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2020 Rookie Breakdowns: Film & Analytics

Film and Analytics doesn’t always have to be a battle. Find out where BOTH film and analytics agree there is value to be had compared to current rookie ADP!

When Worlds Collide

In a world full of conflicting ideologies, not everything has to be an argument. Dualism is ripe as ever when it comes to the age-old tale of film versus analytics in fantasy football. 

What about where they see eye to eye? This will be the main focus as we seek values from current rookie ADP relative to their collective film and analytics rankings. If both viewpoints have them listed higher or lower than where they are being drafted, this should give us a significant edge.

DynastyNerds’ new “Nerd Score” feature will represent the film grades listed under each player, with film notes being provided by Garret Price and Jared Wackerly. These grades were done before the draft via countless hours of film review by a few of the best the fantasy industry has to offer. You can find the full Nerd Score (film) rankings here

For the analytics grades, I will be using my “Fantasy Z-Score” projection model. This model takes what I have found to be some of the most predictive metrics available for both RB and WR relating to fantasy success. You can find them here.

To also shed a comparable light where the film and analytics disagree, we’ll highlight some players with substantial ranking differences between the two. This will give you the tools necessary for a full evaluation on players with dissenting opinions.

Let’s get to it!

Peace and Harmony: Where the Film and Analytics Agree

We’ll go through by position relative to current dynasty rookie ADP to see where the film and analytics hit the mark, showcase a value to target, or a pitfall to avoid.

Wide Receivers

Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
CeeDee Lamb (DAL)
  • Film Rank: WR1
  • Analytics Rank: WR1
  • Rookie ADP: WR1

Film Notes: With the highest ball tracking and contested-catch skills in the class, it’s no wonder Lamb comes in as our favorite wide receiver of 2020. Lamb finished his Oklahoma career as one of the most reliable college football targets, displaying some of the best hands in the class. He projects to be a potential ‘go-to’ top wide receiver at the next level. He often displayed an alpha dog mindset in his physicality and approach to every play. Lamb was an easy guy to like when watching his tape.

Analytic Notes: There is no major flaw in his metric profile. He has the most Yards per Reception, an age 19 breakout age, and one of the top marks for Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt. All of these show a strong signal to a long, prosperous career.

Summary: Don’t get cute if you are WR needy. Lamb is the consensus rookie WR1 from every angle.

Bryan Edwards (LV)
  • Film Rank: WR8
  • Analytics Rank: WR10
  • Rookie ADP: WR11

Film Notes: Bryan Edwards came in as one of the most physical wide receiver prospects in the class at 6-foot-3 and 220 lbs. His mix of size, speed, and athleticism is rare to find. He finished fifth in the class in our contested-catch attribute and sixth in overall “hands.” In a loaded wide receiver class, finishing in the top 10 is special.

Analytic Notes: With market share and dominator per game ratings each within the top-3 of the class, he has an attractive production history. One of the few (only?) souls to post a breakout age of 17 years old, he’s been successful ever since stepping on the field. Expect more of the same as he gets a chance for immediate usage with the Raiders depleted receiving corps.

Summary: A late-second or early-third round gem in rookie drafts, this is the kind of upside you want to target with a mid-round pick.

LaViska Shenault (JAX)
  • Film Rank: WR13
  • Analytics Rank: WR12
  • Rookie ADP: WR9

Film Notes: LaViska left a lot to be desired in the film room. Aside from a raw athletically gifted playmaker, his technique as a wide receiver is lacking. He had one of the lower scores in ‘route-running’ and ‘release.’ He finished middle of the road in terms of his ‘hands’ and ‘catch radius.’ He’s a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands that will need to rely on manufactured touches to make a fantasy impact.

Analytic Notes: Apart from being an early declare and his draft position, there wasn’t much to like from a metric perspective. His team adjusted market share receiving yards per game was the worst in the class. Proceed with caution.

Summary: Our first trap on the WR front. He is confidently three positional spots lower from the both views compared to ADP.

Honorable Mentions (Film-Analytics-ADP): Tee Higgins (WR6-WR7-WR8), Jalen Reagor (WR3-WR4-WR4), Jerry Jeudy (WR2-WR3-WR2)

Running Backs

Jonathan Taylor (IND)
  • Film Rank: RB2
  • Analytics Rank: RB2
  • Rookie ADP: RB2

Film Notes: There wasn’t much not to like aside from his lack of receiving prowess. Though, we’ve seen that with previous Wisconsin running backs like Melvin Gordon and James White. Both have fared well as receivers in the NFL. Taylor blends power and physicality with elite speed. He has an excellent feel for the game. He is a slippery runner by way of subtle micro-movements to break defender’s angles and leverage. Taylor projects to be an outstanding running back in the NFL.

Analytic Notes: What isn’t there to love? Draft capital, top-end athleticism, college production among the elite, and an amazing offensive line with the Colts. The only current knock is having competition with Mack and Hines, but Taylor is clearly the best back of the three.

Summary: All other rookie running backs have some level of dissension of film and metrics. He is the only one who scored top-2 in both. Draft accordingly.

Cam Akers (LAR)
  • Film Rank: RB4
  • Analytics Rank: RB3
  • Rookie ADP: RB5

Film Notes: Simply raw as a player, Akers has some exceptional skills and abilities. He is big, fast, strong, and is an above-average receiver. My biggest worry comes with him not being as developed as a true running back as other guys in the class. I’m worried that getting another poor offensive line in LA could be a struggle for him. All that said, if he gets good coaching and training, the sky’s the limit.

Analytic Notes: His biggest boost comes from the immediate opportunity available with the Rams. Todd Gurley’s departure opens up room for instant carries, targets, and red zone touches. Combine this with above-average grades in athleticism and college production, and you have the potential for massive volume starting year one. He’s projected for 14 PPG throughout his first three seasons in my model.

Summary: Akers overcome a horrific situation in college and will have to battle behind a sub-par offensive line yet again in the pros. His talent, mixed with immediate opportunity, gives him a high ceiling.

Honorable Mentions (Film-Analytics-ADP): Anthony McFarland (RB12-RB11-RB10), Zack Moss (RB7-RB8-RB7), Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB6-RB7-RB6)

Strengths and Weaknesses: Where the Film and Analytics Disagree

As useful as it is when they agree as they did earlier, it’s entertaining to reflect on guys who carry drastically different rankings when comparing film and analytics. Know your strengths and weaknesses in profiles for guys on this next list.

Wide Receivers

credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Justin Jefferson (MIN)
  • Film Rank: WR7
  • Analytics Rank: WR2
  • Rookie ADP: WR3

Film Notes: Jefferson is a good wide receiver. However, in a class full of really talented players at the position, I believe there are guys with better skill sets and abilities. He benefited greatly from having an incredibly accurate QB and feasted on teams’ second corner or their slot corner. He is a great route runner and has very good hands, but I’m not sure his build, athleticism, or skills are up there with the elites of the class.

Analytic Notes: Jefferson tied CeeDee Lamb for second-highest yards per team pass in the top-14 WRs. Not only that, but he also ranked highest in final season market share when adjusted for team competition (looking at you Ja’Marr Chase). His career production speaks for itself, and that isn’t even factoring in his instant starting role for the Vikings.

Summary: An analytics star but a film-based fade for his current price, he showcases some of the biggest risks/rewards with an ADP of WR3.

Denzel Mims (NYJ)
  • Film Rank: WR4
  • Analytics Rank: WR9
  • Rookie ADP: WR7

Film Notes: Mims is an elite athlete, but most people fail to mention how developed he is as a router runner, getting space off the line and using his hands for leverage. I also marvel at how massive his catch radius is compared to some of the other players in this class. His stock rose for many because of the combine, but his tape locked him in as a top 5 WR for me.

Analytic Notes: A 4.38 40-time and 6.66 3-cone is nothing to scoff at. They are some of the best-combined speed and agility scores in years. However, WR athletic testing doesn’t hold nearly any weight for predicting fantasy success. He has a nice dominator rating, but beyond that, he scores around average in most other categories.

Summary: Mock drafts had him as a first-round talent before falling to the Jets. An athletic marvel and showcasing more than the numbers tell, it’s clear why his game film stood out above the rest. Analytics valuing athletic testing far less for WRs also helps explain the difference here.

KJ Hamler (DEN)
  • Film Rank: WR16
  • Analytics Rank: WR5
  • Rookie ADP: WR13

Film Notes: Hamler has excellent speed and is a savvy route runner, but there is much to be desired after that. He has an extremely small frame and seems to have a lot of drops. He also isn’t great in contested catch situations. I was surprised to see him go in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft.

Analytic Notes: I get it, WR5 is too high, but I can’t alter the model when it’s screaming in my face how good his metrics are. His only two years in college, led his team’s receiving production by a large margin as the alpha option. A speed tactician but small in size, many have compared him to Desean Jackson. Players that dominate like he has and declare early aren’t rookie WR13s; he deserves to be much higher.

Summary: With the most significant division among all rookies, Hamler is the epitome of film versus analytics. He checks every metric box besides size, all while his game film was rather underwhelming.

Honorable Mentions (Film-Analytics-ADP): Brandon Aiyuk (WR14-WR8-WR10), Chase Claypool (WR17-WR11-WR12)

Running Backs

Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)
  • Film Rank: RB5
  • Analytics Rank: RB1
  • Rookie ADP: RB1

Film Notes: When breaking down the tape of Clyde, there was a lot to like. I think what ultimately put him behind the other guys was his physical profile. He’s not a guy that is going to burn anyone with his speed or take on linebackers head-to-head. However, Edwards-Helaire did check-in as elite in a couple of categories that should translate to fantasy football success, such as pass-catching and elusiveness. Landing in Kansas City suits his skill set perfectly.

Analytic Notes: Being the first RB selected on draft night certainly boosted his score, as did landing in arguably the best spot possible in the high powered Chiefs offense. His only competition is aging veteran Damien Williams. CEH stood out most because of his class-leading broken tackle percentage (34%) and in his top-level receiving prowess.

Summary: The top-5 RBs are all fairly similar in value before the draft. While he may not have all elite traits, landing spot and receiving ability boosted his stock.

JK Dobbins (BAL)
  • Film Rank: RB1
  • Analytics Rank: RB5
  • Rookie ADP: RB3

Film Notes: One of the best qualities of Dobbins is how few holes there are in his game. He has good speed, great lateral agility, and runs with good power for his size. All of our film ranks were pre-landing spot, but he couldn’t have found a better home than Baltimore. He feasted running the RPOs with Justin Fields in college, and Lamar is an even more dangerous threat doing the same thing. Dobbins should have big success as a Raven.

Analytic Notes: My metric of competition based production marks Dobbins as elite in that respect. He had the highest combined team and strength of schedule ratings when ranking his final season production. Without athletic testing, an important factor for RBs, his ranking fell due to lack of data and very well could have scored much higher. His biggest hindrance is the immediate presence of Mark Ingram to compete with.

Summary: His rookie ADP of RB3 perfectly splits the film and analytics rankings of RB1 of RB5, respectively. A film darling paired with an elite final season analytically, Dobbins owners might have to be patient as Ingram slowly fades away.

Honorable Mentions (Film-Analytics-ADP): Deejay Dallas (RB8-RB14-RB14)

Thanks for reading! If you like what you learned, follow @DynastyPrice, @JaredWackerlyFF, and @DavidZach16 for more interesting analysis throughout the year.

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