2014 First Rounders: Lessons Learned
You’re going to see a lot of articles projecting 2015 ADP, talking about first rounders, etc., in the coming weeks and months. Realistically, that’s an exercise probably best suited after free agency and the draft are settled. While the fantasy season for 2014 is still fresh in our minds, let’s take a look back at the first rounders and see if we can peg why they succeeded or why they failed.
LeSean McCoy, RB – McCoy was generally the consensus #1 overall pick, and with good reason. He had a stellar 2013, but had a relative dud for 2014, clocking in outside the top 20 for average points scored for PPR running backs. His yards per carry dipped from 5.1 to 4.2, and while 4.2 yards per carry isn’t awful, it’s certainly a far cry from 5.1. He was one of our worst rated running backs with some bad games early in the season, though he had some modicum of success later in the year.
What were the main culprits? For one, his offensive line was a wreck throughout the season, with some of his best blockers dealing with injuries. The Eagles had an insane amount of continuity along the o-line in 2013, and it was only a matter of time before they dealt with injuries at some point. Two, McCoy saw a massive dropoff in the passing game as Darren Sproles siphoned away some of his targets, which some people saw coming.
He also saw some goal line looks vultured. The blocking was a matter of “regression” if you will, and the targets were expected to drop, though not at the level they did. The goal line vulturing wasn’t something many could have guessed. Going forward, the biggest lesson here might be if a running back is playing behind a stellar line all season that hasn’t been hurt, there’s a chance that line may not play as well the following year given the nature of the NFL. Still, a back with his talent is still an early round pick, and should be in 2015.
Adrian Peterson, RB – No one could have foreseen this situation, so we won’t really touch on it here.
Jamaal Charles, RB – Usually the 2nd or 3rd pick in fantasy drafts, Charles actually finished as the RB7 in PPR formats. He started off slow and ended pretty slow, but from Weeks 4 to 14, he balled out. Again, a talented back with a clear cut role for carries is usually a recipe for success, and the main thing that held him back was Andy Reid’s random penchant for not giving his best player touches. Charles should be a first round pick next year as well, and no one will be surprised if he actually registers more receptions in 2015 as well.
Matt Forte, RB – A godsend in PPR formats, Forte finished as the RB3 in PPR leagues thanks to his pass catching. Forte was arguably the best first round pick in these formats and maybe in most formats thanks to his high floor because of his reception volume.
The main lesson here is that a feature back who can catch passes is someone who we’ll always gravitate to – in general, first round picks with high week to week floors are invaluable, because we swing for upside in rounds that aren’t the first. If your first round pick busts, it’s much tougher sledding. In 2015, Forte won’t be in Marc Trestman’s system and may not have Jay Cutler, so it’s a situation to watch for sure.
Eddie Lacy, RB – When I watch Lacy run, it reminds me of Marshawn Lynch. Physical, tough to bring down, as evidenced by his top 5 yards after contact per attempt status. Amazingly, Lacy didn’t really turn it on until Week 5, but owners weren’t complaining after a sluggish start, especially considering he caught more balls than Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy.
Lesson here? Ignore talk about “sophomore slumps.” When a guy has a clear path to carries on a high powered offense and has talent, you want him on your team in all likelihood. As a sidenote, these reasons were what made Lacy perhaps the premier buy-low target after Week 2 or 3.
Calvin Johnson, WR – Nagging injuries and an overrated Matt Stafford took Calvin from the consensus top WR status to a WR16 finish in 2014. You can’t blame anyone for taking Megatron in the first, but there’s definitely something to be said about taking a guy who’s 25 as opposed to a guy who’s 29 who did have some other nagging injuries in 2013.
That’s probably nitpicking, because I would have taken Megatron as the WR1 or WR2 in every draft and not looked back. The lesson here might be that Stafford’s volume from 2013 was nearly unsustainable, but Megatron probably still justifies a 2nd round pick in 2015 because of his sheer talent and physical dominance. Just have a good WR3 on your roster for the games he’s likely to miss.
Marshawn Lynch, RB – Lynch finished as a top 5 back regardless of format. His running style is bound to catch up to him sometime, but it certainly wasn’t this year. Again, a success for those who picked him.
Jimmy Graham, TE – Nagging injuries and a Saints team that woefully underachieved torpedoed Graham’s season relative to expectations. Despite that, he still scored 10 times and ended up as the 2nd best tight end in PPR formats, though he trailed Rob Gronkowski by a wide margin.
Honestly, no one could have predicted the awful season for almost all tight ends in general, so relatively speaking Graham wasn’t an awful pick. Just not a good one. Injuries certainly factored into his season, so there’s not one obvious lesson here when an entire position underachieves. On the plus side, there should be some good tight end values in 2015.