Fantasy Football is a game, but like the real sport we love, it is constantly evolving and being analyzed from a variety of perspectives. As part of our 2013 Fantasy Football Draft Guide, I dialed in a few folks from around the industry to pick their brains and see if we can’t further bring you another valuable resource to aid in your fantasy football preparation.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to discuss fantasy football with and in some cases work alongside these folks. The fantasy football community is welcoming and filled with both innovative and dedicated people who love talking about it.
Rich claims to be a slave to statistics and does fantastic work at Sport Jerks Network.
2013 Fantasy Football Interview Series: WR’s with Rich Hribar
The NFL is airing it out and fantasy owners appear to be following the trend as WRs are going off the board quickly and as early as the first round. Yet, last season in standard scoring leagues, there wasn’t a single WR who finished in the top 25 scorers overall. Why do you think so many owners are reaching this high for WRs?
Owners that target the elite crop of receivers (Calvin, Green, Dez, Demaryius and Marshall) are doing so because they understand in nature that the receiver spot becomes a lot more unstable as you move down throughout the position. More so than Running back even. There are fewer consistent week to week options at receiver than there are running backs. Just because the end of the season totals that receivers post don’t have the sex appeal compared to a running back, doesn’t mean finding an elite option is easier. These five guys may actually be a little undervalued when that second run of running backs starts coming off the board.
Educated fantasy owners study mock drafts, mock themselves, analyze ADP data and read all the sleeper, busts, projections and everything else they can. Is there a specific form of analysis that you would recommend our readers pay particular attention to in regards to the WR position? After Week 1, is there anything else during the season that owners should be looking at?
There’s so much more content available at our fingertips than there ever was before, combing through it all can be very cumbersome. I prefer to look at what systems coaches have run before and how they have used all of the different receiver positions in previous employment. Combining that with obviously acknowledging who they will be playing quarterback with for the upcoming season.
In season I like to sort through a lot of individual performance data for defensive players. Pro Football Focus is a tremendous resource for this. Looking at overall blanket stats for a team defense may not be great insight, because it doesn’t tell the entire story. I want to look for exploitable matchups based on where secondary’s are most vulnerable. I’m not going to play a player who dominantly plays the slot (Cobb) against a team with an elite slot cornerback (like Antoine Winfield). If a team is constantly getting beat at one spot, I want to exploit that. There’s an entire game within the game, and that information is available.
The WR position appears to be jam-packed and extremely deep with tier 2 and 3 options, so would you advise waiting on the position and loading up in the middle rounds? How important is it to land a go-to #1 WR? Obviously, each draft is different, but where are you finding yourself selecting pass catchers and who?
When I’m targeting my first receiver is dependent on two things: 1) scoring system and 2) position in the draft. If I’m playing in a standard scoring league, I want one of those top 5 options early because I know that there’s a limited amount of options available that are capable of scoring 12-15 touchdowns, creating a premium on those players. If I’m picking in the back half of the first round, I’m very likely to take one of those players with my second pick since the possession types won’t carry enough TD clout to anchor my standard receiving corps. Once I have one of those players, I tend to wait and fill my team with big play and high end red zone options.
In points per reception leagues, I will almost always wait until round three to take my first receiver, sometimes even round four depending on what running back options fall into the third and where I’m slotted for my next pick (this happens often when I’m slotted in the 8-12 area). Without having to rely on touchdowns, which is what PPR allows, I want to chase high volume players that are going to see a massive amount of targets and therefor receptions. I’m completely comfortable with a players like Roddy White or Randall Cobb (in those second and third tiers) being my WR1 in a PPR league.
There are some interesting complexities to the WR position, which can drastically influence fantasy value. When you’re targeting receivers how much stock do you put into a receivers role? For example, you’ve got target hounds like Wes Welker, deep threats such as T.Y. Hilton and Torrey Smith and even end zone specialists like James Jones and Mike Williams, what impact does a receivers role have on their fantasy production?
Something that I have been preaching throughout the process here is understanding your leagues scoring and how that relates to the type of player you are targeting while understanding his role within his system. In standard scoring, the Torrey Smith types are going to win you weeks if you build them around an elite anchor that has a low weekly floor. In those leagues, one 30 yard reception is worth 3-4 grabs from a player like Reggie Wayne. A player like James Jones may never top 100 yards in a game (he did only once in 2012) or have a high volume of catches, but he had a touchdown in 10 games and multiple scores in four of them. That’s almost always going to beat a guy with 9 for 120 every week. On the other end, their weekly much lower in a PPR league though because those types of plays have a lower success rate, so you want to target the opposite type of player while the other owners chase those volatile players.
Alright Rich, who are the 3 WRs you would target based on their current ADP and why do you think they’re being undervalued?
Cecil Shorts is a player I love, and his stock has relatively not moved at all during the entire summer. He’s currently being drafted in the 7th round, behind players like Anquan Boldin and Greg Jennings. He is a home run hitter with more polish than a Torrey Smith to grow into a complete receiver. After week five, when he began to see starter snaps, he blew up. The Jacksonville quarterback situation shouldn’t scare anyone as he performed with both guys last seasons.
If I miss out on Shorts, another playing going right around the same time is Miles Austin (8.03 ADP). Believe it or not, he still finished as WR24 last season in PPR scoring, he’s still attached to a fantastic fantasy offense and will never command multiple defenders across from Bryant. Not only is he undervalued based on previous production, he’s criminally low for 2013.
The last player I’m throwing late round picks at in nearly all formats is Alshon Jeffery. He was severely underused as a rookie and the bears are going to throw it a ton this season under Marc Trestman. Trestman comes back to an NFL game that is much more suited to his coaching style, in his second to last year in Oakland four players caught 50 plus passes, with three over 80. He’s currently going off of the board in the early 11th round and has huge touchdown upside.