A 16-game season in the NFL is tough on bodies, and that is the biggest reason some players under-perform on any given year. Sometimes, it is obvious because a player misses three or four games due to those injuries. Other times, guys play through the injury and it’s impossible in the statistics to know whether our favorite player has lost a step permanently or just for that season.
The funniest thing that happens in fantasy football is how fast the mob falls in love with a player and how fast they fall out of love. When I refer to the “mob” in fantasy, I am referring to the average draft position (ADP) of players. While ADP is the most useful tool in fantasy sports, the ability of winning in fantasy is to get the best players available at any tier of the ADP.
Let’s take a look at one of the most dominant players in fantasy football, for a great example.
Todd Gurley: Fantasy God
Gurley is the best fantasy RB over the past four seasons. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2015, when he finished RB5 for the season in only 13 games played. This performance anointed Gurley as the consensus ADP top pick, because the mob loved his 10 scores and figured the sky was the limit! The next season, with uncertainty at quarterback, the team struggled and so did Gurley, finishing 19th in fantasy points.
The 2017 season featured a big coaching change, yet the mob was convinced that Gurley wasn’t the best around anymore and dropped him to an ADP of nine. He would finish 2017 more than 40 points ahead of everyone and over 180 points ahead of the RB12, despite missing a game! This moved Gurley back up to the top pick, and he of course had a knee issue late in the season, finishing as RB3 in 14 games. The talk about an arthritic knee has dropped Gurley to RB10 for this year. He is being chosen BEHIND Joe Mixon, whose average yards per rush increased from 3.5 yards as a rookie to 4.9 yards last season. Mixon’s career year was only able to get him to RB10 last season, yet he is being drafted ahead of a Fantasy God. Mixon plays for the Bengals, whose offense ranked 26th versus the second-ranked Rams.
Yes, the possible range of outcomes for Gurley is larger than ever before, since his total number of touches will probably be closer to 250 than 325, but Mixon won’t get a higher volume and shouldn’t hit 4.9 yards per carry again.
Brandin Cooks: Steady as They Come
Another player who the mob has done a bad job on is Brandin Cooks, who has finished WR8 and WR13 in fantasy points for each of the last four seasons. Back in 2015, the mob did a great job of forecasting his second year in the NFL with the Saint,s expecting him to be the 12th-best WR, and he finished 12th. The addition of rookie Michael Thomas to the Saints lineup had the mob expecting a slight drop in Cooks’ stats in 2016, with his ADP dropping to 14th. Despite the addition, the targets to Cooks dropped by 12, but his touchdown total only dropped by one and his ranking for the season was eight-best.
Despite changing teams to the Patriots in 2017, the mob again did a great job forecasting him to be a top-10 WR, and he finished ninth. The “third team in three years has to mean something” chorus kicked in, when Cooks ended up with the Rams and his ADP dropped to 20th. How did Cooks respond last year? His catch total and yardage increased, but his touchdown total was his worst since his rookie year, as he finished as WR13. Clearly, the mob recognizes that drop in touchdowns will be temporary and expect a rise this season, right? Actually, the mob has dropped his ADP to 16th, making him a great value play this season.
Look Beyond the Stats
A very good consensus ADP list is still the most valuable data a fantasy football player can have for the draft, but it has to be used wisely. Look for the lower risk, best value guys at each and every level of the ADP and realize that the mob is often wrong. That allows the smart players to prosper! If a player has an off season, look beyond the statistics to see why. Look at what changed going into this season and apply the “Range of Outcomes” theory to figure out the best values at each level of ADP.