Fantasy Football Mailbag: Tuesday 7/26/16

David Johnson enters 2016 without an abundance of experience under his belt. Can we truly trust him as a first-round fantasy pick?

Fantasy football research never stops, and offseason news can really complicate things, especially when coaches talk up second- and third-string players. That's why we're starting up a fantasy football mailbag.

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Don't forget to check out our initial NFL projections and our fully customizable fantasy football draft kit to jumpstart your fantasy football season.

Now, let's answer some questions.

You could not be more spot on with the addition of "warts and all." Every player in this pool has something that dings them, so there's really no surefire asset in the bunch. But, if he can eventually win the job, Paxton Lynch has a lot of factors we'd want in a quarterback.

Quarterbacks -- especially rookies -- in negative game script are a complete nightmare. Taking the ground game out of the equation means that the defense can pin its ears back and go full-bore toward the quarterback with its pass rush while committing extra defenders in the secondary. Those two factors lead to fumbles and interceptions, and that can turn a day sour in a hurry.

That would be less of a worry with Lynch. Not only does he have two solid receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but the Denver Broncos' defense is -- by far -- the top-ranked unit entering the season, based on numberFire's analytics. Lynch likely wouldn't need to operate in negative game script as often as some others, helping to give him a respectable floor.

Jared Goff has a tasty defense on the other side of the ball, as well, with the Rams defense ranking eighth in numberFire's preseason rankings. However, even though the Rams finished 7-9 their final season in St. Louis, they still had the 28th-ranked pass-to-run-ratio in the league. Denver -- which finished 12-4 -- was 14th in that department. Lynch not only has a better defense and better weapons around him, but he has a coach who doesn't hate passing the ball and scoring points. Those are both major pluses. Lynch is the guy in this group with the best situation, and that should be accounted for in your keeper leagues.

One other player worth mentioning after Lynch, Goff, and Carson Wentz is Cody Kessler of the Cleveland Browns. Even though he fell to the third round, Kessler's collegiate numbers measured up well to his peers at the position when you view them in the context of the mess Kessler dealt with his final season at USC.

Additionally, the Browns made 14 picks during this spring's draft. We saw earlier this year that teams with at least 10 picks show significant improvements the following two years, inspiring confidence that this Browns team won't be awful forever. With weapons like (fingers crossed) Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman, Kessler's a guy you'll at least want on your radar in deep enough leagues.

We can use a couple of different tools to tackle this David Johnson dilemma, but they're going to paint two wildly different pictures. Since you appear to be in the "Whoa, Nelly" camp, we'll start there before looking at why Johnson is going as high as he is.

Prior to last year, numberFire's JJ Zachariason did a study to try to determine what first-round running-back busts look like. It's a dope article, and it has more takeaways than I have time to get to here, so I'd suggest you go read it. Here's why it's relevant for this discussion, though.

In looking at running backs who had busted in the past, JJ found a fairly common thread: a lot of them were younger, inexperienced players. This led to the mentioning of C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill, both of whom caused some major frustration for owners last year.

Ruh roh, Raggie.

Johnson's in the same ship as those guys as he enters his second season as a first-round fantasy running back. Does that mean we need to completely jump ship? Not necessarily, based on his analytics from last year.

At numberFire, we use Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) to measure the efficiency of running backs. A 3-yard rush on 3rd-and-2 gets the team a first down and increases their expected points for their current drive, and NEP will reward a player for doing so. That same 3-yard carry on 3rd-and-4, though, will likely result in a punt, giving the team negative NEP. Essentially, NEP accounts for the conditions under which a rush occurs to better show us how much a player is helping or hurting his team.

Of the players who had at least 100 carries last year, Johnson had the best Rushing NEP per carry mark in the entire league at 0.15. The second-best mark came from Thomas Rawls, all the way down at 0.08. Johnson had nearly double the efficiency of anybody else.

And this wasn't just from big plays for Johnson, either. He also finished second in success rate, which measures the percentage of plays on which the player increases the team's NEP, trailing only Rashad Jennings. He had the big plays, but he coupled them with consistent gains. That's the formula for a solid running back.

This doesn't, however, fully clear Johnson from the threat of a sophomore slump. Hill led the league in success rate in 2014 with Anderson sixth, and they were fifth and second, respectively, in Rushing NEP per carry. Those guys had similar efficiency to Johnson their rookie campaigns, yet they still managed to have disappointing follow-up efforts. If you're looking for the best argument for skepticism around Johnson, his lack of experience likely takes the cake.

Even with that said, I'd still be comfortable using a high pick on Johnson for this year. Our draft kit lists Johnson as the fourth-ranked running back in both half- and full-PPR leagues, meaning the projections don't view him as being grossly overdrafted.

Additionally, he doesn't have a competent backfield mate like Giovani Bernard waiting to snag snaps; he has Chris Johnson, who is approaching his 31st birthday and was demonstrably worse than the younger Johnson last year. If the Arizona Cardinals do things right, the younger Johnson will feast, and he should be worth that lofty price tag.

It's hard to blame you for having fears about Johnson heading into his second season, especially in looking at backs who have busted in the past. But outside of those examples, everything else lines up well for Johnson to have a big season. Given the concerns around other running backs with similar ADP's, it seems as if Johnson is a solid target.

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