by Nick Ercolano
July 25, 2018
You know what it be. Another Wednesday post where we're diving in deep. Today, we're looking at my favorite bounce-back players and post-hype sleepers for the 2018 fantasy football season.
Current ADP: 101, WR40
I think Cobb's ADP will continually rise throughout the summer, but as long as he's anywhere in the 80's+, I think you're getting really solid value on him. For those of you that read reports that he was in a walking boot, he's out of it, completely healed and 100% for Green Bay's training camp which starts in a few days, depending on when I film/you watch this video.
For one thing, Cobb is still relatively young, only 27 years old. 2018 will be his 8th year in the league, all with the Packers. GB had to make a decision between keeping Jordy or keeping Cobb, y'all know how that went.
Listen, I get it. Cobb isn't the receiver he used to be. And many people are still holding onto the hope of him re-capturing that 2014 season where he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 TDs. It won't happen. You can have to look at 2018 Cobb as a completely different fantasy asset than you would look at 2014 Cobb.
I've talked about it a few times, that I really think the GB WR core will be an open competition this summer. But for right now, Cobb is the WR2 and will be occupying the that role until he loses it. And when you're in an Aaron Rodgers offense, it's really not that difficult to stay in your role outside of a big fuck up. He's going to make you look good.
I'm gonna hit you with about 4 charts in the next few minutes that will probably turn you into a Cobb truther for the szn.
This is the average production of the WR2 in Green Bay's offense since Aaron Rodgers took over as the starter here. 105 targets, 70 receptions, just under 1,000 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. I discounted 2011 and last year because Rodgers was hurt for the majority of the year. If he is the WR2 in this offense, those numbers wouldn't surprise anyone.
He was bad last year, but he wasn't even close to as bad many people might think. You look at his numbers while Aaron Rodgers played. Rodgers appeared in 7 games, Week 6, he completed two passes before breaking his collarbone, so we'll discount that game. Cobb also missed one of the games Rodgers was active for, but it still gives us a five-game sample size of them two on the field together last year. Cobb's per game numbers in those five games: 9 targets/game, 6 catches, 62.4 yards and 0.4 TDs. You pace those out to 16 games and you're looking at 144 targets, 96 receptions, 998 yards and 6.4 touchdowns or WR13 in 0.5 PPR for fantasy.
But, the best part about this is that Cobb didn't fall off as a player. He won't be 2014 Cobb, but he was much better in 2017 than he had been in '15 and '16. And that's taking information from multiple sources. Matt Harmon's reception perception, he stated that Cobb was the biggest surprise, in a good way, when he graded receivers this summer. Harmon stated that his '17 RP #'s were much, much closer to his 2014 szn than '15 or '16. He had a 71% success rate vs. man coverage, he hadn't cracked 60% in either of the previous two years, and also had an 82% success rate versus zone coverage, both were top-10 among all the WRs he graded this summer.
Looking at PlayerProfiler.com, Cobb's 2.03 yards of separation/target was 11th in the NFL and his Game Speed data tracked by Josh Hermsmeyer on AirYards.com was a big increase from 2016 to 2017. Lastly, he's still a guy that can move with the ball, as good slot receivers need to be able to do. Among 54 WRs last year that saw 70 targets or more, Cobb ranked 3rd in the NFL in YAC.
What I'm saying is Cobb can still move, run routes, do his ting, he didn't fall off, he just needs Rodgers back.
The last thing I like here, and this is kind of just in general with A-Rod returning, is that Cobb's volume in the redzone should go up. Cobb only scored 4 times last year, but that's really not bad considering the opportunity he got:
Cobb saw a total of 6 RZ targets and 3 10Z targets last year. But, as you can do on ProFootballReference, you can actually look at every RZ target he saw. Remember, Rodgers only played those first 5 weeks, Cobb missed one of those games, Cobb saw three of those 6 RZ targets in the first month of the season with Rodgers under center. His last RZ targets came on September 28, which was their Week 4 game versus the Bears, he wouldn't see another RZ look with Hundley under center until fucking Week 11 against Baltimore. Green Bay went from a team that passed the ball in the RZ 67% of the time in 2016, and a league-high 71% of the time in neutral game scripts, that number dropped down all the way to 55% in 2017, a monster dropoff. With Rodgers back under center, there's no doubt in my mind that number will increase back into the 60's, probably around 65% again, as it has always historically been and we can see by the chart I previously showed, Cobb was a guy that was used in the RZ plenty with Rodgers under center.
I don't know that I'm banking on a monster bounce-back year for Cobb, but what I can tell you is that he's a guarantee to return value on where he's being drafted. The only caveat is, as I've been saying, make sure you keep a very keen eye on the training camp battles in GB for the WR roles. I like that kid J'Mon Moore a lot. Fortunately for Cobb, their draft picks were outside receivers and big playmakers, not slot guys.
Current ADP: 157, WR58
After somewhat of a breakout rookie year back in 2015, where he caught 51 passes for 664 yards and had 8 total TDs, one KR, one PR and 6 receiving, Lockett has failed to take a step forward in either 2016 or 2017, largely in part due to a plethora of injuries he's dealt with - which include a quad strain, a fractured fibula and tibia, knee soreness, just all these lower leg injuries that slowed him down, and when you have a guy like Lockett who runs a 4.40 40 and is extremely explosive, he can't have leg issues and be the same player.
Lockett is a guy like Devante Parker, who will, year over year disappoint, for one reason or another, but us as fantasy foozeballers act like crack fiends and keep finding ourselves coming back for more, trying to reach that elusive high of hitting on the right breakout season. At one point or another, either Parker or Lockett has burned you if you play fantasy football. I can actually say I was never on Lockett, don't think I've ever drafted him, Parker was who got me, but I'm liking where you can get Lockett right now given his situation.
For one, Lockett has been a boom-bust guy, mainly because he could never see volume, but I think that changes in 2018. Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson both found new homes, so there is some serious targets up for grabs. That exact number would be 172 targets, along with 2,098 air yards (6th most unaccounted for in the NFL entering 2018 - per Evan Silva of Rotoworld). The great part for both Lockett and Baldwin about these two specific players leaving is that it opens up a whole bunch of different types of targets. Both short, over the middle, RZ, 10Z and deep targets. Graham led the entire NFL in RZ targets (26), RZ TDs (10) and 10zone targets (16). Between the two of them, there are 37 RZ and 21 10Z targets opening up. The signing of Brandon Marshall doesn't worry me at all. He will still be a guy that's used in the RZ, I think, similar to Dez, that's about all he's good for. Right now, in a vacuum, Dez is better, but they'll both be used similarly in their offenses, wherever he ends up. Marsh won't make an impact between the 20's though, he's finished.
This works out great for Lockett, too, who as I mentioned before is a lid lifter, opening up the defenses, can capitalize on Paul Richardson leaving who operated as a deep threat last year while Lockett was banged up. Richardson led the team with an aDOT of 15.4 and 16.0 YPR. That 15.4 aDOT was the 6th highest rate of all NFL WRs in 2017 (min. 80 targets - 49 WRs).
We've seen the explosiveness from Lockett as long as he's healthy, and according to Pete Carroll, as of June 7th (over a month ago) Lockett is back to 100%. Even last year, he actually ranked 15th among all NFL WRs in target separation per PlayerProfiler which I was really surprised to see, considering his Game Speed per Josh Hermsmeyer's charts on Air Yards had Lockett dropping off dramatically due to the injuries.
I think Lockett is certainly capable of a season like John Brown's 2015 where he caught 65 passes for 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Seahawks are going to be in a lot of shootouts given that the Legion of Boom is now the Legion of Whom. No more Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor tha gawd has to retire for medical reasons, Earl Thomas is really about to get traded, released Cliff Avril, Sheldon Richardson is in Minnesota, Deshawn Shead is in Detroit, Michael Bennett is in Philly, zamn when you say it out loud it's bad man. So, they as much as they want to establish the run, a lot of points should be given up by this completely new defense.
Current ADP: 115, QB16
There are some things I feel like are very easy to predict in fantasy football. For instance. I already know in Week 1, Jimmy Graham will score two touchdowns. Then I will get a lot of comments on my channel about it. Then Jimmy Graham will go on to finish with 36 receptions, for 471 yards and 5 touchdowns on the year. And I'll sit here with a big sign that says big facts only on it.
A lot of the time, post-hype sleepers are very easy to predict. And that's because bust candidates are easy to predict. For instance, Jared Goff won't live up to his QB11 price, then next year he'll get drafted as like QB18 and be a value.
Anyways, we're here to talk about Matt Ryan. After his prolific 2016 MVP season, throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, he flopped bad in 2017. His completion percentage dipped by more than 5%, his yardage total dropped to 4,095, and his TD total went from 38 to 20. Despite finishing as QB14 overall, he had just four weeks finishing inside the positions top-12, he topped 300 passing yards just 4 times in 16 games and the most damaging aspect was the fact that he threw for 1 or fewer touchdowns in 11-of-16 games, and in both playoff games as well.
The good news is this. It was the Falcon offense's first season fully under the control of Steve Sarkisian. Kyle Shanahan brought out the best in this team during that 2016 run. While Ryan's number were amazing in 2016, his 2017 numbers were far below what we have seen from Ryan during averages years, so we can expect a bounce back in almost all statistical categories. His 64.7% completion % was the lowest since 2011, yardage since 2010, TD total his rookie year in 2008.
But when you look at Matt Ryan, just at him, and not the outside noise, he still posted a good season. He was the 7th best QB per Football Outsiders and their DVOA metric, his adjusted completion % per PFF was 3rd in the NFL, and was 4th per PlayerProfiler, and overall he graded out per PFF tied with Drew Brees as the 2nd best QB in 2017, behind only Tom Brady. In front of Carson Wentz, in front of Russell Wilson.
The numbers just didn't show up because they couldn't score the ball. The offense ranked 2nd in the NFL in yards/drive, 2nd in plays/drive, 1st in TOP/drive. but had trouble finishing drives, ranking 15th in the NFL scoring 22.1 PPG. It doesn't make sense to have the 2nd most yards/drive, but be 15th in scoring. However, in the first year under Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons offense scored 21.2 PPG. In the first year under Sarkisian, last year, the Atlanta offense averaged 22.1 PPG. I know that it's a comparison that needs to consider about 1,000 other factors, but just saying, give it some time, a lot of time new schemes and offenses take a year to get comfortable under.
The scoring dip was Matt Ryan's TD %. He threw a touchdown on just 3.8% of his passes in 2017. A number that he led the NFL in a year prior at 7.1%. Now that number is an outlier too, but prior to the 2017 season, his career avg (discounting his rookie szn) has been over 4.8%. If he's even at his average last season, his touchdown total goes from 20 to 26 and he's a top-10 fantasy QB. Since 2010, he's averaged 29.4 TDs/szn discounting last year, still at 28 including last year. I think we're going to see a season much closer to these numbers for Ryan, all he has to do is come back to his career averages.
You all have to consider their personnel. All the pieces are in place. On paper, they have arguably the best offense, especially after adding their first-round pick Calvin Ridley another guy capable of making big plays. They're also entering the year with PFF's 3rd highest ranking offensive line. Everything's in place for Ryan to have a big bounce-back in 2018. The recency bias is keeping him from being drafted as a top-12 or 10 QB.
I try not to make videos where I recycle players and give you guys new value. So, if you're interested in a specific player, there's a good chance I've made a video about him on my channel, so if you go to my channel and just type that player's name in the search bar, you'll be able to find out how I feel about him in some video.
For that reason, Emmanuel Sanders leads the top bounce-back honorable mentions, I've talked about him a lot this summer already, but I love him in 2018.
Devonta Freeman would be on this list, too, but his ADP is too high for me to consider a post-hype sleeper really.
I saw a lot of Amari Cooper when I asked you guys. I think his ADP is priced accordingly, given the fact that he's never actually shown us that he'll be an elite fantasy WR. He can't catch contested passes, he can't really catch passes that well overall, he's horrible near the end zone, it might be time to realize Cooper just isn't what we thought he was going to be. But, I do expect a Martavis Bryant suspension soon, and if that's the case, Cooper will by default see a fuck load of targets which could make him a monster in fantasy. So, okay I don't hate Cooper on here.
by Nick Ercolano
September 25, 2020
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