Football

Wes Welker, Kyle Rudolph, and the 10 Most Overvalued Players

Kyle Rudolph

As an optimist at heart, you can consider me glass half full on most of these players. I don’t dislike most of these guys any more than I dislike Adrian Peterson. Well, that’s not true. I love Adrian Peterson, even though I don’t think he should go in the first five picks.

Unfortunately, almost all players in any given fantasy draft represent very poor risk/reward propositions at their ADPs. Doing the research that removes them from your board is at least as important as locating the next super sleeper. It may not be as fun. And if you like the good news first, hop over to the companion piece, Stevie Johnson, Cecil Shorts, and the 10 Most Undervalued Players.

10. Drew Brees (ADP 26)

I can understand how difficult it would be to pass on 2012’s No. 1 quarterback early in the third round. Unfortunately, the value he would likely deliver falls well short of his ADP. I almost always employ a late round quarterback strategy, so I’ve been burning up the RotoViz QB Sim Scores to try to find every possible bit of excess value at the quarterback position. My favorite 2013 breakout QB is Andy Dalton.

But the projection for Brees doesn’t separate him from a trio of boring veterans who will be available very cheaply.

Drew Brees Ben Roethlisberger Joe Flacco Matt Schaub
Low 16.1 18.5 18.8 13.7
Median 20 20.5 21.1 18.4
High 22.6 21.8 22.2 20.7

*I’ve removed Week 17 from Flacco’s projection since he was pulled early.

While Brees wins at the high projection level, he trails both Roethlisberger and Flacco at the median and low levels. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t expect Roethlisberger and Flacco to outscore Brees. I think the Sim Scores probably underestimate Brees and overestimate the other three. But even when we disagree with what the historical comps tell us, it’s worth wondering if there might not be some important hidden information our brains aren’t really set up to spot or emphasize.

For Ben Roethlisberger, we’re underestimating the impact of Todd Haley. For Joe Flacco, were’ probably underestimating the natural fantasy progression of a player with his real life abilities. (The same way we underestimated Tom Brady until 2007 happened.) If anything, my favorite player in terms of value over draft position is Matt Schaub. The app doesn’t know about DeAndre Hopkins.

For Drew Brees, we’re probably underestimating the likely impact of Sean Payton’s return. A less unsettled organization will be more competent on defense and more efficient on offense. Both changes should lead to fewer passing attempts. The Saints have publicly declared their intent to re-emphasize the running game, and the app suggests we take them seriously.

Further Research: Drew Brees Doesn’t Belong in the Company of Aaron Rodgers.

9. Darren Sproles (ADP 27)

Yesterday, I compared Darren Sproles to post-hype superstar DeMarco Murray, and the results were brutal. In fact, the projection for Sproles is disastrously bad. It’s tempting to suggest Sproles suffers from a spate of comps who aren’t really that similar. Kevin Faulk shows up a bunch, and, although Faulk was used in a somewhat similar way with the Patriots, his talent level was obviously far lower. But if vaguely dissimilar bad comps are weighing him down, vaguely dissimilar enthusiastic comps are propping him up. On the positive side we see Brian Westbrook’s 2006 season and Charlie Garner’s 2002.

Sproles YOY

If you’ve tinkered with the YOY Change Plots very much, you know this is actually a very favorable chart. And in some ways, that’s the bad news. Even a favorable outlook for Sproles gives him a very low ceiling.

I expect Sproles to record low end RB2 numbers if he stays healthy in 2013, but at that spot in the draft your running back needs to possess mid-level RB1 upside. The Saints offense just has too many mouths to feed. You can check out the QB-Receiver Efficiency App for corroboration.

Passer Receiver  ATTS  RECS  YDS  TDS  INTS  AYA 
Drew Brees Darren Sproles 215 161 1383 14 3 7.11
Drew Brees Pierre Thomas 112 89 779 2 0 7.31

Despite the 14-2 TD edge, Brees still generates more efficiency on passes to Pierre Thomas. As the one true all-around back in the New Orleans backfield, Thomas should be on your Ultimate Power Roster.

8. Wes Welker (ADP 43)

Even if Welker had stayed in New England, the app liked Eric Decker to outscore him this year. I’m not entirely sure what theory drafters are following in selecting him in the mid-fourth. The Denver beat writers have pegged him for 85 receptions, which seems uncannily accurate. Using Welker’s career yards per catch, here’s my healthy projection.

Recs Yards TDs FP Rank
Wes Welker 85 952 7 222.2 WR18

Welker is currently being drafted as the 16th receiver off the board. A very conservative drafter might think this isn’t an egregious overvaluation, but you simply can’t draft an aging, possession receiver at a premium to his expected value. If you’re using the various RotoViz tools available to you, every player you draft should have significant upside that isn’t priced into his draft slot.

Further Research: 10 Most Undervalued Players

7. Mike Wallace (ADP 52)

None of the research we’ve done at RotoViz has turned up anything positive on Wallace. You just can’t consistently win fantasy leagues with vertical threats. Their performances are unsustainable, and they make for brutally difficult weekly lineup decisions.

Don’t believe me. Check out Wallace’s Year-Over-Year Change Plot.

Wallace YOY

Further Research: Looking at Wallace in Big Ben Games Only; Mike Wallace versus Torrey Smith.

6. Eli Manning (ADP 99)

If you’ve read any of the QB Stealth Star articles, you know Eli Manning is a frequent point of comparison. Basically anybody you might be thinking of drafting at QB, the app likes that guy better than Eli Manning. (Except for Matthew Stafford.)

Oh, and in my set of comps for Alex Smith I discover Eli Manning wasn’t good enough to make the list. Here is the closest comp for Eli’s first four years in the league if you go back fifteen years.

From To Comp Att Perc Yards TDs INTs AYA
Eli Manning 2004 2007 987 1805 54.68% 11385 77 64 5.57
Mark Sanchez 2009 2012 1028 1867 55.06% 12092 68 69 5.54

This could mean Mark Sanchez really will win his battle with Geno Smith and eventually lead the Jets to the Super Bowl, or it could mean Eli’s early performances were even far worse than you remember. (In case merely mentioning Mark Sanchez doesn’t make it clear, these are terrible numbers.)

Eli is no longer that quarterback, but I think those seasons are still relevant in that they should mildly inform our opinion of his true talent level. Lesser talents tend to see their performance levels crater much sooner than uber-talents like Peyton and Brett Favre.

Eli Manning has really only put up two elite seasons out of nine and is coming off of a poor campaign. Drafters who are still taking him in the Top 100 picks seem to be giving him a big boost from the return of Hakeem Nicks. That should make a significant difference, but not enough to justify such a lofty draft position.

5. The Rookie RBs: Gio Bernard (ADP 63), Eddie Lacy (ADP 65), Montee Ball (67)

Of the 25 rookie running backs who were drafted in the second round since 2000 and saw some playing time, only four would have been startable in fantasy (Clinton Portis, Matt Forte, Anthony Thomas, Maurice Jones-Drew).

Rookie second-round runners make terrible bets in the range of the draft where you should be searching for both safety and upside. Does this concern also apply to Le’Veon Bell? I think it does. I’ve argued that Ball and Bell are the two runners who should be in contention for the top rookie pick, but Bell is the winner because his athletic profile is sneaky awesome. Bell is still a big time risk at 70th overall.

The other three runners project as mediocre pros, and their lack of experience should make them redraft untouchables. To discover why I’m skeptical about their viability as NFL lead runners, check out the further research.

Further Research: Agility Scores, Montee Ball, and Evan Royster; Agility Scores, Giovani Bernard, and Kendall Hunter; Eddie Lacy, Mark Ingram, and Insanity; Eddie Lacy, Kenjon Barner, and Success Rate.

4. Percy Harvin (ADP 24)

I don’t want it to seem like we have a fatwa against Percy Harvin here at RotoViz. Sure, Harvin is a vastly overrated reality player whose churlish behavior earned him a ticket out of Minnesota, but he was on his way to a massive fantasy season before getting hurt last year.

Our case against Harvin boils down to logic not emotion. Even though Russell Wilson is a huge upgrade on Christian Ponder, his situation is far worse in Seattle. Harvin is the type of receiver who thrives on volume not efficiency. The Seahawks are likely to use him at a rate where his lack of efficiency doesn’t stall their offense. Pete Carroll has repeatedly insisted  his team will remain run-oriented, and a quick check of his offensive coordinator’s play-calling history adds corroboration.

A lot of very smart people consider Harvin to be an athletic freak, one of the most electric playmakers in the game. That may be true in some ways, but it’s also irrelevant. The RB/WR hybrid position isn’t nearly as valuable as a true No. 1 wide receiver or a true No. 1 running back. It’s not as valuable in reality, and it’s not as valuable in fantasy. Don’t draft Harvin as though he plays one of those positions.

Further Research: How To Think About Percy Harvin – The Wrap Up

3. Randall Cobb (ADP 23)

Randall Cobb versus Andre Johnson was the most pivotal decision faced in How To Lose A Draft in 10 Picks. Since Andre1500 was No. 6 on the 10 Most Undervalued list, you know which side I recommended. Since that time, Cobb’s ADP has actually improved.

I understand the enthusiasm for Randall Cobb. He just might be a Harvin/Welker hybrid who gets to play with Aaron Rodgers. But almost all of the arguments against Harvin also work against Cobb, with this important addendum. Cobb isn’t nearly as athletic. Here’s an excerpt from The Case Against Randall Cobb:

What many people don’t realize is that while Harvin ran a salty 4.39 at the Combine, Cobb’s 4.46 is just flat slow for a guy who’s 5’10″, 190. Cobb also posted terrible numbers in the 3-cone and short shuttle.

Creating player comparisons can run the risk of oversimplifying. Cobb may end up being a “slash” of so many elite players that to get all of them in one guy you have to pay a hefty premium. I don’t think that’s going to be the case here.  If you want Wes Welker circa 2011, you should draft Danny Amendola. If you want a spork-type receiver in an elite offense, draft Lance Moore. If you want Percy Harvin, just draft him.

If you want a piece of the Packers passing offense, draft Jordy Nelson, a player who has immense potential as an injury sleeper.

2. and 1. The Trendy Tight Ends: Kyle Rudolph (83), Jared Cook (96)

Kyle Rudolph and Jared Cook are the two most overrated players in all of fantasy football right now. Let’s take a quick look at their PPR projections compared to Jermichael Finley.

Jermichael Finley Kyle Rudolph Jared Cook
Low 6.2 5.3 5.7
Median 8.7 7.2 7.8
High 11.5 9.1 10.1

So even coming off of a season where he recorded a fluky two touchdowns, Finley owns a better projection. He also gets to play with Aaron Rodgers, while the other two are stuck with Christian Ponder and Sam Bradford. Want to know just how bad Rudolph was in his semi-breakout year? Check the QB-Receiver Efficiency App.

Passer  Receiver  POS  ATTS  RECS  YDS  TDS  INTS  AYA 
Christian Ponder Kyle Rudolph TE 93 53 493 9 3 5.78
Christian Ponder Toby Gerhart RB 27 20 155 0 0 5.74
Christian Ponder Jarius Wright WR 36 22 310 2 1 8.47

If you can’t outperform a bulky, second string running back who’s largely considered to be a bust, then you’re not bringing a whole lot to the table. (I threw Jarius Wright in just as a fun bit of context or as a red herring, your choice.) With the theoretical upgrades the Vikings made in the offseason, the chances Rudolph sees 93 targets again are vanishingly low.

You’d hope a similar evaluation of Jared Cook would return better results, but it doesn’t. That’s why I concluded earlier in the week that Sam Bradford and Jared Cook may not be sleepers.

Fortunately, there are plenty of playable inefficiencies at the tight end position, and one of them is age. The most actionable article in my Age Series focused on the tight ends. You’ll discover a handful of true sleepers are younger than you think.

Further Research: Top 10 Sleeper Tight Ends

Honorable Mention: Frank Gore (41) Greg Jennings (77), DeSean Jackson (89), Jeremy Maclin (84)

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

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By Shawn Siegele | @ff_contrarian | Archive

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