Before the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Chris Ivory to a reported 5-year, $32-million contract, T.J. Yeldon was being selected as RB11 in early MFL10s at an ADP of No. 32 overall. This reflected his sky high dynasty ADP, and I was encouraging everyone to sell even if they couldn’t quite get fair value in return.
The Jags had indicated they would add competition, and any competition was sure to pose a big problem in terms of opportunity and a bigger problem in terms of talent. After the Ivory signing, Yeldon is still going off the board at RB21 and No. 59 overall, far too high for a replacement level back.
T.J. Yeldon is a contender to be the most overvalued player in best ball leagues.
1. Yeldon wasn’t a good prospect.
The former Alabama back earned a 37 in last year’s RB Prospect Lab Rankings, good for No. 14 in the class. He was a plodder who rarely created big plays, and his 4.61 forty and 7.19 three-cone don’t even come close to meeting the athletic benchmarks for a successful NFL back.
I agree with Max Mulitz who suggested Yeldon wouldn’t even have been drafted if not for attending Alabama.
My lesser point is that T.J. Yeldon is nowhere near qualifying for any of the draftable RB Profiles athletically and he sucked in college and as such probably shouldn’t be drafted. – Mulitz
2. Yeldon wasn’t good as a rookie.
The fantasy community has mostly reacted to the Ivory signing with outrage – why are the Jaguars ruining the fantasy profile of their young bellcow! – but they should probably be taking it more as a sign that the Jacksonville coaching staff was justifiably underwhelmed by his performance. None of the Jags backs saw much of a workload behind Yeldon last year, but we can offer a contrast by using the last two years for Denard Robinson, a sample which gives him a similar number of attempts to what the rookie earned last year.
3. Chris Ivory is a good player.
Ivory is averaging a salty 4.6 yards per attempt for his career and 0.15 ruFPOEPA. A good chunk of that occurred in New Orleans where he was far better than another overrated Alabama back, but he averaged at least 0.08 ruFPOEPA in all three of his years with the Jets. All of the evidence points to him being a much better pure rusher than Yeldon.
Here’s how the two players look according to the Sim Scores.
Recently 14-Team Mocker argued in favor of Yeldon with age as part of his case,1 but the Similarity Scores include age as a criterion. In a situation like this where the projections are virtually identical, I prefer to target the cheaper player.
4. What Happens in the Case of Injury?
I think the strongest argument in favor of Yeldon looks at what would happen should injury strike. It’s easy to see Ivory getting hurt and Yeldon resuming his 2015 bellcow status. By contrast, if Yeldon gets hurt, his passing game touches would probably fall to a committee. Ivory looks like a two-down back in any scenario.
I’m sympathetic to that argument, but I’m not completely sure it’s valid. Yeldon only led Ivory 36 to 30 in terms of 2015 receptions, and Ivory was facing stiffer competition for those touches in the form of Bilal Powell.2 Moreover, Yeldon’s collegiate track record3 and athletic profile (7.19 three-cone) don’t really support the idea of him breaking out as a big time receiving back.
5. Should We Expect Yeldon’s Efficiency to Bounce Back?
Yeldon owners were frustrated that he scored only three TDs last season and were infuriated when he lost goal line touches to players like Robinson and Toby Gerhart. It’s reasonable to expect his efficiency to improve but within reason.
I’m as much in the replaceability-of-RB camp as anyone, but it seems like there’s also a theoretical limit to that idea with the 2015 HOU backfield being on the wrong side of that limit. The team should look to make changes to their backfield such that it’s at least not a constant source of negative plays.
– RotoViz Staff, Which RBs are the Worst Values
Because the Narrative Is All, I don’t actually expect anyone other than Mulitz to agree with the earlier contention about Yeldon being borderline draftable. I also think Yeldon’s probably on the good side of FD’s theoretical limit and better than Houston’s backups. But this isn’t a Melvin Gordon situation where a real surge in efficiency is likely.
Regardless of what you think of my evaluation, the Jaguars just paid $32 million4 to a 28-year-old back. They did so after spending a full year watching what their No. 36 overall pick brings to the table. It’s likely they’ll have buyer’s remorse on both transactions,5 but the silliness of Ivory’s contract doesn’t preclude the possibility that it tells us something important about Yeldon.
We have a 50-draft sample post-signing that puts Ivory at RB35 with an overall ADP of 85. That’s not particularly appetizing for a timeshare back in an offense that should remain pass-oriented around the goal line, but most of the backs selected after Ivory are rookies and handcuffs. If you find yourself reaching for a Jaguars runner in 2016 MFL10s, take the cheaper player who has received the most recent commitment from his team.
- Recommended reading (back)
- Mocker has a different and important slant on this in his aforementioned piece. (back)
- He had 46 total receptions with no more than 20 in any individual season; to be clear, his college results in this area don’t hurt him, they just don’t help him. (back)
- or at least the $10 million guaranteed (back)
- because wasting an early pick and wasting cap space/money are both questionable moves (back)