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Fantasy Football Average Draft Positions That Do Not Make Sense

Fantasy Football Average Draft Positions That Do Not Make Sense
Davis Mattek July 29, 2019 12:05PM EDT

Fantasy Football Average Draft Positions That Do Not Make Sense

Markets are generally efficient. However, not every decision point in every market can be efficient or no one would ever make any profit. Fantasy football markets are often efficient (just like real-life markets) but occasionally feature price points that do not reflect reality. This could hinge on emotion, overconfidence in something repeating itself that is unlikely too, or a base misunderstanding of the principals that power fantasy football. As I continue to participate in expert “mock drafts”, the FFPC Pros Vs Joes league, DRAFT Best Ball Leagues, and standard weekly-management leagues, I’ve noticed a group of players who are being drafted in downright quizzical positions. These players are being either over or under-drafted base on core errors by the market not understanding the value proposition that the players offer.

Fantasy Football Average Draft Positions That Do Not Make Sense

Devonta Freeman/Ito Smith

It as if the market realizes that Devonta Freeman is going to be in a timeshare but making no valuation of where his time share back is going to go. Over the years, Tevin Coleman’s ADP, per Fantasy Football Calculator, as the secondary back in the Falcons offense has been 78th overall (2018), 74th overall (2017), 125th overall (2016), and 91st overall (2015). Over the same time span, Devonta Freeman went 19th overall (2018), Seventh overall (2017), 19th overall (2016), and 101st overall (2015). The only year that there was a real delta between Freeman and Coleman was in 2016 when Freeman was coming off a  year as the number one overall running back in fantasy football. Why then, with the removal of Coleman from the offense has Freeman’s ADP moved towards the fourth round while Ito Smith’s ADP has not approached Tevin Coleman’s former draft stack? The answer is that the market seems to be expecting the Falcons rushing attack to be worse than in years’ past while also expecting Freeman to be in less of a timeshare than in the past. This is, to me, totally non-sensical. Either Freeman should be taken in the second round with Nick Chubb, Melvin Gordon and Damien Williams or Ito Smith should be drafted amongst Ronald Jones, Royce Freeman and Jaylen Samuels. Our projections indicate that the latter rather than former is true. Ito Smith is one of the best values on the board while he is being drafted as nothing more than a handcuff in the 10th or 11th round of drafts.

Lamar Jackson 

I do not know how I can pound the table on this any harder. Lamar Jackson’s Average Draft Position will not move no matter how hard I try, which I suppose is a good thing for my profitability. Nothing matters more at the quarterback position than rushing points. Many years ago, Rich Hribar coined rushing the “Konami Code” of fantasy football quarterbacking and he was dead right. Lamar Jackson has already set the record for quarterback rushing attempts in a season and he did so in seven starts. Per NFL.Com Jackson’s coach, John Harbaugh, was asked by ex-Ravens coach Brian Billick what the pitch count on Jackson running this season might be, noting Cam Newton’s career-high is 139 rushing attempts. “I’d bet the over on that one. I’d bet the over for sure,” Harbaugh said without hesitation. “It’s going to be interesting. I don’t think we know the exact numbers or the math.”

How much more bullish of a signal can you get? In starts last year, Jackson scored over 17 fantasy points per game while throwing for over 200 yards just once! With upside for over our projected 154 carries in 2019, Jackson is easily the best available late-round quarterback. If he is bad, gets injured or benched, or simply cannot figure out how to complete passes, you can just cut him. With an ADP outside the first 11 rounds, you are not taking any risk on him at all. Unlike the players he is being drafted around (Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Andy Dalton) who have exactly zero-upside, the 90th percentile Lamar Jackson season can win your league.

Ricky Seals-Jones

Everyone is buying into the Arizona Cardinals offense. Christian Kirk and Kyler Murray have seen meteoric rises in Average Draft Position over the last two months, going from outside the top-100 to well inside the eighth and ninth rounds. In fact, Kirk is now going as the 73rd overall player and Kyler is going off as the 95th overall player. Larry Fitzgerald is the 87th overall player and David Johnson routinely as the fifth player off the board in fantasy football drafts. The market agrees, this Arizona Cardinals offense is going to score points and run a lot of players.

Why then, is the dominant pass-catching tight end in this offense going almost undrafted? Ricky Seals-Jones was Kyler Murray’s teammate Texas A&M and is actually a converted wide receiver who now plays tight end. He had the seventh most Air Yards at the position last season despite playing in by far the worst offense in the NFL. Some seem to think that Charles Clay is the starting tight end for Arizona but it seems odd to assume that a tight end who has had more blocking snaps than pass routes ran over the last two seasons is a good fit in an Air Raid offense that will frequently need the tight end to be split out wide and to run deeper passing routes. RSJ is the perfect fit for what Arizona wants to run and similar to Lamar Jackson, if Seals-Jones is bad or just doesn’t get on the field, you can cut him. No harm, no foul. If not drafting Kelce/Ertz/Kittle, you should really be aiming for upside and tight end and Seals-Jones has a top-six tight end season in him if he hits his 80th percentile outcomes.

Dion Lewis

Derrick Henry is already injured. He has no timetable for return and was seen limping around in a walking boot. Even before Henry went down with injury, it was pretty obvious that Lewis was going to have a meaningful role on the Titans offense. Lewis is coming off back to back years with 200+ touches and in the last 20 years, there have only been five running backs with over 500 carries and 50 or less targets at the end of their age 24 season: Derrick Henry, T.J Duckett, Stevan Ridley, Ron Dayne and Beanie Wells. None of Ridley, Duckett, Dayne or Wells ever become pass catchers. How is it possible that the fantasy football markets are treating Henry like a workhorse back given his injury and Lewis’ skill set as a pass-catcher? This is similar to the Freeman/Smith example from the Falcons. The fantasy football-playing populace just hasn’t played out the scenario of how the Titans touches are most likely to go over a median distribution. It wouldn’t be surprising for Henry to have 250 interactions while Lewis is still the primary third-down back and also a valuable handcuff as he has played over 90% of the first-team snaps on offense with Henry on the sideline in training camp.

Sammy Watkins

Tyreek Hill will be playing 16 games, without injury, for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. Sammy Watkins is still an obvious fantasy football value while healthy. Both of these things are true. In Watkins’ healthy games last year, he had at least four targets in all and over seven targets in five of eight games. He had exactly eight targets in both Chiefs playoff games while Hill saw only 14 total. With Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Damien Williams all running around, Watkins is unlikely to be a key focus of opposing defenses and our projections have him at WR18 with a reasonable 16.5% market share of the Chiefs team targets. With Mahomes going as the top quarterback (which our projections agree with), Kelce going as the top tight end and Hill already sliding back into the second round of drafts, it just is non-sensical for Watkins to be drafted amongst Marvin Jones and Jarvis Landry. He is clear value over those guys, especially in a best ball format that is going to reward spiked weeks more than a four catch, 45-yard floor.

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