The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These are players that will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another of the important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out these players, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should underperform their draft position.
Player with 5 Votes
Kyle Rudolph, Min
Mike Brown: Don't get me wrong, Rudolph is solid. I just look at the list of tight ends going just after him (Olsen, Cook, Finley, Bennett, Cameron) and I'm having a tough time understanding why he's going several rounds ahead of most of them. The Vikings brought in Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson, so it's not as if Rudolph is going to see some huge spike in targets. He's a nice player, but there are a dozen Kyle Rudolphs you can get several rounds later.
David Dodds: He scored 9 TDs despite averaging just 9.3 yards per catch and catching only 55% of his targets. A whopping 24 TEs bested his yardage totals in 2012. In fact, 11 of his 16 regular season games saw him recording fewer than 40 yards receiving.
Adam Harstad: Kyle Rudolph failed to crack 500 yards last season, making a fantasy living by scoring TDs at an unsustainable rate. Historically, I'm not a huge fan of guys who are primarily a red zone threat on a terrible passing team.
Matt Waldman: I’d rather have the reliability and quarterback play of Greg Olsen, the upside of Jared Cook, and potential for Antonio Gates to have one last burn of bright light in his career. Rudolph is a nice player, but to place him above Olson and just below Vernon Davis in an offense where Matt Cassel might see time doesn’t make me feel secure about his fantasy value.
Mark Wimer: Kyle Rudolph is overvalued because Christian Ponder's game is falling apart. Also, I have no faith that Matt Cassel would be an upgrade over Ponder if Ponder ends up benched during 2013.
Player with 4 Votes
Antonio Gates, SD
Sigmund Bloom: Gates just isn’t what he used to be. He has lost any explosiveness he had left, and the Chargers also have probably the worst offensive line in the league. With Philip Rivers switching to more quick throws under new head coach Mike McCoy, a slow-twitch tight end like Gates may struggle to get open often enough to get consistent targets. He’s nothing more than safe TE2 to draft behind a risk/reward TE1 like Jared Cook at this late juncture of his career.
Will Grant: Just how many more times can Gates be a top rated fantasy tight end? Last year we finally saw some cracks in the solid wall of performance that Gates had been posting. He posted his lowest yards from scrimmage total since his rookie season, and it was only his three receiving TDS in the final three games of the season that kept him in the top 12 for fantasy tight ends. Without Denario Alexander, Gates will certainly be called on to perform again. But can he answer the bell? Maybe, but I think there are a lot better tight end options available at his point in the draft.
Chad Parsons: Gates is getting by on name value alone at this point in his career. He was downright horrible in terms of efficiency last season and has been on a steep decline since 2010. Gates has not played 16 games in a season since 2009 and is relying more and more on touchdowns to fuel his fading fantasy production. The most regression-worthy statistic for Gates from 2012 was his five red zone touchdowns on just nine targets. Those nine targets were a low-water-mark over the past five seasons and that 56% conversion rate dwarfs his career rate. Especially for an older player, that screams regression for the next season and frankly, without the usual touchdowns, what does Antonio Gates offer in terms of fantasy upside?
Mark Wimer: Antonio Gates' career is coming to a close, and I don't think he'll finish among the top-12 players at his position this year. The team is in transition to a new coaching regime, and there isn't much talent around Gates and Philip Rivers. The Chargers may be a NFL doormat team this year, and I don't want any part of their offense on my fantasy teams.
Players with 3 Votes
Owen Daniels, Hou
James Brimacombe: Daniels is coming off his most productive season in the NFL in 2012 putting up a statline of 62/716/6. He is always consistent but never one that wows you, making for a decent TE2 with little upside.
Will Grant: Daniels had an excellent performance last season, and he returned to the top 10 for fantasy tight ends after being more of a backup for the previous three years. Yet even though it looks like Daniels has become an important part of the Houston passing game again, it looks like rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins and second year WR Keshawn Martin will be competing for passes as well, and even if Houston has another 4000 yard passing season, Daniels could be the odd man out of that group. Daniels looks like a guy that people are drafting this year based on his resurgence from last season, rather than his expected performance this year.
Ryan Hester: The selection of Daniels here isn’t as much about him as it is the guys below him and the tight end position in general. Once the first five tight ends are gone, there’s little value in jumping on any of the remaining players at the position. The difference in standard leagues between TE7 and TE12 in 2012 was 14 points total. The difference between TE7 and TE16 was 29 points. Why select a player like Daniels here when you could get Martellus Bennett or Brandon Pettigrew 1-3 rounds later? And if you don’t feel safe with those guys, grab a high-potential, super-athletic sleeper like Jordan Cameron or Tyler Eifert to pair with them.
Rob Gronkowski, NE
Mike Brown: There are not a ton of great tight end options this season, so it is understandable wanting to roll the dice on the supremely talented Gronkowski. But this many injury woes have got to give one pause. If it was just the forearm, that would be one thing. But the back surgery is something that was almost glossed over due to the insane amount of surgeries he had on his arm. But let me tell you - back surgeries are NEVER things that should be glossed over, no matter how seemingly "minor" they are. There is enough upside with the tight end field that I'd much rather grab a quarterback or another skill guy just to fill my roster with what may be damaged goods all year.
Jeff Haseley: There is a definite concern that Rob Gronkowski could be placed on the PUP list to begin the season, which automatically comes with an inactive status for the first six games. The thought process is to draft Gronkowski and then double up with another capable tight end who you can use for the first six weeks of the season. I am fine with that strategy, but only if the value is too good pass up. He is being drafted in the late second and third rounds, which is too early to take that risk in my opinion.
Jeff Pasquino: Rob Gronkowski is a tough tight end to rank this year, thanks to his numerous surgeries on both his forearm and now his back. When he is 100%, he is the top tight end in the game and a force with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play throwing in his direction quite often. With Tom Brady losing Wes Welker, Gronkowski could see even more action - if he is ready to go each and every week. I would feel better taking Jimmy Graham or Jason Witten first from a risk standpoint, but if both are gone and Gronkowski is there, I would be tempted.
Players with 2 Votes
Jordan Cameron, Cle
Andy Hicks: Cameron keeps seeing his ADP climb higher and higher and he is pushing towards borderline starter status. 26 career receptions, 1 touchdown, a new offense and Brandon Weeden as your quarterback do not make me want to take that risk. Consider that he has only caught 47% of the passes directed his way and I’d like to see a lot more improvement before he is worth that price.
Jason Wood: Two months ago I might have argued for Cameron as a deep sleeper, but his ADP has skyrocketed and now I’m left wondering if the hype has gone too far. Cameron is a physical marvel and new head coach Rob Chudzinski has a reputation for working wonders with his tight ends. Yet, Cameron is a RAW commodity with limited collegiate experience and an inability (thus far) to stay healthy in the pros. Already banged up a bit, I don’t see how anyone can be confident in Cameron as a breakout player. He may have a 10% chance of being great, but you have to think the risk/reward paradigm at taking him TE15 is decidedly against your favor.
Jeff Pasquino: It is just so hard to trust Jermichael Finley. He has had so many chances to be the stud tight end in the top passing attack in the NFL with Aaron Rodgers, but he just has not been able to step up and deliver. Until he gets remotely close he will be a mediocre TE2 for fantasy purposes in my book with so many better options across the league. Green Bay is also going towards a more balanced offense, adding two rookie rushers (Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin), which will likely eat away at the overall Packer passing game.
Aaron Rudnicki: It seems like we’ve been waiting for Finley to reach his potential for years now, but apart from his 8 TD season in 2011 he’s generally been underwhelming. The upside is obviously there as he’s a talented player in a great offense, but he lacks consistency and I’m not sure Rodgers will ever trust him enough to make him a focal point. Rather pass on him here and grab some values at the position later on.
Players with 1 Vote
Martellus Bennett, Chi
Steve Holloway: Before last season, Bennett was lightly used by the Cowboys for four years. His best year for them was his rookie season as he totaled 283 yards and 4 TDs. With the Giants in 2012, he caught a career high 55 passes for 626 yards and 5 TDs, finishing as TE14. Now, he moves over to Chicago signing a free agent contract and will likely be the fourth option of Jay Cutler, easily behind Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, and possibly also behind Alshon Jeffery. With Cutler’s lack of success in Chicago, it is difficult to see his fourth or even third option as someone to seek to draft.
Jared Cook, StL
Steve Holloway: Cook has always had the talent, but historically his production has fallen short of expectations. His career highs are 49 receptions, 759 receiving yards and 4 TDs and he has never finished above TE14. He moves on to the Rams and once again expectations could greatly exceed realistic production.
Vernon Davis, SF
Aaron Rudnicki: Vernon Davis was one of the most disappointing fantasy TEs in the league last year as there were plenty of games when he finished with just 0 or 1 reception. Even though he was healthy, it seemed like he was a forgotten man in the 49ers offense for much of the year, especially after Kaepernick took over at QB. The injury to Michael Crabtree should open up more targets for him this year, and he showed off his potential in the playoffs with a pair of 100+ yard receiving outings, but I’m not convinced enough to draft him this high.
Brandon Myers, NYG
Jason Wood: Brandon Myers is just a guy. He’s a guy who shocked the fantasy world with 79 receptions and 806 yards for the Raiders, but he could only manage a one-year $2.25mm contract as a free agent. The Giants have a hole at the TE position but that doesn’t mean Myers is destined for big numbers. He lacks compelling physical tools, isn’t a particularly great route runner, and isn’t particularly strong at the point of attack. He’s the definition of a low ceiling backup fantasy TE2.
Greg Olsen, Car
Sigmund Bloom: Olsen looked like a clear #2 target in the Carolina pass offense coming into the offseason, but Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards are both having great summers. In addition, it sounds like the Panthers will do more traditional running this year. Olsen should be a fine baseline TE1, but his upside is too limited to merit a pick before ten or more tight ends are off of the board.
Jason Witten, Dal
Andy Hicks: Witten has already turned 31 and history is not kind to aging Tight Ends unless their name is Tony Gonzalez. Shannon Sharpe and Wesley Walls in recent years have had occasional success, but not in consecutive years past the age of 30. Rapid declines occur in most other guys, with Antonio Gates being the most recent example. At his draft slot and with the expectation of top tier returns, I’d see the drafting of Gavin Escobar as a sign that Witten has seen his best days.