Draft Strategy

Strange Things: The Best (And Worst) Values in Early Redraft Mocks

There are some things that people do that make the rest of us look on and ask, “why would you do that?” Like putting milk into the cup before the tea, or listening to a One Direction album without earmuffs. But there is an affliction that affects a small subset of humanity that, for some, beggars belief. I speak, of course, of people who mock draft in January and February.

While the activity may, on the face of it, seem a bit pointless given how much change is likely to occur between now and the start of the 2017, it does allow us a fascinating glimpse into how fantasy players are feeling towards certain players. With this in mind, I took a look at the average draft position of players taken in drafts between January 8th and February 7th. There were certainly some interesting things to see.1

FIRST MAN UP

The question of just who will be the first player taken in drafts is one that always encourages debate, and as we stand it looks like Le’Veon Bell will edge David Johnson. Assuming both players are at full health come September, it would be safe to assume that whichever of these players falls to number two will still make their owners very happy. Bell averaged a ludicrous 157 yards from scrimmage in 2016, while Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2118) and total touchdowns (20). Will these two studs lead to fantasy players once again flooding the first round of with RBs? Seven of the first 12 players going off the board at present are tailbacks, with Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Jordan Howard, Melvin Gordon and Devonta Freeman making up the squad. Just a gentle reminder though folks, Zero RB is not dead.

GETTING NO RESPECT

For the early part of the Russell Wilson era in Seattle, wide receivers seemed about as useful in fantasy terms as an ashtray on a motor bike. The team was ridiculously run heavy, offering little opportunity for their wide outs to make much of an impact. To be honest, it didn’t really matter anyway, as the WRs, how can I be polite, weren’t very good. I mean, Doug Baldwin?

Over the last two years, Baldwin has seen his outlook improve considerably, as the Seahawks have evolved into more of a passing team. So it is slightly bewildering that 16 WRs are going off the board before Baldwin, especially when one looks at his stats for 2015 and 2016 as compared with two of the best WRs around.

baldwin

Baldwin is the top receiving threat for a team more committed to throwing the ball than they have been in years, a sure-handed receiver with a nose for the end zone, but Tyreek Hill is going before him in mock drafts? More on him later.

HOW HIGH???

Recency bias can be a terrible thing, and it is clear that some mock drafters are suffering with a particularly virulent strain of it. A magical end to the regular season has kept everyone’s eyes on Aaron Rodgers, with the result being that he’s the first quarterback off the board in the second round, a full 10 picks before the second QB taken. This second QB has also performed recent deeds that kept his name at the fore front of mock drafter’s minds. As a result, Tom Brady finds a home in the middle of the third. With dependable WRs like Baldwin and bounce back candidates like Demaryius Thomas and Allen Robinson loitering around the fantasy equivalent of “the green room,” Brady going off the board this early is a stretch. And yes, I did watch the Super Bowl.

In all, 10 QBs are being taken before the end of the seventh round, the ninth of whom is Cam Newton. It may surprise many that Newton remains on the shelf for so long during a run on the QB spot, but mock drafters could be worried that 2016 marked the beginning of a decline for the 2015 MVP.

SEASONPass AttemptsPass CompletionsPassing YardsPassing TDsInterceptionsSacksRushing AttemptsRushing YardsRushing TouchdownsYards per Carry
20115173104051211735126706145.6
2012485280386919123612774185.8
2013473292337924134311158565.3
2014448262312718123810353955.2
20154952963837351033132636104.8
201651027035091914369035954.0

Despite attempting the second most passes of his career, Newton completed a career low 52.9 percent. But the decrease that stands out most dramatically is the drop in his rushing numbers. Newton’s 90 carries last season marked the fewest totes he has enjoyed in a single campaign and 42 fewer than he managed the season before. His 359 yards were 180 below his previous single-season low, while his yards per carry has decreased every season for the last four years. The number of times Newton has been sacked has remained more or less constant, ranging between 33 and 43, which is a lot of punishment for any player to take year in, year out. The wear and tear may have made Newton and the Panthers think about scaling down his rushing work. If Newton is entering a stage in his career in which he is to rely more on his arm and less on his legs, it could make sense to consider other QBs before selecting Newton. But he did still manage five TDs on the ground for the sixth year in a row, so it’s not as if he’s Kerry Collins back there.

Climbing up on Tyreek Hill

Away from QB, the most obvious example of a player being overdrafted is the aforementioned Hill. He enjoyed an electrifying rookie season in 2016, but his outlook isn’t so rosy that it justifies taking him in at the end of the third round. There are genuine concerns that he is something of “tweener,” much in the same mold as Cordarrelle Patterson. Remember the big a finish to his rookie campaign Patterson enjoyed? He finished as WR10 from Week 10 to Week 17. After an offseason of buzz, Patterson was overdrafted in 2014 and never emerged again, despite remaining one of the best kick returners around the league. It’s far too early for me to throw Hill into the same bracket, but there is a danger that he will fall back to the pack on the Chiefs, fighting with tight end Travis Kelce and WR Jeremy Maclin2 for targets in the passing game and getting only occasional carries on the ground. I worry that he won’t see enough volume to warrant weekly fantasy consideration.

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL

There are many prominent players for whom 2016 will be a season to forget and are determined to get up off the mat. The most notable is Chargers WR Keenan Allen, the 13th WR off the board. People do realize that Allen missed almost the whole of last season, right? Not to mention half of the season before? It’s also possible that Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman – who was WR16 from Week 12 on in 2016 – may have moved closer to him in the Chargers pecking order. These factors, among others, make it hard for me to fathom why Allen is being taken a full round ahead of more consistent options like Baldwin and Brandin Cooks. It’s a big jump to assume that the player who soaked up 2015 targets like a fat man soaks up cake will return to dominance in an offense that has discovered other playmakers.

Two Steelers, namely Martavis Bryant and Ladarius Green, seem to be on the verge of fantasy stardom in 2017 in the eyes of the mock drafters. The still-suspended Bryant is going off the board in the sixth round, and Green slides in behind a mere nine other TEs. There is little doubt that Bryant possesses tantalizing talent, but he’s been away from football for over a year with no guarantee he’ll ever return. Emmanuel Sanders, DeSean Jackson or even Rishard Matthews, all of whom are being taken after Bryant, might be safer selections at this time. Green is an athletic freak still getting by on potential after five years in the NFL. He has played in just 66 percent of all games since 2012 (53 of 80) and has started just 28 of these contests, a little under 53 percent.

Targets15641st
Receptions9543rd
Receiving Yards139136th
Receiving Touchdowns843rd
Yards per Reception14.643rd
Yards per Game26.239th

The rookie TE who replaced Green with the Chargers, Hunter Henry, has already matched Green’s career mark for TDs. Some observers aren’t convinced that Green will even be a Steeler in 2017. I’m much happier waiting a few more rounds before taking the plunge.

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  1. Average Draft Position data courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator  (back)
  2. Maclin is only going in the 10th round. Now there’s a potential bargain.  (back)
By Neil Dutton | @ndutton13 | Archive

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