Upside Hunting: QB and TE Draft Day Bargains

By Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy
ADP= Average Draft Position
ECR= Expert Consensus Rank
MBO= My Biased Opinion

Disclaimer: The VORP statistics referenced in the Aaron Rodgers and Rob Gronkowski sections below can be misleading if applied or interpreted incorrectly. VORP analysis does not take into account age or any factor other than production that could be relevant in dynasty, and it’s use here is meant primarily to demonstrate the edge gained by drafting a top QB or TE.

Aaron Rodgers


Why He’s Being Doubted:
  • 1. He’s not, obviously. Rodgers is unique in that it isn’t so much him being doubted as it is the ability of any quarterback to justify an early-round pick in a one-QB league.

Why You Should Take Him Anyway:
  • 1. The Packers defensive line was absolutely decimated in the offseason and now the Green Bay defense looks to be one of the worst in the NFL next year. This means that Rodgers will be playing from behind and forced to pass and pass and pass. Put some of Brees’ yardage records on notice, ARod is coming.
  • 2. In his eight healthy seasons Rodgers has finished as either the highest or second-highest scoring QB a jaw-dropping seven times, the only exception coming when he spent the season throwing to third-string receivers (he still finished as QB7). Of three things you can be sure- death, taxes, and Aaron Rodgers putting up fantasy points.
  • 3. Last year, Rodgers had a VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of +6.1, meaning that he averaged 6.1 points-per-game more than a replacement-value starting QB (the overall QB12). Over the course of his career his average VORP is +5. To put this in perspective, last year RB1 David Johnson had a VORP of +12(!), WR1 Antonio Brown had a VORP of +4.3, and TE1 Travis Kelce had a VORP of +4.7.
  • 4. Right now, Dak Prescott is the redraft QB12 (projected VORP of 0) and has an ADP in the ninth round while Rodgers has an ADP at the turn of the second and third (this is true in both redraft and dynasty formats). A receiver commonly drafted in the same redraft range as Rodgers is Brandin Cooks, while a wide receiver commonly drafted in the same redraft range as Prescott is Mike Wallace. Cooks has a projected VORP of -0.1 and Wallace has a projected VORP of -2.
  • 5. Applying simple mathematics, with your third and ninth round picks you can either get Cooks and Prescott for a total of -0.1 VORP or Rodgers and Wallace for +3. People tend to assume that there is more difference between a third round and eighth round receiver than between a third round and eighth round quarterback, but when that quarterback is Rodgers this doesn’t seem to hold true.
  • 6. Since Rodgers is an elite QB, his career will be longer by a substantial margin than that of any non-QB. This fact combined with his unparalleled consistency and elite VORP make him the safest place to store dynasty value this side of Odell Beckham.

Aaron Rodgers will be the most fun player in the NFL for his fantasy owners to watch this year, as he will be racking up touchdown after touchdown trying to play catch up for his defense. If you’ve got an early third round pick and he is still available, thank your lucky stars and lock down your QB position for the foreseeable future.

Tyrod Taylor


Why He’s Being Doubted:
  • 1. He plays in a run-first offense in Buffalo for an organization that has hesitated to commit to him as their franchise QB.
  • 2. He lost his top wide receiver in Sammy Watkins.

Why You Should Take Him Anyway:
  • 1. In drafts where I wait on a quarterback, I look primarily for three things- cost, consistency, and weekly upside. Tyrod stands out among late-round QBs as having the right combination of low cost, excellent consistency, and high weekly upside.
  • 2. He is being drafted as QB19, which means that in virtually all one-QB leagues he will still be on the board when everyone has a quarterback. Since backup QB is one of the last roster spots people tend to fill, Taylor will likely be available in the very late rounds and cost you next to nothing.
  • 3. Last year Taylor was the QB8 overall. He also finished in the top-15 in all but three weeks (two of which were against a top-rated defense), putting up top-12 performances in seven of them. Even when he wasn’t necessarily winning you games, he was keeping you in them (and when he struggled, it was predictable enough to stream another QB).
  • 4. He also finished four times within the top-5 QBs, showing tantalizing upside provided largely by his running ability (he led QBs in rushing TDs last year with eight). In a QB who costs you next to nothing this kind of difference-making ability is hard to find.
  • 5. The Bills have struggled in the past to protect Tyrod, but in the offseason they brought in pass-blocking specialist Mike Tolbert to remedy that problem. This should allow Tyrod to stay in the pocket longer and put up more consistent numbers through the air rather than relying on his legs.
  • 6. The loss of Sammy Watkins stings, but the fact of the matter is that Tyrod was more used to playing without him than with him, anyway. The addition of Zay Jones adds a new element to the offense and could serve to increase Tyrod’s value if they develop chemistry.

A savvy late-round QB pick can be the move that puts your team over the edge into championship contention (or keeps you there in the event of injury), so don’t sleep on Tyrod Taylor. Like a lot of my undervalued WRs and RBs, he has proved his talent on the NFL level but has failed to stir up the “hype” that is so often responsible for players becoming overpriced. Use that fact to grab him while you still can.

Rob Gronkowski


Why He’s Being Doubted:
  • 1. He plays in an offense led by Tom Brady, who will be forty when the season starts and could be nearing retirement.
  • 2. He is twenty-eight and has had a litany of injuries over the course of his career, most recently a back surgery that saw him finish last season on injured reserve.

Why You Should Take Him Anyway:
  • 1. He is the deadliest pass-catching tight end to ever play the game. At his best Gronk is completely unguardable and one of the biggest difference makers in football, both fantasy and reality.
  • 2. He is currently going in the early third round of dynasty startups in a similar range as Aaron Rodgers. Also like Rodgers, Gronkowski has an incredible average VORP (+6) in his healthy seasons. Again for perspective, last year RB1 David Johnson had a VORP of +12, WR1 Antonio Brown had a VORP of +4.3, and TE1 Travis Kelce had a VORP of +4.7.
  • 3. Right now, Eric Ebron is the redraft TE12 (projected VORP of 0) and has an ADP in the tenth round while Gronk has an ADP in the late second. A receiver commonly drafted in the same redraft range as Gronk is Doug Baldwin, while a wide receiver commonly drafted in the same redraft range as Ebron is Kenny Britt. Baldwin has a projected VORP of +1 and Britt has a projected VORP of -2.
  • 4. Applying simple mathematics, with your second and tenth round picks you can either get Baldwin and Ebron for a total of +1 VORP or Gronk and Britt for +4. People tend to assume that there is more difference between a second round and tenth round receiver than between a second round and tenth round tight end, but as with Rodgers we find a major exception in Gronk.
  • 5. There is significant historical precedent for elite TEs playing and producing well into their thirties, from Antonio Gates to Jason Witten to Tony Gonzalez. At twenty-eight Gronk is in no danger of losing a step due to age any time soon.
  • 6. Gronk doesn’t become any less talented if Brady leaves. His ceiling may lower a bit, but if anyone can smooth the transition from Brady it is Belichick, and if there has ever been a better “new QB safety blanket” than Gronk I’m not aware of it.
  • 7. While injuries have certainly been a concern, Gronk has never been anything but dominant when he’s on the field. Until he shows signs of injury-related performance decline, he is still the same all-time great that he has been since his rookie year. The potential for injury is something you accept with any football player, and passing on Gronk in the third round out of fear is the kind of move that may get you to the playoffs, but won’t win you any championships.

Get Gronk. Gronk smash. Team win.

Hunter Henry


Why He’s Being Doubted:
  • 1. The unprecedented hype surrounding the 2017 TE draft class (Howard, Njoku, Engram) has overshadowed his impressive rookie performance.
  • 2. He had a meager 36 receptions last season and finished as only TE19.
  • 3. He plays in a Chargers offense that has a lot of mouths to feed between Henry, Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams and Melvin Gordon.
  • 4. Chargers QB Philip Rivers is on the wrong side of thirty-five and has hinted at retirement enough that it could be cause for concern.

Why You Should Take Him Anyway:
  • 1. Rookie tight ends, as a rule, are not expected to produce. Due to the role of a TE within an NFL offense the position has a steep learning curve, and rookies are virtually never fantasy-relevant. Henry defied this convention despite sharing looks with future-HoF TE Antonio, showing that his talent could not be ignored even as a rookie.
  • 2. The “weaknesses” section in his NFL draft scouting report opens with the line “Don’t need much space for this section”. He has yet to contradict this.
  • 3. Henry looked especially good in the redzone, tallying eight touchdowns in the last twelve games of the season despite his low reception total.
  • 4. Gates saw almost twice the target share that Henry did last season (20.5% to Henry’s 11.5%), but the numbers should shift in Henry’s favor as the season progresses. Once Gates is gone Henry can expect a lot of attention, as historically Philip Rivers throws 27.1% of his passes to TEs.
  • 5. When Rivers retires Henry should be entering his prime as a player, and there is no better safety blanket for a new QB than a stud TE who can convert in the red zone. While the Chargers offense as a whole will suffer without Rivers, Henry will maintain volume that should largely insulate his value.

Overhyped rookies just mean more value for the rest of us, so take advantage. Henry is only twenty-two years old and has a lot of room to develop and grow into an even better player than he already is. He is a perfect value pick for players with a winning window that starts in a year or two, allowing owners to lock down the TE position with a future stud for a reasonable price.

Each of these players represents a fantastic draft day bargain at their current price, and seeing through the doubts surrounding each of them allows you to pounce on the deal and profit in the future. Do it now and thank me later by checking out my weekly “Hot Takes Cantina” column once the season starts, as well as the FantasyMetrics Football podcast (available on iTunes and Stitcher) that I co-host.

Click here to read about wide receiver draft day bargains.
Click here to read about running back draft day bargains.