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 4 Votes
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles
Brown: At this point in the offseason, Bradford is still very much an injured quarterback. We don’t even know for sure that he’s going to start over Mark Sanchez. In fact, we don’t even know for sure that Bradford is even better than Sanchez. He has shown a bit more in his career, but two blown ACLs have a way of affecting a player’s ability, not to mention any hesitance or fear of re-injury is death to a quarterback’s decision-making skills. I do think whoever suits up for Philadelphia will be fantasy relevant; I just can’t say with any certainty that Bradford will be the guy, and he’s being drafted as if the job is his for sure.
Hicks: Sam Bradford will not have played football for almost 2 years by the time the season starts. Consecutive knee injuries, a new team, timing and fitness are going to be tough for Bradford to handle, if he even gets to start the season. Should there be any doubt then Chip Kelly will start Mark Sanchez. Now the upside is obvious when considering Bradford but there are much better options considering the price you’ll have to pay to wrestle him from the guy only seeing upside.
Holloway: Sam Bradford has underperformed as the Rams first overall pick in the 2010 draft. He did throw for a career high completion percentage of 60.7% in 2013 before going on IR following knee surgery. Then he missed the entire season a year ago, after tearing the same ACL in the pre-season. He has not played since early in the 2013 season and will be learning an entire new system in Philadelphia. Even though he is already practicing, the possibility of a slow return, his injury history, and the potential that the Eagles employ a heavy dose of running the ball, prospects for Bradford to completely turn around his production this year seem decreased.
Wood: If you were surprised by the Eagles trade for Sam Bradford, you’re a rational NFL fan. To say the move was unorthodox is putting it mildly. Chip Kelly traded away a young starting QB (Nick Foles) who delivered an elite season in his system, in exchange for an older quarterback that’s had a litany of season-ending injuries, and has been below average as a passer in those rare instances when he was healthy. Bradford is going to start the season as the starter, and probably will have success given Kelly's ability to generate Top 5 offenses with Foles and Sanchez; but this narrative that Bradford only needs to stay healthy to be elite belies many years of data to the contrary. I expect Bradford's ADP to continue to rise in the early weeks of the preseason. There's no way I'm touching Bradford as a result.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Pasquino: I am going to take the first objection to calling Brady “overvalued” away by saying that I think Brady is not even worth a Top 10 quarterback rating for 2015 even if he played every single game, so this has nothing to do with the suspension. Brady’s numbers have steadily declined since 2011, when he threw for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. The next season he was still a Top 3 quarterback, but the yards (4,827) and TDs (34) were down. The numbers further declined in 2013 (4,343 / 25) and Brady threw for even fewer yards last year, barely topping 4,000. For the past two years he has been only a Top 10-13 quarterback, and now we have to factor in the suspension. Brady is a solid QB2, not a QB1.
Simpkins: Tom’s value in drafts should be more deflated than it currently is. All corny jokes aside, Brady’s overvalued status has nothing to do with the four game suspension. Even if he were to play the four games, his steady decline in yardage over the past few years suggests that he probably won’t finish in the top ten. This is one of those cases where the name cache has folks enraptured. Furthermore, there are guys who are available after him with similar or higher upside, such as Ryan Tannehill and Philip Rivers. He’s currently being drafted around the beginning of the eighth round, which is the range that owners would be better served to be stocking up on other skill position players this year.
Wimer: I have him 14th - Brady is still surrounded with a sub-par group of receivers (aside from Rob Gronkowski), and he has thrown for a decreasing amount of yardage each season over the last four years, falling below 600 passing attempts during 2014 for the first time in four years (374/583 for 4,109 yards, 33 TDs and nine interceptions thrown). He is becoming less explosive as a fantasy starter and he also comes with the ongoing suspension drama that may cost him games this season. I think there are other options near his ADP with A) a better supporting cast and B) no suspension drama.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Haseley: Russell Wilson is being drafted as the third quarterback off the board, which may be a risky plan, especially if he runs less than he has in the past. He signed a new contract in the offseason, which leads me to believe the team will want to preserve their investment. The addition of Jimmy Graham will also result in more passes, which limits Wilson's chances to run. I like Wilson, but not as the third quarterback off the board.
Pasquino: There are certain things that I look for when selecting a top tier quarterback: the likelihood of throwing for 300 yards or three scores in a game, the need to throw (for lack of a good ground game) and also a bad defense on his team which would lead towards shootouts. I see virtually none of these elements when I look at Russell Wilson. He is a solid quarterback and can post respectable scores (and yes, on occasion, a bigger score) – but he only passed for 300 yards twice last year and never threw for more than two touchdowns in the regular season. I do not see him as worth a Top 5-7 quarterback selection.
Simpkins: Wilson is currently going at the end of the third round. Though the passing offense improved with Graham, don’t expect a mammoth production spike in production for the Seattle signal caller. Though there is no question that Wilson is talented and will produce enough to justify the pick, owners will miss out on their opportunity to snag players that could vastly outperform ADP such as Joseph Randle, TJ Yeldon, Keenan Allen, and Andre Johnson. There are later options that have the chance to turn in similar production to what Wilson’s numbers will be at the end of the year, too.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brown: Brees is going off the board as the 5th quarterback being taken, and the 60th player overall (right at the end of Round 5). Yet we haven’t seen anything last season or during the offseason to suggest that Brees still belongs up there. There is no longer a “big four” fantasy QB ring of Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees. Andrew Luck has taken over the top spot, Rodgers is still doing his thing, but with Brady’s suspension and the philosophical changes soon to come within the Denver and New Orleans offenses, we’re seeing a changing of the guard at the position. The Saints are committed to running the ball, they’ve got the personnel to do it, and they lost both Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham. If trading away their all-world TE doesn’t signify a significant change in how this offense is going to function, then I don’t know what does.
Pasquino: The times, they are a-changing in New Orleans. Two major contributors are elsewhere as tight end Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle and Kenny Stills is now in Miami. There has been a great deal of discussion by the coaching staff this offseason as to how the Saints will be approaching their offense in 2015, and every indication points to more running and less passing. All of that adds up to lower expectations for Brees this year.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Brimacombe: Sam Bradford, Carson Palmer, and Jameis Winston are all currently better ADP values then Flacco and are all being drafted after him. Flacco has showed flashes of greatness for the Ravens but most of those times have been when his team is playing in do or die type of games in the playoffs. During the regular season his stats are very lack luster and is no more than a QB2 that will sit on your bench in pretty much any matchup. In 7 seasons in the league he has only broke the top 15 fantasy QB twice (12th and 14th), and when you are playing to win your draft you don't want to own guys that have little upside.
Wood: Joe Flacco is unquestionably a better-than-average NFL quarterback. No one can argue what he's done in terms of leading the Ravens to continued success and -- of course -- a Super Bowl title. I recognize that Flacco's ADP (QB17) is below where he's finished in four of the last five seasons, but let's remember that he's never finished in the Top 10 in seven years. I also question whether the Ravens can continue to string together functional offenses with the lack of talent. Steve Smith is good, but he's a year older and his play tailed off massively after a strong first month. Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams have long-term potential but to expect them to be difference makers in 2015 is asking too much. Can the like of Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Crocket Gilmore really keep the Ravens from taking a step back? Flacco can't afford to lose any more ground, or he'll fall outside of the Top 20.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Hester: Manning fizzled out at the end of last season, disappointing many fantasy owners who had invested significant draft capital to acquire him. Setting aside the obvious age concerns, another key component of Manning’s outlook is the change in philosophies due to the head coaching change in Denver. Gary Kubiak is the new head coach, and he has always been a balanced – if not run-heavy – coach. The potential for wanting to save Manning’s body for another late-season run could mean less volume for him. Quarterback is a position worth waiting for in fantasy football, and there are a handful of quarterbacks ranked below Manning who could finish close enough to him to justify calling Manning overvalued.
Hicks: Statistically Peyton Manning had another great season, but if we examine the direction the Broncos took once his arm was seemingly shot it does not point to a successful, for Peyton Manning, fantasy season. He has not finished outside the top 6 since his rookie season and in his likely final season we’ll probably come full circle. The running game of Denver will be prominent, the departures of Wes Welker and Julius Thomas will not be filled and Manning’s arm will not return to its former glories. Manning is likely to finish as a bottom end QB1 who will struggle to last an entire season. 39 year old top end fantasy quarterbacks don’t come around very often.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Hester: Drafting Matt Ryan is safe; it’s comfortable; it’s like wearing that plain t-shirt out at night because it’s more comfortable and because you don’t want to iron a better-looking button-down. But what if you’re a single guy going out looking for “the one?” Don’t you want to be at your best? While the t-shirt will make you look presentable, is it really going to differentiate you from everyone else? Fantasy football is about differentiation. Ryan will get you a top-10 quarterback finish. But will he get you a top-five finish? I don’t see it. Run an iron over the shirt, take a chance, and draft a committee with two of Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, and Sam Bradford later. You’ll “get the girl.”
Waldman: He's a fine passer, but I'm skeptical about the changes in Atlanta. Ryan's old system encouraged the QB to get rid of the ball fast. This was important because of a rickety offensive line. It's a unit that hasn't stayed healthy or played together long enough to have confidence in them The new system may require Ryan to hang in the pocket longer as a play-action passer and I'm losing confidence in the overall quality of the receiving corps. Only Jacob Tamme strikes me as a definite upgrade for Ryan. The Atlanta QB should still offer low-end QB1 production, but it will be a lot closer to QB2-caliber play than many believe.
Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions
Brown: The marriage is finally over. For years, I’ve sung the praises of Stafford. Not necessarily as a real life quarterback, but for fantasy he always seemed to be able to put up just huge stats. I blamed the lack of touchdowns on bad luck and small sample sizes, certain that as he piled up 5,000 yard campaigns and threw 700 passes, the scores would soon follow. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, with last year representing a low point. He cut down on his intereptions and improved his completion percentage, but his touchdowns tumbled from 29 to 22 despite the addition of Golden Tate. At this point, it’s simply too frustrating to own Stafford and watch him leave fantasy point after fantasy point on the field. Especially when I can grab Romo, Tannehill, Manning, or Rivers several rounds later.
Hicks: From a fantasy perspective Matthew Stafford took a big step backward last year. 7 less touchdowns, despite only 8 less completions tells us something isn’t right. Is it the scheme or does Stafford have a limited upside? The Lions clearly want to run the ball more, but the offensive line clearly is limiting the upside of all concerned. They have made additions here, but it usually takes a while for everyone to get on the same page. If Calvin Johnson is back to his best that will help Stafford, but the upside here is limited. Other options with more upside can be drafted even later so it is probably best to let someone else take Stafford this year.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
Holloway: Bridgewater played very well as a rookie a year ago for the Vikings, but without Adrian Peterson in 15 games, the Vikings had only 336 running back carries compared to 517 passes. Expect the running game to be more heavily used with Peterson returning this year with fresh legs. Bridgewater could improve his play quite a bit and still wind up with reduced statistics.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Haseley: The Panthers are expected to be a competitive team in 2015, especially on defense. When Carolina plays well, Cam Newton generally doesn't have high yardage numbers. Newton has produced big point totals mostly due to his ability to run and score rushing touchdowns, but that could drop off some this year. The Panthers will want to keep Newton healthy and that means keeping him in check as a running quarterback.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Wimer: Rivers is a fine quarterback, but he is limited by a relative derth of quality targets around him - Eddie Royal is gone, and neither Malcom Floyd nor Keenan Allen were even close to 1,000 yards receiving last season (Floyd led the team in receiving with 856 yards to his credit last year along with six TD catches). This is a pedestrian passing attack that will struggle to deliver fantasy QB #2 numbers from Rivers - he is overvalued at his current ADP of 14th quarterback off the board.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Wimer: DeMarco Murray is gone, degrading the Cowboy's running game, and Jason Witten is aging gracefully, but he isn't the playmaker he once was - in short, the Cowboy's offense is not as strong this year as it was last year. I think Romo will check in among the #2 fantasy quarterbacks at the end of the year - he's too pricey at his current ADP of ninth quarterback off the board.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Bucs
Wood: I understand the excitement for Jameis Winston. He's certainly a better option than the two-headed monster of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. However, expectations should be tempered for the first year player. I worry that a suspect offensive line and Winston's own propensity to take chances in tight spots is going to lead to a season of ups and downs. Let's remember that Peyton Manning led the league in interceptions as a rookie; expecting Winston to be relevant on a weekly basis this year is just asking too much. I think he'll have some big weeks, but ultimately I also see him as throwing more interceptions than touchdown passes.