Player Values with Range of Outcomes and the Importance of Upside

Updated: July 4th 2021

The term “range of outcomes” is probably familiar to many of those who play games of chance.  We do not always know precise outcomes for certain situations, fantasy football being one of those situations.  Player statistical output arises from an array of random forces which we can’t control or necessarily predict.  Fantasy gamers may arrive at valuable estimates, however, when looking at a range of possibilities.  This article utilizes basic probability mathematics to help the reader answer questions relating to player values with a range of potential outcomes, referred to as expected player values.  The article is more theoretical than data-driven so do not get too caught up in the specific numbers used.  Try to think more about the methodology and how it can be used to answer your own fantasy questions.

Expected Player Values

Before we look at the unknown, let’s examine how player values are calculated in fantasy football.  This article will use the familiar value based drafting (VBD) method as a start in determining fantasy expected player values (note there are a number of similar methodologies for determining player values).  Player values (V) are calculated as the difference between points scored (P) and the baseline points of a replacement level player (BL).  The replacement level point level is typically taken as something similar to the next best player available after all fantasy starters for a league. For example, the 13th best QB in a 12 team 1QB league would be the baseline scorer, but this may also vary according to method and application.  We will use average points per game (PPG) as our points in this article for simplicity.  The player value equation then is simply:

V = P – BL

Let’s say a player scores 14 PPG and the baseline replacement player scores 12 PPG, the player’s value is equal to 2 PPG.   We should also note a player’s value has a floor of zero (no negative values).  A player who scores at or below the replacement level has zero value according to this method.

Now what happens if we add a bit of the unknown and don’t know what a player will score but do have an idea of possible outcomes?  We may still estimate the player’s value if a suitable set range of scoring possibilities is available.  Our expected player value (E(V)) is:

E(V) = E (P – BL)

The replacement level scorer tends to remain relatively stable from year to year and whatever variation which happens is the same for each league and position group so we assume a constant baseline for the purposes of this article.  We can then present our expected value equation in the following form:

 E(V) = sum (Prob(i) x (P(i) – BL))    for all i where Prob is the probability of a player averaging a certain point total.

For example, let’s say there is a 50% chance a player scores 14 PPG and a 50% chance the player scores 16 PPG with the same 12 PPG baseline scoring used previously.  The player’s expected value would simply be:

E(V) = 0.5 (14 – 12) + 0.5 (16 – 12) = 3 PPG

Now that the methodology has been presented, we may answer a basic fantasy football related question.

Example Problem: How Much is Upside Worth?

This is a question which garnered much interest last year, maybe most famously in Scott Barret’s Upside Wins Championships.  To answer this question, the article compares players with wider range of outcomes (more upside and downside) against those with narrower range of scoring possibilities (less upside and downside).

The article assumes a simplified discrete approximation of the normal distribution going forward for fantasy points per game on various mean levels with the same 12 PPG replacement level scorer.  The “Example Probability Distribution” graph below displays a player with a mean of 14 PPG and 10% chances of scoring 10 or 18 PPG, 20% chances of 12 or 16 PPG, and a 40% chance of scoring 14 PPG.  Our expected value for this player would thus be:

E(V) = 0 + 0.2 (12 – 12) + 0.4 (14 – 12) + 0.2 (16 – 12) + 0.1 (18 – 12) = 2.2 PPG

Note the 10 PPG component of the equation gets no value because it is below replacement level (remember no negative values).

We can then extend the concept to examine groups of scoring ranges and associated expected values as seen in the chart below.  The three boxes have 11, 14, and 18 PPG mean scores.  The Narrow range of the 11 PPG box spans from 9 PPG to 13 PPG while the Broad range shows a distribution from 5 PPG to 17 PPG as possibilities for example.

 

Expected Values for Sample Scoring Ranges

There are a number of key observations and implications which may be drawn from the data.  The importance of upside is readily apparent when looking at the first box with a mean scoring of 11 PPG.  The Narrow range of outcomes produces almost no expected value while the Broad range produces nine times the amount.  There is an intuitive explanation for this.  So much of a lower-tier player’s scoring distribution is at or below replacement level that they only produce value when they produce at the upper end of the distribution.  That makes the player with the wider range of outcomes far more valuable in this case even though the projected stats are equal.

Contrast the 11PPG mean players with the 18 PPG high end scorers in the 3rd box.  The 18 PPG mean scorer produces the same expected value no matter if the scoring distribution is in the Narrow range or Broad Range.  Again this makes intuitive sense.  The upper-tier player is practically always a fantasy producer scoring valuable points, even at the lower levels of production.  That means he doesn’t suffer from the same issues of the lower-tier player at the lower levels of the distribution and thus doesn’t have the big parts of fantasy irrelevance in the distribution.  There is another concept called “risk-aversion” in which people generally prefer the less risky option.  This might actually cause individuals to select the Narrow range player (less risky) over the Broad range scorer among the upper-tier players given there is no expected value difference.  An individual with similar projections between Tyreek Hill and DeAndre Hopkins, for example, might prefer Hopkins if they view him as a less risky option.  The conservation may change when we are talking about big tournaments and other fantasy structures weighted heavily to a very small percentage of the top teams.

The key conclusion from the previous discussion is that upside matters but it matters a lot more for those at the lower-end of the fantasy spectrum.  The importance of upside fades as we move to the higher-level fantasy assets. 


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

 

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Players to Consider Trading before NFL Draft

Updated: April 27th 2021

One of the key concepts in fantasy is risk evaluation and, when possible, reduction of risk within proper player valuations.  Specifically the article explores players with questionable future prospects because of team draft capital, questionable consensus view on players, and other uncertain depth charts.  Below the reader finds a number of examples of players for which I am exploring trading away before the NFL draft begins.  Price points vary in all leagues so be sure to check out your own league mates to see where they stand.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Any list of potential trade targets must start with James Robinson.  Many still consider him a top-10 fantasy back moving forward.  He performed admirably for an undrafted free agent with a good 4.5 yards per attempt.  He only ranked as PFF’s RB30, however.  His top-10 snap percentage at running back was also significantly influenced by a rebuilding Jaguars team who released Leonard Fournette preseason while the rest of the RB core succumbed to injury/illness. The second year player almost certainly sees significant reduction in snaps and touches going forward. The Jags also have a new coaching staff with their own views and schemes who may not value Robinson.  While the first pick in this year’s draft will almost certainly be Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville also possesses four picks from 25 to 65 this year and two more notable picks at the top of 3rd and 4th rounds.  This is prime territory for Jacksonville to possibly add running backs if they feel the need.

D.J. Chark is a more under the radar trade candidate.  He should certainly benefit from Lawrence under center for 2021.  The same draft arguments, however, can be applied to Chark where Jacksonville is in good position to potentially help Lawrence with wide receivers.  Chark is in the last year of his rookie contract, and the Jaguars may not deem him valuable enough to extend.  A good 2021 potentially boosts his price tag out of the Jaguars’ price range, particularly after signing Marvin Jones in free agency.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins similarly own significant draft capital with four top-50 picks and six total in the first three rounds.  A couple of key differences exist in that Miami likely won’t use their top pick on a quarterback and they own significant additional future picks (1sts in 2022/2023, 3rd in 2022) thanks to the San Francisco move-up to 3rd overall.  Ja’marr Chase and Kyle Pitts are firmly in play at 6 and one of the remaining high picks could easily be a top running back from this class.

Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, and Myles Gaskin all are players I would consider moving on before it is too late.  Gesicki and Gaskin are in danger of being replaced as early as this year depending on the draft with Gesicki in the final year of his rookie deal.  Miami can move on from Parker’s contract as early as next season with limited cap consequences.  Each of the players is at risk to be replaced in future years with the Dolphins haul of picks even if the players avoid that fate this season.  You might not find the market you like for someone like Gaskin in your league but now is the time to mitigate potential downside of these players.

Cincinnati Bengals

Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are key receivers in an up and coming offense led by second year quarterback Joe Burrow so what’s not to like?   The Bengals’ number five pick in the NFL draft likely comes between the top tackle on their board or Pitts/Chase.  If Cincinnati takes Chase, both could see their perceived values take a hit.  While Boyd seems continuously undervalued, Higgins in particular seems to have room to fall.  Higgins already lands as the WR15 in FantasyPros consensus dynasty rankings and naturally many have him higher.  There’s not a lot of room to move significantly higher in the short term and a lot of room to fall.  While neither receiver is a must-sell by any means, both could see their trade value take a hit on draft night.

Other Starting Running Backs

Arizona is currently left with Chase Edmunds at the head of the running back depth chart after Kenyan Drake moved on free agency and the addition of James Conner.  The talk of Edmunds as a “bell-cow” by head coach Kliff Kinsbury pushed him up many fantasy-gamers boards.  The signing of Conner to a minimal contract did not sway many who believe in Edmunds that he will be the feature back.  Edmunds remains a player likely utilized in committee and should be valued as such.

Antonio Gibson Washington is without a ton of needs on a team with a stout defense that significantly upgraded the passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Curtis Samuel at wide receiver.   Investing heavily in a running back may seem bad but with only Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, and Lamar Miller on the roster it can’t be completely discounted.  Gibson is currently viewed, on the whole, as one of the top young running backs with the chance to take on a significant workload increase.  J.D. McKissic had a higher snap percentage than Gibson last season.  Samuel also showed off his skills as a running back last season, as he did in college, which could limit Gibson’s touches more if Samuel gets significant rushing touches as he did in Carolina.  There’s a good chance Gibson doesn’t see the workload going forward necessary to justify his current valuation.

Mike Davis landed with Atlanta in free agency at less than $3 million per year for 2 seasons as the presumptive starter.  The depth chart currently looks like his for the taking.  That could easily change through the draft (although the Falcons have a ton of needs) or what’s left of the free agents.  I tend to move away from older running backs with minimal commitments from the team.  On the other hand, Davis could be a very cheap lottery ticket at running back as a hold or acquisition in the right leagues.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Best Fits – Wide Receivers

Updated: April 22nd 2021

Last but not least the cream of the 2021 draft class, the wide receivers. If you missed out on the other offensive position recap, you can find each of them at the following link. Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Tight Ends.

The receiver class is once again strong at the top end as well as deep into day two and the start of day three. While not every player can inevitably work out, this gives those that missed out on the last two classes another chance to try and hit the receiver jackpot.

The top is loaded with one player that appears to project to be a superstar receiver with All-Pro upside, another who won the Heisman Trophy despite questions about his thin frame, and his teammate who missed much of 2020 with an injury but is still likely to go top 15 in the NFL draft.

There is also a bounty of 5-10 other receivers who could go between the late first and third round that should be steals in rookie drafts. This bodes well for championship-calibre teams at the end of round one or savvy teams that selected one of the better running backs early in the first round but need starting-calibre talent with their next two draft picks.

Receiver is also the most crucial positions to match scheme and talent for the player to have success. Landing spots rather than draft spot alone will be the key to picking the breakouts from the fakeouts.

Rashod Bateman – Minnesota

DLF Ranking – 8th (9th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.58, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are one of the easiest teams to project to take a wide receiver early in the draft but because they are savvy with finding value I think they will wait till at least the second round and focus either on the offensive or defense line with their first pick. They have the speed with Marquise Brown but they lack more than Mark Andrews both over the middle and in the end zone. Rashod Bateman won consistently on jump balls in the end zone and can easily become the second option behind Andrews, though he is much more than just a Jumpman. Having 6-9 targets with 2 red zone targets per game would be a fair prediction for Bateman in Baltimore.

Dyami Brown – North Carolina

DLF – 20th (26th SF)

NFL Draft – 4th Round

Best Fit – 4.136, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have been able to make good use out of receivers from deeper in the draft with names like Demarcus Robinson (undrafted) and Tyreek Hill (fifth round). They took Mecole Hardman in the second round in 2019 but even at the time, it seemed like that was a reach with Hill potentially missing time with a suspension and needing a viable duplicate speed receiver to replace him. They could go back to receiver again in 2021 this time for a player like Dyami Brown who brings much more versatility to an offense than Hardman or Robinson. The Chiefs also only have two receivers under contract for 2022 so while his role might not be immediate, Brown would be in line for a larger role in 12 months from now if he can develop.

Nico Collins – Michigan

DLF – 33rd (47th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd/4th Round

Best Fit – 3.70, Philadelphia Eagles

Howie Roseman and the Eagles probably wish they could have a redo on taking JJ Arcega Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf but they have a chance to make up for it by taking Nico Collins this year. Another size freak (6’4”, 215lbs) that also ran a 4.43, Collins has the needed skills that the Eagles have been missing since Alshon Jeffrey was fully healthy coming over from Chicago. The Eagles have a lot of problems on the defensive side of the ball so it is likely they would focus elsewhere before addressing the receiver position. Hurts to Collins could be the Wilson to Metcalf of the NFC East if they develop chemistry as quickly as the latter did.

Ja’Marr Chase – LSU

DLF – 1st (3rd SF)

NFL Draft – Top 10 Selection

Best Fit – 1.07, Detroit Lions

The problem with predicting the place for Ja’Mar Chase is that his talent, and thus draft pedigree, will likely keep him out of the hands of a team that both has a high need for a receiver and a high volume passing game. Philadelphia would have been the perfect fit but they traded out of 1.06 so I have to choose between only one of those upside outcomes. I will go with volume and say the Detroit Lions at seventh overall. The Lions have Quintez Cephus and Breshad Perriman atop their depth chart which means selecting Chase would immediately vault him to their WR1 and a bounty of targets would be projected his way. Immediate comparisons between his and Calvin Johnson’s start to their careers as highly drafted, generation receiving talents would be the media angle following day one. If Chase wants to live up to the hype he will need to prove that talent transcends the situation, much like Johnson did.

Frank Darby – Arizona State

DLF – 42nd (42nd SF)

NFL Draft – 5th Round

Best Fit – 5.160, Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals probably do not see a need for a receiver in 2021 now that they signed A.J. Green for the year. But they should be looking to the future once he and potentially Christian Kirk are gone and could look local to Frank Darby at Arizona State. Though he will not have the pedigree of fellow Sun Devils N’Keal Harry and Brandon Ayiuk, who were drafted in the first round the last two years, Darby profiles well as a complement to an alpha like DeAndre Hopkins and could develop into a solid team WR3 or maybe even outside shot at being their WR2.

D’wayne Eskridge – Western Michigan

DLF – 33rd (38th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd/4th Round

Best Fit – 3.140, Pittsburgh Steelers

How long can you wait for potential? Putting on the tape of D’wayne Eskridge I immediately had flashes of another small-sized, small school Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown. How much of a perfect situation was having a Hall of Fame quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger to helping Brown develop into an elite WR? Can it happen again knowing that Roethlisberger will not be there this time? Who knows? Still, the Steelers are one of those teams that you always watch to see if they take a receiver in the mid-late rounds as they seem to hit at a higher rate than most. Eskridge seems like the kind of player they would keep in their back pocket as players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Dionte Johnson price themselves out of town. If you are a gambler on talent at the end of depth charts, this would create a terrific buy-low shot on a player going in the later rounds of rookie drafts.

Terrace Marshall – LSU

DLF – 11th (15th SF)

NFL Draft – Mid 1st/Early 2nd Round

Best Fit – 1.29, Green Bay Packers

If Green Bay can do Aaron Rodgers one solid favor it would be to finally draft a first-round receiver to compliment Davante Adams. While they are not going to be able to get a player like Ja’Mar Chase they could still look to LSU and grab Terrace Marshall at the end of day one. Marshall can play both inside and out and is fluid in and out of his breaks. Any receiver that might land in Green Bay with Rodgers would get the post-draft bump and there would be a pretty good case for Marshall to be a top 6 pick if this wish came true.

Elijah Moore – Ole Miss

DLF – 12th (17th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.36, Miami Dolphins

A.J. Brown has gone on tour promoting the Titans to bring in his fellow Ole Miss teammate Elijah Moore but I do not think they are prioritizing receiver in the first and Moore will not make it to their late second-round pick. He could go much early and a team like the Dolphins would be an intriguing fit for Moore who has been compared to former Miami Dolphins Jarvis Landry by Matt Waldman. Tua Tagovailoa is more of a precision passer so having a great inside receiver like Moore to go along with Will Fuller deep and DeVante Parker outside would give defenses pause for who to double. Moore’s role could expand even further in 2022 with Fuller only signing a one-year deal.

Rondale Moore – Purdue

DLF – 9th (13th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd/3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.65, Jacksonville Jaguars

Rondale Moore has the most influx career path as I think he should succeed but whether teams are creative enough to use him all over the field will be the difference between him being a good NFL receiver and a good fantasy receiver. A team like Jacksonville I hope would bring a lot of pre-snap motion to their offensive game plan and thus would use more sweeps, crosses, bubble screen and end-arounds to give a player like Moore space with the ball in his hands. At least when I projected Kenneth Gainwell in the running back section I hoped so. Much like Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, having lots of smoke and pre-snap motion to help create separation between Moore and the trailing defender would be the best way to utilize his undersized frame but tremendous speed.

Amari Rodgers – Clemson

DLF – 27th (34th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best fit – 3.86, New York Jets

The Jets drafted their outside receiver last year in Denzel Mims and then double down by signing Corey Davis. With Jamison Crowder getting long in the tooth it may be time to look inside for a slot receiver like Amari Rodgers. Like Crowder, Rodgers does his best work through the middle and with likely first-round pick Zach Wilson moving around in the pocket, Rodgers would be an excellent safety blanket. A potential PPR monster once Crowder leaves town.

DeVonta Smith – Alabama

DLF – 4th (7th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 15 Selection

Best Fit – 1.12, Philadelphia Eagles

If Ja’Mar Chase is gone before the Lions are on the clock I would also like DeVonta Smith there as a target machine but for this exercise, Chase is in Detroit so Smith falls to Philadelphia at twelfth. While I also predicted the Eagles to take Nico Collins in the third round earlier the precedent has already been set by both Denver and Las Vegas that just because you take one receiver in the first it does not prevent taking another before the end of day two, especially when your offense needs it.  This would also reunite Smith with former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts. Smith has the tools to be a WR1 in the NFL but he likely needs a WR2 more than Chase to be elite.

Amon-Ra St. Brown – USC

DLF – 16th (22nd SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.67, Houston Texans

The Texans do not have a first or second-round pick which makes this their defector first pick in 2021 and they likely have bigger problems than wide receiver to consider at this spot. Still, with the departure of Will Fuller and only Brandin Cooks along with the aging Randall Cobb available the team needs to at least take a look at the receiver position. Amon-Ra St. Brown has the typical “big slot receiver” style that can complement the speed of Bradin Cooks, at least for one season, and then they can go back and address the position more in 2022 when they have more capital.

Sage Surratt – Wake Forest

DLF – 35th (33rd SF)

NFL Draft – 4th/5th Round

Best Fit – 4.139, New England Patriots

While New England may not be ready to give up on N’Keal Harry just yet they will likely hedge their bets by taking at least one receiver later in the draft. Sage Surratt out of Wake Forest provides another option for a jump-ball specialist but who can also work the middle of the field as a big slot receiver, al a Michael Thomas. Like Harry though, Surratt also lacks break-away speed (4.6) so if he fails to separate like Harry at the line of scrimmage, he could be another bust for the Patriots. They clearly valued what they saw in Harry though so maybe they try again but for cheaper.

Tamorrion Terry – Florida State

DLF – 28th (28th SF)

NFL Draft – 5th Round

Best Fit – 5.164, Chicago Bears

The Bears have Allen Robinson for at least 2021 on the franchise tag but whether he is back in 2022 is anyone’s guess. There have also been rumors that they could be looking to move on from Anthony Miller, trade or just not resigning. Tamorrion Terry fills in a need for a second option behind Robinson now with the chance to take on a larger role if Robinson leaves after this season. He is not likely to be a WR1 or 2 in his career but Terry could have outside success in standard leagues where touchdowns over receptions are valued.

Kadarius Toney – Florida

DLF – 13th (23rd SF)

NFL Draft – Late 1st/2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.39, Carolina Panthers

I said in the tight end section that the Carolina Panthers should take Kyle Pitts with the eighth selection but he is not there (likely) or they may trade down with a team looking for the last quarterback, like New England. If so, then they could be a candidate for Kadarius Toney in the second. It is tough placing Toney as either a first or second-round pick as he would be a luxury pick for many of the teams at the end of first or I think several of those teams would prefer other options later in the second or even third round. Another slot guy, Toney would be best used similarly to Deebo Samuel with a low aDOT/high YAC working behind Robby Anderson for 2021 with the chance to take on more of a role alongside D.J. Moore in 2022.

Jaylen Waddle – Alabama

DLF – 5th (11th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 15 Selection

Best Fit – 1.13, Los Angeles Chargers

I kind of boxed myself into a corner by saying that the Falcons and Bengals would not take Ja’Mar Chase and thus pushing the available options for Jaylen Waddle down. Saying that makes this a pipe dream but if Waddle fell out of the top ten and right into Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ lap that would be a perfect match of quarterback to receiver. Waddle has the speed to take advantage of an arm like Herbert’s and would give the Chargers leverage to move on from Mike Williams after this season if his price tag is too high.

Tylan Wallace – Oklahoma State

DLF – 18th (21st SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd/4th Round

Best Fit – 3.89, Cleveland Browns

The Browns seem to have finally turned it around and while they did okay at receiver last year we do not know how Odell Beckham Jr. will bounce back from ACL surgery. He also has no dead money on the books past 2021 so this could be his final year in Cleveland regardless of his performance. If Tylan Wallace falls to the end of the third round it is a steal for all teams and he should make an immediate impact. Maybe he and Baker Mayfield could jell in a way that the quarterback just never seemed to with OBJ.

Seth Williams – Auburn

DLF – 17th (16th SF)

NFL Draft – 5th/6th Round

Best Fit – 6.210, Baltimore Ravens

A jump ball specialist, Seth Williams could be a discount option if the Ravens do not select a receiver early in the draft. His size would add a much-needed presence on the outside and endzone fades. The only questions surrounding Williams are his commitment to being great at his craft which is why he is likely to be a Day 3 pick with Day 2 talent. I trust the Ravens’ front office and if they (or another competent organization) take a shot on him then Williams can be one of the better late-round flyers. If he lands with a dysfunctional team, I am out.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Best Fits – Tight Ends

Updated: April 21st 2021

This will be the third installment of our Rookie Best Fit series with a focus on the often forgotten tight end position. If you are looking for Best Fits for either Quarterback or Running Backs you can find those in the corresponding links.

Most years, because of RSO’s short window to capitalize on rookie contract values over their veteran counterparts, tight end is either pushed down in the rankings or just ignored altogether. There are cases of talents pushing their way into the late first round but often fail to live up to expectations when compared to those around them.

This year there is one player, Kyle Pitts, who is so well known and considered so unanimous that people forget that there are other options even available in 2021. Pitts is likely to go top 10 in the NFL draft and likely between 1.03 and 1.07 in most rookie drafts regardless of the landing spot. Remember to temper expectations though as even the best tight ends often take a year or two to develop before turning into George Kittle or Travis Kelce.

The other options are more rooted in normal tight end projects and would be better served to wait till at least the third round of rookie draft unless in a tight end premium league. With that, let us look at some of the prospects most likely to be drafted in rookie drafts for 2021.

Pat Freiermuth – Penn State

DLF Ranking – 19th (24th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.38, Cincinnati Bengals /2.39, Carolina Panthers

If the Bengals do the responsible thing at 1.05 and draft Penei Sewell, missing out on Kyle Pitts, they may be rewarded with the opportunity to still draft Pat Freiermuth aka “Baby Gronk” out of Penn State. Freiermuth is easily one of the more polished blockers in this tight end class and would be perfect for both weak side blocking for Joe Mixon in the running game as well as providing another pass catcher for Joe Burrow over the middle. If the Bengals do not take him at 38 the Panthers should immediately turn in their card for all the same reasons one spot behind them.

Brevin Jordan – Miami (Florida)

DLF – 26th (27th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd/4th Round

Best Fit – 3.85, Tennessee Titans

Another example of the team not having the right capital to acquire a player as I think Brevin Jordan would do excellent in Kliff Kingsbury’s spread offense where his slimmer frame as a slot tight end would do better for his value than being wasted as a part-time blocker. However, unless a trade down from the second round leaves them with mid-range capital we have to look elsewhere. The Titans just lost Jonnu Smith and while Anthony Frikser did okay as a receiver last season, Jordan would do much better to replace Smith alongside A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds as the primary catching tight end in Tennessee.

Hunter Long – Boston College

DLF – 43rd (50th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd/3rd Round

Best Fit – 2.54, Indianapolis Colts /2.61, Buffalo Bills

Watching Hunter Long gives off Zach Ertz vibes so why not pair him up with the coach and quarterback that made Zach Ertz, Frank Reich and Carson Wentz, in Indy. While there are several tight ends in Indianapolis right now there should be opportunities for a rookie like Long to come in and contribute in 2021 and continue to develop into a top tight end by 2022 or 2023. If the Colts do not take him, the Buffalo Bills could sweep in later in the second and fill one of the few holes they have at offense. One thing that usually makes a great fantasy tight end is a great quarterback and being linked to Josh Allen would do nothing but help Long’s case to be the TE2 in this class.

Kyle Pitts – Florida

DLF – 6th (8th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 10 Selection

Best Fit – 1.08, Carolina Panthers

Kyle Pitts is one of those rare talents where even though he plays a less valuable position in terms of draft value he likely is still going in the top 10 if not top 5 of the draft because of how overwhelming the gap between him and the next tight end option would be. If a run on quarterbacks goes early and he was to fall to 1.08 for Carolina, his chances of becoming a top 3 tight end right away would be oozing with potential. With Head Coach Matt Rhule and Offensive Coach Joe Brady able to scheme around talents like Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and then Kyle Pitts it would easily create one of the most dynamic offenses in the league to start day two of the draft.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Best Fits – Running Backs

Updated: April 20th 2021

This is the second part of our Rookie Best Fit series where we look to fit the player to the best team for their skillset based on the expected range for where the player will be drafted. In the first part, we looked at the quarterbacks which can be found here. This section will examine the running back class which has a strong top-end but lacks depth when compared to other recent classes. An overall suggestion if you are targeting a need at the position this year would be to try and be in the top 4 for standard leagues or top 8 in Superflex to secure one of the three biggest names. Otherwise, build some capital in the second or third round to take a couple of shots at the next tier of options. With that said, let us begin.

Michael Carter – North Carolina

DLF Ranking – 23rd (29th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.71, Denver Broncos

Michael Carter lacks the overall size to be an every-down, 20+ carry NFL running back, but he does have quick feet and long speed to be an excellent 1b in just about any offense. Tarik Cohen comes to mind when watching him and if the Bears wanted to get younger Carter would be an excellent 1-for-1 transition. However, I do not think he will be there late in the third round and a team like Denver would be a great landing spot. Melvin Gordon has one more year left on his deal to share the backfield with Carter for now and the weapons on the outside would always leave favorable numbers on the line for him to use his short-area quickness.

Travis Etienne – Clemson

DLF – 2nd (5th SF)

NFL Draft – Late 1st/2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.35, Atlanta Falcons

The Todd Gurley experiment only lasted one season in Atlanta and currently, the Falcons only have Mike Davis as their most reliable runner. They also released Ito Smith leaving the depth chart wide-open for them to take a running back high in the second round. Etienne would immediately take control of the backfield and see between 200-250 touches in Atlanta’s offense. Coming from just down the road in Clemson would also give a big boost to his transition to the NFL.

Kenneth Gainwell – Memphis

DLF – 14th (18th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.65, Jacksonville Jaguars 

On the surface, this would probably seem like a terrible landing spot as the team enjoyed a surprise breakout season from undrafted rookie James Robinson just last season. But the coaching staff has changed over which gives no player, especially a former UFA, any guarantee for touches. Gainwell draws immediate comparison to Antonio Gibson as both played the same dual-threat role at Memphis. If Urban Meyer is looking to bring more offensive collegiate flare like past coaches making the jump to the NFL then Gainwell would give him as much flexibility at the running back position with another RB/WR hybrid.

Najee Harris – Alabama

DLF – 3rd (6th SF)

NFL Draft – Late 1st/2nd Round

Best Fit – 1.24, Pittsburgh Steelers

Picking a running back in the first round is always a trade-off to taking other more impactful positions that a team could be drafting. Especially when it is the Pittsburgh Steelers who are one of the smarter organizations in the NFL when it comes to drafting and who might want to wait on the position till at least day two and take either a replacement for Bud Dupree or Ben Roethlisberger with their first selection instead. Still, the need at running back was a major focus all last season and taking a guy like Harris would give them a player that fits the Steelers RB model. He would immediately be considered the 1.01 for most rookie drafts and would be a good bet to lead the rookie class in rushing yards in 2021.

Khalil Herbert – Virginia Tech

DLF – 39th (53rd SF)

NFL Draft – 5th-7th Round

Best Fit – 6.194, San Francisco 49ers

Khalil Herbert will not have the draft capital to immediately take a backfield over but his talent should make him more likely to breakout than running backs taken around him. Landing in San Francisco on day three would be as great an opportunity as any due to the 49ers often using a platoon of runners but also are willing to feature a single runner if they showcase the skillset. Kyle Shanahan had a similar player while offensive coordinator in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman, who was also a later-round steal, and Herbert could play a similar role to Freeman in 2021. Like Freeman, Herbert has good zone-read ability and enough receiving capabilities to one day develop into a three-down back.

Kylin Hill – Mississippi State

DLF – 30th (30th SF)

NFL Draft – 5th-7th Round

Best Fit – 6.203, Houston Texans /6.223, Arizona Cardinals

Hill, like Herbert, will not have the draft capital to supplant a well-established veteran but could rise to the top in an offense with “meh” or aging talent. Houston does not have the draft capital to invest in a luxury position like running back early but with three (3) sixth-round picks could be looking to have younger options behind David Johnson and Mark Ingram. The same goes for Arizona who has no mid-picks and would either need to look at taking one of the first running backs off the board in the first/second round or go bargain shopping with one of their fifth through seventh-round selections. Hill may not be anything more than a backup for whatever team he ends up on but with the capital it would take to acquire him he only room to rise in value.

Chuba Hubbard – Oklahoma State

DLF – 25th (25th SF)

NFL Draft – 4th-6th Round

Best Fit – 5.156, Miami Dolphins

Chuba Hubbard lost a lot of value between 2019 and 2020 where he was being discussed in the top 3 with players like Etienne and Harris. Nevertheless, he still can develop into a primary ball carrier if he finds the right offensive scheme. There have been speculations that Miami could be in the market for a day two running back, one of which I will also recommend later, but if they either do not get their guy or prioritize other positions, Hubbard could be a fifth-round steal. Miami showed their commitment to the run game once Tua Tagovailoa took over last year and had success with guys like Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. Hubbard could easily compete for the starting role in an emerging offense with a “chip on his shoulder” mentality.

Jermar Jefferson – Oregon State

DLF – 31st (35th SF)

NFL Draft – 5th-6th Round

Best Fit – 6.185, Los Angeles Chargers 

Truthfully, I would like to see Jefferson in Seattle and their heavy draw and zone run offense but they have such low draft capital in 2021, as well as might not be ready to give up on former first-round pick Rashaad Penny, that they will likely pass on running back this year. The consolation would be the LA Chargers to compliment Austin Ekeler with the chance to take over in 2022. With Justin Herbert and his cannon arm to go with Jefferson’s first step speed, he would feast in yards per carry without defenders crowding the box.

Trey Sermon – Ohio State

DLF – 22nd (20th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.66, New York Jets

The Jets are among the most wide-open depth charts for a rookie running back to come in and immediately take over a heavy workload. They are locked in for quarterback with their first of their two first-round picks and then will likely address the defense with their next two selections. At the top of the third round though if Ohio State’s Trey Sermon is still there, he could be an ideal fit for the Jets’ new regime. Sermon already showed that he could handle a heavy workload in Columbus and would move from a mid-second round rookie pick to a potential end of the first selection for those that prioritize RB opportunity when drafting.

Rhamondre Stevenson – Oklahoma

DLF – 36th (31st SF)

NFL Draft – 4th-5th Round

Best Fit – 4.123, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles love their hammer RBs from LeGarrette Blount to Jordan Howard so why not go back to the well for another big back in Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson has even been compared to Blount so it would make plenty of sense. While Miles Sanders would cap his ceiling as a fantasy prospect, Stevenson would give the Eagles an immediate upgrade over Jordan Howard right now and would receive his share of goal-line work. Like Blount, he has deceptive speed for being 230lbs so he could be the benefactor of a tired defense rotating in for Miles Sanders.

Javonte Williams – North Carolina

DLF – 7th (10th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.36, Miami Dolphins

As I mentioned earlier with Chubba Hubbard, the Dolphins running back room is one of the more lacking in the NFL and they are a strong candidate to take one of the first rookies off the board, likely as early as the second round. The team appears to be doing everything they can to align the stars for Tua Tagovailoa to have success in his second year and taking Javonte Williams would go a long way to doing that. Williams has prototypical size and speed to be an every-down back and landing in Miami would likely cement him in the 1.03-1.05 range in standard leagues and a late first-round steal in Superflex leagues.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Best Fits – Quarterbacks

Updated: April 19th 2021

The best part about being a dynasty player during the pre-draft offseason is the wishful guessing of where top prospects will go. While not always the case a perfect match between a player’s skills and team’s need/coaching philosophy can solidify their spot as an early first-round selection or present the opportunity for them to shoot up the rankings in the post-draft landscape. We only have to look back to last year’s draft where Clyde Edwards-Helaire was projecting as a mid-first to early second-round selection in most rookie drafts but soared to 1.01-1.02 levels when Kansas City scooped him up with their first pick.

For this article series, we will put our rose-colored glasses on for the top prospects at each position in 2021 to see who could be this year’s CEH. I want to give a big shout-out to Matt Waldman and his yearly Rookie Scouting Portfolio (RSP) for giving in-depth analysis on all of these players and being a huge influence on this article. I will not be giving any specifics directly from his work but if you want to know more than you could imagine on any given rookie each year, I highly suggest you check out his work here. As well, the average rankings for rookies provided will be coming from Dynasty League Football (DLF) so for the full list of player rankings go check them out.

Not every perfect landing spot I will suggest coincides with an immediate starting spot being open. Rather I am also looking to the future to see where openings may present themselves in the future based on other player’s contracts or overall fit with the team. Time as the understudy to a veteran may be more beneficial long term than just being thrust into the lineup as the immediate answer.

In the first part, we will look at the quarterbacks. For the interest of time-saving, I am going to skip Trevor Lawrence who is 99.9% locked into Jacksonville and therefore would be unlikely to project him anywhere else.

Justin Fields – Ohio State

DLF Ranking – 15th (2nd SuperFlex)

NFL Draft – Top 10 Selection

Best Fit – 1.03, San Francisco 49ers

Justin Fields is the player to watch if you like drama in the draft as there appears to be an open competition between Mac Jones, Trey Lance, and himself for the third (3rd) quarterback off the board. The 49ers should take Fields as his ability to move around the pocket better than Jones and is more pro-ready than Trey Lance at this point. This would give defences nightmares with their current offensive weapons trying to also account for the running abilities that Fields can bring. The only thing stopping Kyle Shanahan from taking Fields would be his hesitancy for Fields’ mobility to create more ad-lib plays. Following the script and following exactly Shanahan’s guidelines is really what is keeping Jones in the conversation at third overall.

Mac Jones – Alabama

DLF – 29th (14th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 15 Selection

Best Fit – 1.04, Atlanta Falcons

While maybe not the sexiest pick ever, the similarities in Mac Jones and Matt Ryan would be a perfect mentor-to-peer transition for the Falcons. The team still has solid talent around the quarterback position but is stuck as a bottom feeder roster overall. The talk of trading Matt Ryan was also rumored throughout the start of the offseason which likely means that his days in Atlanta are left between one and two more seasons tops. Like the 49ers, I think giving 10-17 games of watching a veteran would do more for Mac Jones to learn the game the right way with Arthur Smith and be able to take the job fully by 2022 than to try and move him directly into a starting role with minimal offseason coaching or lesser talent around him.

Trey Lance – North Dakota State

DLF – 24th (12th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 15 Selection

Best Fit – 1.15, New England Patriots

This move would likely require a trade-up from New England as other teams like Denver, Detroit, and maybe still Carolina or even Minnesota at 12 would take him before New England is on the clock. If they were to get Trey Lance though it would be everything that we saw for the first two (2) games of 2020 with Cam Newton without the collapse from the final 14 games. Though Lance played against lower competition at NDSU, he was calling his own checks and audibles which is a big bonus to learning the Erhardt-Perkins offense that the Patriots use. The old Patriot system left with Tom Brady and if they were to take Trey Lance they would be fully embracing the new-aged mobile pocket NFL.

Davis Mills – Stanford

DLF – 65th (64th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd/3rd Round

Best Fit – 2.51, Washington FT / 2.55, Pittsburgh Steelers

A project quarterback, Davis Mills is likely to be a day two selection by a team that has a veteran already but is looking to the future. Both Washington and Pittsburgh will need new starters in 2022 and neither team projects to be able to draft a top prospect in the top 10 next year so why not take a shot at developing a second-round talent. Mills can learn behind Ryan Fitzpatrick or Ben Roethlisberger, who both are more traditional pocket passers now but could move around the pocket and take off as needed in their younger days like Mills. While he might not turn into a top-10 quarterback, Mills could follow in the footsteps of a player like Derek Carr to become a staple QB2 who also came out of day two of the draft.

Kellen Mond – Texas A&M

DLF – 55th (45th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.74, Washington FT / 3.87, Pittsburgh Steelers

Whichever team does not get Mills a round earlier between Washington and Pittsburgh I could also see them pivoting and waiting for another round to take Kellen Mond out of Texas A&M. Truthfully, I am not as sold on Mond being anything more than a practice squad/3rd string option but he would have the ability to again learn behind either veteran. Especially behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was a former seventh-round selection, Mond could learn how best to keep his NFL dream alive longer than many would project him to.

Kyle Trask – Florida

DLF – 46th (19th SF)

NFL Draft – Late 1st/2nd Round

Best Fit – 1.28, New Orleans Saints

Before diving more into Kyle Trask and only watching him casually I thought he was going to be a steal for teams that were not in the top 10 already. His last collegiate game left a bitter taste in some mouths but that should not be a reason for him to slip into the second round. The Saints are in cap hell and should be looking for a cheap quarterback option to have over the next four/five years, even with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill on the roster. Michael Thomas can play the Kyle Pitts role of “big man over the middle” and then Micky Loomis can look for a complementary receiver in the mid-rounds to fill out the offense. It always helps to have a superstar running back, Alvin Kamara, who can both run and catch for big plays out of the backfield too.

Zach Wilson, QB – BYU

DLF – 21st (4th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 10 Selection

Best Fit – 1.09, Denver Broncos

Zach Wilson is almost as guaranteed to go second overall to the Jets as Trevor Lawrence is to go first. While he could fit in New York with Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur I think he would develop better in the smaller market and with the better offensively talented Denver Broncos. Wilson has a Baker Mayfield level of swagger that if it works in New York will make him one of the poster-QBs for the NFL. History tells us though that bright lights burn out quicker in New York and a slow start to his career could wreck an otherwise talented player. Wilson is everything that Drew Lock is but better as a quarterback prospect and clearly would be a player that John Elway would race his card up to the podium if he was to be available. Wilson with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, and KJ Hamler would give him all the tools he needs to succeed.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews