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Offseason Extra: Finding winning players

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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Adrian Peterson was one of the best value picks on Draft Day last season. Coming off a torn ACL, he dropped to No. 24 overall based on his Average Draft Position. We know how that worked out as Peterson was the No. 1 Fantasy running back and the NFL's Most Valuable Player.

Peterson also earned another accolade that was important to many Fantasy owners. He had the best win percentage of any player in 2012. Translation: he helped Fantasy owners on CBSSports.com leagues win the most games last season at just over 59 percent.

Every year we like to look back at the win percentage from the previous season to emphasize the importance of hitting on good players with late-round picks and making the right moves on the waiver wire. Everyone knows to draft Arian Foster in Round 1, but a championship owner also grabs a breakout player like Stevan Ridley in Round 6 or adds Danario Alexander when he gets hot off the waiver wire in the middle of the year.

This study is to show how players affected Fantasy leagues and not individual performance. It is based on the winning percentage for Fantasy owners of all players owned in 80 percent or more of leagues on CBSSports.com, which came to about 150 players, and shows total wins and not Fantasy titles. Only paid leagues were considered with at least eight Fantasy teams or more. And the results produced some interesting highlights.

For example, based on ADP, the most successful starting lineup you could have drafted was Drew Brees (54 percent win percentage) in Round 1, Peterson (59.2 percent) in Round 2, Brandon Marshall (56 percent) in Round 3, Doug Martin (56.5 percent) in Round 4, Demaryius Thomas (54.1 percent) in Round 5, Ridley (52.9 percent) in Round 6 and Tony Gonzalez (53.2 percent) in Round 7. That lineup wouldn't have guaranteed you a Fantasy championship, but you would have likely been the No. 1 seed in your league.

To fully understand this study, you have to realize that the players with the highest win percentage were all part of rosters that were likely already successful, which accounted for their high total. Those owners who drafted well also made quality additions off the waiver wire, which is why players like David Wilson (54.6 percent), Knowshon Moreno (54.5 percent), Alexander (54.3 percent) and Pitta (53.9 percent) were all in the Top 20 of win percentage.

Pitta didn't have more Fantasy points than Jimmy Graham (52.7 percent), but he did contribute to more successful Fantasy teams. The same goes for Wilson and Moreno compared to Ray Rice (52.7 percent) and LeSean McCoy (49.6 percent).

Some of the bigger disappointments based on ADP were Aaron Rodgers (51.7 percent), McCoy (49.6 percent), Darren McFadden (47.0 percent), Jordy Nelson (48.4 percent), Larry Fitzgerald (46.2 percent), Antonio Gates (47.0 percent) and DeMarco Murray (48.2 percent). Injuries played a part for guys like McCoy, McFadden, Nelson and Murray, Rodgers and Gates got off to slow starts, and Fitzgerald was the victim of poor quarterback play.

Another factor to consider is when owners lose early in their leagues, even with the potential of a good team, they give up making moves on the waiver wire. We don't like those kinds of Fantasy owners. We want dedicated winners. And finding winners for your Fantasy team is what we're here to do.

Top 50 overall

Win percentage leaders (overall)
2012 ADP 2012 Rank 2013 Proj. ADP
Adrian Peterson (59.2%) 12 1 1-5 overall
Doug Martin (56.5%) 19 2 1-5 overall
Brandon Marshall (56.0%) 10 2 22-27 overall
Arian Foster (55.7%) 1 3 1-5 overall
A.J. Green (55.3%) 8 4 20-25 overall
Bears DST (55.0%) 3 1 181-186 overall
Calvin Johnson (54.9%) 1 1 8-12 overall
David Wilson (54.6%) 39 46 36-40 overall
Knowshon Moreno (54.5%) N/A 35 Not drafted
Danario Alexander (54.3%) N/A 37 86-90 overall
Dez Bryant (54.2%) 15 3 22-27 overall
Rob Gronkowski (54.2%) 2 2 30-35 overall
Marshawn Lynch (54.2%) 9 4 1-5 overall
Demaryius Thomas (54.1%) 16 5 22-27 overall
Drew Brees (54.0%) 3 1 15-20 overall
Dennis Pitta (53.9%) N/A 7 80-85 overall
Peyton Manning (53.7%) 9 4 24-29 overall
Bryce Brown (53.7%) N/A 42 90-95 overall
Vincent Jackson (53.6%) 26 6 36-40 overall
Tom Brady (53.6%) 2 3 26-30 overall

Biggest surprise: Before looking at this list, I would have said some of the players with the best win percentage were C.J. Spiller, Alfred Morris, Colin Kaepernick, Cecil Shorts and Randall Cobb. All were late-round picks or free agent pickups, and while they made the Top 50, they were lower than expected. That's only because in the majority of leagues on CBSSports.com they were added to teams that likely did not have the same caliber of talent as players like Wilson, Moreno, Alexander and Pitta. Still, when you look at the top names, the players who should jump out at you were the ones with low ADP numbers at their position or designated as not drafted. That shows how important they were as late-round picks or free agent additions to teams that finished with winning records.
Biggest disappointment: Rodgers not making the Top 50 was a huge disappointment since he was the No. 1 quarterback drafted based on his ADP. He got off to a slow start last year -- which likely cost his Fantasy owners a few victories -- and this illustrates our bigger point about waiting to draft a quarterback. Brees was the top quarterback in win percentage, but he was just No. 15 overall. Tom Brady also made the Top 20, but you could have built a better team by waiting on quarterbacks. You don't need an elite quarterback to be successful, and drafting a quarterback after Round 1 will continue to be the right move this season.
Looking ahead to 2013: The good thing about this list was also that the stars performed at a high level. Sure, guys like Wilson, Moreno and Alexander were at the top of the list, but you like headliners to matter when you draft them in the first couple of rounds. We expect a similar outcome this season from guys like Peterson, Foster, Martin, Calvin Johnson and the like, but go into Draft Day also prepared to get good value with your mid-round picks. And then, of course, be smart on the waiver wire when a talented player shows up out of nowhere.

Quarterback

Win percentage leaders (QBs)
2012 ADP 2012 Rank 2013 Proj. ADP
Drew Brees (54.0%) 3 1 15-20 overall
Peyton Manning (53.7%) 9 4 24-29 overall
Tom Brady (53.6%) 2 3 26-30 overall
Russell Wilson (53.0%) 24 9 65-70 overall
Matt Ryan (52.8%) 6 5 46-50 overall
Colin Kaepernick (52.6%) N/A 25 70-75 overall
Robert Griffin III (51.7%) 12 7 72-77 overall
Aaron Rodgers (51.7%) 1 2 16-20 overall
Tony Romo (51.3%) 11 8 68-73
Josh Freeman (50.8%) 18 13 155-200 overall

Biggest surprise: Russell Wilson proved to be one of the best stories of 2012. Not only was he a surprise to win the starting job in Seattle last season ahead of free agent Matt Flynn, but he ended up being a standout Fantasy quarterback. If not for a slow start, Wilson might have had the best win percentage of any quarterback. He was either a late-round pick or a free-agent addition, and he helped a lot of Fantasy owners have a successful run with possibly a championship since he finished the season with at least 27 Fantasy points in each of his final three regular season games.
Biggest disappointment: Aside from Rodgers, you have to look at Cam Newton as one of the biggest letdowns of this group. Like Rodgers, a slow start hurt many Newton owners, and they never recovered since he had just three games with more than 17 Fantasy points through Week 10. We expect him to rebound this season, and hopefully he will play at a high level from Week 1 on. Also, not making the Top 15 quarterbacks were high draft picks like Matthew Stafford (47.7 percent) and Eli Manning (45.5). Those two quarterbacks were busts in 2012 and ruined a lot of Fantasy seasons.
Looking ahead to 2013: Robert Griffin III as the No. 12 quarterback drafted, Wilson at No. 24 and Colin Kaepernick not being drafted show the value you can get by waiting on quarterbacks. This year, like always, some quarterbacks considered No. 2 options will emerge as starters in the majority of leagues. Don't be surprised if Michael Vick, Jay Cutler or Philip Rivers rebound or a young quarterback like Ryan Tannehill or Sam Bradford outperforms his projections. Andy Dalton or Carson Palmer could also be in the mix. The point is there are a lot of good quarterbacks who could be great, so don't feel you have to reach with an early-round pick.

Running back

Win percentage leaders (RBs)
2012 ADP 2012 Rank 2013 Proj. ADP
Adrian Peterson (59.2%) 12 1 1-5 overall
Doug Martin (56.5%) 19 2 1-5 overall
Arian Foster (55.7%) 1 3 1-5 overall
David Wilson (54.6%) 39 46 36-40 overall
Knowshon Moreno (54.5%) N/A 35 Not drafted
Marshawn Lynch (54.2%) 9 4 1-5 overall
Bryce Brown (53.7%) N/A 42 90-95 overall
C.J. Spiller (52.9%) 36 7 6-10 overall
Stevan Ridley (52.9%) 25 9 8-12 overall
Trent Richardson (52.8%) 15 10 6-10 overall

Biggest surprise: Beanie Wells played in only eight games in 2012 and had double digits in carries in just four of them. Yet twice from Week 12 to the end of the season he had at least 16 Fantasy points in a standard league. The owners who had Wells for those games got five touchdowns out of him against the Rams and Lions, and clearly he was useful. Also, Bryce Brown having a higher win percentage than McCoy shows when each was valuable. While McCoy was better all season, when he went out with a concussion in Week 12 that allowed Brown to have two monster games (53 Fantasy points combined against Carolina and Dallas), which propelled many owners at a crucial time.
Biggest disappointment: Here are the running backs drafted ahead of Peterson last season in order: Foster, Rice, McCoy, Chris Johnson, McFadden, Murray, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch, Steven Jackson and Fred Jackson. Only Foster and Rice helped Fantasy owners win more than 50 percent of their games last season, and Peterson was clearly better than this entire group. Martin was someone I liked prior to the season, but I didn't expect him to be the No. 2 running back in Fantasy points and win percentage. He was a steal with a pick in Round 4 on average.
Looking ahead to 2013: The running backs on this list who aren't going to surprise you like they did in 2012 include Wilson, Spiller, Ridley and Morris. All have the chance to be starting running backs this season, and they will all be drafted in the first three rounds. McCoy, Forte and Johnson all have the chance for bounce-back seasons, especially McCoy and Forte if they can stay healthy, because their offenses are getting an upgrade this year. Johnson also benefits with an improved offensive line, and he could return as a winning player this season if he plays as expected.

Wide receiver

Win percentage leaders (WRs)
2012 ADP 2012 Rank 2013 Proj. ADP
Brandon Marshall (56.0%) 10 2 22-27 overall
A.J. Green (55.3%) 8 4 20-25 overall
Calvin Johnson (54.9%) 1 1 8-12 overall
Danario Alexander (54.3%) N/A 37 86-90 overall
Dez Bryant (54.2%) 15 3 22-27 overall
Demaryius Thomas (54.1%) 16 5 22-27
Vincent Jackson (53.6%) 26 6 36-40 overall
Reggie Wayne (52.9%) 29 16 46-50 overall
Cecil Shorts (52.5%) N/A 21 75-79 overall
Randall Cobb (52.4%) 52 18 40-45 overall

Biggest surprise: The Colts receivers in Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton proved to be more valuable to Fantasy owners than the Falcons duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White. Jones and White had more Fantasy points, but drafting Wayne in Round 7 on average and adding Hilton off the waiver wire helped Fantasy owners win more games. You knew Andrew Luck was going to help the passing game in Indianapolis after Peyton Manning left for Denver, but the Colts receivers played better than expected. And it's not like Jones and White were disappointments as both were above 51 percent in win percentage, it's just that the Colts duo was better. Another successful pair was Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in Denver, and they benefitted from getting Manning along with both being third-year breakouts.
Biggest disappointment: Injuries kept many prominent receivers out of the Top 30 in win percentage compared to their ADP. Of the Top 15 receivers drafted last season in order -- Calvin Johnson, Jones, Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, White, A.J. Green, Nelson, Marshall, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Percy Harvin, Marques Colston and Dez Bryant -- Fitzgerald, Jennings, Nelson, Nicks and Harvin all had a win percentage lower than 48.5 percent. Injuries played a role in most of their struggles, but it was tough to draft all of these guys in the first five rounds and watch them miss time or underperform. Have faith, though, as Fitzgerald, Nelson, Nicks and Harvin all have the chance to bounce back this year. We're not expecting the same with Jennings since his move from Green Bay to Minnesota is a downgrade.
Looking ahead to 2013: Receiver is the one position where multiple difference makers can appear throughout the season and have sustained success. In 2011 it was Nelson, Cruz and Laurent Robinson who helped many Fantasy owners after not being drafted in the majority of leagues (they were also Top 10 in win percentage that season), and last year it was guys like Alexander, Shorts, Cobb, Hilton, Josh Gordon and James Jones. There will be a handful of receivers this season who won't get drafted in the majority of leagues that will end up starting for you -- some potential candidates include Ryan Broyles, Rueben Randle, Aaron Dobson, Joe Morgan and Vincent Brown -- and they could end up on this list next year.

Tight end

Win percentage leaders (TEs)
2012 ADP 2012 Rank 2013 Proj. ADP
Rob Gronkowski (54.2%) 2 2 30-35 overall
Dennis Pitta (53.9%) N/A 7 80-85 overall
Tony Gonzalez (53.2%) 10 3 56-60 overall
Jimmy Graham (52.7%) 1 1 16-20 overall
Brandon Myers (52.5%) N/A 10 150-155 overall
Jason Witten (51.5%) 7 5 61-66 overall
Kyle Rudolph (50.8%) 19 9 97-102 overall
Heath Miller (50.6%) 22 4 Not drafted
Greg Olsen (50.6%) 13 6 107-112 overall
Jermaine Gresham (50.5%) 12 11 168-172 overall

Biggest surprise: Waiting on tight end paid off from a win percentage standpoint as nine of the Top 15 were drafted in Round 8 or later or not drafted at all. Gonzalez turned into a Draft Day steal when, once again, he defied his age at 36 to be an elite tight end with seven games with double digits in Fantasy points. Rob Gronkowski was still part of many standout Fantasy rosters even though he missed five games in the regular season with a broken forearm -- including the Fantasy postseason -- but was still the No. 1 tight end. It helped that he finished the season with seven games with double digits in Fantasy points of the 11 he played.
Biggest disappointment: You can see the two prominent names not on this list in Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis. In fact, six of the Top 10 tight ends drafted on average -- Gates, Aaron Hernandez, Davis, Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew and Fred Davis -- all were under 50 percent in win percentage and struggled in 2012. Only Gates finished as a Top 12 tight end in Fantasy points of that group. At least Hernandez and Fred Davis missed time for injuries, the others were just busts. We expect Vernon Davis, Gates and even Finley to rebound this year, but Pettigrew and Fred Davis are No. 2 tight ends coming into the season. Both have a lot to prove, especially Davis coming off last year's torn Achilles.
Looking ahead to 2013: There are two approaches to drafting tight end. The aggressive owner will target Jimmy Graham and Gronkowski (assuming he's healthy with his back and forearm) in the first two rounds. The passive owner will wait until the right spot to grab a tight end, whether it's a mid-round pick with Gonzalez or Jason Witten or a late-round selection with Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen or Gates. As you can see with win percentage, both strategies can work if you have the right roster in place. We expect Vernon Davis to return as a better Fantasy option this season now that Michael Crabtree (Achilles) is hurt, and look for Jared Cook to also be a winning Fantasy option following his move from Tennessee to St. Louis.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg .

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