Fantasy Football Blog Fantasy Football

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?”)

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:

The SFB480: Fantasy Football’s ultimate draft experience

Far and away, the most intriguing draft I’ve ever been a part of is the Scott Fish Bowl Invitational (#SFB480 in your Twitter search) — a colossal mega event featuring 480 teams. The leagues are divided into groups of 12 teams, with eight conferences of five leagues each.  Conferences are categorized by genres of famous Hollywood folk (Funny Men, Leading Women, Bad Ass Women). The contest is invite-only with a long waiting list and is about to embark upon its seventh season. It consists of 320 fantasy football writers represented across over 80 sites with the remaining 120 players known as “super fans”.