Antonio Brown is a late-round steal, but which active WR has beaten the odds of the draft and his QB? We studied the breakout seasons of the 20 all-time leading receivers and recent hidden gems. How important is QB play in developing a WR?
21 Aug 2012
by Danny Tuccitto
Last week, we gave you eight underrated players that were going much lower per Average Draft Position (ADP) than their KUBIAK projections warranted. Well, it's a week later, we've updated KUBIAK and ADP, and are now ready to go ahead with our overrated players. Fantasy drafts are all about getting maximum value at each pick, so the following list includes players you want to avoid based on the idea that their perceived value (ADP) is higher than their actual value (KUBIAK).
QB Rank per KUBIAK: 12
QB Rank per ADP: 7
As we pointed out in Football Outsiders Almanac 2012 (still available in PDF or paperback form), Romo has been a far better passer than he's given credit for among the public and punditocracy. Usually, that would be an opportunity for arbitrage, but a few factors make it not so in 2012. First, we project Dallas to have one of the toughest schedules in the league, including early season games at Seattle and Baltimore.
More importantly, though, is the fact that this year is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory at fantasy quarterback thanks to the return of Peyton Manning, last year's breakout from Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton, our high expectations for Matt Ryan, and the potential for a ton of running value from Robert Griffin III. By our count, after the big three (or four) of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton, there's little separation between the next 10 quarterbacks, which includes Romo. Ranked seventh according to ADP, is he really that much better than guys being taken after him like Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Schaub?
QB Rank per KUBIAK: 33
QB Rank per ADP: 22
This one's more of an honorable mention because it's unlikely anyone devotee of Football Outsiders would consider Tebow in their draft except to screw a rival Jets fan. I just have to list him as overrated here as a public service announcement. If it was just an ADP thing, maybe I'd leave him out, but ESPN currently ranks him 22nd as well, and Yahoo! has him 17th. So, although this should go without saying, please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT DRAFT Tim Tebow.
RB Rank per KUBIAK: 59
RB Rank per ADP: 46
RB Rank per KUBIAK: 36
RB Rank per ADP: 23
The Steelers backfield is a mess. Mendenhall was almost a lock for the regular season PUP list until Isaac Redman's recent hip and groin injuries sent Pittsburgh into a panic. So now the nominal starter is hurt, and the sidelined starter may be returning prematurely. Negatively affecting both are No. 3 back Jonathan Dwyer (also coming off a 2011 injury), who is averaging eight yards per carry in the preseason, and rookie Chris Rainey, who will get plenty of touches as part of Todd Haley's "McCluster-f**k" philosophy. In other words, Redman won't be getting fantasy RB2-level touches while Mendenhall's out, and Mendenhall won't be getting RB1-level touches when he returns.
In that context, the real ADP mystery here is Mendenhall. If we assume the average fantasy league has 12 teams, then Mendenhall's ADP means he's being taken as a low-end RB4. Why is he being drafted at all? Are people trying to be clever here, stashing away a bona fide star that will help them come playoff time? With the aid of our injury database, I could only find six backs over the past 10 years who missed the first four-to-six weeks or returned at some point after starting the season on the PUP list. A 34-year-old Priest Holmes started 2007 on the PUP list, scored 14 fantasy points in four games, and then reinjured his neck. Ryan Torain suffered the same PUP-to-ineffective-to-reinjury fate the following year (13 points in two games), and Holmes' 2007 replacement, Kolby Smith, was the curse's victim in 2009 (four points in four games). James Starks returned from PUP in time for Green Bay's Super Bowl run, but only scored 12 fantasy points over the final seven games. Last season, Kevin Faulk scored nine points in seven games. Taken together that's 52 points in 24 games after being activated, or just over two points per game for these five backs.
The only case of the six that even approaches mediocrity is Chris Ivory scoring 43 points in seven games last year after the Saints activated him off the PUP list. So now we're up to 95 points in 31 games for six backs. Even if we agree that Mendenhall's situation is different insofar as his injury occurred when he was a young No. 1 back (for now), what kind of bonus over the three-point average should we give him here? Should we double it? If we double it, can't we find a player with better upside for our RB4 who doesn't come with knee issues, an uncertain usage rate, and six weeks of a wasted roster spot?
RB Rank per KUBIAK: 45
RB Rank per ADP: 32
There are several "handcuff" running backs going at least 10 spots higher than their KUBIAK position ranking, but Robert Turbin and Isaiah Pead are getting selected about where you'd expect given the depth of typical fantasy rosters. The KUBIAK discrepancy is just because we're projecting their value as fantasy scorers, not as insurance policies.
Tate, on the other hand, is a handcuff going ahead of starters like Kevin Smith, Shane Vereen, Evan Royster, and Pierre Thomas. Not to mention that he's also going ahead of committee members with guaranteed touches like Jonathan Stewart.
And make no mistake; although his 128 fantasy points last year might suggest otherwise, Tate is a handcuff through and through. One of the biggest misconceptions in fantasy football over the past half-decade is that Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak love using multiple running backs. Even a cursory review of their histories shows that's not the case. When Shanahan found Terrell Davis, he ran him into the ground. When Davis got hurt, he ran Mike Anderson into the ground. When he found Clinton Portis, he ran him into the ground, and then traded him to Washington. It was only after that trade, when he had to muddle through with mediocre backs like Tatum Bell, Mike Bell, and Selvin Young et al. that Shanahan developed his promiscuous reputation. Same goes for Kubiak with respect to Arian Foster vis-a-vis Ron Dayne, Steve Slaton, and Ryan Moats et al.
Just look at Tate's game logs from last year. He scored 27 points in the first two games starting because of a Foster injury, and scored eight more in Week 3 as Foster was getting back into game shape. Then, in Week 4, with Foster fully healthy, two carries for 20 yards. Over the final 13 games, Tate had 10 or more fantasy points only four times. Three were in mop-up duty during games Houston won by a combined score of 108-28, and the fourth was the proverbial "rest our starters" game in Week 17. In other words, unless Foster was hurt, being rested during a blowout, or being rested when the game didn't matter, Tate was a virtual non-entity from a fantasy perspective. Does this sound like the usage pattern of a guy who you'd want to have as your fantasy RB3? No. It sounds like a handcuff. Sure, the best handcuff in the league, but a handcuff nonetheless.
And remember, full disclosure, Football Outsiders was one of the first passengers -- if not reclining in first class seat 1A -- on the Tate bandwagon when he came out of college.
RB Rank per KUBIAK: 42
RB Rank per ADP: 27
It's one thing for people to downplay the injury-prone reputation of a running back like Darren McFadden at a moment when he's actually healthy. It's quite another for Wells to still be going as a low-end RB2 even though he's currently injured and coming off a hush-hush knee surgery. We like Ryan Williams better for this year and probably for the long haul as well.
WR Rank per KUBIAK: 63
WR Rank per ADP: 34
We covered this extensively in FOA12 and my Q&A with Niners Nation, but it's worth repeating here for full effect. Moss's primary role in San Francisco's offense this season is likely to be that of a tactical weapon that distracts defensive attention away from Vernon Davis and the running game.
Also, fantasy owners seem to be suffering from the widespread affliction called "not realizing that individual receiving projections have to add up to team passing projections." The 49ers were one of only three teams to run more than they passed last year. Even with a modest increase in pass attempts for various reason -- which we've incorporated into our KUBIAK projections -- that still doesn't leave enough targets for Moss to warrant fantasy WR3 status.
WR Rank per KUBIAK: 78
WR Rank per ADP: 49
Randy's low KUBIAK projection doesn't have much to do with age-related decline, but Santana's does. Over the offseason, we did an internal analysis to try to figure out why our wide receiver projections weren't as accurate as those of other outfits -- or as accurate as our own quarterback and running back projections. One of the things we found was that KUBIAK's crystal ball sees the disappearing act of old receivers much more clearly than the appearing act of young receivers. Basically, we're fantasy football's version of a doomsday cult -- without the repeated failures and ritualistic suicides. I guess that actually makes us nothing like a doomsday cult, but hey, metaphors are as tough as projections.
WR Rank per KUBIAK: 28
WR Rank per ADP: 13
At first, I thought the discrepancy between Bryant's KUBIAK and ADP was because of KUBIAK being more up to date. But then I did an ADP search with drafts only included if they were real (i.e., not mock) and had taken place since August 15th. Lo and behold, he's still being drafted as the No. 13 wide receiver.
Our KUBIAK projection incorporates his latest knee injury -- in addition to the ones he's been nursing since the beginning of time -- as well as a potential suspension for smacking around his own mother. Of course, there's also the strength-of-schedule factor I mentioned above for Romo. We think you can do better at WR1 than to take on this headache.
TE Rank per KUBIAK: 19
TE Rank per ADP: 13
Loyal readers of Football Outsiders will remember that we tapped Cook as our No. 1 prospect in FOA 2011. Fool us once, shame on him. Fool us twice, shame on us. Regardless of what he does this year, he's on our lifetime do-not-call list.
Oh, you want objective reasons? Well, the main ones are that (a) Cook still cedes playing time to Craig Stevens because of the latter's blocking prowess; and (b) as was the case with quarterbacks, the market for starting-caliber fantasy tight ends is as deep as it's ever been. If you're looking for a young tight end with significant upside, Coby Fleener, Dustin Keller, and 2012 FO man crush Kyle Rudolph are all better options going after Cook according to ADP.
34 comments, Last at 25 Aug 2012, 7:29am by Mr Shush