Fantasy Trade Advice Week 6: The Trimester Report Card

Fantasy RecapFantasy Trade Advice

Take yourself back to the preseason: What do you think the odds were of Mike Evans, Dez Bryant, and Alshon Jeffery having less combined fantasy points than Leonard Hankerson through Week 5? One million to one? If you took that bet, you’d be using my paychecks for coasters right now.

It’s been five weeks since the preseason, which equates to roughly one-third of the fantasy season, and it’s time to take a step back from the week-to-week ups and downs and look at how player values have transformed over the entire season to date. How well have we predicted 2015 as a fantasy community so far? What letter grades do we deserve? Are those top draft picks doing as well as we thought they would? Should we still consider the underperforming top picks as ‘studs’?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve offered you focused opinions on individual player values and trading strategies. This week, I’m going to take a giant step back and show you how we as a fantasy football community have performed thus far. You’ll see my thoughts on many of the perceived early season stud players; however, my main goal here is for you all to put your own eyes on the data and see what it means to you. Chances are, you are caught up in the weekly performances of players like everyone else (and me). As you read through this, think about the season as a whole. I hope that it will prompt questions in your mind that you hadn’t thought of before.

(steps off soapbox)

Seriously though, sometimes it really helps to just stare at all of the data, instead of continually focusing on individual players, individual trades, etc. Next week, we will be back to the good old trade talks and player values. I’m still working on the best way to present my self-grades, too; like I said last week, they are coming soon.

Top Draft Picks: Are They Still ‘Studs’?

If you’ve been reading this column, you know how strongly I’ve been emphasizing our borderline-humorous inability to predict individual player fantasy football performances over a season. If you’re new to this, click here to read more on the subject. In general, we spend months trying to predict which players will be at the top of their position… and then the season happens. Is this year any different?

After Week 3, I used summary tables to look at the top drafted players at each position. Let’s take a look using updated stats. For the sections below, I’ve looked at the top 5 drafted QBs, the top 12 drafted RBs, and the top 12 drafted WRs. Specifically, I compared their draft slots (using preseason PPR average draft position) to their current levels of production in points per game. After each table, I answer the final question: should we still consider them to be studs? I binned players into three categories:

  • Definitely means yes. If you can get your hands on these players, do so immediately.
  • Maybe means it’s unclear, and I offer my player-specific opinions in an attempt to make it less cloudy. In general, these are players that I wouldn’t try to trade for, but I also wouldn’t force myself to get rid of.
  • Not So Much means no. If you are afforded an opportunity to jump ship at a reasonable price, I would say pull the trigger.

Quarterbacks

Quarterback Team Preseason Draft Pos. Current Rank(PPG)
Andrew Luck
QB1 QB28
Aaron Rodgers
QB2 QB3
Peyton Manning
QB3 QB31
Drew Brees
QB4 QB13
Russell Wilson
QB5 QB14


These performances are a great example of the saying, ‘people prefer the devil they know.’ I think we can mostly agree that, after Luck and Rodgers, the QB situation was muddled heading into 2015. And at the end of day, people went with the devils they knew – household names like Manning, Brees, and Wilson – over uncertain, or otherwise less proven, players. Last week, I discussed this phenomenon in the trade market; specifically, using household names versus recent production to maximize your odds of success in executing trades.

So, who of this group still qualifies as a stud?

Definitely: Aaron Rodgers; no explanation required. I consider Andrew Luck too talented not to rebound. I’d still bet on him, and his value should be at an all-time low on the trade market.

Maybe:

    Russell Wilson

  • Russell Wilson is playing well despite his offensive line, and Marshawn Lynch returning will bode well for him. He should return mid-to-low-end QB1 numbers, boosted by his rushing stats. I wouldn’t trade for him, but I also wouldn’t be disappointed starting him.
  • Drew Brees is a shell of his former self, but he’s on a bad team and will continue to put up garbage time points. He should keep putting up low-end QB1 numbers.

Not So Much: Peyton Manning is done. Just watch his interceptions against Charles Woodson from last week. I’m pretty sure the second one was a punt with some creative video editing to make it look like a forward pass.

Overall Grade: As a fantasy community, we didn’t do a great job here. We got lazy and picked household names after the two studs, and it cost us some valuable draft picks. It’s still relatively early in the season, but the returns aren’t promising on the whole.

First Trimester QB Grade: C

Running Backs

Name Team Preseason Draft Pos. Current Rank(PPG)
Le’Veon Bell
RB1 RB2
Adrian Peterson
RB2 RB5
Jamaal Charles
RB3 RB3
Eddie Lacy
RB4 RB43
Marshawn Lynch
RB5 RB35
C.J. Anderson
RB6 RB64
Matt Forte
RB7 RB7
DeMarco Murray
RB8 RB11
Jeremy Hill
RB9 RB38
LeSean McCoy
RB10 RB28
Justin Forsett
RB11 RB13
Lamar Miller
RB12 RB51


The RBs this year have been something of a struggle, but I think that is more expected with RBs than with other positions. Of the top 12 RBs drafted, six are in the top 13; however, the other six are outside the top 28. That is bad. Really bad.  

So, who of this group still qualifies as a stud?

Definitely: Bell, Peterson, Forte, and Forsett are the no brainers on this list. I am also sticking on the Eddie Lacy bandwagon. He’s in arguably the best offense in football, and he will get his chances.

Maybe:

  • DeMarco Murray EaglesI bet you wouldn’t have guessed that Demarco Murray was in the top 12 at RB. I certainly wouldn’t have. He should keep carrying his solid if unspectacular value, but of course he will likely miss a couple more games due to injury.
  • I will be on a windy corner with this one, but I’d still buy (very) low on Lamar Miller. I think the Dolphins will make a concerted effort to get him the ball, and I bet he can be had for practically nothing from a frustrated owner.
  • Last week, I advocated selling high on Jeremy Hill. That opportunity has passed us by with his last game dud, but we will definitely get another chance at some point. Hang onto him for now, and don’t feel bad if you have to start him. There’s a reason that Giovani Bernard lost his starting job to Hill in 2014.
  • I don’t have a strong read on Marshawn Lynch. If you have him, you have to hang on, but I don’t have much confidence in trying to trade for him.

Not So Much: Jamaal Charles suffered an ACL injury. I think we can give up hope on C.J. Anderson, as the Broncos offense looks completely helpless. I also think we can give up on LeSean McCoy. His injury seems to be plaguing him, and there’s a good chance it will sap his effectiveness the rest of the way. Moreover, the entire Bills offense appears to be struggling.

Overall Grade: As a fantasy community, I think we actually did a solid job picking RBs. Half of our picks have panned out so far, and there is reason for optimism with a few others. Not bad.

First Trimester RB Grade: B

Wide Receivers

Name Team Preseason Draft Pos Current Rank(PPG)
Antonio Brown
WR1 WR6
Julio Jones
WR2 WR1
Dez Bryant
WR3 WR52
Odell Beckham Jr.
WR4 WR11
Demaryius Thomas
WR5 WR19
Calvin Johnson
WR6 WR27
A.J. Green
WR7 WR8
Randall Cobb
WR8 WR18
T.Y. Hilton
WR9 WR31
Alshon Jeffery
WR10 WR36
Brandin Cooks
WR11 WR38
Mike Evans
WR12 WR73 :(


Straight up bloodbath. What on Earth happened to the rule that WRs are more consistent than RBs?

Tim TebowJust four of the top 12 drafted WRs are in the top 12 right now, and six are outside the top 26. Or, put another way: If you are a Tebow fan… this is nothing personal. He just has a really compelling sad face, you know?

So, who of this WR group still qualifies as a stud?

Definitely: Jones, Brown, Beckham, and Green are the no brainers on this list. Despite Randall Cobb’s last couple of games, I also put him into this category. I don’t even consider him a buy-low right now – I don’t think owners will be willing to jump ship. It is worth a shot though.

Maybe:

  • Demaryius ThomasDemaryius Thomas is in a depressing offense, but as a targets and yards-after-catch machine, he still has a good weekly floor. His upside is definitely limited, so while I wouldn’t advocate trading for him, he’s unlikely to cripple your team should you continue to start him.
  • I’ve read some posts that say Calvin Johnson doesn’t look like his old self. Whether or not that is true, he is not the problem: Stafford is. However, Calvin continues to rack up looks underneath, giving him a nice floor every week. Like Demaryius, he’s a player that I wouldn’t try to trade for, but I wouldn’t be upset if I had to start every week.
  • TY. Hilton and Brandin Cooks are similarly #1 WRs in under-achieving offenses. I like Hilton’s chances more than Cooks’ to return to the ranks of WR1 value, but neither are sure bets. Both could still put up some massive games, but both will likely continue to be inconsistent.
  • Dez Bryant’s outlook is improving, but there’s still a ton of uncertainty here, and he will also have to deal with a crappy backup QB if he returns soon. I’m not buying right now, but I’m not selling, either. If you have him at this point, you might as well wait and see what happens.

Not So Much:

  • Alshon Jeffery’s season is tumbling down the drain. He could get healthy and put up some monster stats, but his health, combined with the sinking ship that is the 2015 Bears, are too much of a risk for me to advocate a trade for him.
  • Mike Evans has proved his health; unfortunately, Jameis Winston is looking like a slightly more athletic version of Jamarcus Russell thus far in 2015. Perhaps Winston is eating a healthier snack than skittles.

Overall Grade: Epic failure all around. I’m going to do some digging with Excel and try find trends to explain why we have been so, so wrong this year. Perhaps we overestimated the correlation between an increased emphasis on the passing game and higher production from #1 WRs. Perhaps we were just plain wrong. At any rate, we couldn’t have done much worse at the WR position. A couple of players save this from being a complete disaster.

First Trimester WR Grade: D

Conclusion

I hope that reading this article has allowed you to take a step back and think about how our preseason predictions have gone so far, and to remember how hard it is to make these predictions correctly. It certainly gave me some good laughs to look at how far off we are right now.

I am going to revisit these tables every few weeks to keep hammering this point home because I believe it is the most critical of them all. Keep weekly expectation swings in check and be mindful of how we got to where we are in a long, grueling (fun?) NFL season.

As always, keep sending me trades (@JJRaleigh87). I’ve gotten a bunch from you all every week, and it’s been really fun to share my thoughts. Keep ‘em coming!

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