism, scrambling ability and fantasy upside. But there's also no denying his inexperience and inaccuracy in college. Fantasy managers drafting Richardson as a QB1 are rolling the dice.


Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Detroit Lions

Like Richardson, Gibbs is a first-year player who has been riding a steadily-building hype train from the moment the Lions surprised most by making him the 12th overall pick in April's draft. That train is now barreling along, with pundits like Hunter Haas of NFL Mocks postulating that Gibbs could be a fantasy RB1 once all is said and done.

"It doesn't matter if it is a toss out wide, a run between the tackle, a swing pass, or a deep wheel route; if Gibbs is on the field, there is a realistic chance to score on any snap," he said. "His 25 runs of 10+ yards highlight his big-play ability, while the 38 forced missed tackles showcase his ankle-snatching moves."

Again, this actually may be a matter of the hype on a rookie getting out of hand. Yes, Gibbs is a wildly talented and explosive player with a bright future, but David Montgomery is also in Motown and head coach Dan Campbell has already stated that the Lions will use a "two-headed monster" in the backfield. Gibbs isn't making it out of Round 2 in some drafts now, and that's a lofty price for a committee back whose next NFL touch will be his first.


Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

It has been a rough offseason for Mixon's fantasy value, whether it was due to the off-field incident that got him charged with menacing or the talk that he could be released. But that latter talk turned out to be much ado about nothing, and with Mixon's role as lead back secure Fantasy Pros sees the 27-year-old as a potential draft-day value.

"Is Mixon a superstar? No. He's averaged under 4.2 yards per rushing attempt each of the past four seasons," they wrote. "Yet, there is plenty to like about the former Oklahoma running back from last season. Mixon was the RB12, averaging 15 half-point PPR fantasy points per game despite playing an average of 2.7 fewer games than the other 11 top-12 running backs. Furthermore, the veteran was the RB7 on a points-per-game basis, averaging more fantasy points per game than Tony Pollard and Aaron Jones."

As we move farther into the summer, it appears more fantasy managers are looking past the per-touch ineffectiveness to the potential workload on an explosive Bengals offense. Mixon's ADP is climbing, but as of this writing his ADP at Fantasy Pros is still outside the third round. At that asking price, Mixon is a value pick.


DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Tennessee Titans

There isn't a wideout in the NFL making a harder charge up draft boards than Hopkins, although that tends to be what happens when an unemployed player finds a gig. For Hopkins, that gig came with the Tennessee Titans, and Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill told reporters that he and Hopkins are already busy at work developing a rapport.

"I'll get used to him," Tannehill said. "There's going to be some growing reps with him where we'll learn from them. Now I feel confident that if we're presented with the same situation, that we'll be on the same page. I'm excited about how we are growing together. We're going to continue to have reps like that where we're a little off. We'll be able to grow from it, learn from it, and it will be different."

There was a time when Hopkins was an elite fantasy producer, he hauled in 115 passes for over 1,400 yards on the way to a fourth-place finish in PPR points back in 2020. But the last two years have been marred by injuries, and with Hopkins the wrong side of 30 on a run-first team fantasy managers need to be leery of not chasing ghosts and overdrafting Hopkins.


Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos

It's been a while since Sutton was fantasy relevant-he topped 1,000 receiving yards and was a top-20 fantasy wideout in 2019 but tore his ACL the following year and hasn't been able to duplicate that success since. However, Scott Edwards of FanDuel sees more than a little "sleeper" potential in the 27-year-old in 2023.

"The Achilles injury to Tim Patrick has shaken the foundation of the Broncos' offense already, instantly opening up more targets that weren't expected to be there," he said. "Sutton was a candidate to potentially lose targets to Patrick, but he's now a lock to not only start but be a key part of the offense. No one suffered more than Sutton (last year) when it came to touchdowns. He had two despite a 31.1% red-zone market share last season. In Sean Payton's new offense, there has to be some hope for touchdown regression in 2023."

Sutton's ADP is still outside the top 100 overall, but between the odds of a return to the mean scoring-wise and reports that it has been Sutton (and not Jerry Jeudy) who has been Wilson's favorite target in training camp, it's on the move. But there's still significant potential for value here if Sutton can recapture past form.


Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Goedert is one of the "Tier 2" tight ends that are targeted by the "Travis Kelce is a tad too pricy for my tastes" crowd. However, at least one beat writer believes that Goedert could be one of the better values at the position this season-Bo Wulf of The Athletic singled the 28-year-old out as a player who could be set to take a step forward in 2023.

"If the question is which of the Eagles' big three is most likely to surpass last year's numbers, the answer has to be Goedert, who caught 55 passes for 702 yards in 12 games," he said. "His "breakout" has been predicted before, but if he stays relatively healthy, he's a good bet to finish as a top-three tight end, and he's sure to score more than last year's three touchdowns."

Goedert has looked good in camp, consistently making plays in the red zone. He also told a Philadelphia radio station that his goal for the season is for Brown, Smith and himself to all surpass 1,000 receiving yards in 2023. Should that happen, Goedert could work his way into the conversation as fantasy's No. 1 tight end-and that buzz has given his draft stock a juice.



Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

Burrow gave the Bengals quite the scare early in camp, going down with a non-contact injury. Thankfully, the injury turned out to "only" be a calf strain. Burrow is tentatively expected to be ready for Week 1, but Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase recently made waves when he said in his opinion Burrow should take as long as he needs to be 100 percent healthy.

"I want Joe to be his healthiest when it's time to play, when it's time to matter," Chase said, via Bengals Wire. "I don't want him out there false-stepping and not 100 percent…I never really told him stay out until Week 5. It was just me saying take as much time as you need. Same thing with me last year, I missed an extra game to make sure my hip was fully healed."

Now, injury concerns have caused Burrow's stock to dip in some drafts. But that might actually be a blessing in disguise. Burrow's ADP of QB4 was close to drafting him at his fantasy ceiling. Yes, he's an elite talent. Yes, he has a loaded offense at his disposal. But Burrow now has a soft-tissue injury, and he's not a quarterback who does a lot of damage with his legs even when healthy.


Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

The Taylor saga has become the dominant storyline of fantasy football this summer, and it has already has more twists and turns than a soap opera. There's been a trade demand from the young back. A stern rebuttal from Colts owner Jim Irsay that it wasn't going to happen. And now the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that Taylor will be away from the team indefinitely-allegedly to rehab his surgically repaired ankle.

"Taylor received an excused absence from practice, actually has not been with the team since at least Monday. He is, I'm told, away from the facility seeking treatment on his ankle, Rapoport said. "Now he's gonna be away from the team for a little bit, to get the treatment he needs to make sure that it is absolutely 100 percent when the season begins."

Taylor's draft stock has been slipping almost from the moment that the trade demand came through, and adding the possibility that his ankle isn't right isn't going to help matters any. Taylor has already slipped into Round 2, and he's shaping up to potentially be the single biggest risk-reward player in fantasy in 2023-a guy who is going to make or break a lot of teams.


Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders

Speaking of risk-reward running backs

Jacobs is at least set to make more money than Taylor in 2023-slightly north of $10 million under a franchise tag that the 25-year-old has yet to sign. The Raiders maintain a level of optimism that Jacobs will report at some point, and head coach Josh McDaniels told reporters that should Jacobs finally report he could see a similar role as last season.

"You go with what's the best thing to do for the team, and certainly that was (Jacobs) last year and I wouldn't expect that to be different this year," McDaniels said. "But every game is a little different, every situation is a little different, the health of the team, etc. These guys all have great opportunities right now and that's what they are focused on and trying to control their improvement day to day, and they are working really hard at doing that."

Frankly, even if Jacobs does report there's a good reason why he's being drafted at the 2/3 turn more often than not. Last year, no NFL running back had more touches than the 393 that Jacobs racked up. People give me flak for constantly mentioning "The Curse of 370," but there's a reason I do that-I've crunched the numbers myself. And numbers don't lie. Top 370 carries, and on average your production will drop by about 30 percent the following season.


Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Two years ago, Samuel was a fantasy force both through the air and on the ground who finished the 2021 campaign as a top-five fantasy option. Last year, however, Samuel's production took a major nosedive-he ended the season at the back end of WR3 territory. However, ESPN's Nick Wagoner reported that Samuel has impressed in camp this year.

"In the spring," Wagoner said, "Niners WR Deebo Samuel lamented his play in 2022, calling the season "awful" for him and vowing to come back in the best shape of his career. Samuel has been putting in the work and returned to this camp feeling faster and lighter while also maintaining his physical approach. Fellow wideout Brandon Aiyuk has, rightfully, gotten a lot of the early camp attention, but it shouldn't go unnoticed that Samuel looks poised for a big bounce-back season."

Fantasy managers don't appear to be buying what Wagoner's selling-in recent drafts I've taken place in h's usually being drafted a solid half-round after his ADP of 38-if not more. There's good reason for that, Christian McCaffrey's arrival eradicated much of Samuel's usage on the ground, and his yards per target fell by almost five full yards in 2022.


Christian Kirk, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Last year, Kirk set career highs across the board-84 receptions, 1,108 receiving yards, eight touchdowns and a top-12 PPR finish in his first year with the Jaguars. While speaking to Tyler Dunne of Go Long, Kirk said that he and Lawrence have worked on bettering an already impressive rapport-to be of one mind without even really thinking about it.

"It becomes muscle memory," Kirk said. "In the fourth quarter - you were down 27, you're making a comeback - you call a corner route in the back of the end zone and it's a play we've run 1,000 times and we've worked time after time after time and I know once I break the ball's going to be at the front pylon, it's trusting one another. It becomes muscle memory. When you get in those adverse moments where you're tired, it's hot, it's been a long game, you fall back on your training."

However, despite that impressive first season in Jacksonville, with every report of how well Calvin Ridley is faring with the Jaguars, Kirk becomes more and more of a fantasy afterthought. The Ridley hype has dropped Kirk into the back end of Round 6, and he's falling into Round 7 with some regularity. It's not going to be difficult at all for Kirk to outperform that draft slot, and his decreasing ADP is an opportunity for value for fantasy managers.


Dalton Schultz, TE, Houston Texans

Remember when Schultz was a fantasy-relevant tight end? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Schultz was long regarded as a decent (if unspectacular) weekly starter while a member of the Dallas Cowboys, but now that he's in Houston he's clinging to the top-12-and falling outside it at times. However, Justin Carter of Rotoballer thinks that fantasy managers could be sleeping on the 27-year-old in 2023.

"The Texans will likely be starting rookie C.J. Stroud at quarterback, and there are question marks all along the receiving corps for this team, which could mean that Schultz ends up seeing a fairly sizable workload and ends up surpassing 100 targets for the second time in his career," he said. "It also helps that the team's offensive coordinator comes over from the 49ers, an offense that heavily featured the tight end. Schultz isn't the physical mismatch that George Kittle is for San Francisco, but he's got good hands and a big frame, so the Texans should use him heavily."

Players like Schultz are an example of why it's wise not to just dismiss players whose value has fallen in the eyes of the fantasy community as a whole. You have to look at why that player's value is falling-and ask yourself whether that reduced price is worth the risk that is ostensibly causing the falling draft stock. Many times, it isn't, and that stock is dropping for good reason.

But once in a while, the community as a whole is just wrong-and when they are there can be value to be had.

Gary Davenport is a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. Follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks.