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 7 Votes
Brandin Cooks, New England
Jeff Haseley: Brandin Cooks benefited from a potent Saints offense and a capable quarterback in Drew Brees, but can he produce similarly with Tom Brady and the Patriots offense? I have my doubts. After doing some research, only one Patriots wide receiver not named Welker or Edelman has reached 100 fantasy points in a season (standard scoring) since 2012. Brandon LaFell had 138 fantasy points in 2014. No wide receiver other than Welker and Edelman has had 1,000 yards receiving since Randy Moss last did so in 2009. Cooks brings a unique skill set to the Patriots which could translate to consistent fantasy success, but history isn't on his side. Patriots wide receivers tend to have low yards per reception metrics, keeping yardage numbers down. Additionally, they have multiple weapons on offense which dilute the effectiveness of individual players. It all points to uncertainty with Cooks, which leads me to believe he won't outperform his draft position this season.
Ryan Hester: A speedy playmaker like Cooks joining an already potent offense like New England is a great match on the surface, but there are plenty of mouths to feed in New England, and they aren’t the kind of team to force-feed any one player unless that player happens to be the most open all the time. Julian Edelman will still see plenty of targets, Rob Gronkowski will still score plenty of touchdowns, and the running game accounted for 19 scores in 2016 as well. Cooks is being drafted around low-end WR1 prices, but there are plenty of playmakers going after him who are bigger, should see more volume, and have higher touchdown upside. Many of those players aren’t entering their first year on their offense either.
Justin Howe: Cooks could easily hit this WR1 ADP; he'll be catching passes from Tom Brady while remaining in a fast-paced offense, and he's obviously an explosive producer. But this an extremely crowded receiving corps, one that guarantees a hefty chunk of targets will be claimed by all-everything Rob Gronkowski and Brady's trusted slotman, Julian Edelman. Even if we project a sizeable drop-off in targets for both, we're not left with enough volume to realistically expect Cooks to reach 80 catches or 10 touchdowns. Granted, both Gronkowski and Edelman are fairly injury-prone, and their absences would open up quite a bit of potential work for Cooks. But at this point in the offseason, fantasy drafters are giving Cooks the Randy Moss/Patriots bump, and it's boosting him far too high for my tastes. There are numerous WR options available a round or two later that boast similar floors and ceilings.
Chris Kuczynski: Cooks goes to a loaded Patriots offense, that is predicated on spreading the ball around and not forcing it to any one player. It is difficult to predict which receiver will be the focus in any particular week, because the team relies on game planning for a specific opponent and exploiting what works. The New England offense already has Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski as Brady’s favorite targets who know the scheme well and have his full trust, which might even put Cooks role of the deep threat, in order to open up things for these two pass catchers underneath. He could be competing for tertiary targets with Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and the stable of running backs that can all catch out of the backfield, so drafting Cooks as a WR1 is setting expectations too high.
Chad Parsons: My first activity after Cooks' trade to New England was projecting the new passing game distribution. With Julian Edelman the savvy chain-mover, Rob Gronkowski healthy, and adding Dwayne Allen, I see a drop in targets coming for Cooks from his 2015-2016 seasons. Paying current prices is at Cooks' ceiling while his reality is more of an upside WR2/3 depending on the matchup.
Jeff Pasquino: Brandin Cooks leaves Drew Brees for Tom Brady, but it is much more a step down in likely production that one might expect at first. Cooks was the top receiver for Brees, who just completed his fifth season throwing for over 5,000 yards (and 11th in a row with over 4,000). Brees had 32 or more touchdowns the last nine seasons, while Brady has had two seasons in the past eight with under 30 touchdown passes and only one career 5,000-yard season. Brady is certainly a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, but Brees is clearly the more prolific (and voluminous) passer. Also working against Cooks is that he will not be the primary target in New England. Julian Edelman will likely have far more targets and tight end Rob Gronkowski will be utilized more in the red zone than Cooks. All of these factors push Cooks down my draft order and below his current ADP.
Matt Waldman: The Patriots have mixed results with receivers making the transition from offenses where they starred to a scheme that is easier to learn on the surface, but requires a lot of rapport with Tom Brady and mastery or reading defenses. Cooks played with a master quarterback in New Orleans so the concern may turn out to be unnecessary. Still, the Patriots love to move Julian Edelman around the formation and lean heavily on Rob Gronkowski. As much as Brady is capable of supporting three viable fantasy starters in the passing game, I am not convinced that Cooks is an instant top-12 fantasy option during his first year with the Patriots. If he’s available among receivers 15-20, I’d take the chance. Top 12 seems a little risky.
Player Receiving 4 Votes
Keenan Allen, LA Chargers
Andy Hicks: Keenan Allen has yet to play a full season in his 4-year NFL career. Those drafting him need to accept that it could all go wrong very quickly with another injury. That said he has looked like a true NFL WR1 at various stages in his career and if he can remain fit will outplay his draft slot. The Chargers however drafted Mike Williams in round 1 and Tyrell Williams had a 1000 yard season in his absence last year. A definitive high risk, high reward player, but history says he will disappoint once again.
Stephen Holloway: Allen has been a dominant player when he is on the field. However, he has not been on the field lately. Last year, he went on IR after tearing an ACL in the first game of the season. He has only played in nine games total the past two seasons. It is possible that he can play 16 games in 2017, but not very probable. In addition, the Chargers have added quality weapons in the past two seasons (Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams & Hunter Henry) and still have Antonio Gates who may see a lot of red zone targets this year. Even if Allen is healthy, he is not as likely to dominate targets.
Mark Wimer: Allen has the talent to take over NFL games, but he has struggled to stay on the field for the Chargers ( Allen had surgery to repair a torn ACL in September 2016. In April 2017 he said he felt 85 percent recovered from that procedure). He has never played a full slate of 16 NFL games, and has participated in just 12 of the last 32 played by the Chargers. Additionally, the Chargers are well-stocked with other talented receivers (Tyrell Williams, Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates, Mike Williams) so I don't foresee wily veteran Philip Rivers locking onto Allen and delivering a high volume of passes his way. No thanks, I'll pass on Allen at his current ADP.
Jason Wood: If it were just about the injuries, fine. If it were just about the Chargers fantastic depth, so be it. Allen must contend with both issues. We don’t need to rehash the injury risks; they’re well known. Let’s instead focus on the Chargers depth chart that includes: Tyrell Williams (WR13 last year with the size and speed of Terrell Owens), Mike Williams (one of the top rookie receiver prospects), Travis Benjamin (deep speed threat), Antonio Gates (Rivers’ most trusted red zone target) and Hunter Henry (his rookie season hinted at greatness). There aren’t enough targets for Allen to offset the risk he’ll miss a lot of time with yet another injury.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia
Phil Alexander: Red flags abound for Jeffery, even at his sliding ADP. The problems start with Carson Wentz, who finished 29th in yards per pass attempt and 22nd in percentage of uncatchable passes thrown as a rookie. They extend to a crowded receiving corps that includes Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Torrey Smith, and Darren Sproles. And then there's Doug Pederson's play calling, that resulted in no Eagles receiver commanding a target market share over 20% last season. With the exception of Tyreek Hill, no player with a sub-20% target market share finished inside the top-28 fantasy wide receivers in 2016. Could Jeffery command WR1 targets as an Eagle by virtue of being better than anyone they had last year? Sure. But with higher-ceiling guys like Terrelle Pryor and Sammy Watkins available after Jeffery, why pay to find out?
Justin Howe: I'm still a believer in Jeffery's talent. I've seen him erupt as a dominant downfield receiver, and I've seen him produce touchdowns at a decent clip here and there. But there are more factors I don't like about his 2017 prospects than reasons for me to chase him as a WR2. I'm concerned by his recurring hamstring woes, as well as his 2016 suspension, but even those are peripheral concerns. I'm more worried about his potential for target dominance in an offense that already features a high-volume possession receiver, a high-volume tight end, and a receiving RB that's still woven into the gameplan. When you consider that Eagles coach Doug Pederson has already mused about throwing less in 2017, it makes me wonder where they'll find 130+ targets for Jeffery - even if he plays 16 games. And even then, I wonder what kind of efficiency and TD production we can expect. Jeffery isn't a very consistent player, nor has he ever been a strong red zone receiver - and Carson Wentz's late-2016 struggles make me uneasy about Jeffery as a solid fantasy contributor.
Mark Wimer: Jeffery moved into a starting gig in Philadelphia from Chicago, but he hasn't gone over 1,000 yards receiving over the past two seasons (and had just six receiving TDs during that time span), appearing in 21 of a possible 32 games. While the fit with the Eagles looks interesting from a fantasy perspective, transitioning to a new team/offensive unit is not easy. Also, Carson Wentz is still a very young NFL quarterback who slipped from a 5-1 start last season to finish the campaign 2-8 (seeing his TD throws drop from a pace of 1.3 per game during the hot start to .8 per game during the decline - he also threw 11 of his 14 interceptions during the final 10 games of the 2016 season). Jeffery is probably in for an up-and-down ride with his young quarterback this season - I think he's overpriced at his current ADP.
Terrelle Pryor, Washington
Andy Hicks: Terrelle Pryor owes his success in the 2016 season to his former head coach, Hue Jackson. Jackson was the head coach in Oakland when the Raiders took Pryor as a Quarterback in the supplemental draft. Pryor joined Jackson for a short while with the Bengals, and then once Jackson joined the Browns, he turned Pryor into a 1,000 yard receiver. You would think Jackson would like to reap the rewards of his project becoming successful? Nope he would rather have Kenny Britt. Pryor had a reputation of being divisive in the locker room and seems like a typically splashy Daniel Snyder signing. He was also only signed for one year only, meaning even they have doubts. Way overrated in fantasy drafts this year.
Daniel Simpkins: Pryor feels overvalued for many reasons. Pryor is switching teams and transitions from one scheme to another are always a concern. It may be even more of a concern than normal because Pryor is relatively new to playing wide receiver after converting from quarterback only a few years ago. There are already two established pass catchers on the roster (Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed) that will assure he won’t get the target volume he had in Cleveland. Washington will surely want to get 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson involved, which further muddies the waters. There are many safer options with higher statistical ceilings that are coming off the board a round or two after Pryor.
Jason Wood: Pryor is miscast as the number one receiver in Washington. In spite of his heroics, the Browns made little effort to re-sign the mammoth (6'4", 223 lbs.) playmaker. Pryor opted for a one-year, $6 million contract with Washington; he's betting on himself. It's unclear how high Pryor's ceiling is, particularly because he's unlikely to be targeted 141 times on his new team. Josh Doctson has the higher upside and is healthy after a redshirt first year. Jamison Crowder is established as a high volume slot receiver. And Jordan Reed is the team's best player when healthy.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Davante Adams, Green Bay
Chris Feery: Davante Adams is being drafted as a WR2, but there’s no guarantee he’ll even be the second most productive receiver on the Green Bay Packers. There’s certainly a chance that he’ll justify his draft position, but there’s also a lot of competition for targets. Randall Cobb and Martellus Bennett are also in the mix for being the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers that is not named Jordy Nelson. We’ll pass on Adams for a WR2, but we’ll pounce if he slips to a more reasonable value.
Jason Wood: Adams caught 12 touchdowns last season, on route to a Top 10 fantasy ranking (WR7). The 4th year receiver is the apple of fantasy owner’s eye, yet caution is warranted. Touchdowns are the least predictable component of fantasy value, and the Packers have a history of going to the hot hand. Adams is talented and has a role, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Randall Cobb leads the team in touchdowns this season. The only Packers receiver with certainty is Jordy Nelson. Adams has to battle Cobb along with newly signed tight end Martellus Bennett. Add the TD volatility to Adams’ problematic drop rate, and it’s enough to pass on his maintaining WR1 value in 2017.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh
Andy Hicks: There are some who just fall in love with a player’s upside and don’t see the mess all around him. Such is the case with Martavis Bryant. There is no doubt he is a talented receiver, when he is on the field. The key is when he is on the field. He has missed 20+ games in his first 3 years with suspensions and must have countless offenses on the substance abuse program. It is obvious what happens if he does it again. Let’s look at those who have been suspended for at least a year recently. Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory, Josh Gordon, Aldon Smith, Dion Jordan, Daryl Washington, Justin Blackmon and countless more. These guys almost always screw up again and the NFL does vigorous testing on these players. The Steelers aren’t counting on Bryant this year. They have drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2nd round this year and have Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates Jr, among others. I would advise against taking Bryant this year, not because he may not be productive, my concern is that he may not even be available by the time the season starts. Let’s just see if he can make it to training camp and preseason first.
Stephen Holloway: Bryant is a nightmare for defensive backs to cover, but owning him in fantasy scares can be equally troubling. In three seasons at Clemson, he had one productive season. After catching only 19 passes over his first two collegiate years, he had 61 receptions for 1,354 yards and 13 touchdowns in his third season. Pittsburgh drafted him in 2014 after his excellent combine where he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and displayed good size and jumping ability. At Pittsburgh, he has only played 21 games in three seasons. He did not see the field as a rookie until game seven and has been suspended twice in the past two seasons for off the field issues. He is extremely talented, but prone to off the field troubles. The possibility of a short season remains high with Bryant.
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City
Jeff Haseley: The forward thinking on Hill is that he will be used more frequently in the Chiefs offense now that Jeremy Maclin is out of the picture. I'm not sure I see it that way. Hill is an athletic playmaker with an electric skill set, but I'm not sure possession receiver is in his bag of tricks. To me, Hill is Devin Hester with slightly more receiving ability - which isn't much. I could be wrong about Hill, but I don't see him being a receiver who gets 8-10 targets per game, which limits his fantasy appeal.
Chris Kuczynski: Tyreek Hill is an exciting player when he has the ball in his hands, but his high draft stock seems to be over-inflated due to the Chiefs being very thin at the wide receiver position and everyone expecting him to get a high volume of passes because Alex Smith has to throw it to someone. Travis Kelce is still going to be the main pass catcher in this offense, and there is not a lot to go around with Alex Smith’s ceiling of 3500 yards and 18 touchdowns. Make no mistake, this is still a run-first offense, with a running back group who should get a fair amount of catches themselves. Opposing teams will pay extra attention to him on special teams, which will result in more punts out of bounds or kick off away from him- this is if the Chiefs are even willing to put their “number one receiver” in harm’s way as much as he was last year on special teams. In the high WR2 range, I would rather draft someone who has proven volume and doesn’t rely on gadget plays and special teams to get 50 percent of their touchdowns.
DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay
Justin Howe: Many are projecting Jackson to enter Tampa Bay's passing game and immediately claim a solid No. 2 stake in the pecking order. But that's not really Jackson's game; he's less of a traditional possession-oriented No. 2 and much more of a downfield spark plug, one whose role is often set and capped. That's been on display as he's topped 100 targets just once since 2012. He could definitely create fireworks with strong-armed Jameis Winston, but it's unlikely to come with the volume that befits this kind of ADP. I'm expecting him to struggle for week-to-week usage consistency and settle in as a fantasy WR4. The WR3 upside is there, but he'll be fighting for targets with more established Buccaneers, and he's unlikely to cut much (if at all) into Mike Evans' dominant share.
Chris Kuczynski: In nine seasons, Desean Jackson has only amassed over 60 passes once, only scored over 6 touchdowns twice, surpassed 1100 yards 3 times, and usually barely hovers around 100 targets, even though most seasons he was considered the “number one” receiver in his offense. He has been relegated to a deep threat who is very much “all or nothing” where a long touchdown is the only thing that saves his fantasy week. This is not someone I want to rely on for WR3 numbers, especially since week to week it is hard to tell if he might be the number two target on his suddenly crowded offense which features one of the top receivers in the league in Mike Evans.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Odell Beckham Jr, NY Giants
Jeff Pasquino: There is no question that Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the best wide receivers in the game, even at his young age, but taking him as an elite wide receiver early in drafts is a risky proposition this year. Brandon Marshall has been added to the mix, which moves Sterling Shepard to a WR3 role and takes some pressure off of him to perform every contest. The Giants also added rookie tight end Evan Engram (Ole Miss) in the first round of the draft this spring, who will compete for targets with Beckham, especially in the red zone. Part of the reason Beckham has been so prolific in the past two seasons has been his elite target numbers – 169 in 2016 (WR2) and 158 in 2015 (WR7). Marshall was actually WR5 in 2015 with 173 targets, so both receivers are used to heavy workloads. Beckham’s targets (and thus production) should decrease with the addition of a better receiving tight end and a former elite wide receiver as his partner on the other side of the field.
Dez Bryant, Dallas
Mark Wimer: Though Bryant was a model of consistency during the Tony Romo era, it has been three seasons since he played a full slate of 16 games. He is no longer the focus of the Cowboy's offense (that guy would now be Ezekiel Elliott), and I don't think that Dallas is going to shift away from their run-centric offense anytime soon. Dallas was 30th in the NFL in passing attempts last season (with 483 attempts) and first in rushes (499). Dak Prescott may get a little more air under the football this season, but I think the days of 140-150 pass targets flowing to Bryant are in the rear-view mirror - yet he is being drafted as if they are a certainty. I think Bryant is being valued over his ceiling for 2017 right now - I am avoiding him in all my fantasy drafts this year.
Amari Cooper, Oakland
Ryan Hester: Cooper is a supremely talented player, but when drafting a fantasy WR1, touchdown scoring needs to be a strength. Cooper has zero catches on plays that started from inside the opponent’s 10 yard line in his career, and fellow starter Michael Crabtree looked like the superior red zone player in 2016. On an explosive passing game, Cooper figures to have plenty of volume and will certainly have massive weeks, but the lack of red zone usage is concerning from a consistency standpoint. It’s also worth noting that Cooper has averaged 138.5 PPR fantasy points in the first half his two seasons vs. 83.2 PPR fantasy points in the second halves, a decrease of nearly seven points per game. He may be due for some positive regression after scoring zero red zone touchdowns in 2016, but he’s being drafted at or near that regression-assuming ceiling.
Jamison Crowder, Washington
Matt Waldman: Washington’s slot receiver elevated his game last year, but I think he’s reached his ceiling in an offense that wants to emphasize the outside options and the tight end. Crowder is just good enough to get fantasy owners excited about him becoming a top playmaker, but not quite the athlete to actually do it. This also coincides with a massive underrating of Terrelle Pryor, who was a few touchdowns away from earning fantasy WR1 production despite a revolving door of Cleveland quarterbacks. Crowder also benefitted from injuries to Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson last year. It indicates that Crowder’s ADP is a reflection of fantasy owners latching onto hopeful upside that doesn’t match his offensive role.
Julian Edelman, New England
Jason Wood: Julian Edelman fits the Patriots puzzle. The former college quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-defensive back-turned-receiver is a trusted part of the Patriots offense; providing short yardage conversions whenever Tom Brady needs them. That’s all fine and good, but Bill Belichick is a mercenary when it comes to his personnel. Belichick will play whoever gives him the best chance to win. Edelman will have a role, but we have to expect his snaps to be less consistent this season. The Patriots haven’t had a receiver the likes of Brandin Cooks since Randy Moss left town. Cooks will command SIGNIFICANT attention on game day. Rob Gronkowski is healthy. Dwayne Allen will play a lot in 2-TE sets. Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola all have roles. Edelman will remain effective, but his fantasy outlook takes a hit this year barring a litany of injuries.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay
Ari Ingel: 1,200+ yards and 10+ touchdowns should be the norm, but keep in mind he was the only game in town last year at the receiver position and they have other legit weapons now, especially in deep threat DeSean Jackson, not to mention rookies Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard. The other concern is Winston, who was PFF's 20th ranked quarterback and who had a middle of the pack 64.9 QBR rating from ESPN last year. Winston's erratic play showed up in Evans box score down the stretch where he would mix in big games with some major duds. While Evans will not see another 175 targets, he will still get his, but I'd rather take Hilton and Green over him at this point in the pre-season, which means I'm probably owning very few shares.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis
Andy Hicks: T.Y. Hilton is a fantastic target for Andrew Luck and has exceeded expectations in his career to date. He produced career highs in receptions and yardage in 2016 and has proven to be a reliable receiver. The problem is that he is unlikely to outperform his draft slot this year and is more than likely to be a minor disappointment. He averages 6 touchdowns a year, with a high of 7 and a low of 5, so that is good, but not elite. Any drop in receptions and yardage this year and he underproduces. His floor is relatively high, so it won’t be a crushing disappointment, but he has precious little upside.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
Mark Wimer: Hopkins is a fine talent stuck with poor quarterbacking. Last year he suffered through the Brock Osweiler debacle, and this year he's going to have to live through the growing pains of rookie signal caller Deshuan Watson (with perhaps some games started by Tom Savage). Watson or Savage are not options that will maximize Hopkins' potential, yet Hopkins' current ADP assumes he can produce at fantasy WR 1 levels. I think that assessment is wildly optimistic. Hopkins is overvalued.
Jarvis Landry, Miami
Ryan Hester: Sometimes the easiest analysis is considered lazy. But can it still be lazy if it’s right? The possibly-lazy-yet-correct-so-far analysis on Landry is that he doesn’t score enough touchdowns to be a mid-to-high WR2. With three years of never scoring more than five times, that analysis shows a troubling trend. While it’s possible it could turn around, there are other gambles worth taking that provide more upside than rolling the proverbial dice on a short slot-skilled receiver to double the touchdown output he has registered in each of the past two seasons. Leave Landry for someone else, and go with the big upside and touchdown potential provided by Terrelle Pryor and Davante Adams, both of whom are being drafted around Landry.
Breshad Perriman, Baltimore
Jeff Pasquino: Steve Smith has retired and now Dennis Pitta (hip) is probably done for his career. That leave a ton of targets and production for the rest of the offense, starting with the wide receivers who will be starting for Joe Flacco. Mike Wallace is the likely to option, but it is Breshad Perriman who is the probable second starter for the Ravens come September. Perriman has been plagued by injuries in his first two years as a pro, but he did step up late last year, catching three touchdowns and topping 50 yards receiving three times in the second half of the 2016 season. Perriman is one to watch in the preseason as he could be the breakout wide receiver Baltimore desperately needs.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans
Stephen Holloway: Thomas had an awesome rookie season last year in New Orleans. He made the starting line-up before the season began and did not look back, catching 92 passes for 1,137 yards and 9 touchdowns. With the departure of Brandin Cooks, anticipation is high for even more production in his second season. There is no question that Thomas is talented, but the bar has been set very high. Last year, he caught 92 passes on only 121 targets, a catch percentage of 76.5%, which was the second highest in the NFL last year among those wide receivers that caught 50 or more passes. The Saints and Drew Brees are known to throw a lot, but rarely does the top target in New Orleans have a high number of targets compared to other teams. The last time a player had 130 targets or more was in 2013, Jimmy Graham’s last season with the Saints. The combination of the continued sharing of targets, the extremely high catch rate and the possibility that the Saints do run more often this year to rest their defense, all give me pause for Thomas to improve on last year’s production.
Mike Williams, LA Chargers
Matt Waldman: Selected this early because of the flexibility he provides short- and long-term for a Chargers offense that has lost some trust in Keenan Allen’s durability and has a potential “out” with Allen’s deal in a couple of years. Last year’s most productive option, Tyrell Williams, is also in the final year of his rookie deal. Then there’s 2015 signee Travis Benjamin, who played much of last year with a PCL injury. Add this up, and I think the rookie’s only shot at fantasy starter production comes at the expense of at least two outside options superior to him right now and a young tight end who should also deliver starter production. Mike Williams also injured his back during minicamp and is behind in his development. It’s still early, but he’s a brand name earning an overrated ADP based on NFL Draft position more than the reality of the depth chart.