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Rankings Review: Yahoo vs. ESPN, Part 3

The third and final part comparing Yahoo and ESPN’s current crop of rankings. Every year there are a ton of big differences between the two sites. These differences can be the key in getting some really good players for relatively cheap. ESPN might have a guy ranked 20, while Yahoo has that same guy ranked 35. If you’re using Yahoo, that might be a sign that the player is being undervalued on that site. That could be a good person to target. Of course, the opposite can be true as well. So far, ESPN’s over-ranking on several receivers has forced me to side with Yahoo more than I normally do. Let’s see if that stays true for rounds 11-15.  As the previous two articles, the perspective will be from ESPN.

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

Yahoo rankings (as of 7/21//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 this study, and they should be closer to a half PPR than the alternative.

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

Round Eleven Rankings

ESPN's Rankings have Trey Sermon way too low.

Trey Sermon: ESPN – 126, Yahoo – 61. Verdict: Yahoo

Starting this off with a bang, a massive 65 spot difference for the rookie from Ohio State. Sermon had a fantastic final few collegiate games. His injury that took him out of the championship game was felt in a massive way. I understand the caution from ESPN, as Sermon goes into a crowded backfield. Jerrick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman are gone, but Raheem Mostert (the assumed starter) and Jeff Wilson Jr. are still there, and they added Wayne Gallman. The San Francisco 49ers use a lot of backs in different ways. It’s hard to project Sermon’s workload. 

Still, he’s talented and an all-around back, and should seize the number two job behind Mostert. There’s also a chance he takes the job from Mostert altogether. Even if he doesn’t, Mostert is very injury-prone, missing eight games from various knocks in 2020. That leaves Sermon a lot of chances to get in and do damage. Furthermore, even if he never gets to start, the 49ers run A LOT and Mostert is on the small side. He won’t get all the carries, and Sermon WILL get a lot of touches, and could see himself in line for the high value carries at the goal-line. 

Overall, Sermon has an extremely high ceiling, as the starting RB for the 49ers is a top position in fantasy. If he gets the starting job for an extended period, it would be shocking for him not to be a RB 1. He also has a higher floor than most backup running backs because the 49ers run so much. Mostert can’t handle that type of workload. 61 is high for Sermon, but 126 is WAY too low. Somewhere in the 70’s or 80’s is a more palatable area. He’s a rare RB with that much potential in that range.

Matthew Stafford: ESPN – 128, Yahoo – 103. Verdict: Yahoo 

Stafford is ranked QB 12 in Yahoo, so the last starting QB, while he’s QB 13 in ESPN. Stafford hasn’t seemed to decline in any major way over the past few years, but the team has decayed around him. 2020 was especially rough, with Kenny Golladay missing most of the year. In 2019 he was on pace to be a top five QB in fantasy in the eight games he played. Stafford has top QB potential, and is on the best offensive team he’s ever been on. Above-average running game (although that took a hit with Cam Akers recent injury), one of the best receiving duos in the league with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods and an elite offensive line. I fully expect Stafford to finish as a QB 1, and he has a chance to finish in the top half for sure. 

Parris Campbell: ESPN – 130, Yahoo – 185. Verdict: ESPN

130 is too high for Campbell, but Yahoo has him undrafted in a normal 15-round 12-team league, and I think he’s got just enough potential to be drafted. If you’re drafting the right way, picks 14 and 15 should be defense and kicker, and if you didn’t grab a top tight end pick 13 should be a TE. That leaves just picks 11 and 12 to pick your last bench spots, and Campbell fits that role. He’s a high ceiling, totally bottom floor guy. If Carson Wentz can be fixed by Frank Reich, the Indianapolis Colts passing offense could really explode, and Campbell is in a prime spot to benefit. 

He’s another top performer out of OSU, who hasn’t really been able to put it together in the Pros, mostly due to injury. While his health is questionable, his speed and playmaking aren’t, and that’s very different from Michael Pittman Jr. and 2021 T.Y. Hilton. He’ll have a crucial role, and while Carson Wentz hasn’t shown it off much he does have a big arm, and the few times he’s had deep playmakers like DeSean Jackson’s healthy games or Torrey Smith he found them quite a few times. Even in Campbell’s one game in 2020 he performed pretty well, hauling in six catches for 71 yards and also running once for nine yards. Reich clearly wants to get him involved, health willing, and I think there’s a ton of upside for Campbell. Of course, that upside comes with a zero floor, so buyers beware. 

Round 12 Rankings

Yahoo's rankings have Jakobi Meyers ranked correctly.

Jakobi Meyers: ESPN – 133, Yahoo – 213. Verdict: Yahoo

Nelson Agholor: ESPN – 134, Yahoo – 167. Verdict: ESPN

James White: ESPN – 136, Yahoo – 163. Verdict: ESPN

A big group of New England Patriots skill positions. Overall I’m rather down on the group. As of right now, Cam Newton is still the quarterback, and his ability to throw the ball is questionable at this point in his career. Add to that is the retooled weapons room, with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith present in addition to those three guys, and there probably aren’t enough of attempts to go around. Meyers was the WR 1 before the new guys showed up, and he wasn’t bad but didn’t show enough to stake any sort of real claim on the spot. He’s got the least chance to be relevant.

Agholor had his best season with the Las Vegas Raiders, and should be the top dog receiver in New England. Still, there probably won’t be enough opportunity for Agholor, but he’s got a decent chance. The ceiling isn’t high, but it’s rare to get a high ceiling guy this late, and he could be a serviceable flex for sure.

James White had his lowest volume season in awhile, but he’s still a premier pass catching back, and should be a good safety valve for Newton or Mac Jones. Still, White wasn’t used much last year, so I don’t foresee too much work for him this time either. He does have a running back premium on him though. You probably aren’t going to have many RBs, and there aren’t many that will be potentially playable at this point in time that aren’t straight handcuffs. White is valuable enough to draft for that reason alone. 

Latavius Murray: ESPN – 138, Yahoo – 115. Verdict: ESPN

Gus Edwards: ESPN – 139, Yahoo – 99. Verdict: ESPN

Alexander Mattison: ESPN – 140, Yahoo – 120. Verdict: ESPN

Tony Pollard: ESPN – 141, Yahoo – 104. Verdict: ESPN

The big group of handcuff rankings this time around.. I’m not a giant fan of handcuffs for players that aren’t really injury-prone. If you’ve been holding on to these guys for the past two years, you’ve gotten pretty low value on them, especially Mattison and Pollard. Maybe a game or two a year you can use them, but you are really just banking on the main running back suffering a season-ending injury, which isn’t an amazing bet. If you have the main guy, it’s not a bad thing to go for the handcuff, but taking them in the 10th round is too early for me. 

Murray and Edwards you could consider drafting earlier than the other two. Murray has had the most playable games of these guys, and he offers a very different look to Alvin Kamara. Edwards has had a near equal share of RB carries to J.K. Dobbins many times, so he has a higher floor than the rest. 

Rob Gronkowski: ESPN – 143, Yahoo – 170. Verdict: ESPN

This is quite low on both sites for the guy that finished TE 8 last year. ESPN has him TE 17, while Yahoo has him TE 21. All the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to deal with the fact that there are so many mouths to feed, but Tom Brady is still playing at a very high level, and their situation hasn’t really changed either. Gronk was TE 8 last year, and there shouldn’t be a ton in his way to stop that again. He’s someone that Brady implicitly trusts, especially in the red zone. Both sites have Gronk too low right now. Are you really telling me Irv Smith Jr. or Austin Hooper, also guys in the same situation as last year and who finished TE 21 and 22, deserve to be going before Gronk?

Round Thirteen Rankings

ESPN's rankings have Matt Ryan too low

Matt Ryan: ESPN – 146, Yahoo – 111. Verdict: Yahoo

As meh as Matt Ryan’s season last year was, he still finished QB 12, just on the edge of startable in a standard 12 team league. Yahoo has him at QB 14, which I think is a lot more fair than QB 16, which is where ESPN has him ranked. Matt Ryan is still pretty good, and while he loses Julio Jones, he didn’t have Jones that much last year anyways. In addition, Calvin Ridley is only getting better, and Kyle Pitts is there now, one of the greatest TE prospects ever, who’s basically just a wide receiver. I’m not concerned about Ryan’s weapons, so I think he’s got a shot at being a QB 1. 

Tevin Coleman: ESPN – 149, Yahoo – 185. Verdict: ESPN

Phillip Lindsay: ESPN – 150, Yahoo – 127. Verdict: Yahoo

These guys are both likely to be backups, but that’s not a guarantee right now. Therefore, they are both actually pretty high value, and I’d take both over guys like Tony Pollard and Alexander Mattison. Tevin Coleman especially is right in the mix of things to nab that starting role, and while recently starting New York Jets running back isn’t that much to write home about, getting a  starting running back in the thirteenth round would be insane. 

Lindsay has had two seasons where he got over 1000 rushing yards, which is more than David Johnson, and he’s much younger and probably has less tread on his tires than Johnson or Mark Ingram. Lindsay is a bit too small to be an every down guy, but he could easily be the best runner on this team, and if he can get most of the 1st and 2nd down work that’s valuable, especially around this position. 

Both of these guys would be steals in the thirteenth.

Tyrell Williams: ESPN – 156, Yahoo – 243. Verdict: ESPN

Tyrell Williams should be the default No. 1 receiver on the Detroit Lions, and only faces real competition from T.J. Hockenson and I guess D’Andre Swift in terms of target share. As much slander as Jared Goff gets, Goff has consistently produced fantasy relevant WRs, multiple per year in fact. Of course, that’s most likely down to Kupp, Woods and Sean McVay being great, but Goff still needs to make the throws. 

Williams has had some nice flashes, going over 1000 yards in 2016 and catching a respectable six scores in 14 games played last year. At the end of the day, he’s not a bad flier in this round at all, and probably deserves to get drafted sometimes. Other guys around him in ESPN are guys with much lower upsides like Rashaad Penny and Rashod Bateman, so it’s not like you are losing out on much here. 

Round Fourteen Rankings

Daniel Jones: ESPN – 165, Yahoo – 132. Verdict: Yahoo

I actually like Daniel Jones quite a bit as a streaming option. He’s got a really stacked group of weapons, and his legs aren’t insignificant. He averaged 30 rushing yards per game last year, that’s three free points per game which isn’t bad at all. He’s got four decent-to-good wide receivers, an elite pass catching back and a Pro Bowl tight end, despite how laughable that was. If Jones can’t produce solid numbers this year, he’s likely done in the NFL, but with how deadly his skill positions are I really think he’s got a shot at being a top 12 QB.

Baker Mayfield: ESPN – 166, Yahoo – 126. Verdict: Yahoo

Kirk Cousins: ESPN – 167, Yahoo – 113. Verdict: Yahoo

This might be a trap I always fall in, but all the quarterbacks around here all sound pretty decent so I always end up waiting on a QB. Mayfield is definitely the sketchier of these two. The talent and ability seems to be there, but the attempts he got in 2020 were too low to be a decent fantasy QB most of the time. In year two with Kevin Stefanski, I could easily see the playbook open up and Mayfield allowed to spread his wings a bit, and he’s got a number of capable guys to throw to.

Kirk Cousins was QB 11 last year, and his situation hasn’t changed much. He’s still got Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, so I can’t see Cousins being that much worse than last year. ESPN ranking him QB 20 seems a little insulting given his track record as he’s been better than since becoming a starter in 2015. 

Round Fifteen Rankings

These are defenses in ESPN, so this section will be rankings within the defenses.

Buccaneers D/ST: ESPN – 1, Yahoo – 7. Verdict: Yahoo

This feels like recency bias from ESPN based on how dominant they looked in the Super Bowl. They are a solid group with few weaknesses, but besides a few guys on the defensive line and the pass rushing linebackers, I don’t think the Buccaneers are the BEST defense in the league in terms of playmaking. They were ranked ninth last year amongst defenses, and it’s not like they added anyone significant. A healthy Vita Vea will be the most significant change from last year which is a big deal, but is it enough to jump them eight spots to first?

Rams D/ST: ESPN – 8, Yahoo – 1. Verdict: Yahoo

From my article on how often top five players at each position repeat, over the past seven years a top five defense stays in the top five the next year 22.5% of the time. That was right in the middle ratewise. The Rams were the number one defense last year, and they’ve finished top five four straight years. That’s a good track record, and they haven’t lost anyone incredibly important from last year except maybe John Johnson. They are safe, and should probably be one of the first five D/ST off the board.

Browns D/ST: ESPN 10, Yahoo – 15. Verdict: ESPN

It’s a small difference, but since you probably aren’t drafting two defenses this is the difference between being drafted or not. This defense finished ranked 17 last year, which isn’t great, and a seven spot jump seems unlikely. That being said, most of their additions this year have been on defense, and Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garret are a top tier edge duo. Malik Jackson and first round pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are also good additions along with John Johnson who was PFF’s third best safety last year. If Denzel Ward can stay healthy and regain his form, on paper this defense is very good.

Final Thoughts on Rankings

That was a long series of articles, but we’re finally done. Well, until ESPN’s ACTUAL rankings come out, whenever that will be. Already many of these guys have moved around on both sites, but my overall thoughts on the players should still be helpful. There are a lot of key differences here, and there’s a lot of value to be had in sniffing those out. 

At the end of the day, I went with Yahoo ten times this set, and ESPN 11 times, nearly even. For the entirety of rounds 1-15, I went with ESPN 26 times and Yahoo 30 times. Basically all of the difference was in the fifth round, where ESPN had a few receivers way too high for my taste. Overall though, it was pretty even. That doesn’t mean they had similar rankings, as there were 56 differences major enough to write about, but over the course of 15 rounds I simply favored the two sites about the same.