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Fantasy Football: Searching For Wide Receiver Equity

The bulk of free agency moves have come and gone, and while the NFL Draft will have an outsized impact on fantasy football average draft position (ADP), C.D. Carter thinks now is a good time to see where you can find equity in the middle and late rounds of drafts.

Cecil Shorts
Cecil Shorts

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

We have 10,000 miles of road stretched out before us in the journey to fantasy football draft day, but now is the time to help your future self — the one sweating over a laptop, scanning rankings in a panic on a late August afternoon — better understand how consensus valuations are taking shape.

The bulk of free agency moves have come and gone, and while the NFL Draft will have an outsized impact on fantasy football average draft position (ADP), I think now is a good time to see where we can find equity in the middle and late rounds of drafts.

Equity, for our degenerate purposes, is the difference between a player’s ADP and his likely production in 2014. Those who find the largest gaps — the most equity — usually end up with the fake football hardware come December.

Likely outcomes are inherently subjective. Who is to say that a guy’s fantasy production absolutely will be in a certain range? The range of outcomes, in fact, can stretch well beyond even the optimists’ projections.

In an admittedly optimistic exercise, I used the most generous projections from rotoViz’s similarity score app — a great tool for committed fantasy owners — to find the best case scenarios for wide receivers going outside of the top-20 at that position. Many guys being drafted as top-20 receivers likely won’t have a ton of equity. Those in the top-5 have hardly any.

The rotoViz similarity score app, for the uninitiated, takes a player’s closest comparables and gives us the result of what those similar players did the year after the season in question — this being 2013 with an eye to 2014.

Remember, these are the best-case scenarios for each player.

Michael Floyd, ARI
High projection: 243.2 fantasy points
How he would have finished with that production in 2013: WR15
Current ADP: WR22
Equity score: 7

I suppose it’s tough to have a lot of equity when you’re right on the edge of the top-20 wide receivers, and I suspect Floyd will sneak inside that top-20 by the summer. Floyd, the 1,000-yard receiver who saw 112 targets and had a white-hot stretch of games in late November and early December, has been — and will be — talked up by Cardinals coaches as a centerpiece of the Arizona offense. I’d be on the wary side if Floyd’s ADP climbs to anything near WR15.

Those who owned Larry Fitzgerald throughout the 2013 season likely won’t be shocked by this: Floyd’s high season-long projection is 4.5 fantasy points higher than Fitzy’s.

Vincent Jackson, TB
High projection: 272 fantasy points
How he would have finished with that production in 2013: WR11
Current ADP: WR23
Equity score: 12

Coming off what could be the quietest 78-catch, 1,224-yard campaign in NFL history, Jackson’s schematic prospects don’t get much of a lift with Lovie Smith and his offense-hating ways taking over in Tampa. Josh McCown, the inexplicably unquestioned starter for the Bucs, seemed to like his big pass catchers in Chicago, so perhaps Jackson will reap the benefits of McCown’s connection with big-bodied receivers.

Jackson is averaging 153 targets per season as a Buccaneer. You won’t find a cheaper 150 targets in fantasy drafts this season, and the equity is certainly there if VJax hits his high similarity score projections.

Cecil Shorts, JAC
High projection: 224 fantasy points
How he would have finished with that production in 2013: WR17
Current ADP: WR39
Equity score: 22

Now we’re cooking with oil. It’s been said that man cannot live on volume alone, and Shorts proved as much in 2013. He racked up an amazing 10 double-digit target games in Chad Henne‘s moribund offense and didn’t even threaten 800 receiving yards. The rotoViz app likes his top-end prospects, however, as evidenced by the massive potential equity fantasy owners could find in Shorts.

Shorts’ ADP will certainly rise if Jacksonville takes one of the NFL Draft’s premiere signal callers, though I can’t imagine him finding his way into the top-25 receivers off the draft board.

Brian Hartline, MIA
High projection: 248 fantasy points
How he would have finished with that production in 2013: WR15
Current ADP: WR57
Equity score: 42

I swear on David Wilson‘s fantasy grave that I’m not trolling you here. Hartline’s high projection of 15.5 fantasy points per game would make him far more than a borderline every-week starter. Even Hartline’s median similarity score projection — 11.7 points per game — would make him a top-30 wide receiver.

Hartline, like others mentioned in this article, delivered quite a bit of equity to fantasy owners who used a late-round pick on Ryan Tannehill‘s favorite target. It’s hard to imagine a cheaper 100-target pass catcher. The best part is that if Hartline flames out, he cost you close to nothing. You would drop him and move on.

Golden Tate, DET
High projection: 208 fantasy points
How he would have finished with that production in 2013: WR21
Current ADP: WR53
Equity score: 32

Two things about Tate should be immediately clear: his move to Detroit should, in theory, raise his seasonal ceiling as the guy opposite Calvin Johnson in a pass-happy offense. The other is that there’s no possibility Tate will be hate this late in drafts come August. I wouldn’t be surprised to see ol’ Golden among the first 30 wide receivers taken in fantasy drafts this summer.

If, for whatever reason, Tate remains outside the top-40 receivers drafted, I’ll have a whole lot of Golden stock come September. The equity is there.

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