There are four relevant factors that determine every player’s value: skills, health, role and team context. That’s it.
People often look to things like ADP or last year’s stats to evaluate players, but those are merely indicators, not causal factors as to how a player will perform. ADP shows what the market thinks about players, but that people think it does not make it so. A good stat line reveals something about a player’s factors from last year, but don’t let it blind you from considering the four factors anew for 2022.
A player’s skills encompass everything from physical (scouting) attributes like size, speed and athleticism to football skills like route-running, hands and tackle breaking.
Health is not only the player’s current condition, but how he’s held up the past few years, BMI relative to position, usage and style. Deebo Samuel stayed largely healthy last year, for example, but his tackle-breaking style (and partial role as a running back) is a knock against him. Austin Ekeler held up well last year, but he’s a 5-10, 200-pound lightweight coming off a career-high 206 carries.
Role is how a player is used. Does the running back also catch passes and stay in for goal-line carries? Is he on the field for the two-minute drill? Does the receiver get huge volume, get red-zone work and/or deep shots?
Team context is the quality of other players on the team. Offensive lines that open holes, quarterbacks generate red-zone and goal line opportunities, throw passes that allow the receiver to catch without breaking stride — or not.
The combination of the four determine player value before the draft. Of course, health has a huge element of luck, and players can improve — or decline — suddenly year over year. Roles change, and a team you thought was bad can be surprisingly good, or vice-versa.
There is an element of “skating to where the puck is going” you have to incorporate with player evaluation, pricing in some improvement or decline, above and beyond what they or their teams have already established. Perhaps that second-year QB or WR, or that third-year TE will take a big leap. Or that 28-year old back with high mileage no longer has the same burst. But whether you give Joshua Palmer the benefit of prospective Year 2 skills growth or dock Ezekiel Elliott for his 1,650 career carries, it still comes down to the four elements.
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