Fantasy Football: Top Ten for ’15 – Value Based Drafting

Fantasy Football: Top Ten for ’15 – Value Based Drafting

Every day we are cascaded with top ten lists, and those of us in the fantasy football community are guilty of this as well. I know, my clickbaity title needs some work, “A TOP TEN YOU WON’T BELIEVE” OR “AFTER YOU READ THIS TOP TEN, YOU WILL CRY” OR “A WOMAN IN ALABAMA READ THIS TOP TEN AND LITERALLY CRAPPED HER PANTS”, but still you get the basic idea, this article is going to highlight my top ten. My list is going to be a bit unique in that I am also going to break down value based drafting to a degree and discuss why you should get involved in the ranking process as well. So, IF YOU WANT TO WIN YOUR LEAGUE, KEEP READING. But, seriously, any questions you have, hit me up on the website, on twitter @SportsPorchFF [I will be creating a new Twitter account soon, but this is an account I’ll be working with for now] or, on Reddit at /u/swoodmanroxu.


Let’s dive right in on why we should be creating these rankings. Figuring out who your top ten players are going to be is a relatively important practice in trying to understand a few things:

  1. It helps hone in on your philosophy in fantasy football. Here are some examples…
    • Are you a person who is going to take Gronk with the fourth pick, even though the chances of him scoring more fantasy points then other available players at running back and wide receiver are slim?
    • Are you going to try any number of the other draft theories that are circling the fantasy football community [RB heavy, zero RB, upside down drafting ect.]
    • Are you worried about positional scarcity or are you more of a best available player type of person?
    • Do you just pick the person that ESPN tells you to? [Don’t be that person].
  2. It’s a valuable practice at trying to hone in on understanding rankings, projections, and fantasy football in general. Listen, we can all take the same exact information and come out with different opinions that could totally play out as correct. This is going to help you, the fantasy football manager, figure out how you are going to form your own opinions.
  3. It allows other people to vet your process and provides additional discussion on players you may have ranked highly or don’t have ranked at all.
  4. It’s fun.

 

Before I get to my personal rankings, I’d like to provide you with a look into how I rank players like I do. I am a person who takes a few things into consideration when I rank players, those are the following:

1: Talent – 30%

How good is the player?

2: Opportunity – 30%

Does this player have an open door? Also, when combined with talent this is where I take into consideration projected statistics.

3: Positional Scarcity – 30%

One of the most important aspects of fantasy football is figuring out where to take advantage of certain situations. I’ll explain this in more detail below.

4: Gut Feeling – 10%

Every good fantasy player should also use intuition that is checked with discussion, analysis, and facts.


 

Discussion on Scarcity or Value Based Drafting

The basic premise of Value Based Drafting is that different positions are worth more or less depending on a few factors; primarily, how they score against others within their position AND how many of each position you start. In order to compare the value of these players, I created a metric I call “Percentage Against Average [P.A.A.]” that allows us to compare players across positions and is outlined below:

  • Booked the top 25 scorers at each position over the last five years.
  • Figured out the average score for each rank 1-25 for each position.
  • Found the total average for points scored by a top 25 player at each position [seen in table below]
  • Divided the average of each rank by the average score at the position to provide a unilateral metric that would help compare the value of players across positions.
  • Graphed the results to compare positions.

Average Scores

A basic metric that allows us to compare the value of players against other positions.
A basic metric that allows us to compare the value of players against other positions.

The following observations can be made on the graph:

Tight end provides the most value in positional scarcity. Why? Gronk. That’s why. The difference between Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates was 30 points while the difference between Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson was 15, the difference between Murray and Bell was 7 points, and the difference between Rodgers and Luck was 2 points. This provides you with an automatic two point victory at that position every single week, even if that person you are playing against the guy was has the second best tight end! That’s how fantasy football is won.

Running backs are also very important. If you find yourself with a player outside of the top three or four, you could be experiencing some serious hardship at that position in comparison to your peers. It isn’t always that simple. Arian Foster is a perfect example of this in that when he was healthy, he’d win you games. The major issue therein is that he experienced a few injury issues and found himself outside of the top ten. Now, it is easy enough to piece together running backs in PPR leagues, but in standard leagues it can be exceedingly difficult unless you get a lucky waiver wire grab like Justin Forsett or C.J. Anderson. Grabbing the elite players is a big advantage at the running back position. In addition, you can see based on the graph that the drop off at RB is very considerable.

Quarterback and wide receiver both experience a relatively steady decline and that allows players to get solid players later in the draft. Now, there are exceptions to the rule, as you will see outlined below in my top ten, but for the most part, this is a pretty decent rule of thumb you can stick by. Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers might create waves at quarterback, but the fact that you can get Russel Wilson [3rd quarterback last year] as the 48th player off the board [Luck = 15, Rodgers = 18], provides a lot of value in comparison to taking C.J. Spiller or Andre Ellington at 46 vs. Peterson, Charles, or Lacy who are going in the top four picks in standard drafts.

In addition to this graph, we need to take into consideration how many people you start at each position. It’s hard to value quarterback equally to running back because you only have to start one. In a standard ten team league, you are only starting ten QBs as a league, meanwhile up to 25+ running backs could start. Therefore, grabbing a top tier running back is going to create a larger advantage for you at the end of the day.

This is just a very basic look at ranking and drafting based on scarcity and best player available vs. drafting for the most points. There could be much more detail, but that’s not the only reason we’re here. Let’s take a look at these rankings.


 

These rankings are all based on standard scoring leagues with ESPN. Below are the settings for those leagues:

Starting Lineup: QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/TE/Flex/D-ST

Scoring:

  • Passing: Passing TDs = 4, Passing yards = 1 for every 25
  • Rushing: .1 point per yard, 6 for scoring
  • Receiving: .1 point per yard, 6 for scoring

 

10. Marshawn Lynch

Reasons he will…

He’s Beast Mode.

Has provided consistency year by year unlike many of his counterparts [1200+ and 200+ and at least 12 touchdowns in each year since he was traded].

Jimmy Graham is going to give Wilson a real target, exacerbating the threat of Wilson. There’s a lot of evidence that running backs with running quarterbacks tend to benefit from that additional threat.

Bell Cow Back.

Reasons he won’t…

One of his handcuffs emerges in limited opportunities to create a split [possible way to conserve Lynch and his back spasms]. Or, his back spasms and running style finally stop him from performing at the elite level.

The loss of two starters on the offensive line could be detrimental to Lynch’s playing style.

Summary: I feel like I need to pay respect where respect is due. Last year, I had Lynch outside of my top 15 and I was just very, very wrong. From that mistake I learned to not attempt to project injuries primarily because I’m not a doctor. The Seahawks have gotten better offensively in their addition of Graham, but did lose some talent on the offensive line. Russel Wilson continues to keep defensive lines honest and with Graham stepping in to basically be their top receiving option, the Seahawks have a little more to work with other than their pathetically poor receiving corps. There are other running backs who could fit here [Foster for one] but to round out my top ten I feel very comfortable with Lynch.

9. Julio Jones

Dale Zanine - USA Today Sports - Julio Jones
Dale Zanine – USA Today Sports

Reasons he will…

He is one of the most talented WRs in the NFL and also has one of the best QBs to boot.

He’s in a contract year [probably not too important, but worth mentioning].

Kyle Shanahan is a big time believer in the use of his X receiver. This can be seen with Andre Johnson who got 171 targets in 2008 [205.5 fantasy points, standard scoring] and 2009 [211.9 fantasy points, standard scoring] under Shanahan and finished as the number one and the number two fantasy wide receiver in those years. If Jones gets those opportunities, there is no reason he can’t get 1500+ and 12+, which is generally good enough for a top three performance.

The Falcon’s defense really didn’t get any better in the off season and that could prove troubling for the Falcon’s again in 2015. Playing from behind will provide more opportunities for Ryan and Julio.

Reasons he won’t…

Injury

More dedicated run game

Summary: Julio Jones is probably my favorite elite wide receiver. His game breaking ability is unmatched when he is healthy and in the new Atlanta offense, Julio will continue to be the superstar he’s always been. He has had a few injury worries, but as I’ve stated earlier I refuse to take inconsistent injuries into consideration when ranking in the top ten. I think this ranking of Julio has a lot to say about the other elite WRs and I could very easily see him swapped out with Dez Bryant, but I feel very strongly in the offense in Atlanta, Matt Ryan, Shanahan, and Julio.

8. Rob Gronkowski

Credit to David Butler II
Credit to David Butler II

Reasons he will…

Gronk Smash!!!

He is the number one target on a very good offense.

He has consistently been the best tight end in the NFL when he is healthy.

His athleticism and size combination is next to impossible to cover.

Reasons he won’t…

Injury

Brady suspension

Summary: Rob Gronkowski is very, very good at what he does. He is so good, that he is probably the number one exception to the rule as far as drafting any elite player in the first round who isn’t a running back or a wide receiver. The reason being is that he provides you a weekly benefit of about four points over the average top ten tight end. Based on the average value over their replacement, Gronkowski is unmatched. He’s such a dominant target that Brady’s absence, be it one game or four games, won’t hurt him. Garoppolo will look his way for the first few weeks he’s in there because he is the biggest and easiest target to throw to. If he makes it past that, we know what Brady does. I just don’t see a way that Gronk doesn’t belong here, it was honestly harder to not put him up higher.

7. Jamaal Charles

Photo Credit to USA Today Sports
Photo Credit to USA Today Sports

Reasons he will…

He is an elite runner and pass catcher whose talent in open space is unmatched.

His QB loves his check down and Charles is generally that guy.

The addition of talented WRs could open the game up for Charles up the gut or in the flats.

His upside as a pass catcher provides that next level of potential for a guy who could finish higher than ranked, even if he is mediocre between the tackles.

Reasons he won’t…

The addition of Maclin ends up in Charles losing some of his targets in the process. Charles was truly elite when he had the opportunities he received in 2013. If he loses too much of his quantity, he could end up doing less damage.

Andy Reid forgets he has one of the most explosive players in the NFL in his backfield.

Summary: Jamaal Charles has been an incredibly impressive talent over the last five or so years and we’ve all been lucky to get to see him play. He is one of the biggest dual threats in the NFL and that upside is going to provide him with the opportunity to easily fit into the top ten every year he’s healthy. Most of the effective fantasy running backs are able to catch the ball and Charles has averaged 37 receptions 350 yards and about three touchdowns per year. Not only is his pass-catching ability superb, his ability to run is just as impressive. Charles will continue his tear and again, could easily outperform my ranking here.

6.  Jeremy Hill

AP Photo/David Kohl
AP Photo/David Kohl

Reasons he will…

He continues the tear that he was on over the last part of the season when Gio was dinged up.

The impressive passing game is able to keep defenses honest [Marvin Jones/AJ Green/Tyler Eifert all remain healthy] and provide Hill with running lanes to bully through.

Hill continues to be the one and two down banger, in addition to goalline responsibilities and some 3rd down work.

Hue Jackson continues to exploit the power running style that he has in the past. This is a guy who managed to get 1157 yards and 7 touchdowns out of Darren McFadden in 13 games, he also got almost 1000 and 7 touchdowns out of Michael Bush. Jeremy Hill is Hue Jackon’s perfect fit for his power running game, as he proved last year in the back half of the season.

The improved offensive line continues to grow.

Reasons he won’t…

Gio takes back over the role as an ineffective three down back or the split goes to much into Gio’s favor.

Summary: Many might feel this is a reach, but Hill was a top ten option over the last five weeks in 2015. That included the blowout effort against Pittsburgh where Hill got a whopping eight carries. When given fifteen or more carries, Hill averaged 19.3 fantasy points through those seven games. As crazy as that sounds, this would put Hill as the number one fantasy option in those games. Now, I’m not trying to say he will be the number one fantasy running back, but I do believe that if given 15+ carries per game, he can easily be the 3rd or 4th best fantasy running back in the NFL.

5. Antonio Brown

brown
Scott Brown/ESPN

Reasons he will…

He has been one, if not the, most consistent fantasy player over the last two years. He has literally gone 40 consecutive games with either five catches or a touchdown. In the last 35 games, Brown has scored single digit fantasy points in 11 of those games, with only five of those games being seven points or lower. That’s insane consistency.

He’s still young and he is still going to be the number one target on the Steelers, who were an incredibly explosive offense last year and should continue to improve.

Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, and Sammie Coates are all facets to the Steelers that defenses are going to have to take into consideration. I don’t suspect defenses are going to be able to focus solely on Brown and even if they do, his route running is superb and his quickness is incredible.

He’s got a crazy bromance with Big Ben

Reasons he won’t…

Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates create a packed house and Brown loses some of his targets.

Summary: If you are risk averse, I would pick Antonio Brown at number one. He has had very few injury concerns throughout his career and has really only missed three games since his emergence. Over the last four years, he has averaged 144 receptions per season, with an average of 173 over the last two. Brown’s competition is just not really a factor, even if he lost 30 targets he’d still be tied for 3rd most targets in the NFL last season. Their schedule is not absurd and Brown has proven to be one of the most difficult receivers in the NFL to cover. If you want a sure thing, Brown is about as sure as it comes.

4. Le’Veon Bell

Photo from isportsweb.com
Photo from isportsweb.com

Reasons he will…

The Steelers offense is as explosive as previously mentioned.

His impact as a pass catcher and a runner continue in the dominant ways he put them on display in 2014.

He is able to start right off immediately after his suspension and contribute for the Steelers.

His handcuff can be had for peanuts and probably won’t contribute much after the suspension is up.

His suspension gets reduced.

Reasons he won’t…

He comes off slow after his suspension.

Discussion: Le’Veon Bell is an enigma, understandably so. If it weren’t for his suspension, he would be an easy number one option. It isn’t just the fact that he is incredibly explosive and plays in what will probably be one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL, but it also comes down to his floor. Even when he played against difficult, run stopping opponents, his pass catching ability provided him with the ability to put up top ten numbers. Even with the suspension, Bell should be an every week Ace in your fantasy football hand once his suspension ends. Keep in mind, fantasy football is a weekly game. Bell’s replacement, DeAngelo Williams, is going at the end of the 10th round and will provide you with some of the points Bell will lose. This is going to still put you in a situation to win and Bell should remain a top three RB option while he plays

 

3. Odell Beckham Jr.

121414-NFL-Giants-Odell-Beckham-Jr-PI-CH.vresize.1200.675.high.6
Al Bello/Getty Images

Reasons he will…

He continues the tear he started in week seven last season.

He grows as a receiver to become an even more impressive player.

Eli Manning continues to heavily target OBJ

He continues his average of about 17 fantasy points per game.

Reasons he won’t…

He was a flash in the pan.

His soft tissue injuries become nagging.

Summary: I’ve tried to resist the hype train that surrounds ODB, I truly and sincerely have. The only issue is that when I watched him play and began taking a deeper look at the statistics, Odell Beckham Junior proved to be the most impressive wide receiver in the NFL over the back half of the 2014 season. In a standard league, the only time he fell below nine points was in the week 6 blowout loss against the Eagles where he put up two points. His ability to blow by defenders or to make them trip over their own feet was just insane for someone as young as Beckham. In comparison to Antonio Brown on a per game basis, ODB would provide almost two points per game more as a rookie wide receiver. I just don’t know that there is another wide receiver that will touch ODB if he ends up meeting his potential in 2015. This is a pick that is again, not for the risk averse.

2. CJ Anderson

Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post
Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post

Reasons he will…

The Broncos ease up on Manning and allow for a more balanced attack.

CJ Anderson wins the job without a contest.

Gary Kubiak brings with him the same system that launched lowly regarded running backs like Arian Foster, Terrell Davis, and Justin Forsett into the spotlight as top ten options.

Anderson continues to be as effective as a pass-catcher as he was in 2014.

Reasons he won’t…

He ends up falling on his face instead of playing like he did in 2014.

The competition in Denver ends up putting more pressure on Anderson than expected.

Summary: I’m a big CJ Anderson fan. I love an underdog story and Anderson really does represent all that is good with the NFL dream of an undrafted free agent that works his butt off to become a superstar. Anderson finds himself fitting right into Gary Kubiak’s system that has produced a top ten running back 70% of the time and a top five back 50% of the time [20 year career for Kubiak]. In addition to this crazy stat, Anderson averaged 24 touches, 129 yards, 1+ touchdown, 5.4 yards per carry, and almost ten yards per catch over the final nine games. He was the second best running back over the course of the last five games. All in all, Anderson is an incredible value where he is going for those of you willing to take a risk.

1. Adrian Peterson

CBS
Courtesy of CBS

Reasons he will…

He’s Adrian Peterson and a year off provided him with the time to heal and recuperate in order to ground in pound at the age of 30.

He’s probably going to be running pissed off. The last time he ran really angry was the season after he blew out his knee and ran for 2000+ yards.

The offense that surrounds Peterson is arguably the best offense he has played under. His QB is the best he’s had since Favre, the wide receiver group is solid, and their offensive line was in the top half last year with a very inexperienced running back and a full back carrying the load.

He has never run for under double digit touchdowns and Norv Turner will run the ball if he has someone talented enough to do so, see Tomlinson, Ladanian.

Reasons he won’t…

The time off has sapped Peterson of his talent and he just doesn’t have the explosiveness or agility he used to.

Summary: Adrian Peterson is the greatest running back of our generation, stupid decisions or not. This dude has run with authority every single year he has been able to play a full season. If Adrian Peterson plays 16 games, his floor is the 3rd best running back in fantasy football. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield isn’t top level, but it also isn’t bad. He provides enough talent and speed with the ball in his hands to make him a dangerous weapon there too. Neither Asiata nor McKinnon provide any real competition against Peterson, so carries and passing downs should be his. Between his ability as a runner and his ability as a pass catcher, I think Adrian Peterson is the best bet to become the best overall running back in 2015. I guess he’ll just have to have two comeback season.


 

Your rankings are YOUR rankings. If you feel some type of way about a player and you have the reasoning to support that opinion, don’t be scared to take that stand. As you can see, I’ve taken three players with very little track record, one player returning from an entire year off of football, and a guy who has a four game suspension in my top ten. Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel comfortable with my top ten.

Take it easy and catch ya next time.

Woodman

 

Featured Image: C.J. Anderson (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

 

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