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The Perception/Production Gap in Fantasy Football 2023: WR/TE

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We’re wrong in fantasy football far more often than we are right. The drafting community selected Christian McCaffrey first overall in 2020, but then he got hurt and finished as RB54. James Robinson was a fairly anonymous undrafted rookie the same year, going 58th among running backs, and he finished as RB7. 

 

For every 2022 Derrick Henry (drafted as RB4, finished as RB4), there are several 2022 Brandon Aiyuks (drafted as WR42, finished as WR15). The drafting community getting something wrong isn’t that remarkable. We’re wrong a lot. What is remarkable — or at least potentially remarkable — though, is when we’re wrong on a certain player or type of player a lot. If we underdraft Brandon Aiyuk in 2022, well, we got it wrong. If we underdraft Brandon Aiyuk in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025, doesn’t that say something else, something we can learn from?

Today and tomorrow, I’m going through the last few years of ADPs and PPR results (per FantasyPros on both) to identify the players whose perception (ADP) and production (PPR finish) tell us the most. Are there types we get wrong too often? Are there players we nail year after year? What does it all mean?

Wide receivers and tight ends today; quarterbacks and running backs were Thursday.

Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos

  2022 2021 2020 2019 2018
Positional ADP WR22 WR31 WR15 WR43 WR64
Positional Finish WR43 WR44 WR180 WR19 RB50

Courtland Sutton’s 2019 weighs heavily on drafters’ minds. He blew our expectations out of the water in his second year, with 1,112 yards, 6 touchdowns and a Pro Bowl nod despite a combination of Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Brandon Allen throwing him the ball. Sutton skyrocketed in our esteem in 2020, but his torn ACL three receptions into his season debut ruined that year, and he’s yet to return to his previous heights despite drafters’ best desires. With Jerry Jeudy seemingly overtaking Sutton in the Broncos’ (and Russell Wilson’s) esteem, Sutton might not have the chance to harken back to his 2019 performance again.

DJ Moore, WR, Chicago Bears

  2022 2021 2020 2019
Positional ADP WR13 WR22 WR11 WR22
Positional Finish WR24 WR18 WR25 WR16

When we think DJ Moore is a low-end WR2, he performs as a mid-range WR2. When we think he’s a high-end WR2, he performs as a low-end WR2. We know he’s good. We are really bad at estimating exactly how good.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks

  2022 2021 2020 2019 2018
Positional ADP WR37 WR17 WR17 WR19 WR50
Positional Finish WR13 WR16 WR8 WR13 WR16

Doug Baldwin’s last season as a full-time force was in 2017. For the five seasons since (including Baldwin’s final season of 2018), the fantasy community has insisted on underrating Tyler Lockett. And it’s actually getting worse — for a few years, we just drafted him a bit below where he finished. Last year, the departure of Russell Wilson and the assumed continued emergence of DK Metcalf pushed Lockett way down the draft boards, and he … basically did the same thing he’s been doing, finishing between WR8 and WR16 for the fifth straight season. And based on current ADP data for 2023 … it’s happening again:

Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

  2022 2021 2020 2019 2018
Positional ADP WR49 WR35 WR32 WR25 Undrafted
Positional Finish WR34 WR31 WR29 WR18 WR17

In Thursday’s QB/RB version of this piece, I pointed out that the easiest explanation in this exercise is when a high-floor, low-ceiling player is regularly underrated not because we think they are worse than they are, but because those players aren’t going to go nuts. Tyler Boyd is never going to be a top-10 finisher at wide receiver. So the fact that he’s also never going to be outside the top 50 doesn’t matter as much to us when there is a receiver out there who might be a nothing but could be WR5 if everything clicks. It makes sense. But if you have some high-volatility receivers to start your roster this year, you could do worse than giving a mid/late pick to Boyd and getting his reliable high-floor production.

 

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

  2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Positional ADP TE1 TE1 TE1 TE1 TE2 TE2 TE4 TE4 TE16
Positional Finish TE1 TE2 TE1 TE1 TE1 TE1 TE1 TE8 TE6

I don’t have a point here, just … wow.

Previous Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Arizona Cardinals Next NFL Splits Tool: How Did the WRs Who Changed Teams Last Year Fare?