The NFL preseason is a fickle thing that can create and destroy players’ fantasy football value in equal proportion.
This is hardly breaking news to anyone who starts analyzing player values in the doldrums of winter, fully seven months before Week 1 kickoffs spin through the air. Guys who were available in the waning rounds just 60 days ago are now going in the middle rounds, while players whose average draft positions (ADP) stubbornly stayed put for month and months are now backsliding.
We’re going to address the latter part of that ADP August swing, as there are a handful of players drifting down draft boards and creating value where these once was none (or very little). It’s seizing on this general fear in the fantasy football marketplace that lets us capitalize on inefficiencies borne from iffy preseason performance and off-the-field news that strikes fear into the hearts of your league mates.
I wrote quite a bit about fear in the fantasy market in “How To Think Like A Daily Fantasy Football Winner,” which caters to the DFS crowd but certainly has lessons for more traditional fantasy footballers.
The unnatural psychological demands to exploiting inefficiencies in any market place is best summarized in a quote from 18th Century British nobleman Baron Rothschild, who said, “The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.” … Philip Lawton, a financial investment expert specializing in risk management and contrarian approaches to the stock market, wrote in a December 2013 Research Affiliates article that our relatively new understanding of behavioral finance has made clear that contrarian minds have a sizable advantage in a world of fear and longing for belonging. “Investors, we now see, are prone to cognitive errors, reluctant to realize losses, and overconfident in their own ability but fearful that other market participants know something they don’t,” Lawton writes. “Moreover, investors seek not only utilitarian rewards but expressive and emotional benefits as well, such as status and a sense of belonging to a community.”
Translated, this simply means that investors — and fantasy owners — are prone to moving with the crowd and being greedy and fearful in concert with those who have marked impact on the fantasy market. This is as predictable as the sunrise. Or a Darren McFadden ankle injury.
Below is a look at four players whose perceived value is slowly but surely dropping thanks to various summertime happenings, including spates of poor play, off-the-field malfeasance. I’m targeting all of them in drafts this month.
Foles is the only quarterback with an ADP among the position’s top 10 that I’m targeting in drafts, especially as his three preseason interceptions raise fears of massive regression from last year’s otherworldly efficient numbers.
There are three reasons I’m not in total and complete panic mode over Foles: He’s yet to play with a full slate of starters, he doesn’t need DeSean Jackson to be elite, and Philadelphia beat writers have mentioned that Chip Kelly is keeping the preseason offensive game plan on the vanilla side of things — refusing to show every new wrinkle in games that don’t count.
Foles won’t score .69 fantasy points every time he throws the football in 2014, as he did in 2013. The best part for those willing to invest in Foles is that he doesn’t have to be anywhere near that efficient to post top-5 quarterback numbers.
Foles’ ADP has dropped from the start of the sixth round to the middle of the seventh round in three short weeks. I’ve seen Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers drafted ahead of Foles in recent days. It’s anecdotal, but it’s telling. Blood is everywhere in those Foles streets, and value is emerging.
Besides a popgun-armed quarterback, major regression last season, a one-game suspension and a chronically dislocated finger, there’s really nothing to worry about in drafting Bowe.
Kansas City’s No. 1 receiver will miss the season’s first game thanks to an arrest last fall — news that sent his ADP from 9.04 to 9.08. It’s not an enormous drop, but remember that this is just one week’s reaction. I could see Bowe settling in around the middle of the 10th round by the first days of September.
Bowe’s best 2014 comps are uninspiring, though they include Larry Fitzgerald in 2013, when Fitz finished as fantasy’s 15th highest scoring receiver. I think Bowe will benefit from the Chiefs’ defensive regression that will force the offense to, you know, actually try to score points.
He’s the 40th wide receiver off the board. I think his best-case prospects put him right on the edge of top-24 (WR2) status. That’s not bad for a guy being valued as a WR4.
There are two things the Steelers hate: big receivers who score touchdowns and law breaking.
Bell, according to reporters who know these things, likely won’t face NFL-sanctioned punishment this season for his DUI and marijuana possession. I think it’s safe to assume 16 games for the second-year back who, until recently, was being drafted at the start of the second round.
Bell’s ADP now sits at 2.11 and there’s no reason to think that free fall will suddenly stop in the next couple weeks. Whether Mike Tomlin sticks out his chest and diminishes Bell’s role as a punishment for his grass-related misdeeds is another question entirely.
Bell played 27 snaps Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, while LaGarrette Blount — who is supposedly in line for goal line duties — got 24 snaps. Bell received nine carries to Blount’s seven. It may not be perfectly reflective of their coming regular season usage, but it’s clear that Blount is more than a runner meant to give Bell a breather.
Bell is now the 12th running back off the board. He could very well be the 14th or 15th runner drafted by the last week of August. I still think Bell has a ceiling that puts him among fantasy’s top-10 backs.
It seems fantasy owners like Randle in the abstract more than in reality. Randle’s ADP has dropped seven spots from the start of the preseason thanks in large part to the Giants’ passing attack once again looking dismal.
No Big Blue receiver will benefit more than Randle from new offensive head man Ben McAdoo’s offensive system and it’s pass routes that don’t revolve around body language like those of former play caller Kevin Gilbride.
Big Blue doesn’t have a tight end with any kind of discernible role, so the 6-foot-2, 209 lb. receiver will be the only legit red zone option for Eli Manning this season. New York beat writers have written that Randle has been peppered with red zone targets in training camp and 11-on-11 scrimmages. There’s really no reason to believe otherwise once you take a cursory look at the Giants’ receiving options.
I have some concern that, on 76 targets in 2013, Randle notched .32 fantasy points per opportunity — the same as Brian Hartline and Leonard Hankerson. A slide into the bottom of the ninth or top of the 10th round, however, would constitute an investment in something close to Randle’s fantasy floor. That’s important.
Hill, since the Bengals hinted that Benjarvus Green-Ellis might stick around this year, has seen his ADP plummet from the beginning of the ninth round in early August to the middle of the 10th round. The drop is as precipitous as it is expected.
Cincinnati rookie runner has been a favorite of Cincy coaches, including new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who said Hill is “worthy of playing” with the Bengals’ starters in their upcoming third preseason game. Hill, who is reportedly recovered from a minor shoulder injury, still represents a nice chunk of fantasy equity at his current RB45 ADP.
Hill has nine carries for 52 yards so far in two preseason games. If he goes off in one of the Bengals’ final two preseason contests, we’ll see his ADP climb back to the early ninth round — of that I’m sure. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to project Hill for 200 touches in 2014, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take full advantage of the fall in Hill’s stock.
Invest now while there’s blood in those streets.