This week’s Futures makes a visit to the past. Matt Waldman lists the 10 most influential prospects in his development as a talent evaluator.
11 Jan 2012
by Mike Kurtz and Tom Gower
Tom: So, Mike, in honor of a playoff loss, let's shift gears to the regular season. We'll talk about "the fantasy team you could have had," if only you'd drafted awesomely.
Mike: If only!
Tom: Our goal: to put together the best possible fantasy team based on average draft position, picking one player from each around. That way, you can't just load up on great players by taking all first-round picks like Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, and Andre Johnson.
Mike: That would be rather useless, yes.
Tom: Almost as useless as a fantasy team with those three players on it, even.
Mike: I'm disappointed that you couldn't dredge up another Johnson, personally. There are so many.
Tom: There are. I didn't even specify which Chris Johnson. There's also the Raiders cornerback for those of us who were in IDP leagues.
Mike: This experiment, it should be mentioned, will not deal with IDP, because IDP is still such an uncommon league setting.
Tom: If we went with a 30-round IDP draft, this column might end up longer than last year's prop bets column, and nobody wants that. We're going with a 10-team league, starting QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/TE/flex/K/D.
(The final roster for our all-star team is found here.)
Mike: Hey, isn't that the default KUBIAK roster?
Tom: As a matter of fact, it is. Although KUBIAK's default is for a 12-team league. The real question is: how you go about constructing a team using this framework? Do you go round-by-round, or do you try to find the best players and then fill in? Take, for instance, Aaron Rodgers. He's sitting there at an ADP of 10. He had the most fantasy points in the league, and finished first in VBD, but is he the best pick?
Mike: I don't see why not. At 10, you're already past a rather steep droff in running back quality.
Tom: Well, Rodgers had a VBD value of 215. Drew Brees was at 209, and had an ADP of 29. You could instead take Ray Rice in the first-round, as the drop-off from Rice to any third-round back was bigger than the Rodgers-to-Brees dropoff.
Mike: I think the best way to start is to just look at it by position and try to figure out tiers of players.
Tom: if you look at the PFR link, you can sort players by their VBD value. It's probably very safe for us to assume that Rob Gronkowski, ADP of 111, is the best choice at tight end.
Tom: If I were clever, we could probably do this mathematically by setting up algorithm to pick best team.
Mike: That sounds dangerously like thinking.
Tom: It does, doesn't it? So, I took a look at the other third-round picks. Mike Wallace was the second-best third-round pick. He was the ninth-best wide receiver, in terms of total fantasy points. Steven Jackson was the most valuable third-round running back. He was only worth 35 VBD points, compared to Brees' 209. So you can have Rodgers (215) plus Jackson (35), or Brees (209) plus Ray Rice (154).
(At this point, the ADP macro in Mike's spreadsheet inexplicably breaks.)
Mike: Well that's just fantastic. Anyway, I imagine that there is another good running back around that pick in the second round.
Tom: Well, in the second round, we pretty much have two options: Calvin Johnson's ADP was 11, and he was the league's most valuable fantasy wide receiver. Alternately, you have Maurice Jones-Drew at 13. He was the most valuable fantasy running back with an ADP outside the first round. I should note we're using ADP from the September 3 KUBIAK update here.
Mike: What is the difference between Johnson and the highest-ranked fourth-round receiver?
Tom: Um, the fourth round? You don't want to know what was in the fourth round.
Mike: That good, huh?
Tom: Dwayne Bowe and Dez Bryant were the most valuable fourth-rounders. Antonio Gates and Ahmad Bradshaw were good fantasy players when fully healthy, which wasn't that often, so they're probably somewhat more valuable than their total fantasy points would indicate. And then you had Felix Jones, Jahvid Best, Peyton Manning, Tampa Mike Williams, Shonn Greene, and Reggie Wayne.
Tom: Well, I'd personally go with Megatron in the second and probably Bradshaw over Jones.
Mike: Yeah, I think I agree.
Tom: Both players missed four games, and Bradshaw's 11 touchdowns to Jones' one made him a more valuable fantasy player.
Mike: So as it is, we have:
Mike: All right, fifth round.
Tom: In the fifth round, we only have two choices. Wes Welker was the third-best wideout. Alternatively, we have Ryan Mathews, who actually finished as the seventh-most valuable fantasy back. Welker provides much more added value, and also caused me to pull out my hair less.
Mike: We have to go with the added value. Plus, that brings us even to two running backs and two wide receivers, which means we can poach value near the end with our flex.
Tom: I concur. For the sixth round, there were four valuable picks. We know we're taking Gronkowski, so there's no need for Jason Witten. Of the three wide receivers, would you believe Percy Harvin was more valuable than Stevie Johnson or Marques Colston? I've had it fixed in my head that Harvin had a really disappointing year, but he had 967 yards receiving and eight total touchdowns.
Mike: That is truly astounding. I suppose he was basically their entire passing game.
Tom: The difference was really the rushing value. He had 52 carries for 345 yards after having only 15 and 18 carries his first two seasons.
Tom: Plus, he has kickoff return value, though not as much as in years past. Still, I wouldn't have guessed that one.
Mike: I suppose Harvin's our man, then!
Tom: For the seventh round, I'm left to ponder what might have been with Kenny Britt. In his almost two-and-a-half games before going down with an ACL injury, he was on pace for a Calvin Johnson-like season.
Mike: I really don't buy that. I understand he was on pace, but a lot of guys are always on pace for a lot of crazy things. Plus, we have all of our receiver and flex spots filled.
Tom: Well, yes, that's extrapolation based on a very small sample size. They did have similar DVOA, modestly similar catch rates, and if you extrapolate out Britt's raw numbers, you end up with something close to Johnson's. Even I'm not delusional enough to think he actually would have put up that season, but I'm dreaming here.
Mike: It's good to dream! At this point we're dealing with kicker and defense, if my scorecard is correct.
Tom: The highest-rated defense by ADP was the Steelers, down in the ninth round.
Mike: I figured we would have this problem, kickers and defenses aren't taken before the eighth round. When was Gronkowski taken, again?
Tom: Gronk's ADP was 111th, so the 12th round.
Mike: I really don't want to take Britt.
Mike: Wells had a pretty good year, considering his situation.
Tom: He did, actually. 17th in DYAR, and over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns made him a reasonably valuable fantasy player. I'm not quite sure how he managed only ten catches and 52 receiving yards, though. That seems pretty remarkable.
Mike: Catching the ball requires someone with some skill to actually throw the ball at him.
Tom: That kind of feat actually seems to be a little more common than I thought it was. Willis McGahee actually had more rushing yards and even fewer yards receiving (granted, 51). This is actually the fourth straight season that there's been at least one running back with 1,000 yards rushing and fewer than seventy-five yards receiving.
Mike: This is what we do in our free time, folks.
Tom: The next round, we have another deeply uninspiring choice. Check that, we're on round eight, and we have two great players in round eight: Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch. Gronk was far and away the most valuable tight end, but Graham was a star in his own right.
Mike: There is no reason to pack more than one tight end, although I agree that Graham was great this year. Lynch, on the other hand, would actually add something to the team.
Tom: No, there generally is not, though if you could put a tight end in your flex spot, Graham was more valuable than plenty of other wide receivers. Lynch finished fifth among running backs in fantasy points. He'd be worth starting over Bradshaw.
Mike: Lynch is a great option.
Tom: And now we come to the ninth round. If you picked Matthew Stafford, congratulations, you hit a home run. Here's where the Steelers show up, but they weren't a great fantasy defense this year. Tony Gonzalez was a good value pick, but for our team, the best option is actually Pierre Garcon.
Mike: I'm guessing Minnesota is going to be our value defense?
Tom: Would you believe the 49ers? Well, they have an ADP outside the top 150. I don't know how you feel about reaching outside our normal draftable range at the bottom.
Mike: I am strongly against it. This is a longstanding principle that I have just made up right now.
Tom: Fair enough. In that case, David Akers and the 49ers defense are right out.
Mike: Which is only fitting, considering they are the engines of San Francisco's success this year.
Tom: We are kind of stuck, though. There's no kicker with an ADP in the top 150.
Mike: I guess I will have to violate my core beliefs and allow us to throw Akers in.
Tom: If we go by ESPN's ranks, then we do have a couple options. Akers and Sebastian Janikowski, however, both fall outside their top 150.
Mike: I'd rather throw in Akers than adopt a new ranking system just for one position. Akers in the last round, then?
Tom: In that case, David Akers is our fifteenth-round pick.
Mike: This is exciting! We're not even halfway done yet.
Tom: Sure we are. We took Garcon in the ninth round. We have Akers in the fifteenth round. Gronk goes in the twelfth round. So we have rounds 10, 11, 13, and 14.
Mike: What defenses went in round 10?
Tom: The Packers and Eagles, who were seventh and eighth in standard Yahoo league scoring.
Mike: Not great.
Tom: Or we could just grab Steve Smith (the one who actually played this year).
Mike: Maybe we get rid of Garcon and take Smith in the 10th.
Tom: I wasn't actually suggesting we play Garcon, merely that he was the most valuable overall player in that round.
Mike: I understand, which is why we should not hesitate to ditch him for a defense. Or anything, really.
Tom: Our best option seems to be waiting for the fourteenth round and taking the Lions defense.
Mike: The Lions' defense was awful!
Tom: They were a great fantasy defense!
Mike: Great as in what, 12th?
Tom: Tied for third in my Yahoo league with the Ravens.
Mike: Wow. I did not know that. Interceptions and sacks?
Tom: They had eight more turnovers and three more defensive touchdowns. Even though they gave up 101 more points.
Mike: Ah, touchdowns.
Tom: We could actually take the Ravens defense, but Michael Bush was a reasonably valuable running back in the eleventh round.
Mike: No reason to do so, since the Lions were inexplicably great.
Tom: Yup. The Bears went in the 13th round, but we have to use our 13th round pick on Jordy Nelson, who was great.
Mike: He absolutely was, and almost derailed my fantasy championship.
Tom: Yup. I think that's our team.
Mike: That fell into place surprisingly well at the end.
Tom: We had to do a little bit of planning based on foreknowledge. If you were looking at it as an actual fantasy draft, we'd have been led astray at a few points, but that's not the point of an exercise like this one.
Tom: Instead, we have a completely awesome fantasy team, and if you insist on a backup quarterback, we're dropping Garcon and taking Stafford instead.
Mike: Oh, but I do. Garcon is out, Stafford is in. For those who couldn't keep up, here is our final team:
1. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
4. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
5. Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
6. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings
7. Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals
8. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
10. Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
11. Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders
12. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
13. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
14. Detroit Lions D/ST
15. David Akers, K, San Francisco 49ers
Everybody has lost at least one member of their team, although Danny received reasonably good value for Calvin Johnson in the one game he got him and is currently in first place. Aaron lost two wide receivers and a running back without getting double-digit points from any one of them, but with Tom Brady he’s still probably better off than your two Scramble writers, who are down four and six spots, respectively, including quarterback for both of them.
|FO Playoff Wild Card Results|
|Sean||Aaron Rodgers||--||Ahmad Bradshaw||8||Willis McGahee||4||Jordy Nelson||--||Hakeem Nicks||23||Torrey Smith||--||Jimmy Graham||11||Mike Nugent||4||CIN||-2||48|
|Rivers||Drew Brees||33||Darren Sproles||20||Stevan Ridley||--||Victor Cruz||2||Anquan Boldin||--||Roddy White||5||Rob Gronk.||--||Billy Cundiff||--||HOU||15||75|
|Tom||Ben R.||17||Ryan Grant||--||Pierre Thomas||17||Antonio Brown||7||Wes Welker||--||Andre Johnson||15||Heath Miller||6||Shaun Suisham||12||SF||--||74|
|Danny||Eli Manning||26||Arian Foster||29||Frank Gore||--||Greg Jennings||--||Calvin Johnson||33||Michael Crabtree||--||Aaron Hernandez||--||David Akers||--||BAL||--||88|
|Aaron||Tom Brady||--||Michael Turner||4||Isaac Redman||14||Mike Wallace||8||Julio Jones||6||Donald Driver||--||Jermichael Finley||--||Mason Crosby||--||GB||--||32|
|Mike||Matt Ryan||9||Ray Rice||--||Cedric Benson||7||Marques Colston||10||A.J. Green||4||Lance Moore||0||Jermaine Gresham||4||Matt Bryant||--||PIT||-2||32|
Matthew Stafford’s 33 points keyed most of the better Best of the Rest teams. T.J. Yates had barely more than a third his total, but has a chance to accumulate more points starting against the Ravens next week. There was no standout running back, as Brandon Jacobs and his nine points were the best of the opening weekend. Mario Manningham and Robert Meachem were the double-digit receivers, so if you’re Podge and had both of them, you’re in good shape. Tied with Podge at 68 is Tally, though a Lions-heavy team is not in the best shape going forward. Joseph (67) and the K (64) are also in striking distance, but really, after one week, it’s anybody’s game.
Mike: This week saw Pepsi Max guy take on all sorts of banal professions, including majordomo of the beverage vendors and, here, motivational speaker for the New York Football Jets.
Tom: Can he coach offensive line? The Jets never found a solution at right tackle, and now Bill Callahan, who was very highly regarded, is working for the Cowboys.
Mike: I'm sure he can with as much aplomb as he has done these other tasks: poorly. Keep in mind who Pepsi Max guy associates with. Principally, Mark Sanchez. He has made all the wrong career moves, I think, especially since he'll have to pay for busting down the wall of Whatever We're Calling That Stadium This Week.
Mike: No, Pepsi Max Guy, although I have always wondered.
Tom: This is really symbolically a much richer commercial than I'm sure either Pepsi Max or the New York Jets were anticipating.
Mike: Do the Jets actually take Rex seriously? You know he gives these pep talks, but despite his skill at coaching he's a rather comical figure.
Tom: I think teams have to take their head coach at least somewhat seriously. The Jets were a great defense and had great special teams this year. If players aren't playing hard, I'd expect it to show up in special teams play in particular.
Mike: That is an interesting theory.
Tom: I have little confidence in that particular theory.
Mike: Those are the best theories. You're probably right. On the other hand, why is he ceding the stage to a guy whose tale of success against the odds consists of a straw man and vague platitudes?
Tom: The guy he's ceding the stage do just gave him a beverage AND took out a wall with a large object capable of killing him. He also magically caused a whiteboard to appear and then disappear.
Mike: That is impressive. I did not notice that.
Tom: Maybe it's just really misleading camera work, but based on the position of the whiteboard relative to the driver-side door, it really does seem to magically appear when the wall breaks, then disappear by the time Pepsi Max guy starts talking.
Mike: I think they frame it slightly out but that does seem shady. What was on that whiteboard, eh?
Tom: I'm trying to get a good fix on the diagram, but it looks it might be a quarterback counter. Well, maybe not a counter.
Mike: Probably an actual Jets play call.
Tom: The man under center is taking the ball and going to the right. The single setback is blocking the left defensive end, it appears. Normally I'd expect the running back to work to the left so the defense doesn't bite on the boot action. Maybe the quarterback is faking a bubble screen to the left side and then booting.
Mike: Like I said, an actual Jets play, for a loss of about four.
Tom: Well, there may be a wide receiver out to the right side they're hoping to get single coverage on.
Mike: Anyway, you said there was some symbolism in this commercial. For once, I'm not seeing it.
Tom: Well, one of the reasons the Jets season ended the way it did was that Santonio Holmes and the rest of the team hated each other. When you have a player a guy like NFL Films guru Greg Cosell considers one of the top-half-dozen receivers in the game and an otherwise problematic offense, you do your best to find a way to make that work. The Jets were on the verge of the playoffs at 8-6, then lost their last two games. A bunch of players running through a cinder block wall would help explain how they lost to the Giants and Dolphins.
Mike: This theory does make a surprising amount of sense.
Tom: I think you're just inclined to believe the worst about Rex, Sanchez, and the Jets. Then again, so am I. So, Pepsi Max, how does it feel to have voluntarily associated your product with this kind of failure for which you may be responsible?
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD
Tom: I realized we don't have a KCW nominee. Is there a Steelers player you'd like to suggest?
Mike: Ike Taylor. He was an elite corner this year and was given man responsibilities against Tim Tebow and failed epically.
Tom: To be fair, I think Demaryius Thomas is a great fit for what Denver is now doing offensively. He's a big vertical threat who has a lot of experience in an option offense where he was required to do a lot of blocking.
Mike: That's fine, but Taylor played very poorly when given great responsibility.
Tom: I don't mean to absolve Taylor of any blame. My thought for KCW was Adam "Pacman" Jones, but Taylor did the same thing he did and a lot more.
Mike: Yeah, it was a supremely frustrating game.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Is Marvin Lewis allergic to having a challenge in the second half of a playoff game? Two years ago we highlighted him in this space for questionable challenge use in the Bengals' game against the Jets, and now we wonder what on earth could possibly justify using a challenge to avoid third-and-1 and instead pick up an additional yard. The Bengals didn't lose this game because of the challenges, but it didn't aid their efforts either.
COLBERT AWARD: Mike Smith got all the press for his fourth-down decisions his week, but one of the reasons the Saints kept scoring on the Lions is that Sean Payton wasn’t content to kick the ball. Instead, he twice went for it on fourth down, including at his own 36 in the second quarter, when the Saints were trailing 14-7. The Saints converted both times, and ended up scoring on every possession that didn't end in a fumble, excluding the final drive.
36 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2012, 11:46am by idembsky