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
Deshaun Watson, Houston
Alexander: It was fun when Watson set the world on fire in limited action as a rookie. And it's undeniable his ability to produce fantasy points with his legs makes him more or less bust-proof (injuries notwithstanding). But how on earth are people considering drafting him in the same range as Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, when he's coming off his second ACL tear in three years (separate knees) and a season in which he posted an entirely unsustainable 9.3% touchdown rate? As long as encouraging reports continue on his knee, Watson will be fine as an every-week fantasy starter. Just don't reach for him ahead of early-round running backs and wide receivers expecting the same once-in-a-lifetime results we saw last year.
Hester: Watson is a mobile player coming off a knee injury. That brings into question how repeatable his 5.5 rushing fantasy points per game will be in 2018. Even if that upside is repeated, it's still hard to use a top-three pick at quarterback on a player with less than a half a season worth of games played. These reasons may seem nitpicky, but at the most fantasy-fertile position, any small "cons" are worth considering. Even for one-quarterback league owners who prefer the security of an "elite" quarterback, why use a premium pick on Watson with proven commodities such as Tom Brady and Cam Newton available for a similar/cheaper price?
Howe: There was plenty of reason to doubt Watson pre-draft – his college resume was subpar, as were his athletic measurables – and much of that criticism still stands. He was simply electric over six rookie starts, but you don’t want to categorically trust such wild numbers (a ridiculous 21 touchdowns) over that sample size. Watson brings plenty of dual-threat ceiling to the table, of course, and even if he falls flat as a passer he won’t completely bust. But he’s being taken before Cam Newton, a much more proven dual-threat dynamo, in many drafts, and it's hard to get on board with that.
Parsons: Watson was a shooting star in his half-season-ish of rookie season production, logging numbers first-year quarterbacks only dream about. Watson's efficiency was off the charts in terms of touchdown rate and yards per attempt. Watson also added Cam Newton-like rushing production en route to his elite fantasy numbers. However, it is worth noting Watson did have the typical rookie growing pains in terms of interception rate and sack rate, both well above the NFL average. The biggest concern with Watson is his ADP represents having to shoot the needle again on the perfect fantasy season to justify the cost of going quarterback early compared to other positions, where the drop off is more substantial by the later rounds.
Pasquino: Two ACL tears in three years should give anyone pause, but a top-five fantasy spot for Watson? That seems incredibly generous. Much of Watson’s value comes from his two-dimensional ability to put a defense on its heels with his rushing and passing ability. Asking Watson to be the same dynamic quarterback after another ligament tear is strike one. The other strikes come from looking at his supporting cast. DeAndre Hopkins is an elite WR1, but after that can you really trust Will Fuller V or Ryan Griffin? Lamar Miller is just an average tailback who has never caught 50 passes in a season, so asking for a top-five fantasy season for Watson – or even consistent QB1 production in the weeks Watson is healthy – is asking far too much.
Simpkins: There is a growing consensus that Watson is due for regression in touchdown rate and that he is vastly overhyped when he is drafted in the same range as Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Not only do you have to take Watson over these guys, but you also miss out on the chance to take exciting offensive options in the same range. For example, you could draft Brandin Cooks or JuJu Smith-Schuster in this zone and then get similar or greater quarterback value out of someone selected in a later round. The opportunity cost of drafting Watson is just too high.
Wood: In the immortal words of Flavor Flav, “Don’t Believe the Hype.” At his current ADP, fantasy owners are not only assuming Watson is healthy, but that last year’s hyper-productivity is repeatable. Coming off a torn ACL, Watson puts himself in harm’s way too often. Last year’s jaw-dropping 9.3% touchdown rate is unsustainable; history tells us Watson will never come close to that rate again. Only 10 quarterbacks since 1980 have had a season with an 8%+ touchdown rate. Manning’s career rate was 5.7%. Aaron Rodgers, who had an 8.96% rate in 2011, has a career 6.4% rate. Tom Brady had an 8.65% rate in his 50-touchdown season, but his career mark stands at 5.5%. What Watson did last year was exceedingly rare, and inflated by a tiny sample size. Repeating is unlikely.
Player Receiving 4 Votes
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
Gray: Andrew Luck is a joy to watch play. Such memories. A couple of months ago, his 2018 prospects seemed fairly bright. But in late-May, he still wasn't throwing a football. In a best-ball league, Luck is not someone you can take a chance on - roster spots are simply too precious. In a redraft, he's worth considering as a player you aren't counting on but just want to take a chance on him returning to greatness.
Hindery: Every player comes with their own risk/reward profile. For Luck, the risks are well known: he has a shoulder injury that kept him out for the entire 2017 season and still isn’t throwing a football yet this year. While he will likely be cleared to play before the season, there is a real chance that we see a repeat of last year with the Colts talking positively but Luck’s recovery remains stuck in neutral. For the most part, the risks are being correctly factored into his high-end QB2 ADP. However, drafters may currently be over-estimating Luck’s 2018 upside and over drafting him as a result. Luck’s ADP resides in a tier that includes passers such as Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, and Jameis Winston. Those quarterbacks have a couple things going for them that Luck does not. First, each has a much deeper set of weapons to throw to. Either Chester Rogers or Ryan Grant is going to be the Colts WR2 across from T.Y. Hilton. Second, the other quarterbacks in Luck’s tier all are healthy and not coming off of a multi-year layoff. Even if Luck does successfully return to the field in 2018, it is unlikely he lights it up for fantasy owners given how much rust he will have to shake off and the lack of weapons he has to throw to. It doesn’t make sense to take Luck when there are players with at least as much upside on the board that come without nearly the amount of risk.
Holloway: Luck is still not passing and his return to pre-injury production is not a certainty in the least. The shoulder injury first occurred in September 2015 and was an on and off again issue throughout the 2016 season. He had surgery in January 2017 and has still not thrown. Everyone in Indianapolis remains confident, but he should remain low in your rankings until he is actually passing and looking fit.
Wood: Luck hasn’t thrown a pass in over 500 days. Why on Earth would you want to prioritize him in drafts? The Colts remain optimistic about a healthy return, and if he does participate in the preseason in some capacity, this reticence will soften. For now, he’s fantasy kryptonite. Even if you want to bet he’ll be healthy, why does that automatically equate to a fantasy star? Luck has a career completion rate below 60%. His yards-per-attempt (7.2) isn’t elite. He’s got a great career touchdown rate (5.0%), which goes a long way in fantasy circles, but most of those touchdowns came with a stronger supporting cast. T.Y. Hilton remains, but will Chester Rogers or Ryan Grant be enough for Luck to put up prodigious passing stats? Has the offensive line improved enough? From my vantage, Luck would be overvalued if fully healthy, much less with the massive question marks surrounding his throwing arm.
Player Receiving 3 Votes
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Bloom: It isn’t that Rodgers is a bad pick at ADP. He’s a proven performer and we’ll rank him in the top five in just about any week that he’s playing. The problem that you’re passing up chances to get quarterbacks that represent similar upside propositions in the mid rounds and the layup-easy strategy of waiting on quarterback in the late rounds. The quarterback group is deeper than ever and taking Rodgers near his ADP denies you a chance to take advantage of the much less steep dropoff at quarterback the further you go into your draft.
Hindery: Perhaps Rodgers is worthy of being the top quarterback off of the board in drafts this offseason. While he hasn’t thrown for 4,500 yards since 2011, he has consistently thrown for 30+ touchdowns in seasons where he has been able to stay healthy and is obviously an elite talent at the position. However, there are a number of factors that still make Rodgers overvalued at his current overall ADP. Health is the first major concern. Since turning 30-years old in 2013, Rodgers has had a pair of major season-ending injuries to his collarbone. Second, the Packers have done little to replace Rodgers’ favorite target, Jordy Nelson. Perhaps Jimmy Graham lessens the loss a bit, but Green Bay still has nothing but question marks behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Three late-round rookies and uninspiring youngsters like Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, Michael Clark and Deangelo Yancey are competing to start on the outside across from Adams. Overall, the incredible depth at quarterback and multitude of other exciting, high-end options available quite a bit later in the draft (Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, etc.) make it unwise to reach for Rodgers at his current ADP.
Pasquino: One could dig into the numbers and deep analysis on Aaron Rodgers, but the basic question to answer is this – Why would you spend a top-50 pick on a quarterback? Time and time again, this is not a sound strategy. Jordy Nelson is gone and Rodgers is yet another year older, which will lead to fewer running opportunities and a higher risk of injury. His supporting cast beyond Davante Adams and Randall Cobb is very limited, as is the running game. Jimmy Graham is a strong addition, but the net difference of adding Graham and losing Nelson (plus the passage of time) means Rodgers is not going to be the fantasy QB1 this season. Even if he contends for that spot, it will not be a runaway. Thus Rodgers does not justify a top-50 fantasy pick.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco
Haseley: Yes - the 49ers won five straight games to conclude the 2017 season, and yes - Jimmy Garoppolo was the headline act that catapulted the 49ers from the doldrums to respectability. Early drafts, however, are treating him as the second coming of Tom Brady. Is he worthy of being the 10th quarterback off the board in drafts? Don't be so sure, especially now that defenses can learn and prepare to face off against him. He may be the next best quarterback, but do not be willing to draft him as such, just yet.
Howe: There are factors working in his favor – Kyle Shanahan, for example. But overall, there’s little to Garoppolo that suggests a leap at his current ADP. It's worth noting that San Francisco's dropbacks fell off notably once he stepped into the lineup and the team started winning. All told, if we extrapolate his 5 starts into 16 games, we get a ho-hum 20.4 touchdowns, which doesn’t look to hold much upside with this supporting cast. And we shouldn't be spending a premium pick in the hopes he’ll maintain those wild yardage nets. In this range, it makes more sense to chase upside in a proven, weapon-laden Kirk Cousins, or stick with a consistent volume play like Matthew Stafford.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
Haseley: The Titans have blossomed into a run-oriented team with less emphasis on Marcus Mariota's arm to win them games. Mariota had a down year in 2017. In 15 games, he had just two 300+ yard efforts and only three games with more than two touchdown passes. It's a much better strategy to take a flier on a quarterback like Lamar Jackson or Mitchell Trubisky at the same spot Mariota is getting drafted.
Wood: Mariota isn’t a bad quarterback. In three seasons, he has a respectable 61.7% completion rate, 7.43 yards-per-attempt average, and a 4.5% touchdown rate. But being "not bad" isn’t good enough. Mariota has ranked 22nd, 13th, and 17th in three seasons. From an outside perspective, the Titans do not lack for offensive playmakers. The receiving corps is deep, Delanie Walker is a Pro Bowler, and his backup Jonnu Smith has the skill set to be a star. Yet, Mariota struggles in mediocrity in part because of his injury history. He’s never played a full season, and one has to question whether he ever will. Check the annals of NFL history and find a starting quarterback who missed games in each of his first three seasons, then became a reliable fantasy commodity.
Dak Prescott, Dallas
Bloom: Prescott was masterful in the first half of the season, but he went over a cliff without Ezekiel Elliott in the second half of the year. He didn’t get his bearings back after Elliott returned, with a terrible no-score, two-interception dud against the Seahawks in Week 16. This year, he’s going to have to adjust to new primary targets with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten gone, and Prescott was already in one of the lowest-volume passing games in the league. There are better upside darts at quarterback once everyone has taken their starter than Prescott.
Hicks: Take away his two best receivers, by far, in Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, and it is not reasonable to expect Dak Prescott to offer anything to fantasy owners this year or for the foreseeable future. His primary function will be to hand the ball off to Ezekiel Elliott. His, for now, No. 1 receiver is Terrance Williams - a regular punching bag for the fantasy community and recently arrested. After Williams, we have journeyman receivers and players who have a handful of targets between them. It is as though Jerry Jones is trying to avoid paying Prescott a huge contract by crippling his ability to succeed as a passer. It would be nice for Prescott to succeed despite the position he is in, but it is hard to see.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia
Hicks: It is a common perception that Carson Wentz will be the future face of the NFL if he isn’t already. He displayed star qualities in 2017 and had fantasy stats to go with it. Then he tore his ACL. Then the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl without him. Onto 2018 and it is hard to see him starting early in the season. His injury was late in the year, and it was more than one ligament, meaning the recovery will be harder. The Eagles have no need to rush Wentz back onto the field with Super Bowl-winning Nick Foles in reserve. For the long-term future of the franchise, he will not play until he is medically cleared and fit. At this stage in the offseason, when you take Wentz, you have to take Foles as well which negates your draft price even further. If Wentz is 100% clear to start in Week 1, his current asking price is fair.
Waldman: It's wise to be skeptical that Wentz will be ready to begin the year. Even with the video of him taking snaps, hopping into position, and throwing the ball. Wentz looked about as ready as Phillip Rivers playing with a torn ACL against the Patriots over a decade ago in the AFC Championship game. The Eagles have Nick Foles and don’t need to be desperate about starting Wentz to begin the year. The desire to have Wentz ranked as a strong starter for most of the year, considering that he missed three-and-half games last year and was still the No. 8 fantasy quarterback in 2017. Yet, when reading or listening to reports about Wentz, don't be surprised if he missed the first four to six weeks of the season. His upside may be in the range people are slotting him but that’s not his baseline. You shouldn't be drafting him at this value.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota
Holloway: Cousins signed the three-year, $84 million, fully-guaranteed contract with Minnesota and Vikings ownership definitely like him now more than Washington ever did. Minnesota’s defense led the NFL last year allowing only 15.8 points per game and was second allowing only 192.4 yards per game. Cousins is not a game manager, but his outlook leans toward a much more conservative approach this season. His production should decrease more than most expect due to less opportunity even if he remains efficient.
Cam Newton, Carolina
Holloway: Newton adds value by consistently running for touchdowns. He has averaged almost eight per season, but only 5.5 per year the last two seasons. His rushing climbed from a career-low 359 yards in 2016 back up to 754 yards last year and that is the source of his value. His career average of 7.33 YPA has not been met since 2015. He is inconsistent at best passing for touchdowns, with only one season above 24 and three under 20. He averages only 58.5% completion rate and 13 interceptions. Although a solid 248 pounds, he is hit often and hard both in the pocket and on rushes. When his rushing game diminishes, his fantasy appeal will likewise fall. In his eighth season, caution should be exercised as that expectation should increase as the age and hits continue.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
Brimacombe: It feels wrong putting Roethlisberger as an overvalued player, but over the past three years with the emergence of Le'Veon Bell as one of the game's best running backs, Roethlisberger has slowly taken a back seat finishing as the 21st, 18th, and 9th best quarterback. There is no doubt he can have a couple of games with 3+ touchdowns, but he is also shown that he can have plenty of games filled with turnovers and only a touchdown or two. You should not be overpaying at the quarterback position with a player like Roethlisberger, who will be overdrafted based on the team he plays for and his name recognition.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit
Bloom: Stafford actually improved on fewer pass attempts last year. He’s durable, and he’s consistent. It’s still questionable to use one of your one or two quarterback picks on Stafford at ADP with some changes working against him reproducing 2017 numbers. One of the lowest-volume running games in the league is likely to grow a lot if the Lions are successful at their priority of re-establishing the running game. Zach Zenner, Tion Green, and Dwayne Washington combined for 74 carries last year. LeGarrette Blount could double or triple that, with second-round pick Kerryon Johnson and Ameer Abdullah still accounting for the 165 carries Abdullah caught last year. Stafford represents swinging for a single at quarterback as it is. His modest ceiling will lower if the Lions run more and run well in the red zone behind finishers like Blount and Johnson.
Russell Wilson, Seattle
Hester: Wilson's 2017 season was historic. Accounting for all but one offensive touchdown was unprecedented. While it's fun to reminisce, unprecedented occurrences typically don't happen in consecutive seasons. Due to regression alone, Seattle is likely to have more than one rushing touchdown from a player other than Wilson. If you're not a fan of regression or statistics (and just why not?), the personnel decisions also suggest more rushing production in 2018. The team drafted running back Rashaad Penny in the first round. In addition to that, the next Pete Carroll offseason quote not involving the running game will be the first. Perhaps that's hyperbole, but Carroll has been gushing about his running game throughout the offseason. Further hurting Wilson's case are personnel changes as he will no longer have Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson Jr (a combined 101 receptions, 1,223 yards, and 16 touchdowns) at his disposal.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
Waldman: Winston is talented, and the Buccaneers receiving corps and tight ends are very good. However, one should be skeptical of the offensive line and Winston’s red zone prowess. The Buccaneers quarterback has been a turnover machine for three years and last year’s issues included seven fumbles. There is no reason to expect Winston to get benched, but if there is a quarterback who might earn a surprise benching for bad play, Winston’s recent performances make him ripe for that dynamic to unfold. Footballguy and Football Perspective writer Chase Stuart looked at Winston’s stats and determined that Winston’s 2017 was an underrated campaign. However, the turnovers, red zone issues, and poor line play must improve, or you should not be buying.