Great minds do not always think alike.
On The Football Analytics Show podcast, Matthew Freedman of FantasyPros talked about how he liked Iowa State’s Breece Hall as the first RB selected. He likes Hall over Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker partially because of their college stats, a topic we will dive into later.
On the same podcast, Dr. Eric Eager of PFF said that he liked Walker as the first RB selected. At +280, he sees value, partially because this pick won’t happen until the second round.
There are two important concepts to unpack here.
First, one of the knocks against Walker is his pass catching numbers. JJ Zachariason of lateround.com has developed a model for how college players project to the NFL for fantasy football. He has found that a running back’s top season for reception share is one of the predictors in his model.
Running backs that catch the ball in college do not necessarily become top pass catchers in the NFL. However, JJ believes that a high reception share is an indicator of all around talent. With a 5.6% reception share for his best season, Walker gets dinged here.
Second, the NFL draft becomes more difficult to predict as the picks go by. A running back is not expected to get selected in the first round. Here are the expected draft positions from Grinding the Mocks, a wisdom of crowds estimator:
- Breece Hall (Iowa State), 36.4
- Kenneth Walker (Michigan State), 45.3
- Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M), 71.5
While one often just says that the draft gets random in later rounds, let’s get more precise about exactly what that means.
With the top picks in the draft, there is more certainty about which players will get picked. The distribution has the majority of weight on one or two players.
For example, Jacksonville has the first pick. The markets have Aiden Hutchinson as the favorite (-200) and Travon Walker with the next best odds (+190). Behind these two edge rushers, no player has better than 12 to 1 odds.
With later draft picks, the probability distribution becomes more uniform over a number of players. One consequence of this more uniform distribution is there should be less certainty which running back will get picked first. This is the reasoning behind why Dr. Eager likes the longer shot Walker.
I don’t have a strong take on whether Hall or Walker will be the first RB selected. However, there are some interesting almost arbitrage opportunities.
As of Thursday morning, DraftKings has Hall at -275 as the first RB selected. FanDuel has Walker at +280, a break even probability of 26.3%. This is lower than the chance that a Michigan fan still has ulcers after the performance Walker had against the Wolverines last season.
If you have an opinion or inside information on Hall vs Walker, this is a favorable market. Another RB could be the top pick, but the wisdom of crowds projection has Spiller far behind the two top candidates.
The Late-Round Prospect Guide
JJ Zacharaison is a season long fantasy football expert. He spends the entire year running numbers and thinking about how to win your league.
After a long career at numberFire and FanDuel, he is now an independent creator at his site Late Round Fantasy Football. You can get more details on his prospect model discussed here and prospect ratings in The Late-Round Prospect Guide.
This is not an affiliate deal, as I don’t get part of the sale. I think you should check it out because JJ’s work is excellent.
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