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how to spot Break out players and 2nd Half Studs: WRs

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http://fantasy-footballu.com/zblog/2012/6/2/how-to-spot-break-out-players-and-2nd-half-studs-wrs.html

Every year it seems guys come out of nowhere on the depth chart and a select, lucky few, who snag them off the wire, ride them to championships. As much as it seems to be luck of the draw, there are ways of hedging your bets to increase your chances of grabbing one of these guys. Within the past few years I have spent a lot of time trying to figure this, seemingly, unsolvable puzzle out.

As much as we all like to rely on Studs( Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Rice, etc) the odds are that most will not be playing by the end of the year(injury, resting for playoffs) and they tend to let us down.

The following is basically a rough guideline of the criteria I look at when judging whether or not I think someone is ready to break out whenever they get the opportunity.

1. The player himself

A. When I'm searching for the next second half star or break out guy in general, first thing I do is look at the previous years stats.

things to check for in order of importance:

WRs/TEs

1.Catch %:

2.YPC(yard per catch):

3.Targets:

4.Yards:

5.Catches:

6.Touchdowns:*

*touchdowns is pretty much worthless when your simply looking at it as a number, obviously if the guy is a good goaline guy then you can predict a few more, but considering most non stud WRs aren't getting plays run for them in the redzone, its not worth time thinking about.

A great example is Arrelious Benn, who two years ago, got stopped on the 1 yard line not 1, not 2, not even 3, but 4 times.

A. guy that I have been extremely interested in this offseason is Brandon Lafell so lets look at this filled out with his stats

Brandon Lafell:

catch %: 64.3%

YPC:17.0

Targets: 56

Yards: 613

Catches: 36

Touchdowns: 3

Lafell's raw numbers from last year were extremely impressive, but since it was on such a small amount of targets , their wasn't a lot of buzz. to prove his numbers are solid, lets extrapolate these to a solid amount of targets. lets say 110(34 players had over 110 targets last year)

Lafell's fantasy stats with 110 targets:

Targets 110

catches(110x.64): 70

Yards(70x17):1190

Touchdowns: 6

Now, I'm not saying that Lafell is going to get 110 targets this year, nor am I saying that his stats will look like this if he does. I'm saying he impressed with the opportunity he was given last year.

I think 17 YPC would probably be an unrealistic expectation because he would start to get more attention from the defense as the year goes on with that many targets. I would probably say he falls in around 15-15.5 ypc range, but again thats an extremely rough number. his target % would probably drop a little also as 64% would be just about tops in the league with that many targets. I would drop that to around 55% , again, a rough estimate.

even with the drop in % and yards this would be my (extremely rough) projection of what I think Lafell would have gone for last year.

catch%:55

YPC:15.5

targets: 110

catches(.55x 110): 61

Yards(61x 15.5): 933

Touchdowns: 4

Good for WR31 in .5 PPR leagues last year.

Now, what this tells me, is even if I shave down his numbers(considering the obvious increase in targets) to clearly less than how he produced, he would have still been a solid WR3.

B. watch whatever video of him you can get your hands on:

-Obviously there is a negative stigma about using youtube as a means of reference, but , I've found the quality of information has grown extensively within the past year or two and theres a lot of info on everyone.

-The other option I found was NFL rewind. it costs like 20$ but it allows you to watch any play from the past season

These were the two best ones I found

2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6ccljvaCdU

2010

what I look for in these videos is the following in order:

1. Special plays-

these are plays that most WRs cant make and potentially seperate this guy from the rest of the pack. The guy that blew me out of the water the most with this is Brandon Lloyd

2.Hands -

pretty self explanitory, but there are different levels of hands and its pretty much a judgement call on your part. A guy that really stood out to me was Bears rookie Alshon Jeffery

-How they catch the ball in traffic

-catch away from the body

-deep ball catches

honestly, I usually go with my gut, but I feel like if you watch someone, within a few plays you can tell if they have the natural ability to go up and get it or not.

4.Speed and quickness-

I think everyone knows how to see that, but usually you have to put it into context of their size also.

5. After the catch ability

-broken tackles

-avoided tackles

-how easily they go down after first contact

-speed after catch

-quickness and explosion of first few steps after the catch

Percy Harvin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDGXMn5-4jE

6. Seperation-

I put this down on the list because if your looking for a breakout candidate and they have some of the 5 strengths listed above, I would imagine they would be able to seperate.

kind of tough to judge speration also via youtube so I would suggest NFL rewind for this one, although heres a few that are blatantly obvious via youtube.

Mike Wallace:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHkPXcJupuU

Desean Jackson:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKL7bOnm_mI

7.Size-

probably the worst way to judge a WR by itself, but when you put things in context, it can also be a valuable tool.

for instance, a guy who is 5'11" and runs a 4.4 at the combine is somewhat average, when a 6'3" guy runs a 4.4 ...quite impressive. Other than that, size alone doesn't tell a whole lot of the story. 90% of WRs in the league are between 5'11" and 6'3", which seems like alot, but only has so much of an affect against pro corners.

8. Type of coverage-

Obviously NFL rewind is needed for this one. It is always important to note the emphasis the defense is putting on the player. There is a HUGE difference in getting open when you are the teams #1 option as opposed to the #2 or #3 . Certain guys can make the jump and some cant. A guy like Brandon Lafell is someone I see as a nice WR2 for carolina and someone who benefits greatly from having Steve Smith across from him. On the other hand, guys like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald need very little around them to still be affective, effective? ehh you know what I mean.

C. Situation and opportunity

This is what separates the guys who can break out right away from the ones who need an injury or change of scenery to get more of an opportunity.

1. Quarterback

2. Other WRs on the team

3. Tight End- although most of the time it helps to have a TE who need attention, you dont want to many targets taken away

4. System- sometimes the player just isn't the right fit.

5. Coaches and coordinators

D. Outside Opinion

Once I've gone through all of that I start to look what everyone else is saying. obviously you do not want to base anything on someone else's opinion, but once you have your own, other thoughts can be huge in pointing out things you missed.

list of references(in no particular order):

1. training camp blurbs

2. Websites with scouting reports and opinions.

3. TV(ESPN and NFL.COM)

4. Message boards( footballguys for life!)

5. Beat Writers

there is information EVERYWHERE, never be to proud to hear something new. Even if you dont agree with something, sometimes it will make you look a little deeper to prove them they are wrong

Alright, that ridiculously long explanation is how I figured out the list below. I seperated them into two different groups, the guys who will have the opportunity from the beginning of the year and the guys who will need a bit of luck or an injury to break out aka the guys who could break out the second half of the season and win you a championship.

Beginning break out:

1. Brandon lafell- WR 2 Carolina

2. Doug Baldwin WR 2 Seattle

3. Alshon Jeffery(rookie(no pro video on him but I trust he has good hands from what I saw in college)- WR 2 behind Marshall... great hands catcher and has a Qb in Cutler who will fire it into close coverage.

4. Robert Meachem WR 1 San Diego

5. Jerome Simpson WR 2 Minnesota

6. BJ Cunningham - Follow Dolphins Camp

7.Donnie Avery - Follow Indianapolis camp

8. Jon Baldwin WR 2 Kansas City

9. Greg Salas- Follow Rams Camp

Second half break out:

1.Vincent Brown WR 3 San Diego

2.Josh Cirbbs-although this is only if the Browns decide to expand his role in the offense... which they most likely wont :(

3. Emmanuel Sanders WR 3 Pittsburgh

4. Randall Cobb WR 3/ WR 4 Green Bay

5 Arrelious Benn- WR 3 Tampa Bay

6. Ryan Broyles- WR 3 Detroit

7. Leonard Hankerson WR 3 Washington

8. Chaz Schilens WR 3 New York

9. Jacoby Ford W 3 Oakland

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Good stuff.What did you mean by target %?

how many catches the player has compared to targets... i guess catch % would make more sense lol

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Great post, but how will Jerome Simpson have a breakout in the first half of the season while he's suspended?

He'll break out of the NFL jail. Great post as always. I hope you're right about LaFell. He has a top 5-10 QB and seems to be the lowest ranking #2 WR that has that kind of QB. Usually with the top 5-10 QBs people die to have their #2 and even #3 targets. So either pople are not sold on LaFell or not sold on Carolina's passing game. Not sure which it is.

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I hope you're right about LaFell. He has a top 5-10 QB and seems to be the lowest ranking #2 WR that has that kind of QB. Usually with the top 5-10 QBs people die to have their #2 and even #3 targets. So either pople are not sold on LaFell or not sold on Carolina's passing game. Not sure which it is.

There is a difference between being a top 5-10 QB and being in a top 5-10 passing offense. People want the #2 WRs in top passing offenses. In most cases, there is correlation between top 5-10 QBs and top 5-10 passing offenses, but that isn't necessarily the case with Newton and Carolina.Last year, Newton was a top 5 fantasy QB, but the Carolina passing offense was "only" #13 in passing yards and passing TDs. Last year, the #12 team in passing yards was Tennessee and the #14 team was Washington. I don't think people are too anxious to get their #2 and #3 targets.

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Good stuff. However, I'll add one bit of caution about Lafell. I did a bit of research on him and it seems like a lot of his catches and big plays last year where when he was running wide open after the play broke down and Cam started running around buying time. That ability to work back to the QB, find open spots after the initial route, etc. is valuable. But it doesn't seem like he was able to get open regularly on normal routes. That scares me in terms of his upside and may skew his stats to make them look more impressive than they really are (easy to make a catch when you're wide open just standing there). There's only so many of those opportunities per game and may make it tough to extrapolate what his numbers would be with more targets if they aren't the same type of targets.

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What made you put Chaz Schilens on the list? I see him 4th on the team in WR targets (behind Holmes, Hill and Kerley) and also behind Dustin Keller.

I just don't see him really being part of the plan.

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What made you put Chaz Schilens on the list? I see him 4th on the team in WR targets (behind Holmes, Hill and Kerley) and also behind Dustin Keller.I just don't see him really being part of the plan.

Always been a bit a Schilens fan, I dont know exactly where hell end up on the depth chart, but if he ends up in the starting lineup at any point, I think he'll impress. Hill is really raw and as much as Kerley impressed last year, I think Schilens is a much better talent. Obviously Schilens is a huge injury risk, but if he can stay on the field and get an opportunity, I think he'll run with it(literally lol)...

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Good stuff. However, I'll add one bit of caution about Lafell. I did a bit of research on him and it seems like a lot of his catches and big plays last year where when he was running wide open after the play broke down and Cam started running around buying time. That ability to work back to the QB, find open spots after the initial route, etc. is valuable. But it doesn't seem like he was able to get open regularly on normal routes. That scares me in terms of his upside and may skew his stats to make them look more impressive than they really are (easy to make a catch when you're wide open just standing there). There's only so many of those opportunities per game and may make it tough to extrapolate what his numbers would be with more targets if they aren't the same type of targets.

I agree a lot of things skew stats, but why would Carolina's offense be much different than last year? I agree some of his plays were wide, but I lowered his stats when I projected more targets to sort of cover than type of thing. Who knows, could be wrong, but I also think he made a few nice plays as well. Week 2 against the Packers being one example.

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Good stuff. However, I'll add one bit of caution about Lafell. I did a bit of research on him and it seems like a lot of his catches and big plays last year where when he was running wide open after the play broke down and Cam started running around buying time. That ability to work back to the QB, find open spots after the initial route, etc. is valuable. But it doesn't seem like he was able to get open regularly on normal routes. That scares me in terms of his upside and may skew his stats to make them look more impressive than they really are (easy to make a catch when you're wide open just standing there). There's only so many of those opportunities per game and may make it tough to extrapolate what his numbers would be with more targets if they aren't the same type of targets.

I agree a lot of things skew stats, but why would Carolina's offense be much different than last year? I agree some of his plays were wide, but I lowered his stats when I projected more targets to sort of cover than type of thing. Who knows, could be wrong, but I also think he made a few nice plays as well. Week 2 against the Packers being one example.
You may be right about whether it skews the stats as I agree that I don't think Carolina's offense will change much. But when he got a lot of playing time the 2nd half of the season, his #s weren't good enough for fantasy relevance pro-rated across an entire season.

From reading what Carolina fans were saying, it seemed like they thought a high % of LaFell's catches came off of broken plays, of which the number will likely remain relatively constant. So say just for the sake of argument there are 5 times each game that Newton scrambles and he completes 4 passes, 2 of them to Lafell. Maybe LaFell catches 80% of the balls in that situation. (If you buy that his biggest strength is getting open on broken plays.) There are say 30 other times Newton drops back to pass each game and say he targets Lafell on 3 of those but only 1 is completed. Even if that averages out to 64% overall, that % is highly dependent on the type of play he's targeted on. Is it realistic to assume that if you double his targets, that the type of target will remain constant?

It seems to me like even if he improves as a route runner and earns more targets on "normal" pass plays, you can't expect him to catch those at the same rate as his overall catch rate that is skewed upward due to him already being the guy Newton looks for on the run. But I may be totally wrong or exaggerating the importance of his specific skill set.

And FWIW, I haven't watched enough Panthers games to have a real good handle on his talents, I'm simply re-phrasing an analysis I saw online from some Panthers fans in discussing Lafell (found here:http://www.catscratchreader.com/2012/5/27/3046746/brandon-lafell-panthers-future-at-wr)

It seems to me last year that LaFell benifited from being lost by the D.

Many of his receptions came late in plays when coverage had begun to breakdown. With a Qb like Cam that is understandable. I think that LaFell is at his best the #2 WR but even that may be asking too much from him. The 100+ WRs that showed up in OTAs was certianly a shot over the bow of every WR sans Steve Smith.

I agree that Seperation and Speed are issues with him but he did pull down some impressive receptions. I see his roll as a possession #3 WR who hugs the sideline.

by bigred28655 on May 27, 2012 2:31 PM EDT reply

I agree that most of Lafells catches seem to come when he was lost by the defense,

More so then bc of any separation on his part, though he does seem to find holes in the zone fairly well. To me that makes akin to a basketball player who has a good shot but is unable to create his own offense. Lafell has good hands, and makes clutch plays but w hardly any consistency.

We saw several games last year where he would disappear completely. That’s not the kind of threat we need. I’m not saying he won’t turn into a great possession wr he just doesn’t strike me as someone defenses will ever fear. In short I believe him to be a complementary wr, never to be a star and not “our future at wr”.

I own him in one dynasty league (along with Cam and Steve Smith), so I'm definitely interested in who eventually emerges as Cam's #1 when Smith slows down. I was hoping LaFell would be that guy but feel less optimistic about it after reading the Panthers' fans opinions and looking at their stat projections (there are many in the comments at the above link).

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I own him in one dynasty league (along with Cam and Steve Smith), so I'm definitely interested in who eventually emerges as Cam's #1 when Smith slows down. I was hoping LaFell would be that guy but feel less optimistic about it after reading the Panthers' fans opinions and looking at their stat projections (there are many in the comments at the above link).

Rivera recently said that LaFell will be their WR#2 leading into the season, and they are hoping Gettis steps up as the #3. link

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I like the fact you gave a method of why you picked the guys you did. Not evrything i agree on, but i follow so need to pick at the list.

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So what are the new NBA Finals odds? Obviously OKC is in the driver seat moving back to OKC to seal the deal... Everyone still pretty comfortable saying the winner out of the west should handle miami or boston?

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Good stuff. However, I'll add one bit of caution about Lafell. I did a bit of research on him and it seems like a lot of his catches and big plays last year where when he was running wide open after the play broke down and Cam started running around buying time. That ability to work back to the QB, find open spots after the initial route, etc. is valuable. But it doesn't seem like he was able to get open regularly on normal routes. That scares me in terms of his upside and may skew his stats to make them look more impressive than they really are (easy to make a catch when you're wide open just standing there). There's only so many of those opportunities per game and may make it tough to extrapolate what his numbers would be with more targets if they aren't the same type of targets.

I agree a lot of things skew stats, but why would Carolina's offense be much different than last year? I agree some of his plays were wide, but I lowered his stats when I projected more targets to sort of cover than type of thing. Who knows, could be wrong, but I also think he made a few nice plays as well. Week 2 against the Packers being one example.
You may be right about whether it skews the stats as I agree that I don't think Carolina's offense will change much. But when he got a lot of playing time the 2nd half of the season, his #s weren't good enough for fantasy relevance pro-rated across an entire season.

From reading what Carolina fans were saying, it seemed like they thought a high % of LaFell's catches came off of broken plays, of which the number will likely remain relatively constant. So say just for the sake of argument there are 5 times each game that Newton scrambles and he completes 4 passes, 2 of them to Lafell. Maybe LaFell catches 80% of the balls in that situation. (If you buy that his biggest strength is getting open on broken plays.) There are say 30 other times Newton drops back to pass each game and say he targets Lafell on 3 of those but only 1 is completed. Even if that averages out to 64% overall, that % is highly dependent on the type of play he's targeted on. Is it realistic to assume that if you double his targets, that the type of target will remain constant?

It seems to me like even if he improves as a route runner and earns more targets on "normal" pass plays, you can't expect him to catch those at the same rate as his overall catch rate that is skewed upward due to him already being the guy Newton looks for on the run. But I may be totally wrong or exaggerating the importance of his specific skill set.

And FWIW, I haven't watched enough Panthers games to have a real good handle on his talents, I'm simply re-phrasing an analysis I saw online from some Panthers fans in discussing Lafell (found here:http://www.catscratchreader.com/2012/5/27/3046746/brandon-lafell-panthers-future-at-wr)

It seems to me last year that LaFell benifited from being lost by the D.

Many of his receptions came late in plays when coverage had begun to breakdown. With a Qb like Cam that is understandable. I think that LaFell is at his best the #2 WR but even that may be asking too much from him. The 100+ WRs that showed up in OTAs was certianly a shot over the bow of every WR sans Steve Smith.

I agree that Seperation and Speed are issues with him but he did pull down some impressive receptions. I see his roll as a possession #3 WR who hugs the sideline.

by bigred28655 on May 27, 2012 2:31 PM EDT reply

I agree that most of Lafells catches seem to come when he was lost by the defense,

More so then bc of any separation on his part, though he does seem to find holes in the zone fairly well. To me that makes akin to a basketball player who has a good shot but is unable to create his own offense. Lafell has good hands, and makes clutch plays but w hardly any consistency.

We saw several games last year where he would disappear completely. That’s not the kind of threat we need. I’m not saying he won’t turn into a great possession wr he just doesn’t strike me as someone defenses will ever fear. In short I believe him to be a complementary wr, never to be a star and not “our future at wr”.

I own him in one dynasty league (along with Cam and Steve Smith), so I'm definitely interested in who eventually emerges as Cam's #1 when Smith slows down. I was hoping LaFell would be that guy but feel less optimistic about it after reading the Panthers' fans opinions and looking at their stat projections (there are many in the comments at the above link).

Just to pile on. I had him on a team last year and he was unstartable, so I was thrilled when one of the other owners sent me an offer this off season. I would love for him to put it together but it last year at least he was an afterthought for CAM. Or maybe he just wasn't as open as Steve Smith - and why should that change.

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Wasnt benn runnIng behind stroughter and Parker in camp? I don't see him as a slot type.

He was literally running as WR5...not saying it is a death sentence (yet), but that is not the way to start camp...especially with a new coach who just discarded a much better catching threat in Winslow.

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I'm not so sure on a few of these calls, they won't all breakout and it seems like you're throwing out a blanket of guys who 'might' produce.

I'd prefer specific details on a handful of players.

Edit: I just don't think you're saying a whole lot in this post.

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dude man this post is awesome thank you for your hard work and time spent on it i will give you the nickname the soothsayer brohan from alabama for your efforts take that to the bank brohan

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I'm not so sure on a few of these calls, they won't all breakout and it seems like you're throwing out a blanket of guys who 'might' produce.I'd prefer specific details on a handful of players.Edit: I just don't think you're saying a whole lot in this post.

Thanks for the feedback, good to hear everyones opinion. I made the list of guys who have potential to break out, I'm actually pretty positive most of them won't break out. But if I get two or three that hit ill be happy. It's all about hedging your bets for these guys IMO . They are all low % impact guys , but if your aware of them you'll be quicker to the waiver wire than everyone else.

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Great thread.

I was very impressed with Doug Baldwin last year and think he has a good shot at being a fantasy contributor. The guy just seems to have "it" when I watch him, and I think he'll get more balls than anyone not named Rice (if healthy). I've been trying to acquire him in dynasty leagues as a throw-in, but it's been tougher than I expected. I didn't think he was on many people's radar but those who have him seem to like him.

Also like Jon Baldwin - he was eased into the offense last year and this season he should be ready to go.

I'm not quite sold on LaFell, but do think Vincent Brown has a shot at becoming a good 2nd half WR, though one of Meachem or Floyd will have to flame out, and I actually think Floyd will be pretty good. Not sure on Meachem.

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