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image via wikimedia commons

image via wikimedia commons

If the key to winning at dynasty fantasy football is to buy low and sell high, then isn’t it critically important to understand what low value or high value looks like for any given player at any given time?  This is why we do mock drafts: to gather numerical information about how the perception of a player is changing.  We can then use that changing perception to say “people are undervaluing/overvaluing him” and develop a plan for buying those players when their value is lower.

Two months ago we published a pre-combine rookie mock draft which established a baseline for player values.  At the time, all we knew about players came from on-field production and/or watching footage of them.  Since then we have learned about their physical attributes at the 2014 NFL Combine and various pro days.  As you will see below, these data points have dramatically changed the opinion on some players.  How much of that change is warranted is for you to decide.  So, without further adieu, here are the results of the 2014 pre-draft rookie mock.

Whose Price Has Increased?

  • Jeff Janis  (previously undrafted)
  • Cody Latimer  (previously undrafted)
  • Blake Bortles  (+22)
  • Odell Beckham Jr  (+17)
  • Bishop Sankey  (+16)
  • Johnny Manziel  (+14)
  • Eric Ebron  (+11)
  • Brandin Cooks  (+10)

Despite going undrafted in the pre-combine mock, I suggested that Cody Latimer was a “high-end flier you should know for later in your rookie drafts.”  Well, looks like the cat is out of the bag on Latimer who went berserk at his pro day and has 10 surprising comparables.

Before the combine almost nobody knew about Jeff Janis, but after he posted the 3rd best Freak Score of the 2014 class people have taken notice.  I’m still suffering from a Charles Johnson hangover and haven’t been in a big hurry to attach my name to another (very intriguing) FCS product, but he’s definitely worth a look.

It’s interesting that both Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel saw significant increases in their valuation.  Manziel in the top 5 was a bit of a shock, but if you’re counting on the dual-threat upside, I can understand the appeal.

A recent Rotoviz email thread suggested that Odell Beckham might be this year’s Tavon Austin, meaning that’s he’s an undersized player with nice tools who has caught a tidal wave of support at the right time and will be over-drafted.  Especially when you consider how Odell Beckham scored his 2013 touchdowns, the dramatic increase in cost might push Beckham into the “too rich for my  blood” category.

Thanks to his great agility score and ridiculous comparables Bishop Sankey has jumped into the first round of this mock. Considering that he’s probably Rotoviz’s top-ranked runner, that price tag is very reasonable.

James Todd thinks Eric Ebron is a rare talent with significant potential, which aligns with the mock’s results.  However, I find it to be fascinating that Ebron’s workout-season performance has raised a lot of red flags (namely, his weight-adjusted agility) but his stock continues to climb.  Speculative bubble?

Brandin Cooks made it all the way to the WR Prospect Championship Matchup before giving way to Mike Evans.  I don’t say this to be cute, but I think Brandin Cooks is miles better than Tavon Austin.  If you ranked Cooks as the top WR in this class (or at least ahead of Odell Beckham) I wouldn’t criticize you. Being drafted at the 7th pick is probably the highest you’ll see him go anywhere and I would gladly take him there or anywhere below that.

Whose Price Has Decreased?

  • Andre Williams (previously pick 12, undrafted now)
  • Paul Richardson (previously pick 21, undrafted now)
  • Ka’Deem Carey  (-28 spots)
  • Tre Mason  (-17)
  • Jeremy Hill  (-15)
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins  (-13)
  • Teddy Bridgewater  (-12)
  • Marqise Lee  (-12)
  • Jarvis Landry  (-10)

Despite winning the Tomlinson Award for Outstanding Touchdown Scoring Potential, Andre Williams plummeted all the way through this mock. Honestly, I can’t figure out what is scaring people away as his combine numbers were all strong, especially for a man of his size, and Williams fits the mold of an elite early down and goal line back. What’s going on here?

I’m going to write an article about Paul Richardson soon, but his career trajectory is actually pretty darn respectable.  I know he’s rail-thin, but I’m surprised he went undrafted.  Don’t hold me to this, but I think I like him as much, if not more, than Martavis Bryant and Jarvis Landry, who both went in round 2. Suspicious.

WOW!  Ka’Deem Carey, who went #2 overall in the pre-combine mock, fell like a brick in this draft.  At the time I said ” there are a lot of nice RB options and we still know relatively little about their physical profiles.  Not saying (Carey) won’t ultimately go that high, but right now I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger there.”  Some suspected that he was a product of the RichRod system and the disastrous physical profile might confirm that.

As recently as the 2Mugs podcast I said that Mason was potentially the top running back in the draft.  Although he was a big faller here, I think that was a product of him being overdrafted in the previous draft.  Ultimately I expect him to be a top 15 pick and maybe higher depending on his landing spot.

Don’t ask me what to think about Jeremy Hill.

And now for the biggest shock of the pre-draft mock, Austin Seferian-Jenkins dropped more than one round to pick 29.  What has changed since February?  He has a foot injury that prohibit him from recording any workout data, but the guy is a Phenom Index superstar.  I’ve compared him to Rob Gronkowski before and the similarities only continue given the possibility that ASJ experiences an injury-related slide in the draft.  I LOVED him when he went at pick 16 last time and I’m ecstatic at the possibility that he falls to 29 here.  BUY BUY BUY!

Last time Teddy was the first QB off the board and this time he’s the 3rd.  But I thought pro days didn’t matter?  Unless they do?  Except when a guy does poorly?  But what about the film?  But…

If you did a Sammy Watkins vs Marqise Lee comparison, you might be surprised at the results.  Like Tre Mason, I think Lee was a little overdrafted last time, but a little overlooked here.

And then there’s Jarvis Landry.  The film guys like his footage.  The stats guys like his on-field metrics.  Not even his grandmother likes his workout numbers.  They were a disaster.  The plunge is warranted.

Who Is Holding Steady?

  • Sammy Watkins  (early first round)
  • Davante Adams  (mid first round)
  • Donte Moncrief  (early second round)
  • Davonta Freeman  (late second round)
  • Terrance West  (mid third round)
  • Tyler Gaffney  (late third round)

All of these guys stayed within two picks of their original value after including workout data in the picture.  As much as I like to know who the risers/fallers are, I LOVE to know who is holding steady because it eliminates some of the guess work.  If I want Davante Adams, it looks like I’ll have to spend  mid-first-round pick on him.  Great.  Now I know where to slot him.  Same thing goes for everyone else on this list–their values are holding steady.  It will be fascinating to see if landing spot can move the needle on any of these players.

Whose Picks Do I Love?

My favorite three drafts belong to Justin, Johnny and James.  Maybe I’m biased because my name also starts with a J, but here’s what I’m thinking

While not the sexiest draft, Justin made sensible picks at excellent values.  Sammy Watkins at 3?  Cool.  Donte Moncrief at 15?  I love the upside and the price.  Let’s not go crazy with his Julio-esque measurables.  Teddy Bridgewater–maybe the best QB in the class–at 27?  Deal.

Rumford Johnny, cohost of the must-hear 2Mugs podcast, drafted three different positions at prices that made sense to me– Mike Evans at 2, Jace Amaro at 14 and Jeremy Hill at 26.  I think that Hill has the boom/bust potential, especially considering his touchdown ability, to see his stock skyrocket after the draft.

James made all the picks that I would have made.  Since I didn’t participate I was thinking “who would I pick here?” for every spot.  Sankey at 10, Latimer at 22 and workout warrior Jerick McKinnon at 34 all fit that bill.

Who Went in a Different Direction than Me?

Here’s something I’ve learned in life: whenever really smart people do things you don’t fully understand, you need to pay attention.  Enter Chad Parsons, cofounder of UTHdynasty.  I don’t dislike his picks, I just can’t say that I would have made the same ones.  Carlos Hyde as the first RB off the board?  Isaiah Crowell is a huge boom/bust guy in round two, as is Quincy Enunwa in round three. Very interesting.

Aaron’s pick of Davante Adams was solid, but after that he took Devonta Freeman and Ka’Deem Carey. When it comes to runners, I want great athletes and neither fit the bill, regardless of how they look on film.

Shane got the party started by taking my prospect-crush Allen Robinson.  While I loved that pick, I was a little indifferent about Blake Bortles and Troy Niklas.  I’m not sure I would take Bortles ahead of Bridgewater or Niklas ahead of ASJ, but that’s just me.

What Do You Think?

Comments sections are all the rage at Rotoviz right now.  Leave your two cents below to become eligible to participate in our 3rd Rookie Mock Draft.  Whose picks did you love?  Who went awry?  Who will be the biggest movers between now and the start of the season?  Look forward to reading your thoughts.

Jon Moore is a contributor at RotoViz and a coach at RotoAcademy.  Continue this conversation with him on Twitter or Google+.

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6 comments
Justin Winn
Justin Winn

Great write-up Jon.

Justin here. For the record Latimer was my target in the second and again in the third. After he went off the board, Teddy was just too great a value to pass up. I did consider Michael Campanaro and Andre Williams though.

TheCFX
TheCFX

One thing to note is that the participants in this draft are somewhat varied in their evaluation philosophy. While everyone is a Rotoviz reader to some extent, I don't think the film-heavy perspective is absent from this draft. I probably should have been more clear about identifying the GMs. Maybe it's a little insular, but there's also the possibility that landing-spot really does play THAT BIG of a factor in projections. Montee Ball and Giovani Bernard strike me as two guys from last year who went shooting up after their role/opportunity was clear. It wouldn't surprise me if Hill/Mason experienced a similar move this year.

Mad Wren
Mad Wren

Regarding biggest movers: I suspect a lot of the odder results of this draft come from the insular nature of the community; this is very much a "Rotoviz reader" draft rather than representative of what I've seen elsewhere.  Except for 2QB leagues, I can't see Manziel going 5th, and I simply can't imagine a scenario where only 2 RB go in the first round.  That just isn't how rookie drafts operate; even in bad years, there are 3-4 RBs that get (over)drafted because of positional scarcity and short shelf life.   

That being said, there is a lot of disparity between film guys and stat guys at the moment.  For example, Waldman's banging the drum for Crowell, Carey, Sims, and Mason, while being highly critical of Sankey’s second-level vision and decision-making.Meanwhile, DLF’s ADP rankings show the order of draft preference to be roughly Hyde, Mason, Carey, Crowell, Seastrunk, Sankey, Hill. 

Resultingly, I can’t help but feel that Carey, Mason, and Hill are all severely underrated by this mock.Regardless of how you feel about them personally, if they’re drafted into immediate-contributor situations, they will likely go high. Any of the other RBs that might sniff an opportunity in the next two years will fill up the second round, pushing down the QBs and a lot of the flyer picks. The common analogy for Crowell is Christine Michael, and Michael went in the late 1st/early 2nd in every draft I was in last year. 

Janis stands out as the most unrealistic top-24 pick here, and is a good bet to be available in the third and fourth rounds (or later). If you’re really taking Janis at pick 2.04, you’re doing your team a disservice. I know there’s a school of thought that says if you got “your guy”, you didn’t waste a pick, but I disagree with that in principle. You shouldn’t be shedding value because you love a particular player unless it’s in the first round and that player’s relatively comparable to others (for example, taking Adams or Robinson or Matthews at 1.04). 

Two other things stood out: First, the comment that it’s likely Seastrunk can’t catch. He looked acceptable at the combine during drills. Baylor just doesn’t utilize that in their offense. Second, Carr’s lack of interceptions.When you’re throwing most of your passes relatively close to the line of scrimmage, it makes sense you’d have fewer interceptions.

Mad Wren
Mad Wren

@TheCFX I agree completely, and that's actually in line with what I was awkwardly saying: That even though the individual names may change and be unsettled at the moment, eventually 3-5 RBs will put down roots in the first round in nearly every rookie draft out there. Because of that, early mocks seem to be more valuable as a rising/falling indicator for other positions.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

@jadedwren "I know there’s a school of thought that says if you got “your guy”, you didn’t waste a pick, but I disagree with that in principle. You shouldn’t be shedding value because you love a particular player unless it’s in the first round and that player’s relatively comparable to others (for example, taking Adams or Robinson or Matthews at 1.04). "

Love that. The "we got our guy" line of reasoning has been used to justify a ton of low EV picks through the course of NFL draft history. The gold standard will always be Jacksonville drafting a punter at #70 overall.

rotoviz
rotoviz moderator

@Whiskey Tango Foxtrot @jadedwren  i also like that comment. in my last year of being really shitty at ffb, i had a cheat sheet that probably wasn't bad as a cheat sheet. but the problem was that i just drafted guys in the order i had them ranked. the following year i did pretty similar work but left guys out there as long as i possibly could so that when i did draft them they were bargains. that's pretty much a cornerstone of my strategy now.