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2018 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 his KUBIAK rank as of August 10, along with his rank in Average Draft Position (ADP), which is where he has actually been going in fantasy drafts. These numbers will show where each player ranks at their position, not overall. Players at different positions can change in overall value greatly depending on league settings and waiver wire rules, but their rankings within their positions shouldn't change much. 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, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Quarterbacks

Jimmy Garoppolo, SF
KUBIAK: 23
ADP: 10

In his five starts last year, Garoppolo threw for 1,542 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns. He produced 82 fantasy points in that stretch, among the top ten quarterbacks over the last five games of the year. Other quarterbacks who produced at least 80 fantasy points over a five-game span included Trevor Siemian (Games 1-5), Jacoby Brissett (Games 3-7), and the man Garoppolo replaced in San Francisco, C.J. Beathard (Games 6-10). Josh McCown, of all people, produced 104 points from Games 8-12. The point is, virtually any quarterback who can win a starting job in the NFL is capable of going on a hot streak over one-third of a season. Garoppolo will probably wind up better than the Siemians and Brissetts of the world, but let's allow him to finish a full season before we rely on him as a fantasy starter.

Andrew Luck, IND
KUBIAK: 15
ADP: 9

This, obviously, is all about risk. Luck threw nine passes in an exhibition game against Seattle last week. That brings his total in regular or preseason games since January 2, 2017, to … nine. Luck has been a top-ten fantasy quarterback four times in the past six years, and a top-four player three times, so we understand the temptation. It's just hard to put much faith in a shoulder that has basically kept an entire franchise in limbo for the last 20 months.

Tom Brady, NE
KUBIAK: 5
ADP: 3

This, obviously, is all about age. Brady will be 41 this season. Only once in NFL history has a quarterback that old thrown for more than 20 touchdowns: Warren Moon, who threw for 25 scores with the Seahawks in 1997. Only three others that age (Moon in Seattle in 1998, Vinny Testaverde with Dallas in 2004, and Brett Favre with Minnesota in 2010) have even broken double-digits. Tom Brady has been doing things no quarterback has ever done before for a while now, but he is a human being and he does age, and when his time as a top-end passer comes to an end it is likely to happen swiftly and without mercy. Brady will probably be a good fantasy quarterback this year, but if not, then he may be very bad.

Running Backs

Jordan Howard, CHI
KUBIAK: 19
ADP: 11

The Chicago Bears ran the ball 46 percent of the time in the first half last year, the highest rate in the league. The Kansas City Chiefs ran the ball 32 percent of the time in the first half, the lowest rate in the league. Matt Nagy, the coordinator for that pass-wacky offense in Arrowhead Stadium, will be calling the plays this year at Soldier Field. That should mean a lot more throws for Mitchell Trubisky and a lot fewer runs for Jordan Howard.

Joe Mixon, CIN
KUBIAK: 21
ADP: 13

OK, we're stumped by this one. Mixon was 32nd in fantasy scoring last year, and though he's clearly the top runner in Cincinnati now, Giovani Bernard is still on the roster. So are Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and last year's first-round draft pick, a now-healthy John Ross. The Bengals have loads of options in the rushing and passing games, and it's not likely that Mixon will get enough touches to be anything more than a low-end RB2.

Rashaad Penny, SEA
KUBIAK: 31
ADP: 23

It appears that a lot of fantasy players were so excited about what a first-round running back could do in a Pete Carroll/Brian Schottenheimer offense that they didn't bother to check whether that running back would actually start. Chris Carson remains atop the depth chart in Seattle, and that's not likely to change -- and even if it does, this still figures to be a committee approach. Someone in your league will probably get stuck with Penny as a starting running back this year, but they're going to be outscored at that position more often than not.

Wide Receivers

Alshon Jeffery, PHI
KUBIAK: 34
ADP: 20

In each of the last three seasons, Jeffery has caught between 52 and 57 passes, for between 789 and 821 yards. Our KUBIAK projection: 56 catches for 794 yards. There's no reason to expect Jeffery to get much more than that at age 28, on a roster that also has Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace at wide receiver and Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert at tight end.

Josh Gordon, CLE
KUBIAK: 29
ADP: 17

The riskiest player in all of fantasy football. Gordon has averaged 77.2 receiving yards per game in his career, seventh-most in league history. That's partly due to playing in such a pass-friendly era, but it's still more than contemporary fantasy mainstays such as Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins. Among active receivers, only Julio Jones and Antonio Brown have ever gained more receiving yards in a single season than the 1,646 Gordon had in 2013. Either Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield will likely be the best quarterback with whom Gordon has ever played. But since his first year at Baylor in 2009, Gordon has just one thousand-yard season in either college or the pros. He has just 638 yards in 10 games in the last four NFL seasons. The words "suspension" and "suspended" appear 20 times on his Wikipedia page. On July 23 Gordon announced he was leaving the team to tend to his "overall health and treatment plan," and as of August 9 there was still no timetable for Gordon's return. Draft Gordon at your own peril.

Stefon Diggs, MIN
KUBIAK: 23
ADP: 12

The weird thing here is that we're actually projecting a career-high 956 yards for Diggs, along with a half-dozen touchdowns, which is more than he had in two of his first three years. But fantasy players apparently think he will blow all those numbers away. Will the arrival of Kirk Cousins make that much of a difference? Probably not -- Minnesota's last two quarterbacks set an all-time record for completion percentage (since broken) and led the league in passing DVOA, so it's not as if Diggs has been hamstrung by lousy passers. Since Mike Zimmer arrived in Minnesota, the Vikings rank 25th in total passes, so it's not like they're going to be throwing the ball all over the place despite their $84 million man. There's not much reason here to expect Diggs to be more than what he has been.

Tight End

Trey Burton, CHI
KUBIAK: 22
ADP: 10

You'll note that subhead reads "tight end" and not "tight ends," because there's really only one player at the position going too high in drafts -- but that one player is going WAY too high. The Bears guaranteed Burton $18 million over for years and Matt Nagy told the Chicago Sun-Times that the tight end will be playing Travis Kelce's role in his offense, so apparently everyone assumes he'll be putting up 800-plus yards and a half-dozen scores a season. Of course, that same Sun-Times article noted that second-round draft pick Adam Shaheen would still play a big part in the offense, and that Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Tarik Cohen would be catching plenty of passes too. Burton only had 629 yards in four seasons in Philadelphia, so it's not like he has a history of making big plays all over the field. And he's not going to score one touchdown every 4.6 catches like he did last season, either.

For the sake of completeness, I will note that KUBIAK has Jimmy Graham seventh, while his average draft position is fourth, but that's really nitpicking at this position. If you need a tight end late in the draft and Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz are off the boards, nobody will blame you for drafting the most obvious goal-line weapon in Aaron Rodgers' arsenal.

Kicker

Harrison Butker, KC
KUBIAK: 16
ADP: 6

Butker led the league with 42 field goal attempts last year even though he only played 13 games. That's 3.2 field goal attempts per game, the most by any kicker since San Francisco's David Akers had 52 in 16 games in 2011. The common thread between those two teams: Alex Smith, the ultimate play-it-safe, take-what-the-defense-gives-you quarterback whose offenses have usually fared well between the 20s but struggled to punch the ball into the end zone. We're lukewarm on what Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will do this year, but there's likely to be an increase in both touchdowns and turnovers in Kansas City, which will mean fewer scoring opportunities for Butker.

Defense/Special Teams

Houston Texans
KUBIAK: 21
ADP: 7

In 2016, the Texans had 31 sacks and 11 interceptions; they had 32 and 11 in 2017. We're projecting a mild boost to 39 and 14, but that's still well, well short of what a lot of fantasy players are expecting. It would help if the stars in the front seven were all healthy for once (the trio of J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney have only played in 25 games together the last four years) but at this point "healthy" might be a relative term anyway. Can the addition of Tyrann Mathieu make a difference for Houston? Probably not -- he had only 11 interceptions and 4.0 sacks in his 66 games in Arizona. And then there's the "ST" in "D/ST." Houston ranked 26th in special teams DVOA last season. That's very bad, but it was still their best ranking since 2011. Houston has now ranked in the bottom seven in this category six years in a row, including two last-place finishes.

Comments

15 comments, Last at 20 Aug 2018, 6:46pm

1 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Dan // Aug 13, 2018 - 1:01pm

Some of these yardage numbers are misleading because of missed games.

Jeffery has had about 800 yards in each of the past 3 seasons, but in one of those seasons he played only 9 games and put up an astounding 89.7 yards per game. He has averaged 1045 yards per 16 games over the past 3 regular seasons (and 1054 if you include the playoff games), though this number has declined each season.

If Diggs gets 956 receiving yards in 16 games, that would be his lowest yards per game since 2015. He has averaged 1038 yards per 16 games over the past 2 regular seasons (1081 if you include playoffs, and 1094 if you also include rushing yards).

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2 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Eddo // Aug 13, 2018 - 1:07pm

You're not wrong about the pro-rated statistics, but a good fantasy projection system needs to account for guys like Jeffery and Diggs, who consistently miss a few games each year.

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6 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Mr Shush // Aug 14, 2018 - 2:53am

That's true, but there's a huge difference between a player who puts up 800 yards in 9 games and one who does it in 16, which is that you get to start someone else for the other 7 games.

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11 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Lebo // Aug 15, 2018 - 8:47am

Plus, you may want to draft them more highly than Kubiak suggests as a gamble that they'll play 16 games (e.g. Keenan Allen last season).

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12 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by The Ninjalectual // Aug 17, 2018 - 2:12pm

Does KUBIAK account for expected missed games? I know the FOA projections do not, and I didn't think KUBIAK did either

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3 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Aug 13, 2018 - 1:53pm

Availability is a skill.

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4 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Dan // Aug 13, 2018 - 3:42pm

I agree that most of these guys are overrated, although generally I'd put them somewhere in between their ADP and where KUBIAK has them.

Brady & Luck are the two where I definitely side with ADP. By these writeups, KUBIAK seems to be putting too much weight on the possibility of these guys having a disastrous season. But if my starting QB is a disaster that is not a disaster for my fantasy team; I just plug in my backup (or work the waiver wire or trade block) and get something like QB15 production. Brady has a great chance of putting up top 3 fantasy QB production, and Luck has a pretty good chance of doing it, and that makes them worth the picks despite the risk. (Also, I think that KUBIAK might be overestimating Brady's chances of age-related decline.)

I'd also take Garoppolo and Penny relatively close to their ADP, again based on upside.

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5 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by bingo762 // Aug 13, 2018 - 3:51pm

Swing and a miss on Keenan Allen last year but otherwise solid prognosticating for 2017

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7 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by nat // Aug 14, 2018 - 10:30am

This can't be the complete list of the overrated, can it? Even with reasonable selection criteria?

What criteria did you use to select the ones you list? Were the criteria different by position? Did it depend on the difference between ADP and KUBIAK ranking or on something else?

Just curious.

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8 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Vincent Verhei // Aug 14, 2018 - 2:17pm

Greatest difference between ADP and KUBIAK rank, among players who were starters by ADP, by position.

This is the way we've done it every year -- three QBs, three RBs, three WRs, three TE, one K, one D/ST. Only difference this year is that we only looked close at one TE, because there's only one TE whose ADP ranking is way out of rank with ours.

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9 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by nat // Aug 14, 2018 - 3:01pm

Okay.

If Brady really is the third most overrated starting QB with a difference of just two in the rankings, then ADP is tracking KUBIAK pretty well. There's not much room for a big showing in the underrated list. We shall see.

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10 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Vincent Verhei // Aug 15, 2018 - 3:45am

The correlation between KUBIAK rank and ADP rank for QBs is 0.845. So yeah, most players are being drafted more or less where they should be.

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13 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by The Ninjalectual // Aug 17, 2018 - 2:15pm

I haven't played fantasy for eight or nine years, and I still look forward to these columns every preseason.

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14 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by emfury10 // Aug 20, 2018 - 5:35pm

do these kubiak rankings get updated closer to regular season or is it just one and done and i will need to account for changes?

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15 Re: 2018 KUBIAK vs. ADP: The Overrated

by Eddo // Aug 20, 2018 - 6:46pm

A new version is released every week or so leading up to the season. If you've already bought it, you can re-download from the "My FO Downloads" page. The filename will be different to indicate a different dated version. There is an extra point (LINK) that lists the changes.

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