Scouting Notebook: Market misses

The only preseason week that matters is in the books. Kickoff 2013 awaits. Let’s look at where the draft values are and which players are being over-drafted.

I do not like or dislike players, only the price. So don’t misunderstand my meaning. That’s been a problem with my prior By the Numbers columns that presented projection models for quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. The picks and pans, for lack of better terms, are cost-based. No, I don’t like all the picks better than all the pans. I’m merely saying that the pans are too expensive relative to what I think their expected value will be and the picks are relatively cheap (in other words, likely to create significant surplus value relative to draft-day cost).

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Followers on twitter (@michaelsalfino) want my rankings. But it’s easier to say where I strongly disagree with the market. Who cares if I think, hypothetically, that Drew Brees is the No. 1 QB and not Aaron Rodgers. Picking Rodgers over Brees (or vice versa) is very unlikely to significantly affect any fantasy season.
This also marks our transition to Scouting Notebook style. I’ll still use numbers, but will also look at systems, player usage and just my assessment of skills (which, of course, often have a statistical foundation).
At the QB position, I have a problem with Robert Griffin III being selected, generally, over Russell Wilson. I love RGIII but we don’t know how quickly and to what degree he’ll recover his running ability. Wilson outplayed Griffin and just about every QB over his last 10 games of '12, including the postseason. Yes, Griffin was hobbling for some of that time but that does not exactly inspire confidence.
I again state it’s crazy to take Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck over Tony Romo, for the reasons stated in the By the Numbers column. Since 2000, 28 of 31 quarterbacks with 4,000-plus passing yards and 30-plus TDs had at least an average of 7.56 yards per pass attempt. We have a lot of data on Stafford and a 7.5-plus YPA from him, while possible, is not remotely probable. Luck could get a lot better, but most quarterbacks hit their career rates at about 20 starts. Luck has 17 including playoffs. There is also little efficiency growth among QBs from their age 23 to age 24 seasons.
At RB, I do not like low Body Mass Index runners who are expected to get career-high touches -- Jamaal Charles and C.J. Spiller. They are great players and an asset to any fantasy team. But I think Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice and Alfred Morris all are more likely to be able to withstand great workloads while being more ideally sized for goal-line work, too.
I can’t see drafting DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden, two low BMI guys, given their injury histories.
I love David Wilson as a player who could very easily approximate Charles and Spiller at a much more risk-averse price. Yes, he’s small, too. But I don’t need 300-plus touches from him where he’s being drafted, just 225-250. I don’t dislike all small running backs, remember, just the really expensive ones.
Montee Ball has been available in the ninth round and I still can’t see any Denver back but Ball being fantasy relevant in 2013. Ball has been named the starter now, or is at least practicing with the first team. I think he could be a top 10 back this year and even after this news you should be able to get him after 20 RBs are off the board.
Chris Johnson’s ADP is far too low. What’s the difference between Charles/Spiller and Johnson? And Johnson has been able to survive the volume we seek from Charles and Spiller.
I’ve been betting all summer that Jonathan Stewart is going to miss the first six weeks or at least be severely limited, physically, due to foot/ankle woes. It looks like I’m right. DeAngelo Williams is top five all-time in yards per carry (minimum 1,000 carries). His fantasy point-per-touch is elite and I think it’s safe to bet on 225 touches. He may get closer to 300, even, in a great run environment where defenders have to maintain outside containment over fear of Cam Newton running around their end. Backs on Seattle and Washington (we expect) also are in line to get this tremendous advantage. Probably Philadelphia, too.
I suspect that Chris Ivory is a better runner than Bilal Powell, but Powell is starting and is largely undrafted. Ivory sometimes is a fifth-round fantasy pick. Powell also is the primary goal-line runner given the Jets’ plan to use the wildcat in short yardage (he’s the “quarterback” in that set). So if I’m taking a Jets running back at their respective prices, it’s only Powell.
Eric Decker is going later than Wes Welker, which I find ridiculous since Welker is the third least efficient TD maker (catches per TD) in NFL history (minimum 400 catches). Decker is ideally sized for red zone duty. The Broncos offense this year is going to be like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley were in Indy in Peyton’s heyday. Welker is Stokley. Decker is Wayne. There is no Dallas Clark, really, but any surplus targets are going to be allocated to the X (Demaryius Thomas), Y (Decker) and slot (Welker) receiver in that order.
James Jones going so much later than Randall Cobb is likely a big mistake, too. Jones was ninth among NFL wideouts in snaps last season and had 400 more snaps than Cobb, too short to be a red zone threat and who also doesn’t get many deep passes, either. Cobb to me is a distant third after Jordy Nelson (the best Green Bay wide receiver) and Jones.
I don’t understand why Torrey Smith is being drafted so highly. Smith is not really a red zone guy and not a possession receiver/polished route runner. Why is he going ahead of Hakeem Nicks and Vincent Jackson?
Please see my By the Numbers column for other WR recommendations.
We haven’t covered tight ends in By the Numbers fashion. The stat I like for them is system driven -- percentage of a team’s completions allocated to tight ends. Be careful that the system from last year in which tight ends operated is largely unchanged due to coaching changes.
So tight ends to target considering their current ADP (i.e., they should be values) are Greg Olsen (Carolina league-most 35.9% of completions to TEs; new coordinator, but a promotion from within) and Owen Daniels (35%). I would be very wary of rostering Fred Davis (Redskins third-lowest 16.5% and were also low when Davis was healthy). Jermichael Finley (Packers 24th at 20.6%, below league average of 23.1%) should not be rising so dramatically this past week, either.

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