If you haven’t noticed, the rotoViz staff is contrarian as hell. If you think something, we probably believe the opposite. There’s a method to the madness, though; when a piece of information becomes popular knowledge, it gets priced into a player’s ADP (average draft position). So I might really like third year receivers coming off of 10-touchdown seasons, but guess what? So does everyone else.
That’s why we’re so often looking for predictors of success—traits or stats that typically come before players’ breakouts. That way, we can acquire all kinds of value without paying too much for it. Otherwise, it really doesn’t matter how much a stat “matters” in terms of scoring you points; everyone values yards and touchdowns, so you can’t really gain much of an advantage by seeking solely bulk stats in your drafts.
In many way, you’re like a trader searching to buy low on underperforming stocks, knowing they’ll eventually rise in value if they’re meant to do so. Well, there are two particular wide receivers—a pair of players who admittedly don’t have the cleanest histories off of the field—who are dropping like flies in fantasy football drafts: Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon, both of whom are worthy of your attention as “buy low stocks.”
Gordon, recently suspended for two games, is just seeing his ADP drop as we speak.
He’s dropped just over half of a round since news broke about his suspension, but he’s likely to fall even more. Looking back at Justin Blackmon’s ADP, we see that it took around a week after his suspension for his perceived value to level out.
Based on Blackmon’s drop, there’s a good chance that Gordon falls well into the eighth round (or lower). In that range, he’d be the 38th wide receiver off of the board in standard drafts—down from No. 30. Blackmon, who once sat as high as the 36th wide receiver, is now getting drafted at No. 46 near the back of the 10th round. The question is whether or not there’s value in jumping on these receivers whose perceived worth is at its lowest point.
Overall Production Versus Replacement Production
One of the reasons I like to grab suspended players is that most owners seem to rank them according to their adjusted overall projected points when they should be concerned with points per game. It’s not like you can’t start anyone in the place of a suspended player; you get the points for a replacement player. So Gordon’s “real” 2013 projection is (Projected PPG * 14) + (Replacement Player Projected PPG * 2). Blackmon’s is (Projected PPG *12) + (Replacement Player Projected PPG * 4).
Projecting Gordon Post-Suspension
Looking back at last year’s fantasy results, we can project Gordon’s would-be full-season production. Gordon, once considered the No. 30 wide receiver, would have probably scored around 118 points had he not been suspended and perfectly lived up to his ADP—the total points scored by last year’s No. 30-ranked receiver. That’s 7.4 fantasy PPG in standard leagues.
The key to accurately projecting Gordon post-suspension is determining a realistic replacement for the first two weeks of the season. If you’re drafting Gordon as the 38th receiver off of the board, he’s probably only your third or fourth option. The nature of your draft will dictate how long you wait on selecting his replacement, but if you wait two full rounds, you’re looking at the 47th receiver off of the board. Last year, that player scored 96 points (6.0 PPG).
With those numbers, it’s easy to project Gordon.
(Projected PPG * 14) + (Replacement Player Projected PPG * 2) = (7.4 * 14) + (6.0 * 2) = 115.6 points
If Gordon had scored 116 points in 2012, he would have ranked as the No. 32 overall receiver. Thus, taking his two-game suspension into account, Gordon’s ADP should drop from No. 29 to No. 32—just three spots—not all the way down into the late-30s. When you consider that many experts saw Gordon as excellent value to start with—I had him in my top 20—it’s probable that he’s a steal after the first 30 or so receivers are taken.
Projecting Blackmon Post-Suspension
Once the No. 36 overall receiver, Blackmon’s projection based on last year’s results should have been in the range of 111 points in standard leagues—6.9 PPG. If you again wait two full rounds after selecting Blackmon to get another wideout, you’ll be drafting right around the 55th receiver off of the board. Last year, that player scored 85 points—5.3 PPG. That means Blackmon’s post-suspension projection is as follows:
(Projected PPG *12) + (Replacement Player Projected PPG * 4) = (6.9 * 12) + (5.3 * 4) = 104.0 points
If Blackmon falls in that range in 2013, he’ll rank as right around the No. 42 overall receiver. Based on his four-game suspension, Blackmon probably should have dropped around six spots among receivers, meaning he’s also good value as the 46th receiver off of the board. And like Gordon, many experts considered Blackmon to be solid value at his pre-suspension ADP anyway.
Pulling the Trigger
It’s not easy to pull the trigger on a suspended player, especially when you need to take him in the first 10 rounds. But based on the numbers, both Gordon and Blackmon are going to be excellent values throughout the summer. They’re admittedly risky options, but you aren’t going to find many wide receivers in the 30s and 40s who have legitimate WR1 potential when they’re in the lineup. If you put yourself in a position to minimize the downside of their absences, both Gordon and Blackmon can offer unprecedented upside and value in the middle rounds.