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 and identify players that should underperform their draft position.
Player Receiving 6 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 Sarkisian, 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 Sarkisian 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.
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.
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).
Andy Hicks: Matt Ryan will be entering his 10th year in the NFL this year. He posted career bests in passing yardage, touchdowns, and interceptions last year. The departure of Kyle Shanahan to head coach San Francisco does put a shadow on his future prospects though. He is unlikely to put up top-3 numbers and could quite conceivably perform well under his ADP, at least for this season as he struggles with Super Bowl disappointment and the changes to the coaching staff. Ryan is more a player to use in a committee than start every week, which given his draft slot places him as overvalued.
Chad Parsons: Ryan finished in the top-5 of fantasy quarterbacks in 2016 for the first time in his career. Ryan is a prime regression candidate on multiple fronts including touchdown and interception rates, plus he churned out a sky-high yards-per-attempt mark. With Kyle Shanahan gone and no influx of weaponry, Ryan is being drafted needing to fully repeat his historic 2016 stat line.
Jason Wood: There are few absolutes in fantasy sports. However, “don’t pay for a career year” is as close to gospel as it gets. Matt Ryan was fantastic last season. He threw for a career-best 4,944 yards. He completed a career-best 69.9% of passes. He set a career-high with 9.26 yards per attempt. His 38 touchdown passes were another career high. He set a career low with seven interceptions. Simply put, Matt Ryan was at his best in every single metric we tracked last year. And that’s the problem. Last year, Ryan was the 19th quarterback drafted on average and finished QB3. This year, you need a repeat of his career-best numbers to return your cost. There’s almost no mathematical case to be made for upside. Add in the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and the risks far outweigh the rewards.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Derek Carr, Oakland
Stephen Holloway: Carr signed a six-year $126 million contract with a whopping $70 Million guaranteed this summer. He has improved each season with the Raiders and averaged 7.04 YPA with 28 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions a year ago. There is no doubt that he is a solid quarterback and will lead the Raiders for a long time. However, this is an improved Raider defense and the addition of Marshawn Lynch almost guarantees that the team will continue to run the ball. A year ago, they ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards. Carr is very likely to disappoint those expecting significant production increase this season.
Justin Howe: It's not that I hate Carr, who could conceivably spike back to his 32-touchdown line from 2015. It's just that his ADP is a strong dice roll on everything panning out perfectly for him. He comes several rounds pricier than the likes of Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford, which baffles me. That tier encapsulates about 12 very similarly-projected QB1/2 borderline types, with little reason to differentiate them much at all. Why would I spend a multi-round premium for an option who doesn't realistically project to justifying upside? Carr doesn't throw with much volume, doesn't run the ball for any appreciable value, and throws to a handful of receivers who seem allergic to the end zone. It would take several statistical swings to push Carr into ADP value, so I'm sitting tight and targeting one of the several strikingly similar options at a much better price point.
Matt Waldman: While true that Carr would have been a fantasy QB1 in 12-team leagues last year if he didn’t miss the final game of 2016, the summer inflation of his value is too high. For Carr to make the leap, he’ll have to throw more touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch is an excellent red zone option that scored 25 rushing touchdowns from this range during his last two healthy years (2013-14) and he’ll likely replicate Latavius Murray’s 2016 totals (12). Amari Cooper has earned 10 catches for 104 yards in the red zone during his first two seasons as a Raider, and still seeking his first score. What’s going to change about Cooper that will increase that total substantially? Jared Cook is a terminal tease. Michael Crabtree led NFL receivers in drops, and at least half occurred in the red zone. Carr may have the talent, but the ground game earned a bigger upgrade than the passing attack.
Kirk Cousins, Washington
Stephen Holloway: Cousins has easily exceeded expectations for the past two seasons as he finished among the top ten quarterbacks, but even his team has not yet been sold on him enough to sign him long term. This season, he has lost his offensive coordinator and top two wide receivers. Washington added Terrelle Pryor and still has Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and a top tight end in Jordan Reed, but the additions don’t equal the subtractions for me. Pryor is talented, but inexperienced at tight end. Reed is already on the injury report. There is too much turmoil to expect similar passing production this year.
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, Tampa Bay and Pierre Garcon, 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 of 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 the previous 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 Washington’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 produced 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 and 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 offseason. The addition of two new running backs in Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara to compete with Mark Ingram II also is a move away from relying on Brees. Add in losing his No. 1 receiver in Brandin Cooks, with no obvious replacement and the writing is on the wall. Pay attention before it is too late, the signs are all there warning you.
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.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
Clayton Gray: Generally speaking, I love me some Andrew Luck and consider him to be among the Top 5 at the position. When healthy. Specifically speaking, I'm scared to death of him right now. The start of the regular season is very much in sight, and absolutely no one is saying Luck will be on the field for the first snap. There are easily over a dozen quarterbacks I'd rather take than Luck right now. And I know the argument is to take Luck at a discount and then back him up with a Matthew Stafford type. My question is why? Just go with Matthew Stafford and spend that Luck pick on a guy like Stefon Diggs or Tyler Eifert or Bilal Powell. That extra depth can be so valuable.
Ari Ingel: Why so low on Luck right now? Because he is coming off of shoulder surgery, isn’t throwing yet, may miss the first few games of the season and he may not even be healthy all year, which is not good, since getting healthy in-season is never going to happen. His shoulder aside, if everyone can stay healthy, there is no reason he can’t finish the year as a Top 5 quarterback. He played most of the season injured and it showed. Second year receiver Chester Rogers is having a very good camp, as is Philip Dorsett, both of whom give them a legitimate third receiver and Donte Moncrief (still just 23 years old) is finally going to break out; despite putting up tight end type numbers last year, Matt Harmon’s reception perception methodology still loves him and I do too. Lack of a difference making running back, the shoulder injury and the right side of this offensive line are concerns. Right now he is a total avoid for me.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
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 70 percent likelihood that a quarterback will cease to be a fantasy contributor. As it happens, Brady is now 40. 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.
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, and 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.
Cam Newton, Carolina
Matt Waldman: Although Newton’s value has declined throughout the summer, I’m still not convinced that it’s low enough. Newton has the passing talent to deliver elite production, but the offensive line is still a question mark. Newton’s shoulder injury is also a lingering concern and when you combine these two factors, it’s worth wondering just how much he’ll actually run this year. If he doesn’t, his production won’t have that high upside. I love the addition of Christian McCaffrey and I think Curtis Samuel has long-term promise. However, Kelvin Benjamin hasn’t proven that he can defeat press coverage and he got shut down by Atlanta when they played him physical at the line of scrimmage. There are 4-6 quarterbacks I’d much rather draft who are listed after Newton at this point.
Carson Palmer, Arizona
Andy Hicks: Carson Palmer will be a starter to begin the NFL season in 2017. That is the good news. The bad news is that age has caught up to him and he’s essentially in his final year in the NFL. If Palmer looks as bad as he did for most of the late part of 2016, then he may not even last the year out. With the Cardinals shoring up the backup position by signing Blaine Gabbert, I would advise against investing in Palmer. He is capable of surprising given the roster around him, but when you see signs of an aging quarterback, like Peyton Manning a couple of years ago, it is best to avoid the descent over the cliff.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
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 and Sammy Watkins was traded, so now only Charles Clay remain as the top targets in the passing game. 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.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
Ryan Hester: Winston started out 2016 with a Week 1 performance appeared to show that he arrived and that Tampa Bay was blossoming into an elite passing attack. Obviously, such a break-neck pace wasn’t sustained, but Winston’s first 10 games were still very strong. He averaged 268 yards and 2 touchdowns (19.3 fantasy points) per game for that stretch, good for QB9 in fantasy points per game through Week 11. The offensive style changed midseason, though, towards a run-heavy approach. In the team’s final six games, Winston’s averages fell to 235 yards and 1.3 touchdowns (14.5 fantasy points) per game. Tampa Bay had success with balance, and the worry for Winston is they look to do that again.