DeMarco Murray, Mike Wallace, and the Impact of Training Camp Scuttlebutt on Undervalued/Overvalued
Cecil Shorts, Stevie Johnson, and the 10 Most Undervalued Players is my most popular post on RotoViz and since it continues to be read pretty frequently, I wanted to update my thoughts on these players now that training camp has started. I’m also updating my take on the overvalued players listed on Wes Welker, Kyle Rudolph, and the 10 Most Overvalued.
It’s very important not to put too much emphasis on training camp puff pieces. A couple of years ago, Lance Kendricks became a trendy late round tight end pick based on reports that Sam Bradford was relentlessly targeting him in practice. If you made him part of a LRTE approach, the chances are pretty good you ended up with a gaping chasm at tight end. We’re now getting similar reports on Jared Cook, and the most logical explanation may be that Sam Bradford likes his tight ends in training camp because he can’t find his receivers. (Of course, it may mean something different, and I address Cook’s prospects at the end of the article.)
On the other hand, refusing to consider new information because you’ve previously made a different read is a sure fire way to be bad not only at fantasy football but also life in general. So let’s consider the new info. On both lists, the green players are rising, the red players are falling, and blue is holding steady.
10. Alfred Morris
My update suggesting Morris was preparing for a secondary breakout was pre-camp, but Morris continues to be an awesome value. He was drafted No. 18 overall in the recent Going Deep Experts Mock. There’s been scant suggestion that his receiving role will increase, which is good news for those hoping to see him still on the board in the middle of the second round.
Meanwhile, my two priority backups are going in different directions. Deep dynasty sleeper Roy Helu has looked great so far in camp and appears to be dispatching Evan Royster. Rookie super sleeper Chris Thompson – the next Darren Sproles – is struggling with swelling in his knee.
Recommendation: Continue to snap up Morris at every possibility and handcuff with Helu (who could even end up with stand alone value).
The veteran runners aren’t generating much buzz, and that’s probably good. S-Jax has looked tremendous in making the adjustment in Atlanta. Beat writers suggest his carries will be limited but that he’ll catch a ton of passes. Forte and Johnson continue to be drafted much closer to their healthy floors than ceilings.
Recommendation: Forte, Jackson, and Johnson remain the most pivotal players in fantasy.
Johnson showed up negatively in my full set of the Top 40 WR Projections. That simulation was done with the WR Custom Cheat Sheet and was based on DeAndre Hopkins siphoning some catches. I think Hopkins could help Johnson’s red zone woes without hurting his overall numbers, but the app didn’t agree. Hopkins is impressing in camp, so this isn’t necessarily great news for Andre1500. (But it’s tremendous news for one of the best quarterback values in all of fantasy.)
DeMarco Murray didn’t fare particularly well in my experiments with the RB Sim Score Lab. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is in shreds right now, which isn’t particularly encouraging either. Murray’s ADP has fallen into the mid-to-late third round.
Recommendation: Murray is still poised to deliver on the potential of his post-hype stardom, but I no longer feel comfortable pushing him as a no-brainer in the second round. At his new ADP, he’s a bargain.
Colston’s hamstring injury hasn’t had a big impact on his ADP, but it has kept him cheap relative to his value. The No. 7 WR in the Top 40 Rankings, Colston went at 5.09 in Going Deep. Colston is dinged by the masses for supposedly having a low ceiling, but the Sim Scores are adamant that he’s a strong bet to reach his supposed ceiling.
Recommendation: I’ve been saying Colston’s value is the key to RB-RB, and this remains the case.
3. Eric Decker
Most of the buzz out of Broncos camp focuses on the running back battle, but there’s been little indication Decker’s being marginalized for Welker.
Recommendation: Own on every team.
2. Stevie Johnson
Johnson is currently sitting out with a hamstring injury. Johnson is always injured, and it hasn’t derailed his 1,000-yard prowess in the past. Stevie is automatic for the people. Most outlets are recommending caution on Johnson, but they’re simultaneously lavishing praise on E.J. Manuel – a guy I’ve long been saying was underrated; I projected Manuel to the Bills as early as No. 8 overall a month before the draft – and suggesting the Bills will run a ton of plays.
Recommendation: You do the math.
1. Cecil Shorts
Shorts has been an absolute monster in Jacksonville’s early practices. And that’s moved his ADP . . . all the way into Round 7. He’s still going behind players like Anquan Boldin, DeSean Jackson, and Tavon Austin.
10. Drew Brees 9. Darren Sproles
It’s business as usual in New Orleans. Brees was selected as the No. 1 quarterback and Sproles at No. 17 overall in Going Deep. Those are ridiculously inflated values, but guys with high floors are unlikely to truly torpedo your season.
8. Wes Welker
Nothing new to report here. Even the experts are dramatically overvaluing him.
Recommendation: Buy if he falls to Round 8. (So sell.)
7. Mike Wallace
Wallace has not been on the same page with Ryan Tannehill early in camp and is now dealing with a minor ding.
Recommendation: Possibly the worst value in fantasy.
6. Eli Manning
Manning’s 2011 was heavily predicated on the breakout performance of Victor Cruz and the occasional dominance of Hakeem Nicks. Cruz has reportedly struggled with drops since signing his new deal, while Nicks is taking the DeSean “I’m not going to practice in a contract year even if I’m not injured” Jackson approach to the season. On the other hand, Rueben Randle, one of my undervalued receivers from the 2012 draft class – and a Jon Moore favorite – has been a revelation.
Recommendation: Randle’s emergence provides a safety net for WR injury that wasn’t always available to Manning in 2012. Eli remains one of the worst values at WR and an example of How Not to Play Late Round QB.
5. The Rookie Running Backs:
Bernard has been generating positive buzz in training camp. Although his athletic profile doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, his value related to ADP is improving.
Recommendation: Keep in mind how little value rookie 2nd round picks have generated over the last several seasons.
Lacy and Ball should be plummeting down draft boards. Lacy was one of the most overvalued draft prospects this season. His usage at Alabama was a gigantic red flag. Moreover, he’s an example of how our scouting eyes can fail us. The reason scouts, GMs, and coaches love big backs is their ability to churn out successful runs. Lacy led the NCAA in success rate, which is going to look good on tape even though success rate has little predictive value.
Recommendation: Even the eventual, and probably nominal, winner of the Packers running back battle will be overvalued at Lacy’s Round 5 ADP.
A month ago, I felt the battle between Ball and Le’Veon Bell was close enough to at least debate. Outside of a glowing report by Peter King, the training camp news on Ball has been fairly demoralizing for his supporters. Ball lacks special traits and isn’t a good fit for the Broncos offense. He’s essentially Knowshon Moreno without the pass blocking skills. Moreno remains a threat for the all-important third down touches, and Ronnie Hillman’s progress suggests a split of the early down carries.
Recommendation: Run screaming.
4. Percy Harvin
3. Randall Cobb
The Packers are saying Cobb will catch 100 balls and that his training camp dropsies aren’t a big deal. My concerns about Cobb deal with his athletic upside and the difficulty of a Welker/Harvin hybrid emerging in Green Bay’s more egalitarian offense. Practice drops only matter for receivers who are already disliked by the coaching staff.
Recommendation: No change.
2. Kyle Rudolph 1. Jared Cook
No change on Rudolph who probably shouldn’t be going in the first 15 tight ends. Cook is generating serious buzz at the expense of Tavon Austin. I’ve written extensively on why Bradford and Cook are not particularly good sleepers, but Bradford has shown a tendency to lock on particular players at the NFL level. Cook’s ADP has actually gotten a little more reasonable despite the positive buzz.
Recommendation: Cook agnostics should start to at least consider moving into the enthusiast camp.