Projections vs. Rankings Discussion, Plus an Update and Supporting Team Notes

In anticipation of this week’s projections and rankings update, Thursday I asked Dave for some bullet points suggesting necessary changes to ensure I didn’t miss anything. I was thinking recent news items when I asked him, while Dave took more of an overview approach.

A few of Dave’s points were, for example, “Tom Brady projected too low for his ranking,” or, “gap between Cordarrelle Patterson’s projection and his ranking is too much.” You see, we do have some differences between rankings and projections, and the reason for that is because, while the projections are a best approximation of what stats we think a player will produce, a ranking can sometimes better reflect risk and upside not easily captured in projections.

Take Bernard Pierce for example, prior to the Ray Rice news he is only suspended two games (we were expecting perhaps six to eight). While we had Pierce projected about 40th amongst RB with a 150-600, 3 TD rushing plus 25-190 receiving line, he was ranked a little higher – 32nd – to reflect the upside of him possibly stepping into the starter’s job for an extended time, and maybe even holding that role when Rice comes back. This will now change with recent news, but it provides a possible scenario where projections and rankings are justifiably not exactly in sync.

So, Dave’s comments got me to thinking about which players have the biggest difference between our cheatsheet rankings, and rankings based purely on the player projections. Perhaps each of these players requires a bit more investigation. Well, I plunked both our draftbuddy.com projections and rankings into Draft Buddy and figured out who these guys are at each position.

QB

We are bullish on Griffin to rebound from his injury slowed 2013 season and thanks to the addition of Jay Gruden, but he is ranked lower than the projections because of risk since he can take a beating with his rushing, and due to learning a new offense.

As noted above, Dave mentioned Brady is projected too low and that looks like an accurate statement to the point an adjustment is necessary.

Need to review Tannehill’s projections, but if they seem reasonable and we can draft him outside the top 24 QB, then that is a value pick.

RB

Similar to Griffin, Foster is a risk due to a lot of wear and tear, although he has a great opportunity to return to his former self if he can stay healthy. Hence the high projections, slightly more conservative ranking.

Ben Tate is slightly up from his projections given his upside in a new offense that appears committed to running the ball.

We are not true believers in Rashad Jennings as the Giants starter, so while he is projected high based on positive recent reports he’ll receive a high number of touches, we offer a more skeptical ranking of his prospects.

Stevan Ridley probably shouldn’t be this different, other than it is tough predicting what the Patriots will do with their running backs from week to week.

Joique Bell is not a player we are very interested in adding to our fantasy squads this year, although many other experts are keen on his prospects.

WR

The lack of depth amongst Falcons receivers kind of forced our hand to put more targets, catches and yards on a now healthy Roddy White, but in terms of ranking we’re not ready to put him into the Top 20.

Similarly with Torrey Smith, he is the top receiver on the Ravens, but seems to get over-drafted each year. We’d rather avoid drafting Smith altogether, so we pushed him down the rankings.

It is difficult to get a read on the split of targets amongst Colts receivers right now, so Hilton is projected 26th, but risky to draft there.

Dave and I disagreed on where to rank Patterson (and Wes Welker, for that matter) from Day 1 creating our projections and rankings. Patterson represents one of the biggest boom-bust picks on the board this season. He probably should be moved down a tad given uncertainty about his targets and potential rushing stats.

Austin is another big question mark about how much the Rams will use him. The talent is there to support the projections and quite possibly exceed them. The high expectations, low production last year still stings, resulting in the low ranking.

TE

Cook is someone we expect to churn out okay stats over the course of a season based on volume, but not one to help win us many weeks.

For Chandler, see Cook, the only difference being Chandler is so off the radar I’m inclined to add him extremely late in best-ball format leagues.

That gives some more insight into our combined projections and rankings process, and highlights some players for us to review prior to the update. And now, the team notes to accompany the changes:

Arizona Cardinals

  • Andre Ellington‘s receptions appear low at 40 since he had 39 as a rookie and backup.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Very surprised Ray Rice only received a 2-game suspension, but that is what happened, earning him a bump in his projections and rankings, while anticipated replacement starter Bernard Pierce gets knocked down.

  • Hmm… it seems we were pretty low on the combined Ravens running game in the projections to begin with. Change is Rice up, and Pierce down but not by much.

Carolina Panthers

  • Are Cam Newton‘s receivers as bad as everyone is making them out to be, ourselves included, or are they really pretty similar to last season? We’ll keep Cam where he is ranked (as in, do not draft territory), but if we start to get wowed by rookie Kelvin Benjamin things could change.

  • Not at all surprised Jonathan Stewart is injured. He pulled him hamstring. They are saying he’s out 1-2 weeks, for now.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • One of Dave’s notes to me says he’s worried we haven’t reeled in Andy Dalton‘s numbers enough from last season based on the team’s increased emphasis on the running game.

  • Jermaine Gresham opens training camp on the PUP list, opening the door for Tyler Eifert to have a bigger impact.

Cleveland Browns

  • Update: Josh Gordon is planning to appeal his one-year suspension on August 1.

Dallas Cowboys

  • Reviewing Tony Romo‘s projections he might be a little low since we haven’t heard a negative report on his back in some time.

Denver Broncos

  • I mentioned above Dave and I disagree on Wes Welker. He thinks we have him too high; I think Welker is a relatively safe, high floor pick, as long as concussion issues to rear their ugly head again (admittedly, a sizeable concern). I passed on Welker at pick 4.09 as my WR2 in an ongoing best ball redraft in favor of Vincent Jackson, and would have loved Welker to come back to me as my WR3. Instead he got nabbed at 5.03 one pick before my next selection.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Ace Sanders faces a four-game suspension to start the season, and is missing training camp due to personal issues. It seems he is dealing with substance-abuse problems. More opportunity for the rookie receivers. Sanders is off the projections board with more going to Marqise Lee and Mike Brown.

New England Patriots

  • Rob Gronkowski not placed on PUP list to open training camp, which is great news. Although he is still limited in practice and this is no guarantee he is ready for Week 1, continued positive reports will motivate us to move him up into the top tier at TE from his current spot at start of Tier 2.

  • Aaron Dobson was placed on the PUP list, and I’m mentioning that here because he is a player I’m intrigued by given the sketchy receiving options on the Patriots and his extremely low draft cost right now. Would like to see him healthy and fully participating.

New York Giants

  • David Wilson is cleared to practice, which could put more pressure on Rashad Jennings as the projected starter.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. is dealing with a pulled hamstring, so he’s not off to a good start, and this opens the door for Jerrell Jernigan.

New York Jets

  • Taking a cue from Jonathan Stewart, Chris Ivory injured his hamstring and is limited.

Oakland Raiders

Seattle Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch is holding out of training camp desiring a pay increase. We aren’t suggesting a change to his projections and rankings right now, but definitely worth keeping an eye on. Good discussion about this during The Audible podcast last night.

  • Sidney Rice retires, not that we had much in the way of projections for him, anyway.

Pre-Training Camp Projections and Rankings Update, Supporting Team Notes

NFL training camps are set to get going this week. The first preseason game is not far off now, New York Giants versus Buffalo Bills, on Sunday August 3rd. Things are definitely ramping up on the fantasy football landscape!

I emailed our Draft Buddy customers last Thursday promising a projection update out soon. It didn’t happen Friday, as hoped, but lets start this week off on the right foot. Just published, updated rankings and updated projections based on news, notes, rumours and simply more contemplation of talent, situations and opportunity since our previous update, July 11.

Included below are notes by team that lead to many of the projections and rankings changes. You can see exactly who changed on the web pages, marked by a small up or down arrow. I will make a copy of Projection Pal with our projections included available to Draft Buddy customers, so they can easily import them into their copy of Buddy.

Arizona Cardinals

  • John Brown has upper hand on WR4 spot on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn Jr.. Brown continues to be a player to monitor but it will be tough for him to make an immediate fantasy impact from WR4 spot.

  • In early June Robert Housler was having, “a fantastic offseason”, but as of late mid-July he is not projected as a top two TE on the Cardinals. Apparently he doesn’t fit what head coach Bruce Arians wants to do. A talented, athletic TE, but we’re reducing his projections and adjusting John Carlson and Jake Ballard.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Ravens are expected to use WR Marlon Brown in the red zone. He scored 7 TD in 14 games last season as an undrafted rookie. His projections are worth another look.

Carolina Panthers

  • Due to recovery from his ankle surgery, Cam Newton didn’t get much time to work with his new wide receivers in minicamp, but they will reportedly get together prior to training camp to practice. The more time the better.

  • Jason Avant is expected to be the number three WR for the Panthers. We’re projecting Jerricho Cotchery and Kelvin Benjamin to start, Avant three, and not much left over for the likes of Tiquan Underwood or Marvin McNutt.

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis will compete for a roster spot with Rex Burkhead. Given LawFirm’s contract, he could be in tough to hold the spot. Cedric Peerman appears to be set thanks to his special teams play. One Bengals reporter is anticipating 200 carries for rookie Jeremy Hill. We have him less than half that currently. Adjusting Hill up, LawFirm down, and will adjust further if necessary once we see how splits and LawFirm’s status shake out.

Cleveland Browns

  • Brian Hoyer is fully cleared for training camp from his knee injury suffered last year. We still have Johnny Manziel projected at about half of the Browns’ pass attempts as it will be tough to keep him off the field unless the team wins consistently with Hoyer.

Detroit Lions

  • Second-year Theo Riddick is generating buzz through minicamp from various sources. He was a 6th round draft pick in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

  • RB Eddie Lacy is expected to be a three-down back for the Packers.

  • Jarrett Boykin seems to be locked into the WR3 spot for this year ahead of rookies Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis. No surprise given how Boykin played last season and his experience in a complex offense. If you keep receiving trade offers with Boykin from owners in your dynasty leagues, it is because the rookies are seen as the future in the Green Bay while Boykin doesn’t have the pedigree to hold them off forever.
  • TE job is wide open, but rookie Richard Rodgers seems to have the most positive news out of minicamp relative to Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Colt Lyerla. We’re not going to change the current modest projections for veterans Quarless and Bostick, but adding Rodgers to our On The Radar section of the rankings.

Houston Texans

  • Reviewing our projections after publishing the Texans team report, Case Keenum seems high at 180 pass attempts. Adjusting him way down and giving majority to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Also thinking about how Kendall Wright benefited last year catching passes from Fitzpatrick, and if that might similarly impact Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

  • QB Tyler Bray expected to compete for backup job.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Some indications Norv Turner wants Adrian Peterson to catch more passes, getting him in space more. Peterson is no slouch as a receiver. We have him projected at a career high of 50. He’s previously hit 43 (2009) and 40 (2012) in a season.

  • Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson will compete for the starting slot receiver job during training camp.

New Orleans Saints

  • Saints signed Jimmy Graham to a 4-year, $40-million contract, locking him up and avoiding him playing under the arbitrator ruled TE designation franchise tag this season.

New York Giants

  • All signs are RB David Wilson will be cleared for contact in time to start training camp. Great news for those still holding Wilson in dynasty leagues, eager to see what he can do. We won’t change his rankings or projections just yet.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Team expects to use Martavis Bryant in the red zone, which could help Bryant get established quickly for fantasy purposes. Steelers threw a lot to their wide receivers in the red zone last year as departed Jerricho Cotchery caught 10 TD.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Even with the addition of Darren Sproles – who the Eagles insist is a RB, not exclusively a WR – they expect LeSean McCoy‘s workload to be on par with last season.

San Diego Chargers

  • OC Frank Reich indicates Ryan Mathews is the main RB. We aren’t sure why this is even news. Fantasy pundits seem down on Mathews relative to us. We have him ranked 14th, while his ADP hovers around 20th. Talent is not the question here.

San Francisco 49ers

  • Report from Bill Williamson of ESPN that 49ers are expected to reduce Frank Gore‘s carries this year down to around 220. He had 276 carries last season. Looks like we already had Gore projected at 210 carries so we’re in line with this forecast.

  • Marcus Lattimore will be placed on NFL non-football injury list heading into training camp. We already dropped Lattimore out of our main rankings and into the “On The Radar” section. He’ll stay there, or drop out completely, until we see some positive reports on his recovery from his knee injury in college.

Seattle Seahawks

  • Earlier in the offseason a comment by OC Darrell Bevell about a potential RBBC sent fantasy owners into a tizzy downgrading Marshawn Lynch and pumping up Christine Michael. We preached patience, and noted it was so early this wasn’t something to get worked up about. A new report indicates the team plans to reduce Lynch’s average carries per game a little bit, but he is still their workhorse. This seems more realistic at this stage.

Tennesee Titans

  • Positive reports out of Tennessee that rookie RB Bishop Sankey is in great shape and committed to studying with RB coach Sylvester Croom to get up to speed quickly.

Projections and Rankings Updated, Supporting Team Notes

There sure hasn’t been very much news as of late in the NFL. Mini-camps were pretty quiet except for the annual share of, “best shape of his life” fluff pieces. Cleveland Browns fans were wishing things were quite on the Josh Gordon front, but that wasn’t meant to be I suppose.

Regardless, we’ve gone through our cheatsheet rankings and player projections and made a handful of changes based on recent news or additional consideration of our original forecasts. Here are the supporting notes that discuss those changes, and even in cases we didn’t make changes there are some notes here we felt were worth, uh, noting.

Training camps and preseason games start soon! We’ll keep updating as necessary through the busiest time on the fantasy football calendar, the time leading up to our annual fantasy football drafts.

Atlanta Falcons

  • Reading Dave’s player outlooks for the Falcons, it really drove home how consistently good – really good – that Matt Ryan has performed his career, and that his receivers were a mess most of last season. I’m moving him up into Tier 2 at QB with Matthew Stafford and Nick Foles. Would not be disappointed at all with Ryan as my starting QB.
  • The Falcons addressed the offensive line and we like that, and Steven Jackson got injured early last year. If he can hold it together health-wise, he’ll be a value. Not going nuts but moving him up slightly.
  • Tier 7 at RB is our high upside handcuffs group. Devonta Freeman moves into it, and some got shuffled, like Tre Mason (Rams), down, and Marcus Lattimore (49ers), out.
  • I must have really liked Dave’s outlooks for the Falcons. Accounting for playing hurt last year, and buying he isn’t washed up yet, moved Roddy White up.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Ray Rice has reportedly lost 20 lbs. which has allowed him to regain some of his old quickness. Rice looked sluggish last year, unable to run away from defenders. Still, the looming suspension pushes us to move Rice down, Bernard Pierce up, now both middling ranked backs in Tier 5.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • OC Hue Jackson wants a ball control offense. This offense could see one of the biggest year-over-year changes in philosophy. Reviewing pass and rush attempts across the board for these guys.

Cleveland Browns

  • Brian Hoyer seems more locked into starter’s job than originally expected when they drafted Johnny Manziel, and his teammates love him, so small bump up for Hoyer into tier with Matt Schaub, Josh McCown, etc.
  • Is it time to wipe Josh Gordon from the projections / rankings with low expectations he will play at all this season? Getting there, but we’ll continue to wait for official word for now.
  • Andrew Hawkins becomes an unranked but on the radar candidate.
  • Very positive reports on TE Jordan Cameron from mini-camp, plus RB Terrance West is standing out. Maybe these are legitimate, or maybe the Browns are trying to counter-balance the negative Gordon pub. That said, West and Ben Tate appear closer to an even split of carries than their respective ADPs currently indicate.

Dallas Cowboys

  • Romo feeling good –”miles ahead of last year”. This, coupled with Scott Linehan at OC and a great set of receivers, Romo gets a bump up.
  • Caleb Hanie received praise from HC Jason Garrett. Hanie is competing with Brandon Weeden for the backup job. It doesn’t appear Kyle Orton is coming back. Cowboys usually only carry two QB on the roster.

Denver Broncos

  • Broncos are attempting to sign both Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas to long-term contracts. Each are in the last year of their current deals.

Detroit Lions

  • Joique Bell says he is back to full strength from a knee injury. There is some thought the dual-split in carries and catches at RB could turn into a trio with Theo Riddick in the mix. This is based on the idea the Lions are trying to emulate the Saints offense.
  • Revisiting Eric Ebron‘s player outlook, indicating he is a lower tier TE1, I’m bowing to some pressure from Dave and Tony to move him up. I don’t normally feel good at all drafting a rookie TE in redraft, but have to admit the upside is there. One media report indicates he’s expected to line up in the slot about 50% of the time, similar to Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas. High(ish) ceiling, low floor, he is now ranked 20th.

Green Bay Packers

  • Packers are attempting to sign Jordy Nelson to a long-term contract.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Dwayne Bowe barely cracked 100 targets last year. His 15 TD season back in 2010 is getting further and further away. Moving him down so he’s just inside the Top 40, and even there pretty disinterested in drafting him.
  • Team plans to use more two-TE sets if Travis Kelce, recovering from knee injury, is healthy.

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

  • Aaron Dobson is still dealing with a foot injury but there is some optimism he’ll be recovered for the start of training camp.

New Orleans Saints

  • Why do I have Marques Colston behind a second year player Kenny Stills? Seems premature, and Colston’s down year last year looks like a possible blip. Now Colston is a tier ahead of Stills, even if only one spot in the rankings.
  • Arbitrator rules Jimmy Graham a TE, not a WR, resulting in a significantly lower franchise tag number. The two sides have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal or he will be held to the one-year franchise deal.

New York Giants

  • Reporter speculation that even if all the running backs are healthy, Rashad Jennings will get the most carries and receptions out of the backfield, perhaps significantly more than David Wilson and Andre Williams. No change for now.

Oakland Raiders

  • Plan to run the ball often, according to OT Donald Penn. Makes sense, but still going to be playing from behind a lot.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Great offense, but just not confident Jeremy Maclin is going to embrace the opportunity enough to justify where we had him ranked ahead of some more talented receivers. He’s now down at 26, middle of Tier 5.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Given Ben Roethlisberger‘s good play late last season, and some additional optimism about his receivers since our first set of rankings, Big Ben moves ahead of guys like Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Alex Smith.
  • Reports the Steelers are committed to the run and anticipate Le’Veon Bell should get 300 carries. If he does plus catches 50 passes, then he moves up. He’s now at the bottom of our growing Tier 2 of running backs.

San Francisco 49ers

  • Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and Quinton Patton (with an outside shot) are competing for the WR3 job.
  • Marcus Lattimore still seems behind the other runners on the roster recovering from his college knee injury. One report indicating he isn’t a lock to make the roster paints a grim picture. He’s on the radar but unranked as of this update.

Tennessee Titans

  • Feeling less secure about Jake Locker taking his starter’s job and running with it. Not literally running, as they want him to be more of a pocket passer, but pessimistic about his likelihood of success. Bumping him down a tier.
  • Ah, looking at the projections I see we already had Charlie Whitehurst penciled in for 80 pass attempts, so 2-3 games. Locker should have been ranked a little lower to begin with and jive with our projections.
  • Don’t want to get too bullish on a rookie RB, but close to putting Sankey into the Top 20 which is about where the timeshare backs start getting some play, and it doesn’t look like he will be in much of a timeshare.
  • Kendall Wright had one of the quietest 90 catch, 1,000 yard seasons I can ever remember. Moves up near top of Tier 5.

Washington Redskins

  • Robert Griffin III looks more explosive, similar to his 2012 form. He’s ditched the knee brace. Thought originally we were ahead of the curve putting him in Top 10 but that is where his ADP has him right now.