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Reviewing the Rankings: Yahoo vs. ESPN Part 2

Part two of my series comparing Yahoo and ESPN rankings. So far, we’ve seen some wild valuation differences, especially in the fifth round, and I expect that to continue on as we get deeper and deeper. During the earlier rounds, a round difference of even 5-8 spots is significant, but when you get later the differences become less and less pronounced unless it’s 20+ spots. Expect to see some doozies as we get right into rounds 6-10. Once again, the perspective will be from ESPN for consistency. 

ESPN rankings (as of 7/14/21) can be found here.

Yahoo rankings (as of 7/14//21) can be found here

Annoyingly, ESPN offers PPR and non-PPR rankings, while Yahoo only has half PPR rankings. We’ll be using ESPN’s PPR for the purposes of this study, and they should be closer to a half PPR than the alternative.

(Data taken from FantasyPros.com, using half-point PPR)

Round Six Rankings

D.J. Chark Jr: ESPN 69, Yahoo 91. Verdict: ESPN

ESPN has a ton of wide receivers in the mid-round range, and this round they start to make more sense versus the wild rankings in round five. I would take Chark over Laviska Shenault Jr. in a heartbeat, as Chark has produced fantasy relevant seasons and was the best Jacksonville Jaguar receiver last year. I’ve already written about Chark a couple times in past articles, but there is a decent amount of data that suggests Chark was screwed pretty badly by poor QB play. If Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer are even half of what they are hyped to be, that should be a major upgrade at that position, which means good things for Chark. He’s a high upside guy, and at WR 36 you can do a lot worse.

Tyler Boyd: ESPN 70, Yahoo 96. Verdict: ESPN

I may be trusting Boyd too much, as every fantasy site has him the lowest by far of the Cincinnati receivers. I just don’t see it. Boyd is a proven talent, and while Joe Burrow was healthy Boyd still got a ton of targets. Him being in the slot also means he’s not as directly affected by Ja’Marr Chase’s arrival compared to Tee Higgins. To be honest I’d take Boyd first of the Cincy receivers. 

T.J Hockenson: ESPN 72, Yahoo 48. Verdict: ESPN

Hockenson feels like a replaceable tight end to me, not close to the Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and George Kittle tier, and if you aren’t one of those guys there’s no way you should draft a tight end before all of your skill positions and probably quarterback are filled. Bottom of round four is way too high for Hockenson, who has a worse QB this year that doesn’t traditionally use tight ends. Round six or seven is much more appropriate, which is where ESPN has him. 

Honorable Mentions

Jerry Jeudy and Will Fuller also had 20+ spot differences, but I couldn’t really favor site or the other. They are in similar situations as very talented wide receivers hampered by less than inspiring quarterback play. This gives them pretty high ceilings (although neither of them are massively high) but also pretty low floors. 

Round Seven Rankings

Deebo Samuel: ESPN 74, Yahoo 94. Verdict: Yahoo

If you aren’t a San Francisco 49ers’ running back or George Kittle, it’s really hard to trust you in fantasy. The touchdowns are just very hard to come by for 49ers’ wideouts, and they don’t throw the ball that much. In 2019, the year the 49ers went to the Super Bowl, Deebo Samuel was their highest performing wide receiver with 57 catches, 802 yards and three touchdowns. He got rescued by also having 159 yards and three scores on the ground, which let him place in a fantasy relevant spot of WR 31. That’s very possibly any 49er wideouts’ ceiling, which isn’t great. The 49ers will want to get back to their 2019 ways, and unless Samuel scrounges up six scores again I don’t think he will be someone you can trust

Mike Davis: ESPN 75, Yahoo 53. Verdict: ESPN

Mike Davis is a starting running back, and by that definition you could put him in the first five rounds conversation, but starting running backs don’t guarantee success. Just ask whoever started for the New York Jets last year, or even the guy Davis is replacing, Todd Gurley. Mike Davis was a nice story filling in for Christian McCaffrey, but he’s a journeyman running back who’s already 28, a troubling number for RBs. His efficiency was poor, and especially at the end of the year he seemed to get figured out. He went over double digits in his first five starts, and then only went over that number two more times the rest of the season. 

Lamar Jackson: ESPN 78, Yahoo 50. Verdict: ESPN

While Jackson’s ceiling is technically his league winning 2019, realistically I don’t think that will ever happen again. Personally, I think 2020 is about where Jackson ends up for the majority of his career. His 36 touchdowns and nine percent TD percentage are numbers I highly doubt he hits again, and his average passing ability puts a cap on him. At the same time, Jackson is easily the best running QB there’s ever been (coming from an Eagles’ fan) and that also raises his floor a ton. He’s pretty much at minimum getting you seven points from running alone, which literally no other QB can come close to doing. QB 10 is not a bad place to be, but QB 10 is also not worth a fifth round pick. 

DeVonta Smith: ESPN 84, Yahoo 112. Verdict: Yahoo

There are three types of bench players. Rotational flex guys that you’ll use during bye weeks, high upside sleepers and handcuffs. At round seven, either you’re getting your first bench players which are usually rotational flex guys, or you still might be drafting starters. Smith isn’t really either of those. He is much closer to the high upside sleeper type, and that means 84 is a bit too high for my blood. The upside is pretty huge, as everyone knows the insane season he just put together at Alabama last year, but he’s still a rookie on a team that just went 4-11-1, with a rookie head coach and a pretty new QB. Taking him around here wouldn’t be the worst, but guys like Jarvis Landry are much safer, or you could go with a QB like Russell Wilson and Tom Brady who are around this pick in ESPN. 

Round Eight Rankings

Michael Gallup: ESPN – 85, Yahoo – 119. Verdict: Yahoo

Gallup is kind of like a wide receiver handcuff, as in you are hoping one of Ceedee Lamb or Amari Cooper gets hurt for Gallup to be playable. Wide receiver handcuffs aren’t really a thing, and Gallup’s upside if everyone is healthy is just so low. You’re never going to be able to trust him enough to start confidently. There will be one or two weeks where he pops off and does well, but you won’t know which those are. Low upside, low floor means 85 is way too high for Gallup. 

Corey Davis: ESPN – 88, Yahoo – 127. Verdict: Yahoo

This is another low upside, low floor guy. Corey Davis has never been a top receiver, with his latest season being his best by a decent margin and saw him finish WR 29. Now he’s on a much worse team and offense, and there’s no clear path to a lot of targets. The Jets have lots of young guys with potential, and Jamison Crowder is probably the better player. 

Melvin Gordon: ESPN – 92, Yahoo – 69. Verdict: ESPN

Gordon is a strange one to try and project. Most are assuming 2nd round pick Javonte Williams will eventually seize the starting job, but there’s no guarantee of that, and Gordon just got paid recently. The most likely scenario is a full on timeshare between the two, but if anyone has a chance to win the job outright it’s probably Williams. Pick 69 is way too high for a guy that might lose his job entirely, and even if he keeps it has limited upside. Gordon has never been a very efficient runner, and cutting his touches down spells trouble for him.

Antonio Brown: ESPN – 93, Yahoo – 117. Verdict: ESPN

This might sound hypocritical since I ranked Gallup lower and Brown is in a similar crowded offense situation, but Brown has a couple things going for him that Gallup doesn’t. First, Brown averaged a healthy 7.8 targets per game once he got in, while Gallup averaged 6.6 for the season, but more importantly just 5.6 in the five games with Dak Prescott. Brown also seems to be well-liked by Tom Brady, while to my knowledge Gallup and Prescott don’t have any special connection. Brown also profiles quite differently from the rest of Tampa Bay’s receivers, while Gallup, Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb are all very similar in size.  Finally, Brown has the benefit of being the most dominant fantasy wide receiver in the 2010s and deserves some benefit of the doubt. 

Jaylen Waddle: ESPN – 94, Yahoo – 148. Verdict: Yahoo

Henry Ruggs: ESPN – 95, Yahoo – 163. Verdict: ESPN

While both these guys are young Alabama speedsters, I like Ruggs a lot more than Waddle. Receivers often break out in year two or three, and Ruggs has a path to playing time that’s much more clear than Waddle. With Nelson Agholor gone, Ruggs is only competing with Darren Waller for a majority of the targets. Waddle however, has Will Fuller, (who’s a deep threat like him) DeVante Parker, Myles Gaskin and Mike Gesicki that could all demand a share of what should end up being a pretty low amount of attempts from Tua Tagovailoa.

Waddle might get less than five targets per game, and he’ll need to be otherworldly efficient to be fantasy relevant enough to start him. I don’t see that happening. Ruggs on the other hand, has a similar bottom tier floor but should have much more opportunities and therefore a higher ceiling, and a more realistic way to hit that ceiling.

Round Nine Rankings

Cole Beasley: ESPN –  96. Yahoo 140. Verdict: ESPN

Cole Beasley finished a very respectable WR 26 last year, and will have the same role and same QB throwing to him. ESPN has him WR 50 while Yahoo has him 51, which seems low for both. Beasley fills that nice bye week flex fill in, and round nine is a perfect place to get guys like that. 

Jalen Reagor: ESPN – 97, Yahoo 157. Verdict: Yahoo

ESPN ranks a lot of wide receivers in these mid rounds, while Yahoo spreads them out more which leads to this mess of WR rankings between ESPN and Yahoo. Still, a 60 spot difference is pretty significant. The Eagles’ fan in me says Smith and Reagor could surprise people, but realistically there’s probably not enough opportunity for both to excel fantasy wise. Reagor could have a good season, but not put up fantasy numbers competing with Smith, Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert on an offense that probably won’t throw a ton. 

Javonte Williams: ESPN – 100, Yahoo 79. Verdict: ESPN

Not the biggest difference we’ve seen, but it is a starting running back that will draw a lot of attention one way or another. To be honest, I just can’t see an obvious path to fantasy relevance with Williams. The most likely scenario is Williams and Gordon timeshare, and Gordon will probably get the touchdowns. Williams will get the catches, which is great for PPR, but that might put him in the J.D. McKissic or James White tier. Even in the scenario that Williams seizes the starting job outright, Denver is not a good team. Sometimes that means feeding the RB as much as they can like the Jaguars with James Robinson, other times it means the offense as a whole is ineffective and no one does well, starter or not, like the Jets. 

Round Ten Rankings

Damien Harris: ESPN – 110, Yahoo – 65. Verdict: Yahoo

It seems like ESPN greatly valued the wide receiver position over the running back position in the mid to late rounds, with ESPN ranking 51 receivers before ranking the 31st running back. It’s an interesting deviation that bears mention. Anyways, the concern with Harris is the touchdowns, as it is with any running back on a Cam Newton led team. Still, in the ten games Harris played he was running back 27, and he looks to be the lead back in New England for the coming season. I wouldn’t take him as high as 65, but 110 is way too low for a starting running back that averaged five yards per carry in a solid sample size.

Ronald Jones: ESPN – 111, Yahoo – 70. Verdict: Yahoo

This one’s a bit of a head scratcher for ESPN. Jones finished as RB 16 last year despite missing two games and his situation isn’t changing a ton. Leonard Fournette is an unfortunate presence for Jones, and Fournette did start the last game of the regular season and all four playoff games, but Jones started the first 15 games and still received double digit carries in the ones he didn’t. Jones was the much more effective runner, 5.1 Y/A versus Fournette’s 3.8, so I’m not concerned with Jones being phased out completely. Double digit carries per game seems very likely for Jones, and any games that Fournette misses will be gold for Jones owners. Just like Harris, I wouldn’t draft him at 70, but I would draft him well before 111 and RB 36. 

T.Y. Hilton: ESPN – 116, Yahoo – 149. Verdict: Yahoo

Mecole Hardman: ESPN – 118, Yahoo – 155 Verdict: Yahoo

Both of these guys have a pretty low chance to be fantasy relevant, especially Hardman who is basically in the same role as he’s been in the last two years and has yet to really break out. I guess Sammy Watkins is gone now but I doubt that’s what was holding him back. Hilton was a non factor besides a three week stretch at the end of the season, and I don’t think banking on a 32 year old Hilton is going to work out well. The jury’s still out on if Carson Wentz isn’t broken himself, and there are younger, better receivers in Indy.

Eric Ebron: ESPN – 120, Yahoo – 215. Verdict: Yahoo

Our new biggest discrepancy, 95 whole spots! ESPN says take him at the end of the fifth, Yahoo says don’t even both drafting him. I’m with Yahoo on this one. Ebron finished as TE 15 last year, and pretty much everyone expects the Pittsburgh Steelers to pass a lot less this year with Big Ben aging fast and drafting a running back in the first round. Ebron doesn’t have a ton of upside, nor does he have any sort of solid floor as a distant fourth in targets (not even counting Najee Harris). Tight end is a very weak position, and there’s not really a need to draft multiple, so there’s no real need to draft one outside the top 12 anyways. 

Ranking Summary

ESPN seems to value wide receivers in the mid rounds way more than Yahoo does, which is leading to these major ranking differences. This could be because the ESPN ranking is based off of PPR, but even their non-PPR cheat sheet has a identical discrepancy. On one hand, it’s fair because, especially in PPR, mid-level WRs are scoring much more than mid-level RBs. For instance, WR 30, Tee Higgins, scored 161.1 points last year, while RB 30, Jeff Wilson Jr, scored 135.8. It only gets worse as you drop further and further. On the other hand though, realistically you don’t need five backup wide receivers that all do the same thing, which you would basically be doing if you went chalk with ESPN.

In rounds 1-5 I favored Yahoo nine times to ESPN’s five. This time, I went with Yahoo 11 times to ESPN’s 10. Once again, I favored ESPN more early, but Yahoo came on strong late. Overall, there were 21 major differences this time (there could have been more but for length) compared to 14 in the first few rounds, which isn’t surprising. Later rounds are really where rankings get wildly different, and where drafts are truly won and lost. The first 36 guys for each person are going to be essentially the same. It’s your ability to evaluate talent after that where your true worth shines through.

Next week, we finish off this long series looking at rankings with rounds 11-15.