Fantasy Football: Elite Receivers And Equity Scores
June 3, 2015 | Chet
Wide receivers with average draft positions in the top-12 last year were, in general, a total and complete disaster that wrecked a million fantasy squads and spurred a hundred thousand shower cries.
That’s according to a newly published study from the Fantasy Football Misery Association.
Only six of those top-12 receivers finished the 2014 campaign as top-12 pass catchers. A lot of that elite receiver carnage was due to the nagging injuries of Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green. And then there was Cordarrelle Patterson, who reportedly is still in the NFL.
There was, among all that receiver-based disaster, some decent opportunities for fantasy equity. Antonio Brown, of course, was the eighth receiver off the board and finished as fantasy’s No. 1 receiver by a gigantic margin. Jordy Nelson was the seventh receiver off of draft boards and managed to post top-3 numbers thanks to a handful of silly stat lines.
Receivers with top ADPs have largely been a stable group over the past few years though. My Living The Stream co-host, JJ Zachariason, has shown definitively that “the top tier at wide receiver is much more friendly in terms of bust rates when compared to running backs.”
With that fresh in our minds — a tasty treat after the reminder of last season’s top-12 — let’s jump into fantasy equity scores for the most sought-after wideouts in fake foozball.
Here’s a primer on equity scores, why I publish them, and how they might help you avoid defecating in your pants on draft day. Think of equity scores as a diaper.
|Player||ADP||Median equity score||High equity score|
|Antonio Brown||WR1||-3 (WR4)||0 (WR1)|
|Dez Bryant||WR2||-5 (WR7)||1 (WR1)|
|Odell Beckham, Jr.||WR3||-4 (WR7)||2 (WR1)|
|Julio Jones||WR4||-3 (WR7)||3 (WR1)|
|Demaryius Thomas||WR5||0 (WR5)||4 (WR1)|
|Calvin Johnson||WR6||-3 (WR9)||4 (WR2)|
|Jordy Nelson||WR7||-1 (WR8)||5 (WR2)|
|A.J. Green||WR8||-1 (WR9)||2 (WR6)|
|Randall Cobb||WR9||-2 (WR11)||2 (WR7)|
|Alshon Jeffery||WR10||-6 (WR16)||3 (WR7)|
|T.Y. Hilton||WR11||-7 (WR18)||0 (WR11)|
|Mike Evans||WR12||-3 (WR15)||6 (WR6)|
* You may have noticed that a whopping five guys have WR1 in their range of outcomes. Probably that’s not shocking, as all five of those receivers have annual potential to be the game’s top pass catcher. I lie somewhere between Odell Beckham Jr. Truthers United and those who think he’s due for an ugly fall back to earth in 2015, but I’ll say this about the big-handed marvel: He’ll be a creature of volume, so even if you think his absurd efficiency will fall off, the shear number of footballs he sees could keep him in that top-3 range. OBJ saw 11.3 targets in the season’s final 11 games. I don’t think 170 targets is out of the question for Beckham this season. Maybe 190 targets is wishful thinking. Maybe.
* Alshon Jeffery’s scores are concerning. It’s nice to see that high equity score, but the median leaves a ton to be desired if you’re investing so heavily in Chicago’s No. 1 target. The question might be: Is Jay Cutler good? Is Cutler terrible? Is he somewhere in between? Numbers say Cutty is pretty god awful. He was downright Staffordian in his junk time production last year. Jeffery didn’t exactly dominate in games that Marshall missed in 2014: He notched 12.1 fantasy points in those contests, catching fewer passes on more targets. Jeffery saw his average depth of target (aDOT) drop by almost two full yards from 2013 to 2014 — a decrease that shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s tough to ignore a giant who could quite easily score double digit touchdowns, but I think Alshon’s median prospects reflects his fantasy usefulness in a potentially conservative offense headed by a quarterback who scores as many fantasy points per drop back as Mark Sanchez and Andy Dalton.
I should note that Alshon’s positive comps for 2015 are quite hopeful: Dez Bryant’s 2012, A.J. Green’s 2012, and Larry Fitzgerald’s 2007 campaigns jump off the page.
* A.J. Green. Yawn. Probably you’re getting a nice, solid guy who will manage to finish as a top-10 wide receiver no matter what (assuming he plays 16 games). Eighteen of his 25 similarity score comps are negative, and although Dalton occasionally borders on the horrendous, I think it’s telling that the Dalton-Green connection has produced a 7.4 adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) — a meager number for a receiver considered elite.
Green has never been one to overcome bad matchups either: he averages just .43 touchdowns and 80.2 yards against top-half secondaries, while notching .83 touchdowns and 86 yards against bottom-half coverage units, per the Rotoviz Game Split app. His mid-second round price isn’t awful. It’s not exciting either.
* While I’m not considering T.Y. Hilton unless/until his ADP drops to the WR15 range (that won’t happen), I admit to being intrigued by Mike Evans, who finished 2014 as a top-12 receiver. Evans was a WR1 with 68 receptions. That’s incredible. Eddie Royal had four fewer receptions than the Tampa rookie. The low reception total has a lot to do with Josh McCown being such a horrendous quarterback who has only succeeded when playing the game “500” with his biggest pass catchers. We could see that catch total spike in 2015 if the Bucs eclipse the 600-pass mark — a scenario that’s more likely than you think. Evans saw 21.8 percent of Tampa’s targets in 2014. If that share even jumps to 24 percent in a 600-pass season, we’re looking at 144 targets for Evans.
Evans saw 19 catchable deep balls as a rookie and turned seven of those into touchdowns, per Pro Football Focus. I think that’s a fairly hopeful stat for a guy who will surely make his fantasy money on deep shots in 2015 — and it explains the wide gap between his median and high equity scores. Touchdown-dependent guys have floors that make your stomach churn. Fully half of Evans’ 2015 comps are of the positive variety, with guys like Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green showing up in his range of outcomes. We could see an uptick in pass routes for Evans in his second year, as he ran just 503 routes as a rookie, or more than 100 fewer than receivers like Sammy Watkins, Golden Tate and Jeremy Maclin.
I ran a fun little experiment with Evans’ sim scores: I removed the first three weeks of his rookie campaign — a span that saw him get a meager 21 total targets. His high projection subsequently exploded, jumping to 22.2 PPR points per game. That’s No. 1 fantasy receiver territory. I’m not saying; just saying.