Trent Richardson was the shocking No. 1 when I evaluated the RB position using the RB Sim Lab. Brandon Marshall upset the champion when I used the WR Custom Cheat Sheet to create WR projections. It’s time to see if he can once again unseat Megatron.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the official RotoViz Sim Scores give you projections based on what the players did a season ago. Using the Sim Lab, I can create a hypothetical player based on the real player’s size and age but make slight modifications to his targets, yardage, and red zone efficiency.
If it seems likely 2012 was a fluke, I can create a slightly more realistic version of the player and then generate a Sim Score from that. This is especially valuable for players who are changing teams, changing coordinators, or changing quarterbacks. In the descriptions below, I’ve tried to give a quick sense of what adjustments I’ve made to each player.
As I mentioned in Maybe We Should Be More Offended by Megatron’s ADP, Johnson’s back-to-back WR1 finishes put him in the mix to be the No. 1 player in WR-heavy formats. In creating Hypo Megatron, I’ve lowered his target and yardage numbers but bumped his touchdowns. Even making those adjustments, the true comps are fairly sparse.
2. Brandon Marshall
I’ve lowered Marshall’s target numbers just slightly to accommodate the research done by Charles Kleinheksel on Chicago’s likely offense. He still projects as one of the safest picks out there. In many PPR formats his VORP was virtually identical to Peterson’s and his performance is more sustainable.
Thomas is a monster. His size/age/target profile puts his value nearly in line with the top two. If you’re not playing one of the formats I’ve described as dictating a RB-RB-RB approach, then Thomas should be a foundation piece for your lineup.
Johnson is being described in some quarters as a low end WR1 but his historical comps beg to differ. James Goldstein shrugs off the age issue, and I’ve featured Andre1500 as an easy choice for the 10 Most Undervalued. For a more negative look, check out his results when I created WR rankings using the other methodology.
5. Julio Jones
Jones fails to achieve separation using the regular Sim Scores, but I’ve moved a few of White’s targets in his direction here. Despite his monster ceiling, Jones is a player for whom some drafters will seek to find later round proxies.
Fitzgerald doesn’t even place in the previous Top 40 based on his abysmal 2012 season, but I’ve used his age and size with Reggie Wayne’s 2012 numbers in creating this hypothetical. This could slightly overstate his chances since the Cardinals will face a tougher schedule than what Indianapolis saw.
7. Dez Bryant
I’m sympathetic to those drafting Bryant as the No. 2 receiver. He seems more likely to reach his high projection than either Jones or Fitzgerald, and I would draft each of them accordingly.
I played with several scenarios to lower Colston’s projection including docking his targets slightly and taking a negative view of his likely touchdown percentage. Still, one has to create a hypothetical version completely unlike the real Colston in order to force his numbers much lower. His historical profile and his role in the high-powered Saints offense make him a lock for at least low end WR1 value.
9. Roddy White
10. A.J. Green
I was down on Green coming out of college based on his weight, speed, and good-but-not-great college production. I’ve since found that position untenable, but the computer still trails me in that realization. It’s still difficult to land Green since his upside appears priced into his ADP.
11. Vincent Jackson
It will be interesting to see if Jackson’s career high in yardage was an aberration or the new normal. He’s a clear cut player to target and playing in the fantasy-friendly NFC South should help balance Josh Freeman’s inconsistency.
12. Danny Amendola
Amendola’s projection was fun to play with since he obviously has far more value in New England than he did in St. Louis. While the first eleven receivers were high floor/high ceiling, Amendola’s projection represents a huge range of possibilities. The computer loves the number of targets he should see in the Welker role, but it worried about his size and injury problems. I think this result encapsulates the risk/reward with Amendola nicely.
13. Eric Decker
Decker owns the lowest ceiling we’ve seen so far, and drafters seem to be valuing him entirely on that ceiling and not on the high floor. I think the presence of Peyton Manning makes him one of the receivers who is a good bet to finish near the top of his range of potential outcomes.
14. Hakeem Nicks
I used a Nicks amalgam that was similar to the 2011 model, not the dominant 2010 version and not the injury-impaired guy we saw in 2012. I also set the Sim Lab to punish him for his strong likelihood of re-injury. Nicks is only a good investment for those going with the Combustible Lineup.
15. Victor Cruz
Drafters seem to be valuing Cruz perfectly.
16. Torrey Smith
The version of Smith I’m using is similar to the one described by Bryan Fontaine a couple of months ago. In my hypothetical, Smith succeeds in the Red Zone and sees a flurry of targets in an offense suddenly lacking any other threats. I did retain his low catch rate. I could see Smith finishing as high as WR5 or as low as WR40 this season.
17. Jordy Nelson
Nelson and Bowe come in with a photo finish. I’ve given Nelson the edge due to his quarterback play, but you might do the opposite considering his injury situation.
18. Dwayne Bowe
I find concerns about Bowe’s fit with Alex Smith to be almost comical. This is a player who managed impressive yards per route numbers with guys like Tyler Palko at the helm. Arguments referencing Smith’s limiting effect on Michael Crabtree ignore the strong probability that Bowe is a better player, while also forgetting Reid’s is a different offense.
19. Antonio Brown
In putting together the hypotheticals, I tried to create very positive versions of players about whom I’m skeptical. This helps balance my ingrained biases. Brown doesn’t have the size/speed profile I’m looking for, and he doesn’t project as a good Red Zone threat. So his strong projection may seem surprising until you factor in Ben Roethlisberger’s unappreciated stardom and the avalanche of targets Brown should see this season.
20. Pierre Garcon
Garcon is hard to accurately project because he moved to a new offense and then missed most of the season. Washington’s 2013 offense might be quite a bit different than the run-heavy 2012 model, which further complicates matters. Drafting a relative enigma who enters the season with serious injury questions is definitely for risk-takers.
21. Randall Cobb
You can make an argument that Welker’s projection is better, but Cobb seems so head-and-shoulders ahead of Denver’s No. 3 that I’ve given him the edge. I’ve been down on Cobb all offseason, and his inability to stay healthy in training camp is a red flag. Please understand, I think Cobb is a fine player who’s likely to have a good season. I just don’t like his value related to ADP.
22. Wes Welker
Similar to the situation with Antonio Brown, I tried to make sure I didn’t undercut Welker’s projection just because I think he’s one of the most overvalued players. When entering his targets, I used a number halfway between what the beat writers have been suggesting and what his ADP represents. I’ve become a lot more bullish on his chances with Von Miller’s suspension. Peyton Manning could attempt 700 passes and throw for 5,500 yards.
23. Stevie Johnson
With Buffalo’s quarterback situation falling into further disarray, I’m backing off of Stevie Johnson just slightly. However, the injury to Stephon Gilmore makes the prospect of huge Buffalo deficits more likely. Once Manuel returns, Johnson’s target numbers could rival anyone in the league.
24. Reggie Wayne
The overvaluing of Reggie Wayne has been one of the offseason’s more predictable and yet still somehow surprising developments. Drafters do realize Wayne is old, the offense is changing, and T.Y. Hilton is emerging. Right?
25. Josh Gordon
This ranking docks Gordon for the games he will miss at the beginning of the season. Gordon also isn’t receiving much of a discount to the multiple types of risk he represents. But considering how many big names are still to come, and you can see why the Fantasy Douche is targeting him in all drafts.
26. Mike Williams
Williams probably starts the beginning of a new tier. Unless you expect his target rate to jump – which does seem possible – then his upside is limited simply by a lack of opportunity. Of course, my disappointment in Williams’ projection is offset by the fact that he remains significantly undervalued in all formats.
27. Cecil Shorts
I took a conservative view of Shorts’ likely target rate and that combined with his lack of elite size to put a lid on his high projection. If Jacksonville successfully follows through on rumors they’ll move in the direction of a warp offense . . . well, Shorts just becomes even more undervalued.
28. James Jones
I spiked Jones’ target numbers in order to get here. His 2012 season was incredibly fluky, but with Jennings gone and the rest of the gang dealing with various nicks, he should find himself on the receiving end of more Aaron Rodgers passes.
29. T.Y. Hilton
I’m no more immune to the Great T.Y. Hilton Genuflection than the next person. Even though I don’t logically expect Hilton’s touchdown rate to be sustainable, I entered a very high TD number in creating Hypo Hilton. In a limited number of regular season and preseason contests he’s seemingly scored at will. Maybe that’s who he is. As you can see, even if you expect him to keep scoring, a situational deep threat has a low ceiling.
30. Mike Wallace
We’re about to find out whether all those Mike Wallace touchdowns were a function of Wallace’s elite speed or Ben Roethlisberger’s arm brilliance. In creating this projection, I assumed it was an attribute of Wallace’s skillset (even though I doubt it is). I want to know what Wallace will look like if I’m wrong.
In Part 2, I’ll look at receivers in the 31-60 range. If you’re following Matthew Freedman’s morbidly spectacular RBx5 strategy, deep research into this secondary tier will be more important than the high profile guys. Stay tuned.