In case you aren’t familiar with my “Draft Him, Not Him” series, I go over players of the same position with similar ADPs and tell you why you should take one over the other. In Part I of the series, I discussed why you should take Big Ben over Andy Dalton, Aaron Dobson over Steve Smith, and a couple others.
Again, the common theme here is taking guys who are talented/poised for a breakout, on a fantastic offense, a guy who will benefit hugely from one injury, or a combination of the above. I prefer unproven upside over established mediocrity in the later rounds. Oftentimes, it’s picks like these that are league-winners.
Draft Stevan Ridley (7.09), not Maurice Jones-Drew (7.10)
While MJD has carried fantasy teams in the past, those days are long behind him. Gone are the days of him being the bowling-ball bellcow back and scoring double digit touchdowns. And according to last season’s efficiency, he’s officially begun the steep running back decline that RBs experience in their late 20’s and early 30’s: for the first time in his career, he dipped under 4.2 yards per carry to a paltry 3.4 yard per carry.
This wouldn’t be an issue if he was on a great offense and had touchdown upside (a la late career Jerome Bettis), but the Raiders’ offensive is likely to prove to be a laughing stock. While McFadden may not be a serious threat to completely overtake Jones-Drew, he’ll still take some carries passing down work from MJD. And if (read: when) McFadden gets hurt, talented prospect Latavius Murray is bound to see some work too. I’m not sure I would touch him in the 9th round, let alone the 7th.
I wrote about Stevan Ridley extensively in multiple columns, including my article on cheap rushing touchdowns and comparing Ridley to Alfred Morris and Zac Stacy. If you can’t tell: I really like Stevan Ridley this year. Of course there’s the chance he fumbles away the job again, but that helps make him an absolute bargain. It says a lot about their faith in Ridley that they didn’t re-sign LeGarrette Blount or acquire any other early-down power back.
If he keeps the job, what’s stopping him from the 1,200+ yards and 12 TDs that came in 2012? Due to the return of Gronk and their beastly defense, the Patriots are unlikely to be in come-from-behind mode very often and will be able to use Ridley to kill the clock or punch it in from the goal-line. Call me crazy, but even in a vacuum I prefer Ridley to Alfred Morris and Ridley is going four rounds later.
Draft DeAndre Hopkins (9.12), not Riley Cooper (9.09)
At first glance, DeAndre Hopkins doesn’t seem like a huge breakout candidate. He’s the 2nd option on a run-heavy team with Ryan Fitzpatrick as its quarterback. But upon closer examination, Hopkins is becoming a quick favorite over here at Apex. This fantastic article by Justin Winn over at RotoViz does a great job of explaining the specifics regarding his potential breakout.
Basically, Hopkins had a more impressive rookie year than meets the eye. Statistic-wise, his rookie year blew Josh Gordon’s and Alshon Jeffrey’s rookie years out of the water. And let’s not forget that Andre Johnson is 33, coming off of a holdout and experiencing lower-body injuries – if he were to miss time, Hopkins could easily become a WR2 in fantasy, maybe more. If you need more reasons to love Hopkins, just ask Mike Braude and listen to him swoon.
Riley Cooper, on the other hand, is being overdrafted like crazy. Let’s not forget over 25% of his fantasy production from last year came in one game against the demoralized Raiders, and that he only saw 83 targets. That was less than Kris Durham and Davone Bess. He also scored 8 touchdowns on a mere 47 receptions, something that is definitely unrepeatable.
A lot fell into place for Cooper last year: the emergence of Foles, the easy matchups, the Maclin injury- and he still could only muster a WR31 finish. Although DeSean Jackson is in Washington, that is probably offset by the return of Maclin, probable emergence of Zach Ertz, and the arrival of Darren Sproles. I bet he’ll be on over 50% of waiver wires by Week 4.
Draft James Starks (13.11), not Shonn Greene (13.08)
I’ll never accept any excuse to draft Shonn Greene over James Starks. Instead of writing a couple paragraphs about both, let’s make a comparative checklist:
1. Offense: Starks plays on the Packers. Greene plays on the Titans. Enough said.
2. Opportunity: If Eddie Lacy were to go down (not an unlikely scenario), Starks would be an every-down back on an elite offense. If Bishop Sankey were to go down, Greene would still cede passing-down work to Dexter McCluster – Greene has never been good in the passing game. He’d be an early-down and goal line option…on the Titans.
3. Efficiency: Starks averaged over 5.5 yards per carry last year and is already beasting in 2014. Shonn Greene hasn’t sniffed 4 yards per carry since 2011.
4. Health: James Starks has yet to miss a day of practice this offseason. Shonn Greene has had two knee surgeries in the past year alone.
By my count that’s 4 to 0, advantage James Starks. Better offense, better talent, clear number two back on his team…why on Earth would anyone take Shonn Greene over him?