Fantasy Football Equity Scores: The Brandon Marshall Tier
June 6, 2016 | C.D. Carter
I like a range of outcomes. Hot taeks are fun, if not terrible on a certain Twitter account, but nuanced fantasy football analysis is the kind you should gravitate toward as the NFL season draws nearer. It’s the kind of analysis that doesn’t lend itself to clicky headlines, but if done right, nuance — a range out outcomes, using math — gives a fantasy gamer a better feel for how to assess and value a player before and during a draft.
Equity scores, I hope, offer that in the run-up to the season. They’ve helped me get a grip on players’ floors and ceilings. I think we can lose sight of either one depending on how we feel about a player or team or scheme. We ignore a guy’s terrifying floor if we fall madly in love with his ceiling. We ignore a player’s ceiling if his floor makes us shrug.
Below is the second installment of 2016 fantasy equity scores, following up on last week’s look at the first 12 receivers taken in re-draft leagues.
A quick note: I use average draft positions (ADPs) from Fantasy Football Calculator because I believe FFC best reflects the valuations of typical fantasy players, not folks who hyperventilate over tight end value in the middle of March (me). Those of you in leagues filled with degenerates, freaks, geeks, obsessives, sharps, and killers might look at some of these ADPs with a skeptical side eye. I get it.
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- Every Raiders pass catcher could lose some volume if (when) Oakland drifts back to a more normalized pass-run ratio. Oakland passed on 63.3 percent of its 2015 snaps — ninth most in the league. With additions to the offensive line, coaches talking up the run game, and some pass-friendly game script that might not be sustainable, it seems less than likely that this offense can once again support two receivers who eclipse 120 targets. Many of Amari Cooper’s top-end sim score comps are receivers who thrived with massive volume of opportunity, including DeAndre Hopkins in 2015. I don’t see that in the proverbial cards for Cooper in 2016. Do Cooper’s equity scores warn of a player who could blow a gaping hole in your fantasy squad? Of course not. Neither his median nor high scores are appealing. It might be worth noting that Cooper posted a not-insignificant difference in matchups against bottom-half pass defenses compared to his performance against top-end secondaries. Cooper averaged almost three more fantasy points per game against the former group, including 21 more receiving yards per game.
- Brandon Marshall, the 22nd receiver off the draft board in 2015, finished as a top-3 option. He posted per-target and per-reception fantasy efficiency numbers that weren’t drastically different than that of his past four NFL seasons. He remains his team’s No. 1 receiver. And the fantasy football market has made an understated correction on Marshall, who’s being taken after 13 receivers (including four wideouts with frightening equity scores). Perhaps the most important thing to remember in evaluating BMarsh’s 2016 appeal is is this: Ryan Fitzpatrick is not good. His career completion rate is a meager 60.1 percent, with six — SIX — seasons of less than 60 percent. Fitzpatrick’s career touchdown-interception ratio is a startlingly bad 154:116. Fitzpatrick’s yards per completion has eclipsed seven precisely twice in his ten NFL seasons. I suspect Fitz’s protracted contract holdout is a big reason for Marshall’s depressed ADP, which makes little (or no) sense to me. Geno Smith might not be good, but that shouldn’t matter. Marshall has time and again made replacement-level quarterbacks good, as he did with Josh McCown (8.9 adjusted yards per attempt on passes to Marshall) and Matt Moore (8.9 AYA when targeting Marshall). BMarsh’s 2016 production, barring a total physical collapse for the aged pass catcher, is likely repeatable — or close to it. I’ll target Marshall in re-draft leagues even if Fitzpatrick’s inevitable signing moves him into the first 12 receivers off the draft board. Not often do we see a receiver in this part of the draft with a median equity score as fat as Marshall’s.
- I’m not sure the fantasy football market will adjust to account for the return of Andrew Luck. T.Y. Hilton’s price remains more than reasonable, as equity scores show that he may be priced below his fantasy floor — just what we’re seeking here. I adjusted a couple factors to see if Hilton’s best-case scenario might be beyond WR11, but it simply wasn’t there. But who’s going to complain if the 20th wide receiver off the board puts up top-12 numbers? “No one” is the correct answer. JJ Zachariason at numberFire points out that Hilton — in a regression study using net expected points — should have scored 7.5 touchdowns in 2015, or two and a half more than the five scores he notched. Probably it won’t come as a shock to see that Hilton sees similar targets with to without Luck under center for Indy. But his production skyrockets with Luck, as seen below. That in-split average would’ve made Hilton last season’s WR15. Hilton stands out as a borderline no-brainer at his current ADP. He’ll be a mainstay on my 2016 re-draft teams assuming no major change in his valuation.
- Randall Cobb’s scream/vomit-worthy median equity score seems to be what would happen if he were, once again, the team’s No. 1 passing game option, without Jordy Nelson there to keep secondaries honest. Cobb was miserable last season without Nelson in the lineup. Cobb, since the start of 2013, has put up top-10 receiver production (18.25 fantasy points per game) with Nelson, while barely managing top-36 production (12.68 points per game) without the team’s best receiver. I think it’s safest to assume that Nelson will be ready to roll come September, so I see Cobb’s median projection as something on the unrealistic side. Still, it’s hard to find a wideout with a wider range of outcomes — a red flag for a guy going in the late third round of re-draft leagues. I’ll hedge on Cobb unless/until he falls out of the first 24 receivers off the board.
- Sammy Watkins’ equity scores, like everyone else’s, reflect a 16-game season. I’ll adjust his scores if and when he is declared out for the start of the season. When Watkins was fed like a typical No. 1 receiver, things went really well for him and Tyrod (Tygod) Taylor, putting his high equity score in play.