I’m talking about a guy who is going to win you your league. Not only a difference-maker, but a guy who exceeded all expectations to become one.
A lot of these guys are going to be WRs because the top 20 is filled with guys who were not drafted very high. The RB top-20 is very chalky, meaning production at the position has largely correlated with ADP, with a few notable exceptions.
Wide Receiver is the position where you are able to find tremendous value this season. There’s a lot of zero-to-hero guys at WR. Consider that neither of the consensus top 2 WRs in fantasy drafts–Michael Thomas and Davante Adams–are in the top 40 in PPR rankings. Julio is 28, Hopkins is 3 and Tyreek Hill is 10.
Tight end is also a very chalky position. It’s basically Kelce and Kittle, then everyone else is TD dependent. You could also include Waller in that category, he gets tons of targets. But he’s not as consistent as those two. Basically from Andrews on down to like the TE-18 or so, they’re all the same guy: a TD-dependent dart throw.
The QB position is pretty chalky, too. The guys that are doing well are the guys we expected to do well, although not exactly in the order they were drafted. The consensus top-2, Lamar Jackson and Mahomes, are still top-flight fantasy QBs. Sure, Russell Wilson is QB1 but was drafted as like QB5, and Josh Allen has really been a pleasant surprise, but it’s not like these guys were forgotten during draft season. I would say that of the top-10 fantasy QBs, the only real out-of-left-field surprise is Tannehill at QB9.
There aren’t really any standouts at the kicker or defense positions, either. Last year the Patriots defense was unbelievable, and if you had them it was a tremendous advantage. Right now there’s no defense or kicker that is head and shoulders above the pack and a clear difference-maker.
So this list is going to be heavy on the wide receivers, because that’s where all the value is this year. I’m looking at guys you could’ve picked up for cheap–or potentially even for free–that are giving you first or second round production. These guys are difference-makers. They turn bad teams’ seasons around, and they turn great teams into league-winners.
These guys are in no particular order, but at the end I will choose one as the mid-season Fantasy MVP (can you believe we’re already on week 7, which will mark more than the halfway point of the fantasy season?)
- DK Metcalf: Currently the WR8 in PPR despite being on bye, Metcalf was being drafted outside of the top-20 at his position. Even though he relies on the deep ball, he’s been incredibly consistent at getting open and getting long TD plays. His worst game this season is 14.9 PPR points, and his average through 5 games has been just shy of 20 points per game. He even put up 19 PPR points against New England’s Stefon Gilmore, the reigning DPOTY who is notorious for clamping opposing receivers and shadowing them all game long. Metcalf’s 99.9-percentile athleticism and raw talent, combined with Russell Wilson throwing him the ball have been a match made in heaven. There’s a good chance that you drafted him as either your #3 or even #4 wide receiver but he’s probably scored more points than the guys you drafted ahead of him. They say Year 3 is the real breakout year for NFL wideouts, but Metcalf is only in year 2, which means he could be even better next year. That’s scary to think about. I hope you have enjoyed his insanely efficient production thus far because it’s possible the drops off down the road, but honestly it just feels like the Russ-Metcalf connection is unstoppable. If even Bill Belichick and Stefon Gilmore couldn’t shut them down, then who can? Metcalf is un-coverable. He’s too big, too strong, and way too fast to fully shut down. Plus, you can’t really double him because of Lockett on the other side. The best part about Metcalf is that in that game against the Vikings, where Russ led the team down the field to score the go-ahead TD at the very end (which Metcalf caught, of course), Russ was going to DK over and over again. Until that point in the season, he had been mostly a deep-ball guy, but in that moment he became a possession receiver. He’s getting better by the week.
- Alvin Kamara: It’s kind of hard to make him the Fantasy MVP considering he was being drafted extremely high and is a very known quantity, but he’s the top scoring player in fantasy right now and, fingers crossed, has been one of the few top players who avoid injury. Barkley is done for the year. McCaffery has missed the last few weeks. Michael Thomas has been hurt and then got suspended for a fight. It feels like half of the picks in the top-20 in drafts this year have been busts, or at least had their seasons derailed due to circumstances beyond their control. Alvin Kamara has been one of the few high picks to not only deliver on his ADP but surpass it. Even though he’s an obvious pick for Fantasy MVP, and I’m sure some would argue he shouldn’t be in contention because of how high his ADP was, it’s the fact that he has performed so incredibly well that merits mention here. In weeks 2 & 3 he went for 38.4 points and 44.7 points respectively. Just those two weeks alone would qualify him as RB17. Despite playing one fewer game, Kamara is still 23.9 PPR points ahead of the #2 running back this season, Ezekiel Elliott. If Kamara was the RB1 this year by a few points, then I don’t know if he’d be worth much discussion for Fantasy MVP. What merits consideration is just how far ahead of everyone else he is. He’s a full RB1-caliber game ahead of the #2 guy despite playing one fewer game than him. There are only three guys in all of fantasy who are ahead of him in total points–Kyler Murray, Mahomes and Josh Allen. And all three of those guys have played 6 games to Kamara’s 5. He’s currently on pace for 472 PPR fantasy points this year, which is right around what McCaffrey had last year. I doubt he maintains that pace all season long, but it just goes to show you how historically great Kamara has been this season. To give some more perspective, the greatest PPR fantasy season ever was LaDanian Tomlinson in 2006 when he scored 478.3. And that season he threw for 2 TDs as well. Meaning if you subtract those (4 point passing TDs) he would be slightly behind the pace Kamara is on this year.
- James Robinson: The undrafted rookie RB out of Illinois State went from being buried on the Jags’ depth chart behind Leonard Fournette and Ryquell Armstead to the #7 overall running back in PPR. They’re already calling him “RB1son,” which he has been thus far. Even if you drafted after the Jags cut Fournette, there’s still a chance James Robinson wasn’t even drafted in your league, and if he was he went very, very late. He was basically free to pick up in most leagues. In PPR, his lowest scoring output has been 10 points (twice) but he’s given owners a 21 point game (week 2) and a 30.9 point game (week 3). Now, it’s worth pointing out that in his three best games this season (those two plus this past week’s 15.3 point outing) he scored TDs (including 2 in his 30.9 point game), but still, even when he doesn’t score a TD, he’s got a decent floor due to his receiving work. He has had at least four receptions in each of his last four games, with his high being 6 catches in week 3. The rushing production hasn’t been great as of late (under 50 yards rushing in three of his last four games, only one game over 100 yards all season), but we’re talking about a guy who was either dirt cheap or free to pick up who is currently the RB7. Who knows if he can keep it up. Just be happy for what he’s given you thus far. What really makes him an MVP contender is that you could potentially have him and Kamara, or him and any of the other top RBs in the league.
- Justin Jefferson: Coming into this year’s draft analysts were calling it the best WR class in a very long time, potentially ever. It was headlined by college superstars like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, but then you also had guys like Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk and Justin Jefferson that were getting decent buzz. In hindsight we should’ve seen Jefferson coming: he was sliding into the Stefon Diggs role in the Vikings offense after catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs in his 2019 season at LSU. The eye-popping college numbers should have been the dead giveaway, but then add on the fact that the role he was assuming in Minnesota opposite Adam Thielen has for the past several years been a fantasy goldmine. It’s just the way the Vikings run their offense: the two WRs see the vast majority of the work. He is currently WR7 in PPR, however it is mostly on the back of two massive games. In week 3 he went 7-175-1 and finished with 30.5 PPR points, and this past week against Atlanta he went 9-166-2 for 39.6 PPR points. Yes, a lot of his points in that Atlanta game were garbage points, but garbage points still count. The downside with Jefferson is that he doesn’t have a great floor thus far: in three of his six games, he’s scored less than 7.4 PPR points, and he only has one game (week 4 vs. Houston) where he had an in-between game, going 4-103-0 for 14.3 PPR points. However, two of his three worst games this year came in weeks 1-2, so you can’t really hold those against him given that he’s a rookie who had no preseason. He’s going to be boom-bust going forward, but I expect him to get better and better as the season goes on which will hopefully boost his floor. The only reason I give the edge to Metcalf over him is because Metcalf has had a much higher floor this season.
- Calvin Ridley: Lots of fantasy analysts were predicting him to have a breakout season, and they were right. Third-year receiver Calvin Ridley has taken the next step. He’s a touchdown machine who, despite one dud of a game this year, has been great to fantasy owners who targeted him. He’s currently WR1 in PPR despite being drafted in the 4th-5th round range. Yes, he did have a 0.0 goose-egg game in week 4 against Green Bay, and I still don’t fully know what happened there, but it honestly makes his fantasy performance thus far more impressive–he spotted the field one game and he’s still #1. His worst game other than the bagel was 16.7 PPR points against Chicago in week 3. Maybe in your draft you loaded up at RB and then rolled the dice on Ridley in rounds 4-5. That has paid off big time for you. All Ridley owners have got to be thrilled at this point, and I see no reason why his great season shouldn’t continue.
- Chase Claypool: It’s still way too early on him. Virtually nobody started him in his 42 point explosion game so he hasn’t really won people games yet, although he did have another great game in Week 6. He also had a 17.8 point game in week 2, and then this past week against Cleveland he got you 18.1 points. Although he did luck out to get a rushing TD against Cleveland, he was tackled inside the three yard line I believe twice on receptions, so he easily could have had more TDs. This kid is a physical specimen at 6′ 4″ and 229lbs. He ran a 4.42 40 yard dash, meaning he’s on the DK Metcalf/Megatron spectrum for physical freaks. There really aren’t a lot of other guys in the league built like him, and although he doesn’t have the speed of Metcalf, his combination of size and speed means he’s going to be a major problem for defenses. Pittsburgh really knows how to draft the wide receiver position, don’t they? While I will give him major respect for what he’s done so far, the fact that week 6 was likely the first week he was widely started in most fantasy leagues takes him out of consideration for Fantasy MVP. However, it looks like he will be a major factor from here on out. It’s an open question as to how much his production will suffer when Diontae Johnson is fully healthy again, but I think at this point Claypool has earned himself a big role in that Steelers offense no matter what. He is certainly in contention for season-long Fantasy MVP.
- Stefon Diggs: If only because people were fading him going into this season. Remember predraft when nobody thought WRs switching teams would do well this year? We told ourselves that Odell’s disappointing first year in Cleveland was typical for WRs that switch teams–after all, Allen Robinson took a season to adjust to Chicago as well. So we figured that Diggs wouldn’t start shining in Buffalo until next season. But both he and DeAndre Hopkins have resoundingly disproven the old theory that WRs that switch teams don’t produce until year 2. Diggs is sitting at WR4 currently, and the fewest points he’s scored thus far has been 14.9 in week 3 vs. the Rams. If you got him in the 5th round, you’re thrilled with how good he’s been. Give a lot of credit to Josh Allen taking a massive step as a QB in year 2, but I also don’t think Allen would be as great as he’s been without a deep threat like Diggs. When you outperform your ADP by 10+ spots, you are always going to be in contention for Fantasy MVP, and that’s what Diggs has done. Only six points separate Ridley and Diggs in the WR rankings, and there are two guys sandwiched between them (Hopkins and Thielen). Few would’ve guessed Diggs would be this good in his first season in Buffalo.
- Robby Anderson: Speaking of a guy who has massively outperformed his ADP, Robby Anderson was going in the double-digit rounds in most fantasy drafts. He was considered an afterthought in the preseason and fantasy owners were far more enamored with DJ Moore in that Panthers offense, so much so that Moore was going as high as the third round and possibly even the late 2nd in some leagues. Right now, Anderson is the WR6 in PPR while Moore is the WR22. Anderson has been extremely consistent this year, with his worst game being 10.5 PPR points in week 3 vs. the Chargers, followed by 11.7 this past week against the Bears. The most incredible thing about Anderson this season is that he’s the WR6 despite scoring only 1 touchdown all season long. He’s had 100+ receiving yards 3 times plus one 99 yard game. Basically, he’s what everyone thought DJ Moore would be this year. Given that he went incredibly late in drafts and has become a solid WR1, he is in strong contention for Fantasy MVP, although the lack of truly explosive games might take him out of the running. He’s only been over 20 PPR points once (week 1), which is strange because Robby Anderson has for most of his career consistently been a game-breaker who could at any moment catch an 80-yard TD. Now he’s more of a possession guy. Still, it’s hard to complain about the guy’s performance given where he went in the draft.
- Mike Davis: The man who stepped up in Carolina once Christian McCaffrey went down with an ankle injury has put together a very nice stretch of games thus far. Even in week 2 during the game McCaffrey got hurt in, he finished with 15.5 PPR points despite only one rushing yard on one attempt, however, I’m sure very few people actually started him that week. However, since week 3, he’s been a PPR beast, hauling in 30 receptions total from weeks 2-5. From weeks 3-5, he gave you 23.1 points, 22.1 and 29.9 in PPR. Week 6 against Chicago was a bit of letdown as he only had 11.5 PPR points, most of which came on a rushing TD, but still, if you were a McCaffrey owner who was able to scoop him up after the injury, you have to be thrilled about how well he held down the fort for those three weeks. You have to figure his value plummets when McCaffrey comes back, however.
Ranking these nine guys, I would go:
- Alvin Kamara
- James Robinson
- Calvin Ridley
- Robby Anderson
- DK Metcalf
- Stefon Diggs
- Mike Davis
- Justin Jefferson
- Chase Claypool
As much as I appreciate how dirt cheap James Robinson has been, there’s no way I can ignore the pace Kamara is on right now. He is currently on pace to have one of the top-3 fantasy seasons ever. High ADP or not–you can’t value anyone over him.
James Robinson is #2 purely based on how dirt-cheap he was.
Calvin Ridley comes in at #3 because although he had a decently-high ADP, he has still massively outperformed it and is the #1 WR despite posting a goose-egg. However, I can’t put him ahead of the two running backs because there is far more depth at the WR position this year. Kamara and Robinson are that much more valuable because of the shallowness of their position.
Robby Anderson comes in one spot ahead of Metcalf in the rankings solely because Anderson’s ADP was way lower than Metcalf’s. Robby Anderson is three PPR points ahead of Metcalf this season, but Anderson has also played one more game than Metcalf. It’s a matter of value, and while Metcalf was a great value, Anderson has been an even greater value. However, I would rather have Metcalf on my team ROS.
Diggs has been great this season and, as I wrote above, is only six points away from being the #1 WR in fantasy this season. The only reason I put him behind Anderson and Metcalf is his ADP.
Mike Davis belongs on this list but once McCaffrey comes back he’s about to fade real quick. Plus, while he was a waiver wire pickup, he probably did not come cheap given that it was right after McCaffrey went down. People probably spent huge FAAB on him. This is why I don’t put him in the same category as James Robinson: because Robinson was significantly cheaper to obtain.
Jefferson and Claypool are largely in the same boat: yes, they’ve both broken out big time as rookies, but few people have been able to reap the benefits from them thus far. (Although I’m sure plenty of people started Jefferson this past week.) They’re more candidates for full-season Fantasy MVP than they are first-half Fantasy MVP.
So that’s the list. If you own more than one of those guys, your team is probably pretty good this year. In fact, it’s possible that there are teams that own most or even all of those guys right now, which is pretty crazy to think about. I mean, look at the list and then look at where each guy went in your draft. You could easily have drafted Kamara, Ridley, Diggs and Metcalf with four of your first seven picks, then Anderson as a late-round flyer. And then you very well could’ve scooped up James Robinson on the cheap after Fournette got let go.
These are the guys that win leagues. This is why I place such an emphasis on both rookies and second/third year guys. Three of those nine guys are rookies. Ridley fell into the category of “third year WR who could potentially leap from good to great.” And Metcalf fell into the “second year WR who could take a big leap” category.
Sometime later this week we’ll look at guys who could be second-half Fantasy MVPs, and spoiler-alert: there’s going to be a lot of rookies and younger guys on the list.