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.
26 Aug 2010
by Bill Barnwell
Although we've kept it out of the book over the past couple of years, the Fantasy Risers and Fallers piece that we formerly included in the Pro Football Prospectus days has been an oft-requested feature. As we did last year, we're happy to present it online instead.
As with last year's piece, I'm going to focus on players who have a large gap between their KUBIAK rank and their ADP in fantasy drafts around the Internet, attempt to highlight what KUBIAK sees that the masses are avoiding, and discuss how much faith I have in our friendly algorithm's thinking. KUBIAK rank is based on standard scoring settings, the ones you find as default when you download the application.
Remember that just because KUBIAK ranks a player higher than national ADP, it doesn't mean you draft him in that spot. If KUBIAK ranks a player 20th, and national ADP has him 60th, that's a player you start to consider drafting around pick 40 or so.
If you haven't purchased KUBIAK yet, remember that our Excel application features the ability to customize league rules, updates for the preseason, many more stat categories than are listed in FOA 2010, and individual defensive players. You can buy it for $20 here.
KUBIAK Rank: 8
National ADP: 41
Forte is discussed at length in the book as perhaps the ideal bounce-back candidate. He spent most of last season with a knee injury, his line was terrible, and he had an extremely fluky level of subpar play near the goal line. One thing not mentioned in the book is that he had 57 catches and didn't score a receiving touchdown. Only 44 players in the past 20 seasons have caught 50 or more passes without taking the ball to the house at least once. The acquisition of Chester Taylor and arrival of Mike Martz could be pushing owners away from Forte, but KUBIAK has him projected for a very reasonable 285 touches. The last guy with this sort of profile was Thomas Jones before the 2008 season, and he went from 66th in fantasy points to ninth. Forte went from eighth in 2008 to 63rd last year. He should be far closer to eighth again this year.
KUBIAK Rank: 16
National ADP: 35
Brown has a remarkably high touchdown total -- for his 215 carries, Brown is expected to score 12 rushing touchdowns. For that, you can thank the work of the offensive line in front of him. The Dolphins were second in the league in power situations a year ago, and two Dolphins backs were 1-2 in power conversions over expectation (although it was Ricky Williams and Lousaka Polite, thanks to Brown's injury). People are inherently hesitant to take Brown because he's an injury risk, but the players around him (LeSean McCoy, Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells) have their own risks.
KUBIAK Rank: 44
National ADP: 107
OK, so McNabb is moving out of a pass-happy system. And he's an injury risk. And he's playing behind an offensive line that's been rebuilt on the fly. And every one of his wide receivers seems to be a bad dream. On the other hand, Jammal Brown and Trent Williams should be a good pair of tackles, he's got an excellent group of receivers at running back and tight end, and the struggles of the other wide receivers tend to blind people to the fact that Santana Moss has nearly 2,000 yards over the last two seasons. I suppose the issue is how frequently Mike Shanahan throws the ball. Jay Cutler threw 616 passes in Shanahan's final year in Denver, but that came during the year of infinite halfback injuries. In the two prior seasons, Denver starters threw an average of 460 passes. KUBIAK essentially splits the difference and has McNabb at 516 attempts, but factor in the built-in expectation for McNabb getting hurt, and it thinks that the Redskins are going to throw the ball at a rate approaching that 2008 rate. Perhaps that's too bold, but should McNabb really be behind Joe Flacco?
KUBIAK Rank: 49
National ADP: 94
Not to pick on Flacco, but I also couldn't believe that the Unibrowed One was ahead of Ryan on the ADP charts. Ryan had 232 points in what amounted to a 13-game season; Flacco had 252 points in 16. Yes, Flacco is getting Anquan Boldin this year, but Boldin is just about Flacco's only above-average receiver (we may not share the same opinions about Ray Rice and Todd Heap), while Ryan should benefit from an improved year from Roddy White and the return of Harry Douglas from ACL surgery. Ryan is going off the board as a QB2 when he's really a second-division starter with some upside. (Remember that he gets a boost in KUBIAK rank as the only starting quarterback with "Blue" Risk Factor.) I'm not so sure I wouldn't take Ryan ahead of Matt Schaub (ADP of 38). Certainly, I'd rather flip it and have Ronnie Brown and Ryan than, say, Schaub and Thomas Jones (ADP of 93).
KUBIAK Rank: 20
National ADP: 60
Ward had a season straight out of his peak a year ago, with 95 catches and nearly 1,200 yards. Now, 34-year-old receivers are a scary proposition, but similar guys -- Tim Brown, Rod Smith, and Donald Driver come to mind -- were able to sustain their previous level of performance. These sort of wideouts tend to play at a really high level before suffering a huge, sudden dropoff that they can't recover from. It's very difficult to predict when that dropoff will occur. The absence of Ben Roethlisberger comes into play, but Byron Leftwich wasn't actually all that bad last year after you account for the difficulty of his short schedule. I charted both of those games, and against Dallas, Leftwich was running for his life before he even finished his drop.
KUBIAK Rank: 54
National ADP: 99
I'm one of the people who believes that Early Doucet will end up playing the Anquan Boldin role in the Cardinals offense. And losing Kurt Warner is going to hurt the Cardinals passing attack. But Breaston is going to start the season, at least, playing across from Larry Fitzgerald. That means something. He should be healthy after a knee injury cost him time in 2009. I'd certainly take him well ahead of Robert Meachem (ADP of 92).
KUBIAK Rank: 174
National ADP: 141
The case for Smith as a viable NFL quarterback rests upon a really easy schedule and a fluky performance inside the red zone last year. The red-zone performance isn't going to stick -- the Niners were second-to-last in the league in red zone performance in 2008, and while that was without Michael Crabtree, it was with Vernon Davis, who did most of the damage a year ago. The schedule is still going to be pretty easy, but the Seahawks and Rams should be better this year (they can't be much worse). In all likelihood, there won't be seven percentage points between his DVOA and VOA.
KUBIAK Rank: 202
National ADP: 101
Palmer was a very good quarterback in this league through 2006, but since 2007, he's been disturbingly average. His yards per attempt have gone from 7.4 to 6.8, and while part of that has to do with the aging of Chad Ochocinco and the eventual departure of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ochocinco remains the only NFL-caliber receiver on the roster at any position. He played 16 games last year, but Palmer was clearly injured by the end of the season. Questions about his supporting cast and health make him a player to avoid.
KUBIAK Rank: 107
National ADP: 68
Reggie Bush's rank in fantasy points among running backs in each of his four seasons as a pro: 17, 24, 36, 35. His touches have fallen each season. He had 117 touches in 14 games a year ago, less than half of what he was averaging as a rookie, when he had 243 touches in 16 games. He was finally effective as a runner last year, averaging 5.6 yards a carry after failing to go above 3.8 YPC in any other season, but I would suspect that's a fluke of having 70 carries to work with. Maybe he's suddenly going to break out after four seasons. That's a risk you should let someone else take in the fifth round.
KUBIAK Rank: 46
National ADP: 14
This isn't Madden. On merit, Calvin Johnson is arguably the most talented receiver in football. In a vacuum, he could be the best wideout in fantasy football. He doesn't play in a vacuum, though. He plays in Detroit, where his quarterback is Matthew Stafford, and he's limped through two of his three professional seasons. The addition of Tony Scheffler isn't going to take any heat off of him; it's not like defenses are going to worry about Scheffler and stop doubling Johnson. In a better situation, he would deserve to be 14th, but the soft factors are too important.
KUBIAK Rank: 55
National ADP: 16
I've written at ESPN Insider about how Austin's YAC is unsustainable (although I did not write that headline), and injury is also something to consider here -- one of the reasons Austin didn't break out until midway through the 2009 season is a string of hamstring injuries. Those don't normally go away.
KUBIAK Rank: 67
National ADP: 18
People are underestimating the contextual shift for Marshall. He's playing with the worst quarterback of his career now (although this changes if Chad Pennington ends up with the starting job at some point during the year). He's on a team that runs the ball a large percentage of the time, and he's in a division with the league's toughest group of pass defenses. There just aren't 165 targets in the hopper.
52 comments, Last at 19 Sep 2010, 5:54am by evenchunkiermonkey