Brandin Cooks, Mark Andrews among players in good offenses being undervalued in 2024 fantasy drafts

Getting under-drafted players who will spend the NFL season in the confines of a decidedly positive offensive environment is a nice little fantasy football hack.

With this approach, one doesn’t have to hope and pray a mid-round pick can manage to produce in what will be a middling or downright ugly offense — one that does not have much in the way of extended drives, a high number of plays per game, and generally positive offensive movement. We all end up with a player or three in those unfortunate offensive environments, but it never feels good knowing how much said player will have to overcome if he is to be halfway decent for our fantasy squad. It's a situation that often leads to Sunday afternoon gnashing of teeth.

Below is a look at what I consider to be underrated players attached to offenses that should provide the kind of environment that generates yards and points at hefty clips. I looked at scoring rate (the percentage of offensive drives that end in scores), expected offensive points added (an efficiency metric), positive play rate (the percentage of plays that gain yards), and points above average per play (another efficiency metric) for each team.

You can learn more about these metrics here if you're curious.

Dallas Cowboys

2023 Season
Scoring rate: 1st
Expected offensive points added: 3rd
Positive play rate: 4th
Points above average per play: 1st

The main beneficiaries of this absurdly positive environment will continue to be Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. The media’s obsession with the Cowboys’ contract extension machinations might obscure this fact for some.

Brandin Cooks profiles as a reasonably-priced every-down player who could reap the benefits of an efficient, pass-happy Dallas attack that ranked fourth in pass rate over expected (PROE) in 2023. From Week 9-18 last season, Cooks saw 23 percent of the team’s air yards. That might not seem like a lot, but only 19 wideouts had more raw air yards than Cook over that span.

Because, you see, the Cowboys averaged 276 intended air yards per game, the fifth highest mark in the NFL last year. Cooks’ WR60 ADP could be quite the bargain for fantasy gamers who go heavy at running back and seek wide receiver values in the latter half of their drafts.

Jake Ferguson being taken as the ninth tight end off the draft board in no way accounts for the pass heaviness that will define the 2024 Cowboys (who enter the season with the league’s worst running back room). Ferguson in 2023 saw plenty of high-value opportunities: He logged 12 inside-the-10 targets, which ranked fourth among all pass catchers and first among tight ends.

Though his 17 percent target share and his 18.3 percent targets per route run were both short of outstanding, the nature of the Cowboys offense generated 102 targets for Ferguson (aka Ferg Daddy). Only six tight ends had more looks. Ferguson is perhaps the best way to take advantage of this hyper-productive, fantasy-friendly Dallas offense.

Baltimore Ravens

2023 Season
Scoring rate: 4th
Expected offensive points added: 6th
Positive play rate: 6th
Points above average per play: 7th

Probably you don’t need to be told Lamar Jackson remains a solid — if not fantastic — fantasy selection in 2024. But what about the rest of Baltimore’s offense in the second year under offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who brought the Ravens from the deepest depths of pass rate over expected (PROE) to the 11th highest PROE in 2023?

Zay Flowers, going off the draft board as WR25, earned a 24 percent share of the team’s targets and air yards as a rookie in 2023. He also happened to be well above his expected fantasy output. If Monken’s Ravens offense maintains last year’s positive environment, Flowers should have every chance to break into top-20 wideout territory. Some touchdown luck would catapult Flowers somewhere near the top-12.

I’m on record as saying Mark Andrews going well after Sam LaPorta is the most nonsensical ADP I’ve seen since before I had gray facial hair. Andrews, before he got got by a vicious hip drop tackle in Week 11, had seven inside-the-10 targets over nine full games. He caught five for touchdowns. Andrews saw 14 red zone looks over his nine games. He’s being underdrafted until tight end ADPs shift.

It’s not nearly a hot take to suggest Derrick Henry will score 20-plus touchdowns this season as Baltimore’s lead back. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill last season combined for 41 inside-the-10 carries (which led to a total of 15 touchdowns). The Ravens were six percent below their expected red zone pass rate under Monken last year. Put it all together and you could get a vintage season from Henry — one that puts him among the most important players in all of fantasy football.

His change in offensive environment can hardly be overstated. Henry just last year was second in rush yards — trailing only Christian McCaffrey — while trapped in a Tennessee offense that ranked 30th in positive play rate and 27th in points above average per play. The Biggest Dog faced eight defenders in the box at the second highest rate in the NFL. It makes me think.

LA Rams

2023 Season
Scoring rate: 7th
Expected offensive points added: 7th
Positive play rate: 15th
Points above average per play: 9th

Puka Nacua is being properly valued as the centerpiece of LA’s pass-first offense. I can’t say the same for the aged Cooper Kupp.

The zoomers won’t draft Kupp. We know this. So I ask my millennial brethren to consider the following: In the 11 games last season where both Kupp and Nacua were active, Nacua saw 92 targets to 89 for Kupp and the wideouts had almost identical target per route run rates. Nacua and Kupp were neck and neck in yards after the catch per reception and yards per route run over that stretch. Kupp, despite missing three games to start the season, had more red zone targets than Nacua; Kupp's eight inside-the-10 targets tied the rookie.

The Rams’ offensive environment is positive enough for both Kupp and Nacua to thrive in 2024. That one guy is going 25 picks before the other is something to ponder this summer.

Seattle Seahawks

2023 Season
Scoring rate: 11th
Expected offensive points added: 11th
Positive play rate: 12th
Points above average per play: 7th

If football had only first and second downs, the 2023 Seahawks would have been unquestionably elite. Only four teams last season had a higher success rate on early downs than the Hawks, and only the Dolphins and 49ers had better early-down EPAs.

Geno and the boys got it done on first and second downs. Third and fourth downs were another story entirely. Seattle was 21st in EPA per play on later downs; only five teams had a lower success rate on those downs. Predictable drop back situations were not the Seahawks’ specialty in 2023 and it showed — and sunk their season.

The team’s peripheral offensive numbers weren’t half bad, as you can see above. If new offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb — who ran a hyper efficient, pass-heavy attack at the University of Washington — can correct last year’s third and fourth down shortcomings, all of the team’s central players are going to be big-time ADP values.

Both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf converted 46 percent of their air yards into real, actual yards last season. That marks a drop off for both wideouts: Metcalf converted 49 percent of his air yards in 2022 and Lockett converted an elite 59 percent. This is a long and tortured way of saying both Seattle receivers ran cold in 2023. Their 2024 ADPs reflect as much. The Seahawks offense is going to be much better than fantasy drafters are projecting.

Noah Fant would be another primary beneficiary of a more stable Seattle offense that continues its early-down excellence. Fant should see a (much) higher route rate in 2024 and enough usage so his encouraging peripherals might actually mean something in fantasy football. Fant profiles as the tight end to snatch near the end of your drafts this summer.