If you’ve read the Dominator Rating and Height-adjusted Speed Score Breakout article, you know what we’re looking for here. Last year my Caveat Emptor column isolated Denarius Moore, Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb, and Titus Young as the top four players to avoid. Three of those guys ended up as massive busts. The other, of course, was the best breakout wide receiver in football.
Over time, avoiding players like Moore, Maclin, and Young is going to make it worth missing on players like Cobb. I recently spent an entire column explaining how I’m frequently wrong, but I tend to be wrong in ways that still lead to fantasy titles. For example, I may end up being wrong about Adrian Peterson, but the theory behind my analysis should lead to the development of dominant rosters. (I honestly can’t believe serious writers are using phrases like “there’s no argument against AP at No.1.” Have we learned nothing from history? It’s almost as though humans are psychologically incapable of learning from . . . Er, never mind.)
The fallibility of analytics in football is actually an advantage because it tempts many, if not most, to persist in the idea that it’s possible to win by making a series of poor risk-adjusted bets. Scouts and eyeball analysts are right. We have no grand unified theory for football analysis. And that’s a good thing for fantasy football players. As soon as a holy grail presents itself, the exploitable inefficiencies tend to close. It may seem counterintuitive, but we’re probably in the golden era for analysis-based fantasy dominance right now.
Five Guys to Avoid
1. Justin Blackmon – HaSS 100, DR 0.38
Blackmon was my No. 1 ranked receiver from the 2012 class, but I may have placed too much emphasis on his 2010 season. Or I may have fallen into the trap of overrating his raw numbers. Blackmon’s overall profile is at least mildly suggestive of someone who benefitted from the Cowboys system. Moreover, his HaSS doesn’t distinguish him from a lot of other prospects.
Recommendation: Blackmon will probably be a good NFL player, but he lacks the type of upside that a former No. 5 overall pick should theoretically have. When you combine those caveats with a 4-game suspension, a terrible quarterback situation, and the probability that he plays second fiddle to Cecil Shorts after his return, you’re looking at a guy who shouldn’t be drafted until Round 12 at the earliest.
2. Kendall Wright – HaSS 83, DR 0.36
Wright may be getting unfairly docked for his “early hand movement” at the Combine, but he’s almost certainly an overrated athlete. Scouts loved Wright on tape, which is a little strange. Stedman Bailey was essentially an upgraded version of Wright last season, but scouts didn’t care for him at all.
As was the case for Blackmon, the ridiculous raw numbers posted by Wright tend to skew our perception of what he really accomplished. When you correct for the prolific nature of Baylor’s offense and adjust for the exploits of RG3, the Titans’ second year receiver should have been considered more of a third or fourth round prospect. In Wright’s defense, his yards per target and red zone touchdown rate were quite impressive.
Recommendation: Wright actually had a pretty efficient rookie season, but the presence of Jake Locker is crushing any sleeper buzz Wright might otherwise have generated. He should probably be merely a Watch List player in most formats.
3. Ryan Broyles – HaSS 79, DR 0.35
Even if you don’t consider his advanced age (25) or his ACL injury, Broyles was a gigantic reach in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. My research on possession receivers suggests their provenance is entirely unpredictable. You should be trying to develop them – as the Lions are doing with Patrick Edwards – not using early draft picks on them.
Recommendation: Broyles doesn’t require a premium pick, so I’m not trying to warn you away so much as remind you what you’re getting. It’s entirely possible that he emerges as the Welkerian player the Lions thought they were drafting, and, if he does, he’ll actually come at a massive discount to the cost of selecting someone like Randall Cobb, Welker, or Danny Amendola. But picking Broyles is merely a lottery ticket approach.
4. T.Y. Hilton – HaSS 89, DR 0.42
I like Hilton a lot. How could you not? My issue with selecting him mostly boils down to the inconsistency of vertical receivers and the difficulty in repeating long touchdowns. Hilton’s Dominator Rating is strong but not necessarily to a level that dampens concern about his size. Lee Evans, for example, posted multiple seasons above 0.57. You can also see from Hilton’s heat map that his college touchdowns occur entirely out of the red zone. You could argue that he’s firmly established his ability to score from distance, but it’s more likely his luck is about to run out.
Despite elite speed, Hilton’s HaSS comes in quite a bit lower than that of Chris Givens. I compared the two players earlier in the offseason and came to the conclusion that Givens is at least Hilton’s equal as a prospect. (Both players were sensational in Week 1 of the preseason.)
Recommendation: I would love Hilton in the Round 11 range but his ADP in Round 7 – ahead of massively undervalued players like Cecil Shorts – is simply insane. Stay away.
5. Vincent Brown – HaSS 75, DR 0.36
Brown was developing some sleeper buzz before the injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd. He now looks like he could be the focal point of the San Diego passing offense. This is very bad news for the Chargers because Brown lacks the measurables to have been considered even a priority signing as an undrafted free agent out of college. (In reality he was selected No. 82 overall by the since deposed A.J. Smith). His Dominator Rating isn’t a dagger, but you’d need something well north of 0.5 to redeem such a dearth of athleticism.
I usually mention Steve Smith when talking about DR/HaSS red flags. Having a poor profile doesn’t mean you can’t be a serviceable or even elite NFL player. It just means the deck is stacked against you. It’s worth remembering Smith still ran a 4.41 forty, had a HaSS of 88, and posted a 38.5 inch vertical. He was in an entirely different range as an athlete.
The most optimistic comp for Brown is probably Brandon Lloyd. In his defense, the 12.9 yards per target he averaged during his final college season would suggest more vertical ability than his pedestrian 40 times indicate.
Recommendation: If you want to get a part of the San Diego passing game on the cheap, just draft Keenan Allen with your final pick.
The heat maps provided after the analysis can be found using the College WR Career Graph App. It’s a must-have tool for any serious fantasy researcher.