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Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza’s fantasy draft

Michael versus LeBron.

Ketchup on a glizzy.

Anyone over the age of 11 using the word “glizzy”.

These are all things that evoke great feelings in people. And it is a fact.

The fantasy community is no stranger to overflowing emotions. Of performing extravagant “funnishments” (did you check my guy Kevin Pulsiferthat’s all #SkyPulse situation?) to voluntarily participate in a series of superstitious pre-project rituals, we are a group of enthusiasts.

But even though our hearts are often in control, that doesn’t mean we lose our minds. The game in the game is a constant balance of facts and feelings. This column aims to examine the pushes and pulls of what we want and what is likely (or not).

Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza's fantasy draft

Garrett Wilson, New York Jets (ADP: 18.9)

After being in Bristol for the Fantasy Football Marathon last week, it’s become clear that everyone is smitten with Wilson’s seemingly endless perks. Mike Clay took the former Buckeye eighth overall in our televised draft, causing all sorts of mayhem (on and off camera). It’s hard not to get carried away by the hype surrounding Wilson.

The 23-year-old is a ace separator with otherworldly body control. He recorded a target share of 25% (WR21) and drew 19 red-zone looks from a collection of flaggers including Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco and Mike White. Despite lacking consistency under center (63.9% target catch rate, WR92), Wilson posted an 83-1 103-4 stat line and received NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. . Wilson closed his rookie campaign as a fantastic top-15 WR and plans to improve on those numbers with Aaron Rodgers tossing the ball.

These facts are a big part of why Wilson’s ADP soared, making him a top second-round pick in 12-team formats. I have a feeling Wilson’s rise will continue and he’s likely to overtake Tee Higgins and Jaylen Waddle to become a top 10 WR option before September.

Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza's fantasy draft

Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 31.1)

While my co-workers try to outdo themselves in hopes of becoming New York’s #1 WR, I target his former college teammate. Olave was my rookie of 2022. Arguably the most complete receiver in last year’s class, he consistently showed skill and common sense, posting the second-best rookie season for a wide in the Saints history with 72 catches and 1,042 receiving yards.

Incredibly, he averaged more yards of separation per course as a rookie than Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and DK Metcalf in their early NFL campaigns. The opportunity for growth (and a resulting spike in production) is tantalizing even with Derek Carr (who, let’s be honest, is still an improvement over Andy Dalton) finding a new foothold at center. Olave is an absolute third-round steal (although he doesn’t make it past the second round in any of my projects), which can offer WR2 value with huge upside potential for WR1. He’s my go-to player of 2023.

Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza's fantasy draft

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 54.3)

My big feelings for Olave are driven by the belief that he will do big things this season. But feelings are not always superlative. Sometimes they are salty. Kittle is one of the bravest guys in the game, but he’s also a huge contender for failure before 2023.

Despite recording a target share of less than 20% (the lowest since 2017), Kittle ended his sixth professional campaign as the No. 3 producer of Fantasy in the tight end position. How? It’s all in the TDs. He recorded a career-high 11 scores in 2022. That’s a classic regression red flag! Miraculously, Kittle converted 5 touchdowns in just 14 red-zone appearances, scoring at a pace unlike the rest of his career, where he scored 11 touchdowns on 60 total targets in the red zone (over the five seasons before 2022). If that’s too much math to handle, here’s a more succinct stat: No tight end has managed consecutive 10 TD seasons since Rob Gronkowski in 2014-15.

Touchdowns are like waterfalls. Every millennial knows it’s not worth chasing them. Kittle’s depressed volume and catch rate (69.8% in 2022, its lowest since 2018) makes it a high-priced boom or bust option (54.2 ADP) in an already volatile position.

Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza's fantasy draft

Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 55.8)

All of this landing regression talk is the perfect transition into discussing Watson’s fashion train. Full disclosure, Packers fans are mad at me since April 2022. It’s not that I don’t believe in Watson’s abilities, it’s that I don’t think he can be a consistent, high-profile producer. His 7 touchdowns last year are proof of that. All of these glorious reception scores came over a four-week period that began in week 10 (ie mid-November). It’s so risky! Watson is like Diontae Johnson in reverse.

I guarantee Watson won’t convert to the red zone at the same rate with the defenses coming after him now that Allen Lazard is paying property taxes in New Jersey. And it goes without saying that the change in QB is also concerning for Watson’s performance. He will certainly make some worthwhile plays, but I’d rather bet on a regression to the mean of, you guessed it, Diontae Johnson (who’ll make a turn later).

Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza's fantasy draft

Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 10.5)

Enough negativity. Let’s go back to what some call blind optimism. Robinson is a top three fantasy RB and you can’t change my mind. Maybe the Falcons weren’t the team that needed to prioritize generational talent in this position, but he’s here now and he’s going to eat.

History is on my side with this one. Here is a list of the eight running backs who have been drafted – like Robinson – in the top eight overall since 2006: Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden, Trent Richardson, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. Pretty good company, huh? Each of those eight players averaged 270 touches, 1,433 scrimmage yards, 53 catches and 10.6 touchdowns during their rookie season. Those numbers would have resulted in a fantastic 17.4 points per game (RB6) at the end of 2022. Additionally, Richardson, Elliott and Barkley have all seen over 40% of their team’s overall hits.

Given Robinson’s profile (he ranks fourth all-time in Texas Longhorn history with 3,410 rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns) and landing spot (the Falcons led the league in run attempts with 559 last season), he appears to be one of only a handful of RBs to touch the ball more than 20 times per game. Don’t overthink this one.

Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza's fantasy draft

James Cook, Buffalo Bills (ADP: 77.2)

Maybe I should think more about Cook’s downsides, but the truth is, I’m too enamored with its upsides. With the demise of Devin Singletary (and his 200+ keys), a regular producer is bound to materialize. However, volume (which I agree should be a priority) could still be an issue for Cook. Nyheim Hines is out for the year, Damien Harris (who missed six games in 2022) is already struggling with knee issues and Buffalo is not a first team. The Bills have ranked fifth in hit percentage the past three seasons. It works well for Cook, who shines as a wide receiver.

Cook averaged a superb score of a fantastic 0.98 points per touch (RB7) during his rookie campaign. The players in front of him? Versatile stars like Austin Ekeler (RB1), McCaffrey (RB2) and Tony Pollard (RB9). And then some pass-catching pros like D’Andre Swift (RB16), Jerick McKinnon (RB27) and Samaje Perine (RB43). Tied to a top-three offense and assuming even a slight increase in workload, Cook should easily get a payback on his seventh-round ADP. He is one of my favorite anchor/zero-RB targets.

Fact vs. sentiment: The biggest takeaways from Liz Loza's fantasy draft

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 68.5)

Geno Smith’s journey from zero to hero reached its “Look What You Made Me Do” climax last year. Lawrence, however, deserves some shots for serving up massive “Shake it off” vibes. The former Clemson QB entered a new era of awesomeness in 2022, averaging nearly six extra fantasy points per game (from 11.7 in 2021 to 17.4 in 2022), while improving his save percentage. 6% completion (from 60% to 66%). , doubling its TD number (from 12 to 25) and halving its total INT (from 17 to 8).

The stats throughout the season are certainly illuminating, but they become all the more impressive when you consider how Lawrence has been able to evolve over the year. From the first eight weeks to the last eight weeks of 2022: Lawrence’s fantasy points per game increased by 5.6, his completion percentage increased by 3% and his TD/INT ratio improved from 10:6 to 15:1. It is moment to moment growth. It’s also an indication of where Lawrence plans to start in 2023.

I’m not saying it’s likely, but a top-five finish is possible for Lawrence, as a fantastic 21.0 points per game would have made him QB5 (behind Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow) last season. Add to that a full offseason with Doug Pederson and the addition of Calvin Ridley, and I’m totally “excited” about picking Lawrence in the sixth (maybe even seventh?) round.

Follow Liz on social media @LizLoza_FF


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