Justin Hunter’s Existential Crisis

Rosencrantz

“Rosencrantz: We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat?
Guildenstern: No, no, no… Death is…not. Death isn’t. Death is the ultimate negative. You can’t not-be on a boat.
Rosencrantz: I’ve frequently not been on boats.
Guildenstern: No, no, no–what you’ve been is not on boats.”
― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

 

With the veteran portion of the RotoViz Dynasty startup just completed, it was time to move on to the rookie draft. I owned the No. 16 pick and some highly ranked players fell to me at that spot. Unfortunately, they weren’t highly ranked players that I liked. My pick came down to Marcus Lattimore (ranked 9th in the PFF rookie rankings), Markus Wheaton (11), and Justin Hunter (14). All of these guys theoretically represent good value, but I tried to trade down because, like the rest of the RotoViz staff apparently, I think they’re all overrated.

A Quick Glimpse at the Candidates

1) Marcus Lattimore – The dynasty world has fallen in love with picking Lattimore and stashing him for 2014, but once you calculate the present value of Lattimore’s future worth, you basically have to believe one of two ideas. A) Everybody else available is gawd-awful. B) Lattimore is a superstar. (Also that Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James are worthless.)

I’ve already suggested proposition A as a real possibility and maybe that’s where everybody else is too. Unfortunately, Lattimore is probably overrated regardless. Bill Connelly’s Adj. POE numbers over at Football Study Hall suggest the former Gamecock struggled badly in both 2011 and 2012. If you pick Lattimore, your optimistic scenario is getting Willis McGahee circa 2003. (For a fuller discussion of why Lattimore makes an awful rookie pick, check out Coleman Kelly’s The Myth of Marcus Lattimore.)

2) Markus Wheaton – Landing with the Steelers was the perfect spot for Wheaton’s fantasy value but that probably pushes him merely to WR3 upside. Wheaton is often compared to guys like Mike Wallace or T.Y. Hilton, but he lacks that kind of timed speed. (Of course, football speed is more important than timed speed, but when guys lack timed speed I worry about their ability to transition to the NFL where almost everyone has football speed. Essentially, you need both timed speed and football speed to be a vertical receiver at the NFL level.) Wheaton is the type of player who will fill an important reality niche without delivering enough fantasy value to burn a roster spot on.

3) Justin Hunter – I’ve been all over the place on Hunter, and I always try to avoid guys when I can’t get a good read. On the other hand, one thing you can do to figure out the potential trade value tied up in a player is to imagine that what it would be like if they have a decent season. If both Wheaton and Hunter post identical 50-catch, 700-yard, and 5-TD seasons, then Hunter will be valued in 2014 a lot like Josh Gordon is now. Wheaton will be valued a lot like Kendall Wright.

A Closer Look at Justin Hunter’s NFL Projection

I’ve written a couple of Dominator Rating and Height-adjusted Speed Score articles in reference to this rookie class, and Hunter actually did better before being selected by the moribund Titans. There are two big issues with Hunter. First, while he’s the best athlete in the rookie class when you look at height (6’4”), speed (4.44), and vertical (39 inches), his weight (196) is a big red flag. That lowers his HaSS to 106, which isn’t elite.

Second, he hasn’t been nearly as productive as you want. Take a look at his heat map. I’ve included DeAndre Hopkins, the underrated star of this rookie class, A.J. Green, a guy Hunter has drawn comparisons to, and Hakeem Nicks, a guy whose collegiate resume predicted his early career per play dominance.

 

Although he’s not as bad as Cordarrelle Patterson, Hunter doesn’t measure up to what you want in a future No. 1 receiver. He’s weak in every category: yards per target, red zone touchdown rate, market share yards, market share touchdowns. (For the best visualizations of football info on the internet, visit RotoViz and click on the College WR Career Graphs tool.)

Of course, the ACL tear complicates things. If we decide to include Hunter’s first two games in 2011 – not cherry-picking but simply adding on his last two completed games – then in his last 14 games Hunter has recorded 1385 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Not Stedman Bailey numbers to be sure, but more encouraging.

The discouraging note is that while Hunter has flashed in Titans workouts, he’s already drawn the ire of position coach Shawn Jefferson.

Justin Hunter, Markus Wheaton, and Marginal Value

I predict Markus Wheaton will score more fantasy points over the next five years than Justin Hunter, but his upside is probably in the range that you might oxymoronically label ‘elite replacement level.’ (It’s important to be aware of how you’re calculating marginal value relative to your league requirements. One thing the professional teams in Kansas City have proven relentlessly is how easy it is to end up with multiple starters who are below the theoretical replacement level. In 14-team leagues it’s easy for talent to become very unevenly distributed by position. Essentially, I could end up with zero replacement level WRs, and then the value to me of an otherwise replacement level talent would skyrocket.)

Keeping that in mind, Hunter has a much broader range of potential future outcomes, one of which is becoming a WR1 for your fantasy team. Replacement level talent should never be taken for granted. Grinding the FA pool is an essential part of making sure you have replacement level players at your disposal. It’s important to be willing to do that work later so that when you have a premium pick in a rookie (or regular) draft you can afford to swing for the fences.

 

Justin Hunter: We might as well not be practicing. Do you think I could not practice on a football field?

Shawn Jefferson:  No, no. Not practicing is death. And death is the ultimate negative. You can’t not-be on a football field.

Hunter: I’ve frequently not been on football fields.

Jefferson: No, no, no, what you’ve been is not on football fields. 

Our Bananas Won’t Kill You: Best of MITBS This Summer

bananastand
George Michael: Did you know G.O.B. started a banana stand?
Michael: Yeah, that was my idea. I’m trying to get us to be less competitive.
George Michael: That’s gonna be difficult. Plus, they have a very aggressive slogan.

With the offseason quickly careening toward training camp, I wanted to alert all Money in the Banana Stand fanatics to a few articles you might have missed. This is a Top 10 List of MITBS-related content.

Outside of PFF, many of you know I’ve been doing a lot of work for burgeoning fantasy football superpower RotoViz. If you subscribe to RV, you’ll end up with the equivalent of a draft guide – articles on every important player – and the ability to use the apps. Having access to the apps is like having a draft guide that just keeps giving. In-season the apps will include the Buy Low Machine and the best start/sit app in the business. (Subscribing to either PFF Fantasy Gold and/or RotoViz – preferably and – will not only insure that you dominate your fantasy league, it will help me to keep the Banana Stand going.)

The Top 10

1) Trent Richardson, Chris Johnson, and Why RB-RB is Back – I’m an avowed upside-down drafter, but this season may be unique. A handful of elite young players like C.J. Spiller and LeSean McCoy will be available late in the first round, while elite veterans like Steven Jackson and Matt Forte will be available in the second.

2) Why Adrian Peterson Shouldn’t Be a Top 5 Pick – I investigate how Purple Jesus compares to the superstars of the past and conclude he’s not in the same league. More importantly, he doesn’t have as much upside as guys like Ray Rice and Arian Foster, two of the three runners who put up more fantasy ppg in 2011 than he did in 2012.

3) A Look at the PFF Rookie Draft – This episode of The Contrarian featured explanations for why Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, and Cordarrelle Patterson, and Tavon Austin aren’t great targets in rookie drafts. (For a fuller explanation, click on any of the individual names.)

4) Alfred Morris – Fantasy Football Stealth Star – Morris remains underrated even with his late first round ADP. He’s got an excellent chance to be the next Terrell Davis, a man who would not be coming off the board as RB10.

5) Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson Think You Should Go RB in Round 2 – A follow-up to the RB-RB piece, I look at why you should pass on exciting options like Julio Jones and A.J. Green in order to lock down your RB position. This is not your father’s VBD-based argument!

6) Marshawn Lynch is a Strong Sell – I’m an inveterate Lynch basher, so take this with a grain of salt. I was wrong on Lynch last year, but I still think the Skittles bubble is about to burst. Christine Michael looks like the next Matt Forte and could be a huge sleeper, especially in dynasty leagues. The far safer Alfred Morris is available later in the first round.

7) DeMarco Murray – Fantasy Football Stealth Star – A year after making him a late first round pick, Murray is going in the range of Frank Gore and Darren Sproles. The RotoViz RB Similarity Score App is incredibly high on Murray. At his current valuation, he becomes the focal point of the RB-RB strategy I described above. Murray is perhaps the best buy low in the entire league.

8) The Veteran Breakout QBs. I put Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Matt Schaub under the RotoViz QB Sim Score microscope. Don’t waste your time or your precious mid-round picks on trendy bounceback candidates like Matthew Stafford or Eli Manning. The trio of established playoff QBs projects to put up big numbers this season.

9) Agility Scores, Le’Veon Bell, and Doug Martin – I’m not arrogant or delusional enough to believe my article impacted the Steelers’ decision to take him over players like Eddie Lacy or Montee Ball. But I do think my explanation of his star potential has had a modest effect on his ADP in rookie drafts. He’ll overtake Gio Bernard before the summer’s over.

10) Agility Scores, Zac Stacy, and Ray Rice has had a similar effect. Stacy’s one of the best sleepers to emerge from the draft in years. For a bonanza of 2013 draft information and how it relates to your upcoming fantasy season, you might pop over and check out Draft Grades, Catharsis, and Deeply Flawed Memes.

 

Shawn Siegele has finished in the Top 10 of the NFFC’s Main Event Classic for two consecutive seasons and is one of only a handful of players to own three or more Main Event league titles. He also contributes to Rotoviz and works as the Lead Redraft Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

 

Doug Martin, Arrested Development, and the PFF Draft Guide

Arrested Development
Tobias Fünke: No, no, it’s pronounced a-nal-ra-pist.
Buster: It wasn’t really the pronunciation that bothered me.

 

This may be the best summer in recent memory. One of the greatest shows in television history has risen from the dead, RB-RB has triumphantly returned as the de facto strategy of drafters everywhere, and the PFF Draft Guide is better than ever. Featuring the projections of Mike Clay – a Nostradamus-like character in the fantasy prediction world – the writing of big time award winners like Alessandro Miglio and Scott Spratt, and the IDP brilliance of Jeff Ratcliffe and Ross Miles, the one draft guide devoted to serious players just got deadly. Did I mention that PFF Dynasty league champion Bryan Fontaine will be offering his visions of the future?

Oh, and the Banana Stand contributed three feature articles.

1) A Contrarian Approach to the RB Position: This feature looks at players like Doug MartinRay Rice, and Jamaal Charles and expands upon concepts like Vision Yards and Agility Score. The numbers don’t paint a pretty picture for the sustainability of Adrian Peterson’s success.

2) Possession Receiver Breakouts and Sustainability: In 2012 I put together a study which questioned the viability of receivers like Wes WelkerDanny Amendola, and Percy Harvin. The updated study contains a lot of new information with actionable fantasy intelligence. It also unveils a big 2013 sleeper.

3) Get ‘Em Early or Very, Very Late: I profile the TE position and detail a plan for generating serious excess fantasy value. Suffice it to say that I’m not particularly high on players like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. PFF’s advanced efficiency splits help explain why you should go big with players like Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski (if healthy), or wait for super sleepers like Rob Housler or Dwayne Allen.

If you’re still not convinced and want to do a little WR research while trying to decide, take a peak behind the scenes with my Advanced Targets Wrap-Up articles – the most detailed breakdown of 2012 receiver splits anywhere on the web. Perusing these pieces will give you an idea of the insane depth that PFF offers.

Tier One examines the superstars like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. Tier Two breaks down the guys in the 11-20 range and debunks some misconceptions about Julio Jones and Victor Cruz. Tier Three homes in on potential 2013 busts like Mike Wallace and guys who might experience a secondary breakout like Cecil Shorts.

So buy the Draft Guide and sign up for Fantasy Gold.

 

Shawn Siegele has finished in the Top 10 of the NFFC’s Main Event Classic for two consecutive seasons and is one of only a handful of players to own three or more Main Event league titles. He also contributes to Rotoviz and works as the Lead Redraft Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.