Fantasy Football Value
The NFL Draft is over, organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamps are underway, excitement is building and it’s officially time to really begin preparations for fantasy drafts this summer.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to prepare for drafts is to determine which players you like more than the general public, or your league mates. I try to do this every year around the same time, when the fantasy gears really start churning. Obviously there are still injury risks and the possibility that players will underperform and/or be demoted during camps, but that’s the chance we take every year.
For this piece I’ll focus solely on the wide receiver position. I’ll give you their overall average draft position (ADP), their positional ADP and what round they’re slated in. Then I’ll tell you why I would take them earlier and what round I would take them in. Of course, there are more than five receivers I’d take ahead of their current ADPs, but these are five that stuck out right away. And these are, in fact, in order of who I think is being cheated the most.
Note: ADP numbers are aggregated from fantasyfootballcalculator.com
Rueben Randle – 127.4 Overall, 51 Position (Late round 11)
Where I have him ranked: WR34 (Early round 8)
Rueben Randle’s current ADP is lower than where he finished last year (WR51 to WR45). This is puzzling considering Hakeem Nicks is out of town and Randle may be their best red zone threat, though tight end Adrien Robinson may have some input. Randle scored six times out of just 78 targets in 2013. That’s efficient, folks. Randle will likely spend most of his playing time as the team’s No. 1 outside receiver, with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. opposite him and veteran Victor Cruz in the slot.
New York mostly used three wide receiver sets during OTAs, but if Beckham serves as their kick/punt returner, Randle and Cruz will probably be featured in the team’s two wide receiver set. The Giants have already stated they want to give Randle the opportunity to prove he’s an elite first-round talent.
An interesting tidbit regarding Randle’s 2013 season is that he played in all 16 games, but did not even receive a target in three of those games. He suffered a knee injury before at least one of those games, the December 29 game against Washington, and was designated as questionable prior to its start. Still, the fact that he finished at WR45 after recording statistics in just 13 games is encouraging. Had he maintained his fantasy points per game average over those three games, he would have finished at WR33.
The Giants also need another legitimate deep threat, besides Cruz, now that Nicks is gone. Randle may actually be the team’s best deep threat even with Cruz in the lineup. He was second on the team in 2013 in yards per catch (YPC) at 14.9; Nicks was first with 16 YPC, and, somewhat surprisingly, Cruz finished at 13.7 YPC.
And let’s not forget about the Giants’ schedule. They’ll have their fair share of shootouts against divisional opponents in the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins. That’s six agreeable contests just in their own division. New York currently has the second most favorable fantasy schedule for wide receivers, according to fftoolbox.com. Strength of schedule (SOS) shouldn’t be the deciding factor in drafting, however. It’s simply another tool you can use in drafts.
By the way, if Victor Cruz has the salsa dance, shouldn’t Randle have his own rendition of a touchdown celebration? I want to see him doing the Macarena by Week 3. I know I’ll be dancing if I can get Randle at his current ADP. He may provide the most value of any wide receiver this year.
Michael Floyd – 64.7 Overall, 26 Position (Mid round 6)
Where I have him ranked: WR18 (Late round 4)
Believe it or not, but Michael Floyd actually led the Cardinals in receiving yards last season. That Larry Fitzgerald guy is also on the Cardinals, by the way. Last year’s breakout candidate did just that, break out, totaling 1,041 yards and five touchdowns on 113 targets. He finished with WR23 numbers in standard leagues, ahead of names like Cruz, Marques Colston and Mike Wallace.
Floyd was Arizona’s biggest deep threat in 2013 as well, though that title may be taken away by newly acquired Ted Ginn this season. Floyd averaged 9.3 yards per target (YPT) and a whopping 16 YPC. We know Floyd can catch the ball downfield, but one area in which he can improve is the red zone. Out of 14 red zone targets last year he only scored twice. Of course, that inefficiency isn’t completely his fault, but even if he had converted just three more of those catches into a touchdown, he would have been WR17. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, I expect Floyd to see at least the same number of red zone targets in 2014, and probably more.
Carson Palmer has already given Floyd high praise this offseason, saying his play jumped out at OTAs. Palmer and Floyd’s rapport became evident last season, and Palmer’s praise is just another indication of that. Fitzgerald will probably maintain his status as the Cardinals’ most frequent target, but Floyd shouldn’t be too far behind.
As far as Floyd’s ADP is concerned, it’s not the worst, but we can do better. Like Randle, his ADP is currently lower than where he finished last season (WR27 to WR23). Jeremy Maclin is being drafted three spots ahead of Floyd. This is what we call a travesty. If Floyd is available late in the fourth round, I’d take a chance on him.
Kendall Wright – 88.2 Overall, 35 Position (Mid round 8)
Where I have him ranked: WR23 (Late round 6)
The idiom “beating a dead horse” definitely applies to my incessant proclamations for love of Kendall Wright. You’d think I’d be tired of gushing about him by now, but I’m not, especially when his ADP is where it is. I’ve always liked Wright, but I like him even more this year under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt. He’s more valuable in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring leagues, but there’s a bargain to be had in standard leagues as well.
While the Titans have had shoddy quarterback play over the last few years, to me, that’s not a huge determinant of how Kendall Wright will perform. In fact, he would probably perform better on most other teams, meaning Tennessee’s quarterbacks (Locker) haven’t been stellar. Still, when you’re the best receiver on your team, you’re going to get the ball no matter who’s throwing it.
I’ve said this before, but it’s mind-boggling that Wright only scored twice in 140 targets. He scored in Week 2 and took a more than two month hiatus before scoring again. That was it. Barring injury, his touchdown total will go up in 2014. In fact, don’t be surprised if it triples.
While Delanie Walker was by far the team’s most used red zone weapon (17 targets), Wright led all Titans receivers in red zone targets with 10, despite his relatively petite stature (5-foot-10, 191 pounds). In fact, he saw more red zone targets than his counterparts, Justin Hunter (6’4″) and Nate Washington (6’1″) combined. It would behoove the Titans to maintain that output in 2014. Wright often uses tremendous footwork to his advantage – something that should be utilized more inside the 20 yard line.
It should come as no surprise that Kendall Wright is not a vertical route-running machine. He only averaged 7.8 YPT last season. This is why, as I said earlier, he is more valuable in PPR leagues, because he’s a smaller-framed possession receiver who gets the little things done. While that does somewhat hinder his value in standard leagues, it shouldn’t be overemphasized. Had Wright tripled his touchdown total last season (again, it still would have been just six touchdowns out of 140 targets), he would have finished at WR18, right in the thick of WR2 territory and right behind Keenan Allen.
Of course, we can’t bank on Wright’s touchdowns increasing, but the odds are in his favor. Keep his 2012 rookie season in mind, when he scored four times out of 64 catches. Don’t let Wright fall down your draft board just because he only scored twice or because he’s not a deep threat. I’ll be surprised if he’s not a WR2 at the end of the 2014 season.
Mike Wallace – 75.8 Overall, 30 Position (Early round 7)
Where I have him ranked: WR19 (Early round 5)
I’ve never really been a Mike Wallace fan or paid any extra attention to him, but I like what’s coming out of Miami this offseason. What’s particularly intriguing to me is new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s impact. Lazor was the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach last year when the entire offense exploded. Yes, that had a lot to do with first-year head coach Chip Kelly, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that DeSean Jackson had a career year when Lazor was on staff.
There has already been talk of the Dolphins further utilizing Wallace’s playmaking ability this season, whether it’s putting him in the backfield or giving him the ball in the open field more often. This was one of the team’s major criticisms last year – not using Wallace to his full potential, resulting in a lackluster season and a frustrated Wallace. There’s a new tone going into the 2014 campaign. Wallace has publicly declared his excitement for Lazor’s new offense, saying defenses won’t be able to key on him like they were able to last year.
One of the most astonishing statistics resulting from Wallace’s disappointing 2013 campaign involved his lack of downfield play. He averaged just 6.6 YPT. That was less than 5-foot-8 slot receiver Cole Beasley of the Dallas Cowboys. This is just another testament as to how underutilized Wallace was in former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman’s stodgy offense. That YPT number should be more in the 8.6 to 9.6 range this season.
With Lazor in town and the Dolphins’ new, more advantageous plan for Wallace, there’s plenty to be excited about. That’s why it’s bewildering as to why his ADP is still so low. As has been the case with every receiver so far, Wallace’s ADP is lower than where he finished in 2013. You know what to do.
Andre Johnson – 45.9 Overall, 18 Position (Late round 4)
Where I have him ranked: WR13 (Late round 3)
Mr. Consistency has taken some heat of late for not wanting to stay in Houston. Andre Johnson’s name has swirled amongst many trade rumors involving several teams to this point, none of which have much gusto behind them. Nevertheless, his ADP has suffered accordingly. It’s lower than where he finished last season, surprise, surprise. Johnson has skipped OTAs and mandatory minicamp, both integral and necessary steps in expressing one’s frustration toward one’s team.
Even if Johnson were to be traded, the “worst case scenario,” his quarterback play would likely improve, considering the top two gunslingers on Houston’s roster are Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum. Yes, he’ll have to adjust to a new team, a new offense, a new coaching staff, new fans, etc., but, as we hear so often, you can’t teach talent. Plus, he’s played with several quarterbacks over the years: David Carr, Tony Banks, Dave Ragone, Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, T.J. Yates, Matt Leinart and Case Keenum. You’re not going to have much worse than Johnson has had in his career.
The bottom line is that since 2008, when Johnson has played a full 16-game season, he has finished as a WR1, including last season. Since 2006, he has at least 100 catches, 1,100 yards and four touchdowns in every 16-game season he’s played. He’s the epitome of consistency when he’s on the field. And really, Johnson has been relatively healthy over the course of his career. He’s missed just 19 games in a span of 11 seasons, or 176 games.
There is some reason to be concerned with Johnson’s status, but not reason enough that he should be the 18th wide receiver drafted. If he’s healthy, he’ll play, and when he plays, he’s elite. Again, he’s finished as a WR1 in every full season he’s played. So don’t be scared to take Johnson earlier in drafts. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “always do what you are afraid to do.”
Do you agree? What receivers are you taking ahead of their ADPs? Leave a comment below.