by Noah Pires
June 25, 2019
Whether you want to admit it or not, we all have biases. Whether it be recency bias, where people are influenced by a small, contemporary, sample, or getting swayed on a player simply due to their name, we all fall victim to it. The aim of this article/video is to show that if you take the name out of the equation and look at the raw numbers, you can find a valuable player you may have otherwise dismissed or even realize you think too highly of a player for the sole reason that they had one good season and now their name has some sort of outdated prestige attached to them. Without further ado, let's test just how much this experiment can impact your outlooks.
Not a shabby career for this gent, huh? Finishing as a top 12 QB in 6/8 seasons is nothing to scoff at and would typically be an indicator of how he'd be valued in the future, especially since he isn't an older player (Tom Brady, Big Ben, etc.). Well, the guy depicted above is actually being taken well below where he seemingly deserves to be chosen, currently drafted as the QB25, 176th overall. The man in question? Matthew Stafford.
See what just happened there? When you read his name, you probably scrolled back up and looked at those numbers in awe. How could Stafford have put up these numbers if he sucks? Well, what if I told you he doesn't. See, everything that could have went wrong for Matt last season did; he got smoked Week 1 and was seen constantly limping throughout the game, his #1 receiver, Golden Tate, got shipped off halfway through the year,
his second must tenured wideout, Marvin Jones, has his knee explode late in the season, Kerryon Johnson only played a handful of games, making Legarrette Blount the 1st and 2nd down baqck, meaning Staff didn't have a trusted weapon out of the backfield, and lastly, he was on the injury report at the end of the season with broken bones in his back. What could you expect out of him? If your answer to that rhetorical question is anything other than "nothing", you're either lying or delusional.
Heading into 2019, he now has the best receiving core of his career. That isn't opinion, it's a cold hard fact. Even when the Lions had Calvin Johnson, there was nobody of consequence lining up opposite of him. This season, Stafford will not only have Golladay and MJJ on the outside, he will also have an elite tight end prospect in T.J. Hockenson, a solid slot receiver with Danny Amendola, and a runningback who can actually catch passes on first and second downs with the return of Kerryon Johnson. The only reasonable explanation you could make to justify why Stafford's ADP is so low is because of the hiring of the "run-heavy" OC Darrell Bevell. Wellllllllllll, is he a ground and pound OC, or did he just use the weapons available to his advantage? If you look back to his last two jobs with the Vikings and Seahawks, he not only had two of the best runningbacks since the turn of the century in Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, Bevell was also blessed with fucking Travaris Jackson behind center...for both teams. Hell, if I had AP or Marhsawn in my backfield and my best passer was Jackson, I might have never thrown the ball. As Bevell's time with the Vikings came to a close, though, he was blessed by the presence of Brett Favre, and during those final two seasons with the gunslinger, Minnesota surpassed 500 pass attempts both years. Even when he was with the Seahawks, after Jackson was usurped by Russell Wilson, RW eventually worked his way into earning > 500 attempts under Bevell's watch. It would be foolish to assume a QB of Stafford's caliber would be relegated to the volume Travaris Jackosn commanded as a cog in DB's system, it just would. I have no concerns of him falling below the 500 mark, especially because he topped 590 on six separate occasions, and as long as the volume is there, with these weapons, there is no chance he doesn't return value.
Remember when I said that one good season could completely change a receiver's reputation forever? Well, Player Y is the perfect example of that. Who is the masked man on the right? It's no other than Allen Robinson, while the player on the left represents Sterling Shepard. Honestly, the chart speaks for itself. ARob, outside of that one season where he and Blake Bortles gave "garbage time points" a new meaning, has been mostly unimpressive, while Sterling Shepard has produced similarly despite being in an awful situation and never being his team's #1 option in the passing game. It's not easy to put up elite numbers when you're sitting behind a receiver like OBJ, but Shep has proved that when his number is called, he can boogie.
Sure, the addition of Golden Tate and possibility of Evan Engram playing a full 16 will eat into some of the passing volume, but OBJ's 124 vacated targets are more than enough to satiate these two pass catchers, meaning Sterling should see AT LEAST the target total he commanded in 2018 (107).
As for Allen Robinson, the team added David Montgomery in the draft, who will add a new facet to the passing game on first and second downs where, last season, Jordan Howard posed no threat to stealing targets. Along with a competent receiver in the backfield to compliment Tarik Cohen, their 2018 second round pick, Anthony Miller, will be fully recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered and played through all last season. Obviously Robinson will still be the Bears' #1 option in the passing game, but what does that really mean? Trubisky isn't all that much better than whatever the Giants decide to throw out behind center, and even if he leads Chicago in targets, his career 53.8% catch rate means he'll need to see 123 targets to match Shepard's receptions total from last year (66).
I'm not saying I'd draft Shepard ahead of Robinson, but it's close. Neither will have top-tier QB play, nor will they "dominate" their respective teams' target share, which is why I'd pass on ARob in the 6th round (pick 66) and wait until the 8th for a similar asset in Shep (pick 95).
You may have been able to guess this one right off the jump, so I'll tell you who it is: Sammy Watkins. What you see from the numbers provided above is an extremely inconsistent, low volume player who failed to produce yet again last season. Obviously there is a lot more to a player's evaluation than the numbers I put into the chart, but the picture it paints isn't all too far off from who Watkins truly is as a fantasy asset. Honestly, the last time he was a trusted receiver, one who you could confidently slot into your starting lineup without thinking twice about it, was in 2015. Since then, he has yet to top 600 receiving yards and has scored more than three tugs just once during that span. If he hadn't been a top five selection, I'm not sure he'd still be in the league, especially with his injury history at such a young age.
I get why he's being taken so early though (WR21, 51 overall). I don't agree with it, not one bit, but I get it. If you can grab the WR1 on a team like the Chiefs, tethered to an elite QB, in the 5th round, you do it 100% of the time. That's an argument I can get behind, but it isn't one that fits Watkins' situation. Even if Hill is suspended for the entire year, making Sammy the WR1, he isn't their #1 receiver; Travis Kelce is. Ok, well the #2 isn't all too bad, right? No, but with Damien Williams in the backfield, who commanded 5.6 targets per game after he took over the starting job, and the acquisition of Mecole Hardman in the 2nd round of the draft, it shouldn't be expected that Watkins gets nearly the same target share that Hill saw last season.
Along with this, something else I found interesting is that since news broke about Hill's incident not being pursued further, his ADP jumped from pick 106 to pick 55, while in that same timeframe, Watkins has fallen from 48th overall to 51st. ???? Hill's spike assumes he will play at least a portion of 2019, and if that's the case, how does Watkins' value not change? Something's fishy. There are just way too many question marks surrounding SW, whether it be his potential to get injured, Hill returning, or an offensive regression, that make me apprehensive pulling the trigger in the 5th round. I'd much rather a player like Chris Godwin or Calvin Ridley who provide the same ceiling but a much more stable floor in comparably pass-heavy offenses.
Let's be honest, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, sets these two players apart, yet their ADPs are wildly different. On the left, we have Trey Burton, and on the right, Player Y represents David Njoku. Neither are target hogs, neither showed any sort of consistency, and although Njoku's team had more volume last season, with the addition of OBJ, his looks are bound to decrease. When drafting a tight end, I look for one of two things:
1. Are you Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Zach Ertz?
Only three players check those boxes, so the second thing I look for?
We all chase volume, no matter the position, but for tight ends, where a 2/27/1 line will net you a top 12 week, it is extremely important to secure someone who is guaranteed 5+ targets per week.
Burton and Njoku, despite finishing top 10 last season, don't give you that safe target floor, which makes them hard to trust week to week. Their lack of consistency makes them somewhat throwaway picks late in drafts because you'd likely be better off streaming the position, which is why I'm shocked at Njoku's ADP. Sure, he's athletic, and yes, he certainly has the profile of a top-5 tight end, but with Jarvis Landry being an established target, OBJ likely securing 120+ looks, and Nick Chubb dominating on the ground, it's hard to deny he can be anything more than a back-end TE1.
This isn't to say I like Burton; I don't. I'm not drafting either guy unless it's past round 12, which is unreasonable. I'd be much more comfortable streaming the position or taking a complete flier pick in the final round like Ian Thomas or Darren Waller.
Don't let the athleticism of Njoku influence the facts; he is no different than Trey Burton, who himself isn't a great fantasy asset, certainly not one worth spending an eight round pick on.
Why would I decide to compare three runningbacks who are being selected ~40 picks from eachother? Well, because each back is a cog in the 49ers' offense. Player X represents Matt Breida, the man in the middle is Jerick Mckinnon, and the last one standing is Tevin Coleman. Ask yourself this: looking at the chart from above, what separates these backs?
Firstly, you can distinguish Player Y (Mckinnon) from the other two for two reasons; his injury history and involvement in the passing game. He's the oldest of the trio and is coming off of an ACL tear which certainly isn't favorable, and although he's shown to be the best passcatcher, it isn't like the other two are liabilities in that area of the game. Because of Jerick's lack of efficiency throughout his career, paired with the fact that both Breida and Coleman have shown an ability to produce in the receiving game, there's no reason for him to be the second back picked from this litter.
Now, as for comparing Coleman to Breida, broth have been productive in their respective roles thus far. In just two seasons, Breida has already topped 800 YFS and 5 TDs; pretty impressive for an undrafted player. He was playing second fiddle to Hyde during his rookie season, a year which Carlos totaled 59 receptions, yet is still averaging 24 receptions and 18 red zone carries per season. These numbers are nearly identical to Coleman's despite Tevin being a slightly "larger" player. Because of this, combined with the fact that, although Coleman has a rapport with Kyle Shanahan, Breida has been a part of the team for the past two seasons, the separation between these two men shouldn't be any greater than a few rounds. Even if you believe Coleman comes out on top in this backfield, are we convinced any one of them out-touches the others by over 3-4 per game? Coleman has shown to be more effective on 10-12 touches per game rather than dominating the backfield, so if he's used similarly in San Fran, it will allow Breida to near double digit touches per week, making him an immense value.
If you're asking me who I'd rather take at their current draft position, it isn't even a question: it's Breida. Would I be surprised if Coleman finishes as a top 24 back this season? No, not at all, but his end of season finish will likely be attributed to 4-5 huge performances, making him a difficult week-to-week start/sit decision. As for Breida, you're paying a price where those around him are mostly dart throws, but the likelihood of him commanding 9-10 touches per week makes him a safe bet with legitimate upside due to his efficiency.
If you want a consistent starter at the RB position, I'd honestly just avoid this entire backfield unless Breida's ADP remains static and you can grab him in after round 12.
Jalen Richard (rb66, 199 ovr)
(first 7 games vs last 6)
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