Talent plays a very important role in fantasy football. It gets a player onto the field, gets him opportunities to make plays, and allows him to make the most of his opportunities.
Sometimes, though, we get caught up in talent and forget what fantasy football is truly about: production.
While talent often leads to production, there are always other factors, such as the talent around the player in question, the coaching staff, and injuries.
We, as fantasy football players, need to realize this. Talent is a significant piece in the puzzle that is fantasy value, but one piece doesn’t tell the whole story.
Talent Doesn't Mean Everything
Matthew Berry (not to knock Mr. Berry, he’s one of the best) spent the entirety of last year saying that he believed in Lamar Miller’s talent. A lot of people did. It was the reason Miller was being drafted in the third round heading into 2013.
A lot of people, including myself, still believe that Lamar Miller is a talented football player. But despite all of his talent, Lamar Miller had a terrible season in terms of production, finishing as a top-24 RB (in other words, a startable running back in a 12-team league) only 3 weeks.
Why did this happen? His coaching staff had him share the backfield with Daniel Thomas, and his offensive line was terrible at run-blocking. Despite all of Miller’s talent and promise, he was not a solid fantasy football option.
The Talent of 2014
There are plenty of examples of these situations in 2014. Carlos Hyde may be the most talented back to come out of the draft. He is now smack dab in the middle of a backfield that includes Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, and Marcus Lattimore.
Sammy Watkins is an incredibly talented rookie wide receiver, but he will have E.J. Manuel throwing to him in a run-first offense.
Josh Gordon could be the most talented wide receiver in the league, but he will be suspended for at least part of the season and will be transitioning from Norv Turner’s downfield passing attack to Kyle Shanahan’s more run-heavy offense.
You get the idea.
Sometimes Opportunity Trumps Talent
The inverse of these examples exists as well. By that I mean situations where maybe a guy doesn’t have all the talent in the world (at least the talent to be a top running back in the NFL), but he surely has the opportunity.
Look at Alfred Morris, an unheralded, 6th-round draft pick with a very “eh” 40-time who just happened to finish as a top-24 back 11 times last year. And that was in a struggling offense.
Rashad Jennings will be starting at running back for the New York Giants this year. He’s not crazy-talented, but he’s a hard worker who gets yards, can pass-block, and has a starting job.
Toby Gerhart will be starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars (who improved their terrible offensive line in the offseason). Also not crazy-talented, but he’s a hard-nosed, starting running back (at least until Storm Johnson starts eating into his carries, but that’s a discussion for another day).
These are guys who will probably be undervalued this year, though I am starting to see the Toby Gerhart hype train leave the station, so he may fall out of this category.
Getting Blinded by Talent
So what’s the moral of all this nonsense? Don’t get blinded by talent. It’s easy to look at what Sammy Watkins did in the Orange Bowl and think “this guy is a surefire top-10 receiver.”
It’s easy to see C.J. Spiller break a 70-yard run and think “how can I pass this guy up in the second round?” This is the wrong mindset to be in.
It’s the reason Spiller went in the first round of fantasy drafts last year, and it’s the reason Sammy Watkins will probably be drafted too early in your league this year (sorry for the Clemson hate. It’s a weird coincidence, I don’t actually have anything against Clemson.).
It’s the same reason Rashad Jennings will probably sit undrafted for too long this year.
In order to properly evaluate a player, you need to look at every piece in the puzzle, not just the bright, shiny piece that catches your eye (that’s a metaphor for value vs talent, you guys).
Like the idea here? Hate it? Think Rashad Jennings blows? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, I’d love to talk fantasy football.