Written by Caleb Brunman, Writer, @cb on the Fantasy Life App
Every year in fantasy football, there are studs and duds; that’s the nature of the game. An owner’s goal on draft day is to find the players that excel and avoid those who flop…. But how does one go about doing that? By looking at players through the means of their proper value. Every player has some value, but by analyzing ADP and stats, and creating an outlook for the season, it is possible to assign more and less value to certain players, thus finding and terming studs and duds based on draft position. This article contains my “Do Not Draft List” -- those players with poor draft value that should not be taken at their current ADP. Please note that this list is just that: value perception. These are not necessarily players to avoid at all costs, but rather individuals that are simply not worth their current price. Without further ado, let’s get into the top five guys to pass on come draft day.
ADP data courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com
Data and predictions based on a 12 team .5 PPR league
Allen Robinson -- ADP 9
Everyone loves Allen Robinson -- I like him. And liking someone is not reason enough to spend a first round pick on them. Robinson has been good -- great -- for one season: last year. However, the stat line he produced last season (80-1400-14) seems entirely unrepeatable. First, his eighty receptions aren’t overly impressive (T-18 in the league). The five players that finished ahead of him fantasy wise also had more receptions than he did. In fact, seven of the top ten fantasy finishers ended up a top ten reception leader. A.J. Green finished a respectable 14th, meaning that only one receiver from last year’s fantasy top ten, Doug Baldwin -- who, spoiler alert, is also on this list -- had fewer receptions than Robinson.
Many of these receptions came in garbage time, something an improved Jaguars’ offense should see less of this season. How much did Robinson depend on garbage time production? Well, six of his fourteen touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, five of those six coming when the Jaguars trailed by more than a touchdown. In fact, Robinson scored eleven of his fourteen touchdowns when Jacksonville was losing. He also racked up the majority of his receptions and yards in the fourth quarter. Finally, the wide out also produced a ridiculously elevated first down percentage in the closing quarter: 95.2%, while the first three quarters showed a far less impressive mark, at 65.2%, 78.6%, and 66.7%, respectively. Furthermore, an improved rushing attack with the addition of Chris Ivory, a more familiar Julius Thomas, and a still-developing Allen Hurns should continue to eat into Robinson’s production. As for his 1400 reception yards: Not only should those yards go down for reasons mentioned above, but his 17.5 yards per reception -- which ranked second out of all receivers with a minimum of forty receptions -- seems entirely unsustainable.
For reference, there are twelve players in NFL history with a minimum of 200 receptions to average 19.0 yards per reception or more…. None of them has made the Hall of Fame or is even particularly noteworthy. The only active player to average more than Robinson’s 17.5 yards per reception is proven deep threat DeSean Jackson. There is no way that Robinson keeps up this torrid big play pace, especially considering he has very poor yards after the catch statistics (4.0 YAC). Finally, his fourteen touchdowns -- as opposed to two in his rookie season -- should also see a regression, thanks to the statistics discussed above, as well as his pure overachievement. While he has undeniable talent and should still have a good year, Allen Robinson is not worthy of a first round pick this fantasy season.
Thomas Rawls -- ADP 35
Thomas Rawls shined in Marshawn Lynch’s absence as a rookie… when he was healthy and the lone force in the Seattle backfield. This season, neither of those situations look to be a lock. Though the broken ankle seems to be the lesser of the two issues, he started training camp on the PUP list, losing valuable reps to other backs, including preseason star Christine Michael.
The real obstacle to Rawls being deemed fantasy gold, however, is the competition he seems likely to encounter as he vies for the job as the workhorse in Seattle. With such a small sample size (Rawls started only seven games, finishing six), the Seahawks invested three (3!) draft picks on running backs, a quite literally unprecedented move by an NFL organization. Add the aforementioned Christine Michael to the equation and the Seattle backfield seems nothing less than a mess. Forget that undrafted free agents have historically had down second years (as have many players overall, hence the “sophomore slump”), and that running backs who are actually drafted (in the first three rounds, nonetheless, in the case of C.J. Prosise) tend to have better careers, or at least play better in their first two years.
Even ignoring those facts, no can deny that there simply will be ample competition for Rawls, and that could be coming from the Seahawks’ lack of trust in him -- and that’s never a good sign. Oh, and add in that Prosise has been a far superior receiver to Rawls, which could easily result in more playing time for the rookie. And remember the briefly touched upon Christine Michael? Reports now indicate that his early success is due to an “awakening” of sorts, and that Rawls being placed in a timeshare is even more likely than previously anticipated. But let’s just say that Rawls beats out every running back placed in his way, becoming the workhorse fantasy owners hope he’ll be. Even if that somehow happens, he still won’t be able to keep up the ridiculous 5.65 yards per carry that he put up last year, so anyone drafting him with the hope that he’ll play like the 2015 version of himself is greatly misguided.
Thomas Rawls is talented, and for that reason alone he could once again be great, but for a third round pick and with all these negative factors in play, I’d much rather him succeed (or more likely, fail, at least in relation to his ADP), on someone else’s team than bomb on mine.
Jordan Reed -- ADP 41
It seemed like Jordan Reed came out of nowhere last year… because he did. His ADP (179) suggests that he went UNDRAFTED in 10-team-or smaller leagues last year, and likely in some 12-or-larger team leagues, where, if he was being drafted, was going after the likes of Kyle Rudolph and Josh Hill. Yeesh. So why are owners willing to believe in Reed this year, even more so than they did in 2014, when his ADP was 83 (and he ended up disappointing)? Largely because of a stretch of three games last year, where he combined for 75.8 fantasy points. Those games were played in weeks 14, 15, and 16 of the NFL season. Simply put, Jordan Reed is being over drafted because he won fantasy teams championships last year.
The short-term memory of many fantasy owners forgets his lackluster performances and incredibly high injury risk; it only remembers the elation of victory and the kiss of a cool championship ring. Think I’m crazy? Last year Jordan Reed averaged 12.5 fantasy points per game, ranking him second in .5 PPR scoring. Eliminate the three games from the final weeks of the fantasy season and he averages 8.9 fantasy points per game, which would’ve been good for TE 9. Keep in mind that his two missed games due to injury are included in that calculation, but does anyone expect him to play a full season? And I’m not saying he won’t have big games, because he will, but I’m telling you not to rely on them with your fourth round pick. “But the offense will be better this year!” With the addition of Josh Doctson and a cleaner rushing attack, there will be more opportunities for Reed to LOSE touches than gain them.
You can bet your bottom dollar that he will be the source of defensive preparation any time a team squares up against Washington. “But it doesn’t matter if defenses focus on him, he’s a giant mismatch!” Actually, he’s only 6’2”, 240 lb. Not exactly a mountain of a man compared to the likes of Rob Gronkowski, 6’6”, 265 lb, or even Greg Olsen, “6’5”, 255 lb, the other two tight ends in the consensus top three. “But he doesn’t have to be huge, he’ll create mismatches with his speed! He’s so fast that he could play receiver!” He ran a 4.72 forty yard dash, as opposed to Gronkowski’s 4.68 and Olsen’s 4.51. Not exactly blazing, especially in comparison to the other top tier talent. And how many receivers do you know that ran a 4.72 forty? “But he’s still gonna finish as a top tight end!” The tight end position is deeper than it’s ever been this year; I can draft a more important RB or WR in the fourth round and replace his production later in the draft.
Overall, I actually like Reed and expect him to finish fairly high among tight ends. But Kirk Cousins’ favorite target or not, Jordan Reed is not worth the hefty price it will cost to acquire him.
Dion Lewis -- ADP 45
When did a member of the Patriots’ backfield suddenly become a safe and viable fantasy pick, in the fourth round, nonetheless? Not to mention one who likely won’t even see the majority of the carries? No Patriots rusher has finished as a top 20 running back since Stevan Ridley did so in 2012…. Ridley touched the ball 296 times and scored twelve touchdowns that season. In other words, his only competition were two receiving backs, who, well, received the ball. Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen combined for 104 fewer touches than Ridley had CARRIES. The moral of the story is that Stevan Ridley had unrivaled access to the Patriots backfield, which is important to note because that phenomenon in 2012 was so rare. Excluding 2010, when Benjarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball 229 times, the Patriots have not had a single 200 carry rusher in the past DECADE. (The NFL has had at least fifteen 200 carry rushers each of the last ten years, including a decade high twenty-seven in 2006.)
Not only should these stats instill fear in potential Lewis owners, but they also beg the question: Why does a Patriots running back so rarely emerge as a bell cow? And the answer to that question is that Bill Belichick loves to use the hot hand. Remember Jonas Gray? He ran for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a Sunday Night spectacular… and was never heard from again. New England uses whoever’s playing well at a given time, and that does not bode well for drafting one of their backs in the top fifty overall, as recent years have shown. (See Stevan Ridley, ADP 20 in 2013, often benched in favor of the hot hand due to fumbling, who finished outside the top 25 running backs.) That was a quick history lesson on why a New England running back is likely a bad investment.
But what’s wrong, specifically, with Lewis? For starters, he has major injury concerns. He tore his ACL just last season after fracturing the fibula in the same leg in 2013. Durability is always a present issue with NFL players, especially running backs, but Lewis’ situation seems extra worrisome, especially considering this recent ACL tear could spill into the regular season, or at least cut down on his snaps. And if he misses the beginning of the season -- or even if he doesn’t get the lion’s share Lewis hopefuls are expecting -- beware of the hot hand coming in and stealing Lewis’ already numbered snaps. And that is the problem with drafting Lewis in the fourth round: He’ll be a guy you’ll have to rely on to produce with remarkable efficiency -- rather than one you can depend on through volume -- something that should worry any fantasy owner.
It is okay to expect some big plays or even believe that he’ll lead the league in elusiveness… again, but I can’t advocate taking a running back so high whose floor isn’t even based on running, but receiving. Yes, he’ll get the PPR boost, but if Dion Lewis is anything like most of the Patriots running backs we’ve seen in the past ten years, it’d be better to avoid him at his ADP than expect an unrealistic return on investment.
Doug Baldwin -- ADP 49
Like Reed, Doug Baldwin went almost undrafted last year (ADP 158), and so, like Reed, the same question of belief must be asked: Why are owners willing to buy in on Doug Baldwin? And, like Reed, the answer is quite straightforward: Baldwin had a fantastic stretch of games. More specifically, Baldwin’s stretch of five games included a whopping 128.9 fantasy points (25.8 FPPG) and eleven (11!) touchdowns. (That pace throughout a whole season would’ve made him the highest fantasy scorer in the league, outscoring Cam Newton by 49.5 fantasy points.) Oh, and in what weeks did this marvelous stretch occur? Weeks 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Baldwin. Won. Championships. Seriously.
According to ESPN.com’s Keith Lipscomb, while Jordan Reed was the fourth most common player on championship teams (playing for 23.4 percent of champions), Doug Baldwin was third on that list (playing for 24.3 percent of champions). And still don’t believe my theory about championship-winning players being drafted higher (and, more likely, being overdrafted) the next season? The top ten players on said list, Tim Hightower, David Johnson, Doug Baldwin, Jordan Reed, Charcandrick West, Gary Barnidge, Chiefs D/ST, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, and Cam Newton ALL have higher ADPs than they did last year. And they’re not just higher, they’re MONSTROUSLY higher. Excluding Julio Jones, who only moved up four spots (6 to 2), and Brandon Marshall, who moved up thirty-six spots (51 to 15), no player on the list jumped fewer than forty-five spots (Chiefs D/ST, 181 to 136), and after that you’d have to jump eighty-seven spots (123 to 36) to find Cam Newton. Gary Barnidge went from undrafted to 96, Charcandrick West from undrafted to 138, Tim Hightower from undrafted to 185, Jordan Reed from 179 to 41, and David Johnson from 121 to 6. And the man of the hour, Doug Baldwin jumped all the way from 158 to 49.
All this one-directional data begs one question: What are the chances that most, if ANY, of these players improves upon their fantasy points per game started? To which I’d simply answer: not very good. Do not be blinded a few late performances. Now, that was a long-winded explanation as to why Doug Baldwin is being overdrafted…. But why won’t his performance this year be as good as it was last season?
Simply because he hasn’t been that good, and he’s not that good. Whether or not the Seahawks’ offense improves or regresses, Baldwin will do the latter. The wideout averaged only 44.3 yards and 0.3 touchdowns per game in his first 78 career games as opposed to 84.8 yards and 1.3 touchdowns over his last 10 contests. Which data source seems more reliable? His fourteen touchdowns scored last season amount to one fewer than he’s hauled in the previous four years of his CAREER. His 1069 yards are at least 200 yards more than he’s had in any other year of his career. His receptions, receptions per game, yards per game, and catch percentage last season are far higher than his career averages. All those unsustainable stats aside, besides touchdowns, Baldwin simply wasn’t very good, finishing just 21st in yards and 24th in receptions... in a CAREER YEAR! Simply put, Doug Baldwin cannot -- and will not -- keep up the pace he’s being drafted to maintain.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this article and use it to dominate your draft. Until next time, follow me on the Fantasy Life App @cb and on Twitter @CBRetweet.