Roy Williams Disease

The specter of Roy Williams continues to haunt fantasy owners.

Among things that I hate, and there are many, number one would probably be pickles. Or maybe electronic dance music (where are the lyrics?). But the number three thing is definitely when people repeat the same foolish act while expecting a different result. That sort of insanity makes me, um, insane. True story: After an owner picked a defense in the seventh round, I spent the balance of a 2006 draft in a corner, naked, sucking my thumb and mumbling, “D/ST round 15 D/ST round 15.”

In fantasy football, one of the most common versions of owner insanity is the overvaluing of toolsy players who have poor actual results. Because this is so prevalent and because it drives me nuts, I invented a term for it: Roy Williams Disease, or RWD for short.

Coming out of Texas, Williams looked like a surefire prospect. But then Matt Millen (and his mustache) happened. Despite the historic patheticness of the Lions, Williams’ first season was very good by NFL rookie wide receiver standards. This empowered fantasy owners during 2005 drafts, as he ended up being taken as a top-20 wide receiver with upside. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out.

Williams’ sophomore season concluded with him ranking 33rd at his position. Most of the next four years brought more of the same, before owners finally gave up on him in 2010. Too bad it was five years too late.

Roy Williams ADP and Final Rank Among Wide Receivers


From these ashes, Roy Williams Disease was born.

Run DND (Do Not Draft)

I would rather have a faux hawk and a pet lizard on my shoulder than own Darren McFadden. In fact, I’d go with the faux hawk/lizard and wear a vest over an Ed Hardy t-shirt* before I would draft Run DND.

*If I just described you, please stop reading and go buy new clothes. The lizard can stay. Just take him off your shoulder. It’s a lizard, not a parrot. Seriously, go. The column can wait.

Sadly, a good friend of mine came down with a nasty case of RWD during a draft last season. It was so bad that he actually took McFadden in the first round. I attempted an intervention.

Me: He won’t justify that pick.
Him: He could be number one.
Me: *states lots of data showing he won’t be*
Him: Yeah, but he could be number one.
Me: *states more data to the contrary*
Him: But dude, he is awesome.

In an effort to keep you from coming down with a similar case of RWD, I have a quick question. What do Peyton Hillis, Beanie Wells, Cedric Benson, Tim Hightower, Nate Washington, Anthony Fasano, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Robert Meachem have in common?

Since 2008, they all have at least as many touchdowns as McFadden’s 23.

Still feeling feverish? Then let’s look at some NEP data. NEP, or Net Expected Points, is a metric that shows us how many real life points a player added to his team's score. We can look at it on a per attempt basis, too, and it's a great tool to show us a player’s efficiency as it relates to others at his position. As you are about to see, McFadden has been dead last in NEP for 40 percent of the seasons he has played.

Darren McFadden’s NEP Rank Among Players With at Least 100 Rushing Attempts

YearRB NEP/Attempt RankTotal RBs

To be fair, his NEP per attempt in 2010-2011 was very good over the 20 total games he played. And that’s the rub with this guy; as good as he can be at times, he’s never more than a game or two away from being hurt. But rehashing the McFadden is injury prone thing is lazy analysis. So let’s look at some hard data.

Darren McFadden's ADP and Final Rank Among Running Backs


There has not been a player in the last five seasons who has underperformed his ADP more often or more egregiously than the former Razorback. If that doesn’t exorcise the demon of Roy Williams, I have one last nugget. numberFire’s excellent projections have McFadden set for:

AttRu YdsRecRec YdsTD's

If McFadden achieves those numbers, which include a near 30 percent jump in carries over his previous high, he would deliver the second best season of his career. But even with us projecting him so optimistically, we're still only talking about 160 fantasy points. That puts him at 19 in our rankings. So to summarize, if he has the most carries of his career leading to his second most productive season, he is barely an RB2 in a 10-team league.

If Run DMC still gives you a case of RWD, I am afraid there’s nothing more I can do.

Hands of Stone

There is a professional MMA fighter named Sam Stout. His nickname is Hands of Stone. Considering his striking acumen, it is fitting.

There is a professional tight end named Jermichael Finley. He is often accused of having hands of stone. Considering he has allowed more than 10 percent of passes thrown his way the last two seasons to bounce off his rock hard paws, it's fitting.

It seems that many of us have finally gotten the message on this one, yet here he sits with a number 10 positional ADP. If numberFire’s projections hold true, he will be the 15th-ranked tight end and provide a negative return on investment for the fourth straight season.

Jermichael Finley's ADP and Final Rank Among Tight Ends


Despite the drops, Finley’s NEP and catch percentage figures are perennially among the top 10. This is clear evidence of his freakish athleticism often overcoming his wild inconsistency. That he continues to disappoint despite this speaks largely to a lack of trust from his quarterback, especially in the redzone. In 2012 Finley ranked 14th in targets at his position, but just 21st in targets inside the 20. Making matters worse, when near the goal line his catch percentage tumbled all the way from 70 percent to 36 percent. That ranked him 31st among the 33 tight ends with at least 10 such opportunities.

The numberFire projections have him as a mid-range backup this season, which is well behind his current ADP. We also project him to have less than three touchdowns, which would be 25th among tight ends. If this sounds like more of the same, that’s because it is.

Potential Carriers

While there are only two major players causing RWD this season, there are two more who sport the ability to cause the onset of symptoms. Be sure to keep track of your vitals while considering drafting either of these running backs.

Chris Johnson has underperformed his ADP each of the last three years and traditionally puts up a very poor NEP. On the upside, he is playing behind a revamped offensive line and appears to be more motivated this season than in recent campaigns. While his ADP has made a significant adjustment to correctly reflect his value, I have participated in several mock drafts where he was the sixth or seventh running back off the board. Clearly some of you out there in fantasy land are feeling lingering effects of RWD.

Steven Jackson has had two top-10 finishes at running back since 2004. At the same time, he has been drafted in the top seven on five different occasions, and has given owners a positive return on their investment only three times in nine seasons. Jackson is on a new team this year and his market has adjusted downward for three consecutive seasons, but he is also 30 and playing behind a very shaky run blocking line.

Putting a Bow on it

Each of the four players I mentioned are totally draftable (yes, even McFadden). My point has not been to scare you off completely, but rather to present that their actual value has almost always been exceeded by their ADP. If one of them slides to you, then hey, take a shot. All four of them are uniquely talented and imminently capable of putting up a monster season. All I ask is that you remain vigilant, as a Roy Williams Disease outbreak is nothing more than a preseason highlight of an 80-yard touchdown away.