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Solving For X: What Exactly Is Jacquizz Rodgers Worth?

Jacquizz Rodgers’ situation makes drafting him complicated.

Fantasy football is a complex game. Every season there seems to be, for one reason or another, a particular situation that is very difficult to make sense of.

Last year, Le’Veon Bell was suspended for the first four games of the season on July 22nd, which was later reduced to three games on August 20th. This was what we knew then:

  • He was coming off a season where he tore his MCL after six games.
  • Backup DeAngelo Williams was the overall RB1 from Week 7 through the end of the season.
  • Bell had been the overall RB1 in 2014, then was the RB2 in PPG through those first six games of 2015.
  • Bell’s job seemed secure if he could avoid additional suspension and injury.

Placing a value on Bell and Williams, in those scenarios, was difficult.

  • How much do those three games missed hurt a team that drafts Bell?
  • How much value do the three starts add to Williams?
  • How likely is Bell to get hurt again?
  • How likely is he to miss or fail another drug test and get suspended again?
  • How much do those things change the value of a “handcuff” like Williams, who was widely considered a pure, direct backup, that is either completely unused or handling one of the biggest RB workloads there is?

There weren’t great answers to these questions, and even now, knowing what happened, the answers still aren’t very clear.

Bell was a fantastic pick at an ADP of RB3, tenth overall, with the fourth-highest RB win rate for all My Fantasy League MFL10s. Was his blowout season likely enough that it was worth the risk of drafting him so high, though? Or did something extremely unlikely happen, and saying Bell was a good pick is the result of outcome bias?

Williams had an ADP of RB40 and finished with the 25th-highest RB win rate, right in between fantasy heroes Isaiah Crowell and James White. Bell hit his most optimistic outcome, however, and maybe Williams should have been drafted higher given the situation he was in. Of course, that’s looking at just best-ball scoring; in weekly management leagues, with playoffs, was Bell far more valuable because of his playoff performance (RB1, RB12, and RB2 by week, Weeks 14 through 16), and Williams far less valuable because his starts were at the beginning of the year?

Again, there aren’t really answers for any of this.

My three reasons for advocating drafting Bell post-suspension were:

  1. The first few weeks of the season are the easiest for a fantasy team to absorb missed games.
  2. Heavy workload at the beginning of the year can cause injury and diminished performance.
  3. Bell’s incredibly valuable opportunity, and superstar-level performance, appeared highly likely to happen.

This season, there is a situation eerily reminiscent of Bell’s.

Doug Martin was suspended for four games, later reduced to three, for violating the league’s performance-enhancing-drug policy (NOT the substance abuse policy, which is what Bell was suspended under). Martin is not the focus here; rather, this piece explores the value of presumed part-time starter Jacquizz Rodgers.

IN REDRAFT

If employing a Zero RB strategy, or even RB-lite in a deeper league, Rodgers provides an invaluable way to get through the first three weeks, before the kind of waiver pickups that are so crucial to the strategy become available. He fits the mold of a receiving back that has workhorse potential, which is exactly the kind of back that should be targeted.

If you play in a league that has waivers/trading and best-ball scoring, the same principle applies, where Rodgers can get you by the first few weeks before you can properly adjust and profit from the inevitable chaos. Rodgers’ ADP on ESPN right now is RB53; that’s probably about right, and a solid investment. RB53 last season was Travaris Cadet with 94 points, right in line with RBs at that ADP the five years prior, who averaged 90 points.

That’s an awfully reasonable expectation for someone with three (potential) starts, and again, especially valuable if not drafting RBs early, and even more so if lineups require starting two.

There also needs to be consideration to how valuable winning regular season games is in your particular league. If four of 14 teams are making a three or four-week playoff, you need to be aggressive about winning early in the season. It’s very different than a league where something like six of ten teams make a two-week playoff.

Something Evan Silva said, in response to questioning the validity of drafting Williams in the seventh round last season, stuck with me:

IN BEST-BALL

Now… this is a little trickier.

Best-ball scoring is a fickle beast. In this article, I lay out the strategy for targeting wide receivers with high variance (and ceilings) in their weekly scoring. One way of trying to measure the value of weekly ceilings, and points provided by low draft picks, is this free site by @broadwayg_ff.

The same concept comes into play here, discussing RBs like Rodgers, who are likely to have a few high scoring weeks and several low scoring ones, with a very wide range of outcomes both weekly and seasonally.

Broadway calculates (among a bunch of other things) the number of times a player made it into a lineup, how many points per start they scored, and what percentage of their total points scored that is. For example, David Johnson had 100 percent of his roughly 400 points applied to starting lineups last season, while Russell Wilson only had roughly 250 of his 350 points make it into lineups. Broadway then compares that number to the amount of points a player is expected to provide based on position and ADP, and comes up with his own “Broadway value,” which serves a similar purpose as our “win rates” and produces similar results.

Rodgers is currently RB54, and rising:

Jacquizz Rodgers ADP

Here are the RBs drafted in that range last season; and, how their ADP and overall finish combined, fared in win rate and Broadway value.

Player2016 ADP2016 OVRWin RateBroadway Value
Devontae BookerRB51RB29RB45RB32
Darren SprolesRB52RB24RB13RB18
Buck AllenRB53RB129RB70RB79
Christine MichaelRB54RB35RB32RB23
James StarksRB55RB68RB38RB41
James WhiteRB56RB26RB26RB21
Jordan HowardRB57RB10RB6RB7

Broadway postulates that RBs with those ADPs should provide roughly 72 to 79 points to your score at the end of the year. If that’s in three starts, instead of eight, it’s much, much more valuable.

There’s a reason James Starks has a higher win rate than Devontae Booker, despite Booker scoring almost exactly two and a half times as many points on the year. Starks made it into lineups 3.65 times at 12.5 points-per-start, while Booker started 7.5 times at 10.8 points-per-start.

That difference is massive, with 12.5 points making it into a winning MFL10 lineup nearly 80 percent of the time, while 10.8 is below 60 percent.

https://twitter.com/broadwayg_ff/status/848177517265661953

Rodgers had five games last season where he was the primary RB, and averaged 15 fantasy points-per-game in them, with a range of 8.9 to 17.9 points. The five games were under very different circumstances, though.

The best two games came when Charles Sims was inactive, then Rodgers left the third game injured. The last two of those five games were in the final two weeks of the season, with Rodgers coming off injury, and playing only part-time.

It’s probably fair to expect the same kind of output from three starts at the beginning of this season, with Sims healthy and active. If Rodgers can provide 45 of the 72 to 79 expected points in those first three games, there are a number of ways he can easily surpass that expectation depending on what happens the rest of the year.

It’s not that simple, though.

On the positive side:

  • He could score far more than 15 points in one of those starts, and far more than 45 across three of them. Devonta Freeman memorably scored a combined 148.5 points in four consecutive starts in 2015, and I still feel high just thinking about it.
  • If he falters in any of those three starts, they are likely not to be captured in the lineup because all other RBs are likely healthy and not on bye.
  • He might be the starter for the whole season, even without an injury or another suspension to Martin.

On the negative side:

  • He might not score anywhere near 45 points in those three games.
  • Those three games come in the weeks they are least valuable, as the rest of your RBs are healthy and not on bye. Rodgers’ potential for VORP (value over replacement player) is likely to be far lower than later in the season, when some of your other RBs have busted.
  • There’s no guarantee Rodgers starts over Sims even once; or, that he gets the RB-receiving work with Martin healthy, instead of Martin and/or Sims.

For more on busting RBs, and how it can be approached, read Mike Beers’ hyper-fragile thesis, and The Contrarian’s Zero RB masterpiece(s). 

Using Williams as a case study, he scored 35.1, 17.2, and 8.4 points in those three starts at the beginning of last year. That 8.4 likely didn’t hurt because it didn’t make it into lineups, but the first two weeks were tremendously valuable.

After Week 3, he carried the ball only nine more times for 18 yards through Week 16. Essentially, just those two boom weeks by themselves provided a very nice win rate at an ADP of RB40, 106th overall, substantially higher than Rodgers’ current RB54, 163rd overall. Again, with outcomes like Bell getting injured or suspended in play, and the potential for Williams to have been starting many more games than he did, he was probably undervalued last season.

Rodgers doesn’t have that same kind of guaranteed workhorse role though, and his potential best outcomes weekly or seasonally probably aren’t close to what Williams’ were.

There isn’t a much broader ranger of outcomes last year than that presented by Jordan Howard and Buck Allen, and that provides an eclectic sampling of how an RB’s season can play out. If drafting RBs in that range, they are wildly speculative, and there are two distinct kinds. There are pass-catchers that are extremely likely to get a very specific amount, and kind of, playing time (James White or Darren Sproles). Then there are potential workhorses, that very likely need an injury in front of them to profit (Starks or Howard), but that potential profit is stratospheric.

Rodgers may be this team’s workhorse the entire season. He may be a workhorse for three games. He may be the team’s pass-catching RB the whole season. He may not make the 53-man roster in favor of Sims, Jeremy McNichols, and Peyton Barber.

However he does it, in order to return value on his ADP, he would need roughly 12 points per game, roughly six times. Since he didn’t score even 18 points in any of five starts last season, and his three (potential) starts come in the least valuable weeks, it’s tough to definitively say he’s worth his cost. That cost is so low, however, and the potential profit is so high, that the speculation can be justified.

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