Eternal Sunshine

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot/The world forgetting, by the world forgot/Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind/Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.” – Alexander Pope

At the beginning of Ryan Mathews, Jacquizz Rodgers, and How To Lose A League in 10 Picks, I joked about willfully forgetting Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson (although I might have been thinking of Fool’s Gold). And I may have inadvertently done so since my memories of it are pretty much the way Leonard Shelby remembers everything.

On the other hand, it occurred to me that there are a lot of things about the last several seasons the fantasy community seems to have collective amnesia about. I’ve begun to have a nagging suspicion that some of these things we’ve forgotten are important, and it’s starting to create a more restive bliss.

1. Doug Martin finished with the third most yards from scrimmage of any rookie running back in NFL history.

Only Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson were better. The next three guys on the list after Martin? Clinton Portis, Marshall Faulk, and Barry Sanders.

Perhaps it isn’t that drafters are forgetting Martin’s success, we’re just not acting on that knowledge appropriately. Most mock draft sites show Martin at No. 3 behind Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. The Muscle Hamster owns the best running back projection in the RotoViz Similarity Score app. And it’s not particularly close. He should be the clear cut No. 1 player in all fantasy leagues, regardless of format.

2. Adrian Peterson averaged less than 5.0 yards per carry in four of the last five seasons.

I’m probably the world’s leading Peterson skeptic, but it’s not because I don’t think he’s a great player. Barry Sanders is quite possibly the only back I’ve ever witnessed who is more visually impressive. Purple Jesus just doesn’t own a statistical profile that puts him in the conversation for the top pick.

  • Peterson has scored more than 12 rushing touchdowns only once in his career.
  • Peterson has never caught 45 passes.
  • Historically, running backs coming off of a season like Peterson’s undergo a massive collapse the following year.

Adrian Peterson only scored 349 fantasy points last year, which means he didn’t even score as many points as Ray Rice did in 2011. Considering the flotilla of young stars at the running back position, AP could score the same number of points again this year and not even get close to finishing No. 1.

Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.

Joel Barrish, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

When I say Adrian Peterson should not be a Top 5 pick, it’s not meant to be sensationalism. In drafts where I have a pick among the first five selections, AP will not be one of the guys I consider. A handful of players have a chance at being the first player to return to the LaDainian Tomlinson level since LT lost his spark. Peterson is not one of them.

3. Alfred Morris ran for the third most yards of any rookie in NFL history.

Only Eric Dickerson and George Rogers ran for more. Alfred Morris is the next Terrell Davis. It’s frankly shocking that he owns a second round ADP.

4. Chris Johnson holds the single season yards from scrimmage record.

The biggest flashpoint in the aforementioned How To Lose A Draft article was my suggestion that you should forgo Julio Jones in the second round in favor of Chris Johnson. A spirited debate sprang up with the great folks over at DraftCalc on this topic. The verbal fisticuffs boiled down to the relative value of owning Chris Johnson and Vincent Jackson versus David Wilson and Julio Jones.

RotoViz likes Wilson. Ryan Rouillard has written an excellent breakdown of the Giants backfield using his new RB projection model. The Fantasy Douche suggests Wilson is wildly undervalued. I was still surprised to find it was almost unanimous in favor of the Wilson/Jones combination.

I can sympathize with the enthusiasm for Julio Jones. I drafted him in the first round of the RotoViz Dynasty startup, but the apps are adamant that Vincent Jackson will score enough points to force you into a RB in Round 2.

For Johnson, the theme is simple. What have you done for me lately?  Well, in 2011 Johnson finished as RB9. In 2012, he finished as RB12. He didn’t carry fantasy teams to titles, but his value related to ADP wasn’t crushing by any means.

Here’s a little wager. If you read the article on Adrian Peterson and then read why Chris Johnson is the Perfect Candidate, you will come away believing the Titans star has more upside. In fact, I believe you’ll agree that CJ2K just might be 2013’s most undervalued fantasy player.

Here’s my part of the bet. If you aren’t convinced, tell me so and make a suggestion for a column I could write in apology. If I get 10 responses in the comments section from readers who aren’t convinced, I’ll pick the best suggestion and put together an article that puts the original Peterson piece to shame.

5. Marques Colston owns four consecutive Top 16 finishes.

Colston has been a WR1 in both of the last two seasons, but somehow he doesn’t feel like one. He’s been a fantasy rock in six of the seven seasons since he was drafted in 2006. Drew Brees’ favorite target is the foundation of the RotoViz 10 in 10 series.

6. Eric Decker outscored Julio Jones in 2012.

I’m not suggesting you draft Decker ahead of Jones, but it’s worth noting that Decker has been seriously dinged because he has to split the pie with Wes Welker.

Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, and Brandon Stokley combined for 138 receptions last season. Most Broncos beat writers are projecting Welker for 85. If that’s the case, it would leave 53 receptions for the tight ends and have no impact on Decker.

In fact, it’s much more likely that Decker actually benefits from the magical powers of regression. He finished 57th in targets per snap last year, a number that should improve in Denver’s impending move to an up tempo, blitzkrieg attack.

I may not be suggesting you draft Decker ahead of Jones – mostly because you don’t need to – but I am encouraging you to select him for all of your teams.

7. Aaron Rodgers’ 2011 season is the stuff of legend.

Joel: I can’t see anything I don’t like about you.

Clementine: But you will, you will think of things and I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.

Joel: Okay.

In 2004, Peyton Manning threw for 49 touchdowns . Three years later, Tom Brady did him one better by hitting 50 touchdowns and piling on 4,806 yards. Two seasons ago, Drew Brees set the all-time single-season passing yardage record with 5,476 yards and tossed 46 touchdowns for good measure. None of them averaged the 36 points a game that Rodgers put up in 2011.

You can use the new QB Stat Machine app to look up a quarterback’s splits for almost any situation. Slice the data any way you want. Rodgers stands alone.

I’m a strong advocate of Late Round QB. But we’re getting dangerously close to the point where quarterbacks are undervalued. I selected Aaron Rodgers in the 4th Round of PFF’s Draft Guide Mock. In that range of the draft, Rodgers is easily the most valuable player on the board in terms of expected points above replacement.

I know a lot of fantasy experts like Newton and Manning as similar players who are available slightly later. The RotoViz Similarity Score app suggests the gap is large enough to prioritize Rodgers.

Aaron RodgersCam NewtonPeyton Manning
4 pts TD6 pts TD-4 pts TD6 pts TD-4 pts TD6 pts TD
Low17.120.3Low13.915.8Low15.518.9
Median18.322Median16.920.3Median17.520.6
High19.823.8High19.322.4High18.222.2

 

8. Mikel Leshoure outscored Stevan Ridley in terms of points per game.

Leshoure averaged 13.5, Ridley 13.1. This isn’t one of those situations where I suggest you can get a similar player for a fraction of the price. Charles Kleinheksel makes the case for Joique Bell as the Lions’ No. 2 running back, and there’s an excellent chance things play out like that in Detroit.

I am suggesting you should avoid both players. Despite playing in the NFL’s best and most favorable offense, Ridley couldn’t even generate more value than a guy coming off of a serious Achilles’ injury. Ridley somehow managed to go the entire season and only catch six passes. He made Alfred Morris look like Darren Sproles.

Ridley’s ADP is currently 2.11. I’ve been adamant that you absolutely must go RB-RB this season (even though I hate that strategy in general). But you have to execute it properly. If you have a pick at the end of the second round and you don’t buy my thesis that DeMarco Murray is in line for a gigantic breakout season, go ahead and take a receiver. If you take Ridley . . .

9. Lance Moore finished the 2012 season as WR21.

Matt Rittle has put together a breakdown of Moore’s prospects, clearly demonstrating just how undervalued he remains. Currently being drafted outside the top 40 wide receivers, Moore is a mortal lock for WR2 value in a healthy season.

Joel: I’m in my head already, aren’t I?

Howard: I suppose so. This – this is about what it would look like.

It’s interesting which players capture the imagination and which don’t. Tavon Austin, Percy Harvin, and Randall Cobb intrigue us. Evidently running after the catch just excites people more than running before the catch does.

I’ve examined Moore in some depth for my possession receiver studies on PFF. Here’s the takeaway: His usage both in terms of route depth and snap percentage is trending positively. Because he plays with Drew Brees, he’s extremely likely to outperform in terms of touchdown production.

Lance Moore in the 10th round may be the easiest fantasy pick you’ll ever make.

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Redraft Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

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