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Forget-Me-Nots: Undervalued NFL Sophomores


We are closing in on the end of May. The weather is warming up, the NFL draft has come and gone, and fantasy players are beginning to look forward to the 2020 football season. The time between the 2020 NFL draft and summer rookie dynasty drafts or redraft leagues usually causes flare-ups of “rookie fever.” With rookie fever, players who were highly valued the year prior are cast aside for the shiny new toys that enter the league the next season.

The good news for fantasy players: this process usually creates excellent value with second-year players who produced underwhelming results or found themselves behind veteran players the year before. In order to maximize the depth of your team in either dynasty or redraft fantasy leagues, taking shots on these players can be the difference between a championship or another year paying league dues to one of your buddies.

Below are four second-year players that aren’t being talked about enough thanks to the swell of rookie enthusiasm post-NFL Draft. All ADP data used in this article are based on 12-team PPR leagues as of 5/18/2020.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Premium articles, rankings, projections, 15 lineup tools and daily Premium DFS research/tools including our Lineup Optimizer, Research Station and so much more! Sign Up Now!

 

David Montgomery (RB, CHI)

Of the rookie running backs from the 2019 draft class, David Montgomery is frequently acknowledged less than his counterparts. In 16 games as a rookie, Montgomery had 242 carries for 889 yards (3.7 per carry) and 6 touchdowns. He also tallied 25 receptions (35 targets) for 185 yards (7.4 per reception) and an additional touchdown.

Yes, the 3.7 yards per carry is underwhelming, but Montgomery had little help from a struggling passing game, allowing defenses to key in on stopping the run. The Bears also had to pass far more than 2018, as they attempted 82 more passes as a team and had 5 games with more than 40 pass attempts as they attempted to keep pace in the playoff race. Even with that, Montgomery absorbed 96% of Jordan Howard’s touches from 2018 and saw 9 more targets than him as well.

Montgomery ended up finishing the 2019 season as RB24, but there are reasons to believe he can improve upon that floor for the 2020 season. Montgomery was tied for first in carries and total touchdowns (7) amongst rookies with Josh Jacobs. He was also third in receptions and targets behind Miles Sanders and Devin Singletary.  In 2020, Montgomery saw very little impactful competition added to the Bears offense. The Bears added Jimmy Graham and Ted Ginn Jr. to the passing game while drafting Cole Kmet in the 2nd round of the NFL draft. Kmet will contribute to the Bears in the receiving game but will serve as a major improvement as a blocker in the run game. The Bears also added Nick Foles, which should improve the passing game and hopefully open up running lanes.

The Raiders added wide receivers (Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards) and a versatile weapon that was announced as a running back during the draft (Lynn Bowden Jr.). The Bills added Stefon Diggs at wide receiver in a trade and drafted Zach Moss to split time with Devin Singletary. The Eagles added three wide receivers in the draft (Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins) and are in discussions with several veteran running backs. They also brought back Corey Clement to help in the backfield. Clyde Edwards-Hellaire, Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn were all drafted into running back situations with an incumbent starter still in place.

While a lot of these situations won't necessarily have a major impact on those running backs, it stands out compared to how little the Bears did to take away from Montgomery's workload. Montgomery is currently being drafted as RB23, and while that represents a fair representation of his floor, there are plenty of reasons that he can exceed that draft position in 2020.

 

N'Keal Harry (WR, NE)

N’Keal Harry, the second wide receiver drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft, had a very underwhelming rookie season for the New England Patriots. A severe ankle sprain before the season cost Harry his first 9 games and forced the rookie to start the year on the IR. Once he returned, Harry struggled to carve out a significant role and build rapport with Tom Brady.

In 7 games, Harry caught 12 passes (24 targets) for 105 yards (8.8 per reception) and 2 touchdowns. Harry also was used in the run game sparingly, recording 5 carries for 49 yards. In just one year, Harry went from a top-2 wide receiver drafted in fantasy to an afterthought when discussing 2nd year wide receivers to target. Harry is currently being drafted as WR60 around pick 123 in fantasy drafts. He is being selected behind rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, Justin Jefferson, and Denzel Mims.

Heading into year 2, N’Keal Harry has every opportunity to get his career back on track despite the shift in personnel for the Patriots offense. The 2020 offseason saw Tom Brady and Phillip Dorsett (yes, he was the Patriots 3rd most targeted player) leave via free agency and traded Rob Gronkowski out of his retirement.

You never want to lose one of the more efficient quarterbacks of all time as a wide receiver, but the changing of the guard to Jarrett Stidham in New England could be a net positive for the young wide receiver. For one, the Patriots did little to add significant competition to N’Keal Harry in year 2. They added Damiere Byrd and Marquise Lee on cheap free-agent deals and drafted tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the 3rd round of the NFL draft. More importantly, the offense could open up targets simply with a new quarterback.

It is well-known that Tom Brady made a point to target James White and Julian Edelman, players he had built a rapport with over the years on safer routes. In 2018, Edelman (24%) and White (21%) combined for 45% of Tom Brady’s passing attempts in the final 12 games of the season (Edelman missed the first four games because of suspension).

In 2019, that number dropped slightly (39% combined), but Edelman saw 153 targets on 613 Brady pass attempts. While Edelman and White remain a part of the New England offense, Stidham may look to incorporate Harry more in the offense, giving him more upside for his 2nd campaign. Add a year of experience with the playbook, and Harry is going under the radar compared to some of the new rookies entering the league in 2020.

 

Parris Campbell (WR, IND)

Parris Campbell is another sophomore receiver who failed to launch in his rookie campaign due to a myriad of injuries. A week four abdominal injury (and subsequent surgery) cost Campbell three weeks. When he returned, he broke his hand in week 10, resulting in another surgery. Finally, Campbell’s season ended early in week 14 due to a foot fracture. When all was said and done, Campbell played in 7 games, catching 18 passes (24 targets) for 127 yards (7.1 per catch) and 1 touchdown. He added 4 carries for 34 yards in the run game as well. The good news for Campbell: most of his injuries can be chalked up as freak accidents with a low chance of re-occurring.

In the 2020 offseason, the Colts allowed wide receivers Devin Funchess and Chester Rogers along with tight end Eric Ebron to enter free agency. They also added quarterback Philip Rivers via free agency and spent early 2nd round picks on running back Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. Typically adding players via the draft in early rounds is a troubling sign for players, but Pittman Jr. and Campbell play very different roles. Pittman Jr. will likely play an outside receiver role opposite TY Hilton and should fill the role that Devin Funchess was meant to play in 2019 before his season was ended by injury. Parris Campbell is going to be the front runner as the Colts slot receiver where he can utilize his speed up the seam and, in a gadget weapon role.

Campbell is also the most similar wide receiver on the roster to T.Y. Hilton, which could prove beneficial if Hilton’s injury problems continue. Hilton missed 2 games with a hamstring strain in 2018 and battled quadriceps and calf strains in 2019 that cost him 6 games. Hilton rushed back from the calf injury and struggled to make a significant impact down the stretch last season as the Colts tried to make the playoffs.

If the lower body issues continue for Hilton, Campbell possesses the speed and route running to at least help offset the void in the Colts’ offense. Currently, Campbell is being drafted at WR65 and pick 171. Given his excellent athletic ability and his 2nd round draft capital in 2019, Campbell can easily surpass his current draft slot and be a difference-maker for fantasy teams in the later rounds.

 

Irv Smith Jr. (TE, MIN)

Tight end is a notoriously shallow position in fantasy football. When looking for potential value and upside, look no further than Irv Smith Jr., the 2nd round pick for the Vikings in 2019. While the Vikings have Kyle Rudolph entrenched as their starter, there are plenty of reasons Irv Smith Jr. qualifies as an overlooked player heading into his sophomore campaign.

Despite playing a secondary role for the Vikings for most of the season, Smith Jr. finished just behind Rudolph in nearly every statistical category. Smith Jr. had 36 receptions (47 targets) for 311 yards and 2 touchdowns. Conversely, Rudolph registered 39 receptions (47 targets) for 367 yards and 6 touchdowns. The difference in touchdowns was essentially the difference between TE14 (Rudolph) and TE33 (Smith Jr.). So, what makes Smith Jr. a buy?

From the Vikings bye week (week 12) to week 16 (the Vikings rested most of their players in a meaningless week 17 game), Irv Smith Jr. was on the field for at least 60% of the offensive snaps every game. On two occasions, Smith Jr. got more snaps than Rudolph. Each player had the same number of targets (31) and Smith Jr. caught 23 against Rudolph’s 25.

Only the Eagles played more snaps with two tight ends on the field than the Vikings (550 plays). Smith Jr. was able to accomplish all of these feats while playing his rookie season as a 21-year-old. Tight ends typically take a year or two to acclimate to the NFL game, but Smith Jr. was able to carve out a role in his rookie season.

One year into his career, Smith Jr. is younger and a superior athlete to the incumbent Rudolph. Smith Jr. may begin to overtake Rudolph’s role in the offense during the 2020 season, especially in the passing game. He is currently not being drafted in fantasy leagues but has the production and athletic profile to warrant a pick in the later rounds ahead of options like Blake Jarwin (TE22), Will Dissly (TE21), and Jack Doyle (TE 20).

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2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More