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You’re Probably Too Low on These Three Early Round Studs

When discussing players in the first few rounds, few players are “undervalued.” In the early rounds a player is undervalued if they are being selected just a few spots later than they should be.

Here are three players that I believe are being selected later than they should be:

Julio Jones

There are several players with a solid chance of dethroning the king of WRs, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. As those of you who follow my writing know, I believe that Demaryius Thomas probably has the best chance. Julio is close behind.

During his NFL Career, Julio Jones has been regarded as something of a freak. Using RotoViz’s Freak Score App, Jones receives a score of 84, the 8th highest score of all qualifying players. Last season, Jones trailed only Josh Gordon in wide receiver PPR scoring per game.

Currently being discounted because of a previous injury, Julio Jones, on average, is the 6th WR and 15th player off the board. For the sake of illustration, I am going to compare Jones to A.J. Green, who is consistently selected ahead of Jones this year.

Let’s start by comparing their NFL Career Graphs:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 2.02.03 PM

While Jones has been more injury-prone than Green, he’s also been more efficient. Jones has never averaged fewer than 9.36 yards per target; Green has not topped 9.0 since his rookie season. In terms of catch rate, Julio has not caught below 62 percent of his passes since his rookie season; Green has never topped 60 percent.

This may be a function of their quarterbacks. Matt Ryan is respected more than Andy Dalton. Let’s compare their Career Graphs:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 2.05.07 PM

Despite the hiccup without Jones last season, it is fair to conclude that you would prefer to have Matt Ryan as your fantasy quarterback. On average, Ryan attempts more passes while being more efficient.

A.J. Green receives a boost from Andy Dalton’s willingness to lock on to him. Over the last two seasons, Green has received 30 percent of the Bengals pass attempts.

With the Bengals looking to transition to the offensive model preferred by the 49ers and Seahawks, I expect Green to regress in terms of targets and ultimately, overall production.

The Falcons will keep the same offensive scheme but with the loss of Tony Gonzalez there will be 119 targets up for grabs, including many red zone looks. With a 31-year-old Steven Jackson, the Falcons will not rely on the run game to move the ball.

We use RotoViz’s Similarity Scores to find how comparable players performed in similar situations. No wide receiver has higher PPR similarity scores than Julio Jones. You can and should draft him as the 4th WR off the board.


Matt Forte

Like Julio Jones, Matt Forte is only undervalued a few spots. I still wouldn’t advise taking him over Jamaal Charles or LeSean McCoy, but I would advise taking him over Adrian Peterson in PPR leagues (and arguably even in other formats).

Let’s take a look at their Career Graphs:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 3.42.52 PM

While Peterson is better on the ground, Forte dominates through the air. Some will argue that will change this season with Norv Turner coming to Minnesota but the fact of the matter is that Peterson hasn’t been efficient catching passes.

Although Jamaal Charles and Forte gained a boost last season by catching passes, they were always adept at catching passes. Peterson, on the other hand, hasn’t topped 6 yards per catch in either of his last two seasons. In terms of efficiency, it doesn’t make much sense to target Peterson more. Some may argue that Peterson’s previous coaches did not do a good job of getting Peterson in space, but this may have more to do with the lack of playmakers around him.

While Peterson doesn’t have playmakers around him, Forte does. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall will help ensure that Forte gets in scoring position often. Last season the Bears finished 2nd in scoring while the Vikings finished 14th. I know some are thinking, “but now Norv Turner is the Vikings’ OC.” Turner’s Browns finished 27th last season.

If you are not yet convinced, maybe the Running Back Similarity Scores will close the case. To make this a closer comparison, I have removed Peterson’s injury-plagued weeks 14 and 16. Below are the average of the high, median, and low scores for each format:

PlayerStandardHalf PPRPPR
Adrian Peterson12.271313.9
Matt Forte14.916.5718.02

The app strongly prefers Forte. Perhaps you should too.

Rob Gronkowski

There was a time that Gronk was better than Jimmy Graham, before injury reared its ugly head. Now, despite being on track to play Week 1, Gronk is being selected as the 4th pick of the 3rd round.

If nothing else, Gronk is a comparable player that is being selected 21 picks later. Let’s see how their Career Graphs match up:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 4.16.28 PM

Despite not being 100 percent healthy, Gronkowski received more targets, catches, and yards per game last season. Gronk was also more efficient. While Graham has never topped 9 yards per target, Gronk was below that mark for the first time last season. Gronk’s yards per target last season was still more efficient than Graham’s mark for any of the last three seasons.

Now let’s take a look at the Tight End Similarity Scores. Since I removed the injury games for AP, I’m going to do the same for Gronk’s torn ACL game.

PlayerStandardHalf PPRPPR
Jimmy Graham10.3313.116.1
Rob Gronkowski10.4313.3716.43

Despite being selected almost two rounds later, the similarity scores prefer Gronk to Graham. As a big weekly difference maker, Gronk is a steal in the 3rd round.

When he’s not searching for ways to defeat his opponents, Mike Braude spends his time finding ways to remove the randomness of fantasy football and reward the most skilled fantasy owners. He has remedied this issue by creating Apex Fantasy Football Money Leagues.

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