Apr 9, 2014
I have been working on a massive Post Free Agency Stock Watch, which is aimed at putting all the activity into perspective and conveying to readers how free agency has changed the fantasy landscape for 2014.
I use the word “massive” a lot because it describes most of the articles we do. I really want to continue to try to scale back our word counts because I know it’s usually too much. But on the other hand I insist on covering all the angles I think are important. So it’s a constant battle. For example, the writeup I did today on Montee ball, who is the top RB upgrade on my list.
I don’t think there’s any repetition in this entry, but it is very long, possibly “massive.”
I’m curious as to your thoughts on a writeup like this. Is it too long? I feel it has enough stats to back our endorsement of Ball, but are there too many? Or not enough? If you’re inclined, give me your thoughts below or on twitter (@Fantasy_Guru).
Note: This is actually not yet proofed or edited by anyone but me.
Montee Ball (Den) – The RB position is a young man’s game, yet when you play with a QB like Peyton Manning, a back needs to be savvy in terms of defensive recognition, adjusting to play changes at the line of scrimmage, and of course pass protection. It was foolish to think the rookie Ball could seriously challenge veteran Knowshon Moreno for the lead role last year, but he did dip into Moreno’s playing time in the second half of the season. After playing a decent percentage of their snaps the first month of the season, Ball’s snaps were in the single digits for several weeks. But in his last nine games, Ball played 32% of their snaps on average, and Denver was using him in critical times, including the playoffs. I saw John Fox comment on Ball at the Combine, and he said that the organization thinks very highly of him and that he “had tremendous growth as a rookie and got better with every week.” Denver will likely bring in another veteran back of note, and Fox has utilized a 2-man backfield at times, but with the bulk of free agency over and few solid options available, the lead role here is all Ball’s. He’s not a stud talent by any stretch, and he has average size (5’10”, 214 pounds), average speed, and to be kind only above-average power. So to produce big number for fantasy, he needs volume in terms of touches and it’s fair to say he needs a lot of support from the players around him. In Denver, he should get both. As we know, this is an excellent situation, one in which Ball should be afforded many carries against defenses lining up to defend the pass, and Manning will certainly check to a run play if defenses dare him to run it. And Ball performed well enough as a rookie to be encouraged by his great opportunity this year. If you take away a 3-carry -1-yard performance in Week Fifteen, Ball averaged 7.0 yards a carry the final month and a half of the season on 49 carries. In his final 8 games, Ball averaged a healthy 5.9 YPC on 65 carries (Moreno was at 4.4), and he actually had more GL carries inside the 5 than Moreno (5 vs. 3). In the passing game, while it’s a small sample with only 27 targets, Ball did double his catch rate percentage in the second half of the season (from 40% to 81.8), and he impressively caught 18 of his 22 targets from Week 11 through Week 17. Ball is considered a good pass protector, so it’s fair to expect him to keep up that 3.1 targets/game pace from those final seven weeks with Moreno gone, and if he can pick up even 20 more targets with Moreno out of the mix, Ball has a chance to hit 50 catches if he can maintain a solid 75% catch rate, which was his season average. Moreno and Ball totaled 361 carries in 2013, and I think Ball has an excellent chance to collect 75% of that rushing work. That’s 270 carries, and if he’s at only 4.0 yards a carry, that’s about 1100 yards rushing. If we conservatively give him 40 catches at 6.5 YPC (he was at 7.3 as a rookie), that’s 260 yards. A good goal line back with an eye for the endzone, Ball should get at least 10 TDs on a team that scored 71 times last year. Add it all up, and Ball in a PPR projects conservatively to 236 fantasy points, which would have been good for 12th at RB in 2013 in a PPR (10th in a non-PPR). He’s a durable back, so barring something unforeseen he has an excellent chance to exceed those numbers. I’m not yet sure he’s worth a #1 pick, but I doubt people who take him late in the first round will be disappointed.