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Virgil Green: Your Free Agency Lottery Ticket

lottery-tickets

 

Fair warning: This post involves trying to navigate the wonderful world of GM quotes and accurately predicting how free agency will play out. This, when it comes to fantasy football, is an occupational hazard as potentially dangerous as carpal tunnel syndrome or getting your leg caught in the threshing machine. It has the potential to make you1 look dumb.

On the other hand, this is the time of year where you can really hit the jackpot if you anticipate movement correctly. We all know the guy who managed to cheaply acquire Emmanuel Sanders three weeks before free agency last year, and while at this point we just wish he’d shut up about it, we all want to be like him. I’ve made plenty of dumb moves in my fantasy career2 but I also traded Martellus Bennett straight up for Antonio Brown about a month before Mike Wallace left Pittsburgh for Miami, and I’ve still got the goosebumps.3
All of that preamble is to say: I just picked up Virgil Green off my dynasty league’s waiver wire and I’m here to tell you why you should too.

Once upon a time, Julius Thomas was just the type of under the radar, super-cheap preseason player I’m talking about. But alas, after two very productive seasons he’s now looking for Jimmy Graham money and is therefore set to depart the Broncos, a cash-strapped team soon to be without a franchise tag. That will leave a gaping hole at the Broncos starting TE position.

Enter Virgil Green.

And really, maybe Green has already entered. Check this out:4

Green vs. Thomas

Perhaps what’s most remarkable about Green is how much he has in common with Thomas. Both players were Broncos draft picks in 2011, both will turn 27 this summer. As prospects, both were considered athletic specimens, though raw and deficient as blockers. (Both are also unrestricted free agents, but more on that later).

We know that Thomas is athletic…that’s pretty much the only thing people say about him. But how athletic is Green? To find out let’s first turn to the Freak Score Calculator and then check out his explosion and agility scores.

Virgil Green Freak Score

HeightWeight40 TimeFreak Score
76 in 249 lbs4.64 s74

Julius Thomas Freak Score

HeightWeight40 Time Freak Score
76.375 in 246 lbs4.64s73

Virgil Green Speed/Explosion Scores

Short Shuttle 3 Cone Vert JumpBroad JumpAgility ScoreExplosion Score
4.4s6.9s42.5 in120 in 11.3 162.5

Julius Thomas Speed/Explosion Scores

Short Shuttle3 Cone Vert JumpBroad JumpAgility ScoreExplosion Score
4.31s6.96s 35.5 in 111 in 11.27146.5

 

Verdict: Not only is Green athletic, one could say he’s objectively a better athlete than Thomas. Green and Thomas ran identical 40s, but Green’s extra weight gives him the edge in freak score. And though Green is slightly less agile than Thomas, he’s significantly more explosive.

As for that deficient blocking? Doesn’t seem to be an issue now that Green is a seasoned veteran. Pro Football Focus gave Green a positive 5.7 rating in the 2014 regular season and noted that “his entire grade came from run and screen blocking.”

While it should mitigate some concerns about Green’s blocking, that quote should be alarming if you’re paying attention. Obviously it means that Green had almost no production as a pass catcher. Which is true: he’s notched 32 career targets and had only eight last year. But then again, after two seasons in the NFL, here were Julius Thomas’ stats courtesy of the Fantasy Efficiency App:

Julius Thomas 2011/2012

TargetsMS of TargetsExpected PointsFantasy Points over EPFP over EP Per Target
75.4%7.87-6.87-0.98

Now take a look at Virgil Green’s in 2014:

Virgil Green 2014

TargetsMS of TargetsExpected Points Fantasy Points Over EPFP over EP Per Target
83.5%10.836.470.81

I like Green’s high reFPOEPT but these are obviously small sample sizes. And that’s actually the point. Green hasn’t accomplished much as a pass catcher, but neither had Julius Thomas before Peyton Manning came to town. And now, two years later, Thomas is about to sign a monster contract.

And Manning looks like he’ll need a new starting TE.

Free Peyton Pass Catcher

Getting a free Peyton Manning pass-catcher is pretty much the entire concept here. Of course, the last time we saw Manning he looked like a shell of himself, and struggled mightily to push the ball down the field. Many think he could retire, and even if he doesn’t, might be significantly less effective next season. As for the latter, if Manning struggles to hit deep shots in 2015 and as a result his average depth of attempt shrinks, I would argue that could actually be good for his TE even if it was bad for the passing game as a whole.

But what if Peyton does really hang it up this offseason?5

I believe that you should still feel good about the starting TE in Denver for two reasons:

1. Brock Osweiler was a promising QB prospect and just spent the last two years learning under one of the greatest QBs of all time. In fact, after reading this very convincing article by Jon Moore, I recently acquired him cheaply in a dynasty league.

2. Mr. Gary Wayne Kubiak.

Kubiak’s addition as Head Coach is a boon for whoever suits up as Denver’s starting TE in 2015. Kubiak’s affinity for TEs is well documented; both in the sense that he employs two-TE sets regularly and that he heavily incorporates TEs into his passing game. Turning back to the Fantasy Efficiency App, you can see that in the nine seasons since he took over as head coach of the Houston Texans in 2006, Kubiak’s starting TE has finished in the top ten in expected points six times.6

Beyond that, he has overseen some impressive stretches of TE usage. The last time his starting TE played all 16 games (Owen Daniels in 2008) that player finished 4th in TE expected points. The following year Daniels led all TEs in expected points through seven games before tearing his ACL in Week 8. And Remember Garrett Graham? One of 2013’s waiver-wire wunderkinds, Graham stepped in for Daniels after the latter fractured his fibula in Week 5. Before suffering his own season-ending injury, Graham started a nine game stretch for Kubiak in which he led all TEs in targets and was third in expected points.

It’s no small detail that in each of the last nine seasons, Kubiak’s starting TE going into the season was Owen Daniels, or that, coincidentally, Daniels is currently an unrestricted free agent. No one should be particularly surprised if Daniels lands in Denver this offseason. Based on everything I just said about Kubiak (and Peyton Manning), that would be a notable development, albeit a less exciting one given that Daniels turns 33 next season and was no better than a spot fantasy starter under Kubiak in 2014.

Conclusion

But the current chatter, for what it’s worth7 is that Daniels is likely to re-sign in Baltimore. Meanwhile, The Denver Post is reporting that the Broncos will make a priority out of resigning Green, whom John Elway called the team’s “rock.”8

Look, I am perfecting willing to concede that a lot of things need to break right for this work out. But in the cost/benefit analysis that is Virgil Green, the benefit is pretty damn high. There’s a relatively decent chance that he’s Peyton Manning and Gary Kubiak’s starting TE in 2015, and his physical measurables imply that he’s good enough to capitalize on that opportunity.9

And the cost? In the latest MFL10 ADP data published on this site, Green barely appeared at pick 282, which is somewhere between George Atkinson and Brent Celek. In the league I just picked him up in, Green cost me nothing aside from an end of the bench roster spot.

I don’t know about you, but I can afford that.

  1. a.k.a. me  (back)
  2. Can you call some a “career” if it started at age 12 with a team called “Moss Is The Boss”? I say yes.  (back)
  3. I should maybe see a doctor about that, actually.  (back)
  4. Shout out to some of our sharper members over at the RotoViz message boards. They’ve been on top of Green for a while and led me to this tweet  (back)
  5. Reading the latest tea leaves, I am personally  confident that Peyton will return, especially now that the focus is on his contract details and not his health and/or willingness to play. But it’s certainly still possible that he retires.  (back)
  6. In seasons like 2010, in which starter Owen Daniels missed five games, I added his expected points in the 11 games he played to the expected points of the backup, in that case Joel Dreesen, in the five games that Daniels did not play.  (back)
  7. Again, potentially nothing. Or less than nothing depending how much you derive your self-worth from correctly diving the meaning of an off handed quote some GM gave at the combine *Note: not recommended.   (back)
  8. See what I mean about trying to make sense out of this shit? I wrote a 1,500 word post recommending you add Virgil Green and even I did a spit take at that quote.  (back)
  9. as would the new multi-year contract from the Broncos that The Denver Post is predicting  (back)

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