The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Darren McFadden, Running Back, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders running back was a fantasy darling entering 2012. Some sites had Run DMC as a first rounder, many had him as a second rounder, but everyone agreed that the potential for the Razorback to become elite was somewhat mitigated by the inherent injury risk in selecting him.
McFadden certainly struck many of his fantasy owners as a disappointment last year. He had exactly zero top five finishes in any of his twelve games played. However, in his twelve games, McFadden finished as a top-12 running back three times, and as a top-24 running back seven times.
Though injuries are pretty much always going to be a concern for a McFadden owner, when he actually played – more often than not – he was playable as an RB2. If you picked him as your RB1, it would probably have been hard not to be disappointed in his play – and the fact that he only scored three touchdowns all season did not placate frustrated owners.
My guess is that there will be a lot of spurned McFadden owners in 2013, and a savvy owner might be able to take advantage. But McFadden falls in a very strange position for me. McFadden’s draft stock has fallen recently – he’s now going at the front end of the third round according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. As with many guys, the injury risk is already being built into the price.
McFadden has a new offensive coordinator in Oakland; gone is the Greg Knapp zone-blocking scheme that I believe caused a lot of McFadden’s struggles last year. If you are looking for an RB2 in the third round, and you have an RB1 you feel confident with, I think McFadden would be an absolutely delightful guy to leave with as your RB2. Though Marcel Reece had some great games last year, McFadden really has no competition at running back, and unlike a lot of guys you might have to pick in the third round or later, McFadden has a shown ability to be a fantasy monster.
That said, if you are looking for an RB1, or if your RB1 is someone you feel shaky with (I’m thinking Chris Johnson or Stevan Ridley), I would advise looking towards a Darren Sproles-like guy as your RB2; someone you know will have value even if the ceiling is lower.
Ryan Mathews, Running Back, San Diego Chargers
Full disclosure: I am not a Ryan Mathews fan. I thought he was wildly overrated last year, even for the guys who drafted him at a discount after his injury news came out.
But his ADP right now is absolutely insane.
I don’t know which human beings decided Lamar Miller, who has never had more than ten carries in any NFL game, and LeVeon Bell, who has never had any carry in an NFL game, were a full round better than Ryan Mathews, who at the very least we’ve seen be an effective back in the NFL. I’d be cool with stripping them of their Fantasy Football Writer badges that we all have. Just kidding, don’t hurt me.
I understand the hate, but I think Mathews is in this weird space where owners are viewing him with about as much acceptance as they view the bubonic plague. Nobody wants to be “that guy” who drafts Mathews, risking an eternity of embarrassment and a bunch of chat room “LOLs” from his fellow owners. In short, I believe public narrative on Mathews has driven his value into the toilet, but public narrative rarely has a firm or reasonable view of these things I like to call “facts”.
Here it is: Mathews had one 10-point or more performance last year. It also came in the one game where he scored his lone touchdown. But touchdowns are a fickle beast; they’re mostly random occurrence, swayed (obviously) by the amount of opportunity any one player has to get a touchdown. And that’s where Mathews actually becomes kind of a nice pick.
I have said over and over, and I’m not suggesting it’s my own novel idea any more than it’s just something I believe, but fantasy football comes down to a pretty simple formula: (Opportunity x Skill) = Value. We know Mathews at least has some level of skill, but what he has in spades is opportunity. If he can stay on the field, I see no reason why he can’t be as good from a fantasy perspective as any other guy picked in the round previous to him (the aforementioned Lamar Miller and LeVeon Bell, as well as Chris Ivory and Montee Ball). He’s going to have chances to run the ball, and that means opportunities to score. Had Mathews managed to find the end zone even four or five times last year as opposed to one, my feeling is he’d be in an entirely different draft stratosphere.
At the top of the fifth, you should probably already have your RB1 and RB2 positions well settled. As the first guy on your bench, or as a temporary flex, I think that the value Mathews presents is incredible, especially if he can get back to his 2011 form (which, unlike some other guys right before him, we know actually exists).
Eddie Lacy/Jonathan Franklin, Running Backs, Green Bay Packers
I don’t think that there’s any way, if you are writing about fantasy football, to really separate these two guys in writing. My opinion on these two dudes is pretty simple: whoever gets the second guy drafted is the owner who gets the value.
Though Lacy was drafted before Franklin, I don’t think teams, especially in the days of set salary scales for rookies, think “Well, we picked player X before player Y, so we have to play X even if we think Y is better.”
The fact of the matter is, we don’t know right now whether Lacy or Franklin will be the guy. It seems almost rudimentary to say, but the Packers don’t know whether Lacy or Franklin will be better either; that’s why they took both of them in the draft. If they were sure Lacy was a lead-quality back they wouldn’t have grabbed Franklin.
And that’s why I’m puzzled by the draft positions of these two guys. Lacy right now is a mid-5th rounder, and Franklin is going in the late 8th. That’s 42 spots between the two guys in terms of average draft position. And that makes absolutely no sense to me as an owner looking at and for value.
I can see why a Montee Ball or a LeVeon Bell would go in around Lacy’s neighborhood; they are two draft picks operating with limited competition for carries (even if I disagree with taking those two guys there). Lacy is not in the same position. Not only does he have competition, but the competition has just as much NFL experience as Lacy.
To be clear – this isn’t an anti-Lacy piece. I’m not saying he won’t be the lead back, but to just assume he will be the lead back with his fellow rookie also on the draft chart to me seems, at best, short-sighted. And, at worst, it seems completely foolish. My advice here boils down to this: don’t be the first guy to draft a Packers running back.