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 9 Votes
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay
Chris Feery: As a first-round draft pick, O.J. Howard certainly has the tools to become a huge factor in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, that may not happen right away. Adjusting to the NFL game can take awhile for rookie tight ends, and that includes players like Howard that bring an impressive skill set to the table. Add in the fact that the Buccaneers have a solid tight end already in the form of Cameron Brate, and Howard may not even be the most productive tight end on his own team in 2017. Don’t let his talent cause you to overpay for him, but Howard deserves consideration as a late round flier.
Ryan Hester: Rookie tight ends tend to struggle, and Howard has competition at the position. Cameron Brate and his 57 receptions, 660 yards, and 8 touchdowns return. He has shown palpable rapport with Jameis Winston and should at least play enough to render Howard a part-time player, if not a clear backup.
Stephen Holloway: Howard was the first tight end drafted this year, but Tampa Bay is loaded with quality receivers and has an effective tight end in Cameron Brate familiar with the offense already. The tight end position is a challenging one to master early, and Howard, known as a talented blocker may help the Buccaneer’s offensive line more often that he serves as another target for Jameis Winston. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Brate and Adam Humphries are all excellent receivers, and they also have Charles Sims coming out of the backfield. Howard will not get the opportunity to meet production expectations as a rookie.
Justin Howe: It's not that rookie tight ends are barred from producing well - it's just that they never really do. Dating back to 2000, we've seen 119 rookie tight ends draw 10+ targets, yet only two have reached 50 catches. One of those 2 was Jeremy Shockey, who drew a staggering 23.3% of Giants targets in 2002. The other was John Carlson, who played in a Seattle offense whose leading WR (35-year-old Bobby Engram) only caught 47 passes. There's really no way to apply anything close to either of those situations to Howard's 2017 outlook. If he's going to reach the value of this ADP, he'll need to steal a hefty chunk of volume and/or touchdowns from proven producers Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, and I just don't see the numbers there. Especially when we're talking about a prospect whose best college season featured just 45 catches and 3 TDs (at age 22).
Chris Kuczynski: Rookie tight ends are not known to make an immediate impact, and Howard goes to an offense with many talented mouths to feed. At his own position, he has competition in a very capable Cameron Brate who had about 60 catches for 700 yards and 8 touchdowns. With one of the best wide receivers and big red zone targets in the league Mike Evans, as well as the additions of another big bodied receiver in rookie Chris Godwin, and deep threat Desean Jackson, it will be hard to determine which week each specific player will be the beneficiary of single coverage or heavy game planning against them.
Jeff Pasquino: I was struggling to remember the last time a rookie tight end made a big fantasy impact, and I think it is because it has never happened. So why are people considering Howard as a borderline TE1 / fantasy starter for this season? I understand that Jameis Winston is poised to break out this year and he loves to target tight ends, but Tampa Bay just added DeSean Jackson to complement Mike Evans and it is not like Cameron Brate lost his starting status. Drafting Howard at such an elevated ADP leaves zero room for upside and opens you up to a huge amount of downside risk. No thanks.
Matt Waldman: Physically, Howard is one of the best athletes at the position in the NFL before he’s ever played a down on Sunday. He should transition faster than his peers as a blocker and it will earn him significant playing time. However, study enough of Howard’s tape at Alabama and you’ll notice that he had little—if any—“big-boy” plays as a receiver winning the ball against tight, physical coverage. Howard was rarely the centerpiece of the Alabama’s game plan. When he was, it was reliant on him as a YAC player more than a route runner or rebounder. It’s not to say he can’t be these things, but there’s not any evidence that he already is. Jameis Winston will need to be a top-5 QB to support at least three fantasy starters and I don’t see it this year—especially when top-12 rookie tight ends are rare.
Mark Wimer: Howard is promising rookie tight end, but he is trying to supplant a very capable veteran teammate in Cameron Brate. Brate's performance (and Austin Seferian-Jenkins's substance issues) sent Seferian-Jenkins packing to the Jets last season - I see Brate and Howard forming a 1A/1B platoon at tight end this year while Howard learns the ropes at the pro level. I think Howard is wildly overpriced at his current ADP, ahead of Brate.
Jason Wood: Tony Gonzalez ranked TE18 as a rookie. Antonio Gates ranked 19th. Jason Witten finished 94th. Shannon Sharpe was the 33rd best tight end. Greg Olsen ranked 21st. Jimmy Graham was 23rd. You get the idea. O.J. Howard may be a fantasy stud for years to come, but history says rookie tight ends are not worth rostering.
Player Receiving 6 Votes
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati
Stephen Holloway: Eifert has made a career of performing beneath expectations, usually because he can’t stay healthy. In his four NFL seasons, he has already missed 27 games. His 13 touchdown performance in 2015 continues to give his ADP too much of a boost. He had back surgery in December of last year, so again is questionable for preseason training camp. In addition, Andy Dalton has more capable targets this season. The team added the speedy John Ross in the first round and Joe Mixon, an all around talent in the second round of this year’s draft. The team target leader will continue to be A. J. Green, but they also have two solid receiving backs (Giovani Bernard and Mixon), who should reduce the number of tight end targets even if Eifert can stay healthy.
Ari Ingel: A touchdown monster and clear-cut second option in their passing game ... when healthy. Unfortunately he was injured again (back surgery) last season and now doesn’t know if he will even be ready for training camp. Drafting him high is risky without a solid backup option. I just can’t rank him higher with all his health issues, especially since their offensive line is so bad and he might be asked to block more than usual. He’s one of the slowest healers in the league.
Chad Parsons: The passing game for Cincinnati is more crowded than ever. The Bengals drafted John Ross and Joe Mixon in the first two rounds, adding to A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard of note with which Eifert has to contend. Eifert has one notable season in four NFL years, fueled by a ridiculous 13 touchdowns in 2015 on just 52 receptions. Volume (and health) has eluded Eifert to-date and outside of multiple injuries to funnel targets his way, Eifert is an overvalued tight end in 2017.
Daniel Simpkins: It always seems to be something health related with Eifert. Even if he does manage to have a clean bill of health, the poor state of the offensive line (its two best blockers left in free agency) leads one to believe that Eifert might spend more time blocking and protecting Andy Dalton. The additions of Joe Mixon and John Ross also may cut into Eifert’s target share.
Matt Waldman: Although he recently went surfing, which is a sign that he’s feeling better after January back surgery, injury history is not the only concern I have with Eifert. Cincinnati lost two of its best offensive linemen this winter and there are massive questions about their replacements. If this line deteriorates, the offense could be forced to keep Eifert at the line of scrimmage more often on passing downs. I don’t believe Cincinnati will completely eliminate Eifert’s fantasy value the way Minnesota had to with Kyle Rudolph in 2015, but combine the injuries, the offensive line, and the addition of passing down threat Joe Mixon, and Eiferrt’s ADP is a little too high for my taste.
Jason Wood: In April, Tyler Eifert was uncertain if he’ll be ready for the start of training camp. That’s alarming for a player who expected to be fine by training camp shortly after his January back surgery. It would be one thing if Eifert was a pillar of health before the back injury, but the talented pass-catcher has missed 27 games in four seasons. Eifert averaged a touchdown per game in 2015, but that’s looking like the anomaly versus the baseline. Caveat emptor on the oft-injured Bengal.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Rob Gronkowski, New England
Andy Hicks: Rob Gronkowski is a true difference maker at his position and if he were to play all 16 games, would be the reason a lot of fantasy owners would have a successful season. As was demonstrated in 2016 though, this isn’t a sure thing. Repeated back injuries in addition to a torn ACL and multiple broken arms and it is obvious that his punishing play also affects him physically. With the price of a mid-second round pick, you have no margin for error here and I’m afraid that the chances of Gronkowski missing significant time has to be emphasized.
Stephen Holloway: Gronkowski’s size, athleticism and attitude give him distinct advantages against defenders. However, his inability to stay healthy reduces the impact of those advantages. He only played half a season a year ago and went on IR in early December. He had his third back surgery later that month, but is said to be healthy now. Even so, he hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2011 and has missed 24 games over the past five seasons. Even when he gets on the field, this season the Patriots have the best receivers they have had since Gronkowski joined the team in 2010. Julian Edelman knows the offense extremely well and has been Tom Brady’s security target when Gronkowski was missing. The team gave up a first round pick for Brandin Cooks and he should be heavily involved. Chris Hogan played well last year and Malcolm Mitchell seemed to learn the offense quickly as a rookie. They also added Dwayne Allen, who is a capable tight end. The running back depth chart has an abundance of talented receiving backs in James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis. The extremely deep and talented receivers available to Tom Brady would seem to reduce the ceiling on all Patriot receivers.
Hunter Henry, LA Chargers
Jeff Pasquino: Hunter Henry is expected to take over as the starter for the Chargers this year, but Antonio Gates is still there and the savvy veteran is expected to play a role on limited snaps – mostly in the red zone. That will severely limit Henry’s upside and scoring chances, capping his upside value for this season. Until Gates is completely out of the picture, Henry cannot be viewed as a fantasy starter.
Mark Wimer: Henry is the ascendant young talent at tight end on the Chargers, but Antonio Gates (53/548/7 receiving last season) is still in action to siphon off targets and tight ends from Henry. I know offseason reports indicated that the Chargers were "forcing" the football to Gates last year in an attempt to get him the touchdown reception record for tight ends (he tied the mark last year) - but it isn't easy to haul in seven touchdowns over 16 games at the NFL level, even if you are getting a few extra chances. Gates is old, but he still has notable red-zone skills. I think Henry boosters are jumping the gun by a season. Once Gates is safely retired - then look for a breakout from Henry.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
Phil Alexander: Ertz received a minimum of seven targets during every game in which he scored double-digit fantasy points last season. In the three games he exceeded 20 fantasy points, Ertz collected 15, 13, and 16 targets, respectively. With the additions of potential target hog Alshon Jeffery and an adequate WR3 in Torrey Smith, it's doubtful Ertz sustains the target volume he made his living on last year.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee
Andy Hicks: It would be safe to say that Delanie Walker’s conversion from wide receiver to tight end has been successful. In his first seven years in the NFL, he had to play behind Vernon Davis in San Francisco, but since arriving in Tennessee he has established himself as a starting fantasy tight end culminating with two consecutive seasons in the Top 6. The only tight ends though to regularly produce high fantasy numbers after the age of 33 are Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. Walker hits 33 this year and the Titans have drafted his replacement in Jonnu Smith and heavily invested in wide receivers. The transition has begun.