Every year, players either surpass, meet or fall short of expectations, both on the football field and in the fantasy realm. Once you begin the middle rounds, you’re either looking to round out the individual positions in your starting lineup or start to accrue depth. These picks are crucial in the case of injury to your top players and also once bye weeks hit. Long story short, the early-middle rounds play a big role in separating the contenders versus the pretenders. In order to make sure you’re a contender, we’ll be rolling out one overrated player, one underrated player and one safe bet for every ten picks, based on our player rankings. This is part three in the series as we now tackle players ranked in the 41-60 range.
NOTE: Player rankings as of 8/4
Overrated: C.J. Anderson (No. 47 overall, No. 21 running back)
Anderson, when healthy, is deserving of this spot. Perhaps he should be even higher. But consider this track record: He’s yet to run for 1,000 yards or play 16 games in a season. Yes, much of that can be attributed to injuries and other backs around him taking away carries, but neither will change this year. Anderson’s yards per carry average has gone down every year of his four-year career. He’s also going to lose carries to Devontae Booker (when healthy), Jamaal Charles and DeAngelo Henderson as the Broncos hope to keep him healthy. Anderson is a good player and an important part of the Denver offense. But there are better, more proven options available later in the draft. And some of our experts like Anderson even less than I do.
Underrated: Michael Crabtree (No. 50 overall, No. 22 wide receiver)
It’s not that Crabtree had a bad career in San Francisco by any means, but his move across the Bay has revitalized his career. He’s finally living up to the promise the 49ers saw in him when he was a first-round pick in 2009. In two years with the Raiders, Crabtree has caught 17 touchdowns, been targeted 291 times and put up two straight seasons with at least 900 yards receiving. Crabtree’s hog rate (targets per snap) really stands out, too. He finished fifth in 2015 and seventh last year. While Amari Cooper is the more popular name and the higher-ranked fantasy option, Crabtree is great value here.
Safest bet: Greg Olsen (No. 45 overall, No. 3 tight end)
Seven players have caught at least 75 passes for at least 1,000 yards for each of the past three seasons. Only one is a tight end: Greg Olsen. There’s a lot to like from Olsen in terms of high-floor production. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He almost never misses a snap. He’s been first among tight ends in air yards both of the last two years, and he was second three years ago. If that doesn’t scream “safest bet” to you, I don’t know what does.
Overrated: Mark Ingram (No. 52 overall, No. 24 running back)
Mark Ingram is coming off a career-best year and he’s right smack dab in the middle of his prime at 27. Why, then is he overrated, even at this modest ranking? Well, that’s what Adrian Peterson will do to you. Yes, Peterson is coming off an injury and he’s 32. But we’re also talking abut a guy who once returned from a torn ACL to win MVP the next year. If Peterson is healthy, he’s going to be the starter. Now obviously that’s a big “if,” and if Peterson gets hurt, Ingram will fly up these rankings. But until Peterson can’t go, I’m not taking a chance on Ingram, who is ranked over 19 spots higher than the guy he could end up sitting behind.
Underrated: Jarvis Landry (No. 56 overall, No. 26 wide receiver)
Landry is on the field more than any other Dolphins skill-position player, and for good reason. He’s been ultra-productive ever since he entered the league in 2014, and he’s coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Landry doesn’t produce a ton of big plays downfield, but he makes up with it by being one of the best wideouts after the catch (second in YAC last year per Player Profiler). Most importantly, he simply produces and produces: He was 15th among receivers in points per game last year and 13th two years ago. It also remains to be seen what Jay Cutler offers coming out of retirement to replace the injured Ryan Tannehill. Off the field, the result of an investigation into an alleged domestic incident will have to be monitored.
Safest bet: Emmanuel Sanders (No. 54 overall, No. 24 wide receiver)
Remember the blurb about Olsen? That only seven players have had three straight years of 75 catches and 1,000 yards? Sanders is in that group, too. He’s also accrued 20 touchdowns over that time, the same number as Julio Jones and four more than Olsen. Sanders became a favorite of Trevor Siemian’s in the red zone last year, finishing with the fifth-highest red zone target share in the league. The Broncos throw almost exclusively to either Sanders (137 targets) or Demaryius Thomas (144 targets), too. By Yahoo scoring standards, he finished 21st last year despite inconsistent quarterback play. Sanders is well worth a mid-50s pick.