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
Sigmund Bloom: Thomas was a fantasy star with Peyton Manning, but Blake Bortles is a long way down from one of the best mismatch-exploiting quarterbacks in the game. The Jaguars were the lowest-scoring team in the league last year, and their outlook isn’t much better this year, as they continue to morph into a more physical, run-first offense. Any week Thomas doesn’t score, he’ll be a fantasy liability. Good luck predicting which weeks that will happen in.
Michael Brown: Thomas likely to be the top receiving option for Jacksonville, as there isn’t much else around him in terms of established talent. And that’s where the upside ends. He’s going from arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time to the unproven Blake Bortles. He’s going from an offense that threw it all over the place at an historic pace, to…the Jaguars. He missed much of the season with an ankle injury (an ankle that is starting to creep up on “chronic injury” status). And lastly, to circle back on the first point, there’s nobody else to take the pressure off. In Denver, he didn’t get a ton of opportunities but the ones he got were outstanding because there were All-Pro receivers all over the place drawing the defense’s attention. This time? Not so much. Thomas will be hard-pressed to finish in the top five at his position.
Jeff Haseley: The fantasy value of Julius Thomas took a big hit after he signed with Jacksonville in the off season. He'll still have a decent amount of targets, but the biggest deficiency will be the lack of touchdowns, which ultimately will be the reason why he's out of the Top 8, if not Top 10 among tight ends.
Ryan Hester: Peyton Manning to Blake Bortles – that is the downgrade Thomas faces this season after signing with Jacksonville in free agency. His offense will be inefficient and inconsistent, and the passes thrown his way (both in quality and quantity) won’t even come close to replicating what he had in Denver. At this point in drafts, it’s probably wiser to take a player from another position and hope to hit on a tight end late or in free agency. It’s fantasy’s most inconsistent position, and the others still offer talent at this point of the draft.
Ari Ingel: Thomas is certainly dangerous down the seam and is a talented player, but moving from Peyton Manning to Blake Bortles is a major downgrade. He is also not a truly dominant tight end in the Gronk, Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates mold. While not greatly overvalued given the scarcity at the position, I would feel much more comfortable taking him a round or two later, especially when players such as Gates, Zach Ertz, Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten and Delanie Walker can be had for much cheaper.
Daniel Simpkins: Many are expecting Thomas to pick up statistically where he left off in Denver. While the Jaguars offense is getting better, it’s not going to be able to sustain Thomas with the volume and red zone opportunities he was accustomed to in Denver. His quarterback is nowhere near as skilled at this point in his career either. It’s fair to say that Thomas also has some chronic ankle problems that typically result in a few lost games a year. Thomas usually goes off the board in the seventh round, at a time when owners would be better off taking some swings at high upside WRs and RBs.
Mark Wimer: Blake Bortles is learning to be a pro quarterback, and he has a bad offensive line protecting him. Though Bortles is reportedly working on his throwing mechanics, he's in a bad situation and often rushes his throws. Thomas will not see a steady diet of quality throws - I think he'll vastly under-achieve given his current lofty ADP of sixth tight end selected in an average draft. I'm avoiding Thomas this season.
Jason Wood: Julius Thomas’ decision to sign with Jacksonville serves as a perfect test case for system versus personnel. No one should argue that Thomas is an above average athlete and a dominant red zone option. Yet, it shouldn’t escape anyone’s attention that catching passes from Peyton Manning is LIGHT YEARS different than hauling in grabs from Blake Bortles. Thomas goes from one of the top offenses in the NFL to one of the worst, and will also need to serve as a blocker more frequently. While a top 8 finish can’t be ruled out, Thomas’ ADP puts him in a tier where there are better values at other positions. He’s now just “one of the guys”, and in that case you’re better off targeting a tight end a few rounds later who will give you nearly identical year-end stats.
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Michael Brown: I would love to know why Josh Hill is going off the board as a top-10 tight end. So far, the logic behind it seems to be: Jimmy Graham is gone, and someone has to pick up the slack. It’s that same thought process that put Zach Sudfeld atop sleeper lists when Rob Gronkowski was going to get a late start two years ago. Let’s not pretend Hill is anywhere near the caliber player Graham is. Furthermore, the Saints are likely to scale back the passing game quite a bit this year. Which means they won’t necessarily have all of those tight end targets to be distributed anyway. If Hill had been a former 1st round pick that was biding his time to get in the lineup, I’d say okay. But this just looks like a case of “next man up”, and I’m not spending a high pick on that.
Christopher Feery: The surprising offseason trade of Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks opens up the No.1 tight end job for the Saints. Hill is a lock to receive more playing team but it is not clear what that will translate into. Sean Payton has spoken highly of him but at the same time the team has brought in veteran Jermaine Gresham and placed a waiver claim on recently released Tim Wright. The hype will be in overdrive for those that expect Hill to be a plug-and-play replacement for Graham’s production. Use caution, while Hill will definitely have an increase in snaps he could very well be sharing snaps with a vet.
Stephen Holloway: Hill has played two seasons for the Saints and caught 20 passes for 220 yards, averaging 11.0 ypc. He is the designated beneficiary of Jimmy Graham’s trade to Seattle, but he has limited success over two seasons. To his credit, he has come up big in critical spots and scored 5 touchdowns a year ago. There is a real possibility that Graham’s role and targets are split between new-comer C.J. Spiller, 2nd year wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and Hill, with Hill possibly being 4th on the team in targets, rather than 1st as Graham was for the past four years.
Jeff Pasquino: Talk about hype, and the conversation quickly goes to Josh Hill, otherwise known as the guy who will be replacing Jimmy Graham. Let’s be clear – no one can really replace Jimmy Graham, either in New Orleans or even in general, unless their name is Rob Gronkowski. Hill has plenty of upside to be a solid contributor as the likely move tight end for the Saints, but all of the value is gone if you have to draft him as a Top 10-12 tight end. There are safer options to take with far less downside in that range.
Jason Wood: Josh Hill intrigues because of the gaping hole in the Saints offense left by Jimmy Graham’s trade to Seattle. But fantasy owners are projecting Hill as the clear-cut winner of a TE battle that’s yet to be decided. Ben Watson is going to have a role (and has a much longer track record than Hill), but what’s more concerning is New Orleans’ continued pursuit of additional tight end help. They put in a claim for Tim Wright, and have been mentioned by beat writers as a likely suitor for Jermaine Gresham. Does that sound like a team ready to commit to Hill?
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Sigmund Bloom: Bennett did yeoman’s work when the Bears offense sputtered through injuries to both starting receivers and a non-existant at times running game, but this year he’ll be joined by a much better #3 wide receiver in Eddie Royal, and in an offense that will be much more balanced. Bennett is still a low-end TE1 because of his proven role and ability, but he isn’t worth taking in the top 6-8 TEs at a premium simply on the basis of last year’s inflated numbers.
Ryan Hester: A good portion of Bennett’s production in his outstanding 2014 season was in “garbage time” as Chicago struggled to stay in games late in the season. Aside from that, Bennett’s outlook took a hit when the team fired Marc Trestman. With John Fox now in town as the Head Coach, Chicago will likely focus more on the run and being conservative – as opposed to Trestman’s aggressive offensive approach. Tight end is such an unpredictable position that selecting a middle-round tight end almost seems like a wasted pick. There is still talent at other positions to be had, and similar production can be cobble together by multiple players selected later in drafts or even picked up off the waiver wire.
Mark Wimer: I like Bennett's game, but am not savvy on Jay Cutlers' approach/attitude at quarterback. Also Bennett is bucking for a new contract which may limit his reps with Cutler during OTAs. This situation looks ugly to me, so I will avoid Bennett at his current pricey ADP of fifth tight end selected.
Cian Fahey: Travis Kelce is one of the most talented players at the tight end position across the whole league. His potential in a quality passing offense would be almost as high as Rob Gronkowski's. However, he doesn't play in a quality passing offense. Kelce may be a better player in 2015, but it's hard to buy into Alex Smith changing his ways. Smith is simply too conservative to the point that he will turn down open receivers downfield. Kelce could easily replicate his production from last season, but jumping to the top of the tight end list seems optimistic.
Jeff Pasquino: The hype is on for one of the better second half tight ends from last year in Travis Kelce. Part of the love for Kelce was that he did produce when he saw targets from Alex Smith, but Smith could easily hold Kelce back again this year. Throw in that the Chiefs added former Eagle Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver and that Kelce is now a Top 5 tight end on many ADP lists and I will be looking elsewhere for value.
Daniel Simpkins: No one questions the talent of Kelce. He’s the closest player to Rob Gronkowski currently wearing an NFL uniform. What’s in doubt is if Andy Reid can stop being a lunkhead and use him appropriately. If not for Jamaal Charles, this offense would be among the most putrid in the NFL. One would think that in an offense where not a single wideout scored a touchdown last year that Reid would have turned to Kelce more than he did. Despite promising the media repeatedly to get Kelce more involved, Reid continued to shy away from significantly increasing Kelce’s opportunity. Reid has made similar statements about giving Kelce more love this offseason, but those chasing the next Gronk need to realize that the situation is nowhere near as fertile in KC as it is in New England.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Andy Hicks: Jimmy Graham looked like a sure fire top 3 tight end for years to come in New Orleans. The move to Seattle cannot be seen as anything other than a serious threat to his fantasy stock. Zach Miller was a starting fantasy tight end from 2008 to 2010 and would have been more if he could have gotten touchdowns on terrible Oakland sides. In Seattle he couldn’t exceed 400 yards or 40 receptions. Graham is a better receiver, but Miller was a much better blocker. That will be a necessity for the Seahawks and if Graham can’t or won’t do it, his playing time will be minimalized. Graham will be drafted on reputation not likely production this year. Do not use a high pick on a player that is likely to underperform.
Chad Parsons: The fact that New Orleans felt Jimmy Graham was expendable is a caution flag this offseason. Now, Graham enters a pass-unfriendly scheme in Seattle where a strong defense and run game put targets at a premium. All this would be fine, but Graham’s price point at TE2 makes living up to that investment a tall order. As a top-30 selection, Graham must dominate the team’s market share, convert a high percentage of his opportunities, and swat away all non-Rob Gronkowski challengers at the tight end position. Graham as the No.2 tight end in 2015 makes a clear case for Gronkowski or late-round tight end as the vogue strategy.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Jeff Haseley: I am concerned about Jordan Cameron for two main reasons. One, he is prone to concussions. Another bad concussion could eventually lead to his undoing as a tight end threat in the league. The other reason is the number of receivers now present on the Dolphins receiving corps who will eat into his targets. Cameron has one year with more than 24 receptions in his career. In 2013 with the Browns, he racked up 80 receptions when he and Josh Gordon were the team's featured weapons. Miami has several talented receivers who will steal targets. Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Greg Jennings will limit the number of targets to Cameron. Let someone else overpay for Cameron who has a current ADP of TE8.
Matt Waldman: Fantasy owners love the idea of Zach Ertz. Reality has not yet matched fantasy. Ertz isn’t a bad talent, but the optimism of the tight end becoming a consistent fantasy TE1 in this scheme has been too great. With Jeremy Maclin and Lesean McCoy gone and Jordan Matthews in just his second year, this could be the year Ertz takes another step on the Eagles’ target ladder. I believe Agholor has enough talent and the likelihood of Matthews remaining a fixture inside prevents Ertz from attaining production higher than fantasy TE 12. His current ADP is TE7. Once again, too ambitious.
Stephen Holloway: Seferian-Jenkins is another 2nd year tight end who struggled in his rookie season. He caught 21 passes on 38 targets for 221 yards (only 10.5 ypc) and scored 2 TDs. Brandon Myers actually caught one more pass on six fewer targets a year ago. Seferian-Jenkins will be challenged to get significant targets as the Buccaneers havetwo excellent wide receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, who are both excellent in the red zone.