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.
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Players Receiving 4 Votes
Jimmy Graham, Seattle
Alexander: In theory, TE12 isn't an awful price to pay for Graham. It's exactly where he ranked last season on a per game basis, and we know from his years in New Orleans his upside is TE1. In theory. But in practice, Graham received five targets or less in five out of 11 games played in his first year with the Seahawks. He scored only two touchdowns and was held to 41 receiving yards or less six times. The hyper-efficient version of Seattle's passing attack we saw down the stretch last season may very well return in 2016, but will Graham be healthy enough to contribute? Cadillac Williams, Ryan Williams, Nate Allen and Victor Cruz are recent examples of players who struggled to get back following patellar tendon surgery. As tempting as Graham's name might look in low-end TE1 territory, players like Eric Ebron, Dwayne Allen, and Martellus Bennett figure to play significant roles in quality offenses and come with none of the injury concerns.
Simpkins: Even deeply discounted from where he was going last season, Graham does not present value in the tenth round. When Graham was healthy, Seattle seemed determined to use him to block and thereby shore up one of the worst lines in football. Things remain unsettled along the offensive line headed into 2016. Then there is the injury-- a patellar tendon tear that ended his 2015 campaign. The chances of returning from such a devastating event to play at the previous level of athleticism are not good. Victor Cruz is a recent example of how hard it is to recover from this injury.
Wimer: The fact is that far more NFL players have had their careers seriously degraded/ended by patellar tendon ruptures than those few who have come back to be productive after this particular injury/surgical repair. Graham may well begin the season on PUP, and then have to work his way into 'football shape' midway through the season. IF he is progressing well in his rehab during training camp and looks close to returning to the field I may move him up somewhat, but I'm not hopeful this will happen.
Wood: Drafting Jimmy Graham as a TE1 is akin to forgetting that 2015 ever happened. Graham tore his patellar tendon in Week 11 and was lost for the season. Our injury experts Jene Bramel and Craig Zumsted are doubtful that Graham can return to form; at least in the early part of the season. Optimists will point to other players who returned from a torn patellar tendon to thrive thereafter…except THERE ARE NONE. And it's not as though Graham was lighting things up before his injury. He had 41 receptions for 491 yards and 2 touchdowns in 10 games.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay
Haseley: The Buccaneers top tight end is loaded with talent, but he can't seem to put it all together when it counts. He also can't stay healthy, missing eight games over the last two years. Some circles have claimed that Seferian-Jenkins has struggled with the execution of the Bucs playbook and there's a small gathering of people who believe his time with the team is numbered. There are more negatives than positives happening in Seferian-Jenkins corner at this time, which is enough for me to shy away from him at his current ADP. Plus teammate Cameron Brate is rapidly becoming more involved in the offense, which could be the strategy Tampa Bay is using if and when Seferian-Jenkins is no longer on the team.
Howe: Seferian-Jenkins certainly has talent to spare. A physical marvel with great size-adjusted speed/agility scores and a devastating catch radius, Seferian-Jenkins has converted a whopping 14.3% of his catches into TDs – numbers right in line with his dominant college career. But today, he's a massive injury case with 16 missed games and just 42 catches through two NFL seasons. Offseason incidents (being kicked out of practice, among other coaching run-ins) further cloud his 2016 value, especially with Cameron Brate possibly emerging as a trusted red zone weapon. Seferian-Jenkins has the ability to explode, but he also might not be long for the Buccaneers' plans.
Waldman: The big tight end isn't nearly as fluid as reputed. He might move well long enough to impress beat reporters and former players when he's running around in practices without legit contact but before long he's in the training room for extended periods of time. The tight end has also interacted poorly with fans in social media, which could be a sign he's not mature enough to focus on his game without easy distractions. The social media angle is little more than a minor layer in the total picture for Seferian-Jenkins. The larger issue is that Cameron Brate is a more fluid receiver who has developed better rapport with Jameis Winston in the passing game. So is the fact that Kenny Bell has enough promise from the slot to render the tight end position into a niche role in Tampa, limiting Seferian-Jenkins' upside.
Wood: Sefarian-Jenkins may not make the 53-man roster. Multiple beat writers have suggested that Sefarian-Jenkins is on the shortest of leashes and must completely turn his focus, maturity and commitment around in training camp to retain a role. Is that the kind of tight end you want to bank on for an upside breakthrough? I certainly don't think so. If you want to take a flier on a Buccaneers tight end late in drafts, turn your attention to Cameron Brate.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Gary Barnidge, Cleveland
Feery: Gary Barnidge was one of the bigger fantasy surprises of 2015, and that's led to some serious optimism for his prospects for an encore in 2016. The Browns will be installing a new offense courtesy of head coach Hue Jackson, and will also likely see a new quarterback at the helm in the form of Robert Griffin III. Barnidge may very well still have a big role in 2016, but the Browns went out of their way to load up on wide receivers in this year's draft, a serious sore spot for the team in 2015. In short, those expecting another season of Top 10 tight end production out of Barnidge may be disappointed with this season's output, but you could do much worse for a TE2 on draft day.
Kuczynski: Barnidge came out of nowhere last year at the age of 30 and put up numbers that surpassed all of his previous 6 seasons combined. I'm reminded of another player like this- 2010 Brandon Lloyd who did little before and little after his break out year late in his career. While he may still get a reasonable number of targets, the Browns might have the worst QB situation in the league. Add to the fact that they lost two star offensive lineman, so Barnidge may be asked to block more, and there are no proven players in the receiving corps, so he may get a lot more attention from defenses than he did last year.
Pasquino: I am avoiding everyone on the Cleveland Browns' offense this year (again). Even though Barnidge had a stellar year in 2015 (79 catches, 1,043 yards, nine touchdowns), the Browns once again face issues with their offense and, in particular, their quarterback situation. Barnidge is going to be the top receiver for Cleveland, but unless the Browns improve the running game and under center, defenses are going to do everything they can to blanket Barnidge and force the ball elsewhere. I expect Barnidge to perform as a lower-end TE1 in 2016 and not be worth his current ADP.
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh
Holloway: Ladarius Green signed a four-year $20 million contract with only $4.75 million in guarantees with the Steelers in March. He is a much more athletic tight end than the recently retired Heath Miller and presents match-up problems and the ability to go deep. However, he caught only 77 passes in his four years with the Chargers, with his career high of 37 coming last season. He will have a lot of competition for targets with Antonio Brown being Roethlisberger's comfort zone and two great receiving running backs.
Waldman: The Steelers' new tight end has difficulty working the underneath zones. He gets bumped off course and re-routed by linebackers too often. Green also didn't understand the nuances required to work zone coverage well enough to develop a strong rapport with Philip Rivers. Ben Roethlisberger has been used to working with a tight end Heath Miller's smarts about the game as a short and intermediate weapon. Green's speed and mobility are tantalizing for fantasy owners but the Steelers scheme will have to adjust to Green to get the most from him and most offensive coordinators prefer to force the player to adjust to the scheme--even if scouts often see this mismatch coming from miles away. If Pittsburgh moves Green around the formation enough to simplify the tight end's assignments, it could make Green worth the current hype. Right now, I'm skeptical the transition will be a smooth one.
Wimer: Green had ankle surgery during the offseason, and has missed the entire course of OTAs/minicamp during the spring. Not exactly an auspicious start to rebooting his career in Pittsburgh. Also, Jesse James has potential to siphon off touches from Green. This is not a situation I intend to invest in during 2016.
Greg Olsen, Carolina
Hicks: The two major risk factors for Greg Olsen this year are the return of Kelvin Benjamin and his advancing age. Olsen took full advantage of the absence of Benjamin last year to post career highs in receiving yards and fantasy ranking. Benjamin returns, however, and at age 31 there is no way that we can see any improvement in Olsen this year. More than likely he will be on a decline. Maybe a steady one, maybe a steep one. His current draft slot expects him to do better than he did last year. A tall order indeed. Jump off now before it is too late.
Ingel: Olsen is a great player and certainly one of the leagues best tight ends, but last season he was essentially the only game in town in the passing attack. The year before, the Panthers were the 2015 Jaguars, playing from behind often and putting up major garbage time numbers. This season I don't see them playing from behind often and the team gets Kelvin Benjamin back from injury and HC Ron Rivera said that Devin Funchess is "light years" ahead of where he was as a rookie. Once again, I like Olsen, but I'd rather wait a few rounds and grab Travis Kelce, Coby Fleener, Ladarius Green or a number of other tight ends later.
Parsons: Olsen is one of the Steady Eddie fantasy performers of his position in recent seasons, especially the last two averaging around 80 receptions, more than 1,000 yards, and 6-7 touchdowns annually. This season is different, however, as the target competition will be more fierce in Carolina. Kelvin Benjamin returns to the lineup (145 targets in 2014) and Devin Funchess was admittedly lost during his rookie season. Reports are Funchess is on an uptick track for his sophomore season. Olsen also enters his age 31 season, one of the bigger historical drop-offs when projecting peak seasons for tight ends. Paying TE3 prices is giving no wiggle room for a target drop-off or career arc slide.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee
Bloom: Walker was a surprise strong TE1 last year, but that was on a Titans team that failed to get consistent play from their wide receivers or running game. Both should be improved this year, and Walker will be 32 when the season opens. His 94-1088 line will probably look like a career year when his it's all said and done, so there are better options of both the more expensive and cheaper variety.
Hester: Walker's 2015 season was buoyed by a huge target share on a team with unproven and unimpressive wide receivers. This season, the team has said they plan to run as often as game script will allow, which should hurt Walker. Even if you're of the mind that they will be a poor team again and will have to throw more often than they desire, Walker is joined by an emerging Dorial Green-Beckham and free agent signee Rishard Matthews. Kendall Wright and Harry Douglas are also still in town. I'd prefer Gary Barnidge if you're looking for a tight end that has little target competition on a bad team or Julius Thomas for his red zone acumen, both of whom are being drafted later than Walker.
Pasquino: The Titans are expected to be very run-heavy this coming season, which really limits the upside for all Tennessee receivers. Walker had over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns last year, but expecting him to approach those marks again this coming season may be an overestimation. Let someone else grab Walker in the Top 7-8 picks and target lower options on your draft board for a much cheaper price.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Jordan Reed, Washington
Howe: You can have all the Jordan Reed you'd like; I'm mostly fading him at this ADP. Not only are his 2015 numbers (23 red zone targets and a 12.6% TD rate) likely unsustainable – he's also one of fantasy football's most-flagged injury risks. With at least five known recent concussions and a history of hamstring woes, Reed is anything but a safe fourth-round dice roll. Odds are, you'll pay a solid WR2 cost for mid-TE1 numbers. That's production you could chase and replace 5-10 rounds later with a number of intriguing options.
Simpkins: Out of everyone considered, Reed was the easiest choice for the overvalued label, not because of his play, but because of the perils that come with his ownership. While he finally had the breakout year his athletic profile promised in 2015, he suffered yet another concussion. The latest one was his fifth in the last five years. One more concussion could mean that Reed experiences a prolonged absence from play. Having never played a complete NFL season due to injuries, it's more likely than not that Reed will miss games this year. Owners need to take Reed at the beginning of the fourth round to acquire his services, which is just too high a price to pay for a player with so many significant risk factors.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati
Holloway: There is concern about Eifert's recovery from his May ankle surgery. He might miss most of the pre-season and possibly a few games. Even if he can return early, he might be limited initially. After scoring only 2 touchdowns in 16 games over his first two seasons, he scored 13 touchdowns in only 13 games last year. The anticipated reduction in touchdowns along with his off-season surgery is enough to slide him back.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
Hester: Like the rest of Philadelphia's offense, Ertz will lose volume due to the departure of Chip Kelly and his lightning-fast tempo. Ertz's 2015 numbers (particularly the surprisingly-high 75 receptions) were boosted by an unsustainable 30 catches in his last three games. Philadelphia's fantasy output was also assisted by plenty of game scripts in which they trailed last season. While they aren't a great candidate for a postseason turnaround, they probably won't be much worse, so there isn't much room for improvement on that front. I'd prefer Julius Thomas and Ladarius Green to Ertz, despite them being drafted after him.
Rob Gronkowski, New England
Bloom: It pains me to write it, but Gronkowski might not be worth a first round pick this year. The pack, led by Jordan Reed, is closer to Gronkowski than it has been since he was considered the consensus TE1, and Gronkowski has a new running mate who can also dominant in the red zone in Martellus Bennett. Gronkowski not giving the advantage over TE12 to justify taking him in the first seems likely this year.
Julius Thomas, Jacksonville
Fahey: A fully healthy and fully fit Julius Thomas is a very valuable player. That Julius Thomas didn't exist in 2015. He appeared to eat his signing bonus before suffering an injury to start the season. Believing in Thomas is believing that he didn't lose motivation after cashing in during free agency. Even if you believe that, he will still be competing for targets with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee while Chris Ivory steals touchdown opportunities in the redzone.
Jason Witten, Dallas
Hicks: Jason Witten is a hall of fame Tight End in an era of excellent receiving Tight Ends. At age 34, however, he has been in obvious decline for years and dragged every ounce of ability from his body. The Cowboys lack targets, meaning that Witten's decline is likely to continue to be slower than would be expected. His touchdown numbers and yards per catch production though are enough to indicate that he could be in his last year in the NFL and rarely does that produce a quality fantasy season.