Every day more news trickles in from training camps around the league and with it come the whispers of change as position battles rage and our preconceived notion of how things will shake out, get shaken up. Below are 4 early contenders to see their value plummet as the find themselves in the midst of the bad buzz machine that so often derails our fantasy preparations. (this is in no way ranked in order of importance.)
Terrance West – RB / Cleveland Browns – The second head in the two-headed monster in Cleveland last year has seen his stock take a hit with the continued surge of Isaiah Crowell as the lead back and the addition of third down specialist Duke Johnson. Word out of Browns camp is that West isn’t even safe in terms of making the 53 man roster. While I may not be ready to right the eulogy on his career in Cleveland, it’s a safe bet that West sees very little meaningful time on the field barring a catastrophic injury ahead of him.
Charles Clay – TE / Buffalo Bills – Any move that sees you go to a team like Buffalo has to make one pause when considering a players fantasy viability, but we all pointed to the freakish athleticism and the ability to be an impact player on a team that desperately needed one in the middle of the field as reasons why we considered Clay an obvious sleeper. Now, a full week into training camp, reports have Clay being targeted by Bills QBs a whopping 0 times. That’s right, you can’t divide by the number of time’s he’s been thrown at because it isn’t even a number. We’re a ways off from actual NFL games, and this could turn around for the gifted TE, but it’s a bad sign when a bad offense isn’t even TRYING to get you involved.
Darren McFadden – RB / Dallas Cowboys – Once upon a time McFadden was expected to blossom into an elite NFL runner. Then the injury history we all conveniently ignored became the present… and then the future. Now he’s becoming a frequent footnote in fantasy circles as well. What began as an off season filled with cautious optimism (for no reason other than we wanted to be right eventually) has turned into what we always knew it would be; another injury riddled campaign for the much maligned running back. A pulled hamstring is not the end of the world, but it is an other entry in the long list of obstacles that McFadden has to overcome to gain the starting gig… not least of which is that Joseph Randle now holds the keys to the castle. Steer clear of McFadden until the picks don’t matter; that way you won’t mind dumping him when he finds his way to the IR.
Marquise Lee – WR / Jacksonville Jaguars – A second round pick last year, Lee came into the league lauded as one of the top WR options in the draft; expectations where he’d immediately make an impact in the absence of suspended #1 Justin Blackmon. Inconsistency and injury derailed the promising players rookie year, and as we begin camps, it appears as though Lee is the odd man out with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns playing their ways into starting roles, and several touches being siphoned by new RB TJ Yeldon and free agent TE Juluis Thomas. Lee is very low on my list of maybe-sleepers.
Honorable Mentions: Bishop Sankey – There’s been very little good news this off season for the first RB selected in last years draft. He has stiff competition in the form of rookie arrival David Cobb. Trent Richardson – Early reports had him cutting weight, now they have him on the outside of the bubble as Murray and Helu (on third downs) look to lock up the backfield. Joique Bell – This one has been beat to death so much that Bell seems to fallen out of favor with both fans and pundits as Ameer Abdullah continues to carry the torch as Bell returns from an injury. Unless he falls in drafts, his value is taking a major hit.
When I started doing research for this piece, I was positive I knew how to data would look once compiled but the lines blurred once I saw it on paper. How can we truly evaluate a player who dominated college players as they transition to the NFL? How can we possibly rank or predict how they will perform compared to the current fantasy landscape? The simple answer: we can’t.
Todd Gurley is being compared to Adrian Peterson, another 3 down work horse who is expected to put on a pro jersey and jam the ball down the throats of terrified defenders. Melvin Gordon, the consensus number two is obviously a step behind in terms of NFL readiness but is still seeing a lot of hype as we approach the NFL draft. But we’ve seen this before. Adrian Peterson came into the league in 2007, so my quest started there as I looked at the recent fantasy impact (or lack of) provided by first round RB selections. (2013 and 2014 didn’t feature a 1st round back, so we used the first back selected in the 2nd round for comarison purposes)
Only 3 backs were taken with a top 10 pick since Peterson was selected 7th Overall in 2007. They are Darren McFadden in 2008 (4th Overall), CJ Spiller in 2010 (9th Overall) and Trent Richardson in 2012 (3rd Overall). Believe it or not the only player to outperform their ADP was Richardson (+14*), and partly because McFadden (-74*) and Spiller (-154*) were such fantasy disappointments. Since then, Richardson has been a mega bust and Spiller and McFadden have teased but never approached the fantasy dominance we all expected.
Beyond those picks, there was a lot of flux, the largest return on investment was Chris Johnson who’s ADP of 101 was woefully under predected in 2008.
Here are your first round Draft Day winners:
- 2007: Adrian Peterson (+36)
- 2007: Marshawn Lynch (+10)
- 2008: Jonathan Stewart (+7)
- 2008: Chris Johnson (+77)
- 2009: Knowshon Moreno (+16)
- 2012: Trent Richardson (+14)
- 2012: Doug Martin (+44)
- 2013: Giovani Bernard** (+31)
Big Losers as follows:
- 2008: Darren McFadden (-74)
- 2008: Felix Jones (-111)
- 2008: Rashard Mendenhall (-286)
- 2009: Donald Brown (-154)
- 2009: Beanie Wells (-2)
- 2010: Ryan Mathews (-69)
- 2010: Javhid Best (-19)
- 2010: CJ Spiller (-154)
- 2011: Mark Ingram (-11)
- 2012: David Wilson (-71)
- 2014: Bishop Sankey** (-88)
What can we gather from these numbers? It’s nearly a 50 / 50 coin flip on wether top RB talent pans out in year one, and for the players that finished above their ADP several of them regressed in year two (Martin, Moreno, Richardson, and Bernard). By contast, plus players generally finished just above their ADP with the exception of the flier picks like Johnson, while the minus players likely crippled fantasy owners due to how drastically they underperformed the value we heaped on them.
My advise is to temper your expectations in year one, Peterson is most likely more of an exception than the rule. Gurley will make a fine NFL back, and has the potential to be a huge win on draft day, but the potential is also there with his injury history to hamstring your fantasy team if he doesn’t work out. If you can get Gurley at or beyond wherever he’s projected come draft day, go for it, but I’d have a solid back up plan in case.
*+ or – numbers calculated by comparing avg ADP for said player with their final Fantasy impact. Standard rules for scoring.
** No RB selected in the first round; player used was first RB selected for that draft year.