Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 Tight End Tiers and Consistencies

Goodbye, Aaron Hernandez. Goodbye young Antonio Gates. Please get healthy, Rob Gronkowski. And good luck with drafting a tight end this year. Unless you get unquestioned number one Jimmy Graham, Gronk, Gonzalez, or Witten, you have little to no idea what you're getting. But that's why I'm here, folks.

The top tight end last year, Jimmy Graham, scored in double digits just SIX times. And Gronkowski scored in double digits just seven times: a far cry from what was supposed to be the deepest and best tight end class we've seen in a while. But instead we ended with tight ends who scored on average worse than kickers. And you all know how I feel about kickers. So let's take a look at some interesting stats.

Gronkowski missed five games yet scored just five points less than number one tight end Jimmy Graham. When healthy, Gronkowski is clearly the best the position has to offer.

Tony Gonzalez, now 36, had just a 2.8 yards-after-catch average, evidence of him slowing down. Yet he did manage the third most points for a tight end.

Kyle Rudolph had five double digit games last season. He also had seven games with two or less points. He finished ninth overall.

From week five through week twelve, Jermichael Finley never caught more than four passes. But in his first four games and last three he averaged 5.3 catches per game. Not half bad in other words. And now Greg Jennings is gone.

After Colin Kaepernick's first start where Vernon Davis put up 83 yards and one touchdown, Davis caught SIX passes in the next SIX games.

Jason Witten accumulated 110 catches but just three touchdowns to show for it.

And here's the kicker (pun intended):
  • The top 10 tight ends averaged a total of 116.4 points for the season. The top 10 kickers meanwhile averaged a total of 148.7 points for the season.
  • The difference between the 1st and 10th kicker was, as expected, a very low 30 points. The difference between the 1st and 10th tight end is just 47 points. In comparison, the 1st QB and 10th QB was 74, the 1st RB and 20th RB was 158, the 1st WR and 20th WR was 79, and the 1st DST and 10th DST was 81..
So what this means is that at least last year, having the best tight end was not nearly as beneficial in comparison to the field as was the top QB, RB, WR, or even the top DST! The tight ends last year were simply mediocre and essentially almost as useless and unpredictable as kickers. The big question is if that will remain true this year. 

With tiers, you will be helped in deciding if you think Jimmy Graham is worth a third or fourth round pick. And it should help you figure out just how much value the tight end has this year. For me, if I can get Witten or Gonzalez in the fifth to seventh round, maybe I'll bite. At least I know I should get around 60 yards per week from them. As for anyone else, I admit, I have no freaking clue. It's that bad. Like the sweater you got for Christmas bad. Or Tim Tebow completion percentage bad. Or even worse, the Aaron Hernandez jersey you just got bad. So with all that badness, here are your 2013 tight end tiers.

Tier 1: The Elite
1. Rob Gronkowski (ADP 40.8)
2. Jimmy Graham (ADP 26.1)

Despite missing five games, Gronkowski scored 11 touchdowns and finished second in points for a tight end. Had he played the whole season at his rate, he would have had 80 catches, 1150 yards, and 16 touchdowns. But the fact is that Gronk has officially become injury prone. He got hurt in the Super Bowl against the Giants and this past season and now multiple surgeries later, Gronk is hoping to retain his elite form. And Graham, who was snubbed in the NFL's top 100 players, is the closest thing to Gronk. If he hadn't dropped a league leading 14 passes, Graham would have been even more spectacular. But assuming he can cut down on drops and with the return of Sean Payton, I expect another solid year from Graham. 

Who I want the most: It has to be Gronk despite his injury concerns. Because right now at his average draft position he brings tremendous draft day value. If he was not hurt, he certainly would be ahead of Graham and in the second to third round range as well. Even if he misses a few games, pick up Jermichael Finley and hope for the best. Or take any other option and hope for the best. But when he is healthy, you've got the biggest positional advantage in the game. And the lack of weapons should only help out Gronkowski. There's just enough there in New England to keep Gronk from being constantly double teamed and he should be just fine. Just look at Calvin Johnson without any help. 

Tier 2: The Elderly Elite:
3. Jason Witten (ADP 56.3)
4. Tony Gonzalez (ADP 52.3)
5. Vernon Davis (ADP 59.2)

Davis is not nearly as old as Witten or Gonzlez, but he sure looked it last year. He had a miserable year with Kaepernick but fortunately made a connection with his QB in the playoffs. And Michael Crabtree's injury could pave way to many more targets in San Francisco. Witten is coming off a monstrous 110 catch season and Gonzalez continues to withstand Father Time. Witten did score just three touchdowns but was a constant and reliable option and will continue to be this season. Gonzalez will still see plenty of red zone targets but will be hurt a bit by incoming Steven Jackson who will add his pass-catching ability to the mix.

Who I want the most: I'll take Witten and his reliability. Gonzalez at age 37 has limited upside and Davis is simply too inconsistent. Witten can still put up large numbers and if his touchdowns returns to a more typical 5-7, he could even surpass Jimmy Graham this year. But if you want an elite tight end this year, make sure you take one of these five in the first 60 picks otherwise you will miss out. 

Tier 3: The Next Five
6*. Dennis Pitta (had he not just dislocated his hip. Likely out for much of season)
7*. Heath Miller (had he not torn his ACL, MCL, and PCL. Likely out much of season)
6. Owen Daniels (ADP 92.1)
7. Antonio Gates (ADP 96.0)
8. Kyle Rudolph (ADP 85.9)
9. Greg Olsen (ADP 96.7)
10. Brandon Myers (ADP 117.8)

Here's a great mixture of mediocre tight ends. Daniels has been okay but nothing special the past several seasons. And on a run-heavy Texans team, he just never racks up too many catches or yards. Rudolph scored nine touchdowns on just 53 catches. Touchdowns are year in and year out very inconsistent and hard to predict (Calvin Johnson has scored 4, 12, 5, 12, 16, and 5 TD's over the years). So one simply cannot count on another year like this from Rudolph. It is much more likely that he replicates his mediocre catches and yardage than his elite touchdown output. Olsen and Myers would both be suited better as a number two option but have found themselves in the top ten. And Gates has fallen off the map the last several years.

Who I want the most: None of them really... But I'll take my chances on Gates. He's old. And partially washed up. But I'm anticipating that Philip Rivers will rebound with the Mike McCoy led offense. A hopefully improved offensive line and gloves should benefit Rivers. Gloves you say? Without gloves last season, Rivers threw 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. With gloves for four games, Rivers posted eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. And I expect these new changes to benefit not only Rivers but also Gates.

Tier 4: Who Knows?
11. Jermichael Finley (ADP 126.2)
12. Martellus Bennett (ADP 130.9)
13. Jared Cook (ADP 121.2)
14. Tyler Eifert (ADP 145.0)
15. Brandon Pettigrew (ADP 137.0)
16. Fred Davis (ADP 141.6)
17. Dustin Keller (ADP 145.5)

Besides Eifert, most of the guys here have been disappointments at some time. Finley is a perennial bust, Pettigrew is a drop and fumble machine, Davis is an injury machine, the once solid Keller is now an undersized and under-performing tight end, and Cook, like Finley, does not live up to his potential. Eifert clearly has the highest upside here but will also play alongside Jermaine Gresham who will get his fair share of catches.

Who I want the most: Sadly, it is Jermichael Finley. And believe me, it is not because I am a Packers fan. Of all the Packers players, Finley represents the organization the worst and is probably the most yelled-at player on the team. But with Greg Jennings out of the picture, Finley might finally put something together. And believe it or not, Finley has some of the best hands on the team. Now I know that is hard to believe. His issues have actually been more about his lack of mental focus and inability to catch in traffic than his actual catching ability. But with more targets presumably and a newly-found focus, Finley might finally make a splash.

Tier 5: Sleeper Zone
18. Jake Ballard (ADP 170.0)
19. Coby Fleener (ADP 144.2)
20. Jermaine Gresham (ADP 142.6)
21. Jordan Cameron (ADP 170.0)
22. Tim Tebow (ADP N/A)

After putting Tebow in the running back tiers as a joke, this is a joke that could possibly become true (although still unlikely he would actually gain tight end eligibility). Ballard has the most potential here as he should take over for Aaron Hernandez. Fleener and Cameron both have great potential for their air attacks. And Greshman is in fantasy limbo as he went from a borderline top ten option to a fantasy outcast.

Who I want the most: I'll take Ballard. Before he tore up his knee last season, he put together a very solid rookie year in New York. He's got great size, okay hands and okay speed. With limited options in New England, it would be a bargain if he can put up numbers anything close to Hernandez's numbers. But keep an eye on former basketball player Jordan Cameron who has all the athleticism that would scream NFL tight end. He's got a long way to go to become a complete NFL player but could surprise.

And here is your consistency chart. As you can see, not too many scored in the double digits. And I chose 6+ games as a benchmark because the top ten tight ends all averaged at least six points per game.

NameDouble Digit Games6+ games
Rob Gronkowski
7/11 (5 injured)
Jimmy Graham611
Jason Witten59
Tony Gonzalez79
Vernon Davis55
Owen Daniels47
Antonio Gates46
Kyle Rudolph59
Greg Olsen45
Brandon Myers36
Jermichael Finley27
Martellus Bennett46
Jared Cook15
Tyler EifertN/AN/A
Brandon Pettigrew16
Fred Davis0 (played 7 games)2
Dustin Keller2 (played 8 games)3
Jake Ballard (2011)3 (played 14 games)5
Coby Fleener03
Jermaine Gresham49
Jordan Cameron01
Tim Tebow00
Nate Amodio00

Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Running Back Tiers and Consistencies

Welcome back, old school fantasy football days. The rave of quarterbacks in the first round is (or should be) over. Back are the days of a first round that should consist of all running backs and maybe one or two wide receivers. As you've read in my previous articles, the quarterback pool is deeper than JaMarcus Russell's previous gut. R.I.P Russell's belly. So running backs are the way to go and it is a necessity to draft if not one, but two or three in the first four rounds this year.

Not only is there a ridiculously deep quarterback class but the wide receiver pool is just as deep too. Greg Jennings and Cecil Shorts ranked 29th and 30th? Gimme dat value! So while you can wait for your quarterback and wide receivers, stock up on running backs this year. After the top ten to twelve running backs, it is an absolute crap shoot. How's a running back who has never played more than 13 games in a season sound? Or a guy who once ran for 2,000 yards and has yet to come anywhere close since? Or a man who held out then was injured for most of last season? Trust me, it's not good. Just ask the guy who ended up with Vick Ballard and Eddie Lacy as his starters in my first mock draft. I still cringe thinking of that.

So get your running backs. Get five or six of them and pray that two of them will turn out alright. Remember, the gap between the 1st running back and the 20th is typically around 200 points. The difference between the 1st and 10th quarterback was 74 points. The difference between the 1st and 20th wide receiver was 89 last year. Do the math. You can miss out on elite wide receivers and still be alright. You can get Tony Romo in the 10th round and be just fine. But if you wait on a running back, you might just have Ballard and Lacy. Don't wait. At last, here are the 2013 tiers.

Tier 1: The Elite
1. Adrian Peterson (ADP 1.2)
2. Arian Foster (ADP 2.4)

This is the most straight forward you can get. If you pick first or second, you will get either Peterson or Foster. And while the odds are against Peterson to replicate last season, both are clearly above the rest.

Who I want the most: Peterson. Not even a question. He really could be his own tier.

Tier 2: The Near Elite
3. Marshawn Lynch (ADP 4.0)
4. Doug Martin (ADP 5.5)
5. Ray Rice (ADP 5.5)

Lynch has proven himself over the past two seasons, Rice over the past four, and Martin, as I predicted, killed it last year. None of them have to worry about a running back committee (although Bernard Pierce will get his fair share) and all should remain top five options. No matter which one you pick, just know that they, Beast Mode, Muscle Hamster, and Little Ray boast some of the better nicknames.

Who I want the most: If you are going for year in and year out consistency then Rice is your guy. But Marshawn Lynch is second in rushing yards and third in touchdowns over the past two seasons. He should be your guy here. Seattle is committed to running the ball and Lynch will remain the center of their offense. The Muscle Hamster's stats are a bit skewed by his two monstrous games and Rice may have just enough carries taken away that Lynch should outshine them both this season.

Tier 3: The Rock Solid
6. Jamal Charles (ADP 7.1)
7. C.J. Spiller (ADP (9.3)
8. LeSean McCoy (ADP 12.7)

The rock solid backs here might just be the speediest backs in the game. Charles will get a boost with Andy Reid as his new head coach and a stable quarterback in Alex Smith. And Spiller, despite limited touches, had over 1,700 total yards and a ridiculous 6.0 yards per carry. With Fred Jackson often injured, Spiller is finally the main main in Buffalo and will get plenty of touches this year. I have McCoy higher than most people but think he is bound for a comeback season. After injuries and Andy Reid not feeding him the ball enough, McCoy can only get better. The Eagles drafted Lane Johnson to bolster and accommodate a fast paced offense. So behind Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense and a revamped line, McCoy should be able to return to his 2011 form.

Who I want the most: This is a tough on but I'll take Charles. Charles is still the most proven and has just as much explosiveness as the other guys here. And imagine what having a real NFL quarterback will do for Charles. I am expecting big things this season.

Tier 4: The Borderline 1's
9. Trent Richardson (ADP 9.9)
10. Steven Jackson (ADP 16.8)
11. Alfred Morris (ADP 10.6)
12. Stevan Ridley (ADP 20.8)

Richardson has the most upside here but is the most injured of the bunch. Jackson has been a rock with eight consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Despite his age, he should be an upgrade over Michael Turner and he brings his pass-catching ability to the Falcon's passing attack. Morris surprised just about everyone as coach Mike Shanahan finally chose just one guy to carry the rock. But will he do it again? Ridley figures to be featured more with the New England offense that has lost Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and possibly Rob Gronkowski. Expect Ridley to be relied on in New England. And over the past three seasons, New England has the most rushes inside the 10 yard line. Get it, Ridley.

Who I want the most: Do I dare say Steven Jackson? He's still a workhorse and does not have as many question marks as the others. But Richardson is the obvious stud here. If the Browns vertical passing scheme really takes hold, expect Richardson to have plenty of room to run. But fantasy football is about minimizing your risk while still getting productivity. So I'll take Jackson.

Tier 5: The Question Marks
13. Matt Forte (ADP 18.9)
14. Maurice Jones-Drew (ADP 26.8)
15. Frank Gore (ADP 23.4)

All these guys have great track records. But the future for all of them is up in the air. Forte, while solid when healthy, has missed six games in the past two seasons. Jones-Drew's holdout and injured season raises many questions marks. Fortunately, he is still just 27 and is in a contract year. And Frank Gore is getting more and more limited in carries (just five games with 20+ carries). He also has a crowded backfield in San Francisco. 

Who I want the most: As a Packers fan it pains me to say Matt Forte. Gore has held steady but is due for more of a decline and MJD is just so uncertain at the point. Forte and the Bears' steadily improving offense should provide plenty of fantasy points.

Tier 6: The Oh Boy I Have to Take One of These Guys?
16. Chris Johnson (ADP 24.6)
17. Darren McFadden (ADP 35.8)
18. DeMarco Murray (ADP 42.2)
19. Darren Sproles(ADP 44.2)
20. Reggie Bush (ADP 46.6)

Questions marks all over the place. Can CJ2K regain his 2,000 yard season form? Can McFadden last more than 13 games? Can Murray stay on the field? Will Sproles get enough touches in the crowded Saints backfield? Can Bush put up a quality season in Detroit?

Who I want the most: Can I say none? If it's a PPR league, it's obviously Sproles. If it's a standard league, well... The Raiders, whose zone blocking scheme did not fit McFadden, are switching back to a favorable power run scheme. Bush could shine but also disappears often. And the odds of Murray staying healthy are slim. So I'll take my chances on McFadden. Just know that none of these options are safe. None of them.

Tier 7: Can We Just Draft a Quarterback Now?
21. Le'Veon Bell (ADP 66.3)
22. David Wilson (ADP 37.3)
23. Montee Ball (ADP 40.1)
24. Lamar Miller (ADP 59.8)
25. Chris Ivory (ADP 57.7)

Two rookies, two second year players, and a guy with 256 career carries. At least Ball and Bell figure to be the main guys on their teams. Wilson and Miller even have the chance to be the unquestioned starter. So maybe it is not that bad. Wilson has Spiller-like potential, Ball will take over for long-gone Willis McGahee and injury-prone Knowshon Moreno, and Bell figures to replace the horrid combo of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. And Ivory has a chance to bring his career 5.1 yards per carry average (on just 256 carries) to the pitiful New York Jets.

Who I want the most: I'll take Bell. He will be good value by the time you pick him and could put up Rashard Mendenhall hay day numbers.

Tier 8: Dear God, We're Still Going
26. Ryan Mathews (ADP 61.6)
27. Benjarvus Green-Ellis (ADP 70.9)
28. Eddie Lacy (ADP 56.5)
29. Ahmad Bradshaw (ADP 72.0)
30. Shane Vereen (ADP 86.7)
Bonus. Tim Tebow

Mathews has been a major disappointment with more broken collarbones than touchdowns last year. BGE is a slow, non-feature back and has competition with rookie Gio Bernard. Lacy could gather lots of touchdowns but is in a crowded backfield with Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, and Jonathan Franklin all in the picture. Bradshaw has Vick Ballrd and injuries to deal with. And Vereen should at least be relevant as he should take Danny Woodhead's touches.

Who I want the most: Mathews still has the highest upside here. But if Lacy wins the starting job outright, I'll take him. He could compile many of Aaron Rodger's short touchdown runs and passes and even John Kuhn's touchdowns. Lacy may not quite run for 1,000 yards, but I wouldn't be surprised to see 10 touchdowns. Just take that with a grain of salt as that number could also be 0. And you can't go wrong with Tebow. I hear the Canadian Football League has started online fantasy leagues. Oh wait, the Patriots signed him?

So there you have it. Have fun and get the aspirin ready for your running back situations. To help you out some more, here's a nice chart I made of the top running backs. It's pretty self explanatory but lets you see their consistency and ceiling based on last year's stats.

NameDouble Digit Games20+ games
Adrian Peterson
Arian Foster144
Marshawn Lynch114
Doug Martin123
Ray Rice114
Jamal Charles93
CJ Spiller122
LeSean McCoy10/12 (4 injured)0
Trent Richardson11/15 (1 injured)1
Steven Jackson70
Alfred Morris123
Stevan Ridley92
Matt Forte9/15 (1 injured)1
Maurice Jones-Drew2/6 (9 injured)1
Frank Gore110
Chris Johnson91
Darren McFadden6/12 (4 injured)0
DeMarco Murray5/10 (6 injured)0
Darren Sproles9/13 (3 injured)0
Chris Ivory2/6 (10 no carries)0
Reggie Bush72
David Wilson2/3 (with 10+ carries)1
Montee BallN/AN/A
Lamar Miller1/2 (with 10 carries)0
Le'Veon BellN/AN/A
Ryan Mathews1/12 (4 injured)0
Benjarvus Green-Ellis7/15 (1 DNP)0
Eddie LacyN/AN/A
Ahmad Bradshaw7/15 (1 injured)2
Shane Vereen2/2 (with 10+ carries)0
Tim Tebow00