VALUES N’ SHOTS
PART 1: QUARTER BACKS
It happens every year, once the season ends we look back with 20-20 vision and wonder something like, “why didn’t I draft Allen Robinson in the 5th or 6th round when I had the chance?”. Of course, if you’ve been playing long enough you know that there are dozens of potential breakout players every year, but only a small fraction of those players truly have breakout seasons. In 2014, A-Rob only broke 80 receiving yards in one game and totaled 2 TDs for the season; you can hardly say he was a slam dunk going into 2015.
Finding the “Allen Robinsons” in the 6th round of your draft can help your team stand out or make up for missing early, but for every Allen Robinson there are multiple “Nelson Agholors” and “Melvin Gordons” that don’t quite work out. While taking shots at potential breakout players is a vital part of fantasy football, the key to putting yourself in a position to win is knowing when to take those shots. More importantly (and before you start taking shots), the key to putting yourself in a position to win is finding value when the “Brandon Marshalls” of 2015 start falling into the 6th round or the “Danny Woodheads” fall into double digit rounds.
Last year, Marshall and Robinson had almost the exact same ADP. A player like Marshall should have never fallen that far. He’s been productive on every team he’s played for no matter the QB. Marshall has gone over 1,000 yards receiving every season other than his rookie year (and one other year, 2014, when he was derailed by injuries). Marshall has more 100+ reception seasons than any WR in NFL history and probably has a floor of 6-7 receiving TDs per season with about a 50% + chance of catching double digit TDs. Woodhead is always undervalued and will be again this season. When the fantasy football community is under-drafting players like Marshall and Woodhead, the value on these players increases significantly. Yet every year there are multiple players who get passed over because of bias. Chances are, players who consistently play at a high level are likely to continue playing at a high level. Taking advantage of players like 2015’s Marshall and Woodhead adds value to your draft and helps minimize your risk when taking shots on potential breakout players (like A-Rob last year).
“VALUES N’ SHOTS” is about evaluating current ADP and finding value in players relevant to where they are being drafted.
- Positional “VALUES” is in reference to solid players, generally veterans, with relatively stable floors who offer value at their current ADP. Most of these guys are weekly starters or flex plays but are being drafted later than other players who they could or should very easily outperform.
- Positional “SHOTS” is exactly what it sounds like, guys you take a shot on. These are guys who generally have low floors for various reasons (i.e. – they are unproven, have an unclear role, buried on the depth chart, etc.). However, these guys offer high ceilings relative to ADP and/or they have the potential to break out and can be game-changers (e.g. Allen Robinson last season).
*ADPs are presented as an average range from FPC, FF Calculator and MFL.
Drew Brees: Current ADP: 61-65
After getting over his shoulder woes last season, Brees was the 3rd highest scoring QB in pretty much all formats in weeks 8-17. At 4,876 passing yards last season, Brees most certainly would have thrown for over 5,000 yards for the 5th time in his career had he not missed a game. Even with a slow start, Brees averaged the 4th most points per game across all scoring formats, averaging within 1 ppg of all QBs not named Cam Newton.
With Cam having an ADP in the mid 20’s to early 30’s, and Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson all being drafted in the 34 – 46 range, feel confident pulling the trigger on Brees at his current 6th round ADP (or even a little before). Brees projects to finish in the top 5 amongst QBs and has a chance to finish at #1.
Ben Roethlisberger: Current ADP: 60-64
Coming off a 2014 season where Big Ben fell 48 yards short of throwing for 5,000 yards for the first time in his career, Roethlisberger was on pace to throw for 5,244 yards in the 12 games in which he played in 2015. Those numbers are even more impressive considering his star RB only played 6 games (only 2 of those while Ben was healthy and on the field) and up-and-coming stud WR Martavis Bryant and Big Ben only shared the field 9 times total. With Bryant out for the year, Sammie Coates will look to step in and continue the hot streak he started in the post-season last year, while Markus Wheaton may have turned a corner in 2015, finishing the final 6 weeks of the regular season as a top 15 WR with almost 500 receiving yards and 4 TDs. With perhaps the best WR in the NFL in Antonio Brown, Wheaton turning a corner, Sammie Coates as a big/physical threat, and LeVeon Bell returning at RB, Big Ben has plenty of weapons to pick up where he left off and achieve a very productive 2016.
Averaging only about 1 point less per game than Russell Wilson and Drew Brees last season, Roethlisberger is in a situation very much like Brees, with an ADP that has him going 2+ rounds later than some of the other elite QBs this year. Feel confident pulling the trigger at his current ADP, especially once those first 4-5 QBs fall off the board and expect Roethlisberger to finish in or around top 5 at the QB position.
Carson Palmer: Current ADP: 80-87
The Arizona Cardinals and Carson Palmer are running one of the best offenses in the NFL right now, and it’s not likely to change. The Cardinals led the NFL last year scoring a TD on an amazing 30% of their offensive drives. Palmer finished 5th at QB in 2015 completing almost 64% of his passes and averaging an elite 8.7 YPA. Over his last 30 games in Arizona under Bruce Arians, Palmer is averaging 290 passing yards per game and a little over 2 TDs per game. Larry Fitzgerald looks like he still has gas in the tank, Michael Floyd is finally coming into his own and John Brown is a young and talented player on the rise. Add to that the dynamic receiving ability of sophomore stud RB David Johnson and Palmer’s best season(s) may be in front of him.
In most scoring systems, Palmer is yet another guy (much like Brees and Roethlisberger) that averaged within 2 points per game of the “elite” QBs (not named Cam) last season. Look for that to continue from a guy falling off the board 4-5 rounds later than those first few QBs, and by all means, if you need a QB and those top 5 guys are gone, pull the trigger on Palmer at his current ADP with the utmost confidence that he can lead your team to a championship this year. Landing Palmer at 80 or later is the definition of value.
QUARTERBACK VALUES/LATER ROUNDS:
Eli Manning: Current ADP: 94-115
Eli Manning is playing his best football, having a career year in 2014 and then topping that with another career year in 2015, and it’s not a fluke nor is he likely to slow down. At first glance, it may appear that Odell Beckham is the reason. While he has certainly helped, make no mistake, much of Eli’s success comes down to two words: BEN MCADOO. McAdoo showed up as the new OC for the Giants in 2014 bringing with him Green Bay’s west coast style offense, an offense that is seemingly a perfect fit for Manning. Eli finished top 10 in almost all scoring systems last year, and led the NFL in TD passes from week 4 on; finishing the 2015 season tied for the 2nd most TD passes.
With the addition of polished rookie Sterling Shepard, a possible return from Victor Cruz, receiving back specialist Shane Vereen, the emergence of TE Will Tye and Ben McAdoo back calling the plays as head coach, look for Eli to put up big numbers again in 2016. Eli should be viewed as a top 10 QB with top 5-6 upside. When you consider that Manning also has the 4th easiest strength of schedule vs the pass this year, he offers great value at his current ADP if you miss out on one of your top 5-6 QBs.
Matthew Stafford: Current ADP: 122-129
Matthew Stafford finished top 8 or 9 at QB in 2015, depending on your scoring system, despite the up and down start. He threw 9 INTs in his first 6 games and struggled at times, yet he still managed to average a little over 18 ppg on the season, slightly besting Eli Manning in that regard. When Jim Bob Cooter (yes, the best name in the history of NFL coaches) installed his offense and took over play calling after the Lions week 9 bye, Stafford and the Detroit offense finally clicked. Over the final 8 games following the bye, Stafford finished the season completing 70% of his passes for 19 TDs to only 2 INTs, the best stretch of his career and the most efficient stretch in franchise history for a DET QB. Stafford was the #4 or #5 QB during those 8 games (depending on your scoring system) outscoring the like of Brees, Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, Big Ben and Tom Brady among others.
Losing Calvin Johnson might sting at first, but Detroit did a nice job adding a potential 1A/1B type receiver in Marvin Jones. The addition of Jones, plus a veteran safety-net WR in Anquan Boldin to go along with up-and-coming TE Eric Ebron and a solid incumbent 1A/1B WR in Golden Tate should provide Stafford with the weapons he needs to pick up where he left off in 2015. Going close to 100 picks after Cam Newton and about 6-7 rounds later than some of the productive QBs I mentioned earlier, Stafford offers tremendous value and should look to finish inside the top 10 again at QB in 2016 with the upside to finish in the top 5. Load up on RB/WR/TE or whatever you need early if you can target Stafford at his current ADP, and he is another QB that will win you games and with whom you can win a championship, particularly considering he has the 2nd easiest strength of schedule vs. the pass in the NFL this season.
Kirk Cousins: Current ADP: 111-118
Kirk Cousins finished top 8 or 9 at QB in 2015 depending on format. It was a rough start for Cousins ranking 25th at QB after 6 weeks. Things began turning around in week 7 for Cousins though as he led Washington to a 7-3 record over their last 10 games. During those last 10 games, Cousins threw 23 TDs to 3 INTs, averaged 275 passing yards per game, added 4 rushing TDs and ranked 4th at QB.
Without a proven track record, it’s hard to say for sure that Cousins should finish as a top 8 QB again this season. However, with his first full season under his belt, the addition of rookie WR Josh Doctson, the 5th easiest strength of schedule vs. the pass and Jay Gruden’s offense, I do like his chances. As it stands, Cousins is being drafted as the #14 or #15 QB. That, coupled with an ADP of close to 120 could make Cousins one of the best values in the entire draft, assuming he returns to last season’s form.
Blaine Gabbert: Current ADP: 187 – N/A
Gabbert is the only QB I’m putting under QB shots because he hasn’t yet officially won the starting gig in S.F. Last season, Gabbert started the final 8 games for the 49ers and while he wasn’t spectacular, he wasn’t all that bad. He threw at least 1 TD pass in each game and threw for at least 185 yards per game, throwing for over 300 yards in 2 contests. He managed 4 games of 20+ yards rushing including 75 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. the Bears. Gabbert was on pace for over 4,000 passing yards and 20+ passing TDs on an offense that was an absolute mess in 2015.
Enter Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offense and vertical passing game that made Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez weekly starters in most fantasy leagues. A big guy (6’4” / 235lbs) with a big arm, Gabbert ran a 4.66 40-yd dash during his 2011 combine, and his last 2 years at Missouri, he rushed for 440 yards and 8 TDs. Should Gabbert win the starting job in S.F., as I fully expect him to do, he should be a very solid QB2 with upside. Before he is announced the starter and he loses his almost non-existent ADP, Gabbert is worth taking a shot on in leagues where you can carry a 3rd QB or if you want upside at QB towards the end of your draft.