Fantasy football draft season is heating up here in 2013, and with it comes a host of helpful data on average draft position (ADP). This gives us a good look at relative values for every player across websites. The data will change as the preseason progresses, but we have achieved a good baseline here in July.
We start by looking at some of the better and worse values at quarterback, a loaded position these days. Who should you wait on in your drafts, and which quarterbacks are overvalued?
Tony Romo is the stuff of memes.
True, he led the league in interceptions last season — alongside Drew Brees, incidentally — and he has developed a reputation for tanking in the clutch. But the poor guy cannot win himself any credit despite his torrid play at times. Whether or not he possesses a clutch gene is irrelevant in the fantasy realm — if he puts up stats, the soul-crushing interceptions will matter little.
His reputation is apparently wearing on his fantasy value, however. Based on his ADP across all the sites, Romo is the biggest bargain at the quarterback position. He is barely being drafted as a starter at QB12, and he has potential to put up top-five numbers.
Don’t take my word for it; here is a look at his past three relevant fantasy seasons.
The 2010 season is excluded because it was cut short by a broken collarbone. At any rate, the biggest takeaway here is his consistency. Only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Cam Newton have put up higher fantasy totals on a consistent basis over the past several seasons when healthy.
Okay, McKayla, Romo might not be a superstar, but he is quite the bargain in this year’s drafts. Of course, all it takes is one Cowboys fan in your draft to ruin that for you. There is nothing you can do if someone takes Romo in the fourth round. If you can manage to snag him in the sixth round or later, however, you might have gotten yourself the steal of the draft. It is even better considering some of the backup options you should have available to you later in the draft.
Alright, so last year’s top-10 prediction by yours truly for Jay Cutler was a bust. Mea culpa. Brandon Marshall performed predictably great, but it seemed like he was the only one to throw to despite the presence of Alshon Jeffery, among others.
Enter Marc Trestman — “the Chip Kelly of the Canadian Football League” — who has taken over as Chicago’s head coach after Lovie Smith’s defensive-minded tenure expired prematurely. The Montreal Alouettes, Trestman’s former team, finished in the top five in passing during his five-year tenure prior to joining the Bears. In fact, Anthony Calvillo was the best-overall quarterback during that time. Calvillo is 40 years old.
Calvillo finished in the top five in passing touchdowns and passer rating each year. (Of course, there are only eight teams, but that is neither here nor there.) The most impressive statistic of all was his ability to avoid turnovers. Calvillo led the CFL in touchdown-to-interception ratio and interception rate over the past five years.
Alright, so statistics from a league with different-sized fields don’t necessarily translate, but this bodes rather well for Jay Cutler, who has thrown his share of brutal interceptions. At the very least, Cutler should benefit from increased opportunity — his 434 passing attempts from a year ago was good for 24th in the league. He figures to put up significantly more passes in the new offense. Trestman’s offense could help cure Cutler of accuracy and turnover issues, which would in turn rectify his most glaring issue in the fantasy realm: inconsistency.
Stop me if you’ve heard this joke before: the Cardinals’ offense.
Last season was little more than a punchline in the desert, but Carson Palmer is there to save the day. He might not be Aaron Rodgers, but he may as well be in comparison to the epic combination of John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, and Ryan Lindley.
Of course, even an upgrade at quarterback will be for naught if the offensive line cannot keep him upright. The Cardinals were among the worst at protecting the quarterback — Kolb was sacked once more than Palmer last season on 620 fewer snaps — thanks largely in part to tackling dummy D’Anthony Batiste. Levi Brown should be back to rectify that — to a certain degree, at any rate — and Bobby Massie turned things around magnificently after a horrific first half last season.
Outside two-quarterback and deep-bench leagues, Palmer is likely going undrafted given that some owners do not draft backup quarterbacks. That means Palmer and his Larry Fitzgerald-driven upside will likely be available to you at the end of your draft.
Here we go. Another year, another blurb in favor of drafting Michael Vick, who has set fantasy rosters ablaze for much of the past two seasons. Just a scant two years ago he was even touted as the top-overall pick in some circles. How the mighty have fallen.
The Eagles were a dysfunctional brood during the past couple of seasons, a reality that short-circuited Vick’s fantasy football prospects, among others. Gone are Andy Reid and fast food Fridays, replaced with Chip Kelly, “the Chip Kelly of the NFL.” He brings his balefire offense over from Oregon, which should dramatically increase Vick’s opportunity.
Of course, there is the real chance Nick Foles will take over as starter at some point — maybe even before the season begins — but he has looked the part in Kelly’s up-tempo offense thus far. Vick is nothing more than a backup in standard leagues based on his ADP, however, which maximizes the risk-to-reward ratio.
Year one was predictably average for rookie Ryan Tannehill, whose arsenal was far closer in resemblance to Switzerland’s than Russia’s. He wound up with just 12 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, peanuts compared to some of his rookie peers at the position. Still, the receiver-turned-quarterback was second in the league in accuracy percentage under pressure (72.9) and NFL QB rating when running play action (121.2) last season. He needs to improve in other areas, but those were some promising statistics.
He got a nice weapons upgrade this offseason with the additions of Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller, and he has reportedly looked good thus far in practice.
Tannehill’s ADP is all over the map depending on where you draft. It is difficult to argue you should go after him on Yahoo, for example, where he is being taken as a QB15 right now. There is clearly value on other sites, however, particularly at ESPN, CBS and NFL.com. He is a high-upside flier worth a gamble if you are running a quarterback-by-committee (QBBC) or employing a streaming strategy at the position.
But the value is all wrong here. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league. Indeed, he is the consensus top fantasy quarterback in the fantasy expert community. (Though, in fairness, Drew Brees did eek out top fantasy honors at quarterback over the past two seasons.)
Unless you play in a two-quarterback league or passing touchdowns are worth six points, no quarterback is worth a first-round pick. Even if your league does award six points per scoring play, the strategy is a dubious one.
It is simple economics: The supply of quality quarterbacks is the highest it has ever been while the demand stays the same. You only get one starting slot, and chances are the fifth-highest scorer will not be far off from a PPG perspective. Take last year, for example, when Robert Griffin III, the fifth-highest fantasy-scoring quarterback, scored 1.2 fewer PPG than Brees. Even if Griffin’s fantasy stock was higher than most rookies in years past, few thought he would have that kind of season. He was being drafted in the sixth round or later.
Of course, figuring out who is going to be that top-five guy in the middle rounds is the tricky part. That is where guys like Tony Romo come in. (See: above.)
His ADP is likely to take a decent hit between now and the end of August, but Tom Brady is being drafted far too highly these days.
It is easy to look at the future Hall of Famer and say he will be fine despite offseason developments, that he won three championships without major weapons on offense. After all, the Patriots replaced Wes Welker with Danny Amendola, an upgrade on paper if the former Ram can stay healthy. Rob Gronkowski might be recovering from arm and back surgeries, but he should be back early in the season. Aaron Hernandez might have been scrubbed from the NFL’s rolls faster than Usain Bolt on race day.
Yes, Brady has finished in the top five in fantasy scoring over the past three seasons, coming in third twice. But continuity is an underrated commodity in the NFL. All these changes on offense could be more difficult to integrate for Bill Belichick than we think. There is plenty of speculation that New England would feature the running game even more than last year, when their running backs finished second in the league in rushing attempts. Granted, a big reason for this was because they got out to big leads, but it isn’t hard to deduce the Patriots will lean more heavily on Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
Maybe the Patriots offense will be just fine. Maybe not.
There is another elephant in the room: age. Brady will turn 36 this August. He hasn’t shown any statistical signs of slowing down just yet, but that is a cliff he might fall off any time now. Maybe he will perform into his 40s like Brett Favre, but that bet would probably give poor odds.
What do you call Andy Dalton without A.J. Green? Alex Smith.
Well, perhaps that is not the best comparison, but Dalton is getting far too much love as a backup quarterback with all the options out there. Dalton benefited from a high number of touchdown passes despite an average number of attempts. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, meanwhile, had a much lower-than-expected touchdown count. Between him and rookie Giovani Bernard, expect the rushing touchdowns to correct themselves.
Meanwhile, Dalton threw for just 3,669 yards while sporting an underwhelming average depth of target (aDOT) of 8.9. He was also sacked 50 times, second-most in the league despite having an excellent offensive line and getting the ball out the quickest on average (2.4 seconds to each throw).
He is not being drafted as a starter, but there are far better committee and streaming options out there.
Joe Flacco had a magical playoff run. Do you expect him to carry it into the regular season with Jacoby Jones as his second receiver?
He threw just 22 touchdowns last season despite that big arm and Torrey Smith’s speed. Flacco managed to score three rushing touchdowns, the only reason he was even in the middle of the pack in fantasy scoring.
Now Anquan Boldin is gone and Flacco has had all offseason to buy up VHS and Ford Tempo shares with that massive new contract. This screams bad idea.