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 Receiving 7 Votes
Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Phil Alexander: Prior to last year's MVP performance, Ryan had exactly one cumulative top-5 fantasy finish (2012) in his previous eight seasons. If you're okay with Ryan's current asking price, you're ignoring an unsustainable 7.1% touchdown rate (nearly a full 2% above his previous career high) and the departure of Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator. Shanahan was replaced by Steve Sarkasian, whose schemes at Washington and USC featured power running and lots of plays from the shotgun. By contrast, Shanahan used an outside zone scheme with Ryan taking most of his snaps from under center. The expectation is Sarkasian won't tinker much with what worked so well last season, but it's still another reason to question paying the career year tax to get Ryan when the quarterback position is so deep.
Sigmund Bloom: Ryan was a top-3 quarterback last year, but some of that came on the back of a hot start that saw three of his six 25+ point games through Week 16 in standard scoring come in the first four weeks. He lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan this offseason and some of the quarterbacks behind him like Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are expected to improve. Ryan should still be a QB1 this year, but he’s not worth taking as a premium pick in the Brady/Brees/Luck range.
Chris Feery: Matt Ryan was lights out in 2016, and that’s leading him to be drafted as a top-5 quarterback in 2017. While it’s certainly possible that he’ll justify such a lofty draft spot, there’s also some risk of regression. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan moved on to snag the head coaching gig with the San Francisco 49ers, so a dip in production is not out of the question due to some changes in the system. That being said, top-10 quarterback production is well within reach - just don’t overpay for it.
Jeff Haseley: The average fantasy ranking for Matt Ryan in his nine years in the league is 10.6. Yes, he is coming off a third-place ranking, but he is also coming off a tough Super Bowl loss that has haunted other quarterbacks the season after failing to win a championship. To make matters worse, Ryan will have a new coach in the following offensive areas for 2017 - offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, and wide receiver coach. Forgive me if I am not on board with Ryan as a QB4 entering the 2017 season.
Ryan Hester: Ryan had a league-high touchdown rate last season (he threw for a score on 7.1% of his attempts), which makes him a prime regression candidate. He also lost offensive wizard Kyle Shanahan as his coordinator. Drafting Ryan here is doing so close to his ceiling. There are lower-cost players who have the same (or higher ceiling).
Chris Kuczynski: After an impressive season where he led his team to the Super Bowl and won league MVP, it would make sense to have Matt Ryan at the top of the quarterback rankings- I just think he is ranked a little bit too high considering last season was a bit of an outlier in his 9th season in the league. The previous three seasons, Ryan averaged 4500 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions, which is 450 yards and 13 touchdowns fewer and 9 interceptions more than last season. Additionally, we don’t know how much of an impact losing his offensive coordinator will have on the success of the offense, that really only has Julio Jones as a reliable receiving option outside of the running backs. Instead of spending an early draft pick chasing last season’s career-year numbers, I would rather wait until the middle rounds to pick someone with not much lower of a ceiling.
Chad Parsons: I am a big believer in regression from career years, especially at quarterback. Ryan loses Kyle Shanahan from their Super Bowl a year ago, plus had by far his highest touchdown rate of his career (and lowest interception rate). Ryan's 38 touchdowns eclipsed his previous high-water mark by six scores. Across the board, this was an outlier season from Ryan and paying QB4 prices gives only downside to the acquisition.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Cam Newton, Carolina
Stephen Holloway: Newton’s career completion rate is 58.4%, including last season’s rate of 52.9% which was the lowest of all NFL quarterbacks that attempted at least 200 passes. Even Jared Goff, in his extremely poor rookie season completed 54.6% . Newton also averaged a career low 6.88 YPA last season. I do not expect numbers as poor as these, but the combination of his rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns trending down with his career accuracy issues, I am more than willing to let others pay his steep price.
Ari Ingel: The additions of rookie running back Christian McCaffrey and running back/wide receiver hybrid Curtis Samuel should help give this team some speed and weapons near the line of scrimmage, which will help since Newton was pretty erratic throwing the ball down the field. Although, he was also one of the least accurate passers on short throws as well, owning the worst passer rating in the league last year on passes going five yards or less. While they want to make Newton more of a pocket passer, he will not be able to change the way he has played his whole life in one offseason, especially since he is still coming off of shoulder surgery and can't even throw until mid-June. His transformation is a process that will probably take two or three years, so expect to see a lot of yards on the ground as usual, but you can do better waiting for options such as Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, and many others.
Matt Waldman: The past history and future likelihood of a quarterback supporting multiple pass catchers as fantasy starters (top-36 wide receivers and top-12 tight ends) is analysis I value. Newton supported Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin in 2014 and 2016 and Olsen and Ted Ginn, Jr. in 2015. Some elite quarterbacks only support two starting fantasy options, but they often supplement their passing production with their legs. Newton delivered 539 and 636 rushing yards during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, but only 359 yards in 2016. Injuries were part of the story, but Newton stated publicly that he had to run less to lengthen his career. While I like the potential of rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, it’s unlikely either delivers starting fantasy receiver production this year. If Newton has any shot at earning numbers within the top-5 or top-6 fantasy passers he’ll need to run more, and I don’t think he will.
Jason Wood: Cam Newton is being drafted as though last year was a complete anomaly. Don’t make the mistake of assuming Newton is going to return to top-tier QB1 value; the circumstances dictate caution. Let’s start with the obvious. No passer in the league has taken more punishment. Newton’s mobility and the league’s penchant for treating him differently because of his size and running aptitude mean he gets hit far more often than other quarterbacks. Those hits stack up. There’s also the realization Carolina has one of the league’s least compelling receiving corps. Kelvin Benjamin is built like a left tackle, and Devin Funchess is a bust. The aforementioned concerns are, unfortunately, only the tip of the iceberg. Newton opted for surgery late in the offseason to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing arm. Panthers officials insist Newton will participate in training camp. If that happens, I’ll rethink my outright disdain for drafting Newton at any ADP this year. However, I would not be surprised – nor should you – if Newton’s recovery goes MUCH slower than is currently forecast. Even if he’s healthy, I have concerns about his current ADP. But he’s NOT HEALTHY.
Dak Prescott, Dallas
Jeff Haseley: It's possible that we may be witnessing the next great efficient quarterback, but that doesn't always translate to fantasy success. Prescott finished sixth last year in large part to six rushing touchdowns. If we removed four of those six touchdowns, he would've finished 14th. Opposing defenses will have a year's worth of film on him, which will make repeating his performance a much tougher task. He's a prime candidate for a sophomore slump in my opinion.
Andy Hicks: The second year is a vital one for quarterbacks. Expectations rise exponentially and opposing defenses have had a whole off season to take away his strengths. Dak Prescott over achieved in his rookie season and fantasy owners need to pump the brakes just a little bit. Everything went right in season 2016. Don’t expect that to happen again. Is he good enough to be a long-term starter and continue his fantasy progression? We’ll see, but his six rushing touchdowns over inflated his fantasy standing last year. His passing yardage and touchdowns were well into the average of NFL quarterbacks, and either he makes a mountain of improvement and justifies his standing or the progression is slower and fantasy owners make a mistake taking him as their starter.
Stephen Holloway: Prescott was amazing as a rookie, but he threw for only 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns. His fantasy value was increased in his rookie campaign by his rushing abilities, witnessed by his 282 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. The vaunted Cowboy offensive line may not be quite as strong as it was a year ago. NFL defensive coordinators are able to game plan better with the plentiful film to study on Prescott. Don’t be surprised with a little sophomore slump for Prescott and perhaps a decline in Prescott’s rushing effectiveness.
Chris Kuczynski: Although the Cowboys were one of the best teams in the NFC last year, the success of the offense had more to do with quarterback efficiency and the power of the run game led by Ezekiel Elliot, rather than Dak putting up eye-popping stats. The most impressive stat was his low number of interceptions and six rushing touchdowns, but he only threw for 3700 yards and 23 touchdowns. He shouldn’t be asked to do too much because he has one of the best running backs in the league, and I just don’t see the team changing their game plan to throw more to increase his numbers. This season his schedule is much tougher as well. I don’t want to use the cliche sophomore slump, but there have been many examples of quarterbacks regressing after opponents finally have enough tape on them. I don’t think we are ready to include him in the QB1 conversation just yet considering the talent that is ranked just behind him that has been successful for longer.
PLAYER RECEIVING 3 VOTES
Kirk Cousins, Washington
Sigmund Bloom: For the second year in a row, Cousins is available well after his previous year scoring would place him in rankings, but this year, Cousins is coming into the season with two new starting receivers outside and a new offensive coordinator. Cousins could also have an improved running game with Samaje Perine that could introduce more balance to the offense. With so many other quarterbacks carrying reasons for optimism and improvement, Cousins is probably a pass even with a drop in his numbers already baked into his ADP.
Jeff Pasquino: Washington is primed to have a pullback on offense, especially in the passing game. Both starting wide receivers from last season have left (DeSean Jackson to Tampa Bay and Pierre Garcon to San Francisco), leaving newcomer Terrelle Pryor (Cleveland) along with younger wide receiver options (Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson) to fill in the gaps. The losses extend past the playing field, as offensive coordinator Sean McVay left to become the head coach for the Rams. Another reason to keep an eye on Cousins this summer is his contract situation. If he inks a new deal and locks up a boatload of money, Cousins could lose motivation to excel this year, which is yet another reason to lower expectations.
Jason Wood: Kirk Cousins is capable of outperforming his ADP; it’s a realistic outcome. There’s a much greater probability Cousins will fall well short of his ADP. Washington outperformed expectations last year, but this year’s team lacks the key factors that led to last year’s outperformance. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay was the catalyst for Cousins emergence as a franchise-caliber passer; he’s now the Rams head coach. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon had 1,000-yard seasons but now call Tampa Bay and San Francisco home, respectively. General manager Scott McCloughan created blueprints for Washinton’s roster overhaul, but Bruce Allen’s ego blew that up this offseason. Washington promoted Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator – that’s a disaster in the making. In eight NFL seasons as an offensive coordinator, Cavanaugh has never fielded a top 10 offense, never fielded a top 10 passer, and his teams have averaged an abysmal 19th in points and 22nd in yards. Terrelle Pryor signed a modest 1-year deal and will be asked to step into the WR1 role; he’s not well suited for such a prominent position. Cousins has a mountain of changes to deal with, not to mention tensions with the front office about his contract. There’s no way he should be your target as a fantasy starter.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Drew Brees, New Orleans
Andy Hicks: Drew Brees has been a fantasy staple with 11 consecutive years as a top-6 fantasy quarterback, with 10 of them in the Top 4. All good things must come to an end, though. With Brees closer to 39 than 38 at the start of the season, we should be prepared to move on before he tails off. The Saints are clearly pointing us in this direction by heavily improving their defense in the off season and adding two running backs of quality to compete with Mark Ingram. Add in losing his No. 1 receiver in Brandin Cooks with no replacement and the writing is on the wall. Pay attention before it is too late.
Jeff Pasquino: First of all, let me just say that I have always been a fan of Drew Brees, especially in New Orleans. Even with his outstanding numbers as a Saint, at some point he has to level off and decline. Given that he is 38 (39 in January) and just lost his top receiver from last year (Brandin Cooks) via free agency and that New Orleans added a former stud running back in Adrian Peterson, I see several reasons that he might not be worthy of a Top 3 quarterback draft spot.
Tom Brady, New England
Daniel Simpkins: As colleague Adam Harstad has documented in this piece, quarterback decline tends to come suddenly and without warning. At age 40, there is a roughly seventy percent likelihood that a quarterback will cease to be a fantasy contributor. As it happens, Brady will turn 40 this year. While Brady has been an outlier in many ways throughout his career, it’s also important to price in age decline risk into his selection. At current ADP, it seems Brady is being valued on last year’s exploits without regard for the hazard. Additionally, there are other quarterbacks going many rounds later who can provide similar or greater fantasy impact for your team. Use your selection in this range to take a stab at running back or receiver instead.
Mark Wimer: Brady is a sure-fire hall of famer, but his current ADP is way too high. It's not a question of Brady's abilities, but Father Time is not on Brady's (or Rob Gronkowski's) side entering this season. Mainly, though, I think that other players at his position (Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Kirk Cousins) are more likely to finish among the top-5 fantasy quarterbacks than Brady is - I won't be paying a premium price for a quarterback I expect to finish near the bottom of the top-10 fantasy signal callers this year.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
Andy Hicks: Expecting Marcus Mariota to be a solid fantasy starter in 2017 is a step too far right now. This is still a run-first team that will be transitioning over the next few years as Mariota gets more experience. Expectations for this year need to be tempered. Corey Davis was added to be a stud receiver, but it won’t happen this year. Another rookie Taywan Taylor was added in the third, but again he won’t be ready this season. Jonnu Smith at tight end was also added in the third, but he will take a year or two. Delanie Walker is 33 and will face a further decline in production this year. The Titans are building a nice offense, but expect the run to dominate again in 2017 and look for Mariota to be an average fantasy option for the most part.
Mark Wimer: Mariota is a young player with potential, but he is limited by his surrounding cast of receivers (Rishard Matthews and Corey Davis as projected starters at wide receiver) and also the team's run-happy offense (Tennessee was fourth in the NFL in rushing attempts during 2016, and 28th in passing attempts with just 504 passes attempted). His current ADP puts him on the cusp of the top-12 fantasy quarterbacks, but I expect him to finish outside of the Top 20. I am not interested in him at this ADP.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Eli Manning, NY Giants
Justin Howe: I understand the appeal here - Manning is relatively flushed with receiving talent, and his offense's running game is in transition. But I don't see enough upside to prioritize him higher than 15th or so among quarterbacks. He was inconsistent last year and is going on 37. Further, he brings virtually no rushing outlook to the table - not even as a threat for goal-line sneaks. That lack of scoring diversity severely dings his upside; he'll need fairly miraculous passing numbers to make up the difference. Even then, Manning doesn't offer the ceiling of ADP peers like Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, or Matthew Stafford.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Ryan Hester: Green Bay passed the ball a ton last season because their running back depth chart was decimated by injuries. Secondly, the reigning fantasy overall QB1 tends to regress in his “n+1” season. Since 2010, the top quarterback has averaged 64.6 fewer fantasy points after his magical QB1 season. This includes prorating Andrew Luck’s seven games in 2014 into 16 games and Cam Newton’s 14 games in 2016 into 16 games. If the robotically-consistent Drew Brees and his 2013 season were removed from this analysis, the average fall-off would increase to 77.6 fantasy points. With so many potential candidates to be the top quarterback every year, it’s not worth being the first in your draft to select one.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
Matt Waldman: Despite a good offensive line, a great primary in Antonio Brown, and a potential co-WR1 in Martavis Bryant, I’m not sold on Roethlisberger in fantasy as much as reality. Roethlisberger is a tough guy but he’s breaking down—maybe not with big-ticket injuries, but a lot of minor injuries that cost him one to three games. Outside of Brown, the Steelers have been an odd kind of boom-bust team and it impacts fantasy production. You have to seriously consider the upside, but it's kind of like giving your grandfather an online banking account when you know he's prone to opening and responding to emails about Nigerian princes and Irish inheritances.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo
Jeff Pasquino: Rex Ryan may be gone from Buffalo, but not much is left for Tyrod Taylor to be successful as an NFL passer this season. Robert Woods (Rams) left in free agency, so now only Sammy Watkins and tight end Charles Clay remain as the top targets in the passing game. Neither of these players will keep defensive coordinators up at night, and that assumes Watkins remains healthy (10 missed games the past two seasons). Taylor’s schedule is also daunting with four tough matchups in the first five games, so it is even conceivable that Taylor is not the starting quarterback after Buffalo’s bye in Week 6.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia
Sigmund Bloom: Calling a quarterback drafted as a fantasy backup overvalued might seem like a stretch, but Wentz was basically the worst fantasy quarterback who remained the starter for his team from beginning to end. He did gain Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith this offseason, but Wentz is second-year quarterback who generally got worse as his rookie season went on. We should take a wait-and-see approach before spending any draft picks or roster spots on him.
Russell Wilson, Seattle
Darin Tietgen: Wilson is usually one of the quarterbacks picked just after the perennial mega studs but is continually beaten out by quarterbacks that go several rounds after him. His offensive line continues to be one of the NFL's most deficient and disappointing and there are significant questions as to the runners behind him. And while he is a solid NFL receiver, if you're No. 1 guy is Doug Baldwin, I just don't see how you can be considered an elite fantasy quarterback. Wait a few rounds and take Matthew Stafford or Marcus Mariota.