No. 12 Sam Bradford
Sam Bradford is coming off of his second ACL tear in as many years. He’s never passed for 3,800 yards or exceeded 21 touchdown passes. So why am I willing to invest in him heavily in 2015? The answer is Chip Kelly. The QB snaps have rotated between the likes of Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Mark Sanchez (with a dash of Matt Barkley), but if you could have simply drafted “Eagles QB” the last two seasons, here’s how you would have fared.
Everyone remembers the remarkable 2013 season Foles had, but not many have pointed out that despite minuscule rushing production and far less efficient passing, the Eagles QBs combined for a top-10 finish in 2014. A huge part of that was Philly’s pace of play, as they jumped from a 2013 pace tendency of 1.733 to 6.015 in 2014, leading to 113 more pass attempts.1 Some takeaways on this:
1) It shouldn’t be assumed that the Eagles pace markedly decreases in 2015. Chip’s mantra is to push the tempo, and he was able to do that more effectively in his second year as a coach than his first.
2) Let’s say the pace DOES come down, then isn’t it fair to assume that we see some positive regression in efficiency? The cumulative totals in passing yards and touchdowns are similar enough where I think the average of about 4,500 yards and 30 TDs is reasonable regardless of pace.
3) Bradford was the first overall pick in 2010. Since then, the best WRs he’s played with were Brandon Lloyd, Danny Amendola, and Chris Givens. In other words, he’s had no weapons. It’s reasonable to think that’s a big reason we have never seen him post big numbers, and in 2013 he was on pace for a 32/9 TD/INT ratio before being injured. Bradford could very well be the best passer Chip has ever had.
4) Even if we take a ZERO in the rushing department, the average passing numbers alone for the Eagles QB would have been good for QB12 last season. Bradford’s QB18 price puts him well below the floor of Eagle QB production, and factors in the downside of him not being right after the successive knee injuries.2 The reward here is simply far greater than the risk.
No. 11 Jordan Matthews
Jordan Matthews and Bradford mark the third and final QB/WR pairing on my coveted player list this year, and if you’ve followed the Matthews content here at RotoViz, it’s hard not to be on board. In the pre-draft process in 2014, Jon Moore suggested that Matthews was much more like Sammy Watkins than anyone wanted to admit. Once a member of the Eagles, Davis Mattek made the case for him as the 1.01 in rookie drafts. Then Matthews went out and delivered a 67/872/8 rookie season, finishing the year as WR25.
Although Chip Kelly drafted Nelson Agholor in the first round this year, he also supposedly wanted to take Matthews in the first round last year before management fought him on it. While we like Agholor, Matthews could become an every down player in 2015 due to the departure of Jeremy Maclin, and that likely rise in snap count is just one reason Heith Krueger can see him becoming a top-tier WR. Additionally, it looks like Bradford may be a help to a Matthews breakout, making the pair something worth coveting in drafts.
No. 10 Tevin Coleman
It should come as no surprise that five of my most coveted 10 player are rookies. After all, I advocated especially for this year’s RB class. The first one on my list is Tevin Coleman, coming off the board as RB28. Mike Braude wrote one of my favorite pieces of the summer, in which he elegantly explains the reasons to favor Coleman in drafts. Essentially, incumbent Devonta Freeman was taken later than Coleman, and Atlanta has a new offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan. Coleman also owns the better athletic and production profile, and was better than Melvin Gordon against common opponents. He was also a 2,000 yard rusher at Indiana, which may not mean much to you until you see the company it puts him in.
Coleman is one of just 11 RBs to achieve the milestone since 2000, and the list includes some accomplished names such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson. I included the 40 times for these players to illustrate Coleman’s rarity. He’s tied with J.J. Arrington as the fastest RB on this list, which is useless in itself, but if we cut out the players who ran over a 4.5, we are left with just seven RBs: Tomlinson, Johnson, Arrington, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Donald Brown, and Coleman. Truly this is an elite group, with four of them becoming yearly studs. There is every reason to believe that in a Shanahan system, Coleman can be a league winner in 2015.
No. 9 T.J. Yeldon
It’s back to back rookie RBs on the list, continuing with T.J. Yeldon, RB25 right now in drafts. I did a study on second round RBs that found second round picks who weighed a lot and faced little competition had a good chance to finish as RB1s in their rookie seasons. Sure enough, Yeldon weighs in at 226 pounds and has the lackluster Denard Robinson as his top competition. The rookie from Alabama has a great chance to be a three-down player from day one:
“He was a playmaker and he played big in big games. He’s a very knowledgeable, intelligent player at the running back position and Alabama runs a Pro-Style offense and we were able to see him do things protection-wise and route running-wise and blocking [-wise] that will translate to this level of football. … [Playing every down] would be asking a lot of any player. I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s another real self-starter and hard worker.” – Jaguars OC Greg Olson
The Jaguars seem like a less than exciting offense to be a part of, but Yeldon could be a value on volume alone. If Blake Bortles can take a step forward in his second year throwing to must-own WR Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas, Yeldon could end up being a RB1 like his peer group from the study.
No. 8 Rob Gronkowski
When the summer started, I was all about waiting until late in drafts to take my TEs. Now that July is at a close, I’ve reverted back to my early TE ways, and Rob Gronkowski is the obvious poster-child. There is perhaps no bigger difference-maker in fantasy than Gronk, whose 17.8 fantasy points per game was 2.2 more than the next best TE (Jimmy Graham), and 3.9 more than TE3 (Antonio Gates). To illustrate how massive a discrepancy that is, those players would have finished as WR9, WR17, and WR22 last season. The TE12, Heath Miller, would not have even finished as a top 50 WR, coming in 7.8 less points per game than Gronk. Gronk has also been consistently great, averaging no less than 17.5 points per game over the last four seasons.
The negatives against Gronkowski are obvious. He will be without QB Tom Brady for as many as four games, and has missed 15 games the last three years to a variety of injuries. But, this will also mark the first season he will enter fully healthy since 2012. After a slow start to last year coming off of an ACL tear, he averaged over 20 fantasy points in his final 11 games, and that is the kind of upside that only Gronkowski can provide. To me, he is worthy of not just a high first round pick, but perhaps the first overall pick in drafts this summer.
No. 7 Travis Kelce
In my quest for an early TE, there is one player that has a chance to win me a lot of leagues this season at a lower draft cost than Gronkowski, and that is Travis Kelce. Last year’s TE darling, he finished as TE6 in PPR leagues despite playing just two-thirds of the snaps for the Kansas City Chiefs. Now that he is expected to see more snaps in 2015, his draft cost has predictably risen to where he is the third TE off the board in drafts. Fortunately for fantasy owners, that still may present a value, as we project him to finish only behind Gronkowski in TE scoring here at RotoViz.
Now that Graham is on the run-happy Seahawks instead of the pass-first Saints, there is definitely reason to believe he gets jumped by Zeus this year. But you don’t have to take it from me. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot does an excellent job of explaining why Kelce can be not only the TE2, but could possibly have a 240 fantasy point season! And why not? Andy Reid has already gotten a 220 fantasy point season out of Brent Celek, who isn’t exactly Superman.
Kelce is a strong bet to return his current fourth round value, and could end up being a borderline first round player by the end of the season.
Next time out you’ll get the top six players I’m looking to build around this year!