The Power of Perception
We finally have closure with the 2014 NFL Draft, and we aren’t wasting anytime punching the gas and moving full throttle toward rookie drafts. This offseason felt longer (because it was), and there are rumors that we may have to wait an additional 2 weeks next year before the first overall pick is made. God help us all.
One of the most fascinating things about draft season is the paradox between players that were the next big thing a year or two in the past and the incoming class that is the next best thing to fantasy teams everywhere. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, so one comes at the expense of the other when we look at rookie Vs. current fantasy wide receiver rankings.
I felt it would be a quick and healthy exercise to take a sample size of players that fit into each category and put them on the same playing field. I could easily rank these guys in a vacuum, but this time of year it’s crucial to also gain an understanding into the perceptions of these players. This gained knowledge serves useful from a couple vantage points:
1) Start-up drafts are about to kick-off like gangbusters, and you want to be able to wrap your fingers around where these rookies are going to be drafted vs some of the second and third year players.
2) Rookie drafts are also about to kick into high gear, so identifying not only how to stack-rank prospects but also how they compare or contrast to previous prospects helps to provide insight into not only where you have to take a player, but how that player is perceived. Many times perception is reality.
I took to Twitter and asked some fellow degenerates to simply rank a select group of players. These are players that are predictably going to go off the board in the first round of rookie mocks as well as players that have been valued in the first round in terms of trade bait. After I gained the rankings from each ranker, I identified the composite rankings. Not reinventing the wheel, I took the same approach that my brothers from another mother used over at Rotoviz.com for their rookie composite rankings across each skill position. I felt it was important to go to Twitter simply because it would give me a grounded sample size from both stat gurus and film buffs and likely provide a good depiction of the landscape of many of your fantasy leagues. Let’s go!
@DavisMattek – Davis Mattek – Rotoviz – contributor
@TheHumanHuman – Justin Winn – Rotoviz contributor
@MattHarmon_BYB – Matt Harmon – Gridironexperts, Draftmecca, Sportable
@KarlSafchick – Karl Safchick – DynastyLeagueFootball writer
@a_swinderman – Aaron Swinderman – DynastyFootballWarehouse – contributor
@JohnnyLFootball – John Lanfranca – FantasySharks – writer
@NPowellFFW – Nathan Powell – FantasyFootballWarehouse – writer
@EDH_27 – Dr. Eric Hardter – DynastyLeagueFootball – writer
@DynastyFrank – “Frank the Tank” – Twitter Extraordinaire
@DerekVaughn7 – Derek Vaughn – Twitter Extraordinaire
@rdb313 – Randy – Twitter Extraordinaire
Me, Myself, and I
Odell Beckham, Jr.
As you can see above, the results were very close for the most part, and Matt Harmon also mentioned that this was a tough exercise as all of the players are fairly close within this Wide Receiver Rankings Tier. Below are some of my observations from this exercise:
- Jordan Matthews was the clear runaway receiver in this category. In fact, When Davis provided his rankings, he stated “Jordan is a tier above this group of players.” It isn’t a secret that Matthews has been Davis’ number one rookie prospect for the entire offseason.
- The next two receiver were both prospects in Brandin Cooks and Davante Adams, with the tie-breaker going to Cooks as he picked up a top vote along the way.
- Only three of the seven listed players earned a top ranking along the way: Matthews, Cooks, and Hunter.
- Justin Hunter served as the line of demarcation between the guys at the top and the bottom. While he received 4 votes for the top receiver, he didn’t receive any in the bottom two.
- Odell Beckham, Jr. received one vote for second and one for third, but he was consistently in the bottom half.
- Rueben Randle did not receive any votes for top, second, or even third on this list. Pop goes the weasel!
- There is clearly concern weighing on the minds of the group as a whole that both Beckham and Randle will cannibalize one another, with the slight edge leaning toward Beckham, Jr.
- Matthews is the top rookie in this sample size not named Watkins or Evans, but you’ll likely be in many leagues with Cooks as the third receiver taken. You’re basically looking at Matthews, Cooks, Sankey, and Ebron as 1.3 pick options.
- When you look at this list overall, either the group thought for the most part that the incoming receiving class was slightly superior than those that have been in the league for a year plus or the rookie fever is in full effect. I can speculate one way or the other, but it’s probably accurate that the composite ranking was driven by a little bit of both.
- Prior to the draft, Rueben Randle was a sell for many people with the fear that he’ll lose value once the New York Giants draft another receiver. Randle is a buy-low candidate at this point. The Giants have always been at their best leveraging a 3 wide receiver set, so I don’t see Beckham hurting him. Will Randle give up targets? Sure, but did any of us really think the Giants were going to enter 2014 without another receiver? Ben McAdoo has shown his offense can support 3 receivers. (Of course this one doesn’t have Aaron Rodgers, but he’ll do his best rendition with the talent he has to work with.
- Adams is a value-play as he’s not going to be as safe and likely won’t earn as many early reps as Matthews or Hunter, but there just may be something to the fact that the Packers drafted 3 additional receivers prior to both Nelson and Cobb entering contract years. I find it somewhat hard to believe that Ted Thomson is going to draft a guy in the second round to simply play the James Jones role short term. While Adams may very well require patience from dynasty owners, he could potentially have the highest ceiling from this tier as his sollegiate strong suit was catching touchdowns. What does Rodgers do well?
‘Tis the season,