Fantasy Equity Scores: Finding WR2s On The Cheap
June 27, 2017 | C.D. Carter
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This is my favorite part of the fantasy equity score process because it serves as a gentle but firm slap to the face about which wide receivers are being under-or-overvalued by those who do all the fantasy footballing.
There are receivers in this (admittedly large) tier of receivers who will emerge — some quickly — as locked-and-loaded every-week fantasy starters. It’s just a matter of evaluating their range of outcomes. I’d never say that the below ranges are the only conceivable scenario for these pass catchers. I haven’t made nearly enough human sacrifices to guarantee these sort of predictions.
Some of these guys have depressed ADPs because fantasy footballers are traumatized by their injury history. We never forget the hamstring strain that never seems to heal, or the concussion that keeps a player and his bruised brain on the sideline, or that turf toe that seems to ruin the whole fucking season every goddamn year, goddamn it. Shit.
Here’s how I do equity scores, in case you missed it the first 97 times.
More than a couple of these guys, you may notice, have injury-related discounts in re-draft leagues. Take Stefon Diggs, who would certainly be among the first dozen wideouts off the board had he played 16 games in 2016. His opportunity was extremely nice — 8.69 targets per game — as he averaged 14.9 PPR points with a measly three touchdowns in 13 games. That constituted a WR12 pace last season. Diggs’ high-end prospects look, well, similar to his 2016 production, while his median equity score presupposes a slightly less hefty target share in the Minnesota offense. Among Diggs’ best 2017 comps in the Rotoviz sim score app: Julian Edelman in 2015, when the Patriots’ PPR machine was WR6 when he went down to injury at midseason. Diggs’ floor is built on volume. His ceiling is built on an uptick in touchdown rate and a healthy season. I’m very much in on Diggs at WR25.
Julian Edelman’s 150-target days might be over — and they might not, depending on a Gronk injury or two — but that reduced target share seems to be worked into his 2017 average draft position. His 2016 touchdown rate of 3 percent stands in some contrast to his career rate of 5.7 percent, which would’ve put Edelman on the doorstep of last year’s top-10 receivers. While Edelman doesn’t represent a league-winning, massive upside play at WR28, equity scores say he’s an ultra-safe pick. He could be your WR3 if you use two of your first three picks on wide receivers. He could conceivably be your WR4 if you want to feel alive, commune with the gods, and go Full Zero RB. That’s what we might call a luxury in fake football.
Martavis Bryant, who comes from the finest goat stock on the planet, will likely see a steady ADP climb and remain a value this summer. I’ll concede that there’s (almost) no scenario in which Bryant gets a whopping share of Pittsburgh’s targets, though he should crack the 100-target mark as long as he remains that team’s No. 2 receiver. Bryant sports the second highest adjusted yards per attempt among anyone who’s ever caught passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Bryant in 2015 managed a cool 15.6 fantasy points per contest in 11 games. For fans of extrapolation — which happens to be the name of my Daft Punk cover band — that put Bryant on a 250-point pace, which would’ve fallen just outside top-12 range. There’s no indication that Bryant’s place in the Steelers’ offense has changed dramatically. You’ve done well if Bryant ends up being your WR3 in 2017.
Am I intrigued by the No. 2 wide receiver in an offense that ran the fewest number of offensive snaps last season, including a nightmarishly low 31.7 pass plays per contest? I am not. I’ll leave DeVante Parker for Prospect Twitter.
Kelvin Benjamin is chubby. I get it. It’s funny because chubby. He’s sort of fat, see, and that’s funny. It’s humorous because — please try to stay with me here, because this is complex — he’s overweight. Benjamin also happens to be the WR1 on an NFL team, and he’s being drafted after a bushel of WR2s and some WR3s. If you pray at the altar of opportunity — and you should — Benjamin is a clearcut draft day target sans reports that he’s been demoted for the aforementioned weight issues. I understand that Benjamin saw a marked drop off of four fantasy points per game in 2016’s second half. I get that Carolina has some new offensive toys with which to play. Benjamin’s targets, however, remained relatively stable during his moribund Week 8-16 stretch, as he saw 1.3 fewer targets per game than he did in the season’s first half. Thirty-six red zone targets in two full pro seasons shouldn’t be greeted with a shrug for a receiver going in the middle of the sixth round, set to see upwards of 120 targets. There are of course sexier, more volatile receivers going a round or two after the Panthers’ big man. You should be at least mildly interested in Benjamin if you believe Cam Newton will regress back to being an #elite fantasy producer.
Donte Moncrief has nabbed more than five passes in a game exactly six times over the past two seasons. Andrew Luck’s adjusted yards per attempt is lowest when targeting Moncrief since the start of the 2015 season (for players who saw at least 40 targets over that span). Moncrief, who profiles like a decent red zone threat, saw just ten red zone looks in 2016 — one fewer than the great Adam Humphries. His median score makes him benchable in most fantasy formats, while his high-end equity score makes him usable but hardly inspiring as an every-week starter in a normal-sized league. I’m much more interested in the bottom portion of this wideout tier.
Pierre Garcon has little/no competition for targets on a team that projects to play from behind for the vast majority of 2017. That’s not a formula for many good fantasy things, though it can be tremendous for pass catcher volume. A clear WR1 in that scenario, in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, should bust past the 120-target mark and possibly push 140 looks over 16 games. Fantasy footballers seem to be privy to this volume potential, sending Garcon’s ADP from the bottom of the ninth round to the top of the eighth round over the past month. I suspect he’ll sneak into the mid-seventh round by August. I tried to account for the proficiency — or lack thereof — of the quarterback(s) who will throw the pigskin for San Francisco this season and Garcon still came out with a high equity score that puts him inside the top-20 receivers. I can’t come up with a reason not to pick up Garcon in the eighth.
Cameron Meredith could be a major beneficiary of the Bears being not just bad — of course they’ll be bad — but heinous. Chicago is projected by Vegas to win 5.5 games. We all know John Fox-coached teams can disappoint, even with bottom-basement expectations. The sim score machine loves Meredith, who saw a healthy nine targets per game in 2016 starting in Week 3, when he emerged as an every-down player. The 6’3″, 201-pound Meredith has a host of impressive sim score comps, including Greg Jennings in 2010, when the Packers’ wideout caught 76 passes for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. That’s not happening for Meredith unless Mike Glennon drops back four thousand times in 2017, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.