Fake Football, Real Questions (July 7th Edition)
July 6, 2014 | Phil Alexander
You’re on the clock – and have been for 10 minutes. Your beer’s gone warm, and you’re sweating nervously as your buddies swear they’ll never attend another live draft as long as you’re in the league. As you stand there dumbly, paralyzed by the certainty you’re about to slap the wrong sticker on the draft board, you come to a realization. You should have been reading “Fake Football, Real Questions” all summer.
Jordy Nelson (2.10), Antonio Brown (3.01), or Alshon Jeffery (3.02)?
There isn’t a better late second round pick than Jordy Nelson this year. Not only should you take Nelson ahead of Brown or Jeffery – I would argue Jordy also warrants consideration over tier one WR stalwart A.J. Green (2.02).
Last season, in the nine games Nelson had a healthy Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, he posted per game averages of 5.9 receptions, 97.4 yards, and .78 TDs. Green’s per game averages last season were startlingly similar and slightly worse where it counted most – 6.1 receptions, 89.1 yards, .69 TDs.
If you were to compare Nelson’s first eight games last season (the ones before Rodgers broke his collar bone) to Green’s, Jordy once again proved the superior fantasy option. Nelson posted a 43-716-7 line over that span to Green’s 46-734-5. In fact, through eight games last season, only Calvin Johnson had more fantasy points at WR than Jordy’s 113.6.
I’m not suggesting you stay away from Brown, Jeffery, or Green this year (though I’m not particularly fond of them at their respective asking prices), but I am suggesting you’re totally a racist if you rank Jordy outside of the Top Six wide receivers.
Arian Foster (1.11), DeMarco Murray (1.12), or Montee Ball (2.02)?
The chatter surrounding Arian Foster’s potential role in new head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense is getting tough to ignore, but I would sooner let Josh Gordon babysit my kids than spend my first round pick on Foster this year.
Remember the reports from last season that the ruptured disc in Foster’s back was causing pain to shoot down his legs? The only other person I know who suffers from that type of back pain is my Grandma. Take it from an elderly Sicilian lady who makes a mean sauce – you’re never the same after back surgery.
That leaves us with a tough choice between Murray and Ball. While this may mean I never get to sit at the cool kid’s table, I actually like Ball as the safer option of the two. The Scott Linehan bump may be real, but the Peyton Manning bump is mad real.
As our own C.D. Carter recently pointed out, Manning’s running backs have averaged 1,518 total yards and 10.4 TDs per season – sure fire RB1 numbers. Cemented as the Broncos starter, it would take some sort of catastrophe for Ball’s production to fall short of his ADP.
Skeptics will point to Ball’s lack of top end talent, but it’s not like rare talent has been a requisite for Manning’s running backs to post monster fantasy seasons in the past – just ask Dominic Rhodes, Joseph Addai, and Knowshon Moreno.
Plus, I’m not convinced Montee Ball is bad at football. Last season, from Week 12 forward, the only RB with at least 50 carries to best Ball’s 6.48 YPA was Jamaal Charles (6.63).
I’m fine with meeting DeMarco Murray’s asking price, and I am legitimately excited about Linehan’s play calling boosting his reception totals (Reggie Bush and Joique Bell both exceeded 50 receptions under Linehan last season), but there is a bit of recency bias driving up his draft stock.
Owners who rode Murray to a championship last season remember only that he was the third most valuable fantasy running back from weeks 13 through 16. What they may be forgetting is that the Cowboys opponents in those games – the Raiders, Bears, Packers, and Redskins – were among the worst in the league at stopping the run. According to the analytics at numberFire, none of those teams finished in the top half of the league in defensive run stopping efficiency, and the Bears and Packers were two of the five worst.
If the biggest knock on the guy is that he performed well in plus match-ups last year, you can obviously do worse than Murray as your RB1, but with his wagon securely hitched to Peyton Manning, Ball’s floor is too high for me to pass up.
Jordan Reed (6.08), Greg Olson (6.11), or Dennis Pitta (7.02)?
Jordan Reed is pretty clearly the pick for me here, but I want to point out that I will probably never be choosing my tight end from this tier. Graham, Gronk, and Julius Thomas stand out as the three tight ends who give you a significant week to week advantage at the position over your opponents.
If I don’t pay up for one of those three, I’d much rather hoard running backs and wide receivers in the middle rounds and choose from the numerous high upside tight ends available late in drafts.
Heath Miller and Dwayne Allen stand out as options available in round 12 or later, who have a great shot at finishing the year inside the position’s top 12. Garrett Graham – potentially a major beneficiary of Bill O’Brien’s play calling – isn’t even being drafted.
With that type of depth at the position, you can afford to whiff on your starter and stream based on match-up until you find someone who emerges as a consistent starting option (think Charles Clay last season).
Draft philosophy aside, Jordan Reed should challenge the Top Five fantasy tight ends, provided he stops getting his bell rung. From Week 6 (when his snap count began to rise) through Week 11 (the last game he would play due to concussion), Reed’s 393 receiving yards were the most of any tight end.
According to Pro Football Focus, each time Reed went into a route last year, he picked up 2.19 yards, placing him in elite territory behind only Rob Gronkowski (2.75) and Jimmy Graham (2.26).
With RGIII poised for a bounce back year, and saying all the right things when it comes to Reed’s involvement in the Redskins’ passing game, I may just alter my tight end drafting strategy by the time the season rolls around.
ADP data via Fantasy Football Calculator.