“I’m in complete agreement with all those people who say, regarding movies, ‘I just want to be entertained.’ . . . That I am almost never entertained by what entertains other people who just want to be entertained doesn’t make us philosophically incompatible. It just means we shouldn’t go to movies together.”
— Richard Russo, Straight Man.
Less than 48 hours remain before the 2014 extravaganza known as the NFL Draft. You may be looking for entertainment as you dig in for the festivities, but what entertains you about the Draft may not be what entertains other people who just want to be entertained by the Draft. If that’s the case, you probably want to visit RotoViz.
In the scant time that remains, you’ll want to cram in as much research as possible. It’s important to know just how devastated to be when your team trades up for Odell Beckham, settles for Kelvin Benjamin, or decides to wait on the quarterback position. If you’re less of a draft-oriented reader and more of a fantasy-phile, draft coverage doesn’t have to be consumed before the big day, but it still might be the most important part of your fantasy preparation.
The quarterback position is notoriously difficult to project. As a result, I’ve used a variety of screens – efficiency, accuracy, age, multi-season productivity, size, and rushing ability – to see who consistently rises to the top. Manziel comes out looking like Fran Tarkenton, but you might be surprised at some of the supposedly elite passers who struggle. A couple of undervalued gems also emerge.
Manziel doesn’t finish No. 1 in our staff rankings, but the top choice is also an excellent pick. In addition to sortable rankings from the RotoViz guys and quotes from Jon Moore and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, this piece includes age, weight, hand size, ball velocity, AYA, and Total QBR for all of the top prospects. A one-stop reference.
Not all running backs succeed because of the same attributes, and it’s a mistake to grade them the same way. A year ago, I proposed three separate draftable profiles. Profile 1: The Workhorse, Profile 2: The Three-Down Star, and Profile 3: The In-Space Back. These sub-groups are built on my Agility Score and Vision Yards research for Pro Football Focus as well as my experience employing Zero RB in high stakes formats. In this first 2014 RB profile, I explore the lack of buzz surrounding Andre Williams and suggest he’s a discount Adrian Peterson.
Scouts have been down on Sankey for most of the spring, only for rumors to suddenly emerge that “real scouts” are now likening him to Emmitt Smith. Smith probably isn’t accurate but might he be the best prospect since Jamaal Charles?
Tyler Gaffney labored in relative obscurity for the Stanford Cardinal, but all that should have changed when he tore up the NFL Combine. His draft slot will be one of the most interesting this weekend. I could see anything from 3rd to 7th round.
Bill Connelly does excellent work for Football Study Hall, and the combination of his highlight yards stat with my Agility Score metric yields an undervalued foursome of potential stars. The Missouri Tigers had to limit Henry Josey this year as he recovered from a catastrophic knee injury, but he might be the most explosive back in the draft. Jerick McKinnon joins him as the class’s best athlete. Don’t forget Dri Archer, a better version of Tavon Austin who’ll be available for a fraction of the price.
The draft is about finding similar players for a fraction of the cost. Jonathan Bales has shown the value in targeting small school prospects, but how do you determine which deep sleeper to target? The Fantasy Douche provides a running back projection algorithm with uncanny accuracy. Using that information as a starting place, I’ve uncovered five undervalued prospects who might be better prospects than Carlos Hyde, Ka’Deem Carey, Isaiah Crowell, Charles Sims, and Devonta Freeman.
A big receiving back with speed, Charles Sims could be in the RB2 conversation as a rookie. Do his comps suggest players like Maurice Jones-Drew and the aforementioned Murray, or are there some red flags that serve to water down his projection?
NFL teams desiring a big back are forced to choose between two bruisers with “football speed” if not actual speed. Fantasy leaguers in search of a high volume RB1 face the same decision. Hyde has been getting more publicity, but Hill projects better on almost all of my screens.
The Banana Stand comp machine doesn’t support the “tape don’t lie” thesis. Very few athletically-challenged runners emerge as fantasy forces. A closer look at the similar players will probably make you reconsider as well.
A PFF Fantasy profile looking at my Top 10 backs from this class.
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If you’re a new reader or a metrics skeptic and you’re willing to give me one chance to demonstrate any merit in this approach, this is the article I’d recommend. You won’t believe how staggeringly different the weight/age/production profiles are between hits and misses.
It doesn’t just matter how old a prospect is now, it matters how old he was when he first started dominating against older competition. Again, I believe the difference between hits and misses will convince even the arch-skeptic.
A close look at the age and production profiles for each top prospect in the class with special attention paid to the Dominator Rating. Updated post-combine, you can track the value shifts through the draft process.
Coined by one of our ace commenters, the RotoViz Reach refers to those players who might cause analysts to reach for their talents. While NFL teams work to trade up for Watkins, Evans, and Beckham, the real stars of the 2014 class are sitting right there in the late-first or mid-second. Don’t misunderstand. Robinson, Adams, and others are not just better relative values. They’re going to be better players. Using the actionable info gleaned from the Holy Grail column, I explain why targeting players in the RR basket is value investing on steroids.
Last year Keenan Allen fell into the third round of the draft due to lingering injury concerns, a sub-par 40 time, and a failure to really flash on tape. It didn’t help that his exposure was limited by playing for a poor Pac-12 squad and that NFL decision-makers probably failed to fully account for the value of his youth. In this article I break down five new players – one for each those criteria – and explain why one of them might be this year’s Allen.
Watkins is the trendy superstar currently, but he wasn’t nearly as good in 2013 as Lee was in 2012. This piece examines the two players under the Holy Grail microscope and tries to make sense of Watkins’ superior athleticism versus Lee’s big lead in games dominated.
Many believe Odell Beckham has vaulted himself into the Top 10 discussion, while multiple RotoViz scribes consider Brandin Cooks to be the best small prospect in a decade. But small receivers are almost always overrated. Almost always. Perhaps one of these players actually ran fast enough to be a solid pick in upcoming rookie mocks. What to look for in a small prospect and who might be realistic comps.
Shawn Siegele is the creator of Money in the Banana Stand, a contributor to RotoViz, and a Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He recently cashed for over $200,000 by winning the 2013 NFFC Primetime Championship.