2014 NFL Draft: Dynasty Bank Shots

| 3 years ago

2014 NFL Draft: Dynasty Bank Shots


Carson PalmerSelections made during the upcoming NFL Draft will have a direct impact on player valuations at every level of Fantasyland. In addition to obvious cause-and-effect roster ramifications, the choices that front offices are poised to make will reverberate in more obscure ways.

As we mercifully make that final turn and head down the home stretch to Radio City Music Hall, it should prove beneficial for dynasty leaguers to examine potential draft bank shots whose ricochets will be felt throughout next fall.

Some of the following scenarios will seem more evident than others or may never come to fruition at all. We’ll warm up with a couple of minor names and work our way up to a consensus top 10 pick that many dynasty owners are better off cashing in.

Aim Small, Miss Small

Brian Quick (WR) St. Louis Rams – Right off the bat we have a name that reminds you that the lawn needs mowing when you’re done combing the cat. That’s probably true, but if you’re still reading and are in a deep roster league, you could do worse than make Quick a throw-in to a larger deal.

The Rams have 12 picks. While forecasting a wideout for one of their high first rounders may be foolish, they’ll tap into this deep receiver class eventually. Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are roster locks, and although they guaranteed just a half million of Kenny Britt’s incentive-laden deal, he should keep his head screwed on straight enough to make the squad. Austin Pettis is about as exciting as a staring contest with Jim Caldwell, but played the second most receiver snaps last year and is just 25 years old. Chris Givens, 24, led their wideouts in snaps and yards.

Adding another pass catcher probably leaves Quick seventh in line and on the outside looking in at the receiver quagmire that is St. Louis’ offense. The 6’1” 220 pounder’s raw tools remain, and in limited snaps he had a team-high 18 redzone targets over the last two seasons, during which time he hauled in four of his five catchable deep targets for 176 yards and a score. No matter where he winds up, his circumstances are nearly guaranteed to improve, along with his fantasy value. Buy

Jerrel Jernigan (WR) New York Giants – Fantasy’s number two wideout over the last three weeks of 2013 was a key addition to many championship rosters. With that fresh in our minds, along with the departure of Hakeem Nicks, Jernigan is generally getting picked as a WR5 or WR6 according to DLF’s April mock ADP data, and even higher than that on MyFantasyLeague.

Being selected as the 74th wideout is not egregious since at that point most drafters are taking shots on upside. Yet he’s being taken in the same range as true upside candidates Marquess Wilson, Rod Streater, and many interesting rookies. If drafters are hunting for a solid statistical floor, Steve Smith is cheaper and guaranteed a healthy amount of snaps and targets. Jernigan is not.

New York brought Mario Manningham back and many mock drafts have them selecting an early round tight end or receiver. Rashad Jennings is adept in the passing game, plus Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle clearly trump Jernigan on the target totem pole. That says nothing of how Tom Coughlin’s team was uncharacteristically 27th in rushing attempts last year and will run more frequently. Former Packers’ coach and new Giants’ offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s schemes will incorporate a fullback more frequently than New York has in the past (20.5 FB snaps/game f0r GB, versus 17.1 for NY).

Roughly 60 percent of Jernigan’s snaps and targets came during the final three weeks of 2013. He played at least 80 percent of New York’s snaps during his last two games. He is a 189 pound, 5’9” receiver sharing an offense with one of the best slot men in football, a declining quarterback, increasingly stiff competition for snaps, and fewer targets to go around. If a league mate is still dreaming on a small sample of late season statistics, Sell.

Ride High on the Hogs

Carson Palmer (QB) Arizona Cardinals – Bruce Arians likes his quarterbacks to throw downfield. Just once since 2007 has an Arians-coached passer finished outside of the top 10 in deep ball percentage, or thrown deep on less than 13 percent of dropbacks. That is until Palmer registered a 12.9 in deep ball percentage while running for his life behind the worst offensive line in the league last year.

Palmer was under pressure on over 40 percent of his dropbacks, the league’s sixth highest rate. PFF’s worst graded pass blocking squad helped him lead the NFL in pressures faced in 2.0 seconds or less. Of Palmer’s 22 interceptions, an NFL high 15 came while under pressure.

It is well documented that Arizona attacked this deficiency by importing standout tackle Jared Veldheer. Guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick in 2012, will boost the decrepit line after a redshirted rookie season. Lyle Sendlein is a serviceable center and PFF favorite Bobby Massie has promise. Throw in a potential high draft pick, and the worst offensive line in the league could conceivably become among the strongest.

Over 2013’s last seven weeks, Palmer was fantasy’s 10th ranked passer and registered four top 12 positional weeks. Without the Seahawks game, he was the fourth highest scoring signal caller during that time. Of course he will face Seattle and the rest of NFC West twice each, although he will have the benefit of a vastly improved line. Incidentally, the Cardinals do get to play questionable defenses from the AFC West and NFC East.

A 34 year old quarterback is obviously not the foundation upon which to build a dynasty roster. Yet he represents a dirt cheap streaming candidate for owners who (wisely) do not invest heavily at an easily fillable position in 1-QB leagues. Before post-draft narratives fully catch onto the Cardinals’ rebuilt offensive line would be the best time to Buy.

Jamaal Charles (RB) Kansas City Chiefs – Last year the Chiefs had a solid offensive line and were PFF’s 11th best run blocking unit. Then free agency claimed their three highest graded linemen, left tackle Brandon Albert, as well as guards Jeff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah. An unsettling mix of youth and inexperience is set to replace them.

It is unlikely Kansas City drafts a lineman in the first round to put out this fire. The 23rd pick is positioned at the end of a run of teams with offensive line needs. Most mock drafts project a first round receiver and the Chiefs lack a second round pick. Their best bet would be to trade down and fill multiple holes with cheap labor (their cap situation is tight), but that is tough to bank on.

Charles’ 649 total touches over two seasons since his ACL tear are not crippling, but they are nothing to sneeze at. Backs who catch passes do tend to last longer than their one-dimensional counterparts, but he is entering his age 28 season – past the point that the average running back peaks.

The temptation is to say, “but Charles is special.” That is a bad bet to make, though let’s examine it anyway. We will detail a few exceptional running backs who were considered special cases at the same point of their careers.

Using the inspired RotoViz running back Sim Score App we can get a sense of comparable seasons turned in by a sample of 20 similar backs, an average of all of them together, and a projection for the following season. Below is Charles’ 2013, or his App generated “Season N.”

Name

Age

Wt.

Atts

Ru Yd

YPC

Ru TD

Rec

Rec Yd

Rec TD

Charles

27

199

17.33

85.47

4.93

0.8

4.67

46.2

0.47

Here are three comparable seasons selected by the Sim Score App that we’ll highlight since they were authored by elite multi-purpose backs LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, and Brian Westbrook:

Name

Age

Wt

Atts

Ru Yd

YPC

Ru TD

Rec

Rec Yd

Rec TD

Tomlinson

28

221

19.69

92.12

4.68

0.94

3.75

29.69

0.19

Faulk

27

211

18.07

96.29

5.33

1.29

5.79

59.29

0.57

Westbrook

27

200

16.00

81.07

5.07

0.47

5.13

46.60

0.27

Below is the average of all 20 comparables that the Sim Score App projects for Charles in 2014, or his “Season N+1.”

Name

Age

Wt

Atts

Ru Yd

YPC

Ru TD

Rec

Rec Yd

Rec TD

Charles

27.4

207.6

17.33

76.62

4.42

0.46

3.82

30.87

0.14

Other than rushing attempts, the App projects declines across the board, including significant drops in touchdowns. Below are the follow-up seasons for our three hand-picked studs.

Name

Age

Wt

Atts

Ru Yd

YPC

Ru TD

Rec

Rec Yd

Rec Td

Tomlinson

29

221

18.25

69.38

3.80

0.69

3.25

25.69

0.06

Faulk

28

211

15.21

67.86

4.46

0.57

5.71

38.21

0.14

Westbrook

28

200

16.71

66.14

3.96

0.64

3.86

28.57

0.36

Despite their unassailable reputations and outstanding prior seasons, all three suffered declines in nearly every category. While that does not eliminate any possibility that Charles will duplicate his 2013 statistics, it helps step on the wishfully ignorant “he’s special” narrative.

Charles’ relatively light 199 pounds does not necessarily equate to durability concerns, but expect fewer touches. Reid already said he plans to have backup Knile Davis more involved, something that began occurring late last year. Add in the fact that only Oakland had fewer tight end targets (72) than Kansas City did last year (77), and the promising Travis Kelce is set to take off. A likely upgrade on Donnie Avery will also eat into Charles’ passing game work.

Projected regression for Charles is not earth-shattering. With likely declines in workload and offensive line performance, his situation is decidedly less favorable than 2013 as he enters (exits?) the twilight of his prime. However, he remains among the sexiest names in our game, and many consider him an exception to established running back career arcs.

Charles owners should see how many of those true believers are in their league and strike up a bidding war. He is one snowsuited Ray Rice-esque season from seeing his dynasty value chopped at the hip. While going down with a majestic ship sounds noble, you’ll be riding high a lot longer if you know when to Sell.

A Note on Run Defense

It’s pretty obvious that if a team’s defense can’t get off the field that their offense will run fewer plays. We saw that play out in tragic fashion last year in Dallas.

Can we drill down and find something actionable for fantasy purposes?

I examined the last six seasons of PFF run defense grades, as well as yards per carry allowed and third down conversions allowed.  When compared to teams’ snap totals there was an expected correlation, although it was stronger for run defense grades and third down conversions allowed than it was for yards per carry allowed. The plan is to publish the findings in more detail later in the offseason, but with the draft coming up, I wanted to mention a tie-in.

At first, looking at who populated the bottom of the play totals list told a murky story when viewed through a run defense lens. Often teams like the 2013 Seahawks elected to play a style that didn’t lend itself to high snap totals. But if you remove those teams from the sample, it begins to crystalize. Let’s just look at the rankings of last season’s bottom-third snap count teams for those three defensive categories:

Snaps

Team

Run D Grade

YPC Allowed

3rd Down Allowed

22

Chicago

32

32

25

23

Minnesota

24

12

30

24

Miami

23

18

17

25

Oakland

22

7

28

26

Carolina

12

17

12

27

NY Giants

10

4

23

28

Tampa Bay

26

14

21

29

Seattle

5

11

10

30

St. Louis

21

2

19

31

San Francisco

6

10

6

32

Dallas

30

30

29

Now let’s look at it without the three teams that obviously had strong run defenses (Carolina, Seattle, San Francisco), and elected to play a snap minimizing style:

Snaps

Team

Run D Grade

YPC Allowed

3rd Down Allowed

22

Chicago

32

32

25

23

Minnesota

24

12

30

24

Miami

23

18

17

25

Oakland

22

7

28

27

NY Giants

10

4

23

28

Tampa Bay

26

14

21

30

St. Louis

21

2

19

32

Dallas

30

30

29

Other than the Giants, whose offense was a special kind of awful, the remaining teams in the bottom third in snaps happened to also be bottom-third teams when it came to PFF run defense grades. Well, as the 21st “best” run defense the Rams just missed the bottom third (which really is the bottom 34.4% since there isn’t a 33rd team), but you get the point.

As we prepare to gorge ourselves silly on draft picks in less than two weeks, pay particular attention to teams like Chicago, Dallas, and Minnesota, even when they’re not selecting offensive players. Their porous run defenses prevented them from running up more stats last season, and all three averaged more yards per play than the league average. They were an excellent reminder that when you draft a fantasy player, you’re getting more than just the offense that he plays in.

Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman

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Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our new Mock and Companion Draft Tool! Utilizing our updated player projections, run a quick mock draft and see where this year’s crop of free agents are coming off the board in early fantasy football drafts.



Pat Thorman is a lead writer for PFF Fantasy and a Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner.

  • MW

    The tables are the same.