Which receivers were truly most effective with the ball in their hands last season? We look at the leaders in YAC+ for 2014 and the last nine years.
10 Jul 2009
by Bill Barnwell
Last week, I participated in another mock draft; this time around, it was the Rotoworld Magazine Mock Draft, where I went up against the titans of the fantasy industry. Armed with only KUBIAK and a reliable internet connection, I battled bravely against the brightest minds of fantasy superstardom, men known as "The Human Auto-Pick" and "Mr. August". How could I possibly compete?
Well, I'll explain below.
First, we should note our presence in a must-have product for fantasy junkies. We at FO highly recommend the Rotoworld Draft Guide; for $14.99, you get access to Rotoworld's copious amounts of fantasy draft-related content, including detailed lists and breakdowns related to draft strategy, position-by-position. There's also excellent articles from Rotoworld writers (and friends of FO) Gregg Rosenthal and Evan Silva, as well as articles from myself and Mike Tanier on the effects of new head coaches, peak ages for skill position players, and Michael Turner's workload.
Of course, we hope you buy KUBIAK too. With that in mind, and to help explain some of my curious decisions in the draft, I'll be providing the official KUBIAK projection for each player I select in this year's draft.
First, my team. The Rotoworld draft is standard scoring (no point per reception), with 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), 1 K, 1 DEF, and 5 bench players. There are 12 teams in the league, and I had the seventh overall pick.
285 carries, 1214 rushing yards, 8 TD
55 receptions, 405 receiving yards, 3 TD
Steven Jackson was selected with the pick before me after some draft-room-related confusion; I was hoping Jackson would have fallen to me, considering our sanguine Rams projection, but Slaton was an acceptable substitute. I chose him over Frank Gore and Chris Johnson.
Slaton grossly underperformed inside the five last year; he only scored four touchdowns when the average back would've been expected to score 7.88; that difference of -3.88 was second-only to Jamal Lewis. My fantasy team would hope that the difference was a fluke, but I'm not sure one way or another about it. I've developed some evidence that zone blocking lines tend to underperform towards the goal line, which would hurt Slaton. There's no conclusive evidence about the line, though; Ahman Green was above-average last year inside the five, while Ron Dayne was below-average in 2007. (He's also been below-average every single year of his career, which can help put to rest the myth that he or other big backs are invariably good goal-line options.) I tend to think Slaton will be closer to average inside the goal line, and that would bump his touchdown totals up enough to make that KUBIAK projection eminently reasonable.
4040 passing yards, 34 TD, 9 INT
68 rushing yards, 1 TD
Brady's projection has him second amongst quarterbacks behind Drew Brees; naturally, KUBIAK isn't going to project him to put up the best season in quarterback history after missing an entire year.
I think Brady will outperform this projection, and while he won't hit the stratospheric heights of 2007, I see him closer to 4300/40 than 4040/34. That difference would make him the best quarterback in football, and would make him an actual asset with the 18th pick of a fantasy draft. My other options here would have been Pierre Thomas or Ronnie Brown at running back, or Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, or Greg Jennings at wideout.
225 carries, 1025 rushing yards, 10 TD
39 receptions, 303 receiving yards, 0 TD
Despite his low Speed Score, I really do believe that Moreno will end up being a successful NFL back because of his versatility. I also think he'll be a rookie worth drafting because of his NFL-ready skill set (as I've mentioned more than once before), which should get him on the field immediately.
KUBIAK isn't as high on Moreno because of our team projection system's fears about the Broncos' 2009 season. It also (rightly) expects Josh McDaniels to spread touches amongst his backs. I think that Moreno will have much more of an impact on the passing game than KUBIAK believes, and could very well end up having a season closer to Matt Forte's 2008 than the line above.
Other options at this spot would have been Ryan Grant (who I debated versus Moreno for a while), Reggie Bush, and Darren McFadden. I love McFadden, but I felt that Moreno was more likely to see the ball.
70 receptions, 842 receiving yards, 9 TD
Jason Witten came off the board (to Mr. Rosenthal) with the 35th pick, so Gates wasn't the first tight end chosen; while I don't have any wide receivers yet, I'm confident in my ability to find good receivers late (or on the waiver wire) and play matchups more effectively than anyone else in my league, so I'm willing to wait on going after Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker, or Chad Ochocinco here to grab the other top-tier TE left on the board.
Gates' disappointing 2008 came thanks to multiple injuries; he also had to block more in the passing game, thanks to the troubles of Jeromey Clary on the right side of the line. That line is a conservative estimate of what should expect from him in 2009.
79 receptions, 1081 receiving yards, 10 TD
OK, maybe going into a fantasy season with Donnie Avery as your top wide receiver is…suboptimal. I had Anthony Gonzalez and Vincent Jackson earmarked for this spot, but they went with two of the three selections before my pick.
Avery showed signs of great promise last year, and as the season went along, his game expanded; while he was strictly a deep threat earlier in the year, he emerged as an effective intermediate target once November and December rolled around. There's reason to be concerned about the lack of quality across from him, but getting Randy McMichael back will help.
This is another pick influenced by our team projections; we're more positive about the Rams than virtually anyone heading into 2009.
81 receptions, 1119 receiving yards, 7 TD
Who knew reuniting the 2008 Rams would ignite such controversy? Selecting Holt this early set off a firestorm in the chat, with multiple observers arguing that Holt was finished, had lost too many steps, was moving to grass, couldn't gain YAC, or one of a dozen other issues that precluded him from being a wise pick in the sixth round of a fantasy draft.
Our team projection system expects both the Jaguars' offense and the team as a whole to improve in 2009, but the bigger issue driving Holt's projection is simpler: Who else are the Jaguars going to throw to? There's only two other wideouts on the Jaguars roster who have caught an NFL pass: Mike Walker (16 catches last year) and Troy Williamson (5 last year, 84 total). No one else on the roster has any sort of pedigree indicating that they're likely to have a big season. Marcedes Lewis hasn't shown a proclivity to catch anything more than 40 passes. Simply put, someone has to catch the ball.
We believe that it'll be Holt.
Other choices here would've been DeSean Jackson, Lee Evans, or Bernard Berrian. Consider my pick a vote for KUBIAK.
62 receptions, 858 receiving yards, 5 TD
One of the things we cover in the book is how Kyle Orton's performance fell off a cliff after his ankle injury. With that in mind, it's remarkable how consistent Hester's raw performance was; watching him on tape, it's pretty clear that he actually did get better as the season went along. My belief is that he'll exhibit that in 2009, with some help from a superior quarterback in Jay Cutler. I think he was a far superior option to the other wide receivers available -- Santana Moss, Jerricho Cotchery, Kevin Walter, and Hines Ward -- and a better idea than reaching for Jamal Lewis or Darren Sproles.
131 carries, 504 rushing yards, 4 TD
Even the "experts" have picks they hate immediately after they make them. In this draft, McGahee was that guy. I was good and ready to take KUBIAK favorite Julius Jones, but he was taken with the pick before mine. I spent the full two minutes going back and forth between McGahee, Steve Breaston, and Donald Driver, but ended up drafting for need (backup running back) instead of value, and got the middling player that sort of strategy deserves.
I think he'll end up having more of a role in the Ravens' rushing attack than KUBIAK predicts, but I've never -- ever -- been high on McGahee as a quality back.
81 receptions, 1051 receiving yards, 9 TD
This is an all-or-nothing pick. Either Hixon is the Giants' starting receiver, and he has a very good season, or he's not -- and he's flotsam. KUBIAK is projecting him to be the starter all season here, and while I think that might not end up being the case, he'd still be a valuable pick if we cut his totals by 25 percent and said that Hakeem Nicks takes over by Week 13. He's certainly an asset to spot matchup-wise, with games against the Chiefs (Week 4), Saints (Week 6), Cardinals (Week 7) and Broncos (Week 12).
I chose Hixon over LeSean McCoy, Ted Ginn, and (hoping that he'd fall to my next pick) Jamaal Charles.
50 sacks, 19 INT, 11 fumble recoveries, 3.7 TD
KUBIAK projects the Chargers to be the second-best fantasy defense in football, behind only the Bears, but I'm more confident in the Chargers' ability to meet their projections. KUBIAK isn't aware that the Chargers didn't have Shawne Merriman last year, nor that Antonio Cromartie was far from 100 percent. Getting those two guys back on the field as themselves (although Cromartie's always an injury risk) puts them over the top for me.
(Ed. Note: Actually, KUBIAK *does* know about Merriman coming back, with injury variables plus an "add a big sack player" binary variable that also hits the Giants for Umenyiora and the Redskins for Haynesworth. It doesn't know about Cromartie, though, and neither does our absurd team projection for the Chargers. -- Aaron Schatz)
The Ravens were selected 15 picks ahead of the Chargers defense; I chose to go with a defense over taking a backup quarterback, Chester Taylor, or Ahmad Bradshaw.
117 carries, 547 rushing yards, 1 TD
41 receptions, 385 receiving yards, 1 TD
Injury speculation here; if Michael Turner goes down, Norwood becomes a valuable player. If he doesn't, Norwood will still be an effective member of the passing game with some value in certain matchups and when my starters are on bye.
I preferred him to Jerome Harrison and Fred Taylor.
41 receptions, 687 receiving yards, 4 TD
He's the number one player on our Top 25 Prospects list -- I had to take him. Even if Austin's only the third threat in the Cowboys' passing offense, he's a dynamic downfield receiver with very good hands (not to mention his love from DVOA). He's got significant upside and could end up being an absolute steal this late. I had no qualms about choosing him over Kevin Curtis, Nate Washington, and Muhsin Muhammad.
56 carries, 235 rushing yards, 1 TD
35 receptions, 253 receiving yards, 1 TD
A pure handcuff here, taking Buckhalter in case Moreno gets hurt (a Broncos running back getting hurt‽) or isn't prepared to play at this level. Of course, with the way Josh McDaniels uses running backs, this is sort of handcuffing a whale to a rope.
Since you're reading FO, you know that kicker accuracy has no year-to-year correlation. So I just choose the kicker on the best offense available. In this case, that was Gostkowski.
48 receptions, 684 receiving yards, 3 TD
Not a sexy pick to finish the draft, but Jenkins is a reliable third target with a relatively easy start to the season (Miami, Carolina, New England); truthfully, my last roster spot gets turned over virtually every week, so I'm not particularly concerned about who's in it. If you're looking for a Week 1 bargain, options here could include Chris Henry (playing Denver defense), Devery Henderson (vs. Lions), or whichever Ravens fall to the final round (vs. Chiefs).
So, did I embarrass FO? Or can I wear my "fantasy expert" hat proudly? I'm anxious to see what you think.
33 comments, Last at 27 Jul 2009, 6:54pm by Thiede