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Part II – 15 Players to Target in the Middle Rounds of Your Fantasy Draft


You can find the first five players covered in this series here. Below I’ll break down the 2nd group of five and then I’ll follow up with the third installment in the next few days.

Kelvin Benjamin (10.1 ADP)

This is a table which shows Panthers passing targets from 2013:

Player Targets Catches He Gone? Yds TD
Steve Smith 110 64 He Gone 745 4
Brandon LaFell 85 49 He Gone 627 5
Ted Ginn 68 36 He Gone 556 5
Domenik Hixon 9 7 He Gone 55 1
Greg Olsen 111 73 816 6
DeAngelo Williams 36 26 333 1
Mike Tolbert 33 27 184 2

By my math the Panthers are missing about 272 passing targets from 2013.

Here is the Panthers depth chart courtesy of Ourlads.

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Now here are the receiving career graphs for some of the relevant names on that depth chart. I have added Darrius Heyward-Bey in order to show perspective.

download (21)

Kelvin Benjamin is currently coming off the board at WR46.

Benjamin could totally suck this year and you still couldn’t go wrong to take him at WR46. Assuming you have a RB/WR heavy draft plan that means you’re likely getting him as your WR5 or so. If Benjamin starts for CAR, give me the over on 7 TDs on the season. THERE ARE 272 TARGETS TO REPLACE.


OOPS, I LEFT MY CAPS LOCK on. There, that’s better.

Yesterday I wrote about how blind risk seeking is a losing endeavor and you need to have some positive expectation in order to profit over time. Kelvin Benjamin is a risk seeking move because he has a ton of downside. However, I still believe he has a positive expectation. I’m not even saying that his bust potential isn’t enormous. It is. But for WR46 prices you can get the guy that pretty much just needs to get out of bed in the morning to be the most talented WR on his own team (except for Marvin McNutt, who I expect is some kind of secret weapon for the Panthers to be unleashed only in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl).

But the funny thing about an opportunity based target, like Benjamin, is that they usually have shitty QBs, or are themselves undersized receivers not at risk to score. He’s a 6-5 hoss with one of the most underrated QBs in football.

KB isn’t going to score at his college TD rate, although if he did, it would be pretty crazy. In 2013 he scored TDs on 17% of his targets. So if he got 90 targets, which is about what Brandon LaFell got last year, that would be 15 TDs. I’m not saying that’s going to happen. I’m just pointing out that because of his size, if he does get targets, the upside could be really high.

You might think about Benjamin in terms of a range of outcomes. I’ve created two sensitivity tables to evaluate where he might fall in terms of targets, touchdowns, and yards. Targets are on the left hand side of the table, while TD rates and yards per target go across the top.

Touchdown Sensitivity Table

8% 10% 12% 14% 16%
60 4.80 6.00 7.20 8.40 9.60
75 6.00 7.50 9.00 10.50 12.00
90 7.20 9.00 10.80 12.60 14.40
105 8.40 10.50 12.60 14.70 16.80
120 9.60 12.00 14.40 16.80 19.20

Yardage Sensitivity Table

6.00 6.75 7.50 8.25 9.00
60 360.00 405.00 450.00 495.00 540.00
75 450.00 506.25 562.50 618.75 675.00
90 540.00 607.50 675.00 742.50 810.00
105 630.00 708.75 787.50 866.25 945.00
120 720.00 810.00 900.00 990.00 1,080.00

If Benjamin saw just 90 of the 272 targets the Panthers are missing and he turned in a 12% TD rate and 7.5 yards/target, he could have the season that Marvin Jones just had. I don’t think that’s crazy. It might be slightly aggressive, but I don’t think it’s even near the top of what he could see from a target standpoint. I think the absolute upper end of what he could see in targets is 120, which is 5 more than Marques Colston saw his rookie year.

If you draft Benjamin at WR46 and he does nothing, you’ll be just fine. But if he sees a bunch of usage and turns in the same TD rate that Julius Thomas, Jerricho Cotchery, Marvin Jones just did (12%).. or if he sees 40% of the targets up for grabs in that offense, you’ll really be kicking yourself for passing on him.

Just so you don’t say “What do I want with 700 yards and 10 unpredictable TDs?” let me clarify to say that I think it’s really easy to see that scenario playing out. But if things go just slightly better for KB then I could see him being a league winner if that WR46 ADP holds.

Andrew Luck (5.11 ADP)

I’ve already made as much of a case for Andrew Luck as I can. He’s an arbitrage play on a crowded receiver corps. His defense is likely to be horrible, so we might see a re-enactment of the Chiefs playoff game on a regular basis. The Colts have no run game.

The only question I have about Luck is whether that 5th/6th round price tag might be too expensive. To be clear, this isn’t a question about Luck. This is a structural question about fantasy football. Would I rather use that pick on Luck, or Jordan Cameron, or Torrey Smith?

In an auction league you could pick up all of them for about the same cost as Zac Stacy. So that’s cool. But in a snake draft you really will have to decide as to which one you go after. If you used this middle round value list to take TE early, you can cross Cameron’s name off the list. Then would you rather have Andrew Luck or WR depth in Torrey Smith? Most of the time I’m probably choosing WR depth there. However, the place where you really might be able to take Luck is in a really sharky/expert driven draft where people keep waiting on QBs. In that case you might see Peyton Manning/Drew Brees/Aaron Rodgers go somewhat earlier followed by drafters leaving the rest of the QBs out there forever. In that instance I would be very happy to get Luck if he found his way into the late 6th or early 7th round. That might be a pipe dream. But I would like to play in a universe where you can make money on early QB values, not just late ones.

Julian Edelman (6.10 ADP)

Last year Danny Amendola was coming off of draft boards at approximately WR15. He then went on to do Amendola things, like get hurt and not be any good. At the same time Julian Edelman became the guy that people thought Amendola would be. Now Edelman is available for about WR29. Makes sense. Why aren’t the people that liked Amendola at WR15 lining up to get Edelman?

The interesting thing is that some are worried that Amendola and Edelman will eat into each other’s targets. But based on this table from the Game Splits App, Edelman actually did better when Amendola played.

download (22)

But Edelman’s production actually did go down when Gronk was in the lineup:

download (23)

At the risk of confusing things, I also want to point out that Edelman had his greatest production when Aaron Dobson was out of the lineup.

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Let me try to clarify my position in this instance. Edelman is absolutely an opportunity based target. Right now the Patriots WR corps looks about as wrecked as it did last year. But the great thing is that if it continues to stay wrecked through training camp, you know the likely beneficiary – Julian Edelman. You’ll probably get fair value out of Edelman if you buy him at WR29. But if the returns of Gronk or Dobson are delayed at all, then it’s a lot more likely that you could get some really high end weeks out of Edelman.

However, he’s also a great target because you know what’s going to make him go – opportunity – and if it doesn’t look like the opportunity is going to materialize you can easily get away from it. In fact, if Aaron Dobson looks healthy in training camp then he’s going to provide the best mix of opportunity, cost, and talent among the Pats pass catchers.

So I see Edelman as a conditional target. If Dobson looks good, then forget about Edelman and just wait for Dobson in the WR50 range. If Gronk looks like he’ll be back on time then you’ll probably still get fair value out of Edelman at WR29, you just won’t get a screaming bargain. But if things look like a mess, which they easily could, then Edelman is a real value at WR29.

Stevan Ridley (6.12 ADP)

I had Ridley on my list of targets and then Max Multitz published his piece which largely negated the need for this argument. You should go read Max’s piece because it makes a more comprehensive case than I’m going to make here.

My case is essentially a comparative cost one. Ridley could fumble at any minute and head to the bench. But he’s coming off draft boards two rounds after Frank Gore, who also doesn’t really catch passes anymore and who has new competition from Carlos Hyde. Frank Gore might have usage question marks that aren’t priced into his draft spot.

Ridley is coming off boards a full round after Trent Richardson. Go back and look at the carry split for IND’s playoff run last year and see if you think that the coaching staff feels like they need to get him the ball. I actually kind of like Richardson a little this year, but he has usage downside just like Ridley and he doesn’t have Ridley’s rushing talent.

Ridley is coming off draft boards more than a round after Chris Johnson, who might not even be the lead back on his team.

Ridley is being drafted two rounds after Ryan Mathews. Mathews’ pass catching production is trending downward and he suddenly has a crowded backfield that can step in and carry the load when he gets banged up1 during games.

It’s not the case that Ridley has no usage question marks. He has some based on his fumbling proclivities. But he’s a lot cheaper to draft than some other guys who don’t have the same upside that he does.

Ridley is also part of a tier of backs that includes the very last guys before you start getting into backups. He’s valuable for that reason also. For not much more than the cost of Terrance West you can get the nominal starter on a team that might actually have a lead every once in awhile2.

Andre Johnson (4.06 ADP)

There are a lot of draft plans that Andre Johnson fits. If you want to go RB/RB/RB this year, AJ might be your best bet to get a real #1 WR.

If you want to load up on WR early, he works for that strategy too because you could go something like Demaryius Thomas, Jordy Nelson, Vincent Jackson, and Andre Johnson.

With a current price of WR16, Johnson represents a discount to his 2013 finish, which could have also been a perfect storm going against him. Johnson was dealing with a pre-rigor mortis Matt Schaub, along with the NFC West defenses, all at the same time. When Johnson got some relief in the form of Case Keenum and an easier slate, he was AJ.

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In fact, Johnson’s fantasy finishes going back to 2008 are 1, 1, 7, 77, 6 and 10.  So at WR16 you’re not just getting Johnson at a discount to his last year finish, you’re getting him at a screaming discount to where he’s finished over the past 6 years.

The one caveat that I would offer about Johnson is not really related to his QB situation. If he can put up 17 points/game with Case Keenum, I’m not worried about anyone they might throw back there. The one caveat I would have is that his ADP could improve between now and draft day. With a 6 or 7 WR spot discount to his 2013 finish, he’s a great bargain. But if he’s closer to fair value compared to that finish, then I don’t think you’re getting exactly the right odds because he will be a year older and he does have DeAndre Hopkins waiting in the wings.

But with the current discount you’re not going to find another WR in that part of the draft with such a great chance of finishing as a top five receiver.

  1. it’s been known to happen  (back)
  2. Godspeed Cleveland  (back)

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