DISCLAIMER: I have done approximately 20 actual fantasy drafts this year, and several more mock drafts. I have drafted Montee Ball zero times. Know that I’m practicing what I preach.
If you still think I’m an idiot, a troll, or simply writing this article as clickbait, feel free to skip to the bottom and let me know in the comments.
If you want to know why Montee Ball is a textbook case of a draft pick with negative expected value, then you’re way cooler than those people who skipped to the comments. Congratulations, pat yourself on the back. I’d do it for you but you’re probably pretty far away.
I recently published an article explaining that Doug Martin is undervalued, which referenced an article from last year making the case for Doug Martin as the number one overall pick. One of the key points of that article is that highly drafted players at the same position almost always have approximately equal ceilings, so you should target the guys with the highest floors. Which obviously means you should be avoiding the players with the lowest floors.
According to various ADP sources, DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard, Doug Martin, Zac Stacy, and Marshawn Lynch are all being drafted later on average than Ball. To select Ball you need to do one of three things:
- Determine that he has a comparable floor to the other backs.
- Select him only if none of the other backs are available while also determining that you should take a RB with your pick.
- Determine that his ceiling is so much higher than the other backs that it justifies selecting him even if he has a lower floor.
Of the backs I listed, aside from Ball himself, Bernard is the only one who hasn’t been a starting RB. Bernard’s 226 touches in 2013 dwarfed Ball’s 140. Option number one is dead on arrival.
I listed 7 other backs whose ADP is later than Ball’s. The chances of none of them being available when you could theoretically select Ball is slim-to-none. Even if they aren’t, you could always select a player at another position as well. If he’s the last available of those RBs in an auction draft and you feel you need one, that’s your fault for painting yourself into his corner. Realistically, option number two will almost never happen.
Option number three is plainly ludicrous. DeMarco Murray outscored Knowshon Moreno on a points per game basis last year. Even in PPR, Lynch only scored 1.2 less PPG than Moreno. Doug Martin’s 2012 season outscored Moreno’s 2013 season. Like I’ve already said, these guys really all have pretty similar ceilings. Option number three is debunked.
On a more general note, I just do not believe in spending draft picks in the early rounds on RBs with ambiguous roles. Last year, this helped me avoid David Wilson, Lamar Miller, Daryl Richardson, and Ball himself. The fact of the matter is that Ball’s role is ambiguous this year, and by drafting him you’re suggesting that it isn’t.
Everyone drafting Ball seems to be assuming that he will fill Moreno’s position in the Denver offense. That could be true, but more importantly, it could be false. Over 170 of Moreno’s PPR points last season came from his receiving production. We don’t know that Ball is a 3-down back. In this article, I point out that numbers from the AYA App suggest Ball could easily be the worst receiving back on the Broncos roster. If Ball doesn’t become a 3-down back, he’ll almost certainly disappoint at his current draft position. That’s not the kind of thing a depth chart or preseason action makes clear either. If Ball is only a 2-down back, we won’t know until it’s already too late.
I’ve seen a lot of compelling cases for Ball, some on this very site. There is a lot of data that seems to suggest Ball could be a very safe pick. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with having a lot of data. It makes us overconfident. We become so sure of what the results will be, that we start emphasizing results over process, which is a big no-no for consistent success in any game.
Drafting Ball could lead to excellent results in 2014, but it will always be bad process. If it will always be bad process to draft a given player, they are undraftable.