Published January 08, 2015
As the bulk of fantasy football leagues enter playoffs this week, several of the game's top performers have something in common besides putting up the most points.
They're the value all-stars — players who were drafted more cheaply than the top options at their position.
And they're on more teams headed to the playoffs than any other players as Week 14 shifts largely toward a single-elimination tournament.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck is on 15 percent of fantasy playoff teams, according to data from CBS Sports leagues.
Part of that is because he's the top scoring quarterback in fantasy with 286 points in standard scoring formats awarding 4 points per passing touchdown. But for his owners, he's even more valuable because he was the sixth quarterback drafted on average in Yahoo leagues, behind Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Detroit's Matthew Stafford.
And Stafford is at the top of a less desirable list as the quarterback most often on fantasy teams that missed the playoffs — 9 percent of teams out of the title hunt, according to CBS Sports.
Here are some other players who proved themselves the most valuable breakout stars or biggest fantasy busts this season:
ANTONIO BROWN VS. BRANDON MARSHALL
In 12-team Yahoo leagues, it took an early second-round pick to land Marshall, the Chicago wide receiver known for getting a lot of looks from quarterback Jay Cutler. Brown was drafted about one round later, in the early third.
But Brown is on 14 percent of playoff teams while Marshall is on 10 percent of teams that didn't make the fantasy playoffs in CBS leagues.
Easy to see why: Brown has been the top wide receiver in the game with nearly double Marshall's yards while Marshall has been a middling second wide receiver, with fewer fantasy points than New England's Brandon LaFell and Cincinnati's Mohamed Sanu.
LE'VEON BELL VS. LESEAN McCOY
Pittsburgh's Bell is on 13 percent of playoff fantasy teams while McCoy of the Eagles is on 9 percent of teams not in the playoffs, CBS said.
Before the season, McCoy was in the debate as the No. 1 overall draft pick as Yahoo, ESPN and CBS differed between him, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles.
Bell, however, was the 13th running back off the draft board in Yahoo leagues. He won't be next year.
DeMARCO MURRAY VS. FRANK GORE
It's hard to overstate how valuable Murray has been in fantasy leagues this year as the top running back. The Dallas runner averaged 15.8 fantasy points per game compared with 14.5 points per game for Marshawn Lynch, the No. 2 running back. He's on 13 percent of playoff fantasy teams, according to CBS.
Gore was much more of a value pick as a sixth-round pick in 12-team leagues, yet he's on 9 percent of teams that missed the playoffs.
EMMANUEL SANDERS VS. CALVIN JOHNSON
Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson really put fantasy players in a bind this year: You don't just quit on a player as talented as him, even though he was out several weeks with an injury. Still, at some point you need players to come through, making it unsurprising that he's on 9 percent of fantasy teams that didn't make the playoffs in CBS leagues.
Denver's Sanders is on 12 percent of fantasy teams that made the playoffs on CBS, and tied with Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin as the fourth-best fantasy wide receiver this year.
OTHER PLAYOFF ALL-STARS: Demaryius Thomas, Matt Forte, Maclin, Arian Foster.
OTHER PLAYOFF DUDS: A.J. Green, DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia