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Overvalued Players: Wide Receivers

Footballguys staff members discuss wide receivers who are overvalued

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 4 Votes

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 1 year only, meaning even they have doubts. Way overrated in fantasy drafts this year and his price keeps getting higher.

Stephen Holloway: Pryor signed a one-year deal with Washington, essentially betting on himself to prove worthy of a long-term contract next season. He enters this season at the age of 28 and although it is his sixth year in the NFL, he has only one season experience playing wide receiver. He is very athletic and he does have an opportunity in Washington, but his lack of experience combined with going to a new team and learning a new offense, which is in transition due to coaching changes tamper my expectations.

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. Pryor’s ADP implies a high-end WR2 with WR1 upside. If you think that fits his description, so be it. I’ll happily pass on that outcome.

Player Receiving 3 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, even if he may not play, and Tyrell Williams had a 1,000-yard season in his absence last year. A definitive high risk, high reward player, but history says Allen 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 the past two seasons (Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry, with Mike Williams a possibility later this season) and still have Antonio Gates who may continue to see red zone targets this year. Even if Allen is healthy, he is not as likely to dominate targets as he has in the past.

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 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 behind Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb and Martellus Bennett are also in the mix for being the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers that does not have the last name of 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 owners’ eyes, 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 or Jordy Nelson or Martellus Bennett 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 for targets. Add the touchdown 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. Once a player is suspended for a full season, it is very hard to make it back in the NFL. The last player to successfully do so is Ricky Williams over a decade ago. Since then 17 players have been lost for a year due to substance abuse issues. Only 2 have made it back into the NFL, for a very short period. These guys almost always screw up again and the NFL does vigorous testing on these players. The Steelers are hoping, rather than 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.

Stephen Holloway: Bryant is a nightmare for defensive backs to cover, but owning him in fantasy can be equally troubling. In three seasons at Clemson, he had exactly 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 through his first 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 was recently reinstated, so it would not be a surprise for his ADP to climb even higher. Although extremely talented, his suspension history should give caution to expectations as the possibility of a short season remains high.

Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots

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.

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.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia

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 top-level 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 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.

Matt Waldman: It’s nice to know that Jeffery worked with a specialist to have his upper body realigned so it could prevent leg injuries. However, I’ll wait and see if it works. It’s an easier to be cautious when I’m not sold that Carson Wentz will emerge as a special talent this year. I like a lot about his game, but he must prove that his footwork has improved enough to deliver the ball accurately on vertical routes. I’m sold more on the idea of Nelson Agholor being the best value of this corps than I am taking Jeffery at his current ADP—even if Jeffery plays to his current value, I think the risk for disappointment with the former Bear is greater than the potential value of the investment.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Doug Baldwin, Seattle

Andy Hicks: After a phenomenal finish to his 2015 season, many were doubting that Doug Baldwin could repeat his WR1 performance. He actually increased his receptions and yardage totals but halved his touchdown total. That last stat is the one that concerns me most. I doubt he pushes 80 receptions this year and a drop in other categories would put him back into the heart of WR2 territory. When drafting receivers at the stage he will be available you always like to see a possible upside to the pick and with Baldwin that is very unlikely.

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.

Randall Cobb, Green Bay

Phil Alexander: Since Cobb last had a productive season, Davante Adams emerged as Aaron Rodgers clear number two target behind Jordy Nelson, and the Packers signed Martellus Bennett, giving them their best tight end of the Rodgers era (sorry, Jermichael Finley). Not only do Adams' emergence and Bennett's addition put a dent in Cobb's overall target projection, they absolutely ruin his scoring opportunity. From 2014-2015, only Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown had more red zone targets than Cobb. But last year, Rodgers zeroed in on Adams to great effect when Green Bay got within striking distance. Adams' 23 red zone targets trailed only Nelson's 31 for the league lead at wide receiver, and his 39% red zone touchdown conversion rate was second to only Rishard Matthews' 47% (minimum 15 targets). With Adams and Nelson's roles solidified and Bennett's history as a red zone producer throughout his career, Cobb looks like the odd man out. He's not a terrible pick at his depressed ADP, but with players like John Brown and Tyrell Williams still routinely being drafted behind Cobb, there's little point in adding him to your bench.

Amari Cooper, Oakland

Jeff Haseley: This could be the year Amari Cooper finishes in the Top 10, but for him to do that, he'll need to step up his scoring game. He had 6 and 5 touchdowns in his first two years in the league. To be an elite fantasy receiver he'll need to find the end zone more often.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

Ari Ingel: Andrew Luck's go-to guy stymied last year by mediocre quarterback play and still caught 91 passes for 1,448 yards and 6 touchdowns. However, as Rotoworld's Evan Silva pointed out, Hilton averaged 10.3 targets for 101.3 yards and a 9 touchdown pace in games where Donte Moncrief missed but fell to a 9.2 target, 82.1 yards, and four touchdown pace when Moncrief played. In terms of fantasy scoring, that is a difference between 19.8 fantasy points per game versus 14.8 fantasy points per game. With Moncrief fully healthy, it is realistic to assume Hilton's lower clip could certainly be the proper pace. Although, even so, that is still a finishing line of 147 targets for 1,313 yards, good enough for a top 12 finish at the position last year. The biggest red flag is his quarterback. Andrew Luck still is not throwing from off-season shoulder surgery and there is talk that he could miss a few games to start the season or even go on the PUP list. He’s gone from a very safe second round pick to a risky one.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston

Ryan Hester: Outside of his absolutely nuclear stretch in the first 10 games of the 2015 season, what makes fantasy owners think Hopkins has any business being an early round pick? In those 10 games, Hopkins had 135 targets, 76 receptions, 1,045 yards and 9 touchdowns. Here are Hopkins’ career totals: 561 targets, 317 receptions, 4,487 yards, 23 touchdowns, 64 games played. For those who aren’t math majors (don’t worry, I’m not either; I needed an Excel spreadsheet), Hopkins has accumulated 23%-24% of his targets, receptions, and yards in 15.6% of his games. He has also notched 39% of his career touchdowns in 15.6% of his games. Maybe that 10 game stretch – not his poor 2016 quarterback play – was the aberration.

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.

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.

Willie Snead IV, New Orleans

Matt Waldman: I’m not sold that Snead can separate downfield without significant help from the Saints scheme. Without Brandin Cooks, I’m not sure defenses will be as fearful of Ted Ginn Jr. Sure, Ginn is dangerous but he drops enough passes that opponents might be more open to forcing the speedster to prove that he can hang onto the ball enough to earn special attention. Until that time, Snead may not have enough room to work open the way he did with Cooks in the lineup. Snead also benefited from Coby Fleener’s slow acclimation to the Saints offense. While Snead’s current value isn’t tremendously high, there are other options with greater potential and a lower floor.

Sammy Watkins, LA Rams

Jason Wood: Sammy Watkins is as talented as any receiver in the NFL. If fantasy value were based purely on raw ability, paying WR2 prices for the 4th-year receiver would be justified. Unfortunately, Watkins abilities don’t offset his frightening injury history. Foot injuries are worrisome for any player, but for a receiver, they can be career-threatening. The Bills were so concerned about Watkins; they declined his fifth-year option. Two months later, they traded him to the Los Angeles Rams. While the Bills weren’t a high octane passing offense, Tyrod Taylor is much better than Jared Goff. At least based on what we’ve seen of their respective careers thus far. Is there a chance Watkins finds a new lease on life as the top receiver in Los Angeles? Yes. But betting on the Rams passing offense is a risky endeavor.