Should We Fear Regression? An Early 2016 Seahawks Projection
Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson probably won you your league last year (or caused you mass amounts of grief trying to fade them). Is this offensive juggernaut headed for a repeat in 2016?
Efficiency is the Key
While the perception has largely been that the second half boom was a byproduct of the Seahawks starting to pass more, the results were actually far more mild than one would expect:
A 512 pass attempt pace was an increase over the first half of the season, but it still would have ranked 26th in the NFL last year. When talking about that kind of low volume, the only reason a passing game can go off like that is unreal efficiency. Luckily, Wilson is just the QB to do it:
There’s not much more to say about Wilson. He’s ridiculously efficient and has the added bonus of putting up monster weeks just from his legs. I have him being pretty much the same player he was the last two years when he put up 327 and 336 points respectively. I have not done my Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, or Cam Newton projections yet, but I think it is safe to say Wilson will be up in that top tier when all’s said and done, and a legitimate argument will exist for taking him as the QB1 in superflex leagues.
Prosise Over Results
I am not really a Thomas Rawls guy for many of the reasons I talked about with Carlos Hyde in my 49ers projection. I don’t like RBs coming off major injuries, and I don’t like RBs who do not catch passes. I have him carrying just above the league median’s 46 percent of the load at RB1, which is down considerably from the 56 percent average Marshawn Lynch saw as the lead RB in his last two healthy years. I think that is a fair number given his ongoing recovery, lack of sample size, potential change in offensive philosophy, and new high draft pick in town.
Justin Winn is all over CJ Prosise. I see the makings of a potential league winning pick. I have Prosise putting up nine PPR points per game, even with a healthy Rawls factored in. That’s standalone value at the very least. When you factor in the potential to maybe see up to 100 more touches if Rawls misses the start of the year, there is some tantalizing upside here. Next to Charles Sims, I don’t think there is a backup RB I would rather own this year.
Don’t Fear Regression
Baldwin is one of the most difficult players to rank because of just how far off the chart his efficiency stats went during his insane run last year. Regression to the mean seems inevitable but just where does that mean lie? I set his TD rate for six and a half percent – less than half of what it was last year yet double his 2014 percentage. I believe Baldwin’s usage in short yardage situations as the slot receiver can carry over into more red zone looks in 2016 than there had been before last year, but it still represents a natural correction. I also corrected Baldwin’s yards per target back to the league’s 75th percentile at nine yards.
Baldwin’s stats come in near identical to 2015 except the TDs are cut in half, which even so would have made him WR19 last year. I actually think Baldwin is a strong buy in the fifth round. While a lot of owners are terrified of the word “regression,” what often ends up happening is their fear gives them a black-and-white position: “I know Baldwin can’t catch 14 TDs again, so I am just not drafting him. Period.” This market fear often pushes the price down.
As I discussed in my Dynasty Age Premium series, people often do not take into account that ADP is inversely related to the odds you need for that player to be good enough to return his cost. It would be one thing if Baldwin were being drafted as the guy who caught 14 TDs last year and won a lot of people their leagues, but his fifth round, WR25 ADP offers quite a bit of cushion off a possible regression, no matter how inevitable it seems. Plus if last year wasn’t a fluke, then look out…
The New Allen Robinson or The New Koren Robinson?
Tyler Lockett has been a hot name recently after Matt Harmon called him “his new Allen Robinson”. It’s important to remember that Robinson played for a team that threw 124 more passes last year, predicated by a lot of negative game script. With an over/under of 10.5 wins, it’s almost impossible to imagine the Seahawks ever reaching that level. So I cannot advocate blindly taking Lockett just based on the premise that a high-profile analyst compared him to a past breakout candidate (Harmon even cautions this himself).
I up-ticked Lockett’s market share from 14.4 to 17 percent. With similar efficiency, it’s probably not enough to keep Lockett owners satisfied with a WR35 pace. Since the Harmon article on June 21, Lockett’s ADP has moved up to a mid-sixth and has been spotted in the fifth round. Even before the article when he was a consistent seventh rounder, I would have said that I preferred Desean Jackson, Marvin Jones, and Torrey Smith going in that same region. Now he’s more expensive than all of them. I could not be more out at this new price.
The arbitrage play would be Jermaine Kearse, who the Seahawks re-signed to a new three-year deal. Kearse also saw increased efficiency as part of Seattle’s second half boom last year. He had 78 PPR points from week 12 on, which includes five games over 12 and two over 18 points. I really like Kearse in the 17th round in MFL10s – 11 rounds after Lockett – as he showed an ability to put up usable weeks last year and represents cheap exposure to the Seahawks offense.
Hands Off Jimmy! Don’t Touch Jimmy!
Jimmy Graham is still recovering from his torn patellar tendon. While Pete Carroll said he expects Graham to be ready for Week 1, it’s always hard to trust anything a coach says in June. The PUP list remains a possibility, which would mean a minimum of six games missed. Graham missed five games last year.
Graham was on pace for a 70-880-3 line on 108 targets, all of which would have been five-year lows and a crushing blow to anyone who invested a third round pick. With his ADP now in the eleventh round, his price would be a lot more tempting if we knew for sure he would be suiting up to start the season. If the Seahawks second half pace was real and the Doug Baldwin touchdown regression is as inevitable as it seems, then a healthy Graham could stand to benefit greatly from an increase in touchdown rate. If you took that same 16-game pace and added four touchdowns, then we would be talking about a top-five TE again.
I have his projection slightly below his per game rates from last year but with a healthy uptick in touchdown percentage. Ultimately, I cannot project him for a full season’s load at this time given the uncertainty, and thus I advise you draft him at your own risk, even at the reduced price. The 11th round is usually where the QB run starts in MFL10s, and I would much rather be drafting Eli Manning or Philip Rivers at that price. TEs are particularly replaceable in the best ball format where you are essentially starting multiple guys for one spot every week, so I’m not going to lose much sleep if I’m wrong about Graham and ended up with some trio like Jason Witten, Charles Clay, and Vance McDonald instead.