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Is the 2014 Draft Historically Deep?

Charles Sims

For the duration of this draft process, scouts, analysts, commentators, and every other sort of opinion-having whatchamacallit, have been saying that this draft is historically deep.1

I’m inclined to agree with them. This is a very deep draft class. I’ll say it again: This is a very deep draft class. There, now I’ve said it twice. Not much point in repeating myself. But maybe I didn’t repeat myself, maybe I said two different things. Follow?

Even a word that describes something tangible like football can mean multiple things. Am I referring to the game or the ball? Am I referring to soccer or American football? The problem is that depth is not a tangible thing, it’s more of an amorphous quality we assign to a number of things so that we can make sense of them. Furthermore, it’s not exactly strictly defined, and is used in a variety of ways. So let me tell you all about how this is a very deep draft class and also let me tell you all about how this is a very deep draft class.2

First, I would encourage to you read the pieces on our composite rookie rankings for this class, but especially the piece Jon Moore did on the WRs and the piece Zach Dietz did on the RBs. I’m going to be referencing these two pieces, as they exemplify the two kinds of depth we’re dealing with.

Let’s take another look at that chart from the WRs piece:

wr_plot_tiers

Look at that depth!

Isn’t it kind of crazy that Marqise Lee, a guy who would have probably been a top ten overall pick in last year’s NFL draft, is only ninth in our rankings? To quote Jon, “To illustrate the absurd depth of this class, I think Brandin Cooks is in a different (and better) tier than Tavon Austin, who went 8th overall last year–Cooks is 6th in this class.” How far down that chart do you have to go before you get to a guy you wouldn’t be at least a little excited to see in your favorite team’s jersey?

Not only are all those guys great prospects, but they’re pretty closely bunched together also. Would you have been shocked if Jordan Matthews came in second, or if Sammy Watkins came in fifth? Probably not.

I just imagine some braggart looking at this class of WRs and saying, “THIS! Now this is depth! This is what I talk about when I use the word depth!”

And it is one kind of depth. This is what I would call “quality depth” or “signal depth”. You’ve got a good number of options, but more importantly, they’re all actually pretty good.

Let’s look at the RBs now:

rb_tier_final

Holy cow, that’s a lot of names! Another braggart muses, “Behold, such depth!” And he’s right. There is a lot of depth.

But notice how the chart is basically just the top 5 guys and then everyone else is kind of scrunched together? The write-up is even more bleak. It’s basically Bishop Sankey, Tre Mason and Andre Williams ranked together, and then a bunch of guys that you really have to squint at not to see the blemishes that might limit their success in the NFL.

But all of these guys could be successful in the NFL! I mean, not actually all at once, but they all have the potential. So the depth is real, I’m not trying to discount that. It’s just a different kind of depth. This is what I refer to as “quantity depth” or “noise depth”. It exists just as much as the other sort of ambiguous depth that we ambiguously perceive.

I’m not saying the first kind is better than the second kind. On the contrary, one can not exist without the other. What’s really important3 is that you are able to recognize the difference between the two. Thus “signal” and “noise”. Whether it’s the NFL draft in NYC, or your local work league that drafts in someone’s living room, many fantasy football players can not tell the difference. If you can, that’s an advantage in your favor. You need to be able to differentiate between how many players there are, but also how deep the potential runs in those players.

Of course, depth may not even be real. I don’t believe perception is reality, for the record. In my next piece I’ll examine Depth Perception,4 how it relates to RBs in fantasy drafts, and  how you might be able to use it to gain an advantage in every single league you ever play in, ever. No big deal.5

  1. Which strikes me as odd, because they said the same thing last year, but whatever. Maybe they had their expectations tempered once they actually saw those guys play on a real NFL football field and not just in their imaginations. But I digress.  (back)
  2. No more doublespeak from here, I promise.  (back)
  3. Did the bold type get your attention?  (back)
  4. I’m so clever.  (back)
  5. I’m probably overselling myself, but I just love an excuse to use footnotes.  (back)

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