What are the best landing spots for rookie WRs? Which receiving corps are drafters undervaluing? Which QBs are drafters undervaluing? The best way to get at these questions is to look at ADP. In past years, Kevin Cole has developed opportunity scores for each team based on the ADPs of their QB and various receivers. I’m going to continue his work, only using a slightly different method.
I knew I wanted to base the opportunity scores on ADP. ADP can account for some changes in opportunity that simply looking at the targets or air yards cannot, such as coaching changes and NFL draft expectations. But the problem with using ADP directly is that it’s linear, even though fantasy scoring isn’t. That is to say, ADP doesn’t account for what we might call tier breaks or large gaps between players. In particular, the gaps in scoring tend to be much larger at the top than simple rankings would indicate. In 2017, the gap between the top running back and the second-ranked RB was six times larger than the gap between the fourth and fifth-ranked RBs.
Therefore, rather than use actual ADP as a way to measure value, I’m using historical average PPR points at each positional finish to translate ADP into expected points. I’ve discounted each team’s passing expected points by the QB1’s rushing contribution, as a percentage of PPR points.1 And I’ve discounted each team’s receiving expected points by its RBs’ rushing contribution as a percentage of PPR points. This is to account for the fact that ADP incorporates QB rushing, whereas passing scores should not. And of course ADP incorporates RB rushing, but receiving scores should not.
Finally, I scaled each score from from 0 to 100 for ease of comparison. Subtracting the receiving score from the passing score gives you a team’s receiving opportunity score. Confused yet? Things will become much clearer as we go through the scores (I hope).
Mapping Passing and Receiving Scores
If a team is below the line, that means the team’s QB1 ADP translates to a higher passing score than the receiving score implied by the sum of the receiving expected points derived from the team’s drafted pass-catchers’ ADPs.2 In other words, the team’s receivers might be undervalued. If a team is above the line, the team’s receivers might be overvalued. It’s also possible that these situations indicate a team’s QB is being over- or undervalued, respectively.
Here’s an example: Aaron Rodgers is the top-drafted QB, and he doesn’t typically generate a lot (relatively) of his PPR points by rushing, so Green Bay has the top passing score. However, following the release of Jordy Nelson, Packers’ receivers ADPs have yet to account for the increased opportunity each of them will see. In other words, drafters are not yet pricing in the added targets that will be going to Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Jimmy Graham. The other thing that’s potentially keeping Packers pass-catchers’ ADPs from climbing is the uncertainty in the backfield. Three different RBs could emerge from that situation, and at least one of them will probably be a great value at his current ADP. But drafters aren’t in agreement about who that will be yet, so all Green Bay RB ADPs are somewhat depressed.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tyrod Taylor is the 24th QB off the board. Because he typically gets a lot of his fantasy points from his rushing production, Cleveland has the lowest passing score of any team. The problem is, Cleveland’s receivers are being drafted as if they play for a much more prolific passing offense.
There are two things going on here: First, drafters may not yet be fully pricing in the target competition that Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde brought with them. Landry is consistently among the most targeted WRs in the NFL, and Hyde was among the league leaders in RB receiving expected points last season. This makes the Browns receivers look too expensive at their current ADPs, given the opportunity they can expect.
Second, most expect the Browns to draft a QB with one of their first two picks on Thursday. Although they say publicly that they want Taylor to be the starter for 2018, fantasy drafters are likely pricing in a portion of the risk that a rookie QB will take Taylor’s job at some point during the season. In other words, the Browns’ starting QB, as a position, could be undervalued at Taylor’s ADP. However, because we’re not sure “the Browns’ starting QB” is even one player, drafting Taylor any earlier than his current ADP is too risky.
Receiving Opportunity Scores
The Packers therefore have the highest receiving opportunity score, while the Browns have the lowest. Think of receiving opportunity score as the distance of a point below the line in the chart above (so points above the line represent negative receiving opportunity scores). Here are those numbers in tabular form:
|Team||Passing Score||Receiving Score||Opportunity Score|
And here’s what the numbers look like if you want to visualize them another way:
It would appear that pass-catchers are being generally overvalued relative to their QB’s ADPs. Part of this may be due to the fact that so many QB situations in the NFL are uncertain, with so many teams expected to draft a QB early on Thursday. But at least part of it is also due to the fact that QB ADPs are lower than they’ve historically been across the board, thus implying lower expected point totals. While many teams are seeing some of their pass-catchers go off the board much too early, it’s likely that many of the QBs on teams with negative receiving opportunity scores represent good values in best ball drafts.
Here are some notes on a few interesting situations:
Undervalued Receiving Groups
Oakland has the second highest receiving opportunity score after Green Bay. Even though Nelson came in to try to fill the Michael Crabtree-shaped hole in the Raiders WR corps, Oakland’s pass-catchers are not being drafted as highly as Derek Carr’s ADP would suggest they should be. We know WRs who change teams tend to underperform, so Nelson’s ADP might make sense. But Amari Cooper’s ADP is likely way too late. John Lapinski makes a convincing case for taking Cooper in the fourth round of best ball drafts, and the ADP opportunity scores would appear to agree.
Drafters are expecting a lot from Deshaun Watson after the partial season he had as a rookie. But they are not, surprisingly, as excited about his receiving options. To be sure, DeAndre Hopkins is firmly entrenched within the first round. But it’s possible Will Fuller presents a value. His splits with Watson under center are otherworldly:
I’m just a little hesitant to project Fuller for a 28-touchdown season. But with a seventh-round ADP, Fuller certainly has the upside to become a league winner.
This is a case where I think the receiver ADPs may be right, and it’s actually the Colts’ QB that is being overvalued. Andrew Luck is currently the 13th QB off the board, which would probably make him a good value if he returns to a reasonably close version of his former self and plays most of the season. Unfortunately, this is no guarantee. Considering the caliber of quarterbacks you can get after Luck, such as Dak Prescott and Matt Ryan, the risk that comes with drafting Luck does not seem worth the potential upside.
Following the loss of Taylor Gabriel and with drafters preparing for the potential release of Mohamed Sanu, there just aren’t many very costly pass-catchers competing to be on the receiving end of a Matt Ryan pass. Couple this with the fact that Julio Jones is at the cheapest he’s been in probably three years and you’ve got a recipe for outsized available opportunity. Tim Talmadge has already speculated that the Falcons might be a good landing spot for RotoViz favorite D.J. Moore. Whoever ends up in Atlanta will step into a lot of open opportunity and could contribute right away.
New England Patriots
The Patriots do not appear to have an overabundance of available opportunity. Although they recently traded Brandin Cooks and lost Dion Lewis in free agency, they are getting Julian Edelman back from injury, and they signed Jordan Matthews. The reason I’m including them on the undervalued list is because of the number of Patriots’ receivers that are being drafted. Fourteen different Patriots pass catchers are currently rostered in MFL10s — no other team has more than 12.
Why does this make the Patriots undervalued? Because not all 14 of these players are going to truly be fantasy relevant. Edelman, Matthews, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Cordarelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, and Phillip Dorsett are all going off the board at various points in the draft. At most probably only three of these players will provide fantasy value. The rest should not be drafted at all. But because drafters are uncertain who will emerge from this situation, those who will provide no fantasy value are being overdrafted.
This gives the entire receiving corps a higher receiving score than it should have. But if we consider that most the pass catchers being drafted are not going to be fantasy relevant, it makes the remaining receivers appear slightly undervalued relative to Tom Brady‘s ADP.
Other teams who benefit from this consideration include the Jaguars, the Seahawks, the 49ers, the Cowboys, and the Lions, all of whom are seeing 11 or more receivers drafted onto MFL10 rosters.
Overvalued Receiving Groups
Washington’s receiving corps does not appear to have especially high ADPs. In fact only one team, the New York Jets, see their first player go off the board later than Washington. However, new QB Alex Smith is being drafted as the QB21, despite finishing 2017 as the QB3 overall. Kirk Cousins has been a top-eight QB each of the last three years in Washington. Even if Smith can’t replicate the success he had last year, he should be able to beat his ADP. It’s far more likely that he is being undervalued than that Washington’s pass-catchers are being overvalued.
Los Angeles Rams
As the Rams’ newest addition at WR, Cooks figures to take over the targets vacated by Sammy Watkins, while also likely eating into the target shares of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. But at WR14, Cooks’ ADP has not fallen much from where it was when he was a Patriot. This gives the Rams’ receiving corps a much higher receiving score than QB Jared Goff’s ADP would indicate. At QB12, Goff would have to replicate last season’s results exactly to return value. Considering his 8.5 adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) is above league average (6.6), and above his career average (7.2), and even above Rodgers’ career average (8.4), it seems more likely he’s going to see some regression.