THEY WENT WHERE?? – MOCK DRAFT ANALYSIS
20th – 28th June
In the ‘They Went Where??’ series of articles, I take another sample of mock draft data, and look for trends appearing during the week.
You can read where I gathered my data from in the first article in this series. Many thanks to fantasyfootballcalculator.com for allowing their mock draft results to be accessible.
The data for this article comes from 4,264 mock drafts, carried out between the 20th and 28th June 2020. This data is also restricted to a PPR format for a 12 team league.
So, what were the findings for this sample?
We go a little more in depth on two particular findings this time around…
The sample showed that Alvin Kamara was popular with the drafters, in both pick position and volume.
The data sample itself consists of four smaller segments – two days of draft results in each. All four segments showed instances of Kamara being a draft’s Number 1 pick. There are many players who have been selected at Number 1 in one or more of the segments. But this clean sweep across all four sections only applies to 3 other Running Backs: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. It also applies to two Quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson) and one Wide Receiver (Michael Thomas). His inclusion in this elite group of 7 demonstrates his popularity in pick position.
Now, here are the numbers of times those 7 players got drafted by human participants during of the sample:
|Name||HI pick average (dates)||LO pick average (dates)||Human selections / 4,264 drafts|
|Alvin Kamara||3 (24-26 Jun)||16 (20-22 Jun)||910 (21.3%)|
|Christian McCaffrey||1 (all)||1 (all)||649 (15.2%)|
|Saquon Barkley||2 (all)||2 (all)||539 (12.6%)|
|Ezekiel Elliott||3 (20-22 Jun)||12 (22-24 Jun)||590 (13.8%)|
|Patrick Mahomes||18 (20-22 Jun)||19 (26-28 Jun)||328 (7.7%)|
|Lamar Jackson||21 (20-22 Jun)||24 (26-28 Jun)||366 (8.6%)|
|Michael Thomas||3 (22-24 Jun)||7 (24-26 Jun)||389 (9.1%)|
The HI pick average numbers for Mahomes and Jackson in this sample might have been different had Superflex drafts also been considered. However, fantasyfootballcalculator have a seperate 2-QB ADP mode which helps simulate those type of drafts.
So what could this data tell us?
A MATTER OF PREFERENCE
Like I explained in the last article, anybody in this sample would be taking Christian McCaffrey if they had the chance. Even if you weren’t a fan of the Running Back, there’s no mistaking that CMC’s lead back situation means he will gather in the points. Nobody other Panthers Running Back will take a recognisable portion of the carries.
And, although Saquon Barkley now has a slight improvement in his backup, Dion Lewis hardly seems a threat. Lewis did see more targets than rushing leader Derrick Henry last year. But he arrives in a backfield where Saquon saw far more targets than any other Running Back. Barkley’s position is secure.
Which brings us to Running Back number 3. And this leads us to Kamara and Zeke. In both samples analysed so far, it has been a coin toss between which Running back has the edge. So can we apply the same situation from our top 2 to see who has the best situation?
Last year, Alvin Kamara had Latavius Murray as his backup:
|Alvin Kamara||Latavius Murray|
|Completions / Targets||81 / 97 (83.51%)||32 / 43 (74.42%)|
|Carries (Team %)||171 (42.22%)||146 (36.05%)|
|Yards – ground / air||797 / 533||637 / 235|
Kamara missed two regular season games due to knee and ankle injuries that he was carrying through the season. Murray featured in all 16 – and saw a high number of carries in the two games he took over from Kamara.
THE COVID COWBOY
On the other side of the coin, Zeke had Tony Pollard as his backup:
|Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard|
|Completions / Targets||54 / 71 (76.06%)||15 / 20 (75%)|
|Carries (Team %)||301 (67%)||86 (19.15%)|
|Yards – ground / air||1,357 / 420||455 / 20|
Zeke played through all 16 games in 2019, with phenomenal returns. 1,777 yards across both disciplines. 12 running and 2 receiving touchdowns. And, as was covered in Stocks and Shares, this was actually a dip in form compared to 2018!
But that was last season. And things could be different this time around. And what could be more different than Zeke having coronavirus? He talked about his experiences and said he felt only mild symptoms. But this happened in the off-season. Should the season go ahead, he will likely not come down with it again. It will likely be business as normal.
But, while Alvin Kamara has said his injuries from last season have healed, the coronavirus will be something to be aware of. Not only that but other, more conventional factors might affect his performance.
INS AND OUTS
Signings in the backfield may be the difference between Kamara and Elliott this year.
So far, Dallas have not brought anyone with experience in to sit behind Elliott and Pollard. And, while the Cowboys’ depth charts only shows three undrafted rookies being added to the back department, the Saints have moved for experience. As well as Latavius Murray staying, New Orleans have brought in Ty Montgomery. The new arrival was stuck as third Running Back at the Jets, behind Le’Veon Bell and Bilal Powell. Bell ended up taking the lions share of the carries, leaving scraps for the rest.
Having previously played wide receiver, Montgomery is seen by many as a utility back. While his running and receiving stats are underwhelming for his time in the NFL, he has taken some of the share from the other players. And don’t forget that Latavius Murray did well with his volume and production last year. Kamara could be in for another tough year.
So, although Alvin Kamara is proving a popular choice by drafters in this sample, Zeke should be getting drafted before him.
TAKING A CHANCE ON DALVIN
Another take from this sample is that drafters are still taking a chance on Dalvin Cook.
Not only that, but the average drafting position of the Vikings Running Back is solidly in the first round. In fact, the drafts that took place between 22nd and 24th June saw at least one 1.01 pick for Cook.
In case you weren’t aware, June saw Cook signal his intention to sit out indefinetely until a new extension to his contract was arranged. The Vikings had recently given Kirk Cousins a 5-year, $150 million deal that saw the Quarterback earn more in one year than what Dalvin’s current deal would earn him in three.
And so the holdout began.
Cook isn’t the first player to hold out services because of disagreements on a new contract. The last decade has seen influential players warrant more than was offered and sit out when they did not get it. Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell are just three of the players who have done this recently – there will no doubt be others in the future.
Last season, Cook had the best year of his rookie contract. The stats show over 1000 rushing yards, and a big uptick in his receiving production. He played more games. He was key in keeping the ball rolling forwards – getting the most first downs of the whole team.
In fantasy terms, this is a big deal. Cook’s contribution ended up putting him at RB6 for the season. He only played 14 games (actually sitting out in the championship week for deeper leagues. But Cook got at least 1 touchdown in 11 of them. Knowing it is likely that the Running Back hits pay-dirt gives the players who drafted him a guaranteed boost. 5 of those games also saw over 100 yards rushing, and 2 others saw above 90.
More points to add to the total.
His final rank of RB6 bettered a pre-season prediction of RB10. It pushed him above players like Alvin Kamara and James Connor. So, when you look to perform above a perceived standard, you are likely to want to be suitably paid in the future.
The problem that Cook has is that there is a younger, fresher Running Back who is just waiting for his turn in the hotseat. That man is Alexander Mattison.
A third round pick from Boise State last year, many fans looked to see Mattison featuring after Cook faltered to an RB26 finish in 2018. An exciting and powerful rusher, Mattison hit peak form in college during 2018, his junior year, and helped his college Broncos to a 10-3 season. He even put 200 yards and 3 touchdowns past a highly ranked Utah State side that year. He decided to declare a year early for the draft, and the Vikings took him as their second offensive draft pick, coming the round after Irv Smith Jnr. – who has also been making inroads into the Vikings team.
Indeed, it was through Cook’s own form that kept Mattison to the supporting role he ended up with. The backup Running Back saw 100 carries over the season (a 21% share) and picked up 462 yards. His average does work out slightly better, but his usage in the redzone was where he fell down.
Cook saw nearly half of all carries in the Redzone (47.8%) compared to Mattison’s 28.9%. Again, the stats show the rookie back is more effective with his runs. Mattison’s 111 yards come to 4.26 yards per carry. Cook gets 114 yards, but this only equates to 2.65 yards. However, Cook ends up with 12 touchdowns and Mattison gets only 1. How did this happen??
The answer lies inside the 5 yard line. Here, Cook’s involvement jumps up to 62.5% of carries. With his 15 carries in this area, Dalvin accounts for 9 of his touchdowns. On the other hand, Mattison sees only 8.3% – a paltry 2 carries – and 0 touchdowns.
ADVANCING WITH ALEX
So it seems that, while Dalvin is at lead back, he will get the nods to run the ball home. But remember that Boise State game where Mattison feasted against Utah State? All three of his touchdowns came from within that 5 yard zone. In fact, of the 17 touchdowns that Mattison scored in his last year of college, 12 were from inside the 5 yard line. So, if you can couple this with the efficiency of his running (particularly in the redzone), then you’re already asking if Minnesota need to offer Cook the deal he wants. I
It’s not necessarily in the passing game either. Mattison was involved in the passing game at Boise. And he finished his rookie season with 82 yards from 10 completions to add to his rushing hall – actually giving him a better average than his last year at college. While Cook’s average yards per reception is better than his rookie counterpart, he did see over 50 more targets. So who is to say that Mattison could not produce the same if he saw that many looks next season?
So when you start to strip away the arguing factors in Cook holding out, you realise that the balance begins to tip in the Vikings’ favour. And, as long as they have Mattison to turn to, the holdout is unlikely to be solved in a way that favours Dalvin Cook.
During the sample, Mattison was featuring mid-way through the 8th round of many drafts. His highest take was at the end of the 5th round and his lowest pick was 9.06. Regardless of where he is being taken, the sophomore Running Back should still provide some value – he finished as a high end RB3 in 2019. The volatility in Cook’s contract saga sees his value go up as a must-have handcuff – regardless of the outcome of the talks. If those talks stall and spill into the regular season…let’s just say that the 9.06 pick is worth its weight in Viking gold…
Join me next time for another sample, and what we can learn from it about the minds of fantasy drafters.