At DLF we have eight staff members who participate in ranking offensive players by position. We rank (at a minimum) 50 quarterbacks, 100 running backs, 100 wide receivers and 50 tight ends. Our participating staff members are eight guys, from eight different walks of life, with eight unique reasons for loving football, and subsequently, eight different ways of ranking NFL players in a dynasty setting.
The ‘Dynasty Rankings Roundtable’ is a new series I will be writing this year. About once a week, I will question a few of our staff members. I will inquire into their ranking of certain players, concentrating on players that staff member ranks much higher or lower than the consensus. After the staff members respond to my question, I will give my own take.
Today, we welcome Eric Dickens, Jeff Beran and welcome back Eric Olinger. Thank you all for joining me at the Roundtable, gentlemen!
Karl: Eric, you rank Trent Richardson as your RB4, well above the consensus of other staff member’s rankings. Richardson certainly entered the league with plenty of talent and hype, but has failed to approach expectations to this point in his career. Could you elaborate as to why you believe Richardson is still a ‘hot commodity?
Eric D: I still have faith in Richardson, not because of a stubborn refusal to admit that I was wrong, but rather based on the nature of his poor performance. Several factors are at play here, including him playing in a poor passing offense to begin his career, being thrust into learning a new offense mid-season, as well as extremely high expectations to perform up to his price tag.
I believe much of his difficulties this season boil down to two important (and lacking) qualities: confidence and decision-making. I believe a full offseason learning the Colts offense will provide familiarity, and therefore confidence. Also, I believe decision making, for a running back, should be almost solely instinct based, something that familiarity should help with as well.
After going back and watching multiple games, the next biggest obstacle in Richardson’s way was the poor run-blocking of the offensive line. He was hit in the backfield a large percentage of the time, resulting in poor results. This has to be an area of focus for the Colts through free agency and the draft. Combine that with Donald Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw entering the offseason as unrestricted free agents and it is easy to see a clearer path to success for Richardson.
I think it’s also important to remember how young Richardson is (23 years old), has relatively low mileage (541 combined carries/receptions), and will likely be the feature back in the Colts offense. His ability to catch and perform in the passing game shouldn’t be overlooked either for PPR leagues. All things considered, I think Richardson is much better than he showed in the 2013 season, even if he isn’t the next Adrian Peterson.
Karl: I couldn’t disagree more with most of what Eric said. Richardson reminds me of the girlfriend you just can’t get over, despite the fact you see her out with other guys. His career average of 3.3 YPC is very telling. Richardson can catch the ball in space and seemingly has a nose for the end zone, but that seems to be what fantasy owners cling to more than anything. Many “Trent lovers” quote the Colts offensive line as a reason for his ineffectiveness, but Brown averaged 5.3 YPC in 2013. His inability to find the hole, seemed to be the true reason for his lack of success, not the offensive lines ability to make one. Richardson has five fumbles in his career, while only recording three rushes of 20+ yards.
Richardson is ranked as the consensus RB16 by DLF, and I rank him as my RB23.
Karl: Jeff, you have a few players ranked in a way that could be considered ‘controversial,’ but one player I’d like to focus on is the soon to be 32-year old Jason Witten. He’s been Tony Romo’s safety blanket for years, and has certainly proven himself to be a great fantasy football asset. Many dynasty team owners, though, would rather have a younger guy anchoring their tight end corps. You rank Witten as your TE5, care to explain?
Jeff: My Jason Witten ranking is equal parts an endorsement of Witten himself and an indictment on the current state of the tight end position in the NFL in general. For starters, Witten is as dependable as they come both in fantasy football and in real football. In 11 seasons, he has missed exactly ONE game which is absolutely extraordinary. He plays through injuries, has never had a single off-the-field issue and plays in a consistently good passing offense. He literally doesn’t have a single yellow flag attached to his name, so the fact owners can depend on him every week is a tremendously underrated and underappreciated thing, in my opinion.
Getting consistent production from the tight end spot allows me, as an owner, to start a player who might be a little more high-risk/high reward at a different position in any given week so there’s intrinsic strategic value there as well. If there’s any knock on Witten, it’s his age and 32 just doesn’t scare me for a tight end. I rank most positions with a three year window in mind and I’m confident that he’ll continue to produce upper echelon TE numbers (as he has for most of the past decade) for the next few seasons. After all, Tony Gonzalez just finished as the overall PPR TE2 at the age of 37 so the people who gave up on him five years ago missed out on several Top 5 PPR TE seasons. I will add here that I think a dynasty owners, in general, tend to obsess a little too much over “what could be” (i.e. potential) and lose sight of “what is” (i.e. reality) so ranking him lower than guys that might not ever even become half of what he already is just doesn’t make sense to me. Sometimes it’s more prudent to put the crystal ball aside and read the map that’s been collecting dust instead.
The last part of my defense of Witten’s ranking simply has to do with the rest of the current crop of tight ends in the NFL. The other players who I considered ranking below the top two tiers (which include Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron) all have various degrees of concern associated with them. I could go through and give an explanation for each of the players I ranked below him, but instead I’ll just suffice it to say that with the exception of Vernon Davis, there wasn’t a single other player I felt confident will be a bona fide TE1 for the next several years.
Karl: If I were ranking Witten in a two year window, I wouldn’t disagree with Jeff. Witten is more consistent than a morning sunrise. The only problem I encounter when ranking Witten is his age. If I’m drafting a startup team, I would hesitate to spend a sixth or seventh round pick to land a player who will be 32 years old before the preseason starts. Jeff mentioned Witten’s ability to stick around for a five more years, and I disagree. Witten does not possess the athleticism of Tony Gonzalez, therefore I cannot project him to have the lengthy career that Gonzalez had. Many dynasty players place an enormous stock in age, some do not. We can all agree that age factors into the value of a player in some fashion, though. With young up-and-comers Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert, and Ladarius Green in the mix, they will push Witten out of the spotlight sooner or later. With my ranking of Witten as TE12, I’m banking on “sooner”. The consensus DLF ranking of Witten is TE8.
Karl: Eric, many of our readers have inquired about your ranking of Nick Foles. You apparently have an admiration of him equaled by few; you ranked him as your QB4. Not only is Foles already a lightning rod topic entering the off-season, but some draft pundits have speculated an early round quarterback landing in Philadelphia. Can you explain your high ranking of Foles?
Eric O: When ranking the quarterbacks, I knew Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton were my top three players for the next 3-4 years. After those players, I was staring at the “Senior Citizen” group comprised of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees and the “Young Guns,” which included Matt Stafford, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Foles. Long term we need to be preparing for life after the “Senior Citizens.” Manning and Brees will obviously give you a much better chance of winning a Championship next season, but Foles will come at a far cheaper price and will be around for a much longer time. People seem to already forget he didn’t open the season as the starter in Philly this year, Michael Vick started the first four games before going down with a leg injury. Foles went on to throw for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions while adding 225 rushing yards and three more scores. Obviously things can change throughout the offseason, the Lions overhauled their coaching staff, the 49ers have some free agency issues with Anquan Boldin and the Eagles have to decide what to do with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, who is recovering from an ACL tear, but Foles excelled in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense and another full offseason in the system can only help. Now, if the Lions go out and sign a legit receiver to play opposite Calvin Johnson, I might switch these two guys, but right now Foles is my QB4.
Karl: By now, you’re used to me disagreeing with with the other staff members, but this time is different. I believe Foles is a legitimate quarterback in the NFL. Often times dynasty owners will put too much stock in what happens over the span of eleven games, but I believe, in this instance, the public isn’t giving enough credit to the aforementioned quarterback. As Eric mentioned, Foles’ statistics last year were spectacular. His weapons are among the best in the league. With DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz and LeSean McCoy surrounding him, Foles has plenty of toys. There have already been rumors of Jeremy Maclin re-signing in Philadelphia. I absolutely love this kid and rank him as my QB6. Personally, I see Matt Ryan and Wilson having equal or greater careers, but they are all in the same tier. The consensus DLF ranking for Foles is QB10, so if you agree with Eric and I, you may be able to acquire him on the cheap.
Thank you Eric Olinger, Jeff Beran, and Eric Dickens for participating today! I hope to welcome all of you to The Roundtable again in the near future.
Are there any players you’d like explained by a certain staff member? Let us know in the comment section below.
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