Economics tells us that in a perfectly competitive league, no fantasy team achieves any significant advantage throughout the season. Lucky for us, most leagues are rarely perfect. Leagues are peppered with auto-drafters, fillers, and dirty deserters. Managers fail to study up on current players and vote like they draft, relying primarily on name recognition. Trades are one-sided, sleeping on the waiver wire, starting Johnny Football, extreme homerism. The list goes on.

But what happens when you do find yourself in a super competitive league? How do you edge out the competition?

To tip the scale you have to take risks in the unknown. In fantasy football, the unknown commodity is where the advantage lives. They come in the form of rookies, players coming back from injuries, players in a different system/team, players acquiring a new role due to injuries, trades etc.

This is where the story of Odell Beckham Jr. comes in.

According to ESPN, he was easily the most popular player on the roster of ESPN fantasy football champions last season. ODB was the closest thing to a fantasy silver bullet. You either rode him to the championship or were fortunate to weather him. The guy was a bonafide game-breaker and if you were lucky enough to roster him, an absolute steal. He was a top 5 WR coming off the waiver wire.

Is it possible to find the next ODB? Maybe…probably not.

Here is my stab at it.

These are some of the characteristics I’ve seen in a ODB-esque player (ultra valuable WR pick up).

  • Unknown Commodity
  • Bottom ADP (fantasyfootballcalculator 12 team standard) break out year and ADP skyrockets following year
  • Opportunity provided by trades/injuries to veteran players
  • Becomes number one offensive weapon
  • Veteran QB
  • Passing team (high attempts/high passing efficiency)

Odell Beckham Jr.

odell stats

  • Rookie year, injured, no preseason
  • No ADP in 2014 to 13th overall in 2015
  • Victor Cruz season ending injury
  • Yes, check his game log
  • Eli Manning
  • Passing Ratio 57.5%

If we look back several years we see that there are players who fit this mold.

2013 – Keenan Allen

keenan allen stats

A rookie who was coming off a torn knee ligament in 2012, Allen did not participate in the combine. His draft stock plummeted both in the NFL draft and in fantasy drafts. Allen who was not drafted in 2013, his ADP rocketed up to 31.3 overall in 2014. His phenomenal rookie season earned him multiple rookie honors after setting Chargers’ records for receptions and receiving years by a first-year player. He finished the season leading all NFL rookies with 71 receptions, and led the team with 1,046 receiving yards. All of this success was at the expense of Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd, who both suffered season-ending injuries. This was also Felipe Rios’ resurgent year finishing with an amazing 69% completion rate. When Floyd came back in 2014, Allen’s production took a significant dip.

2012 – Randall Cobb

randall cobb stats

Primarily used as a returner his first year, Cobb broke out in 2012 as he led the Packers in receptions and receiving yards. Like Allen, Cobb was did not have an ADP score this year. The very next year he was coming off the draft boards around the 32nd spot. Cobb’s transformation into a fantasy unicorn was made possible thanks to Greg Jenning’s groin injury and Jordy Nelson also had a nagging hamstring, which took him out a couple of games. Cobb, of course had the luxury of Rodgers conducting the Packer’s high octane, pass happy offense.

2011 – Victor Cruz

victor cruz stats

An undrafted free agent, Cruz suffered a hamstring injury in his rookie year, which sidelined him. He was unheard of and didn’t get his dance on until the following year. Cruz’s window of opportunity started with the departure of veteran, Steve Smith. His biggest break came after the injuries of Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon. This injected him into larger receiving role. He finished the season to a tune of 82 receptions, 1,536 receiving yards, and 9 TDs. Everyone knew who he was the season after as his ADP shot up to 32.5. Cruz’s salsa partner was no other than the 2-time Super Bowl winning, Tom Brady deflating, signal caller Eli Beach Bucket Manning. The Giants finished 4th in passing attempts that year.

Who is going to be this year’s ODB?

I know it’s early but here are my top candidates on my watch-list in no particular order.

Cody Latimer ADP (133.7)

  • Key injuries to look for: Demaryius Thomas
  • Latimer has the same build as Demaryius Thomas and has shown moments where he can take over the big wide receiver role if needed. An injury to DT would give him a great chance to take over red zone and WR1 targets. If anyone can transform Latimer to a WR1 it would be PFM. Manning is known for his love of chicken parm and turning no names into stars. It’s also been reported that Manning’s been pumping some serious iron this off-season. Peyton Smash?

Devante Parker ADP (119.7)

  • Key injuries to look for: Jarvis Landry/Kenny Stills
  • Perhaps my favorite candidate of the bunch. A lot of hype surrounding Devante Parker coming out of the draft. Parker definitely has the talent and makeup to be a very productive player. A major concerning factor is Parker’s recent injury. This may cause him to start the season off on a bad foot but like our previous case studies he has the talent to finish strong. His quarterback, Ryan Tanny-Hill, has shown to be a very underrated and capable QB (finished top 10 in fantasy).

Devin Funchess ADP (148.6)

  • Key injuries to look for: Kelvin Benjamin
  • Funchess is Kelvin Benjamin’s slightly slower and slightly smaller cousin. Kelvin saw absurdly huge number of targets his rookie year. Benjamin finished 6th overall in targets and 16th in points for all WRs. Kelvin suffered from a poor 50.3% in reception efficiency. Between Newton throwing his 98 mph fastball into triple coverage, and Benjamin’s knack of dropping routine passes, one can see why this number is so low. If Benjamin went down Funchess could easily absorb those opportunities. Carolina’s offense last year was rather average and like Benjamin, Funchess may benefit significantly from that sweet sweet garbage time. Let’s not forget about the early reports of Benjamin’s multiple hamstring injuries, an injury that is known to stick around. Funchess is definitely a player to keep an eye on.

Justin Hardy ADP (N/A)

  • Key injuries to look for: Julio Jones
  • Hardy is considered a more physical, and bigger version of Harry Douglas. Douglas posted 132 targets, and 1083 yards the year Julio went down. Roddy White is 33 years old and is definitely showing it. Hester is a tremendous returner and would not be asked to be WR1. Hankerson is in his fourth year in the NFL and hasn’t shown anything to get excited about. The Falcon’s offensive line will improve this year as it was decimated last year with the absence of key personnel. Matt Ryan is a top 8 QB with a high ceiling. I expect Hardy to be impactful right away given the opportunity.

ADP too high for ODB type value – I want to keep these guys in discussion because they can be high value plays.

Nelson Agholor ADP (81.4)

  • Key injuries to look for: Jordan Matthews
  • Given that his ADP is a little high to be considered of ODB’s value, Agholor has what it takes to be a high producer right away. Drafted to be Jeremy Maclin’s replacement. He is precise in his route running, has quick feet and good burst. The arranged marriage of Agholor and Kelly is a partnership that all fantasy owners can get behind. The USC product will thrive under Chip Kelly’s quacking high tempo offensive that loves to get the ball out quick. He is already expected to be a key component in the offense and a monster season could be in his future if Jordan Matthews succumb to an injury.

Davante Adams ADP (88.7)

  • Key injuries to look for: Randall Cobb/Jordy Nelson
  • He outcompeted Jarret Boykin for the third receiver spot last year. Some thought we would see a lot more of him last year. We should see a growth spurt in production from Adams this year but to what extent? Rodgers has stated that Adams has “humungous upside” and Green Bay has a propensity for turning second and third round WRs into perennial all-pros. It also doesn’t hurt when the guy throwing the ball is the best player in the league.

John Brown ADP (102.5)

  • Key injuries to look for: Michael Floyd
  • Showed flashes of brilliance last year as a rookie and is often compared to Marvin Harrison. A healthy Carson Palmer and the end of the Cardinal’s quarterback carousel will prove invaluable for the Cards offense. An additional year under Brown’s belt to build chemistry and timing with Palmer will be tremendous for their development. Fitzgerald is an aging WR and Brown is prime candidate to usurp the throne as the Cards number one offensive weapon.

Breshad Perriman ADP (103.3)

  • Key injuries to look for: Steve Smith
  • This dude can flat out fly. Perriman coming in at 6’2’’ 212 lbs ran a 4.24 40 at his pro day. With the departure of Torrey Smith, an aging Steve Smith, and a Marlon Brown who hasn’t shown any star power, Perriman has a real shot to shine in this Raven’s offense. The biggest knock on Perriman is his raw route running but if he is to be Torrey Smith 2.0 that might not be such a big deal. I can see Flacco throwing bombs to Perriman as he streaks down the field torching unsuspecting corners. Owners should cross their fingers and hope that we will see more TDs then PIs.

Fringe candidates

Phillip Dorsett/Donte Moncrief ADP (~160)

  • Lots of weapons on the team, with TY Hilton, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener; has the tangibles skill set but the probability of having the opportunity to break out is slim and would require multiple injuries to key players.

Jaelen Strong ADP (168.1)

  • The QB situation is a black hole. WR depth is thin with injury prone Shorts and Washington who is 31. Hopkins is the clear cut number one option. If Hopkins goes down and if Mallet proves to be a capable QB, Strong could prove to be a strong candidate. However, that is asking a lot.

Who are your ODB candidates?

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