🏈 Trouble in Paradise (Pittsburgh)

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What if we did one round of the NFL Draft per week to REALLY stretch things out

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by BetMGM:

  • Justin Fields and Najee Harris’ fifth-year options were declined

  • Watercooler: Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate!

  • Underdog Bargains: Keon Coleman? In this economy?

  • It’s 5/3. Take it away, Ian Hartitz…

Twelve former 2021 first-round picks officially had their fifth-year options declined on Thursday. You can check out the full list for yourself, but today we’ll focus on a pair of underachieving Steelers who might only have one last dance in Pittsburgh to finally meet their respective sky-high expectations.

🔔🐄 Najee Harris, running back, THE running back, y’all

Kind of.

Kudos to Harris for racking up at least 1,200 total yards and scoring eight-plus TDs in all three of his professional seasons. The Iron Man has yet to miss a professional game despite handling an NFL-high 978 regular season touches along the way.

Here’s the problem: Harris hasn’t been overly efficient with his opportunities over the years.

  • PFF rush grade: 82.2 (No. 29 among 63 qualified RBs)

  • Yards per carry: 3.9 (tied for No. 49)

  • Yards after contact per carry: 2.9 (tied for No. 30)

  • Missed tackles forced per carry: 0.2 (tied for No. 20)

  • Explosive run play rate: 8.6% (No. 50)

  • PFF receiving grade: 65.3 (No. 26)

  • Yards per route run: 0.9 (tied for No. 46)

A mediocre offensive line (26th in rush yards before contact per carry since 2021) and brutal QB play (noodle-armed Big Ben, Kenny Pickett) certainly haven’t helped matters, but Harris’ lack of efficiency became ESPECIALLY clear in 2023 when alleged backup Jaylen Warren outperformed Harris in, well, just about everything.

Of course, this season has the potential to bring out the best of Harris and the Steelers rushing attack as a whole under long-time run-establisher Arthur Smith. The decision to devote not one but two top-51 picks to the offensive line should pay dividends for a group that finished 2023 as just PFF’s 17th-ranked unit.

Could “Contract Year Najee” become the next mythical figure in the fantasy football world? Well, drafters can find out at a reasonable RB23 (pick 86.4) cost over at Underdog Fantasy. Maybe not the sexiest pick in the world, although zero/hero-RB enthusiasts shouldn’t be completely out on an eighth-round pick with 300-plus touches in his potential range of outcomes this season.

 The Justin Fields Experience

Head Coach Mike Tomlin spoke about his QB room earlier this week:

Right now in the early stages of team development, (Russell Wilson) is in pole position. I think his collective body of work merits that. … We're really excited to have Justin as well. And obviously during the course of team development training camp and the preseason, he'll be allowed to compete."

While Wilson certainly has Fields beat from a career-long “body of work,” the former QB (+0.020 EPA per dropback, 29th) didn’t exactly boast a huge lead on the latter (+0.012, 31st) when it came to efficiency per dropback in 2023 specifically. And that doesn’t even fully account for what Fields brings to the run game. Friendly reminder that only Lamar Jackson (61.1) has averaged more rushing yards per game than Fields (55.5) among all QBs in NFL history to start at least 16 games.

Maybe that latter fact is why the Steelers have apparently unironically considered using Fields … as a kick returner? While the presence of Fields deep would allow for some fun trick-play possibilities, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that featuring your backup QB on a relatively safer — yet still high-risk — special teams play doesn’t seem like the brightest idea in the world.

Here’s to hoping Fields receives a fair shot at the starting job; the reigning QB11 in fantasy points per game certainly boasts a higher ceiling than Russ at this point in their respective careers in fantasy land. I’ve heard worse ideas than using a late-round pick on Fields (QB26, pick 182.2 ADP) when drafting three-plus QBs in best ball due to the potential for some late-season boom weeks.

Speaking of long shots…

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Around the Watercooler (August 2022)

📺 The biggest questions for fantasy football after the NFL draft? Let’s answer ‘em.

❤️ Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate is LIVE! Jayden Daniels QB1 szn?

🤔 Ever wonder what life is like as an NFL scout? Awesome article from Jourdan.

 Favorite fantasy football player nickname ever? Matthew needs your help.

🫢 Geno Smith isn’t pleased with the media. Tell us how you really feel!

🏈 Kirk Cousins is throwing at voluntary workouts. 35 years young.

 The Chargers got Justin Herbert another WR. His first team with a non-cat team mascot.

💎 Patriots rookie WR Javon Baker is MOTIVATED. The next late-round gem?

👀 The people’s NFL insider has a lean on Tyler Boyd’s next employer. This would make sense.

Early Best Ball ADP Targets by Pete Overzet

New contests are live on Underdog Fantasy, and there are some bargains to be had in drafts right now. Today, Pete highlights his five favorite targets in drafts based on current ADP

The NFL Draft is wrapped, and Underdog Fantasy has launched the first wave of massive best ball contests for the 2024 season.

Needless to say, it's go time.

We'll be drafting and strategizing all summer long, but we need to move quickly in order to take advantage of the unique opportunities available in the first week after the contests drop.

Because the NFL Draft shakes up the draft board (I'd estimate 50-plus players either gained or lost meaningful value in fantasy), the ADP landscape is extremely inefficient. More simply, the way these players are ordered by default in the Underdog app is completely borked right now.

Below, I'll provide a cheat sheet of my five favorite players to target right now in drafts before they get too expensive. In a recent video, I covered 22 players I expect to rise in the coming weeks, but for this piece I am zeroing in on the players I have the most conviction on:

🎯 Bills WR Keon Coleman / Target In Round 9

Keon Coleman was one of the draft's biggest winners after landing in Buffalo — a spot ripe for early opportunity. He's already won over the NFL at large thanks to his seemingly non-stop comedic antics, and he's polling just as favorably in draft rooms.

After opening the contests with a Round 12 ADP, Coleman has already moved up into Round 9.

Considering the opportunity and his budding cult hero status, I don't think his rise is slowing down anytime soon. 

I have my concerns about Coleman as a prospect, but his draft capital alone vaulted him up to WR6 in Dwain's Rookie WR model. Because of this lack of conviction, I know I am not going to want to click him in Round 7 or Round 8 (where he's headed), so I need to get my shares now; otherwise, I'll end up with zero (which doesn't feel great either).

My recommendation: Target while he's still in Round 9, but don't chase too far up boards unless stacking him with Josh Allen

🎯 Commanders QB Jayden Daniels / Target In Rounds 10 & 11

Of all the players I'm featuring here, Jayden Daniels is actually the one moving up the slowest. After opening the contest with an ADP of 127 (Round 11), he's only moved up 6 picks.

This surprises me. Daniels has the profile to break fantasy in the same way that previous dual-threat QBs like Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts have hacked fantasy scoring in their favor. At one point last summer, drafters were selecting Anthony Richardson in Round 7 solely because of his rushing prowess.

But for whatever reason, similar steam has not found its way to Daniels. Maybe it's a slower burn than I would have initially assumed, but I have a really hard time believing that Daniels won't close the summer as a Round 7 or 8 pick. Is he really that different of a bet than Kyler Murray, who goes at the 7-8 turn?

My recommendation: Target Daniels aggressively for as long as he remains in the double-digit rounds.

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