THEY WENT WHERE?? – MOCK DRAFT ANALYSIS
In the ‘They Went Where??’ series of articles, I take mock draft data and look for trends appearing during the week.
For this data, I used fantasyfootballcalculator.com, a football stats site recommended by many (including Murf!). Over the course of the week I have taken the tables produced by the site’s mock drafts. Then, I have examined those tables for any surprising results or any developing trends. Each article alternates between six days’ and eight days’ information to avoid any overlap.
The data from the website covers 3,693 mock drafts carried out between the 14th and 20th June 2020. This data is also restricted to a PPR format for a 12 team league. This was the most preferred format by drafters on the website.
For ease of research, the website’s software filters out any computer generated picks. Therefore, the table results come from human picks only, coming from their assigned draft positions. As such, these articles should get treated as a guide, not as a definitive answer.
So, what were the findings?
Jack Humphrey will be pleased to hear this – the mock drafts show people do care about drafting kickers. They don’t start getting drafted until the 13th round, but still – they are being taken off the board.
Consistently at the head of the kicking pack is Justin Tucker. The Ravens stalwart maintains his position around the start of the 13th throughout the six days. Of the 3,963 times a human can pick him, he is taken 947 times – far more than anyone else.
This fact on its own seems a little skewed. After all, shouldn’t Christian McCaffrey be top? Wouldn’t everybody take him if they had the chance? The fact is: not all drafters would have had the 1.01 position in their mock drafts, hence the lower numbers for CMC. Higher up, it’s a free for all to get a first rounder. But further down the mock draft you go, there are more routes and strategies to consider in who gets picked. As this happens, the variance increases, and this is where the analysis shows who is at the forefront of drafters’ minds.
Tucker himself seems to be favoured in some cases, and revered in others. There is an example of him being drafted at a high position of 1.12 in this time frame! So why is he held in such high regard?
Tucker actually finished third in fantasy points last season, behind Harrison Butker of the Chiefs and Will Lutz of the Saints. But you only have to look back several years to see that Tucker is consistently in the top three Kickers. With all the ups and the downs around him, he is still there. Last season he had a 96.6% success rate, 2nd in the NFL last season – and his second-highest return in his career. And, for each of the last four seasons, he has scored 141 on-field points. If that isn’t consistency, then what is?
On the whole, Tucker seems to be drafting at an average of the 13th round – and he’s not the only kicker to go in this round. Butker and Lutz have also consistently averaged out as a 13th round pick. Greg Zuerlein of the Cowboys has also had a rise to average as a 13th in the second half of the week.
There would be some experts out there who would argue against taking a kicker so soon. Some of those experts even reside amongst the 5 yard Rush team. Others would argue you don’t need to draft one at all – the waivers can help out later for your kicking needs. But, when those guaranteed points could win a week’s match-up, it’s you see why drafters prefer risking an earlier pick on Tucker.
PUTTING THE ‘FANT’ IN FANTASY
This is more than just a clever bit of word play. it seems that a lot of drafters are also putting faith in Noah this season – in one way or another.
THE TIGHT END SCRAMBLE
The realm of drafting Tight Ends have always been a tricky one. There is such a limited talent that it seems such a rush to claim one before that talent runs out. In this week’s sample, Travis Kelce averages out as the 2.09 pick. After Kelce is taken, it takes just under 6 rounds for the top 10 Tight Ends to get taken off the board. Hunter Henry goes at TE10 with the 8.07 pick.
These 6 rounds actually factor in a large drop off after the top 2 Tight Ends. After Kelce goes, it takes an average of 7 picks before fellow behemoth George Kittle is taken as well. But it then takes an average of 18.33 picks – over 1.5 rounds – before Mark Andrews is taken around the 4.10 pick. Take this drop out, and the time between Andrews and Hunter Henry reduces to 3.75 rounds.
In a 12 man league, that leaves 2 teams left without a Tight End in the 8th round. Of course, this assumes the other ten have taken only one each! This leaves some tough decisions, and likely who to pick as their TE1 becomes trickier.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
The direction for one of those teams has been to take Jared Cook. The veteran Saints TE is being taken in the mid 10th round, and picked up over 700 yards last season – as well a 9 touchdowns. In the circumstances, he can still do the business. But where does that leave the last team?
The sample shows that drafters have chosen between Noah Fant and Austin Hooper. And, although Hooper drafted higher than Fant for most of the sample, Fant was drafted more than Hooper consistently across the week. He even pushed into the TE12 spot for the last part of the week. This either shows that last team’s willingness to consider him as their TE1, or those other teams are taking him as a solid backup on byes.
Hooper’s trade to the Browns may be a factor in that drafter’s hesitance. The Browns threw only 13.37% of targets to their Tight Ends in 2019. That’s less than Hooper himself saw all season at the Falcons(14.88%). On its own, this would be enough to think twice about picking Hooper. But a returning David Njoku will almost certainly have an impact on his volume.
KING OF THE TE2
So why are drafter choosing Fant above those other remaining Tight Ends? Let’s have a look at his stats compared to other TEs being drafted below him:
|Name||Cmp / Tgts||Cmp %||Yards||Yards/Rec||TDs||FDs||Drafted in sample|
|Noah Fant||40 / 66||60.6||562||14.1||3||23||649|
|Mike Gesicki||51 / 89||57.3||570||11.2||5||25||588|
|T.J. Hockenson||32 / 59||54.2||367||11.5||2||19||545|
|Jonnu Smith||35 / 44||79.5||439||12.5||3||16||394|
|Dallas Goedert||58 / 87||66.6||607||10.5||5||33||129|
Although his stats are worse in comparison, Noah Fant has been picked up over 60 more times than second-ranked Mike Gesicki. But, whereas Denver have committed to Drew Lock as starting Quarterback next season, the Miami situation is not as clear. Gesicki saw an uptick in targets during Ryan Fitzpatrick’s time behind the line. But, with Tua’s addition, there could be changes to where the Dolphins’ targets go in the 2020.
Something else to take from this table is Dallas Goedert’s very low draft volume compared to last season’s stats. This could be due to drafter hesitancy. The Eagles’ drafting of Wide Receivers and Miles Sanders’ lead RB status could mean Goedert losing targets. These lost targets drop fantasy value.
There are other players who may benefit from trades and moves. For example, think about Eric Ebron‘s move to the Steelers – and what that means for Jack Doyle. In Fant’s case, it seems that consistency may be the key to why people are considering him so highly.
NO LOVE FOR LINDSAY
Continuing with the Broncos theme, it was a big surprise to see them sign Melvin Gordon after the 2019 season. They already had a 1000+ rusher in Philip Lindsay, and a backup that got nearly 500 yards in Royce Freeman.
|Name||Attempts||Yards||Yds / Att||TDs||FDs||Lng|
Considering Lindsay’s better effectiveness on the run, it comes as even more of a surprise. You can read more about Gordon’s production for the Chargers in their article for the ‘Cash In Carries‘ series. But how has this affected the mock drafts?
In the sample, Melvin Gordon consistently drafted as the 3.04 pick. This pick puts him above David Montgomery (4.04) and Chris Carson (3.12). Carson had his issues last season. But he put up 1200+ yard last season, despite those injuries and fumbles. Montgomery? Nearly 900 in his rookie season. Consider that Gordon is moving teams, and the situation he is moving to. You can not ignore just what Lindsay accomplished in 2019 – and how this will affect Gordon in 2020.
LOW DRAFT LINDSAY
In comparison, Lindsay’s ADP across the sample is the start of the 9th round. This puts him around players like Tevin Coleman and Kerryon Johnson. Coleman is looking to be second to Raheem Mostert next season. Johnson is already being touted as backup to rookie starlet D’Andre Swift. Lindsay had significantly better output than either of these players last year. Therefore, he should not be relegated to second back straight away.
Interestingly, the highest anybody picked Lindsay was an early fifth round pick. This draft pick puts Lindsay around the same level as Browns backup Kareem Hunt. Hunt only played eight games last season after returning from a deserved suspension, but produced decent averages in the pass and run. As such, the two of them find themselves in a similar situation – facing a new season behind a primary Running Back. Nick Chubb has proven that he can hold onto that position with a dominant 2019 season. But Melvin Gordon’s stats last season cast doubt upon whether he can do the same in Denver.
And, should Gordon continue his middling form and predictable running style (see ‘Cash In Carries’) then Lindsay’s 9th round draft pick could be invaluable – worth its weight in rushing gold.
While useful, it is important to note that ADP can not always reflect what will happen during the season. But these sample sizes can show the choices that drafters are making. And we can back up these choices with stats – to support picks, and to question others.
Join me next time to look at another sample.
Until then, keep Rushing!
Rob – @CowsillRob