Madden NFL 16 Primer: Why 'Draft Champions' Matters

Revisiting Julio Jones and Other Fantasy Busts (Pt.2)

Some players had a down year that was out of their control.
Some players had a down year that was out of their control.

On Monday we went over eight fantasy football busts from 2013 between quarterback and running back. Looking at their talent, situations, previous year placement, and average draft positions we could conclude whether each player was appropriately valued for the upcoming season, or whether they were being dinged in the pre-draft process as the recency bias of last year looms large.

With a few players sticking out as potential values at those positions, we’re going to continue on to the rest of fantasy’s main four positions with wide receiver and tight end.

Again, this is an easy way to look for steals in fantasy drafts every year. You just have to be willing to take an analytical approach to a player’s failures, and ask yourself this simple question: Do they represent enough value in the new season for me to pull the trigger on draft day?

Wide Receiver Fantasy Busts in Review

Julio Jones

2013 ADP: WR4
2013 Finish: WR65
2014 ADP: WR6

One of the brightest upcoming stars in the NFL, Julio Jones and his owners were dealt a massive blow when an old foot injury popped up and sent Jones to I.R. last year. It already hurt to lose a high draft pick like Jones, but it felt even worse because at that point Jones having an incredible statistical breakout season in his third year. Through 5 games he was on pace for 131 catches and 1,856 yards. Monster early season paces are rarely upheld, but the situation was perfect for Jones to continue those numbers with Roddy White dealing with injuries and the Falcons defense falling apart.

Heading into 2014, Jones is returning to full health and with Tony Gonzalez retired, Roddy White another year older, a revamped offensive line and a miserable defense, Julio is in place to have the season he could have had last year. At WR6 ADP, he’s not much of a deal, but you could argue he has as good a chance as anyone to finish as the #1 receiver. On the other hand Jones now has a giant red injury flag due to his foot so it’s also understandable he is going towards the middle of the WR1s in fantasy football leagues.

Randall Cobb

2013 ADP: WR9
2013 Finish: WR61
2014 ADP: WR10

Following a season where Cobb broke out and finished as the #17 receiver while not opening the season as a starter, Cobb was expected to thrive as Aaron Rodgers’ full-time slot dynamo in 2013. For the first part of the year it looked like we were on our way to seeing him become what many hoped Percy Harvin would be when Cobb put up 456 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns in 5 games. But, towards the end of that week 5 game a defender collided with Cobb’s leg and the resulting fracture knocked him out all the way until the regular season finale.

Not quite 100% yet at the time, Cobb didn’t get his usual workload but still put up 107 yards and 2 touchdowns in his team’s final 2 games, including the game-winning score that sent Green Bay to the playoffs. Proving the leg injury is not something that will hamper him long term, Cobb is being drafted just about where he was last year. Given the history of small receivers, that ADP may be slightly high, but there’s no reason not to expect a great season for a player that is incredibly just 23 years old.

Roddy White

2013 ADP: WR10
2013 Finish: WR53
2014 ADP: WR21

Like Cobb and teammate Julio, Roddy White was another popular WR1 choice that turned in what amounted to a lost season due to injury. Dealing with a high ankle sprain and later a hamstring strain, White finished outside the top 14 receivers for the first time since 2006. His recovery could probably have been quicker if he hadn’t tried to avoid missing the first game of his career (he ended up missing 3), but at least towards the end of the season owners got something out of White when health returned. Over the final 5 games White had 43 catches, 502 yards, and 2 scores – the elite numbers we’re used to from him.

White will turn 33 during the season but up until last year he had been perhaps the most consistent and reliable fantasy receiver over the last decade. A player that now wins with great route running instead of athletic ability, White has what it takes to be productive for at least a couple more seasons, a la Reggie Wayne. He also has Julio there to draw coverage off of him. Unless his body is starting to break down, White is one of the best bets to outperform his ADP because of a busted 2013 and, frankly, old age.

Victor Cruz

2013 ADP: WR11
2013 Finish: WR29
2014 ADP: WR14

Victor Cruz has proven he sinks or swims with Eli Manning’s performance and unfortunately last year Manning was abysmal when he led the league in interceptions and had the second worst completion percentage of players who attempted at least 400 passes. However, there is renewed optimism for the Giants offensive players this year as they have changed schemes to a more efficient quick-hitting west coast offense rather than their previous complex vertical system with many option routes that led to communication breakdowns. Specifically, the Giants are looking to duplicate what the Packers have done over the past several years.

Manning will never be Aaron Rodgers, but if the new offense helps limit his and his receivers’ mistakes then Cruz should see his production spike again. Cruz playing the Randall Cobb role does sound enticing, but unfortunately most of the fantasy football community agrees and at current WR14 ADP there is little value to be gained if he bounces back, and some value to be lost if the new offense doesn’t translate as expected.

Danny Amendola

2013 ADP: WR13
2013 Finish: WR60
2014 ADP: WR47

In 2013 when Wes Welker left the Patriots for the Broncos and oft-compared Danny Amendola was brought in as his replacement, it was expected that there would be little-to-no drop off in production from whoever was the Patriots’ main slot receiver. Some argued that Amendola had even more upside than Welker in that offense as a younger, slightly bigger and faster player. The chase for that upside left many overlooking Amendola’s biggest flaw and the reason he was never previously a consistent fantasy option: his complete lack of durability.

With Amendola tearing his groin before the season and the Patriots being so tight-lipped about injuries, there was no time for anyone to back out. Amendola then re-injured his groin in week 1 and his season was toast from then on. He did end up returning later in the season, though he was never close to 100% and watched Julian Edelman come reasonably close to what people were hoping Amendola would be. Amendola is temporarily healthy heading into 2014, but fantasy owners have understandably moved on. Still, at WR47 there are far worse players you could take. Amendola remains a huge injury risk and now has to worry about competition with Edelman, but there is potential value there, at least on a weekly level.

Dwayne Bowe

2013 ADP: WR14
2013 Finish: WR44
2014 ADP: WR43

It was thought that Dwayne Bowe had underperformed for so long due to lack of a starting-caliber quarterback and that with the arrival of Alex Smith and Andy Reid’s scheme, Bowe would have a chance to make good on his talent level. Predictably, it turned out that Alex Smith and his conservative style of play did not lead to statistical success for his top receiver. This was observable with his time playing with Michael Crabtree.

It was also foolish to assume that Bowe’s outlier 15 touchdown season was representative of his actual ability on the field. In 7 seasons that was the lone time he topped 7 scores. So, while Bowe was disappointing in 2013, it wasn’t as disappointing for those who had reasonable expectations. This is all to say that Bowe doesn’t have a huge upside, but I do think 2013 was close to his floor and his ADP is almost identical to that floor. As the Chiefs’ defense faded down the stretch, Bowe’s production increased and including the playoffs he averaged nearly 10 fantasy points a game over his last 7 games. The Chiefs D figures to be worse in 2014 and the team will want to get Bowe more involved. Bowe could be a top 25 receiver being drafted in the 40s in fantasy football leagues.

Tight End Busts in Review

Rob Gronkowski

2013 ADP: TE2
2013 Finish: TE16
2014 ADP: TE3

With how late tight ends usually get drafted in comparison to other positions, it’s hard for a TE to truly be considered a bust in fantasy. But, when you put up the kind of numbers Rob Gronkowski has in his short career thus far, you’re dealing with a different animal. Where most tight ends go in the mid-to-late rounds, Gronkowski was a 4th round pick on average, ahead of players like Pierre Garcon, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson, and more. We knew Gronkowski would probably miss the early part of the season, and really that’s why he wasn’t an even higher pick, but after getting a brief taste of Gronk’s fantasy goodness, owners saw him lost for the season with another unfortunate injury.

You can’t blame a guy for getting his knee smashed in by a reckless defensive player, and by all accounts Gronk will be ready to roll for week 1. But even though Gronk has more upside than any tight end in fantasy – he has historically outperformed Jimmy Graham when healthy – players rarely return to peak form the immediate season following ACL reconstruction, especially when the tear occurred late in the season like it did. When you factor that in, plus any additional risk of injury, the ADP seems very fair as is. No one should be surprised if he finished either higher or lower. Gronk’s dynasty outlook is higher than in redraft currently.

daily fantasy football league
  • SBRodgers2011

    Randall Cobb is going to be a beast this season especially now that James Jones is gone.

  • clownyking90

    Gronk is a STEAL. he should be a first round player and u can get him later because of all the injuries