KUBIAK vs. ADP Overrated: Ready for Dolphins to Run

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa
Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Preseason Week 1 - Every year, one team seems to get the shaft in our KUBIAK fantasy football rankings. This year's winner is the Miami Dolphins. Come on down, Mike McDaniel, and please bring your playbook so we can take a look at it. We want to make sure we're right about your run/pass ratios!

The KUBIAK fantasy projections web tool is an amazing resource for the fantasy player who wants to either print a draft board with rankings that match their league's scoring and roster settings or do a live accounting of a salary cap league during the draft. But as many options as the tool provides, it cannot explain why players have the projections they do. That's where this article and next week's Underrated edition come in. I have picked a dozen players that KUBIAK ranks notably worse than their average draft position (ADP) and will explain our pessimism.

Here are the last few articles in this series:

All referenced KUBIAK rankings are based on PPR scoring and represent rank within each position, not all players.

Quarterbacks

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

KUBIAK Rank: 27
ESPN ADP: 16
Yahoo ADP: 19

We all assume that Mike McDaniel is bringing the Kyle Shanahan offensive scheme with him to Miami, right? Well, take a look at that scheme and what it means for quarterback usage. Last year, San Francisco only passed the ball on 55% of plays, counting sacks and scrambles as pass plays. That ranked 30th in the league. Miami passed the ball 63% of the time, which ranked 10th. Perhaps these numbers are affected by context because San Francisco had more wins? Actually, San Francisco had only one more win than Miami but let's look at just the first half of games anyway. Now San Francisco ranked dead last in pass rate, still at 55%, while Miami was passing the ball 67% of the time which ranked fifth. KUBIAK believes that Tagovailoa will be throwing the ball more efficiently with a lot more yards after the catch -- but he'll be throwing the ball less, which will depress his numbers overall.

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

KUBIAK Rank: 17
ESPN ADP: 14
Yahoo ADP: 14

The small difference between ADP and our rank for Lance is probably due to two different things. First, ADP is generally more excited about rookies than KUBIAK is. There's a little bit of irrational exhuberance about potential, and there's value to chasing upside in the late rounds of redraft leagues, but the fact is that most rookies underperform the expectations of fans. Lance isn't a rookie, but he's pretty close, since he started only two games last season and played just one year in college. I also think that the public may be overestimating just how much Lance will run with the ball as the regular starter. Last year, Lance had 24 carries in two starts, with a 36.9% carry share in those two games. Subjectively, it makes sense that Lance will run a bit less once he has a better idea of what is going on around him. We still have him projected with a 25.5% carry share, which is still very high for a quarterback. Baltimore last year was the only team to get more than 26% of carries from quarterbacks.

Running Backs

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

KUBIAK Rank: 10
ESPN ADP: 4
Yahoo ADP: 3

Henry dropped from 5.4 yards per carry in 2020 to 4.3 yards per carry last season, even before he suffered a foot injury that cost him half the season. Running backs don't usually go back to five yards per carry after they've dropped off. But a bigger issue is probably Henry's carry share in Tennessee. We were a bit conservative about Henry's carry share, speculating that the Titans might try to use him a little less to try to keep him healthier in 2022. Last year, Henry had an 81.0% carry share when healthy. Our projection for 2022 is a 69.5% carry share. That's still one of the top carry shares in the league. Dalvin Cook has the highest at 72.5% and Joe Mixon and Najee Harris are each at 70.0%, but everyone else is below Henry. So we're still expecting him to get the ball a lot for the Titans, just not as much as he has in the past. If you disagree with us, boost Henry up your rankings. Just remember that he has less value in PPR leagues, as he doesn't catch as many passes as other star running backs.

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

KUBIAK Rank: 19
ESPN ADP: 13
Yahoo ADP: 15

Everybody is pricing in touchdown regression for Conner, who was a huge surprise as RB5 in fantasy football a year ago. We just may be pricing it in a little more than conventional wisdom. Conner rushed for 15 touchdowns last year compared to an expectation of 11.1, the second-largest rushing touchdown surplus among running backs. Even an expectation of 11.1 touchdowns seems a bit high, given the struggles of the Arizona offense in the second half of the season and the absence of DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games. Conner has also missed at least two games in each of his five NFL seasons, so there's a decent chance that last season was the healthiest he'll be for his entire career.

Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

KUBIAK Rank: 35
ESPN ADP: 23
Yahoo ADP: 23

Here's that irrational exhuberance about near-rookies again, along with the public heavily writing off Etienne's backfield mate James Robinson because Robinson is coming off an Achilles injury. However, the Jaguars surprised observers by not starting Robinson on the PUP list. He should be fully healthy by the start of the regular season, and he's very good! Robinson had 15.4% rushing DVOA last year despite the total mess that was the Jacksonville offense. Doug Pederson also likes his running back committees. He never had a single back hit 180 carries in a season during his five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Wide Receivers

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

KUBIAK Rank: 12
ESPN Rank: 9
Yahoo Rank: 8

You're permitted to be skeptical about this one, since we had Mike Evans in this same article a year ago and that proved to be wrong. Once again, the main issue here seems to be Evans' touchdown numbers. Yes, he's a fantastic red zone target, but Evans has caught way more touchdowns than you would expect given his target locations over the last two years. We ran this table last year to show that Evans, like other players, hasn't beaten his expected touchdown totals year in and year out. But wow, look at what happens when we add 2021.

Mike Evans' Touchdown Surplus
Season Opp-Adj
RecTD
TD Surplus
2015 7.9 3 -4.9
2016 10.5 12 +1.5
2017 8.4 5 -3.4
2018 7.1 8 +0.9
2019 9.4 8 -1.4
2020 10.2 13 +2.8
2021 8.4 14 +5.6

That's the highest touchdown surplus of any wide receiver in 2021 and suggests that Evans won't repeat his numbers in 2022, despite his 6-foot-5 size and the greatest quarterback in history throwing him the ball. It's more likely that the success on those red zone throws gets spread around a little more. We also don't think that Evans will see quite as much volume as he did last season. With all the injuries in Tampa Bay, Evans went from a 16.7% target share through Week 16 to 24.0% in the Bucs' final four games. This year it's going back towards that former number, especially once Chris Godwin is fully healthy.

Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

KUBIAK Rank: 22
ESPN ADP: 14
Yahoo ADP: 14

Hey, remember what we said above about Tua Tagovailoa? That change in the Miami offensive scheme also affects the Miami receivers, in this case Waddle. Also, Waddle isn't the No. 1 option any more on a team where he now has to share space with Tyreek Hill. We still have him with a high target share. Last year, Waddle had a 25.8% target share in his final five games. This year, we're projecting him with a 25.5% target share, so roughly the same. But it's not going up with Hill around, and the team as a whole is going to be throwing less often.

Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders

KUBIAK Rank: 26
ESPN Rank: 15
Yahoo Rank: 17

Terry McLaurin played all 17 games last year and was WR25 in PPR leagues ... and now we think he's going to get better with Carson Wentz as his quarterback? Remember, away from Frank Reich there's a reasonable chance that Wentz turns back into a pumpkin, or whatever he was in 2020. There are also more mouths to feed in Washington this season. Jahan Dotson will get some usage, and Curtis Samuel is healthy (for now), and Logan Thomas is back at tight end instead of Ricky Seals-Jones. McLaurin had a target share of 23.4% over the last five games of last season. We're projecting him with a target share of 25.0%, despite the additions to the Washington roster. Terry McLaurin is an immensely talented wide receiver, but we're trying to win a fantasy football championship here, not a Super Bowl.

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills

KUBIAK Rank: 44
ESPN ADP: 27
Yahoo ADP: 26

Last year, Buffalo threw to its No. 2 receiver 15.2% of the time. We marked that position as Emmanuel Sanders for most games, and Davis for a handful at the end of the season. Now, it's true that Buffalo did throw to Davis more when he replaced Sanders as the No. 2 receiver. In those three games, Weeks 15, 17, and 18, Davis had a 23.3% target rate. But almost all of that came from Josh Allen forcefeeding Davis during the relatively meaningless Week 18 finale against the Jets. Davis had 10 targets in his previous two games, then 14 in that Week 18 contest. So we have Davis projected with just a 15.0% target rate. Plus, as the new No. 2 receiver, Davis will need to take a few of Sanders' possession targets along with his usual deep routes, so we're projecting him with a slightly lower yards per reception average but a higher catch rate. Davis absolutely has upside, and we're projecting him to top his career high by 200 receiving yards. But with this kind of ADP, you're paying full price for that upside as if it were guaranteed instead of just a possibility.

Tight Ends

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

KUBIAK Rank: 17
ESPN ADP: 10
Yahoo ADP: 12

Hey, remember what we said above about Tua Tagovailoa? Yes, that change in the Miami offensive scheme affects all our Miami projections, which is why we generally have the Dolphins passing game lower than ADP. (Tyreek Hill is the exception, as we currently have him just two spots below ESPN ADP and one spot below Yahoo ADP.) On the other hand, supporting a higher pick for Gesicki, he'll likely have more than two receiving touchdowns this year. He had five and six the previous two seasons.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

KUBIAK Rank: 41
ESPN ADP: 29
Yahoo ADP: 15

Despite all the wide receiver injuries the Buccaneers had last season, Brate only had more than four targets in three games, none of them down the stretch. In six games where Rob Gronkowski was injured or barely played, Weeks 4-10, Brate had just nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. He is not going to be the beneficiary of targets after Gronk's re-retirement, especially with Kyle Rudolph and rookie Cade Otton also around to take some of the playing time. Nobody sees Brate as a fantasy starter, but Yahoo ADP has him as a reasonable backup, and you can do a lot better.

Kickers

Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons

KUBIAK Rank: 17
ESPN ADP: 12
Yahoo ADP: 7

Younghoe Koo is a talented kicker, but you draft kickers primarily based on the offense that powers them. Last year, Koo tied for 17th in points scored among kickers. What, he's going to do better than that with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder as the quarterbacks in Atlanta?

Comments

13 comments, Last at 14 Aug 2022, 9:06am

1 McLaurin comments

Terry McLaurin played all 17 games last year and was WR25 in PPR leagues ... and now we think he's going to get better with Carson Wentz as his quarterback? Remember, away from Frank Reich there's a reasonable chance that Wentz turns back into a pumpkin, or whatever he was in 2020. There are also more mouths to feed in Washington this season. Johan Dotson will get some usage...

I have very low expectations for Wentz, but I don't think it's absurd to believe that he may be better than Taylor Heinicke. (That's not too say that I think KUBIAK is wrong about McLaurin overall!)

Also, Dotson's first name is Jahan.

 

4 but I don't think it's…

but I don't think it's absurd to believe that he may be better than Taylor Heinicke.

I think what's actually being said is that it's also not absurd to believe that he may be worse. Wentz in '19 and '21 was only marginally better than Heinicke was last year, and obviously in '20 he was god-awful. 

7 Fair point -- and there's…

Fair point -- and there's obviously some chance of that! For what it's worth, by DVOA Wentz has been better than '21 Heinicke in four of his six seasons, failing to meet that standard his rookie year in addition to his abysmal 2020.

8 Eh, it's a negligible…

Eh, it's a negligible difference in 2 of those years, like 5-7%. So it's more like 2 years equal, 1 year way worse, 1 year better, 1 year way better (dropping rookie year because rookies suck). Baseline expectation would be a slight improvement.

Of course, if you go "without Frank Reich" you get 1 year better, 1 year equal, 1 year way worse, so there, your expectation would be "slight downgrade." Which is what the article's saying.

3 😆

Godwin is coming back from a torn ACL, the WR2&3 without Godwin are brand new to Brady,  both AB and Gronk are gone ( not to mention Howard), and you think Evan’s red zone targets are going to go down???  To me, this does not compute.
or is this part of FO’s annual Brady will regress prediction?  What is it, seven years in a row now? More?

5 It's tough to blame an…

In reply to by Raiderfan

It's tough to blame an empirically-based system for thinking a 45-year-old QB will regress. 

10 Well

He won the MVP at 40.  He was outstanding at age 43.  He was even better at age 44.  So, what is the empirical basis for thinking he will be worse at age 45?  That it hasn’t been done before?   LOL.  He has been doing that for two decades.  

6 No

In reply to by Raiderfan

Not that his targets will go down, but that he will have less success over expectation... that the success will be spread around a bit more.

9 Well

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

a). As far as spread around,  we have seen what Brady does when he doesn’t have multiple receivers he trusts, whether he is left with Edelman, Gronk, or Evans.

b).  As far as success goes, not everyone agrees with you: “With no one healthy left in the receiver corps, Evans was targeted over and over, but he still managed to fight through tight double coverage to put up big numbers. There’s still no one in the NFL better than Evans at making a contested catch.”

12 Travis Etienne

You should have wrote, "[James Robinson] should be fully healthy by the start of the season, and he WAS very good."

Fully healthy, yes. Effective as an NFL RB 9 months after an Achilles tear? That's quite a different question. Cam Akers was "fully healthy" too, but ineffective when he returned. It's a brutal injury for running backs. Look at the history of RB with that injury. They do come back, but that's not the point. You lose that burst that a RB has to have. I'm very curious to see what kind of year Cam Akers has this year, but I won't be drafting him. I'll take Etienne in every draft over Akers. I'm not worried about a timeshare with James Robinson.

13 Evans

In Soccer, those that consistently outperform their xG are just considered the best in the game. You expect to see consistent outperformance of the xG by the best in the game. Considering the way xTD might be calculated, and the fact that Evans has established himself as one of the best in the game, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume he will consistently outperform his expected TD numbers? Perhaps volume will go down for him with Godwin coming back and other signings, but as you pointed out in the article the probability of another WR getting hurt has to be greater than the probability of Evans getting hurt (considering it just takes one other WR going down to open up more targets). Perhaps volume looks like last year with injuries this year, I feel like that’s reasonable to assume. If volume stays relatively consistent, and we have a WR who can consistently outperform the xTD numbers, I guess if there’s anyone I’d be willing to take a leap for, it’d be Evans. 

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