There is one objective you should keep in mind above everything else in every round in your fantasy football drafts. With the exception of the No. 1 overall pick, you want to consistently opt for players who will outperform their consensus ranking and average draft position (ADP). There are always several underrated players across positions whose stat projections are too low for the upcoming season. Some are traditional sleepers or breakout candidates, while others might be proven veterans who are simply being overlooked. The key is knowing how to identify these potential steals and then building a roster full of great values.
The more overachievers you end up drafting, the better your chances of dominating your league.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2019 Fantasy Cheat Sheet
Based on current ADP and considering half-point PPR, here are the top values to target at each position.
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Fantasy Football Value Picks 2019: Quarterbacks
Matt Ryan, Falcons (ADP: 73)
He was second in scoring to Patrick Mahomes II last season but is going as a mid-QB1 this year. The thought is a healthier defense and a first year in a “new” offense will lead to another downswing, but he is still a passer at the top of his game with good weapons in a pass-happy Dirk Koetter scheme in which he has thrived numbers-wise before.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (ADP: 113)
Roethlisberger also delivered off high volume in 2018. Pittsburgh should be more focused on defense and the running game — and it’s difficult to replace the production of Antonio Brown — but Roethlisberger still has JuJu Smith-Schuster and plenty of other helpful targets. He may be streaky and more inconsistent in ’19, but he shouldn’t suddenly be out of the QB1 discussion.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (ADP: 116)
Winston has the ideal QB whisperer in Bruce Arians with whom to maintain his aggressive downfield passing while also more efficiently spreading the ball around. There also will be no more toggling with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and between Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard, few QBs have better supporting trios. We also expect Tampa’s running game to remain inept and for the defense to stink, putting it all on Winston’s shoulders.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (ADP: 120)
Melvin Gordon’s holdout shouldn’t make the Chargers sweat too much offensively because they shouldn’t mind Rivers throwing the ball around the park to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler even more if needed. He was the QB11 last season without Henry.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (ADP: 125)
Last season was a tale of two Daks – the fantasy afterthought without Amari Cooper and the steady producer with Cooper. The Cowboys plan to open up their offense a little more with Cooper well established, Michael Gallup trending upward, and both Jason Witten and Randall Cobb now in the fold. The increased versatility and explosiveness will have a strong effect on Dak’s passing and rushing numbers.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens (ADP: 135)
Jackson will be running more and getting more chances to throw to make big plays downfield. He’ll continue to finish drives with both his arm and legs in the red zone in a Greg Roman offense tailored to his unique talents. Consider him the late-round alternative to taking Deshaun Watson early.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (ADP: 147)
Cousins put up strong numbers despite being in an unbalanced offense with a shaky line for much of the year. His results were more comfortable once Kevin Stefanski took over the play-calling, and that carries into ’19. Between his elite wideouts, an upgraded line, Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph, Cousins is in great position to build on his first year in Minnesota with more clutch plays and fewer big mistakes.
Fantasy Football Breakout Picks: Running backs
Kerryon Johnson, Lions (ADP: 32)
The Lions have invested in their offensive line and are set up to use more “12” personnel (two tight ends). They also finally parted ways with receiving back Theo Riddick. Everything is clear for Johnson to build on his rookie year. The only question is his health coming off a knee injury, but all signs point to Johnson trending toward workhorse status.
Marlon Mack, Colts (ADP: 37)
The Colts held their ground by not adding any real threats to his workload (depending on how you feel about D’Onta Foreman), and Nyheim Hines will remain limited to passing-down work. Hedge your bets a little because of past durability concerns, but Mack is in his best NFL shape and the team plans to put a lot on him in every situation after his strong second half last year.
Mark Ingram, Ravens (ADP: 49)
Ingram was a great free-agent signing for Baltimore given its commitment to a unique power rushing attack to complement Jackson. The bonus is that Ingram is underrated for his receiving work in conjunction with Alvin Kamara in New Orleans, which also makes him the Ravens’ best third-down option vs. Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon and rookie Justice Hill.
Chris Carson, Seahawks (ADP: 53)
There is some concern about Carson losing work to a healthier Rashaad Penny, whom Seattle also loves. But there are a lot ot backfield touches to be had in Brian Schottenheimer’s run-heavy scheme, now minus Mike Davis. Carson should still get more of the red zone and receiving work over Penny, especially given his reported improvement in the latter area this offseason.
Tevin Coleman, 49ers (ADP: 69)
Jerick McKinnon is just coming back from his torn ACL and Matt Breida is perpetually dealing with some injury. The team invested good money in Coleman because coach Kyle Shanahan knows first hand he can be a complete, three-down back from their days together in Atlanta. He’s been by far the healthiest back all offseason. It’s tough to trust an offense that leans so much toward committee and spreading touches around, but Coleman is in position to get a large chunk of them.
Austin Ekeler, Chargers (ADP: 81)
Ekeler has a little more value in half or full PPR than standard. Even if Melvin Gordon ends his holdout, Ekeler should have a vital role in the offense. He was one of the league’s most efficient receiving and rushing backs last season, and he’s a favorite of coach Anthony Lynn. Ekeler makes for a nice RB3 to put in the FLEX, like a rich man’s Danny Woodhead.
Jordan Howard, Eagles (ADP: 94)
The hype train is rolling more with rookie Miles Sanders, inflating his ADP a little too much in what figures to still be very much a committee backfield. Sanders has impressed, but Howard has held his own, proving he can be more than a power back and drive-finishing asset. The Eagles’ offense will be potent, and there will plenty of punch-in chances for the former Bear.
Royce Freeman, Broncos (ADP: 102)
The Broncos have strongly hinted toward making things more of an even split between Freeman and fellow second-year man Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay went from undrafted to the Pro Bowl last season, but the new coaches wisely realize with his frame, they need to be wary of overloading him so he keeps his legs fresh. Freeman is a better value a little later, as Lindsay consistently is getting overdrafted.
Devin Singletary, Bills (ADP: 155)
LeSean McCoy may or may not be on his last legs; Frank Gore still has something left but not in a heavy-volume capacity; T.J. Yeldon may become an odd veteran out despite signing in Buffalo as a mid-level free agent. In a messy, crowded situation like this, it’s best to invest in the youngest, lowest-drafted option. The rookie Singletary has the versatility to be given a big role by the second half of the season.
Alexander Mattison, Vikings (ADP: 170)
His ADP is on the rise in relation to his ranking because he’s given the Vikings more confidence that he’s a direct replacement to Latavius Murray behind oft-injured Dalvin Cook. Mattison, a la Murray, would be very busy should Cook go on the shelf again. As the clear backup, Mattison is also among the highest-upside handcuffs.
Fantasy Football Draft Steals: Wide receivers
Stefon Diggs, Vikings (ADP: 34)
Diggs ended 2018 on fire with five touchdowns in the final seven games, getting a boost in scoring position usage from Stefanski. With Adam Thielen drawing more coverage attention after his 100-yard machine season and Diggs having the same inside-outside versatility, things are looking good for him to perform more like the No. 1 in Minnesota.
Julian Edelman, Patriots (ADP: 39)
Gronk is gone and New England is doing some major reshuffling with its other wide receivers. Edelman is coming off a Super Bowl 53 MVP performance. Health is a mild concern, but otherwise he’s in great shape at 33 and may see his highest volume yet as Tom Brady’s unquestioned go-to guy all over the field.
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (ADP: 51)
He steps into No. 1 status and frequent key slot guy for Russell Wilson with the retirement of Doug Baldwin. Behind him are rookie D.K. Metcalf, David Moore and Jaron Brown. Lockett was super efficient when targeted by Wilson deep last season, adding up to 1,034 scrimmage yards and 10 TDs. He can keep up a good scoring rate with more yardage and way more than 57 receptions.
Mike Williams, Chargers (ADP: 64)
After a tough injury-marred rookie season, Williams needed only 43 catches on 66 targets to post 664 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. Now he’s the clear No. 2 opposite Keenan Allen with Tyrell Williams gone. He’ll get a chunk of those vacated targets and can end up finishing right behind or even ahead of Allen as a WR2.
Dante Pettis, 49ers (ADP: 76)
This one is easy. San Francisco is giving him the No. 1 treatment with the return of Jimmy Garoppolo, with Pierre Garcon gone and Marquise Goodwin suddenly on the roster bubble. He’s the co -op target for the 49ers with tight end George Kittle, with the production trickling down to Deebo Samuel, Trent Taylor and the running backs from there.
Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (ADP: 80)
Watkins isn’t the easiest guy to trust because he always pops up with durability issues, often related to his feet. But if he can stay on the field, there’s total boom potential as the No. 2 opposite Tyreek Hill with Chris Conley now in Jacksonville. Over 16 games with more consistent targets outside, Watkins has 80-catch, 1,000-yard, eight-TD upside.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (ADP: 89)
The Cardinals plan to spread the field often for rookie Kyler Murray with three- and four-wide receiver sets. Everyone thinks this is the year Fitz finally passes the torch and Christian Kirk becomes the No. 1 in Arizona, but Fitzgerald serves Murray better as a big security blanket and red-zone target. He could easily lead the team in catches and receiving TDs again and requires a much lower pick than Kirk.
Sterling Shepard, Giants (ADP: 93)
Shepard is the Giants’ new all-around No. 1 with Odell Beckham Jr. gone, and there is now built-in separation between him and Golden Tate with the latter suspended for the first four games (assuming Shepard’s preseason thumb injury has healed by Week 1). Should Eli Manning start, Shepard has a good connection with him all over the field, and should Daniel Jones start, he can get open quickly for the rookie with his route-running and also provide reliable hands. The Giants also figure to have a lot of garbage-time passing production given their defensive concerns.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ADP: 112)
The second-year receiver is set to become the No. 2 outside opposite Davante Adams with Geronimo Allison moving to the big slot role for Matt LaFleur. Wth Randall Cobb gone and Jimmy Graham fading, MVS will be busy on the other side of Aaron Rodgers passes. He can end up being a solid WR3.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles (ADP: 131)
The reports are glowing for Jackson’s return to Philly at age 32. He hasn’t slowed down much since his last stint there, and there’s been an immediate deep-ball chemistry with Carson Wentz. He’s still the big-play dependent boom-or-bust guy from week to week, but he’s in a great offense where he can prey on slow No. 2 corners opposite Alshon Jeffery in better matchups. He’s someone to consider again for your WR3 platoon.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys (ADP: 160)
There was no doubt the arrival of Cooper eased the rookie burden on Gallup and allowed him to focus on expediting his development to become more polished all-around for Year 2. With Cooper drawing the top corners, Gallup can better take advantage of deep-ball and red-zone opportunities from Prescott. He’s yet another guy to throw into the high-upside WR3 mix.
Fantasy Football Sleepers: Tight ends
Hunter Henry, Chargers (ADP: 66)
O.J. Howard and Evan Engram are getting all the buzz in the second tier, but let’s remember Henry was everyone’s darling breakout tight end before he tore his ACL last summer. He’s in a great passing offense where he needs to step up and compensate for key vacated targets.
Vance McDonald, Steelers (ADP: 92)
Antonio Brown is gone and so is pesky positional vulture Jesse James. McDonald is fully locked into Roethlisberger’s targets now and figures to be very busy all over the field to support JuJu as the Steelers sort out the rest of their wideouts.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (ADP: 136)
He disappeared often under John DeFilippo and it looked Minnesota would turn the page to rookie Irv Smith Jr., but then the team reached a deal to keep Rudolph based on what did down the stretch. Rudolph is still not that exciting outside the red zone, but a 60-600-6 line is very much possible.
Mark Andrews, Ravens (ADP: 157)
With Baltimore’s wide receivers in flux and Hayden Hurst trying to shake off injury to rebound as a blocker first, Andrews goes into the season as Jackson’s most-trusted receiver, both as an intermediate field stretcher and red-zone option. He deserves a little more late TE1 attention, too.
Tyler Eifert, Bengals (ADP: 200)
Now we’re getting into fun deep sleepers. Tyler Kroft is gone, C.J. Uzomah remains limited skill-wise, and rookie Drew Sample is more of a blocking type. With A.J. Green hurting and John Ross still struggling, don’t be surprised if coach Zac Taylor makes good use of a for-now healthy (knock on wood) Eifert down the seam and in the red zone to play off the ace slot receiving of Tyler Boyd.
Matt LaCosse, Patriots (ADP: 268)
LaCosse is headed to replace the similarly built Rob Gronkowski as the Patriots starter after Austin Seferian-Jenkins was dumped and Ben Watson got suspended. The once-promising receiver with the Giants and Broncos has a great opportunity to contribute behind Julian Edelman and James White. LaCosse is way too low, as he has much more upside than a lot of tight ends ranked in the top 250.