This is Part Deux of Predicting the Top 10 for 2017. For the running back series, click here.

My primary motivation for the running back piece was due to the proliferation of the “Zero RB” drafting strategy. The basic premise of this strategy is that running backs are too risky due to injury and usage (RBBC). Was there a way to mitigate the risk or identify trends from history that could assist with choosing the right running back?

The “Zero RB” strategy advocates drafting wide receivers. “The wide receiver gets more projected points when you adjust projections for risk.” If that’s the case, then ADP for wide receivers should be able to predict the final top 10 at a much higher rate than for running backs, right?

Going back 12 years, though, that just hasn’t been the case. Here’s a look of the percentage of top 10 ADP WRs that finished the season in the top 10, per season.

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2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
30% 60% 60% 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% 60% 50% 50%

(Historical ADP data courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com. Historical fantasy points data courtesy of footballguys.com. Data is for standard scoring.)

In the below exercise, I will look at the past 12 years to see why predicting the top 10 wide receivers has been as much of a coin flip as was the case for the running back position. Let’s take another trip down memory lane.

PAST 12 YEARS

2005

The Studs

  • Marvin Harrison
  • Torry Holt
  • Chad Johnson

The Disappointments

  • Randy Moss – Traded to the Oakland Raiders. In 2004, Moss missed three games due to injury for the first time in his career, yet he still managed to score 13 touchdowns. From 1998-2003, the lowest yardage total was 1,313 and he tallied double-digit touchdowns in every season except 2002 (7). ADP was #1 WR. Finished as the #15 WR.
  • Terrell Owens – Helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl in 2004, then TO went TO. Hired Drew Rosenhaus to get a new contract, threatened to hold out, made disparaging remarks about Donovan McNabb and Eagles management, and was finally suspended without pay for four games then deactivated for the season. Finished as the #32 WR.
  • Javon Walker – Tried to renegotiate contract with…Drew Rosenhaus. What a year for the agent. Threatened to hold out but relented. Injured ACL in the first game and was done for the year.
  • Reggie Wayne – Scored 12 touchdowns in 2004. Only scored five in 2005. Finished as the #21 WR.
  • Joe Horn – Missed three games due to hamstring injury.
  • Andre Johnson – Missed three games due to injury.
  • Nate Burleson – Missed four games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Steve Smith – ADP #13 WR. Finished as the #1 WR. Missed 15 games in 2004 after breaking his leg. Returned in 2015 and finished with the WR Triple Crown; first in receptions (103), yards (1,563), and touchdowns (12).
  • Larry Fitzgerald – ADP #19 WR. Had a successful rookie season in 2004. Kurt Warner’s first year in Arizona. Although Warner missed six games to injury, Josh McCown was more than capable that year. 103 receptions.
  • Santana Moss – ADP #34 WR. Traded from the Jets to the Redskins.
  • Joey Galloway – ADP #50 WR. Was traded from the Cowboys to the Buccaneers in 2004. Missed six games due to injury in 2004. Bounced back in 2005 for a career-year. The Buccaneers selected Carnell Williams, who won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, and gave the team a legitimate rushing threat.
  • Chris Chambers – ADP #18 WR. Nick Saban’s first year in Miami. Potent rushing attack with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
  • Anquan Boldin – ADP #17 WR. see Larry Fitzgerald above. 102 receptions.
  • Hines Ward – ADP #11 WR. Coming off four consecutive seasons with 1,000+ yards. Held out two weeks of training camp for a contract extension. Signed before the start of the season. Ward did miss one game due to injury, snapping his consecutive games started streak at 83 and games played at 116.

2006

The Studs

  • Steve Smith
  • Chad Johnson
  • Marvin Harrison
  • Torry Holt
  • Terrell Owens
  • Reggie Wayne

The Disappoinments

  • Larry Fitzgerald – Missed three games due to injury.
  • Randy Moss – Missed three games due to injury. All you need to know about the 2006 Oakland Raiders; Andrew Walters and Aaron Brooks both threw three touchdowns each for the whole season.
  • Anquan Boldin – Finished as the #17 WR. Only caught four touchdowns. RookieMatt Leinart started 11 games.
  • Chris Chambers – Joey Harrington started 11 games for the Dolphins.

The Replacements

  • Donald Driver – ADP #16 WR. Mike McCarthy’s first year as head coach. Driver became Favre’s de facto number one receiver in 2005.
  • Lee Evans – ADP #25 WR. Dick Jauron’s first year as head coach. Became number one receiver in 2006 after Eric Moulds left.
  • Javon Walker – ADP #18 WR. Traded to the Broncos after spending four seasons in Green Bay.
  • Roy Williams – Third year in the league. First healthy season after missing two games in 2004 and three games in 2005. Joey Harrington was replaced at quarterback with Jon Kitna.

2007

The Studs

  • Chad Johnson
  • Terrell Owens
  • Reggie Wayne
  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • T. J. Houshmandzadeh
  • Marques Colston

The Disappointments

  • Steve Smith – Finished as the #16 WR. Not bad considering the Panthers started four different quarterbacks that year; Jake Delhomme, Vinny Testaverde, David Carr, and Matt Moore.
  • Marvin Harrison – Missed 11 games due to injury.
  • Torry Holt – Finished #13 WR. Had a great year but only scored seven touchdowns. Also, Marc Bulger started 12 games, with Gus Frerotte and Brock Berlin starting the other four.
  • Roy Williams – Missed four games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Randy Moss – ADP #12 WR. Just the greatest season from a wide receiver in the history of the NFL and fantasy. As a Raiders fan, this one hurt…a lot. Traded to the Patriots no less. Grrrrr.
  • Braylon Edwards – ADP #25 WR. Third year in the league. The acquisition of Jamaal Lewis at running back was huge for the whole offense.
  • Brandon Marshall – ADP #52 WR. Injuries forced him to miss training camp.
  • Plaxico Burress – ADP #17 WR. Struggled with groin injury in 2006. Suffered an ankle injury during training camp that caused him to miss most of the preseason.

2008

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Reggie Wayne – Finished as the #14 WR. Only scored six touchdowns.
  • Braylon Edwards – Led the league with 23 drops. Only scored three touchdowns. Four different quarterbacks started a game for the Browns; Derek Anderson (9), Ken Dorsey (3), Brady Quinn (3), and Bruce Gradkowski (1).
  • Marques Colston – Missed five games due to injury.
  • T. J. Houshmandzadeh – Coming off a 112 reception, 1,143 yards, and 12 touchdown season in 2007. Caught 92 balls in 2008, but only scored four touchdowns. Carson Palmer missed 14 games due to injury and Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced him.
  • Plaxico Burress – Contract drama. Burress did not practice much and was suspended by the team. Played in 10 games, but was a non-factor all season.

The Replacements

  • Calvin Johnson – ADP #17 WR. After the 2007 season, Megatron stated that his lower-back bothered him all season, causing him to be on meds the whole year. That, and perhaps the terrible state of the Lions franchise, depressed his value. Three quarterbacks started for the Lions in 2008; Dan Orlovsky (7), Jon Kitna (4), and Daunte Culpepper (5).
  • Greg Jennings – ADP #19 WR. Third year in the league. Missed two games in 2006 and three games in 2007. Aaron Rodgers’s first year starting.
  • Roddy White – ADP #27 WR. The year after Michael Vick’s dog fighting scandal and Bobby Petrino’s resignation. Mike Smith’s first year as head coach and Matt Ryan’s rookie season. White broke out in his third year (2007) with 83 receptions, 1,202 yards, and six touchdowns. The Falcons also acquired Michael Turner to give them a legitimate ground game.
  • Anquan Boldin – ADP #15 WR. Had an insane season. Missed four games due to injury, yet caught 89 balls for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kurt Warner was the quarterback and the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. Boldin missed four games in 2007.
  • Antonio Bryant – ADP #69 WR. A true Milli Vanilli. Did not play in 2007 and signed for the minimum with the Buccaneers. Came to a team that had a 36-year-old Joey Galloway as it’s number one receiver.

2009

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Calvin Johnson – Missed two games due to injury. Jim Schwartz’s first year as head coach and Matthew Stafford’s rookie year. Three quarterbacks started for the Lions; Stafford (10), Daunte Culpepper (5), and Drew Stanton (1).
  • Greg Jennings – Only caught 68 passes and scored four touchdowns. Ryan Grant was a beast running the ball in 2009, as he scored 11 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers spread the ball around. Donald Driver led the team with 70 receptions.
  • Steve Smith – Missed one game due to injury. 2009 was when Jake Delhomme turned into Chuck Knoblauch and forgot how to throw. He threw eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He also missed five games, so Matt Moore played.
  • Anquan Boldin – Missed one game due to injury. Only scored four touchdowns.Larry Fitzgerald went nuts and caught 13 touchdowns.
  • Marques Colston – Finished as #13 WR. Drew Brees spread the wealth, as seven receivers had 35+ receptions.

The Replacements

  • Miles Austin – ADP #59 WR. Third year in league. Missed four games due to injury in 2008. Terrell Owens was released in the offseason. Roy Williams injury gave Austin his first start.
  • DeSean Jackson – ADP #19 WR. Had a successful rookie year in 2008.
  • Sidney Rice – ADP #65 WR. Third year in league. Missed three games in each of his first two seasons. Some guy named Brett Favre joined the team.
  • Brandon Marshall – ADP #20 WR. Coming off consecutive 100+ catch seasons, but had offseason hip surgery. He did not play in any of the preseason games due to being suspended by the Broncos.
  • Vincent Jackson – ADP #17 WR. Since entering the league in 2005, Jackson increased his receptions, targets, and yards in each season.

2010

The Studs

  • Andre Johnson
  • Reggie Wayne
  • Calvin Johnson
  • Roddy White
  • Greg Jennings

The Disappointments

  • Randy Moss – Wanted a contract extension from the Patriots, who ended up trading him to the Vikings. Criticized head coach Brad Childress then was waived. The Titans claimed Moss off waivers.
  • Larry Fitzgerald – Finished as the #16 WR. Had a good year but only scored six touchdowns. The three quarterbacks for the Cardinals in 2010; Derek Anderson (9), John Skelton (4), and Max Hall (3).
  • Miles Austin – Finished #12 WR.
  • Brandon Marshall – Traded to the Dolphins. Missed two games due to injury. Caught balls from Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen. Only scored three touchdowns.
  • DeSean Jackson – Contract extension drama in the offseason. Missed two games due to injury. Jeremy Maclin became a prominent weapon. Michael Vick missed time and Kevin Kolb started five games.

The Replacements

  • Brandon Lloyd – Wasn’t drafted in fantasy leagues. Finished as the #1 WR. Missed eight games in 2007 while playing for the Redskins. Missed five games while playing for the Bears in 2008. Missed 14 games in 2009 after arriving in Denver. Perhaps the Josh McDaniels offense suited Lloyd perfectly.
  • Dwayne Bowe – ADP #21 WR. Was immediately successful upon entering the league. Increased his receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns from year one to year two. Missed five games in 2009.
  • Mike Wallace – ADP #26 WR. Santonio Holmes was traded to the Jets, elevating Wallace to #2 on the depth chart.
  • Hakeem Nicks – ADP #20 WR. Second year in the league. Had success as a rookie. Missed two games in 2009. Nicks ended his rookie season as #2 on the Giants depth chart.
  • Stevie Johnson – Wasn’t drafted in fantasy leagues. Missed five games his rookie year (2008). Missed 11 games in 2009. Had a good offseason and won the starting receiver position.

2011

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Andre Johnson – Missed nine games due to injury. Missed three games in 2010.
  • Greg Jennings – Missed three games due to injury.
  • Hakeem Nicks – Finished as the #12 WR.
  • DeSean Jackson – Contract extension drama. Was deactivated a game for missing a special teams meeting. Was benched in the fourth quarter of a game. Ended the year with 58 receptions, 961 yards, and four touchdowns.
  • Miles Austin – Missed six games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Jordy Nelson – ADP #46 WR. Performed well in Super Bowl XLV; nine receptions, 140 yards, and one touchdown. Was third on the depth chart behind Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.
  • Wes Welker – ADP #15 WR. Missed one game in 2010 and two games in 2009. Prior to 2010, Welker posted three straight seasons with 111+ catches. Patriots drafted Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in 2010. With those two fully integrated, the Patriots increased the tempo of the offense. Tom Brady attempted 492 passes in 2010. That number ballooned to 612 in 2011.
  • Victor Cruz – Wasn’t drafted in fantasy. Showed himself to the world in the 2010 preseason. Caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Shut down after five games due to a hamstring injury. In 2011, Cruz started the season #4 on the depth chart, but injuries to Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon opened the door.
  • Steve Smith – ADP #34 WR. Missed two games in 2010 and that was Jimmy Clausen’s rookie year. The Panthers drafted Cam Newton in 2011.
  • Percy Harvin – ADP #23 WR. Third year in the league. Increased receptions, targets, and yards in his first two years. Missed two games in 2010 and one game in 2009. Bill Musgrave replaced Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator.

2012

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Larry Fitzgerald – Four quarterbacks started for the Cardinals in 2012; John Skelton (6), Kevin Kolb (5), Ryan Lindley (4), and Brian Hoyer (1).
  • Wes Welker – Finished as the #12 WR.
  • Greg Jennings – Missed eight games due to injury.
  • Victor Cruz – Finished as the #13 WR.
  • Jordy Nelson – Missed four games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Brandon Marshall – ADP #11 WR. Reunited and it feels so good. Traded to Da Bears to be with his BFF Jay Cutler.
  • Dez Bryant – ADP #14 WR. Third year in the league. Increased all stats from year one to year two. Missed four games in 2010 and one game in 2011.
  • Demaryius Thomas – ADP #18 WR. Third year in the league. Missed six games in 2010 and five games in 2011. Some guy named Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos. He was pretty good that year.
  • Vincent Jackson – ADP #22 WR. Signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason.
  • Eric Decker – ADP #23 WR. Two words, Peyton Manning. Third year in the league.

2013

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Julio Jones – Missed 11 games due to injury.
  • Larry Fitzgerald – Finished #17 WR. Bruce Arians’ first year as head coach.
  • Andre Johnson – Finished #13 WR.
  • Randall Cobb – Missed 10 games due to injury.
  • Roddy White – Missed three games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Josh Gordon – ADP #36 WR. First year with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Rod Chudzinski’s first year as head coach. Performed well his rookie year.
  • Antonio Brown – ADP #24 WR. Mike Wallace was released after the 2012 season, putting Brown #1 on the depth chart. Missed three games due to injury in 2012.
  • Eric Decker – ADP #21 WR. Peyton Manning. In the offseason, the Broncos said that they were going to be more uptempo and try and run more plays. Time for pat on the back. I traded up in the draft to select Peyton Manning for that reason (2-QB league).
  • Alshon Jeffery – ADP #51 WR. Marc Trestman’s first year as head coach. Missed six games due to injury his rookie year. Played opposite Brandon Marshall.
  • DeSean Jackson – ADP #25 WR. Chip Kelly’s first year as head coach. Missed five games due to injury in 2012. Signed contract extension in 2012.

2014

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Calvin Johnson – Missed three games due to injury. Missed two games due to injury in 2013.
  • A.J. Green – Missed three games due to injury.
  • Brandon Marshall – Missed three games due to injury.
  • Alshon Jeffery – Finished as #12 WR.

The Replacements

  • Odell Beckham Jr. – ADP #65 WR. Missed training camp, preseason, and the first four games due to a hamstring injury. Was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Victor Cruz got injured in 2014, opening a spot on the depth chart.
  • Emmanuel Sanders – ADP #27 WR. Eric Decker went to the Jets and Sanders was brought in from Pittsburgh. Peyton Manning.
  • Jeremy Maclin – ADP #28 WR. Missed all of 2013 due to injury. DeSean Jackson was removed from the team. Maclin was the #1 receiver on the depth chart.
  • T. Y. Hilton – ADP #23 WR. Third year in the league. Yards, targets, and receptions all increased from rookie year to year two. Became Luck’s #1 receiver in 2013 when Reggie Wayne went down with injury.

2015

The Studs

The Disappointments

  • Demaryius Thomas – Finished as the #13 WR. Below-average quarterback play. Yards-per-reception was the lowest of career (12.4). As a result, yards-per-game was lowest since becoming a full-time starter. With that said, he still caught 105 balls for 1.304 yards on 177 targets. He scored 6 touchdowns after posting three consecutive seasons with at least 10.
  • Randall Cobb – Finished as the #31 WR. The Jordy Nelson injury really hampered the Packers passing game. Davante Adams and the rest of the receiving crew weren’t able to step up. As a result, defenses were able to neutralize Cobb.
  • Jordy Nelson – Did not play in 2015 due to injury.
  • Mike Evans – Finished as the #26 WR. Only scored 3 touchdowns after hauling in 12 the prior year. Quarterback Jameis Winston was a rookie.
  • Dez Bryant – Missed seven games due to injury.

The Replacements

  • Brandon Marshall – ADP of #21 WR. 109 receptions for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. Fitzmagic baby!!!
  • Allen Robinson – ADP of #25 WR. Game script for the Jaguars was beneficial for the passing game, as the team was constantly chasing points and was forced to throw the ball a ton. Plus, he’s damn good.
  • DeAndre Hopkins – ADP of #11 WR. Right on the cusp, but there were concerns about the Texans quarterback situation. Nuk proved to be quarterback-proof.
  • Doug Baldwin – ADP of #54 WR. 14 touchdowns!!! Since 2012, receptions, targets, and yards all increased each season. 2012 was Russell Wilson’s rookie year. Since that time, the Seahawks now run 4 times less a game and, correspondingly, throw the ball 4 times more a game.
  • Larry Fitzgerald – ADP of #29 WR. Moved to the slot and excelled.

2016

The Studs

The Disappointments

The Replacements

  • T.Y. Hilton – ADP #15 WR. Andrew Luck returned after an injury-plagued 2015. That helped T.Y. bounce back with 91 catches for 1,448 yards after hauling in only 69 passes the prior year.
  • Michael Thomas – ADP #48 WR. One of the all-time seasons by a rookie wide receiver. Finished second in receptions and seventh in yards. Drew Brees led the league in completions, attempts, and yards.
  • Doug Baldwin – ADP #22 WR. Coming off a season in which he caught 14 touchdowns. Many thought Baldwin’s 2015 was a fluke. Prior to the 2016 season, the targets, receptions, and yardage increased every year. Did you know that the completions, attempts, and yardage have increased every season for Russell Wilson? Now you do.
  • Davante Adams – ADP #56 WR. James Jones, who caught 50 passes for 890 yards and eight touchdowns, was released before the season. Randall Cobb missed six games due to injury. Adams was coming into his third year and ended up catching 12 touchdowns.
  • Brandin Cooks – ADP #14 WR. Third-year. Copy and paste. Drew Brees led the league in completions, attempts, and yards.

Deciphering the data

 REASONS FOR THE DISAPPOINTMENTS  # OF OCCURRENCES
 New team  6
 Contract drama  6
 Injury  28
 Lower TD total  14
 Poor QB play  15
 Rookie QB  4
 Potent run game  2
 Another good receiver  2
 New coach  1
 QB spreading it around  2

The injuries obviously stand out. For comparisons sake, 33 running backs disappointed due to injury. Football is a physical and violent game. Injuries, unfortunately, are part of it. The notion that wide receivers are safer because they don’t get injured as much is up for debate.

 REASONS FOR THE REPLACEMENTS  # OF OCCURRENCES
 Returing from injury  8
 2nd year in league  9
 New team  7
 Potent run game  5
 New coach  7
 Became #1 receiver the prior year  2
 Became #1 receiver same year  6
 3rd year in league  14
 New QB  10
 Injury concerns  13
 Opportunity due to injury of another player  3
 Increase in stats every year  8
 Move up depth chart  5
 Wasn’t drafted in fantasy leagues  2
 Performed well in Super Bowl prior year  1
 Scheme change  7

Whenever there are question marks, especially related to injury, value is often procured. Scheme change, new quarterback situations, and depth chart movements are tangible things that we can all sink our teeth into. The interesting ones for me are the 2nd- and 3rd-year receivers. There was the whole notion of the “Third-Year Receiver” phenomenon. I didn’t realize how many second year receivers broke out. Now, rookies are coming in and making an immediate impact.

Predicting the top 10 WRs for 2017

Now for the fun part. I will try and predict which wide receivers will not provide ADP value and those that will replace them.

2017 ADP

  1. Antonio Brown
  2. Julio Jones
  3. Odell Beckham Jr.
  4. Mike Evans
  5. A.J. Green
  6. Jordy Nelson
  7. Michael Thomas
  8. Amari Cooper
  9. Dez Bryant
  10. Brandin Cooks

Since ADP usually only predicts 50% of the final list, I’ve put in bold those five that I feel will finish in the top 10. The five that I think will FALL OUT of the top 10 are:

Julio Jones

INJURY: I’m always concerned with Julio, as he has had many issues with his feet in the past. NEW COACH: Kyle Shanahan left to become the head coach of the 49ers. Steve Sarkisian is now the offensive coordinator for the Falcons. While he’s done some good things in college, his only experience in the NFL was when he was the quarterbacks coach for the Raiders for one season back in 2004. POOR QB PLAY: I’m not saying that Matt Ryan will be bad. He’s very good and should have a productive season, but last year was probably an outlier year. He passed for 38 touchdowns last season. He had only passed for more than 30 touchdowns one other time in his nine year career. His TD% was 7.1 last season. He had never had a mark above 5.2 before. Some regression is bound to happen.

Odell Beckham Jr

INJURY: He’s currently dealing with a sprained ankle. I’m no doctor, so I won’t get into it too deeply. There’s a chance the injury lingers or affects other parts of the body. ANOTHER GOOD RECEIVER: The Giants signed Brandon Marshall in the offseason. QB SPREADING IT AROUND:  Eli has a plethora of options now, as the Giants drafted Evan Engram, a pass catching tight end in the draft. They also have Sterling Shepard and pass catching running back Shane Vereen. LOWER TD TOTAL: OBJ has scored double-digit touchdowns in each of his three seasons in the league. I can see him finishing in the single-digits for the first time. As mentioned above, there are other options in the passing game now. Two other things need to be considered as well. The run game doesn’t look potent as of now. As a result, defenses may be able to sit back in coverage. The second thing is the Giants look to have a very strong defense for 2017. If they are indeed good, less shootouts and more ball control.

Mike Evans

ANOTHER GOOD RECEIVER: Bucs added DeSean Jackson to the receiving core. Also drafted O.J. Howard at tight end. LOWER TD TOTAL: Evans scored 12 touchdowns last season. It’s not inconceivable to think he will end with fewer, as he only scored three touchdowns in 2015 after hauling in 12 the year before.

Amari Cooper

ANOTHER GOOD RECEIVER: Michael Crabtree has scored more touchdowns than Cooper in each of the past two seasons. POTENT RUN GAME: The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in the game. And they picked up Marshawn Lynch in the offseason. This team wants to play bully ball.

Brandin Cooks

NEW TEAM: Cooks is going to New England after spending his whole career in New Orleans. ANOTHER GOOD RECEIVER: Rob Gronkowski is still the #1 receiver in New England when healthy. The loss of Julian Edelman helps Cooks’ prospects, but Chris Hogan is also a very good receiver. QB SPREADING IT AROUND: It’s Tom Freaking Brady. He does what he does. POTENT RUN GAME: There’s a stable of competent running backs and, with defenses having to play the pass, the run game is usually open for business. Legarrett Blount scored 18 touchdowns last season.

 

Now, the replacements:

Terrelle Pryor – ADP #15 WR

NEW TEAM: Pryor went from Cleveland to Washington. THIRD YEAR: Pryor has been in the league for five years, but he played quarterback the first three years of his career. This will be his third year playing the wide receiver position. BECAME #1 RECEIVER: Pryor immediately becomes the number one receiver for Kirk Cousins. NEW QB: He goes from Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, Kevin Hogan, and Robert Griffin to Kirk Cousins.

Keenan Allen – ADP #16 WR

RETURNING FROM INJURY: Tore his ACL last season. He’s had four season-ending injuries in five years. When healthy, he’s one of the best route-runners in the game and will get peppered with targets.

Stefon Diggs – ADP #28 WR

RETURNING FROM INJURY: Missed three games due to a groin injury. Was affected from Week 4 until the rest of the season. THIRD YEAR: This will be Diggs’ third year in the league. Quarterback Sam Bradford was thrust into the role last season. Now, there should be more familiarity. INCREASE STATS EVERY YEAR: Receptions and yardage increased from year one to year two. The Antonio Brown comparisons have been made in the past. With an upgraded offensive line, health, and Dalvin Cook in the backfield, this could be the breakout year for Diggs.

Pierre Garcon – ADP #37 WR

NEW TEAM: After spending the last five seasons in Washington, Garcon is now in San Francisco. NEW COACH: Kyle Shanahan is the coach in SF. Shanahan has guided some explosive offenses in Washington and Atlanta. BECAME #1 RECEIVER: That may not be saying much for a talent-deficient 49ers team. With that said, he’s the guy no doubt. NEW QB: While going from Kirk Cousins to Brian Hoyer is a downgrade, Hoyer has had his moments and peppered DeAndre Hopkins the year he received 192 targets.

Kenny Britt – ADP #51 WR

NEW TEAM: Goes from the Rams to the Browns. The Rams were 27th in pass attempts with 536 last season. The Browns were 18th with 567 attempts. BECAME #1 RECEIVER: He’s the guy in Cleveland and should get peppered with targets.

Conclusion

Following the herd is the safe and easy way to live life. It provides a sense of community and allows an emotional safety net. I personally let ADP affect me way too much at times. But in order to elevate from the masses, one must take that lonely step that goes against conventional wisdom. Think of John Paulson, who made $4 billion betting against the U.S. subprime mortgage lending market when everyone thought the housing market would go up forever. Shawn Siegele is credited with coining and executing the Zero RB strategy to profit into the hundreds of thousands in 2013 when the conventional wisdom was to always build a fantasy roster around stud running backs. What do Paulson and Siegele have in common? They were both able to identify something that the majority of society could not. Then they took the most difficult task of actually putting their money where their mouth was and executing upon that information.

As the exercise of trying to predict the top 10 has shown, there could be value to be exploited. How? I don’t know, but it seems to be out there. It’s going to require thought and the ability to identify some minute detail that everyone is overlooking. Or it can be that elusive butterfly that we were searching for in the running back edition. Could it all be random and coincidental? Sure, but I obviously don’t believe that or I’d be just throwing darts at the board.

Once an edge is identified, everyone will start to utilize it until the edge is no longer an edge. The fate of the Zero RB will be no different. The fantasy puzzle will continue to morph and evolve until a new strategy is required and eventually conceptualized.

Continue to observe. Continue to think. That next exploitable edge is out there. One of us will eventually spot it.

 

  1. Chucky says:
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    Couldn’t agree more. Most of the rankings are just regurgitated from one ranking to another yet when the end of the years stats are final, we see the effects of injuries, and other variables. Personally I think it’s all about trust between a QB and his receivers / running backs. Brady trusts Gronk and Edelman near the GL. Rivers loved Woodhead in the same scenario. All things being equal, ARod loves Nelson near the paint. This year’s marriage will be the sure handed Decker with his emerging QB Mariotta.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Chucky: I can see Decker/Mariota being a lethal combo, especially in the red zone. Will he get enough volume to be one of the elite though?

  2. Tweak says:
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    I agree on Decker in Tennessee. Great advice here.

    My draft from last night landed me with these guys for WRs:

    J. Nelson, A. Cooper, S. Diggs, P. Garcon, C. Beasley

    I think I’ll be alright, but I ended up with Gordon, Lynch, Ingram, Henry and Mack (to make Tehol happy) at RB, so maybe I could deal one to upgrade further at WR.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Tweak: I think you are fine at WR.

  3. Walter white says:
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    Good morning, one week away from the start of week 1!

    .5 PPR here’s my squad:

    QB: Winston

    RB1: DJ
    RB2: Gordon

    WR1: alshon
    WR2: martavis Bryant
    WR3: Devante Parker

    TE: hunter Henry

    Flex: mcaffery

    Bench: Kareem hunt , Marshall, Snead, Maclin, hogan , Smallwood, Jamaal Williams, Smallwood, deangelo Henderson, Abdullah.

    Based on this info would you look to trade my Gordon to acquire an upgrade at WR? If yes, for a 1 for 1 deal which WR should I look for in return?

    Speaking of trades I had this idea thoughts on it is it fair ? I send Gordon + Alshon + Smallwood (or Maclin or snead)

    I get in return: Gronk, Michael Thomas .

    —–

    Another owner has Cooks who I’m targeting via trades he has no depth his RBs are Ingram, sims, Jon Stewart, Vereen, tim Hightower. His WRs Cooks, Eric decker, amendola, Cobb, Jordan Matthews, thielen, Beasley, Kenny stills. He has Ben Watson & Rudolph for TE

    If I don’t make a trade thoughts on dropping deangelo Henderson to add either Kenny galloday, Kupp, Paul Richardson, Kendal Wright , Markus Wheaton, or funchess

    Thanks man!

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Walter white: Hmm, I’d probably make that trade for Gronk/M. Thomas. I subscribe to the Ricky Bobby philosophy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4usE2RePqo. I wouldn’t drop D. Henderson. I think he has a good chance to start at some point this season. There are plenty of options at receiver, so I don’t think there’s a rush to grab any of them. I do think Paul Richardson has the highest upside, though.

      • Walter white says:
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        @Son:

        Thanks man! Is it a fair trade on both sides?

        if I’m unable to pull that trade off what do you think of my roster?

        • Son

          Son says:
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          @Walter white: Tough to say if it’s fair. Everyone values players differently and I don’t know your league or the other owner and his roster construction. With that said, if I was receiving that offer, I’d probably want more for Gronk and Thomas. I think that’s what you’re asking right? As for your roster, you have David Freaking Johnson so it looks good! Seriously, it looks fine. You will find out how good it actually looks very soon.

  4. Norm MacDonald says:
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    Son,
    Thanks for being the best of Razzball Football.
    I remember you’re a big Chris Hogan guy.
    Does he finally break out this year and worth a mid-round pick? .5 PPR.
    Thanks,
    Normy

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Norm MacDonald: Ha! Appreciate the compliment but we all do good work at Razzball. That’s why it’s the best site out there!!! Yeah, I’ve like Hogan for a while. Props for remembering that article last year. I’m not sure he breaks out this year, though. Is it possible? For sure. More than likely, he has some big weeks but I’m not sure he’s consistent week in and week out. His ADP has vaulted since the Edelman news, maybe too high perhaps. I wouldn’t pay up for him. It’s not like he’s suddenly the #1 receiver in NE and will be the target hog.

  5. Maxwell says:
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    Great write up Son! So only 5 teams were signed up for our RCL last night. The draft went ahead anyway. Checked again this morning and everything is still set up with 5 teams. Is this league vetoed from RCLs or what ? Thanks

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Maxwell: Just texted Jay and he said league is void.

  6. Brent

    The Fantasy Dick says:
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    My waiver wire has: Kenny Britt, Ted Ginn and Zay Jones….are any of them better than my WRs of: Jeffrey, Kelvin Benjamin, Pierre Garcon, Chris Hogan, Jeremy Maclin?

    Non-ppr, 12 tm, standard scoring

    thanks

    TFD

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @The Fantasy Dick: I really like Britt and Ginn. Personally, I’d take them over Hogan and Maclin, but it’s close. Comes down to personal preference.

  7. Jim McGough says:
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    Don’t trust the ffwc .

    So the last years main event champ who’s in my dynasty league didn’t adhere to the cut down date as usual . I posted for her to do so which asshole deleted and tried saying that she did so on time . No email of drop or listed in league transactions which happens with each drop . Now posted in league chat is her drops 2 days after the required drop date .Taking care of their homies is nothing new . Back in 2012 the team I was playing against in the main event had Greg Jennings in their line up for the 9/13/12 Thursday game . Jennings was inactive for that game . Come Sunday morning that team made numerous attempts to take Jennings out of their line up which failed . Then the commissioner changed his line up taking Jennings out at 10:57 am Sunday morning . When I questioned this the commissioners response was “he called me on the phone and make the change to me before the thursday game. I put it on my log to chagne and did not do it until Sunday.
    So it is a legal lineup.” So he supposedly called him before the Thursday game but never checked to make sure it was done until Sunday morning . Oh yea he was the next year winner of the main event . Coincidence ????????

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Jim McGough: I don’t believe in coincidences. Only glitches in the matrix

  8. Big E Is A Creep says:
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    PPR league. Please rank these guys please. Thanks!
    C. Thompson, P. Richardson, DeAndre Washington, Jamaal Williams, Vereen

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Big E Is A Creep: Vereen, C Thompson, D Wash, P Rich, and J Will

  9. bigbear says:
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    Wow! Bold move including Britt! You sir, have your steel toed cajones on! Remind me again who the Cleveland QB is? Granted, they’ll probably be playing from behind most games… And the ball will be thrown to someone. Championships have been won on that type of thing. Can’t see him as a top 20 WR, but that said the risk/reward is the right price.

    I think Cooks will be fine, especially without Edelman in the mix. Brady Brees, tomato tomahto. If he misses the top 10, it won’t be by much.

    Based on your 2016 write up on Baldwin (and Wilson), I thought you were going to go with Baldwin as a replacement. How do you see his stats as compared to last years? Still trending up?

    What about Alshon Jeffery or Sammy Watkins? New teams, better QBs (maybe). Both are special talents.

    And finally, Brees supported two top 10 WR last year (Thomas and Cooks). Cooks is gone. Hard to see Thomas regressing that much. But if so, then someone is getting fed. Snead?

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @bigbear: Ha! I think Britt is an undervalued and under-appreciated commodity. He received 111 targets and caught 68 passes for 1002 yards with 5 TDs playing for the Lambs with Goff at QB. Last season, Terrelle Pryor received 140 targets and caught 77 passes for 1007 yards with 4 TDs. 140 targets!!!! I think Kiser starts most of the year, but the Cleveland QBs were a mess last year as well. I do believe Britt gets fed.

      I hear you on Cooks. Yeah, I don’t think he tanks, but definitely see him right outside the Top 10.

      I thought about Baldwin. I like him a lot of Russell looks primed for a big year. I do think he’s topped out though. I think Baldwin will be fine. Probably end the season around Cooks, but I’m thinking Graham, Lockett, and Richardson get more involved.

      I’ve never been a big Alshon guy, but Philly looks to be a pass-centric team. I love Sammy but the QB and health scare me.

      As for Brees, I think Ginn is the guy.

      • bigbear says:
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        @Son: Pryor is a 6’6″ beast with lots of speed and leaping ability. He’s built to dominate. And has the heart of a champ. Britt is 6’3″ has less speed and less leaping ability. Britt’s heart? Well, he definitely didn’t carry himself well with the Titans.

        Yeah, I agree about Baldwin. Think he’s kind of been an overachiever in a good way.

        Never been an Alshon fan either. But he’s got some size and Philly/Wentz seems to be an upgrade.

        :) Not a fan of Goff are you? Who would you compare him to? Wished I saw more of him to have an opinion… Not sure I’ve seen more than highlights.

        Anyway, great write up SON! Got my first draft tonight, so wish me luck!

        • Son

          Son says:
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          @bigbear: No doubt. Pryor is a beast and definitely more athletic than Britt. I’m pretty high on him this year. With that said, FF is all about opportunity and targets. Britt is gonna get fed.

          I love Baldwin. He’s amazing. Just don’t think Top 10 this year.

          Yeah, Philly is going to pass a lot. Alshon could be a beast. I definitely acknowledge that possibility.

          I’m not sure who I would compare Goff to. Ken Dorsey? Ha! Just playing. I’m not completely dismissing him, as he’s very young and doesn’t have stupid Jeff Fisher anymore. With that said, he didn’t know where the sun rises.

          Thanks bigbear! Much appreciated. Good luck tonight!

          • bigbear says:
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            @Son: 12 teamer .25 PPR with 3 WR, 2 RB and a W/R/T flex.

            QB – Cousins, Luck
            WR – Green, M. Thomas, D. Thomas, K. Allen, Lockett
            RB – Gillislee, Ingram, Lacy, Prosise, DMC
            TE – Witten
            K – who cares
            D – match ups for now (Pitt for wk 1)
            Threw away my last pick to make fun of a league mate picking Romo… RB could be a little rough, but we’ll see. I moved Luck to the IR and will grab an RB.

            West or L. Murray? Bernard? Or a handcuff flyer like Williams, Conner…

            • Son

              Son says:
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              @bigbear: I like your WR group. I’m with you on the RBs, but I do like Gillislee and Ingram a lot. I kind of think Chris Carson has as good a chance as Lacy and Prosise to start for the Hawks. I’m not a fan of Lacy. Love Prosise, but he’s always banged up. West over Latavius. Especially early in the season, I’m trying to accumulate as many lotto tickets I can that have a chance to start and become difference makers.

  10. Scoopski Potatoes says:
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    1/2-Point PPR league (start 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE). Kept D Freeman and J Nelson. Who do you recommend taking with the first pick: L Bell or A Brown?

  11. Maverick says:
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    Hey Son! Great research in this post!! Cudos!!
    I am in an 18 Team League with IDP. My Line Up for Offence:
    Keenan Allen/Jordy Nelson/Ginn/Marquis Lee/Sanu/JJ Nelson
    I Crowell/Sproules
    Hunter Henry/Clay
    Winiston

    I am offered
    A: For Jordy Nelson:
    Elliot and choice of Zay Jones/Taylor Gabriel/Sheppard

    B. For Keenan Allen and I Crowell
    Elliot Jonathon Stewart or Danny Woodhead

    Your thoughts and advice would be really appreciated!!

    • Maverick says:
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      @Maverick: And I am seeing some Social Media Posts that Elliot may not miss any games?

      • Son

        Son says:
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        @Maverick: I’m not buying it. Deflategate pretty much told us that the court system will give Goodell free reign because of the CBA. The NFLPA gave him the power to do what he’s doing.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Maverick: I’d stand pat.

      • Maverick says:
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        @Son: I’ll take that advice! Thanks a lot SON!!!!

        • Son

          Son says:
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          @Maverick: Anytime! Good luck

  12. Dave says:
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    Drafting in a non pot league where there are point bonuses for 40+ yard completions, receptions and runs, as well as for 100+ yard rushing/receiving games and 300+ yard passing games. I was thinking of pairing up a QB/WR duo or trio to help with these. Any thoughts on draftable players?

    Brady/Gronk/Cooks?
    Brees/Thomas (especially at home)?
    Ben/Brown?

    Or others that come to mind.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Dave: Pretty much any stack would work.

      Rodgers/Nelson
      Ryan/Julio
      Mariota/Davis
      Winston/Evans or DJax.
      Cutler/Stills or Parker
      Etc…etc…etc

  13. mikestatic says:
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    Hey SON, Had my draft last week and wanted your thoughts.
    ESPN 12 Team, Standard, 0 Flex – Keep 4 forever
    QB: Mariota (8th, League overvalue QB’s big time and after mariota there was noone I felt good with)
    RB: Freeman (2, keeper), Crowell (4)
    WR: A. Brown (1, keeper), Pryor (3, keeper)
    TE: Greg Olsen (5)
    DST: Rams (14)
    K: Crosby (13)
    Bench: Abdullah (6), Diggs (7), D Parker (9) Forte (10), T. Williams (11), Perine (12)

    I feel like I made out OK, but Mariota concerns me a little. Do I drop a bench guy for a backup QB of available: Manning, Taylor, Dalton or Bortles? I feel good on WR’s, so I think Perine would be the drop but I feel like the skins backfield is in the air. What do you think? Good stuff btw, follow your baseball posts as well and got the #1 seed for the playoffs. Thanks!

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @mikestatic: Thanks mikestatic!!! Appreciate it. I like your squad. I’m pretty high on Mariota this year. No need to grab a 2nd QB. You want to accumulate as many lotto tickets at RB and WR as you can. Those are the guys that can win your league. I love Diggs. Is that Tyrelll Williams or Terrence Williams? I’m not high in Perine. I feel like there could be better tix on the wire

      • mikestatic says:
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        @Son:

        I agree on the lotto tickets for sure. I inherited this keeper team last year which was a mess, and I went through a ton of injuries so I made sure I had depth this year lol. That is Tyrell, definitely going to sit on him for sure. Other RB’s I sit on waivers are smallwood, burkhead and ryan mathews.

        • Son

          Son says:
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          @mikestatic: At least you inherited AB. I like a Tyrell. I like Smallwood and Burkhead

  14. Brent

    The Fantasy Dick says:
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    Thoughts on my team? 16 team, non-ppr, idp, 7th pick

    Qb – Matt Stafford
    Wr – keenan allen
    Wr – Michael Crabtree
    Wr – ted ginn
    Rb – Melvin Gordon
    Rb – todd gurley
    Te – Tyler eifert
    Flex – bilal powell
    K – koo (chargers new kicker)
    Lb – Bobby Wagner
    Lb – jatavis brown
    Dl – demarcus Lawrenceville
    Dl – Noah Spence
    Db – landing Collins
    Db – reshad Jones
    Bench – Kevin white
    Bench – jamaal Charles
    Bench – Matt breda
    Bench – Joe flacco
    Bench – jared cook

    Should I offer up Stafford for Rivers since I have allen and gordon? Or do you like Stafford this year?

    thanks!

      • Brent

        The Fantasy Dick says:
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        @Son: Thanks Son

  15. Josh says:
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    I’ve had so much fun reading these articles from you!
    Tell me what you think man!

    12 team 1/2 point keeper

    Brady
    Freeman
    Hunt
    Brown
    Benjamin
    Hooper
    Parker/Jaquizz

    Thanks!

    • Son

      Son says:
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      @Josh: Thanks Josh! Much appreciated. Team looks good. Of course, every team looks good this time of year! Good luck this season

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