Hello fellow norseman! I've written a few articles recently using statistical analysis to analyze a few of our players recently, notably Christian Ponder. Now that I've alienated/pissed off most of the norseman faithful, I'm going to switch gears here and use statistics to hash out a rough fantasy football guide. Its not going to be incredibly complex, as I no longer have the time to write really long articles with school starting back up on Monday. What I'm going to do is pick out some players at WR and RB who are undervalued or overvalued based on their ADP and use some statistics to explain why I think they are undervalued or overvalued. I'm going to be using 10 team ADP values. The statistics won't be deep and super explanatory, but if you have any questions about a particular player (even one not mentioned in the article) I would be happy to explain further in the comments section. Without further ado, lets get to it. One quick thing I should add, just because I say a player is undervalued doesn't mean you should reach for them. If you do, you sap all the value that player potentially has.
Lets start off with the undervalued running backs, shall we?
via rollingout.comRay Rice-ADP 1.08
I can understand why people may be nervous about Ray Rice with Bernard Pierce expected to steal some carries away. There are a few things that need to be addressed though. One, Rice is more talented that Pierce. That is something people are failing to realize here. That isn't to say that Pierce can't play, but Ray Rice is a top 5 back in this league right now. The fact that Marshawn Lynch (we'll get to him in a bit) is being drafted ahead of Rice is borderline insanity to me. Granted, the sample size is small, but last year under Caldwell, Rice averaged exactly 20 carries a game, excluding his week 17 game where he didn't really play. That is 20 carries, not total touches. Furthermore, the Ravens will almost HAVE to run the ball more this year, because there aren't a lot of guys to throw it to. That will help out Rice even more, as he is now probably the 2nd most dangerous pass catcher on the team. In the Ravens last preseason game, they gave him the ball 16 times on the ground in not even a full game. He should catch a good number of passes again this year as well. Most people have already forgot: in PPR scoring, Ray Rice in 2011 had a better year than AD's 2012 season.
This ADP, to me, is insanity. Chris Johnson has a chance to lead the league in yards from scrimmage this year. A very good chance. With a vastly improved offensive line, he should be in line to receive top-10 run blocking. The Shonn Greene concerns are overblown, as CJ?K will get his this year. He has the ability to break it from anywhere, and is a much better back before and after contact than people seem to realize. The Titans have also indicated they want to involve him in the passing game more. There isn't a whole lot to say here really. In his 'down' years, he finished as a top 12 back. This year should be the best we've seen from CJ?K since his 2000 yard season. If you can pair him with Ray Rice at the turn in a ten team league, danger zone.
via www.lobshots.comRyan Mathews-ADP 5.09
As tough as it is for me to write this, Mathews could be a great value play here. He is still the starting running back of an NFL team, and was a top 10 running back as recently as 2011. I understand that people got burned by his 2012 season, but truthfully, that is why you don't draft players who are injured going into the year. Furthermore, if you look at games where he wasn't up against a top-ten rush defense, he performed pretty well, averaging 4.6 YPC. Granted, that is a cherry picked stat, but it just goes to show that when he wasn't facing a great defense, he was a solid runner. Coupled with the fact that he has looked more like the 2011 version than the 2012 version so far in the preseason, pounce on Matthews as your RB3 with upside. I could easily see a return to the top 15 for Matthews this year.
Daryl Richardson-ADP 5.10
He's the starting running back on a Jeff Fisher team. Am I missing something? Fisher has historically always...ALWAYS had a lead back. Even if you take out the Eddie George, Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson years, his starting running back on average has finished as RB20. He gives the ball to one guy during the year, and that guy has on average finished inside the top 20 at the position. Essentially, you can get a low-end RB2 in the end of the 5th round. However, I think Richardson is capable of more. At first glance his 40 time and agility time don't seem that impressive for his size. However, he has a better explosion score than Julio Jones, Stephen Hill, and David Wilson. The explosion score is a measurement of your athletic skill that is calculated by adding your broad jump and vertical jump (in inches) together. But, you ask, what about his mediocre speed score and agility score? Well, this ought to help explain things:
That was talking about his Pro-Day workout. He had the most important workout of his life during slippery conditions. Looking at his highlights does not show me a guy who ran a mediocre 95 speed score. And his mediocre agility score? Do you think that a slippery surface might impact his starting, stopping and cutting ability? I do. I think he has underrated athletic ability, and is going to be the starter in a system that on average churns out top 20 RBs.
Time now to fix some overvalued ADPs.
I don't get the Lynch love. A few days ago, I wrote an article trying to see what we, as Viking's fans, should realistically expect from ADMVP in 2013. It wasn't meant as a hate piece on Lynch, but it kind of ended up that way. Lynch's YPC was so far over his career high that regression to the mean seems highly likely. While I doubt the Seahawks abandon the run, I could definitely see them throw a bit more. Granted, they will remain a run first team, but I don't really see Lynch getting 315 carries again this year. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. Lynch's guaranteed money runs out this year. Basically, the Seahawks can cut Lynch after this season with no cap penalty. They have been drafting running backs the last two years, including Christine Michael in the 2nd round this year. Michael is an athletic freak, but we won't get into that here. Why won't Lynch get as many carries? Because I think the Seahawks plan is to give a few carries to the younger backs, especially Michael, to see what they have. Now, Lynch will still be the starter and receive the majority of the carries, but lets say he does regress close to his career YPC, and gets about 270 carries. At 4.2 YPC, that 'only' gets him ~1150 yards. He'll probably still end up with about 10 TDs, but he doesn't catch the ball, so what you see is what you get. In a PPR league, I wouldn't even take Lynch inside the top ten, not with Rice, Forte, Bush and Johnson available.
The Rookies: Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball, and Gio Bernard
This part is a bit harder to quantify using statistics, but I will nonetheless try and explain. Since we have to NFL data to go on, I will roll with their athletic comps and their possible usage situations.
I was down on this guy coming out of college, and nothing I have seen so far has changed anything for me. Granted, he looked solid against the Rams a few weeks ago, and preseason reports have been mostly great. However, there are a few things that need to be pointed out.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results-Albert Einstein
That is how I feel about the recent Alabama backs. The notable exception for me is Trent Richardson, who I think is every bit as talented as he appears to be. How does this relate to Lacy though? Good question. Would it surprise you to learn that Lacy is actually older than Richardson? That is a red flag. The older player wasn't able to dominate production until the younger, more talented player left. That is essentially what that is telling me. Granted, they are a month apart, but Lacy wasn't able to make people notice him until Richardson left to the pros. So clearly, the Alabama coaches considered Richardson much more talented. But so what, you say. What if Lacy isn't as talented as Richardson? He still could be good. True. Lets look a bit further. We've had four dominate Alabama backs in the last 5 years. 2009 saw Glenn Coffee drafted by the niners. 2010 gave us Mark Ingram. In 2012, Trent Richardson entered the league. And finally, in 2013, we get Eddie Lacy. This next part is hard to put into words, so I'm going to show you the data in a table.
I built this table to compare Lacy against his predecessors. DR is a measurement I used before in an article on CP84. It essentially tells us how much of the teams yards and TDs a player was able to accrue. It isn't as predictive for RBs as it can be for WRs, but there is still a story to tell here. First, Richardson is talented. Much more talented than Lacy. As a younger player, he dominated the rushing attack with Lacy still there. Second, based on this list, Mark Ingram could very well be the second most talented back to come out of Bama in the past 5 years. The same "3 yards and a cloud of dust" Mark Ingram. Third, as we can tell, and has been proven before, not just in this table, college efficiency numbers are a poor predictive measurement of NFL efficiency. Obviously. While the situations are different, It is a big, big red flag that Lacy couldn't get more of a DR. He had the lowest of the group. His share of the touches were eaten into by a talented freshman. Very bad sign. Let's move on to his athletic comps.
At first glance, things look boring. He ran a 4.58 40 yard dash time at his pro day, which is honestly better than I expected. Not saying much, I know. It gives him a slightly above average speed score of 104.5. Good, but not great. I obviously won't ding him for that, as he IS slightly above average, but that definitely isn't fast. Not at all. He also clocked 4.44 on the short shuttle. For comparison, Christine Michael, who I mentioned before, ran a 4.02 short shuttle drill. While it may not seem like a big difference, in a short drill like that it is a big difference. We can't calculate Lacy's Agility Score because he didn't run the 3 cone drill. If we estimate his 3 cone drill to be about 6.9, that puts his Agility Score at about 11.34. Decidedly mediocre. So Lacy isn't a great athlete. That doesn't preclude him from success. However, taken into account his terrible DR rating from his best year at Alabama, and we are starting to paint the picture of a guy that just isn't that good. I very well may be wrong on Lacy, and if there was any situation he would succeed in, it is probably the Packers. Enough red flags exist that I will be passing on Lacy in every draft unless he falls precipitously.
The case against Montee Ball is much simpler to make, and much shorter to write about. Lets start this time with Ball's athletic comps. In short: they suck. He is a very poor athlete at the RB position. He ran a 4.66 40 yard dash, which gave him a speed score of 90.8. Pretty far below average. He also posted a mediocre 11.28 Agility Score. Again, not good. Essentially, Ball is not fast and he is not agile. So who does he compare to? His three closest comps are Vick Ballard, Kevin Smith and Evan Royster. Not a very good group of runners to be in. The one comp that is a positive to Ball is Alfred Morris. However, it is only a passing resemblance. Morris is slightly bigger than Ball, but ran the same 40 time. He also had a better Agility Score than Ball. His poor athletic comps, coupled with the fact that he is most likely in a timeshare in Denver, tells me to stay away from him in redraft leagues.
Bernard is also in a likely timeshare, and also isn't as athletic as some would have you believe. The narrative is that he is a playmaker and is a great athlete. The narrative seems to be broken here. He is a small back that is slow, with a speed score of 95.9. He does have a good but not great 11.03 Agility Score, which is why he is the only one of these three backs I would consider targeting if he wasn't firmly mired in a likely timeshare. Granted, he is probably more talented than BenJarvus Green Ellis; partners at law. He needs to dominate the carries to make himself worthy of a 5th round selection. However, I just don't see that playing out. The Law Firm will probably play on first and second down, with Bernard getting the occasional carry and 3rd down reception. If the Law Firm were to falter, than Bernard would be a good value. I don't see him getting enough touches to justify his ADP though. People are clamoring for him to vanquish BJGE and claim the starters role, much like Doug Martin. I just don't see it happening. A strategy one could employ is to let someone take Bernard at a high ADP, and try and trade for him after the owner becomes disenfranchised with his lack of touches in the hopes that he starts to receive more carries as the year wears on.
I just realized I am already up to 2500 words, and there are about a 1000 WRs I want to write about this year. I'll do my very best to keep it brief here. Starting again with the undervalued WRs.Andre Johnson-ADP 3.10
With his recent preseason domination of the Saints, his ADP has creeped into the end of the third round. For players planning on going RB-RB to start your draft, Johnson is the guy you want to target in the 3rd round. He somewhat quietly finished with 1600 yards receiving. I get the injury concerns with Johnson, but I think injury proneness is much harder to nail down than most realize. Reggie Bush was injury prone with the Saints, until he wasn't anymore. Same with Stafford. Unless there is a preexisting injury and there is potential for it to continually flair up (i.e. something like Plantar Fasciitis) people dramatically overstate injury proneness. Why? Because of a phenomena known as recency bias. It has happened recently, therefore we think it is likely to happen again. The fact that someone was hurt before doesn't make him more likely to be hurt again, unless he really is injury prone (hard to tell), ridiculously unlucky (possible) or has a nagging injury. Andre1500 has a rock solid projection and the passing offense will still run through him. The Texans may even throw more with Hopkins there. I doubt Johnson gets more targets than last year, but hopefully Hopkins will somewhat lessen the coverage Johnson see's every time he runs down the field. Some scouts this summer have been saying that he has lost a step.
|Yards Per Route Run|
Kind of makes you wonder how many more steps he needs to lose before he is only as good as the up and coming stars of the league. I'm sure some will hate the next stat I have but: Andre Johnson was far and away the most efficient receiver for Matt Schaub. Schaubs AYA with Johnson was an elite 9.25. He had 162 targets for 112 receptions, 1598 yards, 4 TDs and 4 INTs. It is somewhat disconcerting that Schaub had as many INTs as TDs when targeting Johnson, but I expect that to improve. I've talked a lot recently about regression to mean and how it relates to Adrian Peterson, for example, but it works both ways. Andre1500 should post more TDs this year. Could he actually be better than he was last year when he averaged 100 yards receiving per game? Scary thought huh?
Torrey Smith-ADP 6.02
Smith is likely to make you do a double take here, but hear me out for a minute. Yes, he had a pathetic catch percentage last year. Yes, he failed to make the jump many expected last year. Yes, he was inconsistent last year. Now that we've got that out of the way, lets look at why Torrey Smith is in for a potentially huge season. First up, lets look briefly at his catch %. It should take a solid jump. Why you ask? Because he will run many more intermediate routes than he did last year. Only 19% of his targets last year came between 10 and 19 yards down the field. A staggering 42% of his targets came 20 yards or more down the field. That is likely to reverse itself because the Ravens don't have anyone else to run those intermediate routes. Boldin and Pitta were the Kings in that area of the field. Many seem to think that Smith has failed as an intermediate player. That is rather lazy thinking. He hasn't failed, he just hasn't gotten a chance yet. So what do I think Smith can do this year? I've got him forecast with ~75 catches for 1200 yards and 10 TDs. That puts him into the top 10 WRs. Get him while you can.
via malecelebbio.comEric Decker-7.03
The case for Decker isn't a difficult one to make. People examining the Denver situation have focused far to much on what Wes Welker will do to Eric Decker. Most everyone has said something along these lines: "Thomas is a beast, he will get his, while Welker will eat into Decker's targets." Manning to Decker was one of the most efficient QB/WR connections in the league last year, with an AYA of 9.7. Manning threw 13 TDs to Decker, while only getting picked off 3 times while throwing to Decker last year. Why in the world would the Broncos want less of that? Doesn't it stand to reason then, that not only will Welker take Stokley's targets from last year (58), but also some of the TE targets?
Manning was below league average when targeting his TE's last year. Jacob Tamme had 84 targets, while Joel Dressen had 58. You don't think a portion of those shift to Welker? Say he takes 20 targets from Tamme, and 20 from Dressen. That would give Welker about 100 targets, without even touching Deckers targets. Furthermore, Decker's TD total might not be in for such a regression as people think. He has always been a monster in the redzone, which will allow him to secure upwards of 8 TDs again this year. Add in the fact that with an unsettled running game, the Broncos could actually throw the ball more this year. Decker is an insane value this year. His upside projection sits at about the same as Smiths: 1200 yards, and 10 or more TDs. That isn't to say that he WILL get those numbers, but it is a plausible outcome.
via a.espncdn.comRandall Cobb-4.01
I'm sure it breaks peoples hearts to see two Packers on my overvalued list. In truth, it is not because they are Packers. If Percy Harvin had stayed healthy, I guarantee you he would be on this list. What is the common theme between those two guys? Smaller, quicker receivers who are 'playmakers'. The narrative is "just get the ball in their hands." Are they playmakers, or are they just volume receivers, like Marques Colston? That isn't to say I think Cobb or Harvin aren't talented, because anyone who watches football can tell they are. But lets be realistic for a second. Generally speaking, bigger WRs are better at catching TDs. That isn't to say small guys can't catch TDs, but they generally don't catch a lot of redzone TDs. Redzone TDs are what fuel a players ascent into the top 10 in fantasy scoring. Unless you catch an insane amount of yardage, you aren't going to end up in the top ten at the end of the year. The player with the lowest TD total inside the top ten last year? Andre Johnson, with 4 TDs. He made up with that by having a 1600 yard receving season. Think Cobb is going to pull that off?
He already had 960 yards with 8 TDs last year. He already received over 100 targets last year, and caught a ridiculous 77% of them. I can't see that rate being sustained, even with Rodgers throwing him the ball. People think he might catch 100 passes this year. Ok, fine. Lets say he somehow receives like 140 targets and catches 100 passes. That is still a ridiculous 71% catch rate, but whatever. So he catches 20 more passes and somehow, the extra passes don't drop his efficiency and he averages 11.9 YPR again this year. that puts him at 1200 yards receving. Say he ends up with the same TD% this year as well. He'll end up with 10 TDs. That is his high end projection. Last year, that would have put him at 180 standard scoring league points, with a PPR total of 280. Don't get me wrong, those are great numbers. He would have ended up as WR 9. However, think about it like this: by pulling the trigger on Cobb as the 8th/9th WR off the board, you are hoping that he hits his high end projection. There is zero upside priced into that. If he doesn't hit that high end projection, you got screwed.
Coincidentally, the 1200 yard, 10 TD season projection I just threw out? That is exactly what Marques Colston does every year. It isn't so much that I think Cobb will be bad. Its just that for what you are paying, there are cheaper options that will give you the same end of the year output! Why pull the trigger on Cobb at 4.01 when you can grab Colston over 1 Round later? Colston caught 85 passes last year, it isn't like Cobb is going to crush him in PPR formats.
Do people realize that Welker changed teams? I don't think they do, because they are drafting Welker as if he is going to receive 175 targets again. Seriously? He is 32, and if the Broncos are smart, the third option in an attack. He had good efficiency with Brady last year, sporting a 7.91 AYA with him, but his YPR efficiency is awful. He had 1350 yards with 6 TDs and finished 12th in standard scoring. He finished inside the top ten in PPR, but do you guys really think he is going to catch 118 passes this year? Like I said before, he is no longer the top receiver on the team now. He'll probably get around 100 targets, which isn't bad, but at his career 72% catch rate, that gives him 70-75 catches. Coupled with his 11.2 YPR average, that gives him 780-840 yards. He's never been much of a TD threat either, having only caught more than 8 TDs twice in his career. So we're looking at an ~800 yard receiver with 6 TDs. Those numbers would put him as the 30th WR in 2012. Now, in PPR, his value goes up somewhat, but I still don't think he cracks the top 15 in PPR formats, unless Denver is really, really stupid. I don't think they are. He's being drafted as the 17th WR. In PPR formats, he's being drafted as the 15th receiver. Maybe Denver is really stupid, and decided to make Welker a target whore like he was in New England. I don't think they will though, which makes Welkers upside pretty low. Even Welker himself doesn't think he'll catch as many passes as before:
Welker himself says if he catches over 100 passes this season that something has gone wrong with the offense.
Only two undervalued WRs. There are other guys I would avoid, but its more that I don't think they have a lot of upside to where they are drafted, not that I think they will fail to meet their ADP. One of those is Larry Fitzgerald. I don't really have the stats to back this up, more of a general feeling on the Arizona offense. At first glance, Palmer doesn't seem to fit espeically well with the vertical offense that Arians employs, but that is more flim scouting than stat crunching, so I don't have much of a case against Fitzgerald. He's another guy I feel has to hit his high end projection to justify where he is being taken, but as opposed to Cobb I actually think he's got a decent chance to do it. But his floor is very low again. Anyway, like I said, I don't have any numbers to back that up, its just a feeling, and could most certainly be wrong. I hope you enjoyed this, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.