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Rob Gronkowski and the 10 Most Undervalued Dynasty Players

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The RotoViz staff recently unveiled their dynasty rankings at the four fantasy positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end. I’ve taken these results and created a set of master rankings. The composite ranks at each position have been preserved. The way players fit across positional groupings is mine. I then used the June ADP information compiled by Ryan McDowell1 at Dynasty League Football to determine the biggest existing values.

10. Mike Wallace

Average Draft Position: 83 RotoViz Rank: 70

Wallace is exactly the type of receiver we usually avoid at RotoViz, but we’re always cognizant of possible mispricing. After RotoViz favorites Alshon Jeffery and Josh Gordon, the two receivers most heavily represented on 2013 playoff squads were Antonio Brown and DeSean Jackson. There were three key elements to the successes of these two players. (1) offenses designed to get them the ball; (2) a lack of competing targets; and (3) cost in terms of ADP.

With Bill Lazor implementing a fast-paced offense and emphasizing Wallace all over the formation, he now sits at the confluence of these same factors. Consider the career heat map for Wallace compared to two similar receivers who are coming off the board much earlier.

Wallace heatmap

For all the enthusiasm surrounding T.Y. Hilton, it appears Wallace actually got off to the faster start and may be the bigger talent. Of course, he’s also trending in a very negative direction. In fact, his chart looks very similar to the one for DeSean Jackson heading into the season he was used in a Chip Kelly offense. In all likelihood, Lazor is no Kelly, but there’s a pretty good chance D-Jax is no Wallace either.

9. Knile Davis

ADP 142 RotoViz Rank 83

Although the Chiefs were lambasted for selecting him in last year’s third round, the pundits were wrong. Most people didn’t realize then and fail to realize now just how good he was as a prospect. Consider this nugget from the Intersect’s recent 5 Reasons to Target Knile Davis:

More recently, the RB Prospect Lab gives him a score of 64. For reference, that’s the same score as Gio Bernard, and 1 point behind Maurice Jones-Drew and Jamaal Charles, as prospects.

Of course, the biggest proponent of Knile Davis has been Matthew Freedman. As evidence offered in support of a 3,000-word tour de force before the 2013 NFL Draft, he presented this table to demonstrate how Davis compared to some of his famous SEC contemporaries.

Player Col Wt 40T Year Att/G Yds/G Avg TD/A% Rec/G ReYds/G
Knile Davis Ark. 227 4.37 2010 21.6 127.4 5.9 6.4% 1.9 13.0
Average 222.4 4.43 21.8 117.4 5.3 5.2% 1.6 14.4
Trent Richardson Ala. 228 4.48 2011 22.7 130.0 5.7 5.7% 2.6 31.7
DeMarco Murray Okla. 213 4.37 2010 18.4 74.7 4.1 5.0% 5.5 46.3
Stevan Ridley LSU 225 4.65 2010 20.0 94.0 4.7 5.0% 0.9 5.3
Darren McFadden Ark. 211 4.33 2007 26.4 150.9 5.7 3.4% 1.8 12.4
Beanie Wells Ohio St. 235 4.38* 2007 23.4 140.3 6.0 5.6% 0.5 2.1
Adrian Peterson Okla. 217 4.4 2004 27.1 155.3 5.7 4.0% 0.4 1.2
Carnell Williams Aub. 217 4.43 2003 20.6 102.1 5.0 6.2% 0.5 1.8
Ronnie Brown Aub. 233 4.43 2002 15.8 92.0 5.8 7.0% 0.8 14.4

Davis looked very good in his first season with Kansas City. He’s a much cheaper version of Christine Michael in a much more favorable offense.

8. Nick Foles

ADP 65 RotoViz Rank 42

I realize QBs are devalued in most formats, but Andrew Luck is going at No. 24. Recently, the Fantasy Douche suggested Luck could be the No. 1 QB in 2014, but Jon Moore has convincingly argued that Foles has already bypassed his more heralded peer.

Peyton Manning had arguably the greatest QB season of all time in 2013, but Foles was more efficient by almost any measure. He averaged nearly a yard more per attempt (9.13 to 8.31) and bolstered that with a 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio. It’s fair to expect some regression, but three factors suggest Foles could be even better. He’s only started 16 NFL games. For most signal-callers, the expectation would be rapid improvement over the next 30-40 starts. He’s just experiencing his second offseason in Chip Kelly’s system. With the draft additions of Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, the return of Jeremy Maclin, the trade for Darren Sproles, and the likely development of Zach Ertz, the offensive personnel has been dramatically upgraded around him.

There was really only one possible scenario that would have kept Foles from being a foundation piece on your dynasty team for the next 10 years. In such a scenario, a former Kelly recruit and generational talent who was perfect for the scheme would fall to the Eagles in the first round of the 2014 Draft. Such a player fell. The Eagles passed.

7. Jeremy Hill

ADP 98 RotoViz Rank 74

The rhetoric surrounding Andy Dalton’s move to “game manager” status continues to border on the absurd. If anything, the presumption that Cincinnati will become ground-oriented suggests an even bigger disconnect between Hill’s ADP and his likely value. I’ve explained why Hill is a bigger talent than Carlos Hyde by almost any measure, and Max Mulitz has demonstrated Hill’s easy path to significant touches. Now the news from OTAs puts him clearly in the mix to be the top rookie RB.

6. Rueben Randle

ADP 84 RotoViz Rank 69

Randle’s ADP has been skyrocketing recently, but he remains a value. The former LSU star was a much better prospect than most people realize and is still very young. Randle’s score on the Phenom Index–which is a metric that combines final season Dominator Rating and age–was 2.7. That sits just above Calvin Johnson (2.5) and just below Dez Bryant (3.0).

At 6’3” and 210 pounds with 4.55 speed, Randle owns a Freak Score of 57, putting him in the same range as Hakeem Nicks and Sidney Rice. The Intersect has helped explain why that frame has helped him to a solid red zone TD rate. Expect Randle to be a better bet for 2014 scores than Victor Cruz or Odell Beckham.

Even in normal situations, Randle’s 2013 wasn’t necessarily as bad as perception indicates. Scott Smith found that his market share efficiency rate of 1.39 led Giants receivers with at least 50 targets.

Randle makes a great target in 2014 startups. New York’s new offense should better fit his skills and Tom Coughlin still seems to be counting on him.

5. Andre Williams

ADP 145 RotoViz Rank 89

I don’t understand the way young runners are being drafted. Isaiah Crowell is going at 134 even though he’s not close athletically to Ben Tate or Terrance West and has such character flaws that he fell out of the draft entirely. Marcus Lattimore is going at 138 even though he’s still recuperating from injuries suffered years ago and is buried behind Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and Hyde.

By contrast, Williams is being selected behind both of those players and also behind Rashad Jennings and David Wilson. While Jennings may be the nominal 2014 starter, he’s a veteran stopgap. Meanwhile, the former World Turtle would probably like to carve out a change of pace role as a best case scenario.

To an unabashed Williams fan, there’s a pony on my boat element to his current ADP. The former BC Eagle put on such a show at the Combine that I suggested he might be an Adrian Peterson doppleganger, in this case his presence an ill harbinger not for Peterson himself but instead the other backs on the Giants depth chart.

4. Ryan Mathews

ADP 72 RotoViz Rank 42

Many consider the Ryan Mathews selection another blemish on the resume of former GM A.J. Smith, but Mathews was an elite prospect if not necessarily worth the No. 14 overall in 2010. He scored a 78 on the RotoViz RB projection algorithm. Interested in the names of a few backs with the same score? Chris Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Bishop Sankey.

To provide a little context as to his pro accomplishments, Mathews averaged more yards after contact than Adrian Peterson in 2011 (3.20 to 3.13). He finished as RB12 in 2013 and actually led the RB position in fantasy points per snap. He played poorly in 2012 and has missed a few games over the last several seasons. As a result, you can get a RB1 with burst and tackle-breaking ability at an incredible discount.

3. Matthew Stafford

ADP 58 RotoViz Rank 35

In 2011 Matthew Stafford threw for 5038 yards and 41 TDs. He was 23 years old.

Of course, Stafford has Calvin Johnson, but it’s easy to forget his trio of tertiary2 receivers went by the names Nate Burleson (71 receptions), Titus Young (48), and Brandon Pettigrew (83). His trio of receiving backs called themselves Jahvid Best (27), Maurice Morris (26), and Kevin Smith (22). Sure, Stafford has terrible mechanics and poor accuracy . . . wait, does he really have those things? According to PFF his accuracy was virtually identical to Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson. It was better than Luck and Colin Kaepernick.

Consider the breakdown of Stafford’s attempts from 2011 to 2013 using the AYA app.

Passer Receiver ATTS RECS YDS TDS INTS AYA
Matthew Stafford Calvin Johnson 514 298 5062 32 16 9.69
Matthew Stafford Joique Bell 134 102 1001 0 0 7.47
Matthew Stafford Titus Young 139 79 916 9 3 6.91
Matthew Stafford Nate Burleson 207 139 1458 6 6 6.32
Matthew Stafford Brandon Pettigrew 290 182 1741 10 7 5.61
Matthew Stafford Kris Durham 106 46 615 3 4 4.67

His efficiency levels throwing to a RB trumped all non-Megatron receivers. Young, the overrated malcontent who lined up in the wrong position on purpose, was better than Pettigrew, Burleson, and Durham. Some people have asked why Stafford didn’t throw to Johnson even more often, but it’s frankly a miracle that he managed to target him so frequently and that he was so efficient when doing so.3

Stafford has crested 4,600 passing yards in three consecutive seasons and is entering his age 26 campaign. Many will scoff at the importance of Stafford’s volume-based accomplishments because they labor under the startling delusion that lesser QBs can create such epic seasons if merely allowed to sling it around the yard. Even if you’re such a critic, it probably still strains credulity that Stafford has the same number of 4,600-plus passing yard seasons as Manning and Brady. He’s got the same number of such seasons as Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino combined. Only one QB has done it more often, and the Lions now intend to run the offense that turned Drew Brees into a megastar. This is the last offseason you’ll be able to get Stafford any lower than QB3. You should be frantically trying to acquire him in all leagues.

2. Zac Stacy

ADP 39 RotoViz Rank 20

Is Zac Stacy the most undervalued player in all of fantasy football? That was the question I originally began to examine here, but as the evidence kept piling up, I had to spin it into a separate post.

1. Rob Gronkowski

ADP 28 RotoViz Rank 2*

*Keep in mind that Gronk was the No. 2 TE by our staff rankings. The decision to place Graham and Gronk in the top two spots overall was mine and shouldn’t be considered proof any of the other RotoViz writers are crazy.

It’s easy to forget just how dominant Rob Gronkowski was in his short stints between injuries last season. If you included all of the receiving positions, he edged Calvin Johnson for the most yards per route in 2013. Since 2010 his impact on the Patriots offense has been seismic. If you play with the Game Splits app, you can discover the relative value of Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham to their respective offenses.

Fantasy Points Per Attempt

 Players In Split Out of Split
Brady/Gronk 0.71 0.54
Brees/Graham 0.66 0.61

Since 1960, only Lance Alworth has averaged more TDs per game in his first four seasons than Rob Gronkowski. Gronk edges Bob Hayes, Randy Moss, and Jerry Rice with 0.84 TDs per game. It’s easy to forget now, but he also came into the NFL at a young age with an unparalleled college resume. I knocked Gronkowski in my 2014 redraft rankings, but he was my top player at the TE position in dynasty. He’s a bigger talent than Graham, more than two years younger, and may be completely healthy by the start of 2014. Considering his extensive injury history, there are probably safer picks, but I wouldn’t argue if you selected him No. 1 overall.

If the advanced stats in this article helped you in your research, you can find more information on undervalued players in Top 10 Sleepers, Top 20 Deep Sleepers, or 10 Post-Hype Super Sleepers.

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  1. Ryan does tremendous work and should be followed on Twitter.  (back)
  2. You can’t really consider anybody on the Lions a secondary target.  (back)
  3. Megatron led the NFL in yards per route last season.  (back)
By Shawn Siegele | @ff_contrarian | Archive

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