Rotowire 2013 NFL predictions

This is the eighth year of this column, the purpose of which is to share some of my observations of the NFL from the perspective of an industry analyst, fan, fantasy owner, sports bettor, survivor player and daily gamer, not necessarily in that order. It’s my suspicion a fair number of you are similar to me in that your interest in the game isn’t limited to any one of those facets, and so pretty much anything NFL-related is fair game here. Your comments and feedback are welcome.

One change: I won’t be doing a full survivor section or a best bet ATS this year. The problem was the column went up Tuesday night, and it was too early in the week to publish anything to which I’d want to commit. And while I always wrote "I reserve the right to change my mind," it was torture deciding whether to go against my first instinct and already-published advice. In practice, I was making survivor and ATS choices on Tuesday, an unnecessary handicap. With the Thursday game, it’s unavoidable to make picks too early (Wednesday night), but at least we’ve seen the initial injury report. I will talk plenty of survivor here still and of course handicapping.

For those of you in pools with early deadlines, you should consider joining ones that allow you to adjust until five minutes before kickoff. Given the variety of good Survivor and Office Pool Commissioner options, there’s no reason to be locked in mid-week.

Non-obvious Predictions for 2013

-Rob Gronkowski returns in mid-to-late September and scores 12 TDs, making him more valuable than Jimmy Graham, when you factor in the 3-4 games of the replacement tight end you used while Gronkowski was out.

-Maurice Jones-Drew is a top-10 back.

-Reggie Bush gets off to a huge start, making him a top-5 PPR back through the season’s first month, but injuries in October destroy his season.

-Eli Manning is a top-10 QB.

-Alex Smith throws 28 touchdown passes, 12 of which go to Dwayne Bowe.

-One RB on the Jets, Cardinals or Steelers finishes in the top-20.

-DeMarco Murray is a top-10 back on a per-game basis. If he plays 14-plus games, he’s top-10 overall.

-Antonio Gates finishes as a top-5 TE.

-Neither the Falcons, nor the Saints win the NFC South.

-Demaryius Thomas has a better year than Brandon Marshall or Julio Jones.

-Josh Gordon returns from suspension to post a top-20 WR season.

-Rod Streater leads the Raiders in receiving yards and TDs.

-Mark Ingram scores 10-plus TDs.

-LaMichael James is a factor for the fantasy playoffs.

-Daryl Richardson outproduces DeAngelo Williams.

-Cam Newton has a better fantasy season than Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.

-Joe Flacco and the Ravens make the playoffs yet again.

-Neither Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard nor Montee Ball is the top rookie RB.

-The NFC East is the highest-scoring division in football.

-Some of these predictions are wrong.

Last year’s predictions can be found here. (Scroll down). For 2011, click here and scroll.

ADP vs. Year-End Results

Like last year, let’s take a look at how well preseason ADP stacks up against year-end results:

QUARTERBACKS

2011

 

QB ADP

QB

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Aaron Rodgers

7.3

3

Drew Brees

2

Michael Vick

9.46

12

Cam Newton

3

Tom Brady

15.82

4

Aaron Rodgers

4

Drew Brees

18.22

1

Tom Brady

5

Philip Rivers

20.6

7

Matthew Stafford

6

Tony Romo

38.65

9

Eli Manning

7

Peyton Manning

44.83

NR*

Philip Rivers

8

Matt Ryan

46.27

8

Matt Ryan

9

Matt Schaub

49.27

25

Tony Romo

10

Ben Roethlisberger

52.59

14

Mark Sanchez

11

Matthew Stafford

71.83

5

Ryan Fitzpatrick

12

Josh Freeman

79.53

13

Michael Vick

*NR = not in the top-30

2012

 

QB ADP

QB

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Aaron Rodgers

2.61

4

Drew Brees

2

Tom Brady

5.46

2

Tom Brady

3

Drew Brees

6.44

1

Cam Newton

4

Matthew Stafford

12.79

8

Aaron Rodgers

5

Cam Newton

13.52

3

Matt Ryan

6

Eli Manning

34.13

15

Peyton Manning

7

Matt Ryan

36.43

5

Tony Romo

8

Michael Vick

44.83

27

Matthew Stafford

9

Peyton Manning

46

6

Robert Griffin

10

Tony Romo

54.27

7

Andrew Luck

11

Philip Rivers

59.48

19

Russell Wilson

12

Robert Griffin

82.86

9

Andy Dalton

The first thing that jumps out is how reliable top quarterbacks have been the last two years. Of the top five in 2011, only Michael Vick failed to return a top-seven finish. In 2012, all five finished in the top eight. Also while in 2010, Michael Vick went from undrafted to top-five and in 2011 Cam Newton went from No. 25 to No. 2, last year no one outside the top 12 finished higher than 10th (Andrew Luck). Put differently, the top-nine QB finishes from last year were all by top-12 ADP QBs.

The data present a decent argument that you can win by taking a QB early – even if the difference in projected year-end points between Marshawn Lynch and a seventh round RB (say Ben Tate) is greater than the difference between Drew Brees and a seventh-round QB (say Tony Romo). Brees’ projection is far more reliable than Lynch’s, so you can bank on that positive differential over Romo with more certainty. Of course, Romo’s projection is far more reliable than Tate’s, but the reliability argument matters most at the top.

RUNNING BACKS

2011

 

RB ADP

RB

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Adrian Peterson

2.15

7

Ray Rice

2

Arian Foster

4.25

4

LeSean McCoy

3

Ray Rice

4.57

1

Maurice Jones-Drew

4

Chris Johnson

5.86

17

Arian Foster

5

Jamaal Charles

5.98

NR

Marshawn Lynch

6

LeSean McCoy

8.21

2

Michael Turner

7

Maurice Jones-Drew

13.38

3

Adrian Peterson

8

Rashard Mendenhall

13.6

19

Darren Sproles

9

Darren McFadden

16.76

NR

Ryan Mathews

10

Michael Turner

19.94

6

Michael Bush

11

Frank Gore

20.45

13

Steven Jackson

12

Matt Forte

22.04

15

Reggie Bush

13

Steven Jackson

22.93

11

Frank Gore

14

Peyton Hillis

25.69

NR

Fred Jackson

15

LeGarrette Blount

35.43

29

Matt Forte

16

Ahmad Bradshaw

37.1

20

Beanie Wells

17

Felix Jones

38.46

NR

Chris Johnson

18

Jahvid Best

40.16

NR

Shonn Greene

19

Shonn Greene

45.39

18

Rashard Mendenhall

20

Ryan Mathews

47.18

9

Ahmad Bradshaw

2012

 

RB ADP

RB

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Arian Foster

2.6

3

Adrian Peterson

2

Ray Rice

4.27

6

Doug Martin

3

LeSean McCoy

5.19

21

Arian Foster

4

Chris Johnson

9.56

12

Marshawn Lynch

5

Darren McFadden

11.61

NR

Alfred Morris

6

Matt Forte

14.04

13

Ray Rice

7

DeMarco Murray

18.54

25

C.J. Spiller

8

Maurice Jones-Drew

18.94

NR

Jamaal Charles

9

Adrian Peterson

20.19

1

Trent Richardson

10

Marshawn Lynch

22.49

4

Frank Gore

11

Jamaal Charles

23.95

8

Stevan Ridley

12

Ryan Mathews

29.15

30

Chris Johnson

13

Steven Jackson

30.6

18

Matt Forte

14

Fred Jackson

32.73

NR

Reggie Bush

15

Trent Richardson

33.08

9

Shonn Greene

16

Michael Turner

35.54

17

Ahmad Bradshaw

17

Darren Sproles

40.28

22

Michael Turner

18

Frank Gore

40.38

10

Steven Jackson

19

Ahmad Bradshaw

41.45

16

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

20

Doug Martin

43.8

2

Mikel Leshoure

In 2011, five of the top seven ADP RBs finished in the top seven, with only Jamaal Charles (torn ACL) and Chris Johnson missing the cut. If you expand it to the top-13 that year, Rashard Mendenhall (No. 19) and Darren McFadden (NR) were also busts, but everyone else finished in the top-15, i.e., nine of the top-13 ADP RBs finished in the top 15 in 2011, and 11 of the top 13 finished in the top 20.

Last year was a different story. Of the top-eight ADP RBs, two finished outside the top-30, four finished outside the top-20 and only one (Arian Foster) finished in the top-5.

Chances are 2013 will fall in between the extreme results of the last two seasons in terms of RB reliability, but it’s a safe bet 3-4 backs in the top-10 won’t finish in the top-20.

WIDE RECEIVERS

2011

 

WR ADP

WR

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Andre Johnson

11.04

NR

Calvin Johnson

2

Calvin Johnson

14.25

1

Jordy Nelson

3

Roddy White

15.34

8

Wes Welker

4

Larry Fitzgerald

17.44

5

Victor Cruz

5

Greg Jennings

22.5

17

Larry Fitzgerald

6

Hakeem Nicks

23.46

12

Steve Smith

7

Vincent Jackson

24.76

10

Percy Harvin

8

Mike Wallace

28.43

9

Roddy White

9

DeSean Jackson

31.59

NR

Mike Wallace

10

Miles Austin

31.96

NR

Vincent Jackson

11

Reggie Wayne

34.26

29

Marques Colston

12

Dwayne Bowe

36.6

20

Hakeem Nicks

13

Dez Bryant

42.68

19

Brandon Marshall

14

Wes Welker

44.04

3

A.J. Green

15

Mike Williams

44.61

NR

Laurent Robinson

16

Brandon Marshall

46.26

13

Nate Washington

17

Marques Colston

50.1

11

Greg Jennings

18

Brandon Lloyd

51.62

25

Julio Jones

19

Santonio Holmes

52.14

NR

Dez Bryant

20

Anquan Boldin

57.87

NR

Dwayne Bowe

2012

 

WR ADP

WR

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Calvin Johnson

7.63

1

Calvin Johnson

2

Larry Fitzgerald

21.19

NR

Brandon Marshall

3

Julio Jones

22.5

9

Dez Bryant

4

Andre Johnson

22.71

8

A.J. Green

5

Wes Welker

28.63

12

Demaryius Thomas

6

Greg Jennings

28.79

NR

Vincent Jackson

7

A.J. Green

31.14

4

Eric Decker

8

Roddy White

31.32

11

Andre Johnson

9

Victor Cruz

32.99

13

Julio Jones

10

Jordy Nelson

34.52

29

Marques Colston

11

Brandon Marshall

34.94

2

Roddy White

12

Hakeem Nicks

39.77

NR

Wes Welker

13

Mike Wallace

44.1

25

Victor Cruz

14

Dez Bryant

47.14

3

Michael Crabtree

15

Marques Colston

47.68

10

Reggie Wayne

16

Steve Smith

49.99

19

James Jones

17

Percy Harvin

52.24

NR

Randall Cobb

18

Demaryius Thomas

55.02

5

Mike Williams

19

Eric Decker

59.88

7

Steve Smith

20

Brandon Lloyd

60.3

28

Lance Moore

Judging from the last two years, receivers have been the least reliable of the big-three positions. In 2011, the No. 1 WR (Andre Johnson) failed to crack the top-30, and last year, the No. 2 (Larry Fitzgerald) did the same despite staying healthy all year.

Looking deeper, in 2011, the top-10 ADP WR produced five top-10 year-end finishes, but Nos. 2 (Jordy Nelson) and 4 (Victor Cruz) weren’t even in the top-30 ADP.

In 2012, four of the top-10 ADP WR finished in the top-10, while three of the top-10 failed to crack the top-25. Last year, the sweet spot was 11-20, where there were five top-10 finishes, more than in the 1-10 range. But in 2011, slots 11-20 were a disaster at WR, with one top-10 finish and five outside the top-20.

TIGHT ENDS

2011

 

TE ADP

TE

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Antonio Gates

38.77

7

Rob Gronkowski

2

Jermichael Finley

48.06

5

Jimmy Graham

3

Jason Witten

50.93

6

Aaron Hernandez

4

Dallas Clark

59.52

NR

Tony Gonzalez

5

Vernon Davis

63.33

8

Jermichael Finley

6

Jimmy Graham

75.7

2

Jason Witten

7

Owen Daniels

79.05

16

Antonio Gates

8

Rob Gronkowski

99.67

1

Vernon Davis

9

Marcedes Lewis

100.24

NR

Dustin Keller

10

Kellen Winslow

108.48

15

Brent Celek

2012

 

TE ADP

TE

OV ADP

Actual Finish

Year-End Leaders

1

Jimmy Graham

19.51

1

Jimmy Graham

2

Rob Gronkowski

20.12

2

Rob Gronkowski

3

Antonio Gates

51.92

12

Tony Gonzalez

4

Aaron Hernandez

52.6

16

Heath Miller

5

Vernon Davis

59.84

15

Jason Witten

6

Jermichael Finley

63.97

17

Greg Olsen

7

Jason Witten

88.09

5

Dennis Pitta

8

Brandon Pettigrew

90.2

21

Owen Daniels

9

Tony Gonzalez

95.51

3

Kyle Rudolph

10

Fred Davis

98.86

NR

Brandon Myers

In 2011, the top-10 ADP TE took six of the top-10 year-end slots, but because Nos. 6 and 8 (Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski) had such historically great seasons, and TEs are typically cheap after the top few are off the board, it’s hard to call the preseason ADP accurate. Put differently, the top-five ADP TE had only one top-five finish, and it was Jermichael Finley at No. 5.

Last year, the market got Graham and Gronkowski right, but was otherwise largely off base.

This is only two years of data, and it’s possible the results are anomalous over that span. But from this sample it seems the reliability of preseason ADP is strongest at QB, then RB, then WR and then TE. That’s not surprising when you consider those positions are also ordered in descending number of attempts. Fewer opportunities mean a smaller sample and, as such, more volatility.

Heading to Vegas for the NFFC

After Thursday’s SXM show, I’m heading to Vegas to host the NFFC $10,000 buy-in Diamond league on Friday morning (I have assurances from both Greg Ambrosius and Tom Kessenich that if someone fails to show, I’ll take his spot, but it’s not too often someone bails after paying 10K).

After that, I’m drafting in the NFFC Main Event and picking seventh, which was my preferred slot given the third-round reversal. I figure once Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Jamaal Charles are off the board, I’ll get either C.J. Spiller, Trent Richardson, Calvin Johnson or Ray Rice, any of whom I’m happy with. Then I get a mid-round pick in both Rounds 2 and 3.

But both of those events are on Friday, so I get to watch the Broncos-Ravens game from a sports book – will be taking the Ravens plus 7.5 and looking for other random props for the game.

I also might head down to the LVH for some season-long props. Here are a couple I found online:

(It’s worth reading through all of them to see how the sports books essentially rank players for fantasy purposes and how those rankings differ from ADP or your own personal rankings)

-NFL MVP J.J. Watt 50:1

-Demaryius Thomas to lead NFL in receiving yards 16:1

-Steven Jackson over 7.5 rushing TDs (-130)

-Torrey Smith over 1,000 receiving yards

-Josh Gordon over 825.5 receiving yards

-Jason Witten under 92.5 receptions

-Wes Welker under 7 receiving TDs

-Calvin Johnson over 10 receiving TDs

-Reggie Wayne under 5.5 receiving TDs

-Maurice Jones-Drew over 1,000.5 rushing yards

-Alex Smith over 3350 passing yards

-Alex Smith over 19.5 TD passes

-Dwayne Bowe over 1,000.5 receiving yards

-Dwayne Bowe over six TDs.

-Stevan Ridley over 10 rushing TDs

-Mark Ingram over 6.5 rushing TDs

-Eli Manning over 4100 passing yards

-Doug Martin over 8.5 rushing TDs

-Mike Williams over six receiving TDs

Follow @Chris_Liss on Twitter.

Liss is RotoWire’s Managing Editor and host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

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