MFL Tending: Wide Receiver Valuations
With the free agency dust having settled, and peak draft season on the horizon, it’s an opportune time to check in on MFL10 ADPs. Below we’ll look at five wideouts who should be picked earlier, followed by five who are being overdrafted.
Please note that since MFL10s use point-per-reception (PPR) scoring, all mentions of fantasy points will assume that format. Average draft position (ADP) data is courtesy of the RotoViz Best Ball App, using a date range of March 18 through April 1.
Julio Jones (WR4; late 1st round)
This one is sort of hair-splitting, but something noteworthy cropped up when looking at Jones’ fantasy point production relative to touchdowns. Last year, just 12.1 percent of his points were scored in the endzone. In his previous seasons, he derived 20.9 percent of his fantasy points via touchdowns. The rest of the top-10 wideouts earned 22.8 percent of their points from touchdowns last year.
We know touchdown scoring is generally fickle, but chances are Jones’ scoring will fluctuate closer to his career norm. We also know that new coordinator Kyle Shanahan peppers his alpha wideout with targets, and there are painfully few mouths to feed in his offense. There’s a longer argument to be made that Jones may be 2015’s top wideout, but for now consider this:
|Wide Receiver||ADP (3/18 – 4/1)||2014 PPR Pts/Gm||2014 TD Pts Percentage|
Eric Decker (WR30; early 7th round)
Last year’s 27th-best wideout on a point-per-game basis, Decker’s situation has improved despite the perception that Brandon Marshall’s addition will hurt. Either he will enjoy a better version of Geno Smith, who played well at times, or Ryan Fitzpatrick will be his quarterback. Gone is Rex Ryan’s Ground and Drowned approach, and Chan Gailey’s pass-friendlier offense takes its place.
Despite battling quarterback and injury issues last year, Decker averaged 15.6 points in the 11 games that he ran at least 25 pass routes. During those weeks, he was the 10th-highest scoring fantasy wideout, and ranked 15th in Yards Per Route Run (2.18). The fact that he’s being drafted two full rounds after Marshall positions him as a clear arbitrage play on his more celebrated new teammate.
Draft Instead Of: Brandon Marshall (WR22); Amari Cooper (WR28)
Anquan Boldin (WR45; early 10th round)
Among last year’s top-60 point-per-game wideouts, Boldin ranked 25th. He was 18th on that list in 2013, during his first season with the 49ers. That season, Boldin derived 17.1 percent of his fantasy points from touchdowns – which aligned with his average mark since 2007 (17.6 percent). In 2014, his touchdown share dropped to 13.7 percent of his points and ranked 41st among top-60 wideouts.
Sure, San Francisco brought in Torrey Smith, and Boldin is old (35 in October). He still was the 22nd-most targeted wideout, forced the 12th-most missed tackles, and earned PFF’s 18th-best receiver grade (+6.6). Colin Kaepernick registered quarterback ratings of 91.6 and 86.4 in 2013 and 2014, yet when he targeted Boldin, those marks were 118.6 and 102.7, respectively.
Draft Instead Of: Davante Adams (WR40); Victor Cruz (WR43)
Steve Smith (WR48; mid-10th round)
Smith predictably ran out of gas down the stretch in 2014, averaging 11.1 points in his last eight games, after posting 16.5 in his first eight. He saw 65 targets in each segment of games, and his catch rate (63 percent vs 58 percent) oddly fell along with his aDOT (12.0 yards vs 10.6 yards). Recency bias leaves us with a sour taste in our mouths after a season in which Smith ranked 24th on a point-per-game basis.
Like Boldin, Smith is old (36 in May). Unlike Boldin, Smith has zero competition for targets in the form of established pass catchers, #PrayersForPitta aside. Even if you prefer taking higher-upside shots in the second half of MFL10s, it’s still smart to roster bankable floor players. Smith and Boldin may be boring, but they’re also ringing the last call bell for legitimate 100-target wideouts, and are a cheap ride home.
Draft Instead Of: Brian Quick (WR46); Percy Harvin (WR47)
Rueben Randle (WR58; mid-13th round)
Lost in last year’s Odell Beckham Jr. Supernova, Randle wasn’t half bad down the stretch. He averaged 12.4 points over the last seven games, during which time he graded eighth-highest at his position (+8.0), and forced the third-most missed tackles among wideouts (10). Other than sharing an offense with OBJ, the main reason he wasn’t on the fantasy radar was because he was only in the endzone once.
Randle ranked fourth-lowest among 100-target wideouts with just 9.8 percent of his fantasy points coming from touchdowns. Before last year, 26.4 percent of his fantasy scoring came via touchdown scoring. Even if Randle only regresses near the 18.4 percent average of 2014’s top-60 receivers, while maintaining his increased efficiency from last season’s second half, he’s essentially pure profit.
Draft Instead Of: Cody Latimer (WR51); Terrance Williams (WR56)
Mike Evans (WR10; late 2nd round)
This is tough because Evans is insanely talented and worth his weight in dynasty league gold. However, his elevated ADP leaves painfully little room for profit, and the downside risks are significant. We’re basically guessing at how long it will take Jameis Winston to progress into a passer who enables fantasy-relevant wideouts, let alone top-tier level producers. Expect growing pains in a clearly rebuilding offense.
Evans was the 13th-best point-per-game receiver last year, owing much of that to his fourth-best touchdown total of 12. In fact, 29.4 percent of his fantasy points came via his touchdowns, which was the fifth-highest mark of any top-60 wideout. Teammate Vincent Jackson’s 6.6 percent mark was the second-lowest, despite seeing 22 more targets than Evans. Proceed with caution at the current price.
Instead Draft: Alshon Jeffery (WR9); Randall Cobb (WR11)
Sammy Watkins (WR18; early 4th round)
Watkins averaged 12.5 points per game in 2014, which ranked 33rd. I suppose Matt Cassel is better than Kyle Orton, whose passing game grade ranked 37th (-23.4). Then again, Cassel “earned” an -8.1 grade in 678 fewer snaps – so maybe not? Either way, Watkins’ quarterback is still going to stink. It’s also a strong bet that the Bills will be more focused on the ground game with Rex Ryan in town.
Even if Watkins matches his 124 targets from 2014, chances are they won’t be of markedly higher quality. Charles Clay and Percy Harvin will be thrown into the mix as well, further diluting an already weak passing game formula. That’s not to mention LeSean McCoy’s influence on the offense, and a defense that should keep games on the far end of the “wide open” spectrum.
Instead Draft: Julian Edelman (WR20); Jarvis Landry (WR25)
Torrey Smith (WR34; early 7th round)
Smith is moving from an offense where he was on the receiving end of typically accurate rainbows, to one where he’ll chase SCUD missiles. Out of 25 qualifying quarterbacks, Joe Flacco ranked fifth in deep ball accuracy, while Kaepernick ranked 17th. Flacco earned PFF’s 12th-best passing grade (+7.3), and Kaepernick was 28th (-10.3). The Ravens tallied the eighth-most points and the 49ers ranked 25th.
Out of the top-60 wideouts in fantasy, Smith had the second-highest percentage of his points from touchdowns (34.4). According to Mike Clay’s research into opportunity-based scoring, Smith should have scored 6.7 touchdowns last season. He scored 11 times. Maybe that unlikely rate can repeat itself in less friendly surroundings, but a seventh round cost risks a lot of downside if it doesn’t.
Instead Draft: Mike Wallace (WR36); Brandon LaFell (WR39)
Davante Adams (WR40; mid-8th round)
Just twice after Green Bay’s Week 9 bye was Adams targeted more than four times. He played a majority of snaps in all nine games, and averaged 31.2 routes run per contest. On only two occasions did he break the 17 receiving yard “barrier.” Playing time was not an issue last year. Passing game involvement was, and little has changed now that Randall Cobb remains a Packer.
Adams theoretically makes for a nice insurance policy on Cobb or Jordy Nelson, if a disproportionately expensive one. Without an injury to one of the big-two receivers, Adams’ ceiling isn’t even that of James Jones’ fluky 2012 season. Back then Green Bay didn’t have an Eddie Lacy-led running game that needed to be fed. Unless his ADP sinks considerably, Adams is a trap. <Jeff Janis content deleted>
Instead Draft: Larry Fitzgerald (WR42); Kendall Wright (WR44)
Victor Cruz (WR43; mid-9th round)
I get taking chances in MFL10s once the middle rounds roll around. We need to uncover gems to put our teams over the top. But no matter how you look at picking Cruz as early as he’s been going recently, it basically amounts to lighting a ninth round pick on fire. It appears he’s beginning to jog, and that’s encouraging – but concerns about whether he’ll be ready when the season starts exist.
Cruz has a long way to go before he’s able to reclaim his trademark agility, and torn patellar tendons are far more serious than ACL tears. Even when he was healthy last season, he averaged 10.5 points per game – which would have ranked 50th among wideouts. The Giants have a plethora of targets now. There’s too much uncertainty associated with Cruz at this point to burn anything but a late round pick.
Instead Draft: Another Wide Receiver
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