Yahoo Sports’ Fantasy Football Guru Brad Evans Tells Us Who To Draft
Remember the glory days?
You know, before terms like “Deflate-gate” and ‘Bounty-gate” were part of our regular vernacular? When you could buy a pack of cards with a chance of actually scoring a nugget actually worth something and a stick of gum at least two years old? When you actually had to memorize a phone number?!
Well, it’s obvious I suppose, in some ways, days have only gotten better. Especially in the world of fantasy.
Considering fantasy football is continuing to blow up exponentially each year, the not-quite-so-much-a-fad is currently in its glory days.
Mix the sports’ current relevancy with an old-skool Brad Evans, and you have a recipe for awesome.
Brad has helped me secure regular season titles in my fantasy league the last two years, and now, I’m going for a third.
What’s different in 2015
Josh Helmuth: It seems to be kind of a transition year in fantasy. There appears to be a lot of guys on the verge of stardom. I feel like PPR leagues are more popular than ever. Fill me in on how much different this season will be than in years past in fantasy football.
Brad Evans: There’s definitely a lot of new trends that are out there … And you’re right. There appears to be a number of players on the precipice of major campaigns this year.
If you look at the rookie class, you look at Ameer Abdullah. Now that’s probably the hottest name right now in fantasy-land conversation — a rookie out of Nebraska.
Rookies this year are very attractive this year to a certain extent. And I think it’s a very attractive running back class. You look at Abdullah — the guy goes 7 carries, 67 yards in his pro debut. The dude looked like a buttered squirrel out there. He was really slippery. Hard to tackle. Making guys miss. And with Joique Bell on the sideline, he’s the perfect example of a player on the verge of a breakthrough.
Stating the case about PPR. PPR leagues have become wildly popular. In Yahoo right now it’s about 34-35 percent of leagues we host have some sort of points-per-reception element. And I expect that number to climb.
When to draft a quarterback
Josh: It’s the first time in years there’s not a whole lot of quarterback love in the first round, or even the first two rounds. I run a league where it’s actually 6 points for a touchdown from a quarterback. If you’re in a league especially like that, or not, do you feel like QBs are getting enough love? Or are you drafting running back-running back first, wide receiver-running back first? What’s your strategy?
Brad: Here’s the deal with the anti-quarterback theme this year. It’s “expert driven.” Okay. And I hate the term because I don’t know everything. I’m a fanalyst. And speaking as a fanalyst, don’t listen to the herd. Because I agree whole-heartedly that quarterbacks are undervalued right now.
If Andrew Luck falls to me in a 4-point TD league, in the 8-12 range, to steal a Tinder reference, I’m swiping right all day.
Brad: Seriously. I’ll fall instantly in love .. call it a fetish if you will. Because there is no other player in fantasy right now that has a higher floor than Andrew Luck.
In the first couple of rounds you’re looking for safety. You look at the bust-rate of RB1s since 2009 — these are the guys drafted as RB1s inside the top 12 at their position overall, that finished outside the top 15 — that bust rate is 43.1%.
The bust-rate for WR1s is one-third — 33.3%.
The bust-rate, meanwhile, for QB1s is 23.6%.
So you get what you pay for.
Josh: So who would you take ahead of Andrew Luck?
Brad: Well I think if you look at the running back position there’s still a premium for work horses, because they’re a rare-breed, right? They’re kind of an endangered species.
Look at Adrian Peterson, who I have No. 1 overall … I would take him ahead of Luck.
I would go with Peterson No. 1, Lacy No. 2, Bell No. 3, I got Marshawn Lynch at No. 4. And then I have C.J. Anderson right now at No. 5.
Jamaal Charles is also a guy I would take ahead of Luck … Also in terms of WRs, probably Antonio Brown or Dez Bryant.
Brad’s ultimate love
Josh: So who else do you love? When you look across the board, who are you astounded by?
Brad: Andre Ellington.
[Editor’s note: this interview was before the Cardinals officially signed Chris Johnson]
And it blows my mind, I think people are just napping on this cat. And they all point to the numbers from last year. And it’s superficial numbers specifically. [They] look at the 3.3 yards-per-carry average and they’re appalled. People are throwing their heads in buckets and hurling because they can’t believe that they would invest in a guy with a 3.3 YPC average.
But there’s one major detail that people are overlooking. The dude played hurt the entire year. He had a split tendon in his foot, an extremely painful injury …
Kudos to Bruce Arians to leaning on him … and to the toughness of Ellington himself, despite the ugly YPC, this is a guy that’s still a top 17 back in a standard setting on a per game basis. He was a top 12 fantasy back on a PPR basis per game average.
Now he’s healthy. This is a guy who two years ago was No. 1 in break-away percentage, averaged 5.5 YPC. The offensive line is a heck of a lot better than it was a year ago. Arians wants to run no-huddle. And people are like, ‘Arians is kicking the tires on Chris Johnson,’ who’s zombified in my opinion, you know, fluffing along — that is more of an indictment on the backups, particularly David Johnson …
Arians has already said that he [Ellington] will be a 20-touches per game running back. I believe it. I think he’s gonna be a top 15 performer, provided he can stay healthy.
Don’t take advantage of the shade
Josh: Which players are out there who we need to avoid the hype-train on? Who’s being drafted that has you shaking your head saying, ‘I don’t get it!’
Brad: Well it’s not necessarily hype, because I think the fantasy community is split. The ADP is too high … I’m gonna talk about Shady [LeSean] McCoy.
On average he’s going eighth running back off the board, right around pick No. 12 overall. You can’t be spending a first round pick on this guy. Hell, I wouldn’t spend an early second round pick on him either.
The volume is going to be there. The word ‘volume’ is a sexy, seducing term in fantasy land. You know, the mere mention of it and people start unbuttoning their pants. I get it.
Brad: [laughs] But the issue with the volume is that you gotta have efficiency in the carries, in the work load. And I don’t think it’s gonna be there. The offensive line was the second worst in run-blocking last year … It will be a ground-and-pound offense … But I don’t see many holes for him. The quarterback situation is a complete disaster. You wanna talk about a rotation of SUCK …
Also, he [McCoy] ran behind the third best offensive line [Philadelphia Eagles] last year — a third of his carries went for 1, zero or negative yards.
I’m just not buying it.
When to take a WR
Josh: Is wide receiver the deepest position? Is it something you’re waiting on?
Brad: Ya I think you can. I think one of the key aspects of the WR position this year is what I call “fantasy ageism.”
People love the fresh dudes. The young meat. The pretty young things. I like to call them a fantasy… and they avoid the Timex watches that continue to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Guys like Steve Smith. Guys like Marques Colston. Larry Fitzgerald. Eric Decker.
These veterans are being passed over for some of these younger cats and it blows my mind because I think each of them, uniquely, are in great situations … I think all these guys will certainly exceed their ADPs.
You look at Steve Smith — swan song, could be highly motivated. Looking to go out on top. And right now he’s in what will be an air-heavy offense … I think he has a great shot at at least finishing in the top 30 overall.
Fitzgerald definitely benefits from Floyd being out.
You look at Colston too, I think there’s 10 touchdowns for him with Jimmy Graham no longer in the picture.
Josh: So who do you like really late? Give me your super deep sleepers.
Brad: Let’s go with kind of a shallower ‘deep sleeper,’ sort of a paradox there …
But Eddie Royal, to me, this is a player, whose price tag has gone way up and his volume potential has also likely gone way up after Kevin White going to the IR, for potentially what looks like the rest of the season, after having a procedure on his shin to repair a fracture.
Remember he [Royal] had a bro-mantic relationship with Jay Cutler in 2008 to combine for 91 receptions, 980 yards and a handful of touchdowns. He’s gonna rotate between the slot and the outside … Adam Gase is a guy who can really get it done from the play calling perspective. And the defense is gonna be horrific, as it was last year.
But I love Eddie Royal, going around pick No. 120 right now.
Another WR I like right now is Stevie Johnson. And oldie yet still a goodie. Now he’s in San Diego taking over for the void left by Eddie Royal. I think he’s going to play a prominent role out of the gate with Antonio Gates suspended the first four games. I wouldn’t be surprised if through the first 5-6 games we’re looking at a top 20 wide receiver.
I’m also growing more and more fond of Colin Kaepernick.
Brad: Ya because the San Francisco defense is going to stink, to put it mildly. They are like a corpse flower in terms of the stench. And with all the early retirements and turnover from free agency … and Kaepernick has supposedly improved his mechanics. They’ve brought in Torrey Smith. They’ve brought in Reggie Bush to help out. The offensive line is make-shift, which is great news for a running quarterback. I think there’s 4,200 combined yards, 25 touchdown potential there, and again a guy you’re getting after pick 100 in average drafts.
And looking at the running back position, staying in California, I really like Danny Woodhead.
I think Danny Woodhead is a guy that people forget what he did two years ago: 76 receptions, 1,000 combined yards, 8 touchdowns.
And I love Melvin Gordon, but he can’t catch the ball particularly well, he’s a ghost in pass protection and Woodhead does all the little things … I can see Woodhead going for 900 combined yards, 6 touchdowns, a ton of receptions. I think he’ll be a wonderful asset PPR leagues.
How to win your league
Josh: Fill in the blank for me. In order to stay competitive in your fantasy football league, you need to _________?
Brad: [laughs] Hustle!
That’s what you gotta do!
I see too many times, even with experienced players, and I’m like, in 20,000 leagues … there’s this pitfall from time to time when people just abandon their rosters, or not paying close enough attention.
Whether it’s hawking the waiver-wire or watching our Fantasy Football Live show on Sunday mornings on YahooSports.com to get the latest news, notes and opinions from around the league. To ensure you’re putting your best foot forward each week when setting your lineup. You gotta hustle, man.
You want that championship gold? Those greenbacks in your pocket? You gotta put forth the effort. It’s a lot of sweat equity but it does reward those people who do the grunt work in the end.
Josh: Brad, thanks a lot man. For the past few years you’ve been helping me to not get embarrassed in my fantasy league [laughs].
Brad: [laughs] That means you didn’t draft Montee Ball last year! So you didn’t listen to me for good reason. He, uh, didn’t exactly deliver.
Josh: Hey you can’t get ’em all right!
Photo Credit: Getty