The time is finally here. That’s right, today I unveil the top six players I am looking to build around this summer. I’ve already covered players 7-12, 13-18, and 19-24. Here are the best of the best.
No. 6 Marcus Mariota
One of the biggest projected quarterback values is Marcus Mariota. He is our projected QB17 and owns a QB23 price tag. But I think we are still too low on the former Duck, and I see Mariota finishing the 2015 season as a QB1. Justin Winn thinks he is one of the best QB prospects ever, and his comparables agree.
As I said back in June, the top four players on this list: Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin, and Geno Smith averaged out to a QB11 finish as rookies, and it comes in no small part as a result of the rushing statistics they piled up. On average, the four rushed for 488 yards and 5.6 TDs, a huge boon to fantasy production. To further this narrative was one of my favorite coach comments this summer, which is ironic because it came from Ken Whisenhunt:
“There will be (designed) opportunities, but there will also be a lot of opportunities, just like with Russell Wilson, when the play breaks down and he runs with the ball and extends the play…Kordell went to the Pro Bowl playing quarterback for us in Pittsburgh (in 2001), and he ran for over 500 yards but threw for over 3,000 also. A lot of those runs were not designed runs, but runs where he extended the play. But some of them were (designed) because they give you an advantage. Those are the kinds of things we will work through as we go through training camp.”
This sounds like a coaching staff that understands what Mariota’s strengths are and how to use them. Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, and Dorial Green-Beckham make up a better than advertised receiving core, and sophomore running back Bishop Sankey was an excellent college receiver. The pieces seem to be in place for a big rookie year for Mariota, and he only costs you a late round pick.
No. 5 Lance Dunbar
Quick question: if there were two RBs that both had a chance of receiving a high volume of touches for a team with the league’s best offensive line, which one would you take? If your answer was “The one I could get later”, then may I present to you the following graph.
Back in April, both Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar were afterthoughts in drafts. Then the Cowboys failed to draft a RB to replace DeMarco Murray and Randle’s stock started going up, while Dunbar’s stayed relatively the same. Am I the only person that sees something wrong with that picture? I grabbed on tight to Dunbar back in May, and haven’t looked back since. He is the best receiver in the group of Dallas RBs, and as Mike Braude points out, was better than Randle as a runner in 2013.
What’s more likely: That the lightning in a bottle Randle caught on sporadic 2014 carries will carry over to 2015, or that a true collegiate workhorse finds a way to crack the rotation? I’ve already called Randle a trap player, so I suppose you know what side of that argument I fall on. Dunbar is going off the board as RB61, and is one of Shawn Siegele’s top 15 Zero RB targets. He is an absolute no-brainer this summer.
No. 4 Jay Ajayi
I want to be clear here: I think Lamar Miller is pretty good. After two straight seasons where the team has failed to commit to their efficient runner, I’m out on him in 2015. Enter Jay Ajayi who could be an excellent Zero RB candidate.
Now let’s say Ajayi doesn’t supplant Miller and is only the backup. This is a player who racked up 50 receptions and 32 total TD in his final collegiate season. That puts him square on the map for a third down/short yardage kind of role, and it just so happens that Miami is open for business in that area. Miller only received 77 of the 134 situational touches main Dolphin RBs had in 2014, and that was without Moreno for most of the season. Ajayi is being drafted as RB45 right now, and has the makings of a player whose floor is a flex play.
No. 3 Eric Decker
— Karl Safchick (me) (@KarlSafchick) July 23, 2015
And you can be too! Eric Decker is a ridiculous value right now as WR39 in drafts. We know that new Jets coach Chan Gailey makes both Decker and his teammate Brandon Marshall undervalued in drafts, but I’d like to entertain a little thought experiment: What if Decker is actually better than Marshall?
It would be easy to dismiss Decker’s exceptional 2012 and 2013 campaigns as being a product of Peyton Manning, but take a look at their 2014 production. On a similar number of targets, Decker was better in almost every notable category with the exception of TD rate, but if we look at market share, Decker’s 31 percent share compares favorably to Marshall’s 27 percent. Jay Cutler may not be Joe Montana, but he was certainly better than the disaster that was Geno Smith and Michael Vick in New York.
Now tack on that Decker is just 28 and Marshall is 31 and potentially showing signs of decline. If you took away the names, I think it’d be fairly easy to argue that Decker is the more impressive WR at this juncture. With Marshall going as WR25, Decker has a ton of value to gain just by virtue of being the number one WR for the Jets.
No. 2 DeAndre Hopkins
When I look for players I want to target in almost every draft, there are three main criteria:
1) The player should have a reasonable floor for his draft position.
2) The player should posses serious upside.
3) The player should have an ADP that allows me to reach on the player and still be able to obtain significant value.
The difference between my number two player, DeAndre Hopkins, and my number one player, is that third point. With an ADP of WR13, there isn’t a ton of wiggle room on the third-year pro, but I love him just the same. First, it should not be ignored just how many targets Hopkins saw even with the presence of Andre Johnson.
While Andre was unable to get anything going in 2014, Hopkins was wildly efficient on 127 targets. With Johnson gone, the door is open for Hopkins to pick up some of the 147 targets now available. This gives him the high floor I desire, but also makes him a candidate to take a big jump in 2015, as targets are the lifeblood of fantasy scoring. 14TeamMocker laid out a circumstance in which Hopkins could even finish as the overall WR1! I think in the third round of drafts you need to be chasing players that could return first round value, and Hopkins is the best example of such a player this season.
No. 1 Breshad Perriman
Breshad Perriman being the player I most highly covet this year really shouldn’t surprise anyone. I was first turned on to Perriman when Shawn Siegele wrote a great piece describing him as the discount Kevin White. Then he was drafted by the Ravens in the first round, a team that had the highest opportunity score for incoming WRs. Baltimore is missing over 200 targets from a year ago, and does not have much competition for the young rookie, as reminded by the following graphic on Steve Smith.
This led to me penning a piece on how no rookie has more upside than Perriman, a stance I still hold to today. Another big reason to love on Perriman is the arrival of Marc Trestman in Baltimore. Not only is he a better scheme fit for receiver production than the departed Gary Kubiak, but his former top targets Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are not all too dissimilar from Perriman.
Take away the names and consider that Perriman was drafted highest of the three WRs (27 overall). It looks like Perriman is at least on par with other two as prospects, if not potentially better. Of course, we know Jeffery and Marshall are the real deal because they’ve shown it, but the point of the exercise is to show that it isn’t outlandish to think Perriman could produce like the other two in some fashion right away in the Trestman system. And as a reminder, even playing together, the two combined for three top 13 seasons in fantasy points per game1 in two years with Trestman. Feels like Perriman has a rather high floor to me, and still possess that unique upside. I haven’t even gotten to the best part about him yet, which is his price.
Perriman is going as WR38 right now. His draft position has remained basically unchanged since his initial post-draft spike, an anomaly I’ve yet to be able to explain. He is my highest owned player in MFL10’s, and I plan on drafting him in every re-draft and dynasty league in which I can get my hands on him. He’s a true league-winner, and my most coveted player of 2015.
- with the fourth season being Marshall’s 2014 in which he finished 22nd (back)