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Maybe We Should Be More Offended By the ADP of Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall


While Adrian Peterson Should Not Be A Top 5 Pick remains one of my most popular posts on RotoViz, I’ve found the idea is not well received outside the friendly confines.

Recently it was explained to me that an argument in his favor isn’t necessary because the previous year’s top running back rarely declines outside the Top 10. I think if the argument is solely a stats versus scouts debate about Peterson, then it’s probably pretty stale and not particularly interesting. However, this idea about regression and narratives and how to determine value is more wide-ranging.

Since drafting a player in the first ten picks is about overall value, I wanted to take a quick look at the top players at their respective positions over the last 10 years and see if they did indeed fall out of the Top 10 in VBD terms.

To do this analysis, I used a 1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-Flex ppr format where passing touchdowns are worth 6 points. (If you’re using a 4-pt format, the incentive to simply draft a running QB is so high the position becomes worth little more than your kicker and special teams.)

I figured replacement values based on optimized lineups. There are plenty of other considerations when determining actual value, including points above average and the use of probable lineups instead of optimized lineups. My method may slightly understate the practical value of running backs for a variety of reasons, among them that most teams do not approach the Flex position efficiently.

Regardless, my approach gives a decent approximation of value in a VBD world. (It was also logistically possible.) PAR means points above replacement.

Year Player PAR N+1 PAR Place
2003 Peyton Manning 73 226 QB1
Priest Holmes 301 65 RB18
Randy Moss 232 50 WR27
2004 Peyton Manning 226 62 QB3
Tiki Barber 202 231 RB3
Muhsin Muhammad 175 18 WR33
2005 Carson Palmer 95 89 QB3
Shaun Alexander 250 -7 RB33
Steve Smith 195 125 WR7
2006 Peyton Manning 152 89 QB3
LaDainian Tomlinson 323 221 RB2
Marvin Harrison 160 -101 WR101
2007 Tom Brady 259 NA DNP
Brian Westbrook 231 111 RB8
Randy Moss 233 90 WR12
2008 Drew Brees 156 99 QB2
Matt Forte 141 60 RB12
Andre Johnson 172 166 WR1
2009 Aaron Rodgers 129 91 QB3
Chris Johnson 235 130 RB6
Andre Johnson 166 104 WR7
2010 Peyton Manning 96 NA DNP
Arian Foster 249 168 RB3
Roddy White 162 123 WR7
2011 Drew Brees 231 154 QB1
Ray Rice 220 145 RB4
Calvin Johnson 208 200 WR1
2012 Drew Brees 154
Adrian Peterson 201
Calvin Johnson 200


Quick Takeaways – Note that these conclusions are anecdotal, but that’s the point of the exercise, to take a quick look at whether our narratives – which tend to be a fallacious means of predicting the future anyway – might not be counterfactual on their very surface.

1) No running back has repeated as No. 1.

2) Four of the nine running backs fell out of the Top 10 overall in VBD terms, and Chris Johnson tied for No. 10.

3) Only Matt Forte’s No. 1 finish was less impressive than Adrian Peterson’s in value-based drafting terms (although Tiki Barber’s No. 1 was essentially equivalent).

4) A quarterback has finished as the most valuable player three times, and quarterbacks tend to have an easier time staying at the top of their position’s leaderboard. Unfortunately, the outlier seasons that boost them to the top of the VBD board do not appear to be repeatable. (These extreme performances are what fuel the Great QB Conspiracy.)

5) Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson both managed to repeat as the most valuable WR.

6) In 2007 and 2008 the most valuable player was a WR.

7) Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson have both turned in seasons more valuable than Adrian Peterson’s 2012.

6) In this particular format, Megatron was essentially the equal of Adrian Peterson last year. He owns a fairly wide margin with 2010 and 2011 combined.

General Conclusion

I’ve floated the idea that Adrian Peterson should not even be a Top 10 draft pick, and many consider the claim to be so offensively stupid as not to be dignified with a response. In truth, I’m not particularly concerned with where Peterson finishes. In all likelihood AP will go No. 1 in your draft and that will be that. I do, however, think it’s interesting in terms of the way people think about fantasy football and strategy in general.

When I suggested similar players – all of whom happen to be younger than Peterson – actually are being drafted at the edge of the Top 10, Rumford Johnny tweeted back this:


Now Rumford Johnny is awesome and he was probably just messing with me, but even in this piece of tongue-in-cheek scoreboard pointing, Adrian Peterson doesn’t really separate himself. By whatever format this league used, Brandon Marshall scored essentially the same number of points per game.

In standard and RB-heavy leagues, Purple Jesus would still be quite a bit more valuable, but there are plenty where he is not. And fantasy football is headed in the direction where serious players are usually playing the type of format where Peterson’s value should be seen as an open question.

Moreover, Marshall’s season is not only similarly valuable but also more repeatable based on the 2013 projections from the RotoViz Sim Scores.

Adrian Peterson Brandon Marshall
 Standard  Half PPR  PPR  Standard  Half PPR  PPR
Low 8.2 8.8 9.4 Low 8.8 11.6 14.1
Median 11.3 12.6 13.4 Median 11 14.1 17.2
High 13.6 14.4 15.4 High 13.1 16.3 19.4

And here’s the thing: Brandon Marshall isn’t going in the Top 10. If Marshall isn’t going in the Top 10, then I don’t think you can summarily dismiss the prospect of a rational person placing AP outside the Top 10 on his or her personal board.

You can take a scouting perspective instead of an analytical perspective and say you believe Peterson is a monster who will have an even better 2013. There’s an excellent chance you will be right. But right or wrong, there’s plenty of room for debate.

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

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