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15 Players to Target in the Middle Rounds of Your Fantasy Draft (Part I)


For parts II and III of this series see this link, and this link.

Remember when ESPN used to broadcast the World Series of Poker1 and every year they would make a big show of Phil Helmuth arriving late to the Main Event? I want to do that with my fantasy draft some year. I hate the early rounds and I live for the mid-rounds. Maybe if I ever get enough liquid courage I’ll just show up for my draft at the start of round four.  I love the mid-rounds more than your dad loves to wear his awesome Tommy Bahama shirt on casual Friday.

I thought it might be fun to go through the list of the guys in the middle rounds that I’m looking at right now. These can change somewhat based on injuries and camp news, but right now I like how they look. Also, if you’re thinking “what’s the point of having 15 targets when there are only about 4 or 5 middle rounds?” that’s why I love auctions so much. You can fill your team with just middle round players. Some people think that doesn’t provide enough upside, but I think the reality is that it’s a dominant strategy in an auction format where you can fill your entire roster with difference makers. You won’t have any preseason elite players, but if given enough starter spots you can really build up leads on your opponents with your roster that will be strong top to bottom. You’ll also probably go like 6-2 or 7-1 during the bye weeks with that roster.

1. Jordan Cameron (6.02 ADP)

The assumption that efficient market hypothesis is built on is that markets are informationally efficient. All actors are supposed to have access to the same information. And yet everyone knows that Josh Gordon is going to miss significant time this year, while that fact doesn’t seem to be priced in to Cameron’s draft position.

Here are JC’s2 splits based on whether Josh Gordon was in the lineup or not.

download (1)

Now here is Jimmy Graham’s unsplit season.

download (2)

Cameron’s output when Josh Gordon didn’t play was equal to Graham’s on a points per game basis (1/2 PPR scoring). But Cameron’s ADP is currently about 4.5 rounds later than Graham. It’s probably true that Cameron won’t put up a 1600 yard season in 2014, but Graham is also unlikely to repeat his performance. I think he benefited from being NO’s only real option for a good amount of the season. The Saints added RotoViz favorite Brandin Cooks, and Kenny Stills will have another year under his belt. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but reports are that Marques Colston’s foot is feeling better. My point isn’t really to bag on Graham. It’s to point out that Cameron has upside not priced in to his ADP, and with a 6th round draft cost he gives you a margin of safety as well.

2. Roddy White (5.02 ADP)

The Falcons will have to re-distribute targets this year to account for the retirement of Tony Gonzalez. Then it’s also the case that Julio Jones hasn’t begun practicing with the team yet. White did have a disappointing 2013, but I think it’s fair to lay a good amount of the blame for that season at the door of a high ankle sprain.

Here are White’s splits over the last five games of the season.

download (4)

It’s true that White was playing in an offense that had a Julio Jones sized vacuum to fill, but he was also just recovering from his high ankle sprain. In 2014 he will likely have to contend with Jones, but he won’t have to contend with Gonzalez. There are over 115 targets up for grabs in that offense just due to Gonzalez retiring. You could also even possibly handcuff White with the almost free Harry Douglas. I wouldn’t probably do that, but if you were worried about White getting injured again it might make some sense.

I might actually look at White in the same way that I would look at Kelvin Benjamin (the game watchers just clicked “back”). This is an opportunity and cost based target. I fully expect White to continue to moderately decline over his remaining career. I even think that you’ll see injuries mixed in as that decline happens. But the mix of opportunity and skills, combined with a low draft cost are enough to get me to pull the trigger. The reason that’s similar to Benjamin in my mind is that in KB’s case I can see all of the knocks. But the mix of opportunity and ADP make it go for me.

3. Kendall Wright (8.04 ADP)

I think the case for Wright has already been made by Justin Winn and Mike Kerrane. Winn touted the regression benefits that Wright probably brings to your team. Kerrane mentions that Ken Whisenhunt brought a lot of passing volume to the SD offense last year and could do the same for TEN this year.

My case for Wright is as follows: where else can you get a former first round draft pick, who is being drafted at a discount to his prior year finish, is entering his third year in the league, and is being drafted in the 8th round of fantasy drafts? Where? Show me and I’ll buy it!

As a brief aside, the “where else” rhetorical question is a fun trick because you get to make up a super specific set of criteria that only applies to the thing you’re talking about.

But I like Wright this year because even if you look at more PPR specific ADP than what I’ve listed above, he’s still going at a discount to his 2013 finish.

4. Eric Decker (8.04 ADP)

I’m sure I’m going to beat this dead horse until September, but I don’t care that Decker is going from a Peyton Manning offense to a Geno Smith/Michael Vick offense.

No matter which way you slice it Decker will give you a team’s leading receiver, who has a huge lead over the team’s #2 option, and has two 10 TD seasons under his belt, all for a 7th or 8th round cost. He actually reminds me a little bit of Vincent Jackson when he went to TB. I think Jackson came off the board around WR28 or so that year. Decker and Jackson also share going from a competent QB to a borderline tire fire QB (I like Geno, but if his draft cost creeps up past QB25 I’ll probably stop talking about him).

But Decker also shares some similarities with Pierre Garcon. Remember that Pierre Garcon did a lot less with Peyton Manning than Eric Decker has done. But when Garcon went to the run heavy system in WAS where he was easily the best receiver, he became a #1 option.

Justin Winn had this to say about Decker:

Eric Decker has turned 14.86% of his career receptions into TDs. If you don’t appreciate how good that is, Pierre Garcon’s 113 receptions would have resulted in approximately 17 TDs last year if he scored at that rate.2 That’s not due to Peyton Manning either. Prior to Manning’s arrival in Denver, Decker scored on 18% of his receptions, albeit on a much smaller sample.

5. Torrey Smith (6.03)

Here are three of Smith’s comps from the ADP Arbitrage App:

Torrey Smith 2013 BAL 24 205 16 8.56 4.06 70.5 0.25 -0.02 8.23 26
Average 25.0 202.3 15.3 8.2 4.8 68.4 0.3 0.1 8.4 21.3
Victor Cruz 2013 NYG 27 204 14 8.71 5.21 71.29 0.29 0.01 8.18 16
Ty Hilton 2013 IND 24 183 16 8.69 5.19 67.88 0.31 -0.02 7.81 23
Michael Floyd 2013 ARI 24 220 16 7.06 4.12 65.88 0.31 0.17 9.33 25

Jarrett Boykin also shows up as a comp in the App, although I don’t think comparing a team’s legitimate number one WR to another team’s 3rd WR is probably that productive.

You can see from the table that Smith is the equal of the average of this comp group. But the average of the comp group also gets drafted 5 WR spots in front of Smith.

I think I would rather have Smith than Victor Cruz, who is going at WR16. Cruz has Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham to contend with, along with a new offense that doesn’t guarantee him the usage that he used to see in the Kevin Gilbride offense. Meanwhile, as Justin Winn pointed out, Smith will play in an offense that gives prime position to its best WR. Michael Floyd will probably be featured in future episodes of this series, so it’s fair to say that I like him. However, it’s worth wondering if Smith might be a great way to get away from Floyd’s ever-escalating ADP. I think he might be.

Stay tuned for parts II and III of this series which will drop later this week.

  1. maybe they still do?  (back)
  2. not the one from Nazareth  (back)

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