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Fantasy Football: Top Player to Avoid in 2015

by Stan Son | @Stan_Son | Featured Writer
Jul 7, 2015

Jason Witten may be a more valuable pick than the superstar Stan Son thinks is the top player to avoid

Jason Witten may be a more valuable pick than the superstar Stan Son thinks is the top player to avoid

It’s not always good practice to simply remove a player from your fantasy football cheat sheet, as a player you don’t like entering the draft could still provide value if he falls to a later round than expected. Still, it’s good to have a sense of which players you feel will be overvalued by others, and thus their ADP and rankings in general, so as not to reach based on your expectations. Below we’ll take a look at a player that I’m avoiding this year, but first let’s discuss the idea of value as it relates to fantasy football.

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Understanding Value

There’s a reason kickers aren’t drafted in the first round of fantasy football drafts. Besides the volatility and unpredictability of the position, it all comes down to VALUE. In 2011, David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers had one of the most dominating seasons for a kicker in recent memory. He outscored the second kicker by 40 points or 2.5 points per week. The problem is that the differential from the No. 12 kicker was 60 points or 3.75 points per week. Why waste a first round pick on a kicker when you could get similar production from a pick in the last round?

Now let’s look at Peyton Manning’s record-setting 2013 season. Manning outscored Drew Brees by 50 points or 3.125 points per week. Ben Roethlisberger finished as the No. 12 quarterback that year 152 points behind, or 9.5 points per week. Rolling with the No. 20 quarterback in 2013, Geno Smith, would’ve put you 13.56 points behind per week or 217 points overall.

What drives value? Perception and belief. As the Tim Tebow experience showed us, all it took was for one man, Josh McDaniels, to believe and cause the Tebow circus to invade our consciousness for years that we will never get back.

The beauty of fantasy football and life, in general, is that we all perceive things differently. That Picasso that just sold for $179 million? The person who purchased it obviously liked it for some reason, but I know some who wouldn’t pay more than $10. The Curse of 370 carries? Many will shy away from drafting DeMarco Murray this year because of it. At the end of the day, we end up putting our money where our mouth is and draft those players who we believe in for one reason or another. The only question is at what cost.

Why you should avoid Jimmy Graham

The NFL offseason is intoxicating and nauseating at the same time. There are so many stories and so much hype that the value of a player gyrates like the stock market. One of the most hyped stories this off-season has been the acquisition of Jimmy Graham by the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seattle Seahawks were one yard and one play away from being the first back-to-back champions since the 2003-2004 New England Patriots. The play that will live in infamy is the ill-fated pass that was intercepted by Malcolm Butler at the goal line. With a dominating defense, stout running game and a great quarterback, the supposed missing ingredient was an elite receiver. Jimmy Graham would’ve caught that touchdown, right?

The hype machine has influenced people’s perception of the Jimmy Graham trade to vault Graham to an ADP of 26. Why am I so down on Graham? It’s a confluence of factors, but the main one is that change is not always good and rarely seamless.

The Seahawks traded away their starting center, Max Unger, to acquire Graham. Pro Football Focus rated Unger as the  No. 4 center. Seattle is a smash-mouth team that runs the ball with Marshawn Lynch and plays shutdown defense. How will their run game be affected with the loss of their center? Last year it was Patrick Lewis who replaced Unger when he was injured. Pro Football Focus rated Lewis poorly in the games he played last year.

Are the Seahawks planning on opening up the offense by passing more? It’s possible that they open up the playbook a bit for Russell Wilson, as he has apparently gained the coaching staff’s trust, but their identity remains a ball-control, smash-mouth football team. Last year, Russell completed 285 passes on 452 attempts. The Saints completed more passes than the Seahawks attempted (456 completions in 659 attempts).

The Seahawks were led by Doug Baldwin and his 66 receptions. Jermaine Kearse was second with 38 receptions. The Saints had four receivers with 50+ catches. There’s not too much help to divert coverage away from Graham on the Seahawks. Sure, the running game should assist in that regard but how good will that running game be now?

With a downgrade in the offensive environment, my risk tolerance for injury goes way down. I’m willing to pay a high price for Gronk because he is in an excellent situation. Here is Graham’s injury history:

  • 2011
    • Ankle injury, missed one game.
  • 2012
    • Wrist injury, didn’t miss any games but had a high number of drops.
    • Ankle injury, missed one game.
    • Back injury, missed one game.
  • 2013
    • Plantar fascia tear, didn’t miss a game. (Career Year)
  • 2014
    • Shoulder injury, didn’t miss a game but couldn’t reach or dive for passes.

Everything comes down to value. ESPN currently projects Graham for 65 catches, 770 yards, and eight touchdowns for 124 fantasy points. I think that is a fair projection. Jason Witten is projected for 58/672/6 for 103 fantasy points. That’s a difference of 1.3 points per week. Currently, if you want Graham on your team, you need to spend a second or third round pick. Witten is going five rounds later.

I understand the allure of drafting an elite tight end. There are so few of them, and the advantage you can ascertain is tremendous. They are No. 11 wide receivers. Just make sure that the elite you are paying for is indeed elite. Graham will be good but not elite.

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Stan Son is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Stan, check out his archive and follow him @Stan_Son

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