Dynasty Roundtable, Pt. 1
To kick off the update of our dynasty rankings — which now feature the opinions of Mike Clay, Pat Thorman, Joey Cartolano, and me — I thought I’d run through a quick Q&A. Part one covers quarterbacks and tight ends. Part two will follow with running backs and receivers. With free agency heating up and the draft looming, look for our rankings to receive regular updates though the offseason.
It looks like Mike and Pat are buying into Nick Foles while Joey and I are more pessimistic. What makes you like Foles enough to rank him over some more established players like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson?
Mike (from his Rotoworld article): Yes, I’m drinking the Foles Kool-Aid. In fairness, though, I’ve been drinking it since his rookie season. The Eagles trailed only the Broncos in offensive touchdowns last season, and that was with Foles on the bench during a majority of the first half of the season.
Consider that Foles’ 27 passing touchdowns on 317 attempts extrapolated over Manning’s 659 attempts from 2013 brings Foles to an NFL-record 56 scores. Manning threw 55 this past season. Now the Eagles clear-cut starter and with the offense around him only getting better, the 25-year-old Foles is primed for a breakout 2014 campaign.
Pat: Foles has a higher ceiling than almost any fantasy quarterback, as evidenced by his league-leading points per dropback rate. It stems from the fast-paced offense he is in, which can conservatively be said to still be on the upswing and now adds Jeremy Maclin, Darren Sproles, and a more heavily involved Zach Ertz. That will be enough to counteract some natural regression on his interception rate and the probability of less success on high-variance long plays from 2013.
It’s no coincidence that Michael Vick also ranked highly (third) in fantasy points per dropback in Chip Kelly’s system. The relative ease of replacing a fantasy quarterback versus other positions as well as the abundance of usable passers begs one to target upside over safety. Wilson’s near-term ceiling is capped in a run-based scheme with a top defense behind it. Brees’ offense will undergo a few changes due to the cash-strapped Saints needing young players to quickly step up, and at the same time, he is getting up there in age.
I still have Tom Brady in my top 10 at the positions. The other three rankers have him 15th or worse. Here is my rationale:
Scott: Over his final eight starts of 2013, Tom Brady threw for 2,519 yards, 16 touchdowns, and five interceptions. For me, his first half was an anomaly, and as players like Aaron Dobson and Shane Vereen mature and Rob Gronkowski hopefully returns, his second half numbers may become the low side of my expectations.
I tend to think my fellow rankers would more-or-less agree with those points. The real reason I believe I’m relatively bullish on Brady is that I expect little drop-off in his production into his early 40s. Brady relies on the short passing game. His high-eights aDOT is sustainable with diminished arm strength and mobility.
After a top-three fantasy season, none of us has Andy Dalton in the top 12. Meanwhile, he has one of the best receivers in the sport in A.J. Green, an underrated second option in Marvin Jones, and two potentially dynamic second-year skill players in Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert. He also has a two-year trend of increasing pass attempts. There are a lot of reasons to like him. What are some of the reasons you don’t?
Joey: I think it will be tough for Dalton to consistently repeat the performance he put on the field this year moving forward. He is losing the only offensive coordinator he has ever known, Jay Gruden, which is a loss that can’t be understated. Under Gruden, Dalton had the eighth-most pass attempts (586) in the league in 2013.
It appears as though the Bengals will shift their offensive scheme to a more run-oriented philosophy under new coordinator Hue Jackson, who has already promised a healthy dose of the explosive Bernard in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was Dalton’s career year statistically. For me, Dalton is a classic high-floor, low-ceiling quarterback, and that’s not the type of players I look for in dynasty.
Pat: I like Dalton more in redraft as part of a “late-round QB” and streaming strategy than I do in dynasty leagues. His wild point fluctuations hurt his viability as a reliable weekly starter. I love his weapons, but he is entering a “prove it” season with a new offensive coordinator, and there are some unknowns as far as how heavily the Bengals will lean on his arm. There is a possibility he is not a starter in 2015, never mind late in 2014, if he cannot cut down on turnovers.
I’m the last Michael Vick apologist. Here’s why:
Scott: I would never rank Vick as my 16th quarterback in a deep league. However, in a 12-teamer, which is our assumption in these rankings, he becomes a backup. There may not be a quarterback, backup or otherwise, who shares his individual game potential.
While Nick Foles was lighting the world on fire with a league-leading 0.73 fantasy points per dropback, Vick was basically invisible despite finishing third with 0.63 points per dropback, one hundredth of a point behind Peyton Manning. Vick has finished in the top eight quarterbacks in points per dropback in three of the last four seasons. Yes, he will likely miss a handful of games in 2014, but in a league where I can play the matchups with the Ben Roethlisbergers and Jay Cutlers of the world in the weeks he misses, I can live with that.
You can only have one of Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert, and Ladarius Green. Who do you choose and why?
Pat: I would choose Jordan Reed over the rest because he represents the most near-term upside. All four theoretically should pan out but probably will not in the real world. Reed gets the edge because he should receive the most targets of the four in 2014 and clearly showed what he can do with heavy involvement in 2013.
He was fantasy’s No. 1 tight end in both standard and PPR formats during the weeks he played at least 50 percent of Washington’s snaps. His concussion issue is worrisome but also underscores how it is advisable to more heavily weight near-term production over long-term projection, especially with a physically demanding position like tight end.
Joey: While I like both Green and Ertz, Reed is an easy choice for me here. I have mused of my affinity for Reed several times here on PFF, stemming back to his days as a converted high school quarterback who improved every year as a pass catcher at the University of Florida.
He has a fluidity in his routes and open-field movement that is eerily reminiscent of another former Gator and currently incarcerated tight end who was the blueprint for the NFL “move” tight end that is wreaking havoc on Sundays. Reed produced like an elite weekly option when healthy and getting a full complement of snaps this year, and he is tied to an elite young quarterback. Seemingly over his concussions, he is primed for a breakout 2014.
Scott: I’ll take Reed, as well. His 2.19 yards per route run trailed only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham in 2013 despite being a rookie. Pierre Garcon is the only established option in Washington, and even with the disappointing season from Robert Griffin III, he was still on pace for just short of 4,000 yards before being shut down for the final three starts.
Mike: Eifert is being overshadowed by Gresham and the depth at the skill positions in Cincy, but he was a first-round pick for a reason. It might take another year, but he’s going to emerge as one of the league’s premier receiving tight ends. It’s a nice time to try to buy low.
Which deep tight end has the best chance of leading the position in touchdowns in 2014?
Mike: Dwayne Allen is back healthy for the Colts and will play a Gronkowski-like role. Even with Coby Fleener there, Allen could emerge as a serious threat near the end zone. He’s a deep sleeper for 8-10 TDs.
Scott: It no longer sets tight ends apart to be built like an NBA power forward, but at 6’8″, 260 lbs., Levine Toilolo has exceptional size even by the new standard. Last season, he had two touchdowns on just 14 targets. Tony Gonzalez caught between six and eight touchdowns in each of his five seasons in Atlanta. Toilolo will likely fall short of his overall production, but he could surpass that scoring pace as soon as this year.
Pat: Joseph Fauria is the deep tight end who stands the best chance of leading his position in touchdowns. While his touchdown-to-target rate from 2013 is obviously completely unsustainable, he remains an imposing red zone target and will now be operating in an offense that helped make Jimmy Graham into a scoring machine. Heath Miller also deserves mention since he has been highly productive in this area in the past, is again fully healthy, and the Steelers lack a true red zone target.
Joey: I have to go with Fauria here. An incredible seven of his 18 receptions this year (23.33 percent) were of the pay dirt variety. He plays in an offense with an elite young quarterback and a monster on the outside that will literally always tilt coverage his way, especially in the red zone. Brandon Pettigrew seems to have one foot out the door as an unrestricted free agent, which could be the opportunity Fauria needs to get more playing time.
Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research associate for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt
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