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.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Kenyan Drake, Miami
Chad Parsons: Kenyan Drake was a glaring dynasty sell this offseason (if not before the deadline in 2017) and now presents an avoid-player at his ADP cost for 2018 redraft. Drake enjoyed life without Jay Ajayi down the stretch last year, posting 90+ total yards in 6-of-9 games. My approach to gauging a player's value to the team is to see what the franchise does the following offseason to gauge believe and support. Miami brought in Frank Gore in free agency and drafted Kalen Ballage. Gore has logged at least 250 carries in each of the last seven seasons and has more than 14,000 career rushing yards. While well into his 30s, Gore was not brought in to merely be a position room player/coach. At worst Gore is a strong 1B to Drake's lead status, pecking away at Drake's ceiling. Ballage, while on Day 3, was one of the few backs remaining on the board to be a challenger to significant work on an NFL depth chart. As a prototypically sized back with strong athleticism and receiving skills, Ballage profiles as the closest thing to David Johnson since the Northern Iowa product entered the NFL. Drake's ADP assumes neither Gore or Ballage will be a challenger to Drake's workload, which is a risky bet.
Jeff Pasquino: Drake would be a fine option if he was the clear leader in the Miami backfield, but the ageless Frank Gore is now listed as the co-starter, which crushes Drake’s value. It is not like Miami is an offensive powerhouse, so I do not expect great value from two backs sharing the touches. Look elsewhere (or at Gore) for value and upside.
Daniel Simpkins: Drake’s current ADP reflects last year’s success, but doesn’t account for the new dynamics of this backfield. Drake’s skills have certainly improved from his college tape, but the situation is a bit different in Miami this year. Last year, Drake’s primary competition, Jay Ajayi, was traded away in season, creating a situation in which Drake had an abnormally large share of touches and targets. The Dolphins don’t seem to be satisfied with rolling with just Drake this year, bringing in 1,000-yard rusher Frank Gore in free agency and the very underrated Kalen Ballage in the Draft to help Drake split the load. Knowing that there will be more of a split should discourage owners from taking him at his current price point.
Matt Waldman: Drake has the physical skills of a Pro Bowl back. His raw agility, burst, balance, and speed are fantastic but he’s inefficient and unaware how to maximize his athletic gifts. If he’s not running downhill or outside in a straight line through a big crease, he’s just as likely to knock himself down by smashing into the backside of his blocker as he is avoiding a defender. Fans loved the long runs and once again expect the magic of intuition to somehow make Drake a big-time performer. Enter the slower and older Frank Gore, who has earned a split of the starting role with Drake early in training camp and will not cede that role this year unless Morpheus from the Matrix is real and uploads Gore’s knowledge of running the football into Drake’s brain. Drake will be an inconsistent producer not worth his current value.
Ronald Jones II II, Tampa Bay
Will Grant: Jones is a bit undersized for an NFL running back and he lost touches to a freshman when it came to passing downs. Peyton Barber is not an exciting pick but Tampa Bay has named him the starter for now. Jones did okay in the first pre-season game but he hasn’t cemented himself into the starting lineup just yet. He might be a decent back before the end of the season, but for now, he’s the backside of a committee.
Ryan Hester: Jones is an exciting prospect with a bright future, but for 2018, he should be avoided at this price. First, Tampa Bay will be without Jameis Winston for three games. The game scripts in those contests aren’t going to be running back friendly. Second – and more importantly – Jones is struggling in pass protection and catching passes in camp so far. The team won’t rush him along at the cost of sacks and potential turnovers when they are comfortable with Peyton Barber, Charles Sims, and Jacquizz Rodgers in those situations.
Matt Waldman: Seduced again by speed and magical thinking that running back is mostly an instinctive position, fantasy owners want to believe that that “light will come on” for Jones during the final two weeks of August or the first month of September and he’ll become a much better blocker, more consistent technician as a receiver, and make better decisions between the tackles. He’ll improve, but he’s not jumping from third on the depth chart to the starting role within this period of time – not without an injury. Jones has starter talent but he lacks refined starter skills. Peyton Barber belongs where Jones is leaving draft boards. It’s a massive blind spot that should be in the process of correction after the announcement that Jones is behind Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers.
Jason Wood: Jones is talented and more explosive than Doug Martin, Peyton Barber, or Jacquizz Rodgers. However, he’s being over-drafted as a top-25 fantasy running back. The Buccaneers offensive line is, offensive. Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games. The defense looks porous. And the offensive staff remains from last year’s uninspired season. Dynasty owners can invest in Jones, but redraft owners should look at the bounty of better-positioned rookie running backs throughout the league.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Tarik Cohen, Chicago
Andy Hicks: Smaller running backs are often best used in small doses. A similar back in Darren Sproles, both size wise, and draft slot, took until his sixth season before he produced a decent fantasy season and that was when he changed teams. More often than not these guys produce an electric piece of play but struggle with more than 10 touches. Tarik Cohen started his first three games with 13, 15, and 16 touches. After that, he only exceeded 10 three more times for the remaining 13 games.
Dan Hindery: The case for Cohen at his relatively lofty ADP was a tenuous one to start with and everything we have seen early in training camp points to Cohen being an overrated fantasy option. Over the second half of last season, Cohen saw just 4.1 carries per game and caught 3.1 passes per game, which led to his RB49 fantasy finish over that stretch in PPR leagues. Cohen has spent extended time practicing at wide receiver, which doesn’t indicate he is going to be more involved as a runner than he was last year. The case for Cohen returning value almost solely due to his receiving production is increasingly shaky. First, Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t been lighting the world on fire (reportedly averaging two interceptions per practice), so hopes of the Bears offense taking a quantum leap forward are fading. Second, the Bears have an increasingly deep corps of pass catchers which also includes Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, and Adam Shaheen. The volume of targets isn’t going to be there for Cohen to put up RB2 numbers.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta
Phil Alexander: Freeman had only one top-5 weekly finish in 2017 and was as a top-12 back just four times. While he has performed as an RB1 sharing a backfield with Tevin Coleman in the past, those seasons were tied to Kyle Shanahan's offensive scheme. In his first year under current Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, Freeman was less involved as a receiver. His targets per game dipped from a two-year average of 5.6 with Shanahan calling plays to 3.4 last year -- a decrease of nearly 40%. Unfortunately, Shanahan isn't walking back through the doors of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which caps Freeman's ceiling in fantasy RB2 territory for as long as he's sharing a backfield with Coleman.
Dan Hindery: Freeman is a safe option who has proven he can still put up high-end RB2 numbers (RB13 last season) even when splitting snaps with Tevin Coleman. But with an ADP in the middle of the second round, don’t we want more upside than that? Freeman had just six games last season scoring above 12 fantasy points (PPR). His relatively low yardage numbers (865 rushing yards and 317 receiving yards last season) make him touchdown dependent on a week-to-week basis and he scored in less than half (6-of 14) of his games last season. The second round of fantasy drafts is loaded this year, which makes settling for Freeman high in drafts a losing proposition.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee
Phil Alexander: Some people are drafting Henry as if the Dion Lewis signing doesn't matter, which seems silly. Henry finished as the RB26 in standard leagues last season, splitting carries with DeMarco Murray. Why should we expect a different outcome now that he's sharing the backfield with Lewis -- a veteran of the offensive scheme Tennessee's new coaching staff is implementing, a superior talent to Murray at this point in their respective careers, and the recipient of a rich free-agent contract? It's not like the Titans can run the ball much more than the 27.2 times per game they did last season. We're in the same spot we've been in with Henry since he entered the league -- waiting for an injury to pave the way to the workload he needs to become a reliable fantasy starter.
Dan Hindery: It is asking a lot to invest in a true committee back in the ADP range where Henry is being drafted. The Tennessee coaches have been open about using both Henry and Dion Lewis as a committee ever since Lewis was signed to a big free agent deal in the spring. The running back rotation when the first string offense was out there in the preseason opener confirmed the truth of these statements. Henry wasn’t on the field for more than two plays in a row on the nine-play opening drive and Lewis continues to look like the go-to pass catcher. Henry’s relatively minimal involvement as a pass catcher will make him very touchdown-dependent on a week-to-week basis, which is likely to lead to many frustrating Sundays for those who invest a premium fantasy pick in Henry.
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis
Andy Hicks: Marlon Mack looks the most likely to lead the carry total in Indianapolis, but what will that mean? The most likely scenario is that the Colts will be looking for a better option next year or maybe even take a player that is cut from another roster like Alex Collins was last year. The short answer is that Mack may be fantasy useful on a short-term basis, but it won't last.
Jason Wood: Marlon Mack is just another guy. He’s the kind of player that routinely gets over-drafted because fantasy owners overlook his flaws in favor of opportunity. Yes, Frank Gore is now in Miami, which frees up 250+ touches. If Mack were anything special, wouldn’t he have commanded more than 114 touches as a rookie? A 34-year old Gore got three times the workload, on a team that was rebuilding and assessing the future. Now with a new regime in place, Mack finds himself in competition with not one, but two talented rookie running backs – Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
Rashaad Penny, Seattle
Will Grant: The Seattle running game has a lot of question marks, but most people are pushing ‘all in’ on Penny. The Seahawks spent a 1st rounder on him, so everyone assumes he the de facto starter. However. Chris Carson looked solid last season until he broke his leg. Had Seattle not spent a 1st rounder on Penny, everyone would be on he Carson bandwagon. This feels like it will be an RBBC situation with both backs getting a chance to shine. Right now everyone is hot and heavy for Penny and it’s pushing his value into overvalued territory.
Matt Waldman: Bill Belichick suffers no fools; Pete Carroll plays the fool to catch the wise. Carrol disguises his real assessments of his team with optimism. Penny has talent and matches the new gap scheme in Seattle. His blocking is a big question mark. The Seahawks staff has said he’s good but most NFL teams do a poor job of coaching pass protection at the position because the drills don’t focus on the diagnostic element of pass protection. If the diagnosis is lacking, the rest of the techniques that follow will always be a step off or out of rhythm. It’s likely the Seahawks have little idea about Penny’s pass protection until they get a lot of preseason tape on him. They’ll also learn he runs through reaches but not wraps and it means he’s not that powerful, either. Penny has a future, but Chris Carson should be your present target.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Saquon Barkley, N.Y. Giants
Ryan Hester: He’s exciting and dynamic, but the price tag is too high for a player running behind a poor offensive line and whose ceiling could be limited by a poor quarterback. The team’s Week 1 preseason game showed a small look into what Barkley can do – for better and for worse. His first touch was a 39-yard gain. But his next three carries combined for four yards. Barkley often dances behind the line of scrimmage, and he’ll have to learn how to correct that to provide consistency.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati
Justin Howe: Drafters seem to be approaching Bernard as a plug-in RB1/2 if Joe Mixon fails or goes down. But that handcuff role is his only real value; he won't be stealing many touches while Mixon is upright and on the field. He claimed just 5.6 looks (carries plus targets) per game last year prior to Mixon's scary concussion, and though he boosted that over the last 5 games, it probably won't carry over much. Mixon is an accomplished and dynamic receiver in his own right, after all. Bernard carries plenty of PPR value as an RB5 handcuff, but he gets drafted too early for that. I'd much rather wait for two or three rounds and jump on Austin Ekeler or T.J. Yeldon, similarly-projected guys that offer more value.
Royce Freeman, Denver
Andy Hicks: The problem with the Denver running game is that there is no obvious lead back. Many are hitching their wagon to Royce Freeman and despite the limited options around him, the coaching staff will not play him until he is ready. Third-round rookie running backs often have a significant issue somewhere in their game, be it pass protection, catching a ball or simply being fast enough. In the case of Freeman reports of him lacking explosion and being easy to bring down have to ironed out before he sees NFL fronts. He is not a lost cause but may need time. Maybe not a good option to start the year, but if he can be coached may be a player down the stretch.
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City
Ryan Hester: Last season, Hunt accounted for 67.1% of Kansas City’s rushing attempts (87.1% if you remove attempts from non-running backs). Because Spencer Ware was injured so late in the preseason, Hunt’s workload was a necessity for the Chiefs. But this season, Ware is back and should cut into Hunt’s workload. It won’t be a true committee, but any decrease in volume has an impact. The team would be silly to give Hunt that much workload again while a talented Ware wastes away on the bench.
Carlos Hyde, Cleveland
Justin Howe: I've long been down on Hyde as an NFL lead back, and 2017 didn't turn me around. He actually stayed healthy for 16 games and drew gobs and gobs of volume, which was great to see. But he also saw his snaps and usage dip down the stretch, ceding more work than we'd like to see to undrafted rookie Matt Breida. Much of that was due to Hyde's shortcomings: he's not a particularly elusive runner, and he's a shaky pass-catcher, dropping more balls than any other running back in 2017. Hyde now enters a backfield with its third-down role secured by a stud and a talented second-round rookie looking for reps. Fighting for volume and playing in an iffy offense, Hyde has big concerns over both ceiling and floor.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans
Jeff Pasquino: Kamara cannot possibly keep up the insane numbers he had last year with over six yards-per-carry and 10 yards per reception along with 13 touchdowns. Kamara’s production of over 1,500 yards with just 202 regular season touches is beyond remarkable. His present draft value is more of a reflection of those numbers than his likely regression to more realistic stats this season, making his upside next to nonexistent as a Top 5 fantasy running back.
Dion Lewis, Tennessee
Jeff Tefertiller: With a fifth-round ADP, Lewis is way overvalued given his lack of durability as a professional. Many forget the injury-plagued seasons in Cleveland and Philadelphia or how very few skill-position players flourish after leaving New England. The risk is very high with a pick that could be a star receiver (e.g., Marvin Jones Jr) or tight end (e.g., Jimmy Graham). The reason, in my opinion, that Lewis is overdrafted is because teams just miss on Mark Ingram II or Royce Freeman and reach for Lewis because of a need at the position.
Doug Martin, Oakland
James Brimacombe: Who knows what the Raiders are doing on offense this season as they look to rebuild with older players which Doug Martin is one of. Martin is coming over from Tampa Bay after a six-year career with them and only two productive seasons which he happened to play all 16 games in both of those seasons. Over the past two seasons, Martin has played a total of 20 games for 827 yards and 6 touchdowns but a miserable 2.9 yards-per-carry average. Marshawn Lynch looked like he can still handle a full load as he played in 15 games last season for 891 yards and 7 touchdowns along with a more impressive 4.3 yards-per-carry.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina
Jeff Pasquino: Christian McCaffrey is not built to be a lead back in the NFL. He offers shiftiness and speed, but he is best utilized with fewer touches and as part of the mix rather than as a feature part of an offense. McCaffrey will put up solid numbers, but he will be pushed for touchdowns by both C.J. Anderson and also Cam Newton near the goal line. McCaffrey has solid receiver value but his ceiling is not high enough to warrant a Top 25 pick overall.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo
Jason Wood: LeSean McCoy has been a fantastic running back for nine seasons, and he’ll get every opportunity to deliver in his tenth season. But fantasy owners need to avoid anchoring bias – the tendency to assume what came before is going to happen again. McCoy’s prior achievements are notable, but his circumstances pose a grave risk. The Bills project as one of the league’s worst teams. Generally, workhorse running backs don’t deliver fantasy value playing for bad teams. The Bills offensive line, already a question mark, lost three starters from a season ago. The team’s quarterback situation, already a question mark, is now built around a weak-armed backup from Cincinnati and an overdrafted, bust-in-the-making rookie. The new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, is arguably the least impressive offensive mind of the Belichick tree and lacks creativity. That’s to say nothing of the potential legal complications he’s facing because of an ex-girlfriend’s accusations.
Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco
Jeff Tefertiller: For a player likely drafted as a fantasy RB1 in the second round, McKinnon poses too much risk. Yes, he had an injury scare recently but was overvalued before. Fantasy owners are going overboard for a player who has carried the ball at least 20 times in a game just once in his professional career. McKinnon has touched the ball 202 times each of the past two seasons and has struggled with minor injuries throughout his four-year career. Those hoping for a larger workload with the 49ers have to realize the risk is higher, too. One last limiting factor for McKinnon is his lack of scoring. In 404 touches the past two seasons, McKinnon scored 9 touchdowns. He will need to score more to validate the second-round draft pick used. I much prefer Matt Breida at his price than McKinnon at his.
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