Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Aug 2015

2015 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Vincent Verhei

If you're familiar with Football Outsiders, you know that every year we use our KUBIAK projections (available here for a mere $20!) to forecast the upcoming fantasy football season. It's an invaluable tool for fantasy football players, who get not just a list of players ranked by total point production, but a fully customizable spreadsheet that can be designed to sort players by almost any scoring system your league might use. The spreadsheet also lists where players have been taken in drafts on other web sites, so you can see where KUBIAK rankings differ from conventional wisdom. That knowledge can prove even more valuable than the rankings themselves, suggesting not only which players could be most valuable, but also when you're likely to find a steal in later rounds.

Today we'll look at the overrated players, those going higher in drafts than KUBIAK thinks they should. We'll look at underrated players in a separate article next week. Each player is listed with their rank in overall Fantasy Points Over Baseline (FPOB), which is the spot where KUBIAK says they should be drafted, along with their rank in Average Draft Position (ADP), which is where they have actually been going in fantasy drafts. These numbers will show where each player ranks at their position, not overall. This is a change from the way we have written these pieces in the past, but we think it's a good one -- players at different positions can change in overall value greatly depending on league settings and waiver wire rules, but their rankings at their position shouldn't change much at all. Obviously, which players are underrated or overrated by ADP may change if your league has non-standard rules.

You can also go back and see who we thought was overrated in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

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Once again this year, we have partnered with our friends at DraftKings.com to bring all our readers a very special offer to reduce the cost of the KUBIAK projections. If you have never played a daily fantasy contest at DraftKings.com before, just deposit $10 into a brand new account and you will get $20 off your KUBIAK purchase. You can take $20 off of package deals that feature KUBIAK along with FOA 2015, or you can get KUBIAK on its own absolutely free.

Click here to go to DraftKings.com so you can make your deposit! Make sure after making your deposit to wait 8-10 minutes before coming back here to use your e-mail address as your code to get KUBIAK for free. Please note that this offer is only available to those users who are making a first-time deposit at DraftKings.com.

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Quarterback

Sam Bradford
FPOB rank: 24
ADP rank: 15

At his best, Sam Bradford has never been more than an average fantasy quarterback. In 2012, he threw for 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he finished 16th among quarterbacks in fantasy points that year. And remember, that was his best year. He ranked 19th as a rookie in 2010, and otherwise has never finished higher than 30th. That's largely due to a failure to stay healthy -- Bradford started 16 games in both 2010 and 2012, but has missed at least six games in every other year of his career, including all 16 games in 2014. Now, apparently, a lot of fantasy players think he'll be better than ever before operating Chip Kelly's offense. His average draft rank among quarterbacks is 15th, which means a lot of people must be taking him even higher than that.

Fortunately we have a case study for a career mediocrity who then moved into Kelly's offense. In 62 starts with the Jets, Mark Sanchez never completed more than 57 percent of his passes or averaged more than 6.7 yards per pass. In nine games in Philadelphia last year (eight starts and one 22-pass relief appearance), he completed 64 percent of his passes and averaged 7.8 yards per throw. His DVOA of -1.4% was also a career-high, besting the -4.8% mark he produced in 2010. And most importantly for this article, he was a much better fantasy player too, averaging 15.4 points per game last year, a huge increase from the 11.5 points per game he mustered during his Jets career. That seems like good news for Bradford, but it's actually a double-edged sword, because Sanchez is still on the roster. If Bradford struggles early, will Kelly hesitate to put Sanchez on the field?

If you take Bradford high in the draft, you're betting that he won't revert back to his pre-2012 days; that he will improve even further under Kelly's guidance; that this will be one of the rare seasons when he manages to stay healthy; and that Sanchez won't take his job. That's too many questions to rate him any higher than a late-round backup.

Teddy Bridgewater
FPOB rank: 21
ADP rank: 16

Look, we like Teddy Bridgewater. Really, we do. But 16th among quarterbacks is a little optimistic for a guy who was 22nd at the position last year. Even if you prorate his 13-game performance (including one 20-pass relief stint) to 16 games, he still would only have been 20th. His over-hyped draft stock might have to do with his hot streak to finish the year -- he averaged 221.5 yards and 0.7 touchdowns in his first six starts, but 240.0 yards and 1.7 touchdowns in his last six. However, as we discussed in the Minnesota chapter of Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (on sale now!), there is no correlation between a quarterback's rise or fall in the second half of his rookie season with that same quarterback's performance in his second year. Those first six starts happened, and they were crummy, and they must be considered when projecting Bridgewater's future numbers.

Furthermore, the Vikings figure to be running the ball a lot this year -- Adrian Peterson is back, as you might have heard -- which would put a cap on Bridgewater's production.

Ben Roethlisberger
FPOB rank: 9
ADP rank: 5

Here we have a case where the masses are ignoring long-term trends in favor of very recent events. Last season was something of a fluke for Ben Roethlisberger. He finished fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy points, his first season inside the top 10 since 2009, and first inside the top five since 2007. Historically, he has been something of a fringe starter in fantasy leagues. Now, he is probably playing with the best receivers he has had in his career, and he certainly has higher upside than the Roethlisberger of old. Still, we see him as second-tier fantasy starter, and it's likely that somebody in your league will draft him when there are better passers on the table.

Running Back

C.J. Spiller
FPOB rank: 30
ADP rank: 23

You probably weren't thinking much of drafting Spiller anyway, but in case you thought it wise, let's put that notion to bed. Spiller was seventh among running backs in fantasy points in 2012, but ranked 27th or worse in each of his other four seasons. He's now in New Orleans, where he'll certainly enjoy playing with Drew Brees, but he's third on the depth chart behind Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. Spiller has always been a boom-or-bust player -- he has only gone over 50 yards from scrimmage in a game 37 times in his five-year career, but has averaged 102.0 yards in those 37 games -- and there's a good chance he'll score on a few long runs or catches this season. He's not reliable, though, and in this case the boom is definitely not worth the bust.

(These comments apply primarily to standard leagues; in PPR leagues, Spiller is definitely worth more and may match that ADP. Then again, his ADP would also be higher if the figure only represented PPR leagues.)

Latavius Murray
FPOB rank: 25
ADP rank: 18

A sixth-round draft choice in 2013, Murray missed his rookie season with an ankle injury, then surprised the Raiders by averaging 5.2 yards on 82 carries last year, topping 85 yards from scrimmage against the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, and Broncos. However, 90 of those rushing yards came on one run against Kansas City; take that one play out and Murray's average carry drops to 4.1. Darren McFadden's departure makes Murray the unquestioned top runner in Oakland, but this is still a developing, unproven player on a developing, unproven team, and he shouldn't be trusted to reliably produce.

Adrian Peterson
FPOB rank: 6
ADP rank: 1

Earlier we said the Vikings would be a run-heavy team, yet here we say Adrian Peterson is also overrated. What gives? Well, we think Peterson will be a very good running back in fantasy football and a clear starter, but we don't think he'll be the best running back in fantasy football. Let's not forget that he ranked 11th among running backs in 2013 and 2011. Of course, in between, he ran for 2,097 yards and was the best player in all of fantasy football, but it's not like he should be expected to hit that mark every season. Jerick McKinnon (4.8 yards per carry and 11.5% DVOA on 113 runs as a rookie last year) could also eat into Peterson's opportunities. You want to keep your 30-year-old backs fresh.

A bigger issue, perhaps, is that the top 10 running backs in our projections are very tightly clustered this year. Including risk factor and playoff adjustments, we're projecting Le'veon Bell to lead all running backs with 240 fantasy points (the playoff adjustment offsets his two-game suspension to start the year), while we're projecting LeSean McCoy to finish 10th with 195 points. That's a gap of only 45 points, which is the smallest of the past six years.


Gap Between First- and 10th-place RBs in KUBIAK, 2010-2015
Year No. 1 RB Proj. Pts. No. 10 RB Proj. Pts Gap
2010 Chris Johnson 257 Michael Turner 175 82
2011 Ray Rice 259 Michael Turner 198 61
2012 Ray Rice 264 DeMarco Murray 167 97
2013 Adrian Peterson 253 Trent Richardson 205 48
2014 LeSean McCoy 256 Marshawn Lynch/Doug Martin 188 68
2015 Le'Veon Bell 240 Lesean McCoy 195 45

And if we turn off the playoff adjustment, then Bell slips behind Marshawn Lynch, and the gap between No. 1 and No. 10 gets even narrower. With such a tight cluster at the top of the list, it's fair to say that all running backs are a little overrated this season. If you've never picked a quarterback in the first round of your draft before, this might be the year to give it a try.

Wide Receiver

Martavis Bryant
FPOB rank: 40
ADP rank: 20

There's a lot to like about Bryant, especially his explosive ability -- in just 49 passes last year, he produced 549 yards and eight touchdowns, and was 42nd among wide receivers in fantasy points. Those eight touchdowns netted 275 total yards, almost exactly half his season total. You'd expect him to see more action in his second season and therefore get more targets -- so why don't we expect him to improve much in his second season? For starters, his rate of eight touchdowns in just 26 receptions will be nigh impossible to repeat. That's the fewest catches by someone with at least eight receiving touchdowns since the immortal Marc Boerigter scored eight times in 20 catches as a rookie with the 2002 Chiefs. (Boerigter only played two more years in the NFL and never scored again.) Bryant's catch rate of 53 percent is also troubling. True, Bryant ran a lot of "Bomb" routes 26 or more yards downfield (16, to be precise), and that's going to dampen anyone's catch rate. Still, until he can prove himself reliable on shorter routes as well, he may be limited to a handful of targets per game. And finally, there's Bryant's position on the depth chart, where he starts the season clearly third behind Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton. Bryant's long-term future is bright, which is why he's No. 1 on the Top 25 Prospects list in FOA 2015. But in the short term, he remains an unknown.

Andre Johnson
FPOB rank: 29
ADP rank: 18

Andre Johnson has never played with a quarterback as good as Andrew Luck, that's for sure. It's also true, though, that he's stepping into a very crowded group of receivers, including the newly signed T.Y. Hilton, first-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett, and the tight end tag team of Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. There's also Frank Gore, who routinely caught 40 passes or more each season before Greg Roman removed the swing pass from the playbook in San Francisco. Johnson has more experience than all those players, but that is a nice way of saying he is older than all of those players. Johnson turned 34 this summer; this century, only 11 34-year-old players have gained at least 1,000 yards receiving in a season. That number shrinks to eight for 35-year-olds and four for anyone older than that. It's not impossible for Johnson to succeed at his age, but his time in the NFL is short, and sometimes the end comes for players faster than anyone expects.

Keenan Allen
FPOB rank: 29
ADP rank: 21

(No, that is not a typo. Using standard scoring and league setup, we're expecting Allen and Johnson to produce the same number of fantasy points.)

Allen was 17th in fantasy points among receivers as a rookie, but fell to 48th last season, despite getting 16 more targets. We're projecting him with a 78-911-4.7 statline. In catches and touchdowns, that would almost exactly match what he did in 2014 (77-783-4), though we do see him gaining more yards. It would be optimistic to expect him to match his rookie numbers, but pessimistic to expect him to be any worse than he was last year. Odds are, he'll be somewhere in the middle. He's not a fantasy starter unless you are in a 3-WR league.

Tight End

Owen Daniels
FPOB rank: 13
ADP rank: 8

Yes, Owen Daniels will be the clear top tight end in Denver following Julius Thomas' departure. Yes, Peyton Manning (assuming he's healthy) will be the best quarterback Daniels has ever played with. No, you do not want him to be your starting tight end. Daniels turns 33 this season, and he has had plenty of health problems. He hasn't played 16 games since 2008, and he has missed five or more games three times in the past six years. It's tempting to think of what Manning has done for his tight ends in the past (think Thomas in Denver and Dallas Clark in Indianapolis) and see some upside here, but the negatives outweigh the positives.

Josh Hill
FPOB rank: 16
ADP rank: 11

Following one of the biggest trades of the offseason, the Saints are turning to Josh Hill to be their top tight end. Just because he is being asked to replace Jimmy Graham, however, does not mean that he will actually be able to replace Jimmy Graham. An undrafted rookie in 2013, Hill has only 20 catches for 220 yards in his career. He does have six touchdowns, which is great for 20 catches, but five of those scores came within 12 yards of the goal line. There are worse things to have on your bench than a goal-line specialist, but until he proves himself on all parts of the field, he's not worthy of a high pick.

Julius Thomas
FPOB rank: 9
ADP rank: 6

So it turns out that Thomas' Denver-to-Jacksonville journey was a lose-lose for all parties. The Broncos are losing a two-time top-ten fantasy tight end, while Thomas is going to learn the very harsh lesson that Peyton Manning > Blake Bortles. In fact, Jacksonville has never been a place where receivers have scored much. Thomas scored 12 touchdowns for Denver in each of the last two seasons. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville record for receiving touchdowns in a season is just 10, by Marcedes Lewis in 2010 and Reggie Williams in 2007. Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell had 13 total 1,000-yard seasons in Jacksonville uniforms, but neither of them ever scored more than eight times in a year. (They are also the only two players in Jaguars history to go over 1,000 yards receiving, and the last of those was in 2005.)

Defense

New York Jets
FPOB rank: 13
ADP rank: 4

The Jets' defense certainly has talent and upside. In fact, if you turn the risk settings off in your KUBIAK file, you'll see the Jets jump from 13th to ninth in our rankings -- and with defenses packed tightly together in projections, it's not insane to take them fourth. It helps to add so much name value in both veterans (Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist) and rookies (Leonard Williams), and the Jets are certain to get more interceptions than the measly six they grabbed in 2014. That's still a lot of new faces getting to know each other, though, and they'll be playing for a new coach as well in Todd Bowles. Sheldon Richardson's four-game suspension for substance abuse (and his ensuing arrest for resisting arrest and various traffic violations, including driving 143 miles per hour with a 12-year-old child in the car) certainly won't help things. All in all, we like the Jets to be very good at preventing yards and points, but maybe not so good at producing turnovers and sacks, and those are the plays that make for a great fantasy defense. (However, with a schedule that includes the AFC South, Cleveland, and Buffalo twice, the Jets are a great defense to pair with another defense if you like to do that sort of thing.)

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 14 Aug 2015

16 comments, Last at 18 Aug 2015, 7:14pm by Raiderjoe

Comments

1
by nath :: Fri, 08/14/2015 - 1:38pm

That C.J. Spiller item seems to be disregarding a lot of context, like going from a coach who regularly misused him to one who loves throwing to speedy running backs. Calling him "Third on the depth chart," as though the Saints only have one role for a bellcow running back and go down the line in order for that role, only underscores that.

Now, maybe KUBIAK just doesn't consider those things, but as a longtime Saints observer I feel that's where the Spiller optimism comes from, for example. (Similarly, Markus Wheaton is unlikely to win the starting job over Martavis Bryant despite the talk-- Bryant is just better.) I guess KUBIAK is strictly data-driven, but it's always good to check those results with situational context and logic.

2
by Dan :: Fri, 08/14/2015 - 2:10pm

Agreed. KUBIAK has Spiller projected for 62 receptions. Bush/Sproles topped that number (per 16 games) in 7 of their 8 seasons in New Orleans, with an average of 81 receptions per 16 games.

3
by bingo762 :: Fri, 08/14/2015 - 2:46pm

Has FO or anyone gone back and checked the accuracy of KUBIAK?

4
by Led :: Fri, 08/14/2015 - 7:17pm

Why is it so unreasonable to expect solid improvement from Bridgewater in his second year and with the benefit of Peterson in the backfield? It would be pretty surprising if he didn't put up better numbers.

EDIT: Bridgewater was 27th in ATT/G so it's not like they were passing all the time last year even without Peterson. I don't see his attempts declining significantly this year.

7
by dank067 :: Sat, 08/15/2015 - 4:40pm

Have you seen his projection? It is a pretty solid improvement over his numbers last year taken as a whole. Although I am surprised it only represents a jump from 22nd to 21st in terms of fantasy production.

5
by prmsaints :: Fri, 08/14/2015 - 7:47pm

wow - that blows up part of my draft (ppr)...oops!

6
by Rich A :: Sat, 08/15/2015 - 2:02am

I was wondering if anyone would like to join an over the top fantasy football league that I'd like to start.

It's IDP where defensive players can score as many points as offensive players, full flex on offense (5RB/TE/WR, 1QB/RB/TE/WR), and most importantly every yard for every position is worth .1 of a point. Thus mirroring the ability to run any offensive personnel package used in actual games.

I ran this league a few years ago and it was great but now several friends are married with kids and can't commit the time anymore and my other friends aren't really into fantasy football (Latin dance community, boardgamers, musicians, churchgoers). Several friends from law school do play fantasy but they're blowhards and honestly the Football Outsiders community is probably one of the best football groups in the world.

Any takers?

I guess this brings up custom scoring for fantasy. What's the best roster make up? I run the flex on offense and defense (2DL, 1LB, 2DB, 2DL/LB/DB). What do people think would be the best and most representative scoring system that actually keeps value realistic to the real game? In terms of turnovers I run all picks are worth +4 or -4 (FO states possession is worth 4 actual points right), fumbles forced are worth 4 and recoveries are worth 2 for defenders but -2 for fumble and -2 for fumble lost for offensive players (forcing fumbles is a skill but recovery is luck). Tackles are worth 1, stops and sacks 2.

As I previously mentioned I ran this league years ago and had found that QBs were scoring more than what I thought their proportional value was (just ran some numbers by trial and error until it felt about right, sorry, I never took stats, I'm an English major) and so I penalized them for incompletions, -0.5 for each one. This emphasized efficient play rather than just total yards (I was trying to mirror how DVOA/VOA is based around the down system and how an inefficient quarterback scuttles possessions with incompletions, league was ppr before but now Yahoo has pts per 1st down, which I'm undecided about). It also was easy to calculate when seeing stats on a sports ticker if out with friends. I think I added some small bonus for RBs that hit 150 yards to show that he was chewing up clock efficiently against a stacked box (you don't run to win, you run when you're winning). Lastly, I penalized kickers -4 for any miss, possession lost is possession lost (but you could not slot a kicker if you wanted)

Thoughts on custom scoring and how to accurately represent the real world value in a points system?

Lastly, a lot of you probably don't know me as I haven't been registered since 2008 or 2010, whenever that reset from the old accounts happened. I think my last discussion was on why people don't use the titles/subjects and the consensus was mostly laziness/no need to. I think I first started posting as Rich A---- as a play off of the homerish Rich Conley (is he still around under a different user tag?) and then would sometimes post about maybe a FO Madden tournament/league, as well as other random musings. Whether you remember me or not; it's good to be back and I can't wait for this season to start. Good times ahead!

(Anyone down for Xbox 360 Madden? Who has the kind of disposable income for a new console and $50 bucks for the same game each year, I guess I'd be down for Madden 08 pc modded with footballidiots rosters too if someone wanted)

9
by izkeith :: Sat, 08/15/2015 - 8:48pm

Rich, you and I have very similar ideas for a league. Contact me asap - jacobtulloch@gmail.com

10
by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 08/16/2015 - 10:33am

Interstunf ppssibility but am undecided if want tp,play fantasy football anymore. Enjoy fantasy baseball more. Also, kinda enjoyimg baseball as much as football in gemeral. Too much negattovity with foktball (concussions, horrible people like adrian peterson, sheldon richardson, greg hardy, tom Bardy's balls, etc.) and actually disliek how popular it is. Non-real sports fans opining here and there.

Don't get me wrong, still love nfl but just not as much as once did

11
by cjfarls :: Sun, 08/16/2015 - 10:17pm

I hear you RJ... I still love my Broncos and Its fun being a perrenial over dog.... But it's hard to love the NFL these days. I almost like my madden franchise better... At least my electronic players aren't addled for life once they retire, or punching out folks between games, and my computer-based owners extorting billions out of taxpayers to line their already absurdly wealth filled pockets.

13
by Rich A :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 9:10am

Do you have any relationship to Zfarls of the madden community?

12
by Rich A :: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 9:08am

And this is the disappointing truth of the modern NFL, that loyal and longtime fans are not loving the league as much as they once did because of all the drama associated with the league. Have we now reached the tipping point where people start following other sports because the NFL can't keep it's house in order?

Although, to keep somewhat on topic, the fantasy factor is certainly a part of that growing popularity of the league. This very article is to address the burgeoning growth of fantasy and while we may be gaining new and younger fans it would be a disappointment to lose the old guard such as yourself Raiderjoe (Clots, hahaha, you crack me up).

14
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 4:04am

The NFL is blowing away all sorts of records for TV ratings, in both the regular season...

http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2015/01/09/nfl-2014-tv-recap-202-millio...

And in the Super Bowl:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/02/media/super-bowl-ratings/

So no, we have not reached the tipping point. We're not even close to the tipping point. We can't even see the tipping point from here.

15
by dbostedo :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 1:08pm

I tend to enjoy it when the Clots are playing the Loins.

16
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 7:14pm

Well.maybe if you are clots,fan.,pretty sure Lons have been like pinata vs clots in tecsnt years. Course they donf meet often

8
by mehllageman56 :: Sat, 08/15/2015 - 5:11pm

Part of the issue with taking the Jets defense that high is that their offense will probably not put them in position to get a lot of turnovers and sacks, because you need the lead to do that. And that is something their offense has not done well in the last three years, and I doubt Fitzpatrick will do that much to change it. Last year was an anomaly for him, as far as turning the ball over.

I might add that anyone thinking of drafting their defense early should watch the missed tackle fest that was Thursday night's game.