One of the larger storylines of the offseason has been the Jets and Broncos passivity regarding the QB position.
Rather than hastily throwing ten percent of their salary cap towards one whose status as replacement level talent is tenuous at best (**cough** Osweiler **cough** Bradford **cough**), John Elway and Mike Maccagnan have shown a refreshing amount of patience for NFL GMs.
That’s all well and good from a real football perspective, but in the fantasy world the four big losers of QB roulette would be Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders. At least that is the storyline that I keep reading about. It seems that many people are terrified that a rookie QB is somehow a downgrade on post-apocalyptic Peyton Manning or that Marshall and Decker are worthless without Ryan Fitzpatrick (let that sentence sink in for second).
I beg to differ.
I was actually disappointed to see the news of impending fantasy death by QB has permeated the MFL10 community very minimally. Actually, all four guys are only down about half a round each in ADP since leagues opened in February (which is more meaningful for Thomas and Marshall going from late seconds to early thirds than it is for Sanders and Decker, who are still going in the late fifth).
It’s worth noting though that the early MFL10s tend to attract a much sharper crowd. Much of the casual, summer audience prone to making decisions over media hot takes have not begun drafting yet. Just through reading forums and talking to friends, my expectation is that their ADPs will continue to drop by August as these people start drafting their teams. The dynasty market shows a little bit more of a reaction (I actually just got Sanders 83rd in a dynasty startup, two rounds below his ADP).
It’s no secret that targets are the lifeblood of fantasy scoring. That is why I think a major buy opportunity on all four guys may be on the horizon. The table below shows the combined market share and targets for all 10 teams in 2015 where their top two WR/TE had at least 17.5 percent market share each. The Jets and the Broncos were the only two teams to have their top two combine for at least half their team’s targets. KC is close behind, but they threw 131 fewer passes than either team. The next closest team is Oakland at 45.9 percent.
At least four teams on this list may have a hard time repeating this feat again in 2016 due to changing roster composition (ARI, DET, CLE, and maybe CAR), but the Jets and Broncos are steady as she goes. The Jets have nothing else at WR and their top receiving TE, Jeff Cumberland, caught five balls last year and isn’t even on the team anymore. Much the same in Denver where they’re so desperate for receiving talent outside the top two that Cody Latimer is still being a labeled a post-hype sleeper by some sites. I didn’t even mention that Owen Daniels 13 percent market share has retired.
It’s not even as if the Jets and Broncos were throwing at some obscene rate where fewer passes will kill them. The teams threw 604 and 606 passes respectively, which ranked 13th and 15th, slightly over the league average of 572. I used the Projection Machine to take 60 passes off each team’s total for 2016 – beyond conservative as it would put both in the bottom third of the league – and crashed their efficiency stats (YPT, YPR, TD%) by 10 percent each. The only constant was their market share. This is just to show how safe their volume is, even with the worst case scenarios at QB driving down their counting stats.
Let’s also take five more receiving TDs each off the Jets totals and three from the Broncos just to continue lining this in bubble wrap. In 2015, that would still have left Marshall at WR7 (273 fpts), Decker at WR23 (202), Thomas at WR13 (244), and Sanders at WR25 (195). This scenario is conservative and likely falls a little closer to the tail of the curve than to the middle.
I will be watching very intently this summer to see if the prices on all four of these guys continue to drop because they could become very attractive bargains if Marshall or Thomas hit the late third and Decker or Sanders slip into the sixth. My expectation is that Marshall and Decker would likely tick up if and when Ryan Fitzpatrick re-signs, so I am trying to add some shares of both in MFL10s now while some of the uncertainty is priced in. If Fitzpatrick does retire, then I will happily be doubling down at their lower prices. I also wonder if the potential media backlash of Mark Sanchez beating out Paxton Lynch might actually suppress the Broncos receivers even more, even though ironically I think that would probably be good for them.
There’s also an added fantasy bonus to watching this all play out: potentially getting to reignite the Geno Smith “Hair on Fire” strategy.