My Quarterly Takes: 1/4
The excitement and expectations of the draft season have just about run out. Last week we saw our first round of byes and a handfull of players will be making their debuts following suspensions. We have seen what seems like an entire season’s worth of injury, yet, it is just October and no matter if you are 4-0 or 0-4, your season is alive! It is always good to be adjusting your process to the times and 2019 is no different. So many things that we thought we knew have proven to be completely useless. This is fantasy football. Let us take a step back and see if we can learn some stuff. These are My Quarterly Takes: 1/4.
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Pay For Tight End…
This was it. This was the year that we were supposed to be able to pay up for one of the tight end “mega producers” and the return would warrant the investment. The advantage your team was going to get from drafting one of the “Big Three” this year early in drafts was going to be enough to put your team over the top! Right…? Weeelll… So far, not so much. Unfortunately, four weeks into the season, not so much, can be far too long when talking about the tight end position. 2019 seems to be the rule, not the exception.
Below are the last two seasons consistency data via FFStatistics for the Big Three TE as well as the numbers for the “2019 Big Three” as well as a spreadsheet showing the change from the top-12 ADP and current top-12 rankings. Needless to say, things have changed.
The Big Three
The 2019 Big Three
2019 Biggest Risers
Key for the below spreadsheet.
- Top -(Columns from left to right) Preseason ADP (TE/Overall/Difference), Current Rank (TE/Overall/Difference), Difference (TE-Preseason ADP and Current Rank/ Overall Preseason ADP and Current Rank) Negative values indicate a drop in value from ADP.
- Bottom – Current Rank (TE/Overall/Difference), Preseason ADP (TE/Overall/Difference), Difference (TE-Preseason ADP and Current Rank/ Overall Preseason ADP and Current Rank) Negative value indicates a jump in value from ADP.
No matter the order you had them in, the consensus top tier of the TE world was Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle. After that, you have a couple of high potential, high injury risk TEs, a few coming off career years, a few expecting massive target bumps due to vacated targets, and some guys expected to just be steady Eddie for their offense. As you can see in the below chart, things have changed just a bit. There are currently just five of the original 12 still inside the top-12 at the TE position. Those “Big Three” are nowhere near being ranked as such. Three of the five still inside the TE1 range have gained value. The other two have lost value. The consensus number three tight end, nowhere in sight.
Players You Passed On…
Here are some wide receivers and running backs that were being drafted in the same range/ after the Big Three tight ends.
- Running Backs – Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette
- Wide Receivers – Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen
Zach Ertz And George Kittle
- Running Backs – Kerryon Johnson, Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, Chris Carson, Marlon Mack
- Wide Receivers – Amari Cooper, Julien Edelman, Kenny Golladay, T.Y. Hilton
Players That Went Long After (15-30 picks after)
- Running Backs – Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, Chris Carson, Marlon Mack, Mark Ingram
- Wide Receivers – Amari Cooper, Julien Edelman, Kenny Golladay, T.Y. Hilton, Tyler Lockett, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp
Zach Ertz and George Kittle
- Running Backs – Mark Ingram
- Wide Receivers – T.Y. Hilton, Tyler Lockett, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp
All these players have either scored right in the same range or more than one of the tight ends listed. You might say “Well, Kelce has scored in a similar range as Ezekiel Elliott, Kenny Golladay, Derrick Henry, and Tyler Locket. With the drop off at TE, he has been worth it.” He is still a top-four TE. But, you did not draft Travis Kelce to be a top-five TE. You drafted Kelce to be the TE1. The amount of draft capital you had to invest in Kelce compared to the return he has given does not warrant the second-round pick you had to use.
The Production You Passed Up
Travis Kelce was the Overall consensus number 20 draft pick. Ertz was 29th and Kittle, 31st. Now we will look at the actual numbers you could be getting. Here is the point difference between what you got with one of the Big Three and a later RB/WR vs Going with one of the other options in a similar range and a later round TE. Obviously, things might not have worked out exactly as planned but that is the game we play.
Early TE Examples
Taking the Big Three early with a later round RB or WR. (Note: Only players drafted after said TEs are used in examples. Avg point totals for said players through four weeks.)
Kelce – Pick 20 (2.08)/ Pick 65 (6.08) or later for TE.
Ertz or Kittle – Pick 30 AVG (3.06)/ Pick (7.06) or later for TE
- Kelce and (Tarik Cohen, Miles Sanders, Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson) Average Point Total – 108.3 PPR
- Ertz or Kittle and (Jordan Howard, Latavius Murray, Will Fuller, Corey Davis) Average Point Total – 77.3 PPR
Those are the average totals when using the players in the sample that you could have gotten by gong TE early in your draft. Now let us see what the other side looks like.
Later TE Examples
- Instead of Kelce (Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen – Avg Points) and later round TE (Austin Hooper, Delanie Walker, Mark Andrews, Darren Waller – Avg Points) Average Point Total – 152.7 PPR
- Instead of Ertz or Kittle (Derrick Henry, Chris Carson, Amari Cooper, Kenny Golladay,) and later round TE (Austin Hooper, Delanie Walker, Mark Andrews, Darren Waller – Avg Points) Average Point Total – 129.02 PPR
- Kelce Examples – There is a difference of 44.4 PPR points between the TE early and late options. (152.7/108.3 PPR)
- Ertz and Kittle Examples – There is a difference of 51.7 PPR points between the TE early and late options. (129.02/77.3 PPR)
Now obviously, as I stated above, everything does not always work out as planned but these are just some examples as to why I personally will never draft TE early in a draft. The risk of missing on them early is worth the reward of hitting on them late.
To Buy, Or Not To Buy? That Is The Question… The Answer Is, Yes…
Now, let me clarify. You should always be looking to improve your team. I know, I know, thank you captain obvious. We all know this but going about it in the right way is the key to success. The general consensus is to buy low and sell high. Never the opposite. Well, in that scenario, somebody is always doing the opposite and it does not have to be a “bad process.” Some may disagree but both can be right if you are doing it at the right time. Let us look at the right time to buy players. Of the low… and high variety.
Let us begin with the option we all know. Buying Low. Now, this seems obvious. Acquire a depressed asset at a depreciated value with the hope of obtaining a positive return based on said player’s potential value. I.E. Get a player that has underperformed and hope he gets back to form after the trade. Ultimately, this is the optimal scenario but this does not always work.
But, the reason it is more acceptable to have a trade like this fail rather than buying a player at his peak and having his production fall off is based on the price you had to pay to acquire the player in either scenario. When you threw a few waiver wire additions and a late-round pick out there for an underperforming high-round pick that we know has the ability to do damage for your team and it does not pan out, this is a lot easier to stomach.
Sometimes you can not afford to wait on a player to return value but if you are one of the lucky teams that have avoided injuries for the most part or have not been subject to one of your players being affected by something “non-football” related. You have made all the right moves. Your team is towards the top of the league in points. You are feeling good for lack of a better word. STOP! Now is not the time to get complacent and feel comfortable. There is always room on your team for improvement and trying to maximize value.
Time To Buy
So, it is Week 4 and your team is sitting at 4-0 or 3-1. Your roster has performed as you expected but you have some concerns. Maybe some of your players are far outperforming their expected value. Maybe you are lacking depth at some key spots. There might be some very tough matchups you have concerns about. Whatever the case may be, you want to add a piece to your squad. Luckily, you are afforded some time in this situation. Your team is good enough to make due while you potentially wait for an underperforming star to return to form.
Another nice part of this is that the person that is trying to move the said player is almost certainly doing so because his performance is costing the other owner wins. You might be able to trade a few of your pieces that have far outperformed their estimated value for a player with a long track record of solid performance and if things normalize, you just won that trade and spent 50-75 cents on the dollar or less to acquire the best player in the deal. Now your team is not only the best in the league, you just turned some low-end starters and depth pieces into a potential fantasy star with a track record. Again, as with anything in fantasy, nothing is for certain.
Both buying high and low have their place in fantasy though and this does not mean you have to be a sucker in the deal. There can be a purpose behind the move. Let us look at a scenario. Say you drafted Saquon Barkley in the first round, came back with a pick of Joe Mixon or Antonio Brown at the back end of the second. Barkley gave you a few weeks but outside of minimal flashes, you basically have gotten nothing out of your second-round pick.
Maybe you lost a few players to the multitude of injuries that have run rampant through the league and your waiver wire additions have not been as you had hoped. Now your team is 1-3 and starring up at a few 4-0 teams trailed closely by a 3-1 team or two and a handfull of .500 teams all ahead of you in the standings. What to do? You need to win now!
This is the one time it is acceptable to purchase a high-value asset at cost or even pay up a little. You do not have time to wait around for running back A or wide receiver B to finally hit their stride. Even though you know it is going to happen, you can not take another loss while waiting to see if and when your top-three round pick starts to produce at the level you drafted him for.
Time To Buy
This is the time when you need a sure thing in your lineup. Guaranteed volume and points every week but unfortunately, you are going to have to pay and it is going to take a hit on your starting lineup and long term roster depth in most cases but could propel you to short term success that can get you back in the playoff hunt. You may have to watch one of “your guys” finally start to blow upon another roster a few weeks later but going from 1-3 to 2-6 because you waited on a player does not do your team any good.
Now selling the farm for one player will not help your team either. You are not going to win by rostering one starting level talent and a bunch of scrubs. You have to be smart about your process. Tier 1 player will cost an arm and a leg and most likely doom your team even more. Unless they happen to be performing at tier 2 or 3 levels but this would ultimately wind up a buy-low scenario that you just had to pay a lot for still. Not a buy-high so to speak.
The ultimate goal with this would be to look for a tier 2 or 3 players that are performing like a tier 1 player. Maybe they have a great stretch of matchups coming up and you need to capitalize on that now. Selling a mixture of underperforming players, injuries, and solid week to week low-end starters if you can, can give you that short term boost needed and you never know what can happen to the other teams over the course of the season. This game can giveth and it can taketh away.
Also, paying for a lower end player that is taking over in the short term due to injury but they are in a great situation can hurt the pride a little as you watch an injured player go out the door but that guy does no good to your team while he is out. The handcuff that just took over in a great situation, can. It is a question of how bad do you need to win and what you are willing to do to achieve it?
Betting on a sure thing can eliminate the uncomfortable moment when you have to ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?”
It is, What it is. Results > Process?
At what point, if ever, does “result” force an adjustment in the “process?”
The short answer to this question for most would be never, or at the least, almost never. Always, process > result. I have said this before but it could stand repeating.
“This is a game we play based on a game that 22 other people play for 32 teams, 16 times a year… At minimum… That’s 704 people, again at a minimum, on any given week that there isn’t a team on a bye. That’s a lot of variables. Then you toss in the refs for flavor. Add in some injury and a dash of suspension and coach speak. What do ya have? A perfect recipe for imperfect results. Just remember, trust the process.”
I am a believer in this but in life, we always see exceptions to every rule. They may take a long time to rear their heads but eventually, someone breaks math. Then there is the “Curious Case Of The Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is a team full of guys that do not follow the rules. From their low-volume/ highly efficient quarterback and top WR to players that do not care about draft capital, an unathletic tight end and a rookie WR that can not run routes… All the way to the oldest coach in the league that has more energy than my 11-year-old son. They just keep doing their thing though. Here are some quick taeks about a team of rebels.
Would you believe following last season that Russell Wilson is on pace for what would be essentially his best season ever in 2019? His completion percentage is 8.5% higher than his career average. The second highest TD% of his career at nearly 8% for the second straight year (7.7%). By far the highest QB rating (126.3) and QBR (80.4) for the vet in his eighth year. On pace to set career marks in yards, TDs, INTs (currently with zero), yards per attempt, and yards per completion on 499 passing attempts.
Oh yes, throw in that he has been running again and is on pace to ad 368 yards rushing and 6 TDs. Seattle added a few receiving weapons, has their other weapons relatively healthy, and the Seattle defense is nowhere near the “Legion Of Boom” of old so Wilson has had to throw more than expected. This is not a bad thing and “DangerRuss” could challenge for the QB1 slot by seasons end. This just might be who the star quarterback is at this point in his career. He has always been efficient but 2018-19 has been ridiculous.
Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny
7th Round (Pick 249)
College Dominator 19.6% (31st%)
1st Round (Pick 27)
College Dominator 50.1% (98th%)
Above is the comparison between Seahawks running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Their numbers from college and the draft capital would suggest that Penny is the man that will get the work in a normal situation. Outside of the 40-yard dash, Carson seems to have the advantage athletically. Draft Capital, Dominator/Market Share, and speed score are 3 of the biggest predictors of potential value in the pros.
Chris Carson will have none of this. Even with Penny on the field, Carson has produced near low-end RB1 value and he has actually been better with Penny in 2019 (16 game pace W/ Penny in 2019 286.4, W/O Penny 18o.8). At some point, we just have to admit one player will be better than the other. Even after three straight games with a fumble, Carson has shown no signs of slowing down.
|FFStatistics Splits Tool, Carson/Penny|
The Wide Receivers
The Seattle wide receivers have been defying expectations for years and 2019 is no different. Tyler Lockett keeps producing on minimal volume but has also seen a couple of games with double-digit targets so far. This gives a level of safety you did not feel last season. You know that Lockett can produce if the Hawks have a lower passing volume game or vice versa. The results as you can see below have been nothing but good for your teams. There is no reason to believe at this point that anything will change.
We knew he was fast before he ever took the field in Indianapolis to run the 40-yard dash. We knew he could jump from watching him outleap defenders when he was on the field in college. What we did not know is that he was about as agile as Tom Brady.
The draft came and the slide to the 64th overall pick began. Teams obviously were not as impressed as everyone else with the 4.33 40. Metcalf has shut down the concerns so far in his young career.DK was a top-40 WR through the first four games in a standard league and that was coming off a game with 1 catch. Metcalf added a big-time 40 yard TD in the opening act of Week 5 and it was like shooting fish in a barrel for Wilson and his new deep threat. Look for Metcalf to stay this type of player in his first season but Russ loves to throw it deep. Metcalf should be able to get one or two of those a game and we will all hold our breaths as time slows down and DK goes to get it.
Will Dissly was not exactly drafted to be the pass-catching threat he has become. This has not slowed him down at all so far in his young career and his ability to return from a serious injury has been remarkable. When looking at the athletic ability of the two tight ends below, it does not really compare. Now granted, Dissly did have a better 3-cone and Shuttle time than his teammate, DK Metcalf but when you look at the speed of both Travis Kelce and Dissly, it is not hard to determine who is likely more athletic. They both play in highly efficient offenses that afford their pass catchers optimal opportunities to produce. Just on different levels of volume.
If you look below, you can see that Dissly has actually been much more efficient in his opportunities than Kelce. Yes, as the volume goes up, efficiency is likely to drop a bit but when your quarterback is Russell Wilson, you might not get Travis Kelce type volume but the targets you do get will be among the best in the league. Dissly is also not being used just on shorter routes like Jimmy Graham was utilized in the offense in 2017 (Graham 9.1 yards per reception, 5.4 yards per target, 10 TDs/ Dissly 11.4 yards per reception, 10.1 yards per target, 4 TDs) and Dissly has been just as big of a TD threat with 6 TDs in nine games played. The sample is not large but trust in Russ to provide Dissly season-long value.
This will be short and sweet. Ultimately, we are all going to be wrong part of the time and we will all be wrong part of the time. We make the best choices we can base on history, stats, tape, and expectations. Whatever your preference, they an all be right. But, as a well-known fantasy analyst always says, “We can not legislate usage.”