Fantasy Football Equity Scores: Golden Tate And Other Targets
May 29, 2015 | Chet
This little game of ours might not be as simple as getting the best and forgetting the rest, but it could be as easy — or infuriatingly difficult — as finding and exploiting players’ draft day equity.
Pinpointing inefficient markets for wide receivers and running backs — of particular importance in fake football — is the difference between a squad stacked with depth at the game’s least replaceable positions and a team that sits one injury away from lineup disaster.
I published my fantasy equity scores last summer, and before I make public the initial 2015 scores, I’d like to be clear that making these projections is a subjective practice. No one would claim differently for their projections — it’s why fantasy football Twitter is filled with projections flame wars every August — but I think it bears repeating. Creating a high equity score, based on a guy’s best-case fantasy scenario, along with a more conservative median projection could (should) be useful for you, but every number partly reflects my interpretation of a player’s opportunity and proficiency.
Once again, I’ve used Rotoviz’s similarity score app as a baseline for each projection. That splendid little tool, if you’re unfamiliar, “contains the results of what the similar players did after they had a season that was comparable to the subject player.”
While I make adjustments for each player, I’ve found the similarity score app to be more than a little useful in spotting players who are almost universally overrated and underrated in the weeks and months before Opening Day kickoff.
The app’s median and high projections have helped me identify guys whose prospects are on the safe side — whose median and high scores are not so different — and players who have boom-or-bust tattooed on their foreheads. Here’s looking at you, Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Wallace.
Below are the first batch of players I’d like to highlight with equity scores — receivers who are being drafted in the WR13-24 range. I’ll get to the elite wideouts, late-round fliers and everyone in between, but this grouping was of particular intrigue.
More than a few of these receivers are widely seen as pass catchers who could make the proverbial leap in 2015, while others are seen as prime candidates to tank and come nowhere near their current valuation.
|Player||ADP||Median equity score||High equity score|
|Emmanuel Sanders||WR13||-1 (WR14)||3 (WR10)|
|Kelvin Benjamin||WR14||-1 (WR15)||5 (WR9)|
|DeAndre Hopkins||WR15||-6 (WR21)||6 (WR9)|
|Brandin Cooks||WR16||-9 (WR26)||3 (WR13)|
|Jordan Matthews||WR17||-1 (WR18)||8 (WR9)|
|Andre Johnson||WR18||-4 (WR22)||0 (WR18)|
|Sammy Watkins||WR19||-4 (WR23)||4 (WR15)|
|Julian Edelman||WR20||5 (WR15)||11 (WR9)|
|Golden Tate||WR21||3 (WR18)||13 (WR8)|
|Brandon Marshall||WR22||-2 (WR24)||10 (WR12)|
|DeSean Jackson||WR23||-3 (WR26)||11 (WR12)|
|Martavis Bryant||WR24||-10 (WR34)||9 (WR15)|
* Remember that pretty much anyone with a positive median score should be considered an ultra-safe target at their current ADP. That’s what we have with Tate and Edelman, but it’s Tate that intrigues me. His high projection is also tantalizing, thanks in large part to three and a half games that Calvin Johnson missed in 2014. Tate became a real-life target hog during that stretch, seeing 13.3 looks for Matthew Stafford and notching elite fantasy numbers (19.6 points per game). Tate’s numbers with Megatron in the lineup, however, would have barely qualified as WR3 production. His targets in those games plummeted to 7.9 per contest. Probably that’s not shocking. The historically inefficient Stafford was actually quite efficient when tossing it to Tate, posting 8.9 adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) — the highest of any Stafford receiver, including Calvin. Everyone else who has lined up opposite Megatron during Stafford’s tenure has posted a sub-7.0 AYA. Tate was targeted on a healthy 21.8 percent of his pass routes in 2014. Eclipsing the 120-target mark is once again a realistic scenario for Tate, and a Calvin injury or two would likely give him the opportunity that only elite wideouts see. I’d much rather draft Tate — at this early date — than Andre Johnson or Brandin Cooks.
* Benjamin, coming off a WR15 campaign, looks to be as safe a play as any in this WR13-24 range. The market for Benjamin, if his median score is to be believed, is spot on. Benjamin’s garbage time production should give us pause though. His numbers largely depended on the Panthers and Cam Newton being terrible for three quarters, as Benjamin scored more than half of his 2014 fantasy points in the fourth quarter while Carolina trailed, per The Fake Football writer Rich Hribar. That’s an astounding amount of junk time fantasy output, and it probably feeds his high equity score that would make him a top-10 receiver in 2015. Another piece of anti-KB propaganda: he notched a measly 8.1 fantasy points per game once the Carolina offense was filtered through Jonathan Stewart in Weeks 14-17. His targets barely dipped at all during the stretch — he just stopped catching touchdowns in garbage time as the Panthers stopped being an awful team. Perhaps Benjamin can be saved by his opportunity. He saw 130 targets as a rookie — a number that likely won’t change all that much this season.
* I think some of you dear readers might be surprised — nay, stunned — that Hopkins’ high projection doesn’t put him inside the top-5 or 6 receivers. I’m a touch surprised too, although realizing he wasn’t particularly efficient with his 2014 targets (0.43 fantasy points per target, a touch higher than Mike Wallace and Torrey Smith) might help us come to terms with his ceiling of WR9, per these projections. Hopkins largely did not overcome horrid quarterback play in Houston last year, so in that sense, nothing has changed. The vast majority of Hopkins’ closest comps in the Rotoviz Sim Score app saw significant regression the following season. I’m not bullish at his current ADP.
* Probably I’m more bullish than most on Martavis Bryant. His current re-draft ADP gives me considerable pause though, even if we expect a marked uptick in opportunity. Bryant’s high projection is enticing — of course it is — but his median prospects leave a lot to be desired, especially when we compare it to guys like Edelman and Tate. More than 40 percent of Bryant’s 2014 targets were deep shots (more than 20 yards in the air), four of which the rookie converted into touchdowns. No receiver saw a higher percentage of their targets come in the form of deep balls in 2014. The presence of fellow big receiver Sammie Coates muddles Bryant’s prospects a bit, even as Pittsburgh coaches have talked up Bryant’s role in Year Two. All but a few of Bryant’s closest comps saw a backslide in their fantasy production, but the exceptions are noteworthy, including Hakeem Nicks in 2010 (WR8) and Dez Bryant in 2012 (WR3). I’m likely passing on the sophomore unless and until his ADP ticks down.