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21 Aug 2012

2012 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

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).

Tony Romo
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?

Tim Tebow
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.

Rashard Mendenhall
RB Rank per KUBIAK: 59
RB Rank per ADP: 46

Isaac Redman
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?

Ben Tate
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.

Beanie Wells
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.

Randy Moss
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.

Santana Moss
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.

Dez Bryant
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.

Jared Cook
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.

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 21 Aug 2012

34 comments, Last at 25 Aug 2012, 7:29am by Mr Shush

Comments

4
by Key19 :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 8:29pm

I still don't get why Dez Bryant has a suspension incorporated into his projection.

EDIT: Apparently yesterday's update removed the suspension projection. My apologies.

1
by Joe T. :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 7:43pm

Moreno was drafted by McDaniels, not Shanahan. Maybe you are thinking of Reuben Droughns?

2
by Joe T. :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 7:44pm

Good article BTW, don't really mean to nitpick.

3
by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 8:11pm

Ack! Actually meant Selvin Young. Was playing next-season roulette with PFR's DEN team pages, and stopped at '09 when I thought I was stopping at '08. Fixed.

5
by Christopher Bennett (not verified) :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 9:30pm

Domanick (Davis) Williams was run into the ground under Dom Capers. He last carried the ball in 2005, when Gary Kubiak was still in Denver.

7
by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 12:12am

Hey, whaddyaknow, another PFR next-season roulette screw up. I should really try and stop that. Fixed.

6
by Zac :: Tue, 08/21/2012 - 11:39pm

I am not a fan of Tim Tebow. But under my scoring system, if you take Tebow's full season projection from the QB battles page, he projects to be tied for 22nd. In one of my leagues a few years ago, an owner made a move that paid huge dividends for him when he drafted (as of the draft) backup QB Kurt Warner. Warner took the starting job from Matt Leinart shortly thereafter.

If you think Tebow will end up the starter in New York at some point this year (and I sure do) then it doesn't seem so crazy.

8
by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 12:37am

Except that Warner taken at the end of a draft -- yes, I'm assuming this with regards to your example -- because he's the backup to Leinart in a pass-happy ARI O with Larry Fitzgerald at WR1 playing in a weak division makes perfect sense as a QB flier. Taking Tebow at QB22 (or god forbid QB17) because he's a backup to Sanchez in a run-happy NYJ O with me at WR1 playing in arguably the strongest division in the NFL makes no sense as a QB flier.

15
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 11:38am

Also, Kurt Warner can ejaculate through a froot loop without hitting the sides (that's a quote from someone about Warner's '99 season, a commenter here I think, but I forget who), while Tim Tebow would be lucky to dribble milk into a cereal bowl without spilling.

18
by thendcomes :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 12:26pm

That was Drew Magary on KSK.

9
by Paydro70 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 1:56am

How did this article not address by FAR the boldest claim from KUBIAK this year, which is that Stafford is nowhere near being worth a top pick? That's one I would have liked some more explanation on.

10
by Alternator :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 5:33am

Health?

12
by George (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 10:30am

Stafford's Risk is Green. I'm guessing KUBIAK still puts some weight on his rookie numbers (which sucked), and maybe expects Detroit to be involved in fewer shootouts this year.

14
by dbostedo :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 11:13am

Yeah - I'd guess it's simply track record.

I think systems like KUBIAK see last year's huge stats from Stafford, and expect some regression since it was only 1 year.

I think more typical non-advanced-stat fantasy fans see last year's huge stats from Stafford and expect that to be his normal production moving forward.

I think the real answer is probably in between, but that's a total guess at this point. No one really knows if last year was Stafford (and Detroit) finally reaching their normal level, or if they just had one really great year.

20
by Eddo :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 1:14pm

The thing is, I think KUBIAK's projection *is* that "in between" ground. It's not like KUBIAK projects a bad year for Stafford, just not an incredibly huge one, which other projections seem to be taking for granted.

25
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 4:00pm

I would comment that the Lions have the following:

1. A line that is tolerable at pass-blocking, but woeful at run-blocking.
2. No health at RB
3. A deep receiving core and two adept TEs
4. A defense whose jerseys read "Lions"
5. Calvin Johnson

I'd hazard a guess that the Lions will continue to exhibit a Breesian run-pass disparity and will be involved in a share of shootouts. If you hazard Stafford will be healthy, his yardage numbers should still be high.

The concern is that no Jahvid Best removes some of the dump-off possibilities, as he was basically a poor-man's Sproles.

33
by LionInAZ :: Fri, 08/24/2012 - 3:04pm

Kevin Smith provided good value as a receiver last year, with a higher DVOA than Best, although he doesn't have Best's big-play ability. The problem is that one of them needs to stay off the injury list!

I agree that it doesn't look likely that rushing will be not much more of a factor for the Lions in 2012, though.

34
by Mr Shush :: Sat, 08/25/2012 - 7:29am

Depends a bit on how Leshoure looks once he comes back, no?

11
by Joseph :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 9:46am

I'm wondering if some of the ADP over-ranking has to do with people (probably) outsmarting themselves with regard to TDs. With Tebow & Randy Moss, I think people are guessing that these guys might have more TDs than their true "workload" might merit. Esp. for Tebow, who the Jets have hinted might have more RZ work.

13
by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 10:31am

I think you're correct without a doubt. And in some other cases, notably with running backs, it's not a horrible bet to go with the backup if you have little confidence in the starter either playing well or remaining healthy. Drafting the 53rd-ranked guy because you're on the 53rd pick doesn't hold much appeal. You need to take some chances and try to outguess everybody else.

21
by Eddo :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 1:16pm

I think this is correct, and I think it's a bad strategy. You'll wind up with a few huge weeks where Tebow gets two touchdowns and is worth playing, but mostly really low scores. So unless you're outstanding in predicting just which weeks he explodes, it's a net negative to use him.

16
by big_jgke :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 11:44am

I wasn't aware that Evan Royster had been named starter in WAS.

17
by jrbdmb :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 11:51am

"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."

So was anything done to address this weakness of KUBIAK, or is this just part of the system that we have to keep in mind when considering young receivers?

19
by Eddo :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 1:13pm

I interpret this as "KUBIAK does a good job of identifying when a older receiver is about to fall off a cliff, but, like all other systems and people, cannot tell when a young receiver will do the same."

I don't necessarily consider this a "weakness", as when a young receiver completely collapses, it's likely due to factors that are not apparent prior to said collapse.

22
by Shattenjager :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 3:30pm

I think the "appearing act of young receivers" meant their emergence, not collapse.

24
by rlmthree :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 3:52pm

Agreed. And it would be nice to know more on the topic. "We noticed we suck, but didn't mention it or fix it. Thanks for your money!"

26
by Shattenjager :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 4:09pm

I would be extremely surprised if it weren't true of any system. You necessarily have far more information on an older player nearing decline than you do on a younger player nearing "breakout." Even someone basing things 100% on "the eye test" is likely to have seen far more of the older player than of the younger one.

27
by Eddo :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 4:36pm

Ah, wow. I read "appearance" as "disappearance". My fault.

23
by jrbdmb :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 3:51pm

Right, I figured the comment meant that KUBIAK is not as strong as other systems in identifying breakout WRs (though KUBIAK did help me land A.J. Green last year).

I'd also be curious if the comment meant KUBIAK undervalues *all* young WRs, or that it does pick a few breakout candidates but doesn't have as good a track record as other projections.

28
by Eddo :: Wed, 08/22/2012 - 4:38pm

Yep, I'd agree with that interpretation. In my experience using KUBIAK (for the past four or five years), it does a great job telling you which players to avoid, particularly veterans who should experience a drop-off.

However, it's very hit-or-miss with young players and sleepers. I think because so much of their production is dependent on player usage and subjective judgement by coaching staffs. Whereas a veteran will get usage until he stops performing, so if you can use his track record as a guide to him being likely to produce less, you can better predict his fall.

29
by Jerry :: Thu, 08/23/2012 - 3:26am

The comparables for a player with ten years of data are more likely to be accurate than the comparables for a guy with one or two years.

30
by rlmthree :: Thu, 08/23/2012 - 8:09am

That's nice, but not what FO said. Compared to other handicappers, and compared to other positions, they are worse estimating WRs. In more detail, they are fine with predicting older WRs decline, but worse at predicting young WRs being successful. Again, compared to how others do that prediction, and how they themselves predict other positions.

31
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 08/23/2012 - 8:31am

I think it comes down to the fact that fantasy is a sideline for them - and really to a significant extent so are predictions full stop. They don't spend a load of time keeping track of training camp position battles or pre-season performance, so they don't do a good job of identifying breakout players, although they often do do a good job of identifying situations where there's a strong chance for someone to break out. Apply KUBIAK blindly, and you will end up with a lousy draft. Understand what it is and isn't telling you, and do work of your own, and it's a seriously valuable tool, because it's objective and consistent, and therefore wrong in mostly relatively predictable ways, and right in ones that you might not have otherwise thought of.

32
by chemical burn :: Thu, 08/23/2012 - 9:58pm

I sorta wish they'd drop the fantasy sidelines, though - so many folks claim there's nothing so special about the work they do in field and that their miss % is frustrating. I wish they'd just keep trying to improve and explore their "real" advanced stats, which are by far the impressive out there. But that's juts me as someone who wishes fantasy football would just go away in general. If they're not going to go whole hog, I wish they'd stop wasting my time with it. I read these articles thinking there might be something worthwhile in them because they're FO and then always think "why do they bother with this junk - people don't even seem to respect it."