2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2017 Fantasy Football Trials: Demaryius Thomas v Terrelle Pryor

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Spending a significant amount of my professional and educational life in the legal realm, as well as in Fantasy Sports, leads to some inevitable cross-over between the two. So why not create something that combines both Fantasy Football and Law, “The Fantasy Football Trials”?

I mean they aren’t that different from each other. Both involve building cases for why one party/player should win over another; they both involve distorting facts to favor a party’s argument; both involve negotiations, settlements, and the art of persuasion; they both involve massive amounts of research and analysis of precedents; both involve competition, both require a lot of work and dedication; and both can win and lose you a lot of money. The list of similarities can be expounded upon much further if desired.

So, creating something that combines the two is exactly what I did. “The Fantasy Football Trials” is a new series of articles in which I take a unique approach to player comparisons. I break down certain criteria for two players and analyze the cases for each, ultimately taking over the role of the Judge and Trier of Fact in order to come to a conclusion and release a verdict. I use several, eye-witness, sources including PlayerProfiler.com, FantasyPros.com, and Pro-Football-Reference.com.


Throughout these articles, I will mostly hear cases about players of the same position with similar or controversial Average Draft Positions (ADPs). I will also post twitter polls involving the players in future trials so that you, the reader, can participate as a member of “The Jury.” Just remember to follow me @AlexBHamrick and be on the lookout for these polls. With that being said, the first trial taking place in this “Court of Law” is the case of Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos v. Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington Redskins.

Click here to see how the guys at FantasySixPack and I rank these players.

Demaryius Thomas v Terrelle Pryor

“The Jury”

Judgement for: Demaryius Thomas

The public has spoken in favor of Thomas, but using those votes as the deciding factor in this case, especially since there were other choices besides the two individuals in this “trial”, would result in a “mistrial”. For now, this is a “bench trial”, in which the Judge is the finder of fact, and a jury will only be needed to break any potential ties.

“Expert Testimony”

Fantasy Football Trials: Demaryius Thomas v. Terrelle Pryor

FantasyPros.com

Reference the screen FantasyPros screen shot to the right.

Judgement for: Demaryius Thomas

The Expert Consensus using FantasyPros Consensus Rankings shows that 82% of industry experts have Demaryius Thomas as the preferred Fantasy Football Wide Receiver.

Targets

Demaryius Thomas

Thomas has an established role for the Broncos with over 140 targets and 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last five seasons. To look at his targets we will examine his numbers from the last two years.

Thomas saw 144 targets in 2016 and 177 targets in 2015, good enough for 11th and 4th in the NFL respectively. The numbers have translated into a 25.9% target share in 2016 and a 29.3% target share in 2015. He was also on the field for 90% of the team’s offensive snaps and saw 21 red zone targets in 2016 and 20 in 2015.

Terrelle Pryor

Pryor played his first full year as a wide receiver in 2016. He saw 141 targets, 13 red zone targets, and had a 25.3% target share. However, those stats were for his time with Cleveland. Pryor now plays for Washington and is projected to be their number one receiver. In order to better gauge Pryor’s opportunity, it will be useful to look at the Redskins’ “number one receiver’s” numbers over the last two years.

The most targeted wide receiver for the Redskins, over the past two years, was Pierre Garçon. Garçon saw 114 targets in 2016 and 111 targets in 2015, 28th and 25th in the NFL respectively. These numbers translated into a 19.2% target share in 2016 and a 20% target share in 2015. Garçon was also on the field for 82% of offensive snaps in 2016 and 79% in 2015. He saw 14 red zone targets in 2016 and 16 in 2015.

Judgement for: Demaryius Thomas

Though Pryor will be more of a number one receiver for Washington than Garçon was and an uptick in usage should be expected, Thomas has a proven track record of usage with Denver and will continue to see more targets than Pryor.

Situation

Demaryius Thomas

The Denver Broncos were the 21st ranked passing offense in the NFL in 2016 and 14th in 2015. They also scored 20.8 points per game, had a 59.5% passing percentage with 570 passing attempts and 339 completed passes, and 3,685 passing yards. Denver also had 230.3 passing yards per game and 21 passing touchdowns.

Trevor Siemian, the Broncos’ starter last year, threw the ball 486 times with a 28th ranked completion percentage of 59.5%. He threw for 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 14 games and had the 22nd ranked Quarterback Rating (QBR) at 55.5.

Terrelle Pryor

The Washington Redskins, on the other hand, were the 2nd best passing offense in 2016 and the 11th in 2015. The Redskins scored 24.8 points per game, had a 67.1% passing percentage with 607 passing attempts and 407 completed passes, and 4,758 passing yards.

Washington also had 297.4 passing yards per game and 25 passing touchdowns. Kirk Cousins threw the ball 606 times with the 7th best completion percentage at 67%. He threw for 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and had the 5th best QBR at 72.1.

Judgement for: Terrelle Pryor

Pryor is on a more explosive and pass heavy offense with more targets and yardage to go around. Pryor also has a significantly better quarterback while the Broncos’ quarterback situation remains murky.

Competition

Demaryius Thomas

In 2016, the Broncos had only two receivers with over 46 targets, two with over 266 receiving yards, and two with over two touchdowns.

In 2015, two players for the Broncos had over 77 targets and only two players had over 517 receiving yards. The two players for both of these years were Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

This shows that the Broncos rely heavily on the pass catching duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, outside of this duo there is relatively no competition for targets and receiving yards.

Terrelle Pryor

In 2016, the Redskins had three receivers with 99 or more targets, four with over 685 receiving yards, and four with over three touchdowns and none with over seven touchdowns. This includes tight end Jordan Reed, arguably Kirk Cousins’ favorite target, who had 89 targets for 686 yards and six touchdowns in only 12 games.

In 2015, two players for the Redskins had over 100 targets and no player had over 1,000 yards, while four players had over 500 receiving yards. This demonstrates the Redskins’ preference to distribute the ball around to all the team’s weapons.

In fact, in Kirk Cousins’ two full years as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, he has never targeted an individual player more than 114 times in a season, (Reed 114, 2015; Garçon 114, 2016).

Judgement for: Demaryius Thomas

The Broncos primarily focus on two receivers in their passing attack, allowing for both to get their numbers, while limiting competition for Thomas. The Redskins distribute the ball around much more, never heavily relying on one or two guys to get the bulk of the work, and increasing the competition for usage for Pryor.

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Physical Attributes

Demaryius Thomas

Embed from Getty Images

  • Thomas is 6’3” (88th percentile) and 229 lbs. (92nd percentile).
  • He boasts a 4.41 40-yard dash (91st percentile) and a 124.4 speed score (99th percentile) which measures a players speed in relation to his body weight and height.
  • He has a burst score above the 80th percentile, an agility score above the 75th percentile, and a catch radius in the top 10%.

Terrelle Pryor

  • Pryor is 6’4” (94th percentile) and 231 lbs. (96th percentile).
  • He boasts a 4.41 40-yard dash (91st percentile) and a 128.3 speed score (99th percentile).
  • Pryor also has a burst score in the 19th percentile, an agility score in the 17th percentile, and a catch radius in the 46th percentile.

Judgement for: Demaryius Thomas

This one is really close as both players are about the same size and speed. Thomas shows better attributes when it comes to agility, burst, and catch radius, pushing the verdict in his favor.

Productivity and Efficiency

Demaryius Thomas

In 2016, Thomas had 90 receptions on 144 targets for a 62.5% catch rate. This translated into 1,083 receiving yards. He also had a 71.4% red zone catch rate with the second most red zone receptions in the NFL for wide receivers at 15.

Thomas posted a 78.6% contested catch rate and averaged 12 yards per reception. He had a production premium of -2.3, which compares the results of all targets to the league-average results in identical game scenarios. A negative number indicates that Thomas was not as efficient as his wide receiver contemporaries in similar situations.

Finally, Thomas had one of the higher drop rates for wide receivers at 6.9% and 10 drops, which was the second most drops in the NFL. This all translated into the 16th best Fantasy wide receiver, with 14.1 PPR points per game and 1.57 Fantasy points per target which was 65th.

Terrelle Pryor

In 2016, Pryor had 77 receptions on 141 targets for a 54.6% catch rate. This translated into 1,007 receiving yards. He also had a 69.2% red zone catch rate with nine red zone receptions.

Pryor was efficient in traffic posting an 81.8% contested catch rate and averaged 13.1 yards per reception. He had a relatively low production premium of -9.7. Pryor had a seemingly impressive drop rate of 1.4% and only two drops.

This all resulted in Pryor finishing 19th among wide receivers in Fantasy, with 13.3 PPR points per game, and 1.50 Fantasy points per target.

Judgement for: Demaryius Thomas

Pryor was able to outperform Thomas in contested catch rate, yards per reception, and drop statistics. However, Thomas was able to outperform Pryor in the rest of the categories and was the all-around more productive and efficient receiver last year.

Strength of Schedule (SoS)

The Fantasy Football Trials: Demaryius Thomas v. Terrelle Pryor

Credit: TheHuddle.com and David Dorey; Screenshot by Alex Hamrick

Demaryius Thomas

FantasyPros has the Broncos with the 21st toughest schedule for wide receivers. The Broncos play six games against defenses in the top-10 in 2016 for the least amount of Fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers and 11 games are against top-15 defenses. Thomas’s playoff schedule (weeks 14-16) only consists of one top-15 defense against wide receivers.

Terrelle Pryor

Embed from Getty Images
FantasyPros has the Redskins with the 13th easiest schedule for wide receivers. The Redskins play 8 games against top-15 defenses and only five games against top-10 defenses for opposing wide receivers. Pryor’s playoff schedule (weeks 14-16) consists of two top-10 defenses including the Broncos, the number one ranked defense, in week 16 (most Fantasy Championships).

Judgement for: Pryor

This comparison was very close to being a “settlement” for both parties.

Pryor has the easier regular season which can help propel Fantasy teams to the playoffs but his playoff schedule is brutal. Meanwhile, Thomas has a tougher regular season schedule, but an easier playoff schedule.

If I were to draft solely on SOS, which you should never do, I would go with Pryor because he is the player with a schedule that could better help my chances of getting into the playoffs. Plus, defenses fluctuate from year to year, so the playoffs are too far away to be scared of drafting a player just because of his playoff schedule.

ADP

Demaryius Thomas

Current FantasyPros ADP is 30

Terrelle Pryor

Current FantayPros ADP is 39

Judgement for: Neither

ADPs will continue to fluctuate as we approach the start of the NFL season. Granting a judgment for either player based on current ADP would be premature. Furthermore, this ADP is from FantasyPros, but other websites have varying results, for example: FantasyFootballCalculator.com has Pryor (ADP 32) ahead of Thomas (ADP 33).

The bottom line is that, as of now, neither player has a truly greater value based solely on ADP relative to the other, therefore this evidence is moot and inadmissible.

Projections

Demaryius Thomas

  • Targets: 148
  • Receptions: 92
  • Receiving Yards: 1,104
  • Touchdowns: 7
  • Standard Fantasy Points: 152.4
  • PPR Fantasy Points: 244.4

Terrelle Pryor

  • Targets: 130
  • Receptions: 74
  • Receiving Yards: 1,022
  • Touchdowns: 6
  • Standard Fantasy Points: 138.2
  • PPR Fantasy Points: 212.2

Judgement for: Thomas

All projections are based on historical target share, catch rate, yards per reception, etc. Both players have the ability to greatly outperform these projections. But, using these baseline projections as a comparison, Thomas is the clear favorite to produce more Fantasy Football points.

Defendant’s (Pryor) closing argument:

nothing to see here

Final Judgment: Demaryius Thomas.

Embed from Getty Images
Thomas’s case was more convincing for seven of the factors, compared to Pryor’s two.

The preponderance of the evidence supports Thomas. He has a better opportunity, with limited competition for targets. He is the more talented, skilled, productive, and efficient wide receiver.

This may change in a year, I mean, Pryor just converted to wide receiver full time, a year ago, giving Thomas a huge advantage.

 


Furthermore, Pryor’s situation could prove to be more rewarding. But based on current stats and each player’s track record, it is therefore proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Demaryius Thomas is the player that should be drafted in this case.


2017 Fantasy Football Position Previews
QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

For more F6P preseason coverage please visit our 2017 Draft Kit section.

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About Alex Hamrick

Alex is an avid fantasy football enthusiast and writer for Fantasy Six Pack. With a background in quantitative methods and analysis, Alex enjoys using statistics and data analytics to develop detailed fantasy football analysis. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @AlexBHamrick

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