Fake Football, Real Questions (August 23rd Edition)
August 22, 2013 | Staffy Stafferton
In the past few months our “Fake Football, Real Questions” series has focused on helping you make tough decisions between similarly ranked players. Now that the preseason is in full swing, you’re going to see opinions on player value and ADP fluctuate wildly as film is studied, news is leaked, and injuries abound. Staying on top of the latest developments that are impacting the fantasy landscape (and more importantly knowing what to make of them) is a must if you plan on strutting around like a peacock while counting championship cash at the end of the season. Our writers really want to see your best championship strut, and they’re here to help. These are the questions that you need answered before you start slapping stickers on your draft board.
Both Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball are seemingly doing everything they can to keep from winning the Broncos starting RB job. Are either Ball (RB25) or Hillman (RB37) deserving of their respective ADP’s? How do you see the carries being doled out for the Broncos this season?
This is actually a beautifully worded question, and the answer is no. Ball is being over-hyped as this sure-fire starter, and he’s just not. In the same breath, Hillman is being under-valued like some scrub, as if he’s a banged up Ryan Williams or something. The reality is that this is a pass-happy offense and neither of these guys is going to be an elite or safe option at any point in 2013. You just have to go with the one who offers the most upside in the end, though, and for me that’s Ball due to his superior short-yardage and goal-line running.
Ball is the back I want in this committee, but he’s been overvalued for fantasy since the Broncos drafted him, and I won’t be owning him in most leagues based on his ADP. Hillman is more appealing to me, only because he can be drafted later. His ADP lands him in the portion of drafts where all the running backs have warts of some kind. Selecting any backs in those rounds of the draft equates to buying a lottery ticket, and I like Hillman more than guys like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Fred Jackson, and Vick Ballard. Overall, though, the Broncos’ backfield timeshare seems like a mess and because I will likely have drafted running backs in two out of the first three rounds, Ball and Hillman will both be players I pass on more often than not.
Unless it’s a keeper/dynasty league, I won’t be touching Ball on draft day this year. Even as his ADP falls to the late fourth or early fifth round, I’d rather wait a little longer and take a guy like Gio Bernard or Shane Vereen. Ball has all kinds of talent and is in an offense that could make him a fantasy star, but he hasn’t been able to secure his role to date, and I’m concerned Hillman and even Knowshon Moreno will continue to be in the mix in Denver this year. Hillman is the better value for me, given that he can be drafted 3-4 rounds later, but at the end of the day, I think this is a situation that will frustrate fantasy owners in 2013.
I’m doing my best to avoid this situation at all costs this season. There are way too many aerial weapons at Manning’s disposal to take a risk on either of these guys at their respective ADP’s. Ball has been overvalued in large part due to the infatuation with all the rookie backs this season, and the perceived opportunity he will have as the primary back behind Manning. The problem is his blocking skills are still very suspect, and I haven’t seen enough out of him otherwise to merit a spot on my roster. Unless we are talking dynasty and Ball, I’m staying away.
It may not pay immediate dividends, but I have sneaking suspicion that drafting Montee Ball will work out in the end for fantasy owners. Despite the division of carries between Hillman and Ball this preseason (16-11 in favor of Hillman) and the fact it’s been Hillman starting the games, I can’t get past this simple logic: If John Fox and company were happy with Hillman and Moreno as their lead backs, why would they spend a 2nd round pick on a workhorse like Ball? It may very well be that the kid is not ready for prime time yet, but whether it’s due to injury (Moreno) or ineffectiveness (Hillman fumbled twice in the last preseason game, including once at the goal line), Ball will get a shot at the lead back gig at some point this season. When that day comes, I think he runs away with the job and becomes a weekly top 10 option at the position thanks to his sweet setup in Denver. Ball’s ADP is down a full round since August 1st, and while that hasn’t quite created a buying opportunity (you still have to spend a 5th round pick), it at least means you’re now able to draft him as a RB3/flex instead of a RB2. If you can position yourself in those first four rounds so you don’t have to rely on Ball early in the season, I think you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a game changing RB3 when it counts most.
As I wrote in my RB Consistency column, there is value in the Denver RB situation. Last year, Denver RBs (McGahee or Moreno) were Top 24 RBs in 11 of the first 15 weeks. The problem is, we don’t know which RB to put our money on. If your draft is after the third preseason game, you may have a better handle on which RB to select, but until then it really is anyone’s guess. Until more information is available, if I select a RB from Denver it will be in the later rounds, and for me, Moreno is still in that conversation.
Second year wideout Chris Givens is having a big preseason for the Rams, totaling 4 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown through 2 games. Is Givens primed for a breakout? How early is too early to acquire his services?
He’s probably one of the more underrated WRs in the league in terms of versatility. He’s proven time and again that he can be a possession guy or make big plays, so how good he ends up being in his second season really comes down to how much love the Rams’ system gives him. He has the talent and fire to make it happen, while his rapport with Bradford is clearly spot on. However, it all needs to click, so he’s really just a WR3 until the light goes on. But the value is insane if it happens in 2013.
It’s important not to overrate preseason as players like Givens are not only playing against non-starters, but also against simpler defensive schemes. With that said, Givens is a nice draft value right now. He has a proven rapport with Sam Bradford and a penchant for big plays not unlike Vincent Jackson or Josh Gordon. The difference is that Givens can be had six rounds later than V-Jax and one round later than Gordon, who will start the season by serving a two-game suspension. On the flip side, don’t reach too far for Givens because there are plenty of other wide receivers who are similarly undervalued like Vincent Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Michael Floyd, Ryan Broyles, etc. It’s not worth drafting any of them or Givens before the 8th or 9th round because one or many of them are certain to fall that far anyway, rewarding your patience.
I have been touting Givens for quite some time now and I absolutely consider him a breakout candidate. People remember him for the deep balls that he caught last year as a rookie, but his overall game continued to develop throughout the season. Givens is actually the Rams receiver that I would prefer to have in 2013, not only because of his relative draft value compared to Tavon Austin, but also because I think he is going to outplay the rookie. Having said all that, there is so much depth and potential in the WR30-50 range, I think Givens’ ADP in the ninth round is appropriate. I would maybe reach a round earlier to get him on my team, but that would probably be as high as I could go on him.
I have been targeting Givens in all my recent drafts, and for good reason. He has been the go-to receiver in a young and crowded Rams receiving corps throughout the preseason. His ability to stretch the field and his progression as an all-around receiver is going to pay off. Especially considering he is being drafted after Tavon Austin in the majority of drafts. I am still a bit weary of his game to game consistency with Austin and the addition of Cook, but I would still spend a 9th round pick on him. I wouldn’t take him any earlier than late-8th due to the depth at the WR position though.
The stat head community will surely take exception, but one of the tenets I live by this time of year is to trust what my eyes are telling me. Granted, I have no clue how to interpret game film in any meaningful way, but it’s easy enough to spot the guys that are playing better than everyone else. Chris Givens is unmistakably one of those guys this preseason, and my eyes tell me he has emerged as Sam Bradford’s favorite target. Bradford and Givens connecting on deep balls is nothing new. According to PFF, Givens was targeted on 10 catchable passes over 20 yards down the field last year. He caught 8 of them, including 3 TD’s. While the back to back preseason games with receptions of at least 57 yards are great, they come as no surprise. It’s plays like this one in the red zone that have me excited for Givens’ prospects this season. If Bradford continues to look for him on short and intermediate routes, he’ll develop some consistency to go along with his home run potential, giving him a fair shot to challenge WR2 numbers. How early is too early for Givens? If you’re taking him over someone like Steve Smith, you’re probably going a bit far, but you’ll get no argument from me if you want to flip flop Givens’ ADP (9.02) with teammate Tavon Austin’s (7.06)
Check out previous editions of Fake Football, Real Questions: