If I knew anything about statistics — i.e., the kind they tried to teach you in college — I’d come up with a useful matrix to figure out the greatest standard deviation among fantasy prospects entering the 2012.
In layman’s terms, which I am best served sticking to, it means how varied people value certain players.
There is plenty of consensus with fantasy football drafts. You just know where certain guys are going to be picked.
But there always are mystery players who change the course of drafts. Players whose values are tricky to evaluate and are almost certain to go far earlier or later than expected.
Here are five players who fall into that category:
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III — Some like him as a top-six or seven quarterback because of his running ability, which often gives a hidden boost. They’ll point to Cam Newton, who ranked third among all players in PFW’s scoring system in 2011, and say that Newton has that same type of potential. Indeed. But we don’t know how well he can throw it consistently with a group of receivers that must prove itself. Based on early results, it appears that Griffin is being drafted anywhere from Round Four or Five in some leagues all the way to the eighth or ninth round in others. On the high end, that means people see him as a weekly starter; on the low side of the spectrum, he’s being viewed as a weekly coin flip with another QB. There also is an injury factor that exists with Griffin. He’s not as physically strong as Newton or Tim Tebow or as elusive (scouts say he’s more of a straight-line runner) as Michael Vick. But you’d be in good shape considering Griffin as a strong starter if you anchor him with a solid backup QB.
Best place to draft Griffin: Between 70-80 overall, just after Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler but well before Matt Schaub or Josh Freeman.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson — Injured or not? Healthy, Peterson is a top-five overall pick. Has been for years. But coming off a torn ACL in December, his value has sunk. Just how far? Initially, Peterson was being rated as a fourth-round fantasy pick or lower — one national fantasy writer had him ranked in the mid-30s among running backs — but he since has risen steadily as he insists he’ll be back by Week One. That remains to be seen, and the Vikings will not risk one of their biggest investments by throwing Peterson out on the field too soon. They’ll be very smart and measured with him. You should, too. Peterson has averaged missing 1.4 games per season in his five years in the pros. You might have to double that number and expect him to miss three this season. But when you consider his per-game averages of about 85 rushing yards and one TD the past three seasons, you do the math and figure out he’d put up around 1,250 yards and 13 TDs in a projected 13-game season. Is that worth a top-30 fantasy pick? You bet.
Best place to draft Peterson: Between 20-30 overall, right before the big run of wide receivers happens.
Dolphins RB Reggie Bush — You really have to admire Bush’s 2011 season when you step back and look at it. He nearly doubled his previous high in rushing yards in a season and outgained in ’11 what he did cumulatively in the three previous seasons. A big part of it was opportunity. It’s not so much that Bush ran markedly better last season (5.0 yards per carry) than he had from 2008-’10 (4.5), but he performed well with a heavy workload, which some said he never could do in the NFL, and finished strong, with four of his five highest weekly rushing totals of the season in Weeks 13-16. The fact that he did so with inconsistent play all around him on offense — especially at quarterback — makes Bush’s season all the more remarkable. But there is still that hesitation with him, still that concern about injury and aberration. As in, could he possibly do that again? If you take away Brandon Marshall from the Dolphins’ offense and leave the QB situation murky, the doubt certainly grows. But Bush’s confidence — he says he wants to lead the NFL in rushing yards — remains unchecked. Still, fantasy owners are right to keep some skepticism, and it should reflect in his draft status.
Best place to draft Bush: Between 50-65 overall, depending on how quickly the second wave of running backs goes in your draft.
49ers WR Randy Moss — Perhaps the biggest mystery of them all. Moss has reportedly lit it up in offseason workouts, and QB Alex Smith has said that Moss is their best receiver. It’s an offense that could be kind to the long ball with the right weapons, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s a power-run-setting-up-play-action system, not the other way around. And we certainly can’t forget Moss’ previous fall from excellence in which he went from the Patriots’ most dangerous weapon to a player they traded for dimes on the dollar in midseason. The two other teams that had Moss on the roster that season, the Vikings and Titans, received little more than recalcitrance in return. Can Moss turn the beat around at age 35? Sure, he can. Will he? It’s a big leap of faith. It’s almost certain that Moss either will vastly outplay his aggregate fantasy draft status, or severely fall short of it. There will be no middle ground; Moss in his career either has been way up or way down. But that’s why you have to be cautious when you consider him. That severe doubt factors in heavily to where he should be taken. If we’re wrong, we’ll admit it later.
Best place to draft Moss: Between 140-150 overall. You can't assume he'll start for you every week.
Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez — We must be in the era of the tight end. After all, when in recent memory has one team’s second tight end been ranked so highly? Hernandez put up some gaudy numbers last season — tied for fifth among tight ends in receptions (79), fourth in yards (910), tied for fourth in TDs (seven), and he chipped in with a bonus 45 yards rushing and only one fumble. And yet people hesitate to draft him too high because of the Rob Gronkowski factor. Gronk stepped out so far in 2011 that people believe there’s a natural cap to what Hernandez can contribute. But it’s a flawed method of thinking because the Patriots play both players together so often, Hernandez is most often lined up as a detached receiver and the ball goes to the open man. Plus, there is an injury concern with Gronk — past back worries, the ankle from last year and his physical style — that could put him on the sideline at some point. The way the Patriots are looking at tight ends this offseason, you have to think they believe Gronk is prone to getting hurt, too. That opens the door for Hernandez to shine even more in 2012.
Best place to draft Hernandez: Between picks 50-60, behind Antonio Gates but just ahead of Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley.