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Fantasy Football Edge: Draft Busts And Sleepers

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By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com

Fantasy football is easily the shortest of any fantasy seasons as it’s usually concluded by week 16 and this puts even more pressure on how well you draft. Here are some players that are currently providing extra value or not enough value for owners based on where they are likely to go in drafts.

Busts:

Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons)

Turner has been known in the fantasy world as a top running back over the last few years mainly due to the volume of carries he received. While he never posted great Yard Per Carry numbers with the Falcons, he has always provided fantasy owners with great value thanks to the number of carries he’s received along with his work in the red zone. However, this could be the year Turner falls off the cliff. Turner has carried the ball 300 times or more in 3 of the past 4 seasons, which signifies a deadly and value-killing figure to many football experts. The wear and tear on Turner’s body thanks to the his high volume showed last season as he rushed for 4 YPC or fewer in 3 of the 5 months of the 2012’s season. With the Falcons switching to a spread offense this season and Turner’s inadequacies in the passing game, the team will turn to Jacquizz Rodgers more then they ever have before. With less time in the backfield and more passes being thrown this year, it’s a good idea to stay clear of Michael Turner on draft day.

Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks)

Lynch is currently ranked 12th overall by two of the three CBS Sports rankers, but I don’t know if I’d have him 12th among running backs, much less the entire league. There is a lot of inherent risk with Lynch, as a guy in an offense that’s being completely restructured around Matt Flynn and their new weapons at the wide receiver position. Add that to the fact that Lynch, I hate to say it, just isn’t that talented (he has a career 4.0 YPC), and you get a guy who is a true RB2. Steer clear if he’s really being drafted as high as the 2nd round of your league.

Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders)

Darren McFadden is as toolsy as any running back in football. However, so far in his career, McFadden has really struggled to live up to his pre-NFL billing as a stud runner. Run DMC has played in all 16 games exactly 0 times in his 4 year career, and he has actually never played more than 13 games in a season. That would be understandable if McFadden was being used in a Michael Turner-esque 25 carries per game type of way, but the truth is, McFadden has actually never had more than 223 carries in a season. In fact, he’s only had more than 113 carries in a season one time, a mark that most starting running backs pass in the first half of the season. So why then is Darren McFadden considered a top 2-round talent for fantasy football this season? The answer is relatively simple: he’s sexy. Fantasy owners like to draft guys who have number 1 overall potential, and McFadden certainly has that. Additionally, people see that Michael Bush, a very solid runner in his own right, left the team this season, giving McFadden the full-time job to himself. To me though, that’s actually a negative for rather than a positive. Darren McFadden is going to miss some time this year (in my opinion, more than he usually does thanks to his increased per-game usage), so if you do get him, you’re basically obligated to take his backup, who should have huge fantasy value while McFadden’s out, right? Wrong. I like Mike Goodson, and he’s a fine player, but he’s currently struggling with a neck injury and even if he was 100% healthy, would you really feel comfortable starting him week-in and week-out? Definitely not. This season, if you get McFadden and he goes down, there really isn’t a true handcuff to make sure you’re still getting production out of his spot. To me, McFadden is more of a 3rd to early 4th round type than a 2nd rounder, and I think he has way too much risk to justify where you have to pick him this season.

Sleepers:

Stevan Ridley (New England Patriots) 

While he has not been as unfriendly as Mike Shannahan, Bill Belichick’s treatment of running backs since Clinton Portis in 2004 has not made many friends in the fantasy community. That may change this season as Stevan Ridley should emerge as the clear number one option for the Patriots. With no other obvious starter in the backfield, the job is Ridley’s to lose and he’s looked great so far this preseason. In limited action last year, Ridley averaged over 5 yards per carry and ran for 97 yards and a score against the Oakland Raiders in week 4. Having posted similarly impressive stats out of LSU, Ridley is going to once again be running behind one of the most impressive offensive lines in football. Fantasy owners should take a flier on Ridley in the mid-rounds as he will definitely get the majority of the carries for the Patriots and may even get the goal line job.

Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)    

Martin is hardly a sleeper in the fantasy experts community, but among casual fans he is still a relatively unknown quantity. The Bucaneers selected Martin in the late first round of this year’s NFL draft out of Boise State, and as a rookie he will fit perfectly into new Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano’s system. As is mentioned in the RotoAnalysis Fantasy Football Draft Kit, during his final two years at Rutgers, 23.8% of the team’s passing attempts were targeted at running backs. As we know, last year’s big name back on the Bucs was LeGarette Blount, who is an absolutely atrocious pass catcher. Doug Martin, on the other hand, was a well above average pass catcher at Boise State, and should flow right into the Bucaneers’ improved offense. The addition of Carl Nicks on the offensive line should help both Freeman and Martin, and the addition of Vincent Jackson should keep the box relatively clear for Martin on most plays. Doug Martin has found himself in the perfect situation for his running style, and CBS’ expert rankers had him between the 16th and 19th best running back in fantasy, which much more accurately portrays his value than his Average Draft Position in the late 8th round (via ESPN). I would have no problem taking Martin as early as the 4th round in a standard 10 team league, and I would reach even higher than that if I was playing in a PPR format.

Evan Royster (Washington Redskins)

While Royster is anything but a sure thing, he is currently being drafted way too low. Mike Shannahan’s preliminary depth chart has Tim Hightower, who still hasn’t practiced, number 1, Royster number 2, and Roy Helu number 3. This will not hold the whole season, but any week that Royster is able to get the start, he should crack the starting lineup of your fantasy team as well. In his two starts last year, weeks 16 and 17, he accumulated 147 and then 157 total yards. He is a big, powerful back and the touchdowns should also come. For a guy being drafted in the 11th or 12th round, there is a ton of potential here.

Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.

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