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Strategy Roundtable: Early-round Bust Pick

Footballguys staff members offer their thoughts on early picks who could bust

No one wants to blow an early round selection. Name a Top 20 player who you are avoiding. Why?

Chad Parsons: My pick is DeAndre Hopkins. Houston was No.9 in pass attempts last year, an attempt figure I can see dropping by 40-50 passes. Secondly, Houston has Jaelen Strong entering his second season with strong reports. Will Fuller was drafted in the first round. Finally, Lamar Miller offers a substantial upgrade in the backfield over all non-Arian Foster options who logged most of the carries. There are more viable weapons in Houston than at any point in Hopkins' career to-date.

At 7.9%, Hopkins has not been a noteworthy touchdown scorer in his career. At near 10%, 2015 marks Hopkins' best season in the touchdown department. I am very wary of players coming off a career-high touchdown season. Hopkins was also dead last in the NFL for wide receivers in yards-after-the-catch per reception. Drafting a wide receiver highly in fantasy means securing a high ceiling and floor. I do not see a top-5 ceiling for Hopkins this season - his sticker price - and project his floor outside the top-15.

Matt Waldman: LeVeon Bell. If he falls to me after the first 25 picks, I'll consider because I agree he can be a top-five producer every week thereafter. But the risk-reward of waiting a month to get him as he's coming off a knee injury and not practicing with the team makes him too expensive for my taste in the first two rounds of a draft.

Mark Wimer: I agree with everything Matt said above about Bell, and I'll add that besides the knee injury worries, there's also a strong knucklehead factor in play here - he said after his bust for driving under the influence of marijuana that he didn't know you could get a DUI for smoking dope and then driving! And so far the story on the missed drug test is that it is not one missed test, but several - and the league is quite clear in the rules that a missed test counts as a failed test for those in the substance abuse protocols.

Either Bell hasn't bothered to learn the rules, or he thinks he's above the rules, or he's just foolish - but none of the preceding bode well for his ability to stay clean, abide by the substance abuse protocols, and avoid further suspensions. There is a non-trivial risk that Bell will wind up with another, longer suspension if/when he goes off the rails. And that suspension could very well be here in 2016.

No thanks, I'm not drafting Bell for a host of reasons - and certainly not in the top 20.

Andy Hicks: Lamar Miller for me. The Dolphins didn't give him the opportunity to be the full time back, instead letting him fight it out with the likes of Daniel Thomas. The Texans signed him to a relatively cheap contract for a feature back, so either the Dolphins don't know what they are doing or they know something we don't. I favor the insider knowledge until proven otherwise.

Stephen Holloway: Running backs are my preferred position to let slide below their ADP and Devonta Freeman is the primary one that slides the farthest. As the staff's overall RB5, I am the lowest ranker at RB10. As a rookie, Freeman had only one game with double digit carries and not a single game with at least 40 yards rushing. His break-out season saw him total 43 yards rushing in the team's first two games where he played behind rookie Tevin Coleman. The Coleman got hurt and Freeman exploded. Even so, his last 100-yard rushing game was in week 7. For four games in weeks 9-14, he managed only 41 carries and 142 yards rushing. Then, in the final three games despite having 71 carries, he totaled only 210 yards rushing, under 3.0 ypc. The likelihood of a closer split of the carries between Coleman and Freeman as well as Freeman's slide after his torrid start give me pause for him to under perform expectations in 2016.

Jason Wood: Jamaal Charles.. I've done more than 70 MFL10s already and haven't drafted Charles once. While I realize he's not the only Top 20 selection with injury questions, I just don't like the setup. He's torn his ACL twice. He's getting old. He's in a conservative offense with not one, but two backups who were re-signed this offseason in free agency. If Charles is healthy, he certainly has the skill set to dominate again, but I won't be banking on it.

Chris Kuczynski: I agree 100% with Jason about Jamaal Charles - I am not touching him in the 2nd round. His history of two torn ACLs (he is probably not going to participate much in practice or games before week 1), he is 29 with lots of mileage, and West and Ware behind him filled in great last year in his absence. The Chiefs would be smart to keep Charles fresh even if he is fully healthy, so he will start to give up goalline touches to Ware and change of pace duties to both Ware and West. Not to be overlooked, the Chiefs play in a division with two of the best defensive lines in football with the Broncos and Raiders, and since the Chiefs have Alex Smith, opponents will focus on stopping the run. Your 2nd round pick RB should be a bell cow, and I just don't see that for Charles moving forward.

John Mamula: Jason and Chris nailed it with the analysis on Jamaal Charles. I have zero interest in Charles at his current ADP, RB8 in the second round. There are just two many question marks for Charles this season. How will he bounce back from his second ACL surgery? How many touches will he receive in the Chiefs offense now with Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West competing with additional snaps? Andy Reid has a track record of ignoring Charles in certain game script. Too much risk for a second round pick when you can have a similar floor of production at the RB position with players such as Mark Ingram, C.J. Anderson, and LeSean McCoy, in the third round.

Phil Alexander: Doug Martin always seems to come off the board before I'm comfortable taking him. It's not that Martin is overvalued as the RB9 (he was last year's RB4 in PPR leagues), but I prefer my second round pick to offer more in the way of a weekly ceiling. Despite leading the NFC in rushing last season, Martin finished with more than 20 fantasy points in just three out of 16 games. With Charles Sims locked in as the main pass catching back in Tampa, Martin's big games are almost entirely touchdown dependent. Maybe the Tampa Bay offense is on an upward trajectory as the narrative suggests, and Martin will get more goal-line opportunities this season. Maybe Jameis Winston won't poach 36% of the team's carries from inside the five-yard line again. And maybe Martin (who missed a combined 15 games from 2013-2014) will put together back-to-back healthy seasons for the first time in his career. Seems like a lot of maybes for a player who is frequently a top-20 overall pick.

Ryan Hester: A player I never seem to be drafting in mock drafts or real leagues is Jordy Nelson. While he should be back this week, his absence thus far has been troubling. It has been attributed not to the knee in which he tore his ACL last year but to tendinitis in his other knee. Nelson could end up being perfectly healthy in advance of Week 1, and even conceding that point, there are still some wide receivers below him in consensus ADP who I prefer. Brandon Marshall and Keenan Allen, for instance, are players who I would select ahead of Nelson. While Nelson isn't a true "bust" candidate, it feels safer to grab some other receivers being drafted in the same neighborhood.

Dan Hindery: While I don't think he will be a complete bust, Rob Gronkowski is going too early in drafts this year when you take into account his risk vs. reward. He will be without Tom Brady for one third of the fantasy regular season and is likely to see his stats dip with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. He also is going to have more competition for red zone targets with Martellus Bennett back on the team. Tight end is also fairly deep this year and Jordan Reed could put up similar numbers and is going off the board a full two rounds later in drafts. Gronkowski is not lapping the field at tight end like he once did. Reed was right there with him last year and players like Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen and Tyler Eifert were not too far behind. Plus, we cannot forget that Gronkowski has a long injury history and is at a much higher risk of injury than the receivers being drafted right around him.

Chris Feery: I’ll second Chad’s call for avoiding DeAndre Hopkins. He’s being drafted way too high for my tastes, and I’m not optimistic that he’ll provide the return on investment to justify it. Hopkins has All-World talent and will receive all the targets he can handle, I’m just not optimistic on the Texans offense as a whole. They handed the keys to Brock Osweiler in the offseason, and I’m not convinced that he’ll be an upgrade over Brian Hoyer. The situation is a clear avoid for me. I’ll be bypassing Hopkins when the opportunity presents itself.

Justin Howe: I'm completely out on Ezekiel Elliott at his wild price point. Even discounting the fact that I almost always target a WR in Round 1, I still hate the pick. Elliott looks poised to be a workhorse, sure, but he's priced ahead of proven workhorse RBs - ones we already know are good - as well as receivers that would outscore even a dazzling rookie year. And there's inherent risk in investing in the Dallas offense. Tony Romo seems to love breaking bones, and he's nearing 40; I don't make it a point to predict injuries, but I doubt he's getting more durable. Losing Romo may seem like a boon to the running game's numbers, but is it really? With Dak Prescott or a Josh Freeman type under center all year, Elliott would almost certainly struggle to find efficiency.

Consider that Elliott is currently the RB5 off the board - and in some drafts going even higher. Several analysts have written articles pounding the table for the guy as the RB1. But no rookie RB - not even the high-regarded, high-picked ones - has finished better than RB4 in PPR scoring. (That was Adrian Peterson.) LaDainan Tomlinson finished RB6 way back in 2001, and Trent Richardson wheezed to a RB6 finish in 2012, but are we really going to stake our first-round picks that EVERY chip will fall just right for Elliott? Because, don't kid yourself - absolutely everything needs to go his way to match his cost.

And the dirty little secret on Elliott is that he's not that athletic. His SPARQ score sits in the 45th percentile of this year's rookies, behind dozens of undrafted nobodies and even a few fullbacks.

Long story short: spend a Rd1 pick on Elliott, and you're paying for his absolute ceiling. He'd need a truly historic season, one with 350+ touches and excellent efficiency as well as tons of red zone opportunity, to return on this value. I don't have him in a single one of my 40 MFL10 rosters, and as much as I like to diversify, that won't change.

Devin Knotts: Lamar Miller is the guy that I am avoiding this season as his price continues to increase. Miller is a guy who has never had more than 216 carries in his NFL career, and everyone is going to expect that now he is going to Houston that he is going to see a mass increase in volume. This could happen, but there is also an increased injury risk as he looks to increase the number of carries and how his body will react to those carries. Also, Miller is going from a zone blocking scheme under Joe Philbin to a man run blocking system under Bill O'Brien. While O'Brien should be able to incorporate Miller into their offense, this still poses a significant risk for a top 20 pick.