Training Camp Notes: The Bigger They Are The Harder They Foles

Nick Foles apparently requested to be released. The Rams, I’m sure giddily, accepted. As an Eagles fan, I can tell you one thing about Nick Foles: he stinks. He was even more atrocious in St. Louis than his final season in Philly, to the point where he was replaced by Case freaking Keenum; only to become more useless when the Rams traded up and selected Jared Goff to be the new face of their franchise. Foles will likely latch on as a backup somewhere, the man did throw seven touchdowns in one game dammit (insert sarcasm font); but he isn’t likely to have any fantasy impact this season, even if he somehow makes his way onto the field during an actual NFL game.

Training Camp Notes: Boldin to the Lions

With training camps starting to get underway, a couple NFL teams are still finalizing their camp rosters, resulting in a pair of aging free agents finally appearing to have their 2016 plans settled after a lonely off-season:

• After not being seriously linked to a potential landing spot throughout the off-season, Anquan Boldin will find himself in the typically pass-heavy pass offense of the Lions, as he just inked a one-year deal. Despite being one of the elder statesmen of the league, the 35-year-old figures to quickly gain the trust of Matthew Stafford as a reliable chain mover and red zone threat. Although he’ll be vying for targets primarily with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Eric Ebon, Boldin’s route running ability along with his toughness should ensure that he sees his share of weekly targets.

No top RB has ever been on sale like Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman is setting records for getting no love from fantasy football owners.

Which is surprising, since fantasy owners should be fawning over him. Last season he had 1,056 yards rushing, 11 rushing touchdowns, 578 yards receiving and 73 receptions on 97 targets. Plus, he added three receiving touchdowns. Add it all up and he led the NFL in fantasy scoring.

And he did that all in 15 games and just 13 starts.

But his ADP this year is just 17th overall in 12-team, non-PPR formats. It’s just 7th among RBs.

He’s just 18th in ADP for the National Fantasy Football Championship, which is a PPR and starts three WRs. He’s 7th among RBs there as well.

And it’s not just ADP. It’s expert leagues as well. He was the 6th most expensive RB in the recent Stopa11K auction.

Yes, he had a decline in the second half (over his last eight starts he was limited to 3.25 YPC, and he had a modest four overall TDs) and has a viable backup in Tevin Coleman. But when do you see a RB who led the league in fantasy points the year before fall out of the first round of ADP the next year?

It only happened once before and that was last season. Demarco Murray finished first in fantasy points in 2014, but fell to 14th in ADP the next preseason. Of course he had been traded from the Cowboys to the Eagles in the offseason, so his circumstances had changed significantly.

Previously since 1998, the lowest the leading fantasy point scoring RB finished in the following year’s ADP was 7th overall. Here’s the list:

Year RB Overall Rank ADP next preseason Rank next season
2015 Devonta Freeman 2 17 ?
2014 Demarco Murray 1 14 55
2013 Jamaal Charles 1 2 13
2012 Adrian Peterson 1 1 18
2011 Ray Rice 3 3 6
2010 Arian Foster 1 1 11
2009 Chris Johnson 1 1 5
2008 DeAngelo Williams 1 7 46
2007 LaDainian Tomlinson 3 1 13
2006 LaDainian Tomlinson 1 1 3
2005 Shaun Alexander 1 3 95
2004 Shaun Alexander 1 2 1
2003 Priest Holmes 1 1 29
2002 Priest Holmes 1 5 1
2001 Marshall Faulk 1 1 26
2000 Marshall Faulk 1 1 1
1999 Marshall Faulk 1 2 1
1998 Terrell Davis 1 1 237

So by any measure Devonta Freeman is being discounted like a top back has never been before. He hasn’t changed teams. And while he has a viable backup, many on the list above had millage (300+ carry seasons), viable backups and changes on offense. It’s entirely possible that the market is off on Freeman’s value.

(h/t to Dalton Del Don of Yahoo! Sports for the idea of this study as after he bought Freeman in the Stopa11K auction he asked “how often do you see last year’s top fantasy scoring RB go so cheap?”)

Freshman Hooper Hype: Rounding Out Duke’s New Recruiting Class

So far in my posts, I’ve covered my top five recruits of 2016, but now I’ll move on to finishing out the Duke recruiting class (Despite my fundamental dislike for Duke and their perennial dominance, I have to respect it, and the brilliant recruiting job Mike Krzyzewski does, especially this year). Per usual, Duke’s full 2016 team is looking scary good–at least on paper. Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are two forwards who both have a legitimate chance of being the No. 1 Draft Pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Coach K rounded out this year’s class with three more top-40 recruits, two of which are consensus top-15, in point guard Frank Jackson, center Marques Bolden, and power forward Javin DeLaurier. The question is–with all this young prep star talent, can they be unselfish and polished enough to win a championship at the collegiate level? I think they can at least get close, but only time will tell. 

Frank Jackson — PG 6’3”, 208 lbs

The explosive Jackson is ranked No. 5 on 247Sports and No. 12 on Rivals. He’s got stellar leaping ability; most of his highlights center around high-flying and athletic trick dunks. Jackson also showcases the some good range and has a nice stroke. At 6-foot-3 and 208, he’s already filled out nicely, but doesn’t necessarily have elite size that would translate easily to the professional level. Jackson, like many of the prospects Duke nabbed from this class, is more of a scorer than passer. He’ll need to improve his vision and learn to use the weapons he has around him in Giles, Tatum, Bolden, and junior guard Grayson Allen in order to really show how much upside he has. He’ll have an immediate starting spot, along with the chance to make an immediate impact, but there’s no telling what offensive option he will become with all the scorers on this team surrounding him.

You can see Jackson’s above-the-rim play here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcRmJNhVKFs

 

Marques Bolden — C 6’11”, 250 lbs

Bolden may only be a quarter-inch taller than his teammate Giles, but he’s got over 25 pounds of more muscle on him, making him the more natural choice for center. While it seems likely he’d earn the starting spot over Chase Jeter, Coach K hasn’t really said what he’ll do here. He’s already projected to be the No. 8 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft due to his physical tools; the 6-foot-11 Bolden has a wingspan of 7-foot-6. Part of his advantage seems to be that he’s bigger and stronger than everyone on the court–and even though this won’t necessarily be the case in college, he’s big enough to out-muscle many collegiate big men. He’s shown scouts that he has pretty good mobility for his size, however, physicality isn’t everything. Bolden will need to develop into a serious defensive weapon if he wants to be able to play successfully at the next level. As seen on his mixtape, he’s best when he can be a catch-and-shoot player. If he develops some serious footwork skills and handles down low, Bolden could become one of the most desired professional prospects to come out of next year’s draft. Similarly to all of the other Blue Devils, it has yet to be seen how Bolden will work with his new teammates, all of whom are used to being huge stars wherever they play.

Check out Bolden’s upside on his BallisLife.com mixtape here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osmfMgfONuw

 

Javin DeLaurier — PF 6’9”, 215 lbs

DeLaurier, the only four-star recruit in this high-powered recruiting class, could be the dark horse that surprises everyone in later years–however not this season. The power forward is smaller and more offensively limited than Harry Giles, but he has potential as a defender, and is probably the best team-player to come out of this recruiting class–Duke may need him to help glue the team together on defense as the third man off of the bench. He’s ranked No. 39 nationally on both 247Sports and Rivals. DeLaurier isn’t likely to start this season despite this high ranking, nor to leave the team after one year unlike the rest of Duke’s recruits. It’s unclear how much Coach K will use him in the first year due to the return of Amile Jefferson, who was granted a medical hardship waiver and will play one more year. Scouts on DraftExpress have called DeLaurier a power forward with the skill set of a center, so it’s possible that he could get more time backing up Marques Bolden and Chase Jeter than Harry Giles and Amile Jefferson. DeLaurier will add needed depth to the Duke frontcourt, which will become especially handy if Giles health fails him during his freshman campaign.

Check out DeLaurier’s potential as Duke’s eighth man this season:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcxewv-2mPk

Others currently entering Duke’s active roster this season:

Jack White — a top-5 forward from Australia, and three-star recruit.

Justin Robinson — redshirted last season, son of NBA legend David Robinson. Likely reserve forward–three-star recruit in 2015 class.

Is ADP overreacting to last year’s RB busts?

Last year was the worst ever for first-round running backs. Fewer running backs than ever are now being taken in the first round of 2016 drafts. But was last year’s results a trend or historical anomaly?

Of the seven running backs last season in the top 15 overall of ADP (average draft position), five of them were disasters. LeVeon Bell, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch all succumbed to injury while Eddie Lacy and C.J. Anderson all failed to live up to top fantasy status for performance (and minor injuries). All five were busts, defined as not producing enough fantasy points to finish in the top 24 at their position (thus being an optimal starter in a 12-team league that starts two RB).

The first round of fantasy drafts used to be the almost exclusive domain of running backs. Twelve of the top 15 picks in drafts were used on running backs as recently as 2007. The NFL has of course changed since then becoming more of a passing league with rule changes and we’ve seen more time shares at running back to reduce punishing workloads. And last year’s performance of top backs appears to have shaken people’s confidence and accelerated the trend. Only 5 running backs are being taken in the top 15 of ADP for 2016 drafts at this point of the summer. Since 1998, no fewer than seven RB have been taken in the top 15 of ADP.

[For the purposes of this study I’m using ADP data from MyFantasyLeague.com and only for 12-team leagues with non-PPR scoring. Formats without PPR and those that started only two RB were more prevalent 10-15 years ago, so it’s a better historical comparison.]

Maybe it’s inevitable that fewer running backs would be taken in the first round in 2016. But the injury rate in 2015 looks like an aberration. The failure rate of 75% of the running backs taken in the top 15 is far above the career norm. It was by far a record high (next highest was 45% in 2013).

RB in top 15 Busts 1st-round bust %
2015 7 5 71.4%
2014 7 2 28.6%
2013 11 5 45.5%
2012 8 1 12.5%
2011 10 2 20.0%
2010 10 2 20.0%
2009 10 1 10.0%
2008 9 1 11.1%
2007 12 4 33.3%
2006 12 3 25.0%
2005 11 2 18.2%
2004 10 0 0.0%
2003 10 0 0.0%
2002 7 0 0.0%
2001 8 1 12.5%
2000 8 1 12.5%
1999 7 2 28.6%
1998 8 0 0.0%

It would appear that the market is overreacting to last year’s first-round busts for running backs. That could present a buying opportunity. The market has overreacted before. After a 2011 season that saw Tight ends and Quarterbacks put up record numbers, five QB and two TE went in the first 20 picks of ADP in 2012 drafts. And five QB went in the top 15 of ADP. Hard to believe, right? Not many panned out and only three QB and no TE went in the top 20 the next season. Maybe this year’s assessment of RB production will also miss the mark.

Vegas League Draft

The day after the Stopa 11K league, amidst 72 consecutive hours of free booze, the RotoWire Vegas league draft took place in a conference room at the Aria hotel. The Vegas league consists of two separate 14-team leagues, the winners of which meet in the Super Bowl in Week 17. I was in League 1, and had the sixth pick. It’s standard (non-PPR) scoring with the usual set-up (1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-FLX, 1-TE, 1-K and 1-D) except we use team kickers and quarterbacks get only three points per TD pass. Here are the results: