david wilson

A Few Breakout Players for 2013

My first 2013 fantasy draft kit will be sent out in a few weeks, but I have a good idea of which players I'll have rated higher than their ADP. At RotoWire, I broke down some of my top breakout candidates. Here are the quarterbacks and running backs:

Using some of my recent research, I'll identify three potential breakout players at each position in 2013. You don't have to agree with each selection, but read my justification so you can decide on your own whether or not you concur with my conclusion. Even if you don't think the players are worthy of your consideration, the process of critiquing my predictions alone should aid you creating in your own 2013 rankings.

Click on the headers below to see which traits I believe make up the "prototypical" players at each position.


 Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Although he'll be entering his first full year as a starting quarterback, Kaepernick will be 25 when the season begins - right around the age when quarterback play starts to peak. The mobile passer, who threw for two touchdowns or ran for 50 yards in seven of his 10 starts last year, can score big-time fantasy points even if he doesn't light up defenses with his arm. He's a safer week-to-week option than most believe.

 Sam Bradford, Rams
Bradford doesn't have mobility on his side, but he does have a bunch of new weapons on the outside - including Tavon Austin and Jared Cook. Bradford's YPA has increased all three years he's been in the league, and there's a good chance that he'll throw the ball 600 times in 2013.

 E.J. Manuel, Bills
Manuel can't be counted on for points right out of the gate, but assuming he wins the starting job in Buffalo, keep an eye out for him in the late rounds. Manuel figures to run more in the NFL than he did at Florida State, and each of his rushing attempts should equate to about two passes. If he throws 500 passes as a rookie, Manuel's workload could be one of the heavier ones in the league. Plus, the cost of obtaining him will be minimal.

Running Back

 Ben Tate, Texans
There's absolutely no substitute for opportunities when it comes to running backs. Since the deviation in running backs' YPC is so low, the best way to generate fantasy points at the position is through bulk attempts. Tate doesn't have that, but his lack of opportunity is factored into his ADP. You can grab the running back in the late rounds or off of the waiver wire, and he'll automatically become a RB1 if Arian Foster goes down. And at 220 pounds with 4.43 speed, Tate is one of the league's most underrated players.

 Bryce Brown, Eagles
Chip Kelly is going to have multiple backs on the field quite a bit, so I actually think Brown - a player very similar to Tate - could live up to his draft position even if LeSean McCoydoesn't get injured. We saw what Brown can do for you last year when he filled in for McCoy, and he's the perfect high-upside late-round pick.

 David Wilson, Giants
Notice a trend here with running backs? Speed, speed and speed.

Wilson is a speedy back coming off of a relatively quiet rookie year with outstanding efficiency. Even as he's rising up boards, Wilson is still an undervalued commodity.


Fantasy Football Trade Chart: The Start of a New Draft Value System

At RotoWire, I began constructing a new fantasy football draft trade value chart.

Last summer, I began to break down the relative value of each draft slot in an effort to determine if selecting near the top, middle or bottom of drafts has any inherent value over large sample sizes. The results seemed to indicate that selecting near the top or bottom of snake drafts is more advantageous than picking in the middle.

Either way, that article planted a seed which is just finally beginning to grow: make a new fantasy football draft value chart. NFL teams use draft charts all of the time to make trades. The charts are based off of historic NFL production, and they provide a foundation for teams to make moves on draft day.

There are also some fantasy draft value charts out there, but fantasy football is such a fluid game I think it makes sense to update the charts every year. More importantly, it's difficult to determine just how accurate these charts really are. One reason is there are a bunch of ways to measure "value." Is a player's value the number of total points he scores? His points per game?

Further, fantasy football lineups contain a finite number of roster spots, meaning we can't just replace the production of one player with that of two. A player who scores 300 points in a season is far, far more valuable than two who score 150 points each. Even the total points for two pairs might not add up; a pair of players who score 350 points and 50 points, respectively, is probably more valuable than a pair with 200 points each. But by how much? We need to determine the incremental value of each jump in fantasy points and how the total production of two players compares to that of one. That's hard to do.

There are so many factors that go into making an accurate draft value chart that I must concede I'm not entirely sure how I should go about it. One thing I know is we don't want to use total fantasy points as a scale for value. A running back who scores 100 points doesn't have any value to your team - actually, he'll cause you to lose if you continually start him - so we have to judge value in some other way.

For the purposes of creating the chart, I'll use Pro Football Reference's VBD calculations. VBD is a form of "value over replacement player" in which you subtract the points for a "baseline" player from each player's total points. The baselines are the No. 12 quarterback, No. 24 running back, No. 30 wide receiver, and No. 12 tight end. There are probably issues with VBD like any other value metric, but it does a better job of capturing "usable" value for fantasy owners; the VBD for the No. 12 quarterback or No. 30 wide receiver would be 0. That seems about right considering those players - or the guys ranked behind them - reallyoffer little worth to fantasy owners.

The Numbers

I graphed the VBD for all players chosen in the top 24 from 2008 to 2012.

The value of the top two overall selections has been higher than for any other picks. That fits well with my previous research and suggests that in most drafts, there are a handful of elite prospects and then a big drop to the second tier.

Spoiler alert: There are so many factors that go into this that I still have no idea how I'm going to go about completing it. But these numbers should be a start.