Hello Fake Footballers! I took a recent look at the ADPs on fantasyfootballcalculator.com to look at some recent trends that I…ahem…don’t quite agree with. These are players with similar ADPs, but I argue one of them is the clearly correct choice, while the other is likely a dud. Most of these are later-round picks that may seem like coin flips, but as you will see many of them are actually chances to make a team-changing decision. I’m here to make sure that that team-changing decision is the correct one. This is going to be Part One in a series of these articles. Enjoy!
We have two QBs here: one on the verge of a breakout, and the other on the definite downswing of his career. Philip Rivers experienced a staggering regression in playmaking ability, as evidenced by his 1,000+ passing yard regression and seeing his YPA plummet from 7.9 to a pedestrian 6.8. Gone are the days of Norv Turner-led vertical aggression featuring Vincent Jackson and a spry Antonio Gates while being protected by stalwarts such as Marcus McNeil. Today, we are left with a noodle-armed Rivers dumping it off to Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead behind perhaps the league’s most atrocious offensive line while Antonio Gates attempts to slog upfield. New coach Mike McCoy has identified Rivers’ arm and the offensive line as a weakness, and installed a quick-hit passing game. The days of 4,600+ yards are OVER, people.
Bradford may not be a proven commodity, but there are way more positives going for him than Rivers. As I said in this edition of “Fake Football, Real Questions”, Bradford showed definite progression after last year’s midseason bye week, going from a 4:2 TD to INT ratio pre-bye to a 9:1 post-bye in the red zone. Here are the plethora of things working in favor of Bradford’s fantasy prospects this year: 2013 is the first season he won’t have changed offensive coordinators, the second-year progress of Givens and Quick, addition of slot dynamo Tavon Austin, improved O-Line (Jake Long), and a question mark in the running game. Bradford has NEVER been in good of a position to succeed- give me the possible upside guy over a guy who is on the oh-so-obvious downswing of his career.
I really feel for Jonathan Stewart. He’s an incredibly talented back who flashed elite RB1 capability a few times in his career, but opportunity and injury have seemingly flushed that capability down the drain. His onslaught of lower-leg injuries have sapped his speed and quickness, while DeAngelo Williams is still on the team. Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton are there to suck up the goal-line work, while Williams will remain involved. We know what we will get from a healthy Jonathan Stewart: 750 yds, 4 TDs, and a few catches here and there. From an unhealthy Jonathan Stewart whose current ankle woes landed him on the PUP? We’ll likely see even less.
Enter Bryce Brown: a raw rookie who took the league by storm filling in for LeSean McCoy, registering 100+ total YPG and 4 TDs when he received double-digit carries last year. The more-polished Shady will be the lead back once again, but there’s no reason Brown can’t find 10-12 carries per game in Chip Kelly’s run-based offense and possibly carve out some flex value while being one of the 3 best handcuffs in fantasy football. Another example of two players on opposite sides of their career arcs- take the one on the upswing.
This one absolutely baffles me. How is a player who couldn’t beat out Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman running in a possible committee behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines in a vertical, pass-first offensive being drafted so early? Rashard Mendenhall used to be a fantasy asset before an ACL tear and a change of scenery, but those days have come and gone. DO NOT DRAFT HIM BEFORE THE 10th ROUND! I’d much rather take a flier on Ryan Williams in the late rounds than touch Mendenhall in the 5th or 6th.
Meanwhile, there’s a running back in the Queen City not named BenJarvus Green-Ellis turning heads at training camp. The first back selected in this year’s draft, Bernard is my favorite rookie RB for fantasy purposes. Already slated to see plenty of early-down work and passing downs, Bernard has the chance to run circles in training camp around a proven plodder (Green-Ellis) and grab ahold of the lead back job. Sound familiar? Doug Martin sure thinks so. I’m NOT saying that I can see Bernard with a possible top-three finish, but visions of a plus RB2 (especially in PPR leagues) are not far-fetched. Yet another example of why you should draft players on the way up- not down.
This one is a little more controversial, but it is still a preference I strongly believe in. Both of these players are going to be to be top-3 targets in a pass-heavy scheme and have plenty of talent between them. One may point to Sam Bradford’s affinity for his slot receivers, but he has never had as many developed weapons around him as he does now. Who’s to say his proven chemistry with Chris Givens won’t overpower his tendency to throw to his rookie slot receiver? These players are comparable, but James Jones edges Austin in each of the following areas: quarterback throwing him the ball, more proven role in the offense, ample NFL experience, and red-zone chops. One may argue that Austin will see single coverage in the slot, but what team is going to double James Jones and leave defenders on an island with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson? With a more proven role, a better QB, a higher floor (and probably higher upside, too), give me James Jones over Austin at their similar ADPs.