In fantasy sports we love to rank things. We rank positions and we rank overall. We rank standard and we rank PPR. We also rank snake drafts and auction values. In my non-fantasy sports job, on Wall Street, we rank things as well. On Wall Street we rank things buy, sell or hold.
I believe in a value based drafting system. I always look to find players that I believe have been under ranked by the consensus to find talent in later rounds. Likewise I look to identify players that consensus has ranked too high and leave them for others to draft. There are players, however, that I will "overpay" for based on my personal rankings vs. the consensus and knowing that they may not be there for me in later rounds. I may have to spend a few extra auction bucks on these guys as well. This sometimes works out quite well - 2012 Stevan Ridley and sometimes works out quite poorly - 2013 Stevan Ridley.
So, here then, is my first installment of Buy, Sell or Hold. In this column, I will look at ADPs and tell you who I feel is a buy - a guy being under ranked or a guy I will pay up for. I will identify who I feel is a sell - a guy being over ranked or a guy who I would pass up on at his current ranking. I will also identify a few holds - guys who I think are fairly ranked but have a wait and see attitude on.
I used two sources for ADPs. The first was fantasyfootballcalculator.com. This site takes the average ADP from 880 mock drafts from 6/30 and 7/3 so it has the highest sample. The lone issue is that they use a 6 point QB TD pass default which overvalues the deep QB position and the leagues I play in - as all leagues should - have QB TD passes worth four points. The other source is fantasypros.com which gives you the fantasy football calculator ranks PLUS the Yahoo! rankings as well. These rankings are for standard leagues but I will mention PPR if applicable in my commentary. So here we go - BUY, SELL OR HOLD installment one:
DEZ BRYANT, WR, Dallas Cowboys - FFC 10, Yahoo! 13
This is an obvious one and Dez Bryant should probably be a HOLD based on these ADPs but I am so high on Dez this year that even at these elevated ADPs I rate him a BUY - a screaming BUY. I believe Dez surpasses Calvin Johnson as the beast WR in fantasy football this year. Why? Dez is playing on a team with no defense. The Cowboys will pass the ball. Dez has a new offensive play caller in Scott Linehan who just happened to be ... you guessed it ... Calvin Johnson's old offensive coordinator. Calvin was force fed the ball in Detroit. In the past three years Calvin had 158, 205 and 156 targets. The 156 targets in 2013 was in 14 games. Dez has had three year targets totals of 103, 138, and 160. So basically he had as many targets as Calvin Johnson last year but in a full 16 games. His targets are sure to go up with Linehan calling plays. It is really splitting hairs between Dez, Calvin, Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones but if I have the chance I am taking Dez as the first WR off the board every draft of the week and twice on Sundays. I would also employ the strategy of throwing out Calvin, Julio and Demaryius early in auction drafts to let others pay up and then face less competition for Dez after those three are gone.
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, WR, Dallas Cowboys - FFC 83, Yahoo! 101
The flip side of my Dez Bryant man crush and my love of all things on the Dallas offense is Terrance Williams. This is a classic case of drafting the hype. I am trying to remember a season that a Detroit Lions WR2 had any fantasy value under Linehan and I can't. The fact of the matter is that this offense will force feed Dez and leave very few targets left for the WR2. In fact my prediction for targets in Big D goes Dez, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and then Terrance Williams. There is even some talk of upgrading Cole Beasley's role as well. So if you are drafting Williams in the 8th round of your fantasy draft you are OVERPAYING. Therefore I rank Terrance Williams a SELL. WRs I would draft in the late rounds over Williams are Brandin Cooks (FFC 94, Yahoo! 116), Jordan Matthews (FFC 130, Yahoo! 176), or Markus Wheaton (FFC 153, Yahoo! 189) all starters with good QBs that will get opportunity. In an auction draft, let someone pay $8 for Williams. I will pay an average $2 for Cooks, Matthews or Wheaton and spend the extra $6 on a player I want to overpay for like Dez.
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR, Minnesota Vikings - FFC 50, Yahoo! 41
Let me start by saying I LOVE Cordarrelle Patterson. He was a great late round flier for me last year who contributed to my Super Bowl run late in the season. In the final four games of the season he put up a 15/215/3 line and also added 129 yards and 2 TDs rushing on 8 carries. The guy has freak talent. The problem is getting him the ball. He is an undisciplined route runner. His touches were heavily manufactured last year via runs, bubble screens and trickery. He is an enormous talent with the ball in his hands but who will get him the ball? Teddy Bridgewater? Matt Cassel? Christian Ponder? Was his use last year a by product of his talent or can Norv Turner turn him into a vertical threat? I will be looking to draft Cordarrelle again - but not in the 4th or 5th round as suggested above. I can get Roddy White, Marques Colston or Mike Wallace (yes BIG COMEBACK year happening for Mike Wallace this year) at lower ADPs. Auction draft average prices have Roddy at $18 and Cordarrelle at $11 which is more reflective of my opinion. If you have read my stuff before you know I draft aggressively and draft to win. Cordarrelle will win you some match ups this year but the 4th or 5th round price tag is too steep. I rate him a HOLD. I want him on my team - but let's wait and see if the price adjusts.
We all know quarterback is a deep fantasy position. One theory would tell you to wait on drafting a QB and I subscribe to this theory but try telling that to the guy who drafted Peyton Manning last year. Peyton had a season for the ages and single handedly carried teams to fantasy greatness in 2013. This year his regression is inevitable. First, remember the regression to the mean theory. You are what you are. Second, his schedule is A LOT tougher this year. Third - and I was wrong on this one last year - he is ONE YEAR OLDER. Peyton Manning is a great QB but he isn't that much greater than Aaron Rodgers (FFC 21, Yahoo! 20) or Drew Brees (FFC 17, Yahoo! 24) so why draft him within the top ten picks in the draft. If you believe in value based drafting then ask yourself why is Peyton Manning worth $6 more in an auction than Drew Brees? Could I take that extra $6 and over pay for LeSean McCoy - my number one overall pick? Even in a season where he blew away every other QB he was only 3.6 points per game better than Brees. With a healthy Rodgers for 16 games and Peyton's inevitable regression is the value there? I don't think so. I am ranking him a SELL.
Tony Romo, on the other hand is a BUY. For all the reasons mentioned above in the Dez Bryant analysis I am BUYING Romo. Romo was ESPN's number 10 QB last year in 15 games. He threw 99 less passes than Matthew Stafford. He threw for 2 less TDs than Stafford (29 vs. 31) and 9 less INTs (10 vs. 19) and this year gets all those pass attempts back with Stafford's old OC calling his plays. Romo will BEAST this year in Big D. Likewise, Nick Foles is bound to regress from a 27/2 TD to INT ratio. That is just unsustainable. While I like Foles, I have to rate him a SELL considering I can pick up Romo an average of 3 rounds later or for an average of $5 less in auction formats. With regards to Foles, I can wait to draft a QB because Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin, III all have significantly lower ADPs. Therefore, I can pick up an RB or WR in the 6th, 7th or 8th round and still draft a really solid QB in the 9th or 10th. In a 12 team league I will be a little more cautious but I can still get great QB value late while I stock up on position players early.
ANDRE ELLINGTON, RB, Arizona Cardinals - FFC 31, Yahoo! 44
Ellington is a case of hype this season. Coach Bruce Arians has been talking him up in OTAs saying he will be the feature back and get 25-30 touches per game. I am sure Arians calmed down a bit when he realized that would equate to over 400 touches for the season when league leader LeSean McCoy had 366 in 2013. Ellington hasn't proven he can handle the rock in that role over a 16 game season. Even if he gets 20 touches per game (320 on the season) he is going to lose goal line carries to Jonathan Dwyer or Stephan Taylor. Ellington only carried the ball three times inside the five yard line according to Evan Silva at Rotoworld. I am confident Ellington can have a nice 2014 campaign. I know Arians is an offensive mastermind. The third round ADP is a little rich for me. I rate Ellington a SELL at this level.
ALFRED MORRIS, RB, Washington Redskins (Warriors, Senators, Snyders) - FFC 20, Yahoo! 27
Alf finished the 2013 campaign as the number 14 scoring RB on ESPN. This is despite being force fed the ball by Mike Shanahan. His numbers did not dip drastically from his great 2012 season, but he only scored 7 TDs in 2013 compared to 13 in 2012. This year he gets a passing minded coach in Jay Gruden which will open up more opportunities for a guy like Roy Helu. Morris has only caught 20 passes in the last two years. Either he isn't a dynamic receiver out of the backfield or he just hasn't been given the opportunity. I am not going to take a chance on the former at the price of an average 2nd round ADP. Morris' scoring this year will be even more TD dependent and I am not sure the Redskins find the end zone all that often. I prefer to let others deal with the uncertainty. I rank Alf a SELL. Interesting Alfred Morris fact: He has fumbled more times and has lost more fumbles than Stevan Ridley in the last two seasons. Click this link to see why I WILL TALK MYSELF INTO DRAFTING STEVAN RIDLEY THIS YEAR FOR SURE. It is inevitable.
THE WATCH LIST - These are guys whose ADPs I am watching closely this year. I think they are great late round fliers but may get over drafted as training camp and pre season begin. These are guys likely to get hyped up by their coaches and by the media.
KHIRY ROBINSON, RB, New Orleans Saints - FFC 102, Yahoo! 149
If the Mark Ingram experience is over in New Orleans expect Robinson to get the bulk of the carries in the Big Easy this season. Traditionally that hasn't been a huge role but with the losses of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles Sean Payton may look to establish a more balanced attack and Robinson will be the beneficiary.
DEVONTA FREEMAN, RB, Atlanta Falcons - FFC 115, Yahoo! 188
I wrote about Devonta Freeman on draft day. Steven Jackson isn't getting any younger and showed the signs of major breakdown last year. Jacquizz Rodgers has proved over the past few seasons that he is an average talent. In steps Freeman, a rookie RB, who rushed for over 1,000 yards at Florida State. He scored 14 TDs last year so he can carry the ball in the red zone and he catches passes out of the backfield. The Falcons are under pressure after last season's underperformance. If Jackson doesn't perform I expect a quick hook for him and Devonta is the likely replacement as Atlanta's feature back.
KYLE RUDOLPH, TE, Minnesota Vikings - FFC 104, Yahoo! 75
I look at Rudolph as a breakout candidate this year. He only played 8 games last year before getting hurt, scoring 3 TDs to go along with his 30 receptions. In his lone game of double digit targets (11) he put up a 9/97/1 line against a good Carolina Panthers defense. Norv Turner has historic success with the TE position. Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron were very successful under Norv so look for Rudolph to enjoy more opportunity and hopefully he has the talent to take advantage. If I miss out on Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas early, I will target Rudolph as a late round TE. I would take him over Dennis Pitta, Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed all with higher ADPs currently. I am not sure the 7th round Yahoo! price is worth it but the FFC ADP is enticing. For now, I will wait for training camp updates on Rudy.
So there is our first 2014 installment of BUY, SELL and HOLD. Obviously, it is early to start playing guessing games on ADPs and value but hopefully this gives you a leg up on guys to keep an eye on as the draft/mock draft season approaches. I intend on writing this column every other Friday through July and the first half of August and then I will go weekly as the drafting intensifies and we get into the NFL season.
If you have comments or questions on specific players please COMMENT below or hit me up on Twitter (@bradcoustan) and for those without Twitter (hello?) you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I've gotten a ton of great questions so I am hoping to put up an email Q&A in the next few weeks.