The RotoViz Dynasty Startup draft is in full swing. It has a handful of great rules, lineup requirements, and scoring attributes that make it perfect for a 14-team league of fantasy fanatics. Let’s look at the first round, which, like most things RotoViz, was somewhat contrarian in nature.
1. Doug Martin (Jonathan Bales) – The Muscle Hamster is Bales’ suggestion as the 2013 redraft No. 1 overall pick, so this was something of a no-brainer when he landed the top pick here. To those not acquainted with the various attributes that predict continued success at the RB position, Martin might seem like a mild stretch. He is emphatically not. The RotoViz RB Similarity Score App has him as the top back by a fairly wide margin.
2. Calvin Johnson (Ryan Rouillard) – If you exempt the QB position, then Megatron and J.J. Watt are left to vie for the mantle of NFL’s best player. Calvin Johnson is already 28 but possesses the kind of talent where it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has seven more seasons as the clear cut No. 1 receiver in the game. With our league being very WR-heavy, he would be the top player on my board.
3. Dez Bryant (Max Mulitz) – This was a shocking pick, but perhaps one of pure genius. RotoViz spent the entire run-up to the draft talking about concepts like receiving market share, red zone touchdown rate, and physical score (or Dominator Rating and Height-adjusted Speed Score for Banana Stand fans). Very few players have ever been in Bryant’s rarified air in terms of DR.
Let’s use the heatmap to compare him to Megatron (the best WR prospect ever), Hakeem Nicks (another DR star), A.J. Green (the trendy No. 2 WR in dynasty), Julio Jones (the HaSS superhuman), and DeAndre Hopkins (the clear cut top WR prospect in the 2013 Draft).
If you look at Bryant’s YR2 numbers, it appears he was manipulating the Big 12 using his own personal cheat code: 126 targets, 11.7 ypt, 0.5 red zone TD rate, 0.47 market share yards, 0.76 market share touchdowns. If we were to rate these guys purely in terms of our collegiate metrics, we’d probably go with 1) Bryant 2) Megatron 3) Nicks 4) Hopkins 5) Green 6) Jones. But not only would Dez come in No. 1, there would be two completely separate tiers. Megatron, Bryant, and Nicks are at a different level than Hopkins, Green, and Jones. Possibly due to maturity issues, Bryant didn’t explode on the scene at the NFL level quite the same way that Green and Jones did, but he was clearly the best of the trio down stretch in 2012.
(To find more information like this, you need to try the RotoViz WR College Career Graphs App.)
4. Ray Rice (Ryan Lessard) – It’s difficult to quibble with this pick. Rice is clearly the No. 2 back in the RotoViz Multi-Year RB Projections. He was the top player on my redraft Big Board just last year, and you can make an argument that his situation has gotten better with the Ravens offense both improving and becoming more run-oriented.
5. Aaron Rodgers (Jon Moore) – Expert drafts no longer feature quarterbacks anywhere near the first round area. That may be a mistake. I like that Jon went his own way here. Henry Muto, the well-respected high-stakes fantasy player who won the $100,000 NFFC Online Championship in 2012, drafted Tom Brady in the first round for his title team. I doubt he regrets the strategy. Our RotoViz format is very QB-heavy – as it should be. QB is the most important reality position. Formats that give 4 points for passing touchdowns or -1 point for interceptions are . . . strange.
Earlier this summer, Bales used the QB Similarity Score App to explain why Drew Brees doesn’t belong in the company of Aaron Rodgers. This is even more definitively true in dynasty. Rodgers will almost certainly average 30-plus points a game in our scoring system, which gives Jon a large safety net if he’s thinner at some other spots as a result.
6. A.J. Green (Jacob Meyers) – Jacob makes a very convincing argument for A.J. Green in his column where he also explains his decision to trade up from 9 to 6. I don’t think Green has quite the same upside as Julio Jones – he plays in a more conservative offense and isn’t nearly as explosive an athlete – but Green is clearly safer. He plays with much more fluidity and makes the process of the catch seem an act of the sublime. As was the case with Megatron and Bryant, I would have had Green among my top 5 players in this format.
7. Trent Richardson (Fantasy Douche) – If you’ve played with the RotoViz RB Similarity Score App, read my article on why RB-RB is back as a draft strategy, or taken a look at RB ages and remembered that Richardson is younger than Eddie Lacy, you’ll have no trouble understanding why Frank selected Cerberus here. The new shin trouble is annoying, but all RBs have nagging injuries all the time. You may be able to take advantage of the current scuttlebutt surrounding his injury to get him at a discount in your own draft.
8. Julio Jones (Banana Stand) – I selected Jones with the second overall pick of an NFFC Main Event Classic league last season (Megatron went No. 1). I did not win that league, but you can imagine that I found it impossible to resist the temptation of selecting Jones here. After a somewhat disappointing 2012 regular season, Jones offered a glimpse of future 1,500-yard, 15-TD seasons with his playoff run. He will be overvalued in redraft formats again this year – Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson both own better 2013 projections – but if not for Megatron, we might be talking about Starscream as the greatest physical talent the NFL has ever seen.
9. C.J. Spiller (Davis Mattek) – Had I not selected Jones, I would have picked C.J. Spiller. Davis pointed out that I should have mentioned Spiller in my column on surprising RB ages. Spiller will only be 26 years old during the 2013 season. He’s not that much older than Alfred Morris, a guy I think is the next Terrell Davis. After a slow start to his NFL career, Spiller is proving himself to be a borderline transcendent talent. As Ross Eagles wrote recently, Spiller is just as ridiculous as you think. Consider this for a moment: Spiller and Peterson both averaged exactly 6.0 yards per carry in 2012, but Spiller gained 459 yards on 43 receptions. Purple Jesus caught only three fewer passes, but he gained 242 fewer receiving yards.
10. Demaryius Thomas (Charles Kleinheksel) – Last summer the NFL Network was showing a replay of the Tebow Miracle against Pittsburgh in the 2011 playoffs. Early in the game, they show a big catch by Thomas and then cut to the sidelines where Big Ben and Charlie Batch are trying to figure out if he’s a wide receiver or a tight end. Obviously the contest ends with Thomas effortlessly shedding defensive backs as he sprints for the game-winning touchdown. While Dez Bryant was a surprising but justifiable pick at No. 3 overall, I wouldn’t have batted an eye if Thomas had been selected there instead. Thomas is a Dominator Rating and Height-adjusted Speed Score Superstar. (In the last decade, only Megatron has been clearly superior.) If you want proof, there are charts and heatmaps galore – you know, the viz part – in Charles’ excellent article, Demaryius Thomas – Dynasty Building Block.
11. Adrian Peterson (James Goldstein) – This probably seems like a controversial pick. James would probably say this is an absurd value. PFF Head Honcho Mike Clay would certainly agree. The RotoViz RB App isn’t as sanguine on AP’s prospects, and the Multi-Year RB Projections have him ranked 9th. That would make him the first reach at RB. I recently made the case that Purple Jesus shouldn’t be picked in the Top 5 of redraft leagues. Peterson may be the NFL’s best reality RB, but he lacks the receiving or scoring ability to match the fantasy legends of the past. Even though Peterson caught 40 passes last year, history tells us that backs who accrue such a high percentage of their yards from scrimmage via handoffs are prime collapse candidates. That said, if you want to bet against history and for narrative, Peterson is the back I would pick to make such a wager.
12. Arian Foster (Jon Krouner) – Foster is another player that RotoViz sees a little differently than the masses. A mess of contradictions, the enigmatic vegan is only 26. He caught 40 passes in 2012 and scored 15 touchdowns, a perfect recipe for fantasy dominance. Foster might or might not be injury-prone, and some are worried about Foster’s high workload (although they probably shouldn’t be). Foster did see both his yards per attempt and his number of receptions drop for the third year in a row. The reception dip is a bigger red flag than the poor yards per carry. Foster isn’t a great athlete to start with – he’s more of a Priest Holmes than a Marshall Faulk – and could be hit hard by the initial athletic slide that starts in the mid-20s. Possibly a system back, Foster could have more dynasty value at this time next year if he successfully holds off Ben Tate and sees his understudy depart in free agency.
13. Brandon Marshall (Bryan Fontaine) – Four years older than his mid-first round WR counterparts, I would drop Marshall a tier due to age. On the other hand, RotoViz loves Marshall. Jonathan Bales makes the case that while Julio Jones is overrated, Brandon Marshall is underrated. Jacob Meyers looks at the difficult question of which receiver should come off the board after Megatron and concludes that the answer is Marshall. I examined his advanced splits in my PFF Advanced Targets Year in Review and suggested that, although his target rate is unsustainable, his total target numbers could remain steady with Chicago throwing significantly more passes. It wouldn’t surprise me if Marshall dispatches Bryant, Green, Jones, and Thomas for the next three or four seasons. Beyond that time horizon, Bryan will have plenty of options for filling in behind him.
14. Jimmy Graham (Bryan Fontaine via trade) – Our league has a second flex position than is designated specifically WR/TE. With receiving depth hard to come by in a 14-team format, the flexibility to start a WR1-level tight end in your TE position and potentially slot in a mid-TE1 type player in your WR/TE hole is a huge advantage. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that Graham is older than players like Jermichael Finley, this might be the best pick of the draft. It might be anyway.