StrategyJuly 21, 2012

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Draft Day Dilemmas, Veteran or Rookie?

By Stever

In the previous installment of Draft Day Dilemmas, we took a look at Roddy White or Julio Jones. Now murphysxm and I will dig deeper to see if either Trent Richardson or Matt Forte should be selected first in a PPR league.

11stever11: Trent Richardson

Although many rookies have disappointed fantasy owners over the last couple year,s Trent Richardson will not. Richardson’s college teammate, Mark Ingram, had a poor rookie season, which has caused some concern. Let us take a look how their college stats compare.

Trent Richardson1457845.28
Mark Ingram2711,6586.117

Trent Richardson1127196.26
Mark Ingram1589035.513

Trent Richardson2831,6795.921

Ingram was the Heisman winner in 2009 but Richardson had a good freshman campaign in the tough SEC conference. In 2011 Richardson put up numbers that matched Ingram’s 2009 season. Overall Richardson is faster and more durable than Ingram. There is a reason Trent Richardson was selected third overall in the NFL draft, and Ingram was selected with the twenty-eight pick overall in 2011 NFL draft.

Many scouts have considered Richardson the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson, who put up top-five numbers in his rookie season. Richardson has the potential to have that type of effect in fantasy football, with news that he can see over 300 touches this season. Only Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew had over 300 touches last year, and both finished in the top six in scoring for running backs. In addition, both running backs went over the 1,300- yard mark. With this, I expect Richardson to reach 1,200 yards this season and be a good bet to finish in the top ten. Richardson is also going to be the goal-line back, meaning he should see at least eight rushing touchdowns. He also has soft hands, with 29 receptions for 338 yards and three touchdowns last year at Alabama. A receiving stat line of 45 receptions for 350 yards with two touchdowns is possible. A rookie running back achieving these stats in the AFC North will be a challenge; however, a less capable back in Peyton Hillis was able to put up top-five numbers in 2010.

The NFC North division is no easy task for Forte, and he comes with other question marks. Touchdowns are the main concern Forte faces going into this season with the signing of Michael Bush. Last season, Marion Barber had five rushing touchdowns with Forte as the lead back. Forte had just three rushing touchdowns. Bush is a more capable back compared to Barber, so I see Forte having only five rushing touchdowns at the end of the season. On top of this, Michael Bush is expected to have roughly nine rushing attempts per game. This in combination with the addition of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to the offense is a sign that Forte will see less touches and targets. Both Forte and Richardson will be top-15 running backs, but I like the upside of Richardson more than Forte. Remember: no risk, no reward.

murphysxm: Matt Forte

I have nothing against Trent Richardson. I think he’s going to be a very good back in the NFL, but as you may have gathered by now, I draft to give myself the best statistical chance of beating my opponent every week. To that point, a rookie RB living up to a top-15 ADP is extremely unlikely to happen. Let me back that statement up.

Going back to the 2005 NFL Draft, there has been 20 RBs chosen in the first round. I believe that is a big enough pool of players to have some statistical bearing. Of those 20, there have only been four rookie RBs that eclipsed 200 fantasy points in standard PPR scoring (Reggie Bush 267, Adrian Peterson 258, Chris Johnson 252 and Joseph Addai 229). To put that in a per-game fantasy perspective, in the last six NFL seasons, there have only been 4 rookie RBs that have averaged more than 13 points per game. Trent Richardson’s ADP is currently landing him in the early part of Round 2. For that draft spot, you need a player to be pushing 18 points per game. No rookie RB has averaged 18 per game in six years.

That’s great, Murph, but Richardson is the best talent since Peterson to come out of college and has a great opportunity for guaranteed touches. Valid point, but that doesn’t mean a thing to me. Here’s why. In that same span, there were 5 RBs picked in the top 12 that received over 200 touches. On paper, a very similar situation that Richardson is walking into. Those 4 RBs were Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Knowshon Moreno, Peterson and Bush. Of those 5 RBs, Peterson and Bush are the only two to average more than 12 fantasy points a game. Heck, Peterson is the reason people are so high on Richardson. He’s almost as talented as him and is coming into the same situation. So if everything falls right for Richardson, he would match Peterson’s 16 points per game. So in essence, best case scenario, you are drafting Richardson at his value.

Have fun hoping everything goes right and you hit the lottery that Richardson performs as a RB1 his rookie year. Me, I’m drafting Matt Forte, who I personally have projected to score 275 fantasy points. Richardson will either be a huge bust or a guy drafted at his value–on somebody else’s team other than mine.

This decision comes down to risk tolerance. If you want to roll the dice, go with Richardson; if you want to play it safe, go with Forte. Stay tuned for the next installment of Draft Day Dilemmas!

Stever is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Stever in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of 11stever11.
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