Blind Résumés: Using Our Data to Compare Fantasy Football Pass-Catchers

Let's take a look behind the numbers at just how similar some fantasy football receivers and tight ends are, and consider the value of each player.

Here at numberFire, we base most of what we do in regards to the NFL on our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Even our fantasy football projections and advice stem from this all-encompassing metric for players.

But NEP is ultimately a "real football" statistic, and requires context and logic to be useful in fantasy football. Unless you're in a point-per-NEP league (and if you are, contact me), you need more than just a measure of a player's efficiency and production to make fantasy football decisions.

But production and efficiency are two elements of a good football player, and good football players often see the field more often than bad ones (in most cases...). Being on the field more often leads to opportunity and reliability week-to-week, two other key elements of fantasy football success.

With that in mind, let's take a look at some blind resumes and consider if any players should be valued differently based on their statistical profile when considering their situation as a whole. All of the data in the tables in this article are based on 2013 performance.

We continue our series with a look at some pass catchers with similar statistics. Click here for the quarterback blind resumes and here for the running backs.

Testing Team Trestman

NameRecRec NEPTargetsRec NEP per TargetRec Success Rate
TE A5456.88760.7579.63%
TE B6555.31940.5980.00%

There may be no offensive situation in the NFL I like more for fantasy football than the passing game in Chicago. Marc Trestman proved in his first year that he's a quarterback whisperer and an offensive guru, and he helped the Bears ascend to seventh-best according to our Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points metric (which accounts for strength of schedule) one year after finishing eighth-worst.

And as a result, I'm a huge fan of Martellus Bennett, who is TE B in this scenario. The Bears' tight end had a solid debut under Trestman, playing his role as one of the four key cogs in that incredible passing offense.

But his numbers aren't any better than TE A, Tim Wright, who is currently going undrafted in every format according to average draft position data. Even in a 14-team PPR league, you won't see Tim Wright drafted in a typical draft, according to their data.

Wright has certainly seen his fair share of struggles this preseason, not holding onto the ball very well and not showing improvement as a run blocker, but Bennett's preseason has hardly been clean, either. So why is there a huge disparity between their ADPs, as Bennett is usually drafted as a TE1?

Opportunity wins again, as the Buccaneers added multiple tight ends this offseason, and Wright faces a tough task to see as much volume as he did last year. I see a clear role for him as a versatile WR/TE hybrid in the Tampa Bay offense, but if Jeff Tedford (the new Tampa Bay offensive coordinator) doesn't, all of Wright's rookie success could go for naught.

Bennett is a fine value where he is, but keep an eye on the Bucs' tight end situation, as Wright has proven to be a capable receiver, but needs to see the field to make good on his potential.

Late-Round Wide Receivers

NameRecRec NEPTargetsRec NEP per TargetRec Success Rate
WR A6474.561100.6884.38%
WR B5258.05910.6486.54%

The two receivers above are being taken two full rounds apart, which would make sense if WR A were going ahead of WR B, based on this blind look at the data.

But the opposite is true, as WR B - a younger, more "promising" player - is being taken in the 10th round, while the older, "past his prime" WR A is falling into the 12th. Both players play behind top receivers who are better than them, and both are on offenses ranked in the bottom-10 of our Adjusted Passing NEP rankings. So why the disparity in value?

The youth and promise of WR B, DeAndre Hopkins, is apparently winning over the hearts and minds of drafters more than the career-long consistency of WR A, Steve Smith. The former Panther has moved to Baltimore, where he'll take a backseat to his namesake Torrey, but as far as second options on bad passing offenses go, he's the better choice here.

Hopkins will hopefully see better targets this season as the Texans move on from the Matt Schaub nightmare and into the Fitzmagic era, but everything about Smith in his situation in Baltimore appears to be the better fake football pick.

The hope for Hopkins is that he takes a step forward in his second season, and that Andre Johnson's health and attitude toward the team help shift volume in the direction of the former Clemson wideout. If that happens, all bets are off. But in their current situations, it seems Smith is actually the better late-round wideout to fill out your bench.

Which One Is the Breakout Candidate?

NameRecRec NEPTargetsRec NEP per TargetRec Success Rate
WR A4356.05720.7886.05%
WR B4456.08740.7681.82%

This comparison is yet another case of a veteran with proven production going up against a young player seemingly on the verge of a breakout. And yet again, the veteran is as good or better in every category, yet is being drafted well after the young star.

In this case, WR A is Jeremy Kerley of the Jets, and WR B is Terrance Williams of the Cowboys. Kerley is a boring and predictable member of one of the worst passing offenses in the league, and with the addition of Eric Decker, he figures to have a reduced role on his offense this year.

But Williams is being drafted in the seventh round as a high-upside WR2 in the Dallas offense behind Dez Bryant. So how much of a step does he need to take to justify his current draft position?

Williams will likely see more volume than Kerley (the two teams they play for are on opposite ends of the pass-to-run spectrum), but will that bump in receptions be enough to make Williams worth it? Can he steal touchdowns away from Dez Bryant and receptions away from Jason Witten to earn the fantasy points he needs to to earn flex-worthy status?

Williams was just as efficient as many of the mid-round receivers he's being drafted near, just on a smaller workload. If he's able to keep up his pace, he'll be a fine fantasy player, but be cautious of how big of a leap he needs to make to pay off that investment.

Banking On Huge Improvement

NameRecRec NEPTargetsRec NEP per TargetRec Success Rate
WR A3834.44760.4581.58%
WR B4530.28770.3964.44%

One of these two wide receivers is being taken in the fourth round of fantasy drafts, and as you can see by the overall production for both players compared to their peers listed above in the other comparisons, that means banking on quite the improvement on a per-target basis.

Because both of these wideouts struggled to produce much at all with their looks in the passing game, coming in well below average at the position. Add in WR B's awful Success Rate (which measures how often a player's reception results in positive NEP), and you might guess that WR A is the one being taken higher in drafts.

But I wouldn't have used this example if that were the case, would I? WR A is Jason Avant of the Panthers, who figures to be one of the top-four options among pass catchers for Cam Newton on a run-heavy offense. He's a high-floor, low-ceiling option for deep leagues, but he's not the main attraction here.

WR B is the player being taken in the first 50 picks of most drafts this summer, and the one with the least statistical backing for that draft position. Cordarrelle Patterson has already been the "victim" of plenty of my statistical breakdowns, but this one was too good to pass up.

Patterson was simply not a good receiver last year, even during the second half of the season when he "broke out" and "was more involved" in the offense. His 12 rushing attempts, which resulted in a few big plays, are not enough to justify taking a player who is that poor of a receiver as a WR2 in fantasy football.

Yes, the physical tools seem to be there, but Patterson was seen as a raw athlete who didn't play the receiver position very well coming out of college, and his 45 catches in his rookie season didn't do much to prove otherwise. There's something special about him, but it doesn't translate to his metrics, and it certainly doesn't justify his insanely high ADP.